Katharine Parr: The Sixth Wife (Six Tudor Queens #6), by Alison Weir

Nine stars

Whenever I have the chance to read something by Alison Weir, I take note, be it a lengthy piece of non-fiction or her well-paced novels of historical fiction. Weir is able to breathe life into the Tudor Era (as well as other times in English monarchical history) and provide the reader with a stellar account of things that took place. In this, Weir’s final novel related to the wives of Henry VIII, the author depicts how King Henry VIII continued to rule over England, in search of yet another wife. Young Katharine Parr was no simple woman, having been married before and suffered great loss. However, it is the interaction between the King and his sixth wife that brings life to this story and provides an intriguing ending to the long-winded narrative of Henry’s wives. Weir does a fabulous job at illustrating things here, offering up some great storytelling and wonderful dialogue to leave the reader feeling as though they were in the middle of the action. While the series has ended, the impact is sure to remain long after.

Katharine Parr was born into a well-established family with ties to past monarchs. Her upbringing was full of privilege, though Parr never sought to flaunt herself to others. Rather, she dove into learning to quench her desire to expand her mind and better comprehend the world around her. This included trying to understand her place in the world, or at least the complex placement within England at a time when many had claims of royal blood and lineage.

After her first marriage at seventeen, Parr discovered the trials and tribulations of trying to fit into the lifestyle. Her husband, Sir Edward Burgh, held secrets that could not make their way to Court, for fear of tarnishing the family name. Still, Katharine pined for a family, something Burgh could not deliver. Upon his death, Katharine wondered what might become of her and how she could rectify the blunder of her marriage with little to show for it.

When she married John Neville in 1534, Parr hoped to make a name for herself and truly understand what it was like to have a family, now graced with a handful of step-children. However, it was around this time that King Henry VIII chose to annul his first marriage to Catherine of Aragon, creating a massive schism with the Church in Rome. While Henry VIII pushed for the dissolution, he also developed the Reformation and the Church of England. Neville, a staunch Catholic, fought hard against the change and he was soon deemed troublesome to the king, an issue that Katharine would have to face head-on.

There were conflicting accounts as to how involved John Neville might have been in the push against the Reformation, leaving Henry VIII to make some interesting decisions regarding how to treat the man. Katharine’s future was left in the king’s hands, as she had little to support her and the children under her care. All the while, Katharine sought to marry for love, though she could not see how this might occur, having no means of finding a man who stole her heart while saddled with her current responsibilities.

Her saving grace might have been a connection with Princess Mary, the king’s eldest daughter, in whose household she served. While at Court, Katharine caught the eye of the king, though she did not seek his affections. Rather, she found herself enamoured by Sir Thomas Seymour, brother of the late queen, Jane Seymour, the only wife to bear Henry VIII a legitimate son. While Katharine hoped to marry Thomas, it was not in the cards. Henry was without a wife and seemed keen to find a sixth, with Katharine his first choice. As has been seen throughout the series, what Henry wants, he gets.

After marrying the king, Katharine found the stability she had long sought, though there was still a lack of love in her marriage (at least on her part). Katharine bonded well with her new step-children and sought to connect with them whenever possible. It would seem that she was a glue that past queens could not be between the royal offspring and their father, as she welcomed them and was apparently loved by all three, even though she was only a few years older than Mary.

While Henry grew older and sicker, Katharine did her best to serve as queen and regent when time required it. She sought to make the most of her life and did whatever was asked of her, within reason. Katharine knew that Henry’s time was limited, as he became less and less active and his ailments caught up with him. She knew that it would be only a matter of time before the country was forced to accept the end of the reign of their long-serving ruler, but what of the Tudor dynasty?

It is this latter portion of the book that tackles not only the waning period of Henry VIII, but Katharine’s struggle to be named regent to serve as technical ‘monarch by proxy’ until Prince Edward came of age. Katharine uses her power to try lobbying Henry, as well as members of the Privy Council, all of whom will help to shape the future of England and the direction in which the monarch will turn. Add to this, Katharine has struggles of her own about a future that is not clear. Will she be able to turn to the man she sought before being chosen as a sixth wife? How will it play out and which pieces must move in tandem for all this to happen? A powerful end to the queens of Henry VIII, while also providing a key period in the larger Tudor narrative. Weir ties things off splendidly and many fans of the series will likely agree.

