The Sixth Wife

Written by Jean Plaidy

Plaidy’s retelling of the story of Katharine Parr is masterly. Those who know little more of Katharine than that she survived Henry will find much to fascinate. Following the death of Catherine Howard, Henry is ill with an ulcerated leg; he seeks a wife who will be both nurse and companion. His attention fixes on twice-widowed Katharine. She, knowing the terrible fate of two of his queens, is understandably not anxious to accept the honour. Henry is not to be put off and Katharine is soon living in constant fear of the plots surrounding her. The threat to her life lies not from any question of infidelity, but in Katharine’s taste for the new religion sweeping the country. Katharine is a clever woman and her handling of the King is masterful. The story continues with Katharine’s life after the death of King Henry.

I found much to savour and enjoy here, but also to horrify. The account of Anne Askew’s torture and death does not make for easy reading. The desperate lengths to which those who wished to bring Queen Katharine’s life to an end were prepared to go, is never more clearly demonstrated than with the persecution of Anne, Katharine’s lady-in-waiting. A good read.