31 August 2015

Review: The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory

* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster * 

The Taming of the Queen is about the life of Kateryn Parr, the sixth and final Queen of King Henry VIII.

Told in the first person by Kateryn (the story begins in 1543 with a widowed Kateryn soon to become Queen), the reader is swept away to the court of King Henry VIII in the expert hands of historian and author Philippa Gregory.

Technically the 7th in the Tudor Court series, The Taming of the Queen can easily be read as a standalone as Gregory uses her expertise to ensure you never lose track of the characters; something other authors of the genre often fail to do. 

Religion was the driving force at the time as King Henry's support for the Papists and the Reformers continues to waver back and forth, leaving the people of England unsure where the King's faith truly lays. This creates a dangerous and deadly environment at court, and Kateryn does her best to steer clear of any trouble.

Kateryn is painfully aware of the ghosts of Henry's previous wives (the King has buried four wives after all) and does an incredible job of staying alive; desperate to learn from the mistakes of the queens before her and living with constant fear and uncertainty.

The Taming of the Queen offers a magnificent portrait of Henry VIII at the latter stages of his life, suffering from ill health and some say paranoia. Kateryn brings the young royal children to court, (Prince Edward, Mary I, Elizabeth I) and she really brings the family together in a royal first. We see her influence on young Mary and Elizabeth, and knowing what will happen later on in their adulthood gives this period more meaning.

This image of Princess Diana at Princess Charlotte's
christening, is similar to the family portrait
commissioned by King Henry VIII where he
ordered that Kateryn Parr be replaced by the
image of his late wife, Jane Seymour
The cover of the novel (above) shows part of a family portrait commissioned by King Henry VIII, the sitting and unveiling of which is included in the novel. At the unveiling, Kateryn is shocked and hurt to see she has been replaced by the late Jane Seymour, beloved Queen who died in childbirth after giving Henry his male heir (Prince Edward). I knew that including a deceased person in a painting or portrait was done and not shocking at the time, but seeing this through Kateryn's eyes really upset me, and I couldn't stop thinking about it for days. How would we react if this happened today?

Then I remembered that I had seen this recently, in a photograph of the late Princess Diana looking at Princess Charlotte on the day of her christening. This image was photoshopped but I found it really moving, and perhaps King Henry was chasing or seeking this same sentiment in 1545.

I had at least two Henry VIII inspired dreams while reading The Taming of the Queen and am still thinking about it weeks after I finished reading the final pages. 

The Taming of the Queen is expertly written and easily one of my favourite books of the year.

My rating = *****

Carpe Librum!

6 comments:

Ms M said...

The main difference between the two family portraits is that Kate is included whereas Kateryn was excluded. I haven't read Gregory's book yet but just finished reading the Jean Plaidy one called The Sixth Wife published in 1953. It will be interesting to compare the two when I read Gregory's book. Nice review.

Tracey said...

Thanks Ms M, I haven't read anything by Jean Plaidy, but I've heard she's very good. Let me know how it compares to this one.

Carmen said...

Sounds like the author did her job well if you are still thinking about the story days after you finished it. I like Philippa Gregory's novels, but I tend to avoid them because of their size.

Tracey said...

Oh Carmen, please don't let the size put you off any of her books, they're really not that long and The Taming of the Queen was only 425 pages and trust me, they flew by!

Elizabeth said...

Love her books.

That photo is so eerie, but beautiful. :)

Thanks for sharing, and enjoy your day.

Stopping by from Carole's Books You Loved August Edition. I am in the list as #30 through #33.

Happy Reading!!

Elizabeth
Silver's Reviews

The Promise of Home

The Secrets of Lake Road

In The Dark Places

Dead Money Run

Tracey said...

Thanks for stopping by Elizabeth.