There is something about the writing of Alison Weir that has captivated me for many years. I always know that when I pick up one of her books, it will be an educational experience, no matter the topic. While there are both fiction and non- books from which to choose, both offer such insight into the lives of past English monarchs and how their lives changed the history books. Weir’s use of dialogue is likely one of the only reasons this series is called ‘fiction’, but that is an argument I will not broach, as I am sure Tudor historians would leap on the chance to crucify me with examples. All the same, it was a thoroughly enjoyable novel and stellar series. While it has come to an end, I hope to be able to return and learn more with another reading at some future date.

Katharine Parr was an amazing protagonist throughout this piece, offering up insights and intriguing vignettes throughout the narrative. While she came to reach her zenith after many struggles and personal hurdles, Katharine does not skimp on the action or development throughout this time. Weir provides her with a thorough and well-rounded story, adding the twist that she was the only one to outlast the monarch and saw England post-Henry VIII. This would prove poignant, as the chaos of fickle decision making, both in matrimony and leadership, had finally come to an end.

Weir uses a handful of stellar supporting characters to keep the story lively. The story spans quite a time period and much of Katharine Parr’s life needs hashing out, which requires thorough narrative footprints. Weir effectively shapes the Parr story with names and faces who push the story along, sometimes recurring throughout to offer a few twists, even as the history books have long closed on how things would cement themselves. I could not find myself leaning towards any single character or time period, but was highly impressed with all that was packed into this single novel.

It is no shock that the book (and series) turned out to be so stellar. There is so much going on and yet Weir keeps the narrative pushing along at a decent pace. Details drip from every page, some needed and others that permit a visualization that could not otherwise be made (as these are the centuries before photographs). Long and thorough chapters fill the book with needed details, each segmented in an effective manner, as the push towards the end of one Tudor era and into a rockier time to come. Using history and fiction together, the novel came across as a gritty piece of entertainment, though there is surely so much to learn throughout, keeping the reader from skimming too much. I have always loved Weir’s work for this reason and cannot wait for the next project, hoping it will lure me in as effectively.

Kudos, Madam Weir, for another winner. The series, the book, the concept… all worked so well. I loved it and am also a little sad to see it all come to an end.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Princess of Scotland (Six Tudor Queens #5.5), by Alison Weir

Eight stars

Alison Weir’s collection of short stories that layer themselves between the Six Wives of Henry VIII series have proven to be quite entertaining and highly educational. The short pieces bind together the biographies of the six queens, with some great focus on minor characters whose lives are most likely forgotten in the larger narrative. This piece features Henry VIII’s niece, Margaret Douglas, and some of her passionate encounters when she lived at court. Having had quite the interesting upbringing, Margaret has seen life on both the English and Scottish sides of the border. Her mother, married off at a young age, has kept her ties with the English, but still has a passion for the Scottish way of life, where her son sits upon the Scottish throne. When Margaret meets Lord Thomas Howard, she is smitten and cannot hide her feelings. However, with Thomas’ connection to Anne Boleyn, he is sent away to the Tower. Margaret’s connection to him sees her sent there as well, possibly not protected from the ultimate punishment. However, in a moment of kindness, Henry VIII excuses her from her ‘crimes’ and she is free to live in an abbey. However, Thomas does not have the same luck and dies of an illness, which leaves Margaret heartbroken. After a few queens spend a short time on the throne next to Henry VIII, Margaret is back at court and serving Katheryn Howard. She catches the eye of a gentleman in the King’s household and cannot help herself. Even though she has been scolded and told that she could face quite the punishment, Margaret Douglas cannot deny her base emotions. Weir fans are in for another treat with this piece, which mixes some essential backstory with the wonder of a young woman in love! Recommended to series fans who need something to tide them over, as well as Tudor fans of all types.

