Wednesday, 23 November 2016

The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory

Reviewer: JD Smith, author of Tristan and Iseult and the Overlord series

What we thought: Gregory is in full flow in this tale of the last of Henry VII's wives, Kateryn Parr. She is perhaps the lesser known of the six, for she was the one to survive him, being neither divorced nor beheaded. She married the English monarch at thirty years of age. Old perhaps considering Henry could choose any wife he wanted, but still much younger than the king himself.

She bore Henry no children, which is unsurprising given that she bore neither of her first two husbands any children either. Most fascinating is her scholarly work, being the first English queen to publish a book under her own name.

In The Taming of the Queen, Gregory paints a very intimate portrait of Kateryn, and her relationship with the king, whom she frequently refers to as a wife killer. Henry's character is one of a man in pain, lashing out as the mood takes him, who plays games both for his own amusement but also because he lives in fear of everyone around him, distrustful of his courtiers and advisers, quite rightly paranoid of who is plotting against him.

His method of ruling and staying at the top until his dying day is to be admired in Gregory's prose, as is the two faces of Kateryn, an educated, learned woman who strives for betterment of the court, the step-children she inherits, and the learning of everyone, whilst showing another face to the king; one of simple obedience, masking her constant fear.

For anyone wanted to live and breathe the last days of Henry's court, this is well worth immersing yourself in.

You’ll enjoy this if you like: Anything to do with the Tudors, the English monarchy, biographical-style fiction

Avoid if you don’t like: grumpy, childish kings, female first person narratives

Ideal accompaniments: pigeon pie, small ale, warm blanket

Genre: historical fiction

Available on Amazon

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