From Publishers Weekly
Born to Spain's powerful King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Catherine of Aragon (1485–1536) gave credibility to the rising Tudor monarchy into which she married. Guardian Madrid correspondent Tremlett (Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through Spain and Its Silent Past) eloquently fleshes out the 20-year reign of young Henry VIII's gracious, educated first wife, who intrepidly influenced foreign policy and, as regent, routed the Scots at Flodden Field while Henry less successfully led his army in France. Tremlett clearly favors his Catholic subject, giving her too much credit as the driving force behind opposition to the English Reformation. Still, his portrait of the often overlooked Catherine, who arrived as Henry was elevating his court to a glittering level, as England became firmly established as a European power--a position undermined by the "Great Divorce" from Catherine and the resulting alliance shifts. Tremlett's well-researched portrayal reads easily, and while recognizing Catherine's flaws, he restores the luster to a popular queen whose image was later reduced to a piously dour castoff. Tudor-era fans as well as scholars will appreciate this account. 16 pages of color illus. (Dec.)
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The Tudors never cease to fascinate. For many of us who are intrigued by their history, our first encounter with Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first queen, is with a middle-aged woman who is set aside when her husband’s attention turns to someone younger. This biography by the Guardian’s Madrid correspondent provides a fuller picture. The daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, Catherine was already one of the most learned women in Europe when, still in her teens, she married Arthur, Prince of Wales. His death a few weeks later left her stranded in England until she married King Henry VIII in 1509. Henry’s disappointment over the lack of a son to inherit the throne and his fascination with one of Catherine’s ladies, Anne Boleyn, are used to explain what went wrong with an initially happy union; but Tudor-era politics are never so simple. Tremlett deftly takes the reader through all the twists and turns, and shows us a woman who, rather than being a passive victim, was fully the equal of her husband in conviction and determination. --Mary Ellen Quinn