Posted By Claire on July 21, 2009
We all know the story of Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife, who was executed for adultery after breaking the King’s heart, but have we ever considered the story from Catherine’s viewpoint and do we ever really consider who Catherine really was?
Alisa Libby’s book, “The King’s Rose”, tells the story in Catherine’s own words, as a teenager who is hopelessly out of her depth and completely manipulated by her elders. Many people wonder why Catherine Howard did not learn from her cousin’s demise, but in Libby’s book you can understand how Catherine came to such a tragic end and you are left with sympathy for this girl who only acted on instructions and who was overwhelmed by the gifts lavished on her by an older man, who also happened to be the King.
Although Catherine was not sexually naive, she was naive enough to believe in her aunt and uncle and also in the King’s love. Libby clearly portrays Catherine as the teenager she was, a girl, not a woman like Anne Boleyn. Libby also clearly points out that the King never really knew Catherine, instead he believed the “virginal” picture that was “painted” of her, an image that the real Catherine could just not live up to. If Anne, with her sharp intelligence and years of knowing the King, could not save herself from plotting and conspiracy, how could Catherine?
Alisa Libby’s fictional account of Catherine’s rise from lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves, and then her subsequent fall, is a thrilling read and has all the right ingredients of an historical novel. As you know, I look for 3 essential elements in historical fiction and this book does indeed have them:-
- It’s “unputdownable” – It engages you from the start with its wonderful first sentence “The Thames is a messenger of fortune, rippling smoothly beneath the prow of this barge…” and Catherine’s own voice draws you into the story.
- It makes you want to research the characters more – It is obvious that Libby researched both Catherine and the time that she lived in (she even went in search of Catherine’s ghost!) and the book raises questions about Catherine and her actions and makes you want answers. Libby has added an author’s note at the end giving information on the facts that form the basis of her novel.
- It is believable – There are many things that we do not know about Catherine and the “liberties” that this book takes with her story are fully believable and fit in seamlessly with the facts we do know.
What is interesting about this book is that it is really a teenage/young adult novel and is recommended for Grades 8/9 upwards, yet I enjoyed it and it’s been quite a while since I was a teenager.
I found myself swept away in this colourful portrayal of Catherine and in the brilliant descriptions of the Tudor world that surrounded this teenager. Catherine’s actions are made understandable and believable and you are left feeling angry that people left this girl to go to her death and that Henry did not listen to her side. We all know how the story ends but this novel grips you and makes you “root” for Catherine and hope for a happier ending.
For Anne Boleyn fans, Anne Boleyn’s ghost appears to Catherine and we get an insight into Lady Rochford (Jane Parker/Boleyn) who betrayed her husband, George Boleyn, and Anne, and who is now Catherine’s main lady-in-waiting. We see her spiralling madness as she confronts her demons and is embroiled in Catherine’s fall from favour.
I won’t say anymore about “The King’s Rose” as I don’t want to spoil it for you. I heartily recommend this book to those who enjoy a good historical novel and it’s a great one to share with teenage daughters.
“The King’s Rose” was published in March 2009 and is available from Amazon US, Amazon UK and other bookstores. Click here to read Alisa M Libby’s special guest post on Catherine Howard for The Anne Boleyn Files.