Weir’s mastery of all things Tudor continues to impress me as I read anything she writes. No matter who serves as the protagonist, Weir is able to spin a tale that is both addictive and a must-read. Much of the background for her work reveals a substantial collection of lesser-known characters whose lives make for some great fiction writing. Weir’s writing can best be called dazzling and entertaining, as the reader regularly seems satisfied while wanting more with each story. Weir seems full of ideas to add to her growing list of publications and keeps the reader wanting to learn. A great piece to pass the time over a lingering cup of something, or on a rainy afternoon. I am excited to get my hands on more of these short stories, which will help pass the time until I can read the rest of the Six Wives series.

Kudos, Madam Weir, for another winner. You never seem to run out of things to say and I cannot thank you enough for sharing them so readily!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Curse of the Hungerfords (Six Tudor Queens #4.6), by Alison Weir

Eight stars

Alison Weir has created a number of the short stories that layer themselves between the Six Wives of Henry VIII series. All of these pieces pull together the biographies of the six queens, with some interesting minor (and perhaps previously unknown) characters that help enrich the reader. This piece is no exception, as it features Anne Bassett and Agnes Hungerford, both of whom ended up living in the family residence and discussed some scandalous activities. Anne Bassett served at court for a number of years, having been in the household of four queens during Henry VIII’s reign. While in that position, she had a chance to engage in a secret tryst with Henry and could have become one of his wives, thereby elevating her to the role of Queen of England. This was not to be and she was forced to marry another. Now, she is with child and has gone to the family chapel, at the Hungerford Estate. There, she prays and awaits another of the Lady Hungerfords, Agnes. It is said that Agnes had some not so pleasant happenings in recent years past. A second narrative throughout this piece discusses those goings-on, which led Agnes to great trouble and time in the Tower. Could Anne have the power to conjure up something bad for those who crossed her? What might she do and how will it affect those at court? Another great piece that keeps Weir fans sated as they await another major biography. Recommended to those who have read and followed the series to date, as well as Tudor fans of all types.

Weir’s mastery of all things Tudor leaves readers of her work regularly in awe. Creating a tale of minor characters does not lessen its impact on the larger series, acting as a useful bridge between major stories. Much of the research Weir has done in relation to all things Tudor comes together here and forces the reader to delve a little deeper to understand some of the invisible threads and tie the larger dynastic tale together with ease. Weir dazzles and entertains the reader regularly, keeping them wanting more, while also being thankful for the great new information to add to their understanding of this most complex time in English history. Weir never seems out of ideas to fill her publications and keep readers learning without feeling too burdened. A slightly longer piece, but one that was just as exciting, perfect for an afternoon lounging on the sofa or on a short trip. I am eager to get my hands on more of these short stories, which will help pass the time until I can read the rest of the Six Wives series.

Kudos, Madam Weir, for another winner. You never seem to run out of things to say and I cannot thank you enough for sharing them so readily!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Grandmother’s Tale (Six Tudor Queens #3.5), by Alison Weir

Eight stars

In another of the short stories that layer themselves between her series of the Six Wives of Henry VIII, Alison Weir presents a short piece about the grandmother of Anne Boleyn. Margaret Boleyn has suffered much in the years after Anne’s execution, spending a great deal of time thinking about the treachery her own son brought upon the family and how Anne was forced to pay the ultimate price. Still living in Hever Castle, Margaret is visited by Archbishop Cranmer, who tells her one set of events, including that she will likely be able to stay. However, Margaret’s memories of her many years in the castle are interrupted when she receives word that Lord Cromwell has dispatched a number of the King’s men to attend her and prepare for her departure, as the Crown is taking the land for its own. With these mixed emotions, Margaret turns to her only remaining granddaughter, Mary. Returning from a visit to see the new queen, Mary shares that there is a great difference and that Anne will be greatly missed, even these five years on. Margaret is full of emotion and must decide what to do next, if she has any choice in the matter. An interesting piece that fills the gaps Weir purposely left for fans of her series. Recommended to those who have read and followed the series to date, as well as Tudor fans of all types.

