40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on January 28, 2006
I first read this novel when I was thirteen and I found it utterly evocative of the Tudor period and it began a long love of all historical novels. I have devoured every book I could find about Anne Boleyn since and this is still the best. Plaidy created a spirited, proud, desirable Anne and the scenes in the novel really bring her to life. The way she weaves the lives of the two cousins together is very clever and I think it is a very well written piece of fiction.
42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2006
I have read many Plaidy novels, but this delves deeper than the others and represents, in my opinion, absolutely the best of Plaidy, and probably the best on the period. What I don't like about modern historicals is the way they play with history. Plaidy sticks to the facts as they are known and provides insights and details that make the story come alive. The characters are real people, and the facts can't be disputed. In this book, she gives a fairly graphic portrayal of the torture used to extract the false confessions of Henry VIII's hapless victims, and after reading it, I found Plaidy gave me a new understanding of what this era in history, and this dynasty in particular, stood for, and it is even more horrific than I ever imagined. Plaidy's Henry VIII goes about his grotesque and bloody deeds with a good conscience, patting himself on the back for being such a fine and righteous fellow, which makes him even more appalling to our civilized mind. It is a look into the black mind of a serial killer, and a gripping read. Once you pick up the book, you can't put it down again until you're done. Despite the graphic parts, I recommend this novel even for teens, because they won't get a twisted view of history, and besides, Catherine was only a child when this ogre chose her for his queen, so this book would appeal to them. I think everyone who reads it will probably pause and give thanks for being born at a time in history when a monster like this can't roam the highest echelons of power stuffing his bloody mouth with the flesh of saints and sinners alike. That is the beauty of a great historical novel. It makes us understand the past, and appreciate our present even more.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2010
I have read more books- both fiction and non fiction- than I can shake a stick at (about Anne & Catherine). This book jumps around from Anne to Catherine and back again with seemingly no structure. One paragraph is about Catherine and the next is Anne. I could probably get over that but I put the book down for good when I arrived at Anne's execution and saw that Plaidy has her kneeling at a block with her hands restrained. In every historical account I have read Anne is exectued in the French fashion- no block, unrestrained, with a sword. The whole execution sccene is totally at odds with the strong non fiction sources I have previously read. Why? I'm sure Plaidy is famailiar with the history so why mess with it? There are other liberties taken with the truth but this one doesn't streamline the story or advance the plot in any way- so why? I would suggest reading separate books on the two Queens. I had hoped she would address the similiarites between them- their political factions etc in a more intresting way but it felt more like two books smooshed together. I usually really enjoy her work.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2010
This novel instantly attracted me because it had to do with Henry VIII. I have become such an avid learner of the Tudor period that I'm willing to read anything about them. I had a couple of problems with this book. The historical inaccuracies aren't the worst I've come across, but some of the time, I was wondering if Plaidy had done any research on AB at all. Something that is really really getting to me, though, is how Henry is portrayed. In every Tudor novel he is seen as this incredibly selfish, sex crazed, easily manipulated, easily angered monarch. (A nice respite from this was Margaret George's The Autobiography of Henry VIII.). Yes, Henry was selfish and one-track minded when it came to an heir. But he was also shrewd, smart, and devout (despite breaking from Rome, he remained a Catholic). If you are looking for a good story about AB and CH, this is a decent retelling. If you are a fanatic for accuracy, this might not be to your taste.
35 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2003
"Commend me to His Majesty, and tell him that he hath been constant in his career of advancing me, from private gentlewoman he made me a marchioness, from a marchioness a queen, and now he hath left no higher degree of honor, he gives my innocency the crown of martyrdom!" declared Anne Boleyn before she was executed. She was the daughter of a mere knight, but became Queen of England. By doing so, she displaced Henry VIII's faithful and loving wife and daughter, broke England from Rome, and changed the course of history. But, she failed to give Henry VIII his much-desired son, and went the way of those he didn't like - the axe.
Her cousin, Catherine Howard had a similar fate. She was secretly not a virgin when she married Henry VIII, and once it was discovered, as well as the fact she was having an affair with Thomas Culpepper, she too went to the execution block.
