The King’s Pleasure
Originally published in 1969, Norah Lofts’s novel about the life of Katherine of Aragon is being reissued again for the end of 2008. Having never read it before, I took the opportunity to see what makes this book so popular among biographical Tudor novels.
Starting with her birth during her mother Isabella’s campaign against the Moors, Katherine is portrayed from toddlerhood as a very human character, a precocious, fun-loving girl who grows into a strong-willed, intelligent young woman determined to make her life better than those of her sisters. This is no dour matron, no middle-aged princess who couldn’t keep up with England’s court. This Katherine is a vivacious, passionate woman who matches Henry’s fiery personality. She’s not without fault, having a strong obstinate side and a trust in her faith and her king that becomes more blind and stubborn as the years go on. As Katherine realizes her dreams are doomed and she will indeed follow the sad path her mother predicted, the reader keeps on rooting for her as if maybe this time things might end differently. Although the novel was written forty years ago, this Katherine still feels like a breath of fresh air.
The historical detail is masterful in its ordinariness, never feeling crammed in just for the sake of it. The novel is as well-researched as a textbook, but it never reads like one. If there is a criticism, it might be that the long chain of politics after the annulment weighs the flow down a bit right at the crux of the story. But that’s a minor negative in a book full of positives. I look forward very much to reading the rest of the series. As a lifelong Tudor fan, I’ve been missing out.