In the six wives of Henry VIII, Katherine Parr is always called the wife that "survived". Did she really though? Are four marriages, almost being persecuted for her religious beliefs by her husband, the king, and a fourth and final marriage that ended in heartache and death after childbirth really surviving? The final wife and queen of Henry VIII did not have it easy. In "Queen's Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle, the story of Katherine Parr is told.
The novel begins with the death of Katherine's second husband, Lord Latimer. Katherine, widowed for a second time goes to the court of King Henry VIII where she catches the disillusioned king's eye with her intelligence and wit. Another man also notices Katherine, the handsome and charming Thomas Seymour. Thomas and Katherine fall madly in love with one another, but the king wants what he wants. He sends Thomas away and marries the Katherine. Katherine's marriage to the king is unhappy with his constant mood changes, overweight and ill body, irritable persona, and constant need to get another prince on Katherine. Katherine turns to her friends and most importantly, her faith. A reformer with a love for writing and discussing religion, Katherine's views put her in danger with some of the king's advisers and the king himself. Katherine's life is at risk, just like the king's other wives. Eventually, Katherine survives marriage to King Henry VIII, but soon falls into a dangerous and heartbreaking marriage with Thomas Seymour that leaves her heartbroken and dying in childbirth. Told through the perspectives of Katherine herself and others close to Katherine, this is a look at the wife who survived, but only to experience heartbreak just as painful as losing a head.
"Queen's Gambit" does a great job of portraying Katherine, the woman, the queen, the mother, the sister, the wife, and the reformer. Fremantle's Katherine is strong, loyal, protective, intelligent, and complex. Fremantle does a nice job of showing Katherine's passion for religion and the female mind, as well as her love for those close to her.
Where the novel struggles is the pacing. There is so much time focused on Katherine's time as King Henry VIII's wife and queen that the marriage to Thomas Seymour and that dramatic ending feels rushed. Readers may wish there was more time focused on the impact of marrying Thomas, his relationship with Princess Elizabeth, and how Katherine reacted. The novel feels very rushed and not as strong after the death of King Henry VIII.
"Queen's Gambit" is a nice look at the final wife of Henry VIII and really shows what a strong and intelligent woman she was. She was a very different type of woman and queen for the time period and it shines nicely in this novel.
For more information on Elizabeth Fremantle: http://www.elizabethfremantle.com/index.html