38. The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory

Monday 14 March 2016

I have always been slightly dubious when picking up one of Philippa Gregory's books. There's no doubt that she is a talented writer, and that she does her research, however my problems tend to stem from what she chooses to present in the story line. I enjoyed her The White Queen series, and taking it with a pinch of salt for the magical elements I do go back to them every now and then. I really didn't enjoy her take on Anne Boleyn in The Other Boleyn Girl, as I don't believe that she was guilty of what she was accused. Gregory took the route portraying Anne as guilty of the charges. Over all it is probably one of the most hated books I have ever read. So it was with some trepidation that I picked up The Taming of the Queen. Focusing on Katheryn Parr, and the issues surrounding her new life as the King's desired bride, and the ensuing drama of court politics. 

I was pleasantly surprised. 
I enjoy Gregory's writing style in this book, it flows very nicely, and is descriptive without being too flowery. Katheryn is likable from the beginning, and as a reader you feel very sorry for her, as to marry the tyrannical Henry VIII is to essentially put her life on the line each and every day that the marriage lasts. She's put at the very pinnacle of power but can be brought down just a ruthlessly as her predecessor had been. 

I liked the way Katheryn felt she was living with the ghost of each wife through their belongings, as she drove ahead to forge her own identity as Queen of England. It can't have been an easy feat, and Gregory portrays this brilliantly when Katheryn is going through the Queen's wardrobe, and each item can be linked to a previous Queen. 

The way Jane Seymour is idolised by Henry is very much how I imagine it must have been in real life. Saintly, meek Jane, who died alone and scared after delivering Henry of his longed for heir. It's no wonder that I felt indignant at Katheryn being overlooked at various stages, that she is dismissed from the official family line in grand family portraits, and has to keep her head high and rise above it. I have to admit, I think that is something my pride couldn't swallow, so I doubt I'd of survived long in Katheryn's position. I would take the quiet life of a country lady in the place of the wife and Queen of Henry VIII for sure. 

By the time we meet Henry during these later stages of his life, the last four years to be exact, he is spoilt, cantankerous, petty and most importantly, dangerous. Katheryn must walk a never ending tight rope of cat and mouse, and it made for a gripping, page turning read. The court is balancing on a knife edge day to day, dictated by the whims of a very changeable King and Katheryn must take the lead and be the figurehead for the declining King. She brings his children to court so that they can grow as a family, and helps to have Mary and Elizabeth reinstated. Her portrayal of Mary and Elizabeth is very good, and echos of what was to become to them, although at this point in time in the book Mary is not as zealous in her religion in the open. She understands that whatever her private thoughts she must go with the status quo, to a point. She longs for a dynastic marriage and Katheryn attempts to aid her, however this amounts to nothing, and foreshadows Mary's desire for her future marriage to Philip of Spain. 

Then there is the enigmatic Elizabeth, who in her precocious youth beings her education as a future ruler, shadowing Katheryn when she is instated a regent in Henry's absence. A favourite passage of mine is when Elizabeth states that she will never marry, after learning that she should listen to her husband and not think for herself. It sets itself up nicely for any future offering from Gregory about Elizabeth's journey to the throne.

In his daughters Henry sees the failings of the mothers he discarded. I especially got this impression with Elizabeth. Even by this stage of his life, he still questioned her paternity, even when the vibrant Tudor hair was staring back at him. Perhaps he saw too much that reminded him of Anne. I very much believe that Henry ultimately convinced himself of Anne's 'guilt' so he could live with his decision. He would never admit that he just wanted her dead, he needed to be appear the wounded one, taking justice against the wrongs done to him. The wrongs he ordered to be found... But that is a topic for a different blog post entirely! 

I finished this book over the course of a week, squeezing it in between my morning commute and lunch break where I could. When not able to read it I genuinely found myself wondering what was next in store for Katheryn and the court, which makes The Taming of the Queen my favourite offering by Philippa Gregory to date. I had very little issues with it from a historical standpoint, or even from how she chose to portray each character. I liked especially how Katheryn is very much a woman of passion. She burns for Tom Seymour, but knows she must do all she can to hide these feelings, to hide their past, else endure the same fate of Catherine Howard. 

Katheryn walked a dangerous path, with the ghosts of Queen's close behind her, reminding her of what not to do in order to survive. She honored Anne Boleyn by raising her daughter in her mother's religion, and by becoming a mentor and friend to Mary, who so was sp desperately starved of her mother's love by her father. She becomes the only mother Edward would probably remember, and strikes up a charming relationship with the future boy-king. 
Katheryn learns the price she has to pay to keep her head, and lives in constant fear that one day the guards will come and take her to The Tower... 
If you like Tudor historical fiction, or are a fan of Gregory in general you will enjoy this offering. 

Rating: 5/5


  1. Thanks for the beautiful article. Need to check out the book online. Is it available on Amazon?

    1. Thank you for your comment. It most certainly is, you can find it here: Let me know your thoughts if you get it!


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