Weir is a master of her art and there is little to say that is not covered therein. Her ability to weave a tale almost out of thin air is magical and she never is at a loss to share her ideas with readers. Pulling on much of the research she has done in relation to all things Tudor, Weir is able to come up with short stories like this—as well as full-length novels—that dazzle and keep the reader wanting more. Thankfully, Weir is never out of ideas and the array of publications would keep any Tudor fan busy for long stretches. This was a great piece, just the right length to read over a cuppa, but offers a great deal of information that keeps the reader thinking. I cannot wait to get my hands on more of these short stories, which will help pass the time until I can read the rest of the Six Wives series.

Kudos, Madam Weir, for another winner. You never seem to run out of things to say and I cannot thank you enough for sharing them so readily!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Katheryn Howard: The Scandalous Queen (Six Tudor Queens #5), by Alison Weir

Nine stars

In what has become an annual adventure for me, I turned to the latest novel by Alison Weir depicting the six wives of Henry VIII. The fifth wife, Katheryn Howard, is the central focus of this piece, though Weir uses her extensive research and narrative abilities to paint a complete picture of the Tudor Court throughout the woman’s (albeit short) life. Katheryn Howard was a sweet child who lost her mother around six years of age. With a father unable to care care of her, Katheryn was shipped off to live with an aunt, who raised her as her own. Katheryn remained with this relative, even as her father married a few more times and presented new step-mothers. Into her teens, Katheryn was a curious but somewhat shy girl, who did not fall for all the wiles of those who would court her, though she seemed to fall under the spell of her music tutor, who did all he could to rid her of the virginity she held dear. Realising her status (as well as her connection to a former queen, Anne Boleyn, a first cousin), Katheryn was primed for a position at court with the soon to be fourth wife of Henry VIII, Anne of Cleves. Katheryn served the queen as well as she could, but also found herself falling for Francis Dereham, to whom she eventually gave her virginity. The secret relationship between Katheryn and Francis serves as an underlying foreboding that returns throughout the story. While Francis did play an important role in Katheryn’s life, it was Thomas Culpepper, a gentleman in Henry VIII’s court and a close friend to Richard Cromwell, who won her heart most. The connection between Katheryn and Culpepper grew as the king’s fancy turned to replacing his fourth wife with a new one. Katheryn seemed the obvious choice, as the king did extend much of his time with her and (as series fans and those with a penchant for Tudor history will know) once the monarchical radar locks in, there is no getting away. Katheryn did seek to rebuff him and remain true to Culpepper, but eventually acquiesced and agreed to become the fifth wife of Henry VIII, around the age of seventeen. Weir describes the time and court between the two, including Katheryn’s ‘faking’ her loss of virginity so as not to raise issue with Henry VIII. Though she tried, Katheryn was unable to bring forth a child for her husband, citing the advanced age and corpulence of the king. While advocating for some within her family, Katheryn reunited with Thomas Culpepper repeatedly in secret, eventually falling into a sexual relationship. When wind of the encounters emerged, Katheryn found herself in much trouble with her husband (much like Cousin Anne did), which was further exacerbated by the revelations of her sexual relationship with Francis Dereham. Thus began the quick downfall of Katheryn Howard and the end of the fifth queen in Henry VIII’s group of six. Weir depicts this quick fall and the eventual acceptance of errors by Katheryn, even though her final change of heart is in line with that of a young woman who realises how truth cannot always set her free. With a new moniker for Katheryn Howard written in blood, she truly became the scandalous queen. A brilliant piece by Alison Weir that will likely keep all her fans excited. Recommended to all those Tudor fans who enjoy a little fiction, as well as readers who love history coming to life on the page.