This is my least favorite Jean Plaidy book. Her others are painstakingly historically accurate, yet this one is shockingly not so. She says that Anne Boleyn was Henry's mistress 4 years before she really was. Also, Jane Seymour is said to have been his mistress before marriage and pregnant at the time of marriage, when all historical information says the opposite. And perhaps the worst offense, it makes Thomas Cramner look terrible, and even goes as far as to call him a coward on several occasions. He is one of my heroes, and the very fact that he was burned at the stake for refusing to embrace Catholicism shows he was no coward. For a more historically accurate portrayal of these times, try The Lady in the Tower, also by Jean Plaidy.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The book tells the story of two English queens with tragic fates, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. We begin with Henry VIII, depressed with the inability of his wife to produce an heir. When Henry sees Anne as a yong woman there is a quality about her which attracts him instantly and irrevocably. Anne refuses to become Henry's mistress, having seen how short Henry's attention span is and knowing that her position of power and being love with another man. However Anne is unable to hold onto Henry's devotion, especially when she is also unable to produce a male heir speedily. Henry moves quickly through his next two marriages, bringing
Quote: "Tears were in the eyes of many who beheld her, for she had none of that haughtiness which had characterized her tragic cousin. In her black velvet gown she looked what she was, a very young girl, innocent of any crime, whose tragedy was that she had had the absolute misfortune to be desired by a ruthless man whose power was absolute."
As usual, Plaidy writes an intriguing novel with fascinating characters. Her portrayal of Anne is slightly different than some other works I have read on this subject - she is not inherently ambitious or desirous for queenship. Rather, she is in love with another man and when she refuses to become the king's mistress initially she is not just being coy, she truly is trying to (gently) spurn his advances. She has no desire to displace Katherine. However as time paces it is clear that Henry's infatuation shows no hopes of diminishing and, as her love is now married to another man, Anne is powerless to refuse Henry's advances and the plans that come with them. Once in a position of power. of course, Anne will do anything to maintain it - something which becomes increasingly desperate. Catherine Howard, Anne's cousin, is also sought after Henry with single mindedness. She seems Anne's opposite - just 19, unassuming and just eager to please. None of this saves her, however, when rumors of her scandalous past pop up, shattering Henry's image of her as the perfect woman.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 2009
MURDER MOST ROYAL is the second book I have read from the prolific Jean Plaidy, and I enjoyed it moderately. As far as writing style is considered, Plaidy's is a rare talent. However, in storytelling, I believe Murder Most Royal to be merely adequate. There is little in it to keep the attention of someone who already knows the stories of Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard. Anne is portrayed as ever- beautiful, clever, and ambitious - but her story lacks the luster that usually would accompany her in most Tudor era fiction. At times, it even verged on boring, and as a person who is very interested in Henry the Eigth's second wife, I was very surprised when I found myself becoming distracted from my reading because it had become dull. However, at other points in the narration (like a scene in which Anne is boldly teasing the King at Hever), the story seems to take a fresh breath and come alive again. This is short-lived, for the story immediately begins to spiral back downwards, sometimes in the form of a long explanation of Henry's conscience (which was very impressive the first time I read it, and not so much after I'd read it about a dozen more times throughout the book). Despite these somewhat uninteresting passages, I never found myself to be irritated with the story, only a little impatient.
Plaidy's Katherine is less light-headed and frivolous than most authors would like to portray her. She is seen in a more human light, as someone who is flawed not because she is insipid, but because neither her education nor her behavior was ever attended to- a product of her surroundings rather than an empty-headed twit. And Murder Most Royal illustrates this by showing the influence that older girls within the Dowager Duchess's household came to have over a young and impressionable Katherine. However, there were a few things that bothered me about Katherine's half of the story. One was the portrayal of Thomas Culpepper. Plaidy refers to Culpepper's wild youth, his rebellious nature, while never revealing that she is in fact referring to an incident which involved him committing rape and murder. His casting is sometimes like that of a romantic hero. This might be due to the fact that Plaidy is trying to portray Culpepper the way those at the time may have considered him, or simply in the way Katherine considered him, but unless she did not know about it, I'm not sure as to why Plaidy never mentioned the rape and murder by name. It seems a central part of Culpepper's personality. This is just a nit-pick, however, because in general, I found Katherine's story to be the best part of the book. It was a new look at Henry's fifth wife, and shows a scenario in which Katherine is not actually committing adultery. She is, in my opinion, the most well written figure in the book.
