In between watching the tennis, ricocheting off the ceiling and shrieking and yelling at Roger/Andy/et al I have managed to read a few books. A couple of Agatha Christies, a couple by Roger Barnard, a crime writer who I am obsessed with at the moment and trying to read the lot but in the end I put them all to one side the other day, sat down on my sofa with a cup of coffee and there I stayed for two hours to finish Katherine of Aragon by Alison Weir which I had started just before the Felixstowe Book Festival at which Alison was a speaker.
I attended a convent school so you can imagine that history was somewhat slanted, particularly the reign of Henry VIII and his role in the dissolution of the monasteries and the breaking away from the Catholic Church. We were also taught that Anne Boleyn was the She Devil, the Scarlet Woman and any other epithet you can imagine and that Henry was an easily beguiled foolish man led astray by an Evil Woman.
Well I was not a total believer in that theory but kept my thoughts to myself as the nuns had already labelled me as a Bold Girl if I queried anything, which I did frequently and for which I nearly got expelled - twice. Looking back now I can genuinely say that these queries were not outrageous in any way but the nuns thought otherwise.
Tudor history has got to be the most fascinating period in British history. Oh I love Georgian and Victorian history, they are easily my favourite eras, but for sheer bloody murder, double dealing and back stabbing this Tudor lot make Michael Gove look like Little Lord Fauntleroy. I am sure that nearly everyone reading this post has plenty of background knowledge of the King's Great Matter, his infatuation with Anne Boleyn and his efforts to put aside Katherine of Aragon, his first wife so no need for me to go into detail here.
This is a fiction book and the first in a series of six - one book per wife and I can hardly wait to read the next one and see what Alison makes of Anne Boleyn. In this book, written from Katherine's perspective, she really sounds an absolute cow but anybody who watched Wolf Hall last year will realise that once you are caught in the toils of Henry VIII you have to scheme and wriggle just to make sure your head stays on your shoulders. No trick will be left undone, no maneouvre too outrageous.
Katherine has been accused of being intransigent and stubborn and that if she had given in, gone to a nunnery and be treated well by Henry, her life would have been easier. Well of course it would, but we must remember that Katherine was a daughter of Isabella of Aragon, Spanish royal blood ran through her veins, she was proud and, most of all, her religion was her life and she was not going to betray her mortal soul for anything or anybody. This stubbornness drove Henry to treat her more and more badly. A classic case of a man knowing he is guilty, knowing he is in the wrong and trying to transfer his guilt to the innocent party. She loved him all her life and never gave up hope that he would return to her despite all the evidence to the contrary.
I so enjoyed this book. Immensely readable and I was unable to put it down once I started reading. At the end I found myself with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes as she dictated a letter to Henry on her deathbed:
"For my part, I do pardon you all, yes I do wish and dearly pray God that He will also pardon you. For the rest, I commend to you Mary, our daughter beseeching you to be a good father to her.......lastly, I vow that my eyes desire you above all things"
A brave and noble woman. I await the author's book on Anne Boleyn and this is going on my list of Books of the Year.