The youngest child of the legendary monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536) was born to marry for dynastic gain. Endowed with English royal blood on her mother's side, she was betrothed in infancy to Arthur, Prince of Wales, eldest son of Henry VII of England, an alliance that greatly benefited both sides.Read more...
The youngest child of the legendary monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536) was born to marry for dynastic gain. Endowed with English royal blood on her mother's side, she was betrothed in infancy to Arthur, Prince of Wales, eldest son of Henry VII of England, an alliance that greatly benefited both sides. Yet Arthur died weeks after their marriage in 1501, and Catherine found herself remarried to his younger brother, soon to become Henry VIII. The history of England-and indeed of Europe-was forever altered by their union.
Drawing on his deep knowledge of both Spain and England, Giles Tremlett has produced the first full biography in more than four decades of the tenacious woman whose marriage to Henry VIII lasted twice as long (twenty-four years) as his five other marriages combined. Her refusal to divorce him put her at the center of one of history's greatest power struggles, one that has resonated down through the centuries- Henry's break away from the Catholic Church as, bereft of a son, he attempted to annul his marriage to Catherine and wed Anne Boleyn. Catherine's daughter, Mary, would controversially inherit Henry's throne; briefly and bloodily, she returned England to the Catholicism of her mother's native Spain, foreshadowing the Spanish Armada some three decades later.
From Catherine's peripatetic childhood at the glittering court of Ferdinand and Isabella to the battlefield at Flodden, where she, in Henry's absence abroad, led the English forces to victory against Scotland to her determination to remain queen and her last years in almost monastic isolation, Giles Tremlett vividly re-creates the life of a giant figure in the sixteenth century. "Catherine of Aragon" will take its place among the best of Tudor biography.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2010-10-25
- Reviewer: Staff
Born to Spain's powerful King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Catherine of Aragon (1485–1536) gave credibility to the rising Tudor monarchy into which she married. Guardian Madrid correspondent Tremlett (Ghosts of Spain: Travels Through Spain and Its Silent Past) eloquently fleshes out the 20-year reign of young Henry VIII's gracious, educated first wife, who intrepidly influenced foreign policy and, as regent, routed the Scots at Flodden Field while Henry less successfully led his army in France. Tremlett clearly favors his Catholic subject, giving her too much credit as the driving force behind opposition to the English Reformation. Still, his portrait of the often overlooked Catherine, who arrived as Henry was elevating his court to a glittering level, as England became firmly established as a European power--a position undermined by the "Great Divorce" from Catherine and the resulting alliance shifts. Tremlett's well-researched portrayal reads easily, and while recognizing Catherine's flaws, he restores the luster to a popular queen whose image was later reduced to a piously dour castoff. Tudor-era fans as well as scholars will appreciate this account. 16 pages of color illus. (Dec.)