The life and wives of Henry the Eighth are an endless source of material for novelists. Fact and fiction become blurred in the enjoyment of a good story, but sometimes it is good to be able to distinguish what is real and what is imagined.
Josephine Wilkinson has a superb grasp of the complexities of Tudor English history. Her excellent research is presented in a very readable text. Katherine Howard was the fifth wife of Henry and was beheaded for sexual misbehaviour. This book follows the chronological unfolding of her life. We see a young girl who is a pawn in her father’s games, an abandoned child farmed out to family, and a young woman in love, in a situation where love was not important.
While Katherine Howard’s inexperience and naïveté are evident, so is her grasp of how this world operates. Katherine was, by all accounts, a beautiful young girl and once Henry laid eyes on her, her tragic future was assured. The trusted friends who had a part in her upbringing, now become witnesses who contributed to her downfall. The truth, as always, can be twisted to suit the needs of the accusers.
I gained a much deeper insight into the family Howard through this book. That Katherine was a cousin to the executed Anne Boleyn, meant her family already knew the dangers of trusting a King. This is a readable account of a tragic life. Josephine Wilkinson has already given us four books based on English history. Katherine Howard allows me to hope there may yet be more.
Reviewed by Kathy Watson
by Josephine Wilkinson
Published by John Murray Publishers Ltd