I never tire of learning about all things Tudor, especially when Alison Weir is guiding the experience. I have tried to read many of the books, both fiction and non-, and take something away from them all. Weir does a masterful job as usual, while injecting some degree of fiction to the life and times of Katheryn Howard. From her early life as a motherless girl, Katheryn rose through the ranks and offered a degree of modesty, while still likely being the typical teenage girl of the times, with curiosities and pressures from young men around her. Weir seemed to depict her as being less the flirty and sexually free-spirited young girl that I always thought her to be (thank you Tamzin Merchant for your depiction of her on Showtime’s The Tudors), but rather a young girl caught up in the pressures before being snagged by the King of England to be his latest conquest. The lies she told to protect her honour caught up with her and she was forced to face the consequences, though I am not here to dissect or pass judgment on whether it was right or wrong to see her imprisoned and executed. Weir offers a wonderful depiction of this rise and fall, as she has done many times before, while adding a great deal of insight through the various characters that she places throughout the narrative. Both those of historical significance and the characters who serve as vessels to move the story along help to enrich the reading experience for the interested reader. The story is one that Weir surely knows well, including how some of the events repeated themselves between Anne Boleyn and Katheryn Howard. Weir does a masterful job in her telling of it, with the imagined dialogues being one of the likely sole reasons this is a piece of fiction. Grabbing hold of the reader from the early pages, Weir paints a formidable picture throughout and keeps the reader focussed. With a mix of shorter and long chapters, Weir paces her story well, which is further helped by dividing the book into parts of Katheryn Howard’s life. As with the four previous books, there are some crossover moments and some early ‘cameos’ by those who appeared in the past or will again later, which links the series together nicely. I cannot wait to finish off the series with the final queen and see just how much drama came to pass, as well as how Weir will handle the eventual death of Henry VIII and all the shenanigans that came with it. Alas, I must wait a year, though Weir has more to keep me sated until then!

Kudos, Madam Weir, for a stunning depiction of the young 5th queen. My perspective has surely changed, though I can see see why ‘scandalous’ fits nicely in this novel’s sub-title

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Blackened Heart (Six Tudor Queens #1.5), by Alison Weir

Eight stars

Alison Weir has set about on a new venture, a series about the six wives of Henry VIII. Weir has chosen to add further depth to the series by intersperse the novels with short stories that bridge them better together. This piece introduces the reader to Margery Orwell, an energetic young girl who was sent to work for Sir John and Lady Peche. There, Margery learns how to serve and act as a lady while honing her skills about being around those of importance. While in the employ of the Peches, she finds herself interacting with young men: dancing, carrying on, and finally in a tryst that sees her with child. After Sir Peche helps her with the predicament, Margery is sent to court with a recommendation to serve Queen Katherine. There, Margery discovers that the Tudor Court is like nothing she has ever seen, especially with the philandering Henry VIII roaming around. When Katherine learns that the King wishes to annul their marriage, she refuses to accept it, which also goes for her retinue of ladies-in-waiting. Margery stands by her Queen, even as Katherine is banished to a rural dwelling. Staying with Katherine through it all, Margery makes a shocking discovery one day in the market. As she returns to spend time with Katherine, Margery is able to stand tall, knowing that she has made the right choice when it comes to the politics of Tudor marriages, even if many at Court refuse to admit the same. Another wonderful short story by Alison Weir that depicts some of the lesser-known characters in the larger Tudor saga. Recommended for those who love all things Tudor, especially fans of Alison Weir’s detailed historical fiction work.

I have long had a passion for the writing style Alison Weir uses, especially as she pens pieces about the Tudors. While many may know of these six wives Henry VIII took, there are those characters who stood in the shadows, while still being highly important. Margery Otwell was one, with a passion to learn balanced with the inevitable curiosity of teenage womanhood. Even as Margery finds herself in a bind, she refuses to give up and is able to ascend to the Tudor Court and in a position to serve Queen Katherine. Many of the others who find themselves on the pages of this short story influence the narrative and add flavour to an already strong piece. The curious reader will find much of interest within this story, weaving together interesting bits of Tudor history, though Weir remains coy about just how much is fact over fiction. With an easy to comprehend storytelling ability, Alison Weir is a delightful author for those seeking to wade into all things Tudor. This series has begun with a strong foundation and is sure to remain riveting, based on the many other books I have read that bear the author’s name. Bring on the queens (and more of these short stories that link them)!

