Katheryn Howard, The Scandalous Queen

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Katheryn Howard, The Scandalous Queen: Review by Samantha Yorke

From the publisher: Bestselling author and acclaimed historian Alison Weir tells the tragic story of Henry VIII’s fifth wife, a nineteen-year-old beauty with a hidden past, in this fifth novel in the sweeping Six Tudor Queens series.

In the spring of 1540, Henry VIII, desperate to be rid of his queen, Anna of Kleve, first sets eyes on the enchanting Katheryn Howard. Although the king is now an ailing forty-nine-year-old measuring fifty-four inches around his waist, his amorous gaze lights upon the pretty teenager. Seated near him intentionally by her ambitious Catholic family, Katheryn readily succumbs to the courtship.

Henry is besotted with his bride. He tells the world she is a rose without a thorn, and extols her beauty and her virtue. Katherine delights in the pleasures of being queen and the power she has to do good to others. She comes to love the ailing, obese king and tolerate his nightly attentions. If she can bear him a son, her triumph will be complete. But Katheryn has a past of which Henry knows nothing, and which comes back increasingly to haunt her–even as she courts danger yet again.

*****

There can be little doubt that Alison Weir has made an indelible mark on the public’s fascination with Tudor History. I was hesitant to take this ARC copy at first because I generally find the author’s fiction to be difficult to read. However, there are many good points to be taken from this fictional story of Katheryn Howard.

The book begins are the death of Katheryn Howard’s mother. From there we are taken on the journey of her short, tragic life. Ms. Weir shows us a young girl who is overlooked and passed first from relative to relative, then from man to man, all the while she merely yearns for a home and a place to be loved and belong.

She catches the eye of King Henry VIII. The reader will feel the anxiety that the young queen experiences, afraid that her past lovers will come to light. We share her joy as the King spoils her and she finally appears to delight in being cherished and adored.

Then, just as quickly as she ascended, Katheryn Howard is doomed by the shadows and whispers of her past. Weir vividly paints a sympathetic, doomed young girl trapped and caged in the trappings that she has grown to love as she finally felt secure in the world the King created for her.

Weaving a novel length story about a life that we know so little takes a great amount of skill and talent.

This book is not as long as most of Ms. Weir’s fiction, which will be a bonus for some readers who may find her rambling, extensive stories tedious. The book opens with brief family trees of the Tudors, Howards, Culpepers, and Derehams-which is impressive. Her devoted following will love this book, and I believe she will garner new appreciation for the sheer volume of research she did on the life and story of this poor pawn in the machinations of a tyrannical king. This is also an ideal book to get lost in for a few days. Due to these factors, I’m giving the book four stars.

*****

Special thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for an ARC of this book in exchange for a fair review. Release date is May 12, 2020.

You may purchase the book here.

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Shadow of Persephone: The Story of Catherine Howard

February 1542
A young woman awaits her execution in the Tower of London, sent to death on the orders of her husband, Henry VIII.

Daughter of the nobility, cousin to a fallen Queen, Catherine Howard rose from the cluttered ranks of courtiers at the court of Henry VIII to become the King’s fifth wife. But hers is a tale that starts long before the crown was placed on her head. A tale of tragedy and challenges, predators and prey; the story of a young girl growing up in a perilous time, facing dangers untold.

The fifth wife of Henry VIII would end her life on the block, like her cousin Anne Boleyn… But where did her story begin?

Shadow of Persephone is Book One in the series The Story of Catherine Howard, by G. Lawrence (Gemma Lawrence)

Purchase here:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Katheryn Howard, The Play

Katheryn Howard

★★★★ “Seen through fresh eyes, and particularly from a 21st century perspective, (Katheryn’s) story is not just tragic but horrifying…A strong debut production… historically interesting and emotionally impactful” -The Blog of Theatre Things

Producer: Goosebite Theatre

Playwright: Catherine Hiscock

Director: Alex Pearson 

Chorus Director: Emmanuela Lia

Casting Director: Natalie Harper 

★★★★ “Contemporary and heartbreaking….Catherine Hiscock gives an outstanding performance as Katheryn-London Pub Theatres 

An all-female cast retells the story of seventeen year old Katheryn Howard, fifth wife of King Henry VIII, in this poignant examination of power, truth and blame 

A young woman on trial 

Locked within her rooms, whilst men investigate their conduct, the young queen and her ladies await the interrogations they know will come. 

Set against the shallow and oppressive world of the Tudor court and influenced by classical Greek drama, Katheryn Howard is a new play that is both contemporary and hauntingly relevant. 

There are men talking about me now 

Talking about you but mainly about me 

Written by Catherine Hiscock, Katheryn Howard was expanded from a short monologue that first appeared at Glass Splinters-a writing night at The Pleasance Theatre, dedicated to ‘untold stories’ of women from history. Developed into a full length production, the play enjoyed sell out shows at The Brockley Jack Theatre. The show is under the direction of Alex Pearson with movement direction by Emmanuela Lia. 

Cast:

Catherine Hiscock ~ Katheryn Howard, Natalie Harper ~ Jane Boleyn, Emmanuela Lia ~ Kit Tilney, Francesca Anderson ~ Joan Bulmer, Srabani Sen ~ Isabelle Baynton 

Catherine Hisbock as Katheryn Howard

“★★★★ “An intriguing assertion of Howard’s version of events -London Theatre1

Wednesday, November 6th will be the anniversary of the day King’s men burst into Katheryn’s rooms at and informed her and her ladies that they were under house arrest. On this night the theatre will be holding an informal social. This will include a free drink from the bar and a chance to meet the cast and creatives with any questions. They will be raising money for the charity Tender that works with young people using drama and arts to end sexual abuse and domestic violence.

The all-female cast of Katheryn Howard

Theatre info here:

The Hope Theatre
207 Upper Street
London N1 1RL
29 October – 16 November
Tuesday – Saturday at 7.45pm
Tickets £15 & £12

www.thehopetheatre.com 

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Goosebite Theatre

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For more information, interviews and press bookings please contact:

Goosebite Theatre Company

Telephone: 07592459403

Email: goosebitetc@gmail.com

PRESS NIGHT:

7.45pm Friday 1st November