cover image The Taming of the Queen

The Taming of the Queen

Philippa Gregory. S&S/Touchstone, $27.99 (464p) ISBN 978-1-4767-5879-4

In this absorbing Tudor historical, Gregory (The White Queen) traces the relationship between Henry VIII and Kateryn Parr, his sixth wife, from the time of the king's marriage proposal in 1543 until his death four years later. Kateryn is a beauty: learned, kind, twice-widowed yet young enough to bear the sons crucial to securing the succession; she is also passionately in love with another. Her dutiful tolerance of Henry's bad breath, corpulence, ulcerous leg, and fumblings in bed make pitiable the personal cost of his proposal. Gregory balances Kateryn's sensual responses to royal life%E2%80%94the smell of her predecessor's furs, the king's sweat-drenched clothing%E2%80%94with the religious controversy that dominated the 1540s. Initially naive to court factions, Parr is guided by her sister and develops enormous satisfaction from scholarly examination of the Bible. Expressing her own Reformist views when pro-Catholic forces are ascendant, Kateryn risks the king's extreme displeasure and is "tamed" to save her life; the process bleaches the marriage of its satisfactions. Tracing Kateryn's path to intellectual independence requires more religious discussion than some readers will prefer, but Gregory's portrait of the complex, aging king and his sensual, scholarly bride will satisfy Tudor enthusiasts. (Aug.)