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Young and Damned and Fair: The Life of Catherine Howard, Fifth Wife of King Henry VIII Hardcover – April 4, 2017
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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After Jane Seymour, Henry's third wife, dies giving birth to Edward VI Henry finds himself with a bedroom vacancy and he is not one to tolerate loneliness. Thomas Cromwell, Henry's trusted advisor and fixer searches for a suitable political match for his king. Eventually, Anne of Cleves, a German noblewoman, is designated as a suitable match and a political asset as her brother is in a position to make things difficult for France should war become necessary. Sadly, Anne's attractiveness is apparently overstated by Cromwell and others and Henry is not pleased with his new fiancé. But this isn't meant to be a love match, it's politics so Henry goes through with the wedding but the marriage is a bust. When the continental war possibilities are pacified and Cleves' usefulness is no longer needed then neither is his sister. A bureaucratic maneuver is made to have the marriage with Anne annulled in very short order and Anne is rather richly bought off quietly settled at the Palace of Richmond outside London. Once again Henry has an empty bed and goes on the hunt but this time Cromwell is no longer available and will soon lose his head, a common occurrence during Henry's reign. Henry lays eyes on a new addition to his court a young, very young, lady in waiting and niece to one of the two most senior noblemen in England, the Duke of Norfolk. The lady is Catherine Howard.
Catherine's age is uncertain but it is universally regarded to be quite young, probably not 20 when the king notices her and takes a fancy to this very lovely girl. What Henry wants Henry gets and it doesn't take a great deal to get Catherine and on the day Cromwell meets the headsman at the Tower Catherine weds Henry. In contemporary terms Catherine would probably be regarded as the trophy wife of a grossly overweight middle-aged man that happens to be the most powerful man in the country. Catherine is now the most powerful woman in England and she enjoys the good life but she is young and foolish and very reckless. She is also brings to court the indiscretions of earlier youthful daliances and tries to pursue romance in the backstairs of assorted palaces and manor houses in which she and her staff reside. She learns the hard way that such indiscretions in a queen are not simple matters but are capital offenses for herself, her family, and many around her including innocents. It is a sad story of a foolish girl in a world she was ill-equipped to enter and survive and whose stupidity led not only to her death but to that of many others.
Catherine's story is replete with all the expected elements of English history. There is plenty of political maneuvering, quicky trials and executions, sexual trysts, oafish conduct. etc. However, what I wasn't expecting was the wealth of detail concerning court life in the Renaissance England of Henry VIII. Now one of the drawbacks to English history is the labyrinth of family relationships that is always involved with English nobility. Of course this puzzle of parentage is present in this book but not to the usual intricate level of most such histories. In all honesty though I guess I would have to admit that unless you are interested in English history then this book would probably not appeal to you. You would also probably not be as fascinated as I was by learning about the court hierarchy and etiquette in use during this period of history. So I suppose you deserve a bit of warning regarding this book but it is still an interesting story and worth reading. (less)
Always a glorious sign. Buy YOUNG AND DAMNED AND FAIR -- and think once again of poor Catherine Howard, here brought to life by a skilled historian.