Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen

Written by Alison Weir
Review by Claire Thurlow

Historian and biographer, Alison Weir, embarks on a new series of novels examining in turn the lives of each of Henry VIII’s six wives. She begins with teenage Katherine (born Catalina), a Spanish princess brought to Britain to marry Prince Arthur, heir to the English throne. When Arthur dies suddenly, Katherine is betrothed to his younger brother, Henry, the future monarch, and in time is crowned Queen. Despite fondness and respect between the royal couple, Henry grows impatient with Katherine for her inability to provide a male heir, despite the birth of a healthy daughter, Mary. King Henry’s eye turns to vivacious Anne Boleyn, one of Katherine’s ladies-in-waiting, and his campaign to divorce Katherine begins. This instigates a chain of events which will irrevocably change the course of British history.

The novel provides a fascinating glimpse into the personal life of Queen Katherine behind the intricate and vicious political intrigues of the Tudor court. In spite of Henry’s ruthless abandonment of his first wife, she is revealed to be a strong, intelligent woman who struggles to protect the future of her daughter, as well as her own right to maintain her religious faith. Meticulous research, combined with Alison Weir’s empathy for her subject, makes this an illuminating and engaging portrait of ‘the true queen.’ Often portrayed as a dour and downtrodden woman, Katherine of Aragon is revealed to be astute and resolute enough to survive into old age. This is an enjoyable and enlightening read, and I look forward to the next one in the series.