The Sixth Wife
Harper, Jan 8 2008, $13.95
Considered pragmatic by her friends especially the Duchess of Suffolk Catherine Brandon, twice widowed Katherine Parr became the sixth wife of King Henry VIII, a position not known for its longevity. Perhaps it was the experience gained from being wedded to two much older husbands, bur Katherine proved her practical nature by surviving four years with the elderly monarch until he died, making her unique as the Dowager Queen,. Within a few months of becoming a widow again, Katherine marries Thomas Seymour, whom she was in love with before Henry “exiled” him to Brussels so he could marry her; he since has returned to England and become a confidante of Princess Elizabeth. They have a daughter Mary, but was her last marriage a happy one ponders Catherine as Thomas seems more fascinated with the princess than his once royal wife?
This is an interesting biographical fiction novel that looks deep into the latter part of the life of Katherine Parr, mostly from just after she became a thrice widow. The story is told almost exclusively by Catherine looking back after Katherine has died in 1548 so lacks a historiographic counterpoint as the subject’s best friend distrusted her last ambitious husband, who she believed married the “Widow” for her political connections. One interesting side note is that the vernacular used is twenty-first century (explained why by Suzannah Dunn in an afterward) so that purists who prefer Shakespearean English should pass as the idioms are technologically modern; thou who find Shakespeare as “ye olde” English will appreciate the anachronism. Well written, THE SIXTH WIFE provides a fascinating slant on the Tudor age especially life near the top during the five years after Henry’s demise.