The lives of the Tudors have made great fodder for entertainment since the moment they took to the throne, and none more so than Henry VIII and his plethora of wives, as Philippa Gregory, Hollywood, and David Starkey have proven many times over.
What is becoming of increasing interest amongst authors however, are the details of the lives and characters of Henry VIII’s doomed spouses themselves. As revisionist historians have paved the way for history from the female perspective, fiction has followed, elaborating on it, embellishing it, and bringing it to life so that we as an audience can appreciate the women beyond the Holbeins.
This is what makes Elizabeth Fremantle’s new novel, Queen’s Gambit, such a guaranteed contender for favourite reads. The book looks at the life of Katherine Parr, the king’s sixth wife, and the only one to survive. More to the point however, it explores her life both before and after her stint as queen, and ponders what the thoughts and feelings of this academic woman might have been. The book speculates on the impact she might have had on the king and his decisions, and subsequently, the course of history itself; proving that while women may not have been empowered in the manner that we think today, they could still hold a position of influence, knowledge and risk.
Equally however, Fremantle considers at how close Katherine came to meeting a very similar fate to her predecessors because of the fearsome volatility of the King, but also because of her feelings for court cad, Thomas Seymore, who she later went on to marry.
Finally, the book looks at how even a woman of such great intelligence, who has seen so much, experienced so much, and remained so strong in the face of truly terrifying situations (even if they were from the position of privilege), can still fall prey to poor decisions when it comes to relationships, which is either of great comfort, or of great despair to all of us.
Queen, girl, wife, woman, Elizabeth Fremantle‘s book explores the life of a woman who’s character is perhaps amongst the lesser known of the Tudor queens, successfully bringing her to life, and making her simultaneously someone woman can aspire to emulate, but also someone who is human and flawed, ultimately showing that her experiences are still relevant to the modern reader, and at the core, acknowledging that Katherine Parr, above all other things, was human.
Queen’s Gambit is available from Amazon and is published by Michael Joseph from Penguin.
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