Title: Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr, the Last Wife of Henry VIII
Author: Linda Porter
Release Date: November 23, 2010
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Non-Fiction, History, Biography
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
In this new biography of Katherine Parr, last wife of Henry VIII, Linda Porter examines the traditional historical views of this fascinating woman and challenges them.
After reading Linda Porter’s fabulous biography of Mary Tudor, The Myth of Bloody Mary, I was ready to read anything she decided to write next, even if I wasn’t very interested in the subject. Happily, though, that wasn’t a problem - when I discovered Porter’s second biography was about Katherine Parr, I was very excited. Katherine Parr was a fascinating woman who led an exhilarating life.
Katherine the Queen covers the entire breadth of Katherine Parr’s life. It starts before she was born, giving the history and establishing the situation that Katherine was born into. It covers her entire life, including all four marriages, until her death. Katherine lived in tumultuous times, and Porter doesn’t shy away from that. Still, it would be easy for this book to be dry because it’s history. However, Porter has a way with the people she writes about. Her pen brings them to life, making them vivid and real for the reader. I can’t say enough good things about her writing abilities.
Porter presents a new view of Katherine Parr. She was much closer to Henry’s age than his previous queen, Katherine Howard, and as a result, she’s been perceived as a matronly woman, a convenient nurse for Henry is his ailing years. Porter challenges this view. She shows the reader a vivacious and passionate woman who matched her male counterparts in intelligence and wit. I loved how strategic she was, how she was a woman ahead of her time. I can’t praise Linda Porter highly enough for how wonderful and real she makes Katherine Parr in this book.
Porter’s scholarship is also very good. I actually found quite a few books I want to read in her bibliography. She presents prevailing views of Katherine, and the events and people that surrounded her, and then either agrees with them or (more often) challenges them, presenting solid and clear reasoning as to why she thinks the way she does. It’s not difficult to subscribe to Porter’s way of thinking after seeing her impeccable research.
If you can’t tell by this review, I thoroughly enjoyed every second I spent getting to know Katherine Parr in Katherine the Queen. This is a really great book to choose if you’re interested in and enjoy historical fiction, but haven’t quite taken the plunge into history. Porter’s writing style is engaging, and the material is never dry or slow. I highly recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in the subject - I only hope Porter writes another book soon.