Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr

Written by Linda Porter
Review by Jasmina Svenne

As Henry VIII’s sixth and last wife, Katherine Parr has often been relegated to a footnote in history, or caricatured as a pious, twice-widowed, matron who nursed Henry’s infected leg ulcers in his old age. Linda Porter’s biography argues that this is doing her a disservice, not only as a woman, but as a formative influence on the adolescent Elizabeth Tudor, to whom Katherine was both a substitute mother and a role model.

Clearly a remarkable woman, Katherine Parr rose from the minor gentry to become only the second of Henry’s wives whom he entrusted with the role of Queen Regent during his absence on foreign campaigns, while she was still only in her early 30s.

Apart from her religious writings and her passionate letters to her fourth husband Thomas Seymour, few of Katherine’s own words have been preserved by history, but Porter draws on contemporary sources to place her within the context of the era in which she lived, exploding some myths and distortions along the way.

The biography is accessibly written, though it does assume a certain familiarity with the general outlines of Tudor history on the part of the reader. For fans of strong Tudor women everywhere.