Katherine Parr was the 6th wife of King Henry VIII. Considering his marital history, she must have thought twice before she showed up for that wedding in 1543, when she was 31. The already-ailing Henry died in January 1547. Katherine had already survived two husbands. She did marry Henry, and lived to tell the tale. Then she married Thomas Seymour, believed by many to have been her real love all along. She was unlucky in that marriage, though. She did become pregnant, for the first time, at age 35. But she died a few days after giving birth to a daughter. Her fourth husband, for his part, was involved in various scandals and worse. He was executed for treason in 1549.
In The Wall Street Journal, the British writer Elizabeth Fremantle writes about the process she used in writing her new historical novel about Katherine Parr. The article is titled “The Life of the Wife of Henry VIII.” It is at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323610704578627820370655036.html. The article reproduces a fine portrait of Katherine.
The book, “Queen’s Gambit” (Simon and Schuster), will come out in a few days. Elizabeth Fremantle writes eloquently of how this Tudor-era queen came alive for her when she visited Hampton Court Palace, where Katherine married Henry VIII. The day of the writer’s visit, actors happened to be portraying the wedding festivities. Afterward, the writer visited the kitchens, all extensively preserved and restored, and gained insight into the lives of people who must have served the royals.
I’ve been to Hampton Court Palace too. It is truly steeped in history, and much easier to take in than many of the sights in central London. The best way to get there from the city is by train. Visitors who buy a day return on the train receive a nice discount on admission to the Palace.
It’s easy to see why Henry VIII appropriated this peaceful and luxurious river retreat from his right-hand man, Cardinal Wolsey. I will certainly be reading Elizabeth Fremantle’s new book about this very intelligent woman who navigated her way through perilous times in the Tudor era.
Join me next time for more explorations into the art, history and literature of Europe and the British Isles!