Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Freemantle
Pub Date: August 6, 2013
No matter how many books I read about the Tudors I’m still fascinated. Maybe it’s that Anne Boleyn is so fascinating or that his other wives must’ve known their fate, but something about the Tudors leaves me wanting more.
Despite the large number of books out there about Anne Boleyn, Catherine of Aragon and Henry himself, I haven’t come across many from Katherine Parr’s perspective. Parr was the King’s last wife and had the good fortune to outlive him and to remarry. Though there’s obviously more intrigue behind Boleyn and his other wives, I find the idea of Parr’s position fascinating. She had been at court when the other wives were present and obviously knew what had happened to them. She’d also seen Henry’s physical and mental health decline drastically over a few years. And yet she married him.
Elizabeth Freemantle suggests she married him out of fear – a likely theory. Queen’s Gambit follows Parr from the death of her second husband John Neville through her courtship and marriage to Henry VIII and finally to her disastrous marriage to Thomas Seymour. Rather than focusing on the king’s health, Freemantle constructs a story based solely around Katherine’s trials. As a young woman, Katherine watched two husbands and at least one child die. Once she returns to court she finds herself the object of unwanted royal attention. In Freemantle’s story Katherine is independent and strong-willed; despite being the Queen of a suddenly rather Catholic kingdom , she reads Protestant books and corresponds with the noted female philosopher, Anne Askew.
I liked how Freemantle focused on Katherine’s story and allowed the book to be about Katherine’s mind. Though there are certainly moments of romance or tension, the book largely focuses on Katherine’s struggles with her faith and her decisions to pursue a life that is not wholly her own.
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