9781408869437

Published by Bloomsbury

There is something about the Tudors. So much so I once caused consternation by explaining to a group of primary school boys that for me, history begins with them…and everything else then hangs off the dynasty – either backwards in time or towards the future. I’m afraid they were a little puzzled at first and then a bit shocked that an adult should think in this rather illogical fashion. Except for me it isn’t. Why not start with the bits you enjoy and then place everything around it – rather like starting in the middle of a time line puzzle…

You really can’t beat Henry VIII and his six wives for drama and for being just a human story – we know a great deal, I suspect guess quite a bit about what happened, but also know so very little too.

This is essentially the story of Katherine Howard, the one who was beheaded, before the last Queen who survived in that rather useful poem – Divorced, Beheaded, Died. Divorced Beheaded, Survived. I find the whole episode of Henry the Eighth’s drive to father a son and the repercussions of it, unbelievably sad, and have always thought that Katherine (and Anne Boleyn) perhaps wasn’t quite as she has often been depicted, in Katherine’s case as a wanton lass (and Anne’s as a witch…)

That the circumstances around Henry’s matrimonial problems, were often part of the reasons why people behaved the way they did, and often the result of just being between a rock and a hard place. Who can say why Henry only managed to produce three children? It is interesting that he was after all the common denominator in all the relationships.

Eliza Rose is Lucy Worsley’s interpretation of this part of Tudor history – Anne of Cleves and Katherine’s rise and subsequent fall. It has more depth than many of the Tudor histories I have read that have been written for young readers. Lucy Worsley’s knowledge of how palaces worked means that it fits together better, runs more smoothly and was a real pleasure to read, even though I knew the outcome of the story.

Eliza Rose is a fictional character inserted into history – a ploy that sometimes doesn’t work. In this case Lucy’s depiction of her character, and what happens to her are believable to the degree I had to check as to whether she really was a piece of imagination or had lived and was a character I just hadn’t heard about.

There was without doubt more to the tale of Henry and his six wives.

The demands were different, as were expectations. Attitudes and beliefs were different. Henry might well have been a despot. I think he was also a human, with human frailties, hopes, desires, and fears. As for his queens – all I think were victims of circumstance, some the result of just taking one too many chances (and who hasn’t done that, at least once in their lives), as well as being as brave, naïve and just caught up in other’s and their own hopes and dreams.

kath-howardI really enjoyed this – I hope Katherine had someone like Eliza Rose in her life. In this book they may have been inadvertent rivals, but were also caught in the same circumstances.

I hope that Lucy will write more books about the Tudor period – this I carried around with me for 48 odd hours, and frantically searched the house late last night so I could read it before I went to sleep; only to find I’d left it in the car. Finished this evening…a very satisfactory retelling of a very traumatic story.

 

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