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Catherine of Aragon: The Spanish Queen of…

Catherine of Aragon: The Spanish Queen of Henry VIII (2010)

by Giles Tremlett

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It's hard to say much new about Henry VIII's first wife, but Giles Tremlett manages to do just that by bringing in the lesser know testimony of Catherine of Aragon's Spanish courtiers, particularly those who accompanied her on her journey from Spain to England and who later testified in a Spanish trial regarding the legitimacy of her marriage to Henry VIII. These sources adds new voices, if not much new information, to the discussion of Catherine and Henry's notorious divorce. Overall, this biography provided a solid life of Catherine and, being familiar with this time period, I appreciated that the author took the time to discuss Catherine's Spanish childhood and the middle years of Catherine's life, rather than skipping past those years to dwell on her divorce. Good reading for those interested in Catherine of Aragon. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Jun 8, 2018 |
Solid account as far as I can tell. ( )
  PCorrigan | Jun 7, 2015 |
This book may be unique in English-language historical literature; at least, I can't think of another like it. There are many, many books about Henry VIII, or the six wives of Henry VIII, or Anne Boleyn (Catherine of Aragon's successor/usurper), but I can't think of a single full-length biography of Catherine herself. Most of the books about Henry's wives act as if she only stepped onto the scene when Henry fell in love with Anne Boleyn. This covers her entire life, beginning with the background stories of her parents, in particular her mother, Isabella of Spain.

The author doesn't waste a lot of time in pointless speculation of "did she or didn't she?" regarding the consummation or otherwise of Catherine's marriage to Henry's brother Arthur; nor does he talk about Anne Boleyn any more than is necessary. Catherine steals the show here. You get to see her here as an intelligent, incredibly strong and tenacious woman in her own right, and you understand better why she acted as she did in opposing the divorce even to the bitter end. Contrary to some accounts, she was not poisoned to death; when they autopsied her body they found a tumor attached to her heart, which had turned black. She died of something very close to a broken heart.

This is a very valuable, downright necessary, addition to the canon of Tudor history. Well worth a read. ( )
2 vote meggyweg | May 6, 2013 |
I'm a Tudor history junkie. My mom started me on Jean Plaidy practically in the crib, and I've never looked back.

This is the first truly sympathetic, in depth portrait of Catherine that I've read. It was so interesting to read the other side of the glamorous, scandalous Great Matter of the King. Because Elisabeth I was so beloved and ruled so wisely and long, the world tends to focus on her doomed, tragic, pathetic mother, and Bloody Mary's mom gets relegated to the dowdy impediment to the birth of The Virgin Queen. This book sets about redressing that imbalance.

The Catherine who emerges from these pages is vital, committed, and entirely lovable. She's also smart and able, but outgunned in the end. There's a lot of familiar territory here just the same- hard to present it freshly. The writing is able but not stellar.

Highly recommended for Tudor history fans. ( )
  satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
This is a great book, very readable and absolutely fascinating. Although I had no particular interest in Catherine of Aragon to start with, I like history so I decided to pick it up from the bargain table in my bookshop. I'm glad I did. Highly reccomended :) ( )
1 vote dorotheabaker | Dec 12, 2012 |
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The poetry of history lies in the quasi-miraculous fact that once, on this earth, once, on this familiar spot of ground, walked other men and women, as actual as we are today, thinking their own thoughts, swayed by their own passions, but now all gone, one generation vanishing into another, gone as utterly as we ourselves shall shortly be gone, like ghosts at cockcrow.
G. M. Trevalyan, An Autobiography and Other Essays, 1949
For Edward and Berenice Tremlett, my parents
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Zaragoza, the Cathedral
June 11, 1531
Salvador Felipe stood at the doors of the great cathedral in Zaragoza and began to read aloud. It was mid-June 1531, and the infernal summer heat that replaces the biting winter winds of Spain's central Ebro plain must have been settling in. The cathedral had been packed for Sunday morning Mass and Felipe should have had a good crowd when he raised his voice to name the king of England, Henry VIII. The English king, Felipe announced, was being summoned before a tribunal in the city. If he wanted to hear what others were saying about him, then Henry must appear at the cathedral cloisters on the following Wednesday. If the king did not wish to come himself, he could senda legal representative.¹
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The youngest child of the legendary monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536) was born to marry for dynastic gain. Endowed with English royal blood on her mother's side, she was betrothed in infancy to Arthur, Prince of Wales, eldest son of Henry VII of England, an alliance that greatly benefited both sides. Yet Arthur died weeks after their marriage in 1501, and Catherine found herself remarried to his younger brother, soon to become Henry VIII. The history of England—and indeed of Europe—was forever altered by their union.

Drawing on his deep knowledge of both Spain and England, Giles Tremlett has produced the first full biography in more than four decades of the tenacious woman whose marriage to Henry VIII lasted twice as long (twenty-four years) as his five other marriages combined. Her refusal to divorce him put her at the center of one of history's greatest power struggles, one that has resonated down through the centuries— Henry's break away from the Catholic Church as, bereft of a son, he attempted to annul his marriage to Catherine and wed Anne Boleyn. Catherine's daughter, Mary, would controversially inherit Henry's throne; briefly and bloodily, she returned England to the Catholicism of her mother's native Spain, foreshadowing the Spanish Armada some three decades later.

From Catherine's peripatetic childhood at the glittering court of Ferdinand and Isabella to the battlefield at Flodden, where she, in Henry's absence abroad, led the English forces to victory against Scotland to her determination to remain queen and her last years in almost monastic isolation, Giles Tremlett vividly re-creates the life of a giant figure in the sixteenth century. Catherine of Aragon will take its place among the best of Tudor biography  [Product description from Amazon, retrieved 12/11/2010]
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Tremlett delivers the first major biography in nearly half a century of the Spanish Queen of Henry VIII--the woman who changed the face of Tudor and European history.

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