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The Last Wife of Henry VIII by Carolly Erickson: A Book Review

The Last Wife of Henry VIII
Author: Carolly Erickson
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: 2006
Pages: 336
Source: My State Public Library

Synopsis: Courageous, attractive, romantic, intelligent, Catherine Parr became the sixth wife of Henry VIII. Her story, as Carolly Erickson re-creates it, is page-turning drama: from the splendors of the Field of the Cloth of Gold to the gory last years of the outsize King Henry, when heads rolled and England trembled, Catherine bestrode her destiny and survived to marry her true love.


     Catherine Parr attracted the king's lust and, though much in love with the handsome Thomas Seymour, was thrown into the intrigue-filled snake pit of the royal court. While victims of the king's wrath suffered torture and execution, Catherine persevered—until, at last, she came within the orbit of the royal fury. King Henry toyed with her, first ordering her arrested, then granting her clemency. She managed to evade execution, but she knew that the king had his wandering eye fixed on wife number seven. 


     She was spared by his death and married the attractive but dangerously unbalanced Seymour. Her triumph was shadowed by rivalry with the young Princess Elizabeth, whose lands and influence the lecherous Seymour coveted. Catherine won the contest, but at great cost.


     In The Last Wife of Henry VIII, critically acclaimed author Carolly Erickson brings this dramatic story of survival and redemption to life.


     My Review: Queen Catherine Parr was the final wife of Henry VIII. She was also England’s most married Queen. In The Last Wife of Henry VIII, Queen Catherine Parr’s life is retold from her early years until her death. After the death of her second husband, Catherine wants to marry her love Thomas Seymour. However, she has caught the attention of King Henry VIII. She realizes that she has no choice but to marry the king. Once she becomes queen, Catherine endures many hardships. She fails to give King Henry VIII a son. This leads him to look for another who would become his second wife. Thus, King Henry VIII and ministers are finding ways to get rid of Queen Catherine Parr. Can Queen Catherine Parr navigate these dangers and survive?


      I really liked Alison Weir’s fictional take on Queen Catherine Parr. Thus, I learned that Carolly Erickson, who is another distinguished historian, also wrote a historical novel on her. Therefore, I was curious to read and see if it was equally good. As soon as I checked it out from my library, I immediately dug into the first few pages. It started out good, but then the second part quickly became a disappointment. I found that Alison Weir’s version was superior and historically more accurate.


     Unlike Alison Weir’s historical fiction version that shows a careful and practical woman, Erickson’s Catherine Parr is often reckless. She is very hypocritical and judgmental. She also doesn’t form a bond with King Henry VIII’s children, which she does in real life. Queen Catherine Parr was very influential in establishing both Princess Mary and Princess Elizabeth to the succession. Yet, the book makes no mention of it, and she rarely has any interactions with them. Thus, I found this Queen Catherine Parr to be very different from what historical records show. I did not like this depiction of Queen Catherine Parr.


     Overall, this novel is about love, religion, and duty. I did like the portrayals of some of the characters. I didn’t like how she portrayed Princess Elizabeth as a bratty princess who held no regard for her stepmother. Some of the famous events that happened during Queen Catherine Parr’s reign weren't mentioned in this novel. Many of the scenes were also very far-fetched and laughable. I also didn’t like the frequent time jumps. Nevertheless, The Last Wife of Henry VIII was a very light read that reads like a soap opera! It is full of court and political intrigue! If you like to read anything about the Tudors, this book still has some entertaining content. However, there are superior historical fiction novels on Queen Catherine Parr. They are Alison Weir’s Katherine Parr: The Sixth Wife, Jean Plaidy’s The Sixth Wife, and Philippa Gregory’s The Taming of the Queen! Thus, I suggest that you skip this book and read those other historical fiction novels on Queen Catherine Parr!


Rating: 2 out of 5 stars


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