QueenKatherine Parr presents a detailed and impressive portrait, not only of Katherine, but of the whole tortuous, dangerous, treacherous yet brilliant Tudor age in which she lived.
A devotee of Renaissance humanism, Protestant firebrand, political intriguer, wily survivor, and early campaigner for the rights of women; there are few figures in Henry VIII’s court who had a greater legacy than Queen Katherine Parr.
Born into an ancient and wealthy family of Northern gentry, Parr received a thorough introduction into the New Learning advocated by Erasmus and Sir Thomas More before being married off at twelve to a sixty-year-old noble who would die only three years later. She and her second husband, John Latimer, somehow managed to escape condemnation and execution when they flirted dangerously with the rebels in the Pilgrimage of Grace. Yet, it was after Latimer’s death that Katherine took the greatest risk by catching the eye of that brutal monarch, Henry VIII.
Antony Martienssen utilises a huge assortment of sources to illuminate the dangerous world of Henry’s court, exploring how Katherine was able to stay alive and survive when so many others found their necks upon the chopping block. What makes this biography remarkable is the fact that Martienssen demonstrates that Parr was not simply a passive pawn, but a skilled navigator through the dangerous shoals of Tudor politics. Outwitting her arch-enemy, Thomas Cromwell, she was the prime factor in his disgrace and execution.
As Henry’s final Queen it fell to her to oversee the education of her step-children, the future Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I. Tutors were chosen steeped in humanism and her brand of Protestantism which particularly shaped Edward and Elizabeth’s reigns. Martienssen even shows how it was through Parr’s influence that Mary and Elizabeth were restored to the line of succession.
‘A biography of King Henry VIII’s sixth and last wife, who had the acumen to survive that formidable monarch with her neck intact. Mr Martienssen sees this much-married lady as a woman of character and intellect, a devotee of Humanism in her early life and of the Reformation in her maturity. A pioneer in the growth of feminine influence in affairs of state, Katherine, in his view, was the prime agent of Thomas Cromwell’s fall, and played a leading part in moulding the character of the future Queen Elizabeth I’ Sunday Telegraph