31 July 2020

Review: Katheryn Howard - The Tainted Queen (Six Tudor Queens V) by Alison Weir

Katheryn Howard - The Tainted Queen by Alison Weir book cover
* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

Katheryn Howard - The Tainted Queen is the fifth novel in the Six Tudor Queens series by British historian Alison Weir. I've been following the series for years now and each book can be read and enjoyed as a stand alone.

We join Katheryn Howard at age seven in 1528 and follow her short life in a first person narrative all the way until her death in 1542. She falls in love with several men in her youth, and I desperately wanted Katheryn to be more discreet and discerning while at the same time recognising the folly of youth and the overwhelming urges of desire.

Katheryn's life unalterably changes when she's selected by family and powerful men driven by political aspirations to court King Henry VIII. As we know, Katheryn goes on to become the King's fifth wife (hence the fifth book in the series) and I cringed when her past kept coming back to haunt her. Despite knowing the outcome, I was still moved by her decline in Henry's favour and her ultimate execution.

I eagerly awaited the scene that takes place at Hampton Court Palace when Katheryn breaks free from her guards and runs down a corridor towards the Chapel Royal screaming for mercy from the King. The scene in the book exceeded my every expectation and I felt a chill reading it. It is said the ghost of Katheryn Howard can be felt in this corridor and some visitors report feeling a chill or hearing screams. The corridor is now known as the 'haunted gallery' and it was a highlight of my visit to Hampton Court Palace in 2018.

This, together with my imagining Katheryn as portrayed by Tamzin Merchant in The Tudors series only added to my reading enjoyment.

Given Katheryn was just 21 when she died, I wasn't expecting such a well rounded and 'full' novel, but I really shouldn't have been surprised. In Alison Weir's expert hands, I was transported back to the 1500s and given another chance to participate as an observer in the dramatic Tudor court.

I thoroughly enjoyed Katheryn Howard - The Tainted Queen and recommend it to readers with an interest in the Tudor period; even if you've read about the characters elsewhere. There's only one more to come in this series Katharine Parr: The Sixth Wife and there's no doubt it's going to be one of my most anticipated releases in 2021.

Carpe Librum!

See my reviews of previous novels in the Six Tudor Queens series by Alison Weir:
Anne Boleyn - A King's Obsession (Book II)
Jane Seymour - The Haunted Queen (Book III)
Anna of Kleve - Queen of Secrets (Book IV)
My Rating:

Would you like to comment?

  1. I remember this wife from The Tudors, the actress played her convincingly (or at least, to what we believe she would have been like), but I never had much sympathy or likeness for her, except as the pawn she undoubtedly was. I'm a bit behind on this series but I do enjoy it. This one has a particularly lovely cover.

    1. I know what you mean. At least in the book there's more time for character development and she doesn't come across as so much of an 'air head.'

  2. With all due respect, and while I'm sure that these books are lovely, I just feel like these six women have been written about SO much... I just can't feel motivated to read more about them.

  3. You're absolutely right Davida, there are countless books written about these women, but each author brings their own take on the events and the characters themselves. I only read the best of the best by historians like Alison Weir and Philippa Gregory and reading the novels helps me to remember the history. I still can't remember all of the characters (people from history) or how their allegiances continued to shift with the politics of the time. I just find it fascinating. Totally understand if you've reached Tudor saturation point though, I completely get it. There are always plenty of other historical novels to enjoy out there.


Thanks for your comment, Carpe Librum!