The Spanish Bride
In 1501, Catherine of Aragon journeys to England to marry Arthur, Prince of Wales. But when Arthur dies just a few months later, Catherine finds herself caught between the machinations of her father, Ferdinand, and Henry Tudor. After eight years of staving off destitution, she is chosen by Henry VIII as his bride. Eighteen years later, Henry decides on divorce, and Catherine is forced to struggle for her queenship, her loved ones, and her life.
Her story is told through the eyes of her maid, Estrella, who, in the early days, vacillates between despair and dreams fuelled by the attentions of the extremely eligible Piers Hilsey. In the later period, Estrella is more accepting of life, but she has not lost her courage or her loyalty to Catherine.
While spanning Catherine’s life from her arrival in England to her death in 1536, The Spanish Bride ignores the period when she is queen. Perhaps because this is book one in a series about Henry VIII’s wives? Or is it because the “captive” periods of Catherine’s life are considered more interesting? Whatever the case, I found this omission of nearly two decades a little startling; as a reader not intimately familiar with the historical details, I felt I needed some of them to better understand the later years. Also, the narrative skipped between the earlier and later periods, a device I found jarring for at least half the book.
I did enjoy this novel, especially the period detail – hunts and clothes and ceremony – which was worked deftly into the action. More than just another tale of Henry VIII’s first wife, The Spanish Bride shows the life-altering experiences faced by 16th century women shipped off to a foreign land.