The Taming of The Queen is a 2015 Historical Fiction Novel by British author Phillipa Gregory. It chronicles the journey of Catherine Parr, as she becomes the last wife of the infamous English King, Henry VIII.
First, I feel I must tell you about the notorious King of England. Henry is known for several things, the reformation of the English church from Roman Catholic to Church of England, battles with French such as the Seige of Boulogne and for being a wife killer. All of which are covered in this novel. Catherine was the last of Henry’s wives and she, despite everything and everything that happened and everyone who was trying to remove her from the King’s favour, was able to survive him. She is probably one of the most important women to exist during the reign of the Tudor. Since without her, we would have never seen the completion of the English church, she was a huge inspiration to Queen Elizabeth and without her, Mary and Elizabeth would have never had their inheritances restored to them. She was last but she was very important.
Gregory really makes you feel for Catherine, the plight of a woman who is a widow when we meet her and being drawn away from her lover Thomas Seymour to reluctantly be a wife to a man who beheads his wives. Granted Thomas Seymour was no angel either.
I knew what a horrid person Henry VIII was but I was pulled in much like Catherine. I believed he cared about her, he loved her and no harm would come to her because of that. She was his best wife, in my eyes, she did things no one else could, and made him do things no one else could. He listened to her. However Catherine and I were both oh so naïve. His first act as husband was to give his wife jewelry, birds, clocks and beautiful gowns. What woman wouldn’t be pleased with that and grateful? Great, until you realize that the items, save for the birds and clocks, were from his previous wives. May I remind you that four of his wives were dead at that point? Two by his own hand, one in childbirth and one under guard. The only reason why Anne of Cleeves got away was because he thought she was unattractive, given the chance I’m sure he thought it would have been easier to kill her. Imagine it, you are now Queen of England and the man that everyone knows isn’t good to his wives, showers you gifts, only for you to find out they were hand-me-downs. That is insulting. Catherine takes it in her stride and keeps moving forward.
She is haunted by the ghosts of his former wives, one more than the others. Jane Seymour. Talk about feeling like second best, Henry had the nerve to use Catherine without permission as a stand in for a portrait in which he put Jane’s Head on her body. I have no idea how this woman held it together, I would have stormed out, I would have told him to take his queen’s crown and stuck it up him. Catherine didn’t.
I really found myself enjoying the story line surrounding the reformation of the church. It really fits with my love for conspiracies and back door plots. While it wasn’t about over throwing the King, it was about a carefully played game of chess. For any side to make head way on this topic, they had to place themselves around the King. I loved it.
By the end I was happy she out lived Henry, however history does tell us that while she got the happy ending she might have wanted, it wasn’t really that happy. Phillipa Gregory has brilliant way with words and she actually had me thinking about Henry in a completely new way, until he showed his true colours. So If you do like historical fiction about a woman being married to a monster and kept away from her love and having to fight for her life, this is the book for you! Grab your copy of the Taming of The Queen, its available on Amazon, Audible and in your local book stores.