I also thought that some of the supporting characters were excellent. The King himself is written in a thoroughly chilling, and thoroughly convincing, way. I mentioned before that Plaidy goes into long explanations about his conscience and how pliant to his will it is. Though it becomes repetitive it is nonetheless astute. It is when Plaidy takes us into the faux reasoning and self-justifying mind of Henry that we feel the real suspense of the tale. Also, Jane Rochford was written to perfection.
If you are a fan of Tudor history, I would still recommend this book despite its flaws. Overall, it's a pretty good read that you will most likely enjoy, despite having its few dull moments.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2009
Murder Most Royal is Jean Plaidy's best and most unforgettable work. It may not be as colorful as something written by Philippa Gregory, but Plaidy has an amazing way of humanizing historical figures so the readers feel they are living the events in the book and not simply reading a novel. Although the book is mostly about Anne Boleyn, it also includes naive little Catherine Howard who lurks in the background awaiting her tragic fate.
This book may seem graphic to some. I'll admit that the torture of Mark Smeaton was hard to read at times. I read this novel years ago, but even the second time around it has not lost any of its magic. Jean Plaidy is just a master storyteller. Absolutely brilliant!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 28, 2013
Nobody writes British historical fiction better than Jean Plaidy and this is one of her classics.
First published in 1949, it is NOT AT ALL dated. The style is engaging, witty, moving, and brings the period and characters to life in such a brilliant way. A page turner which kept me reading late into toe night.
Plaidy creates much more multifaceted character, much more so than the books about Henry's wives by Phillipa Gregory and Susanna Dunn. This is a far superior work to The Other Boleyn Girl in which Gregory demonizes Anne Boleyn and The Confession of Katherine Howard in which Dunn does a horrible hatchet job on Katherine Howard.
Plaidy presents Anne Boleyn as an intelligent, passionate women, capable of great love and loyalty (she is heartbroken when her one true love Henry Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland
She can be ruthless and acts against Katherine of Aragon , and against Princess Mary but we see Mary has #is so filled with hate to Queen Anne (a particularly gruesome passage where Princss Mary describes how she would like to torture Anne to a slow death-a foretaste of her career as Bloody Mary when she took the throne).
Henry VIII is exposed as the cruel egotistical monster he clearly was, though we begin by observing his passionate ardour for the dark haired beauty whose vivacity and polished manners have been aquired during a spell with the French royal family. When she returns to England she quickly attracts Henry's attention.
Of course this love turns to venomous hate when Anne commits the fatal crime of bearing him a daughter!!!
The most evil villain of the piece is no doubt Thomas Cromwell who in his malicious and dastardly conspiracy to destroy Queen Anne, has court musician Thomas Smeaton hideously tortured until he is falsely forced to claim he had sex with her, and to name a slew of lovers.
And it is wonderful to read a sympathetic portrayal of Catherine Howard, whose life is traced from her childhood, her mothers death when she is a little girl and her move to stay at the mansion of her step-grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk.
Catherine is revealed her as having a forgiving nature and always redy to belive the best of people.
I personally believe that Katherine Howard, while indeed was a sexually promiscuous girl and perhaps simple , had a loving heart which was why she loved more than one man
Ultimately her past of having had several lovers before she married Henry was sued to depose and murder the unfortunate girl.
When we see the media and courts today in Britain excuse rape and even murder of young girls by Muslim rape gangs, claiming that the girls are not innocent in cases when they were not previously virgins , we have wonder how far England has really come since Henry's time, or indeed that it came forward particularly since the 1960s in attitudes to women and their value as humans, but has gone backwards in an effort to appease Islamization.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2008
Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard shared a royal blood line - the one that separated their lovely heads from their necks. Anne, beautiful, smart, and willful, played a game with Henry VIII; one that untimately led to the charge of treason (she bore a daughter! Horrors! Too bad Hank didn't have the opportunity to know that daughter would be the one to rule England the way he did!)Catherine Howard was beautiful, but uneducated, and not used to attention; especially from men. She also was accused of treason - she forgot to tell anyone she had promised marriage to a young swain. Henry refused to believe she was untouched (he was probably right)so Catherine ran through the palace halls screaming, looking for Henry to plead with him. The difference in the two women is defined by Jean Plaidy's ability to write history and romance in the same book and keep it interesting. Her work is such that you don't want to put the book down; you want to keep going to see what is going to happen.
Like English history? Then this book is for you!