Kudos, Madam Weir, for another wonderful story that connects two of the strongest wives of Henry VIII. I can only imagine there is a great deal more to come with future publications.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Anna of Kleve: The Princess in the Portrait, by Alison Weir

Nine stars

Alison Weir returns with yet another novel in her Six Tudor Queens series, turning the attention to one of the lesser known (and seemingly, least scandalous) queens. Anna of Kleve served a brief time on the Tudor throne, but much about her differed greatly from the other wives of Henry VIII. Anna grew up in the House of La Marck, part of Germany, and was tied to the Duchy of Kleve. Her family ruled the region effectively and ensured that the princess had all she could want. A chance encounter with a cousin led to a scandalous event in the early 1530s, one about which only a few were aware, though it marked Anna deeply. As the years passed, Anna could not help but wonder what might come of her life, though she did have a loose betrothal to a local prince, but nothing was ever solidified. When news arrived from England that King Henry VIII was looking to make strong political ties with Kleve, which could include a wedding, Anna was a likely candidate to secure the union. Sending a miniature portrait to secure the king’s favour, Anna waited to see if she would be invited to Court and potentially made the new wife in the Tudor realm. A delayed arrival in England saw Anna accepted, though neither Princess Anna nor King Henry seemed ready for what was to come. Her wedding delayed for political reasons—said to be tied to her potential betrothal back in Germany—and then a wedding night that proved disastrous, Anna was left to wonder if this was a huge mistake. However, she sought to bring forth children for the king, in hopes of not ending up like his past wives. Health and seeming impotence impeded any marital congress, which turned out to be the out King Henry sought to annul the marriage. Anna was left shocked and completely beside herself, but was not sent off or scorned by Henry. Rather, she was given all the amenities that one might expect of a dear family member and given the title of ‘Sister of the Queen’. However, there were still issues, particularly with her small retinue, as she was no longer respected. Henry had moved on to a new (and spritely) wife, leaving Anna to bide her time and turn to those she knew back in Kleve to provide much needed attention. In the final years of her life, Anna saw significant changes to the House of Tudor and of England’s foundation, which would dramatically flavour the path forward. By the end of her life, Anna had shown herself as a respected member of the English Court, even if she was not active in affairs. Recounting many little-known facts about Anna and her years after being queen, Weir dazzles the reader with stories, some factual and others completed fabricated, to tell of the most unique—read: bizarre— of the six wives. A stellar piece of work that will keep the reader enthralled throughout. Recommended to all those who love Weir’s work and especially those who enjoy all things Tudor!

It is always a pleasure to see a new piece by Alison Weir, as I am permitted the chance to learn something while being entertained. This Six Tudor Queens series has proven helpful in fuelling my passion for all things Tudor while also introducing me to a great deal more information about which I had no idea. Anna of Kleve is the queen about whom I know the least, though Weir made sure to fill the book with much that left me wondering and racing for the ‘author’s historical note’. Anna began life as a naive princess, overcome by the wiles of an older relative, but still kept the secret in order not to stain her family. Her use as a pawn in the England-Kleve political alliance seems not to have soured her resolve to make the most of her responsibility, as she knowingly and voluntarily loved Henry VIII as best she could. Tossed into quite the quagmire, Anna was left to fend for herself when demeaned by Henry and his advisors, but did not become a shrinking violet (rose?) for the latter years of her life. Seeking to move on, she grew in personality and resolve, as Weir depicts throughout. There are the usual characters who fill the pages of the novel effectively, from King Henry through to the lowest servants, all of whom add a flavour to this fourth novel in the series. The reader is even able to see ahead, looking at the final two queens chosen after Anna was tossed to the side. The premise of the story is intriguing, offering up some interesting facts that I knew nothing about before, including in the opening chapters of the book. Weir is one who always spins a tale, adding fiction into her factual findings and creates an effective final product that will keep the reader wondering. I cannot wait to see what else is to come, with two queens yet to receive their own novels. I know Weir will keep her readers enthralled, though I will have to wait until next spring for the next instalment.

