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Catherine of Aragon by Giles Tremlett

Catherine of Aragon: Henry's Spanish Queen

2010, Faber and Faber Ltd

Summer 2021: Quickly before my memory fades. I'm waiting in the airport my flight is delayed. I left the perfect ocean for this! Before leaving, I took this book out of the cupboard thinking I could quickly review it but that was just the same over optimism I'd displayed all day thinking I could spend the morning at the beach instead of cleaning up the apartment and still get to the airport without rushing. (In hindsight it could have worked if I'd known my flight would be delayed for 5 hours.) This same lack of reality is evident in the idea I had that I'd post all my backlogged books plus start some real writing this summer at the beach, instead of two posts in over a month, and zero writing. I did however start the book The Artist's Way, a 12-week process meant to help me be creative. The idea is to read one chapter per week, so I should finish well before Christmas. (January 2022: I need to start chapter 8 one of these days...)

Catherine of Aragon, left behind at the beach by Julia, tells the fascinating story of the first wife of Henri VIII. Catherine and Henri were married for 20 years and in case you're wondering, he did not have her head cut off, but only divorced her. However, she put up such a fight that first Henri had to replace the Catholic Church with the Anglican, a process which did result in diverse beheadings. Henri wanted a male heir and Catherine had managed to produce only the future Bloody Mary. Over the years, she lost several children, including a boy, and had a generally sad, hard time of it. The divorce debate centered around whether or not Catherine had consummated her first marriage with Henri's older brother Arthur, who had died at age 15. She said no, Henri said yes, and tried to use this supposed moral dilemma (sleeping with my brother's widow is sinful) as an excuse to get rid of her.

Henri VIII and Anne Boleyn

Why the fuss? Henri, like many a man before and after, was smitten by the lovely, less agèd lass, Anne Boleyn. He proceeded to make her queen, placing the coveted crown on her pretty head, but shortly thereafter changed his silly mind and had it chopped off.

I was impressed by Catherine's determination and morality. She seemed to want to do the right thing. She showed Henri that if he wanted to throw her aside, it would cost him big, not just for spite, but because she believed it was right.

Meanwhile, Henri comes off as a spoiled boy turned into a selfish man. Catherine had to pay for that, but at least, unlike several of his other wives, she remained in possession of her head.

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