Books: Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen by Alison Weir

Not quite as richly written as Innocent Traitor or Captive Queen (two of my favorites by Weir). There is something perfunctory about this take on Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII's long-suffering first wife. It reads mostly like expanded bullet points on a timeline.

Maybe this is due to the fact that there is a lot of ground to cover. As it is, The True Queen (first in a series) clocks in at 602 pages, beginning with Katherine's—neé Catalina—arrival in England. She married Henry's older brother Arthur, suffered widowhood shortly thereafter, languished in England while her future was determined, and finally married Henry VIII. The back end of the book becomes the long wait for the Pope to declare whether her marriage to Henry was, in fact, real and true. Alas, waiting around for news does not make for an exciting story, and Katherine's repetitive attestations that she is the true queen, though surely true to her character, eventually become something of a bore.

Weir always does a lovely job researching her books, but sometimes it feels easy to spot the places where she wanted to incorporate a particular letter or some known bit of jewelry. She leans toward detailing clothing in particular.

In truth, there is simply a lot of information here. One would expect no less given the subject matter, but some joy in reading, and in the story, is lost in the myriad of names and machinations. By the end, I felt a bit like I was reading a list of chess moves during some old game that had once been played. Yes, I can picture how the game played out, but there's not much fun in reading it. Still, I'll try the Anne Boleyn book when it comes out. It could be that Katherine—devout and steady—is just a little less interesting than those who followed. I feel bad for her because she does seem to have been ill used, and now she goes down in history as also pale in comparison to her contemporaries.

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