Kudos, Madam Weir, for another wonderful novel. I thoroughly enjoy your writing and all you bring to the story.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Blackened Heart (Six Tudor Queens #1.5), by Alison Weir

Eight stars

Alison Weir has set about on a new venture, a series about the six wives of Henry VIII. Weir has chosen to add further depth to the series by intersperse the novels with short stories that bridge them better together. This piece introduces the reader to Margery Orwell, an energetic young girl who was sent to work for Sir John and Lady Peche. There, Margery learns how to serve and act as a lady while honing her skills about being around those of importance. While in the employ of the Peches, she finds herself interacting with young men: dancing, carrying on, and finally in a tryst that sees her with child. After Sir Peche helps her with the predicament, Margery is sent to court with a recommendation to serve Queen Katherine. There, Margery discovers that the Tudor Court is like nothing she has ever seen, especially with the philandering Henry VIII roaming around. When Katherine learns that the King wishes to annul their marriage, she refuses to accept it, which also goes for her retinue of ladies-in-waiting. Margery stands by her Queen, even as Katherine is banished to a rural dwelling. Staying with Katherine through it all, Margery makes a shocking discovery one day in the market. As she returns to spend time with Katherine, Margery is able to stand tall, knowing that she has made the right choice when it comes to the politics of Tudor marriages, even if many at Court refuse to admit the same. Another wonderful short story by Alison Weir that depicts some of the lesser-known characters in the larger Tudor saga. Recommended for those who love all things Tudor, especially fans of Alison Weir’s detailed historical fiction work.

I have long had a passion for the writing style Alison Weir uses, especially as she pens pieces about the Tudors. While many may know of these six wives Henry VIII took, there are those characters who stood in the shadows, while still being highly important. Margery Otwell was one, with a passion to learn balanced with the inevitable curiosity of teenage womanhood. Even as Margery finds herself in a bind, she refuses to give up and is able to ascend to the Tudor Court and in a position to serve Queen Katherine. Many of the others who find themselves on the pages of this short story influence the narrative and add flavour to an already strong piece. The curious reader will find much of interest within this story, weaving together interesting bits of Tudor history, though Weir remains coy about just how much is fact over fiction. With an easy to comprehend storytelling ability, Alison Weir is a delightful author for those seeking to wade into all things Tudor. This series has begun with a strong foundation and is sure to remain riveting, based on the many other books I have read that bear the author’s name. Bring on the queens (and more of these short stories that link them)!

Kudos, Madam Weir, for another wonderful story that connects two of the strongest wives of Henry VIII. I can only imagine there is a great deal more to come with future publications.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Arthur: Prince of the Roses (Six Tudor Queens #0.5), by Alison Weir

Eight stars

As Alison Weir tackles her latest book series about the six wives of Henry VIII, she has chosen to intersperse them with some short stories that bridge these books with some of the lesser-known characters whose actions played a role in the respective queen’s life. The first of these is a preface book to the series all about Prince Arthur, the heir to the English Throne who was betrothed to Katherine of Aragon. The birth of Arthur was highly symbolic, uniting the Houses of Lancaster and York, as well as their ‘roses’. Arthur came to represent this unity and was expected to be a strong start to a Tudor dynasty. As a young boy, he was quite precocious, asking questions and learning from those around him. When his father thought him old enough, Arthur was taken around the kingdom to learn of all its holdings, as well as being primed to hold the title of Prince of Wales. Arthur was always aware of his younger brother, Henry, who was just as curious but also mischievous. At a time when political unions were strengthened through marriage, Arthur was told of an arrangement with the Spanish, who would send Katherine, ‘the infanta’, to help in a tumultuous Europe. While he waited, Arthur fell ill, coughing and being forced to bed for a period of time. His parents worried that he might not be well enough to meet his betrothed, but Arthur was determined to do so. When the infanta was called upon, after arriving from Spain, Arthur and his father made their way to her chambers for that ever-important first meeting. What followed has long been documented in the history books and occurs as the story ends. A brilliant launch to the Six Queens series, this prequel short story whets the appetite of the curious reader. Recommended for those who love all things Tudor, especially fans of Alison Weir’s detailed historical fiction work.

