The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I listened to this book on audio from the library. I have to say, it was one of my most favorite Philippa Gregory books. It is about Henry VIII's last wife, Catherine Parr, who I did not know much about before. What an accomplished woman, one of the first to publish a book under her own name (after Henry's death), titled Lamentations of a Sinner. She also authored some other books, but not under her own name, as it was too dangerous. I had always thought she was Henry's oldest queen, when, actually, she was only 31 years old when they wed. He was her third husband, as she was a two-time widow, her last being to a Lord Latimer. It was nerve wracking when reading the book, wondering if he was going to arrest and behead her, like he did to two others of his wives, even though I knew he did not, ha ha. But, still, it kept me on the edge of my seat. lthough it is historical fiction and much of it was fiction, it still made me dislike Henry more than I ever did before. He was a murderer, an egomaniac, a fat slob (the scenes of his eating as a glutton for over two hours per meal were disgusting), crazy, and just a terrible person and father.
Catherine was actually in love with Thomas Seymour (Jane's Seymour's brother and Henry's former brother-in-law) and wanted to marry him, but when Henry asked her, she really had no choice, and was forced to marry him, knowing that the only way their marriage would eventually end was in the death of either one of them. In reading about her after I finished the book, I learned that she did marry Thomas Seymour four months after Henry's death and finally became pregnant and delivered her first and only child with Thomas, a daughter, Mary Seymour. Unfortunately, she died in childbirth, only a year after Henry's death. Nothing is known about Mary after infancy. Some sources say she grew up and married (she was raised in her uncle Edward Seymour's home), other sources say she died as a young child, around age 3.
Catherine, or KP as she signed herself (spelling her name Kateryn) was a good stepmother to Henry's three children, especially to Elizabeth and Prince/King Edward, who were young (ages 9 and 6) at the time Catherine became their stepmother. They were very fond of her. She was also very beautiful and extremely intelligent and wise, and knew just how to handle Henry and save herself from his wrath and from his murdering her. She was very learned, and, I think, pretty much self-taught. She was very religious and a fervent reformer of the church of England, not wanting the country to return to Catholicism.
One of my favorite parts of the book was the painting of the family portrait for the first time, including all three children and Catherine. This is an actually portrait and it's life size. If you google Henry VIII family portrait you can find it. It has both girls on either end, with Will Somers (Henry's "fool" behind Elizabeth and Mary's "fool" behind her. In the center panel are Henry, Edward and Catherine (well, she posed for the photo and it was her clothes), but when it was unveiled, it turns out the artist substituted Jane Seymour's face for Catherine's, the dead queen (number 3) who died giving birth to Edward!! What a dirty trick for Henry to play on her. Catherine was very gracious though (she wanted to save herself), even though she was extremely angry and hurt over it. Check out the painting for yourself!
I think the author did a brilliant job of researching this queen and the time period and I just loved this book. The narration was wonderful and I really liked this narrator, Bianca Amato, who I believed has narrated Ms. Gregory's other books in this series.
BTW, I also partially read the ebook version and at the end of the book there is an interview with the author, discussion questions, and a preview of her next book, Three Sisters, Three Queens. It looks good!
I highly recommend this book, especially if you are a Philippa Gregory fan.
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