I have long had a passion for Alison Weir’s writing, as well as all things Tudor. From non-fiction to fictional accounts of this English House through to television programmes that straddle both entertainment and documentary foci. Weir is able to develop a great story in short order with this piece, injecting a great focus on Prince Arthur and his early years. Arthur is shown to be a curious child who grown and becomes aware that he is truly the symbol of English calmness and perhaps the savour to all warring in the country. Paired off as a teenager, Arthur has little time to process the act before he is thrust to meet his bride, the infanta, later known in history as Katherine of Aragon. Weir keeps her narrative strong and brief, setting the scene effectively while adding some presumptive dialogue to keep the reader interested. The story paves the way for what is sure to be a wonderful opening novel in the Six Queens series which (spoiler) sees Arthur pass away and sets his younger brother Henry on a martial warpath to appease his every need. With an easy to comprehend storytelling ability, Alison Weir is a delightful author for those seeking to wade into all things Tudor. This series will surely develop into being a powerful collection of novels, based on the many other books I have read that bear the author’s name. Bring on the queens (and more of these short stories that link them)!

Kudos, Madam Weir, for a stunning piece that packs a punch in a handful of pages. I am eager to see how you develop things in all your writings within this series.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Unhappiest Lady in Christendom (Six Tudor Queens #3.6), by Alison Weir

Eight stars

Having long been a fan of Alison Weir’s novels, particularly those related to the Tudors, I was so pleased to hear of the Six Queens series. While Weir is a master at taking fact and fictionalising it on occasion to create novels, I was even more excited to hear that she would add some short stories to bridge the major novels in the collection. I came across this piece and devoured it in a single setting, having recently read the third book in the series, centring around Queen Jane. In this short story, Jane has just died and Princess Mary takes the narrative role. Mary explores her own sentiments about the death of her step-mother who worked so hard to calm sentiments between King Henry VIII and his eldest daughter. With the death of the queen, Mary must wonder if her return to Court will be short lived or if it might be a new and prosperous future for her. With Mary and Elizabeth comes a new child, Edward, who is heir to the throne. However, as a newborn, there is little he can do for the time being. The King has waited just long enough to mourn the death of his wife of seventeen months before realising that he needs another heir and must marry again. Questions arise as to where he might find a new wife, turning to political ties to strengthen the Protestant cause. While Mary worries about how this might dilute her Catholic background, she worries more about how her own life may be seriously harmed. Those around her remain sycophantic to the king, who seeks a wife rather than basking in the love that Jane brought him. When a potential wife is found in Germany, Mary can only hope that this Princess Anna of Cleves will prove a decent step-mother, even if she is only a year older and likely nowhere near as wise as Mary has been while remaining in England. Recommended for those who enjoy Weir’s work and have a soft spot for all things Tudor.

Weir never disappoints, even when she has a limited time to present her work. I found myself able to devour this piece quickly, yet noticed all the information jammed into the story. Offering things up from the perspective of Mary, recently welcomed back to Court, was a genius way of bridging the Jane and Anne marriages to Henry VIII. I had not given as much thought to the change in role that Mary had under Jane’s short reign, though hindsight has provided me many new ideas on the subject. Weir shows that Mary worries about her own future marriage to a worthwhile prince, surely sullied by her father’s ongoing shelving her and giving her a ‘bastard’ moniker. The Court is also going through many transitions, such that the key players close to Henry VIII are forced to shift their mindset to yet another round of irrational thoughts. The story may have been brief, but Weir packs a punch and keeps readers hooked throughout, pining for the release of the next novel, still many months away. I must admit that I am still a little upset that those outside of the United Kingdom cannot readily access these pieces and hope there will soon be progress to offer them to all fans of Alison Weir the world over.

Kudos, Madam Weir, for another wonderful piece of writing. The Tudors come to life under your pen!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons