The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory is a riveting historical fiction about Henry VIII’s final queen Kateryn Parr. Widowed twice before she caught the eye of the king, Parr was deeply in love with another man and had no desire to marry Henry who was twenty years her senior, but the king’s desire could not be refused.
Based in fact and fiction, the story portrays Queen Kateryn as a woman of deep faith and strong convictions. Dressed in the royal gowns and jewels of her ill-fated predecessors, Kateryn takes her place beside the mercurial tyrant Henry and grits her teeth. She learns to hold her tongue the hard way; never knowing when and if the axe will fall on her own head. Unlike her predecessors, Kateryn developes a relationship with Henry which lasts until his death.
The title appears to be taken from The Taming of the Shrew and in some ways, reminded me of it. In this novel however, both king and queen are manipulative. It’s difficult to identify a victor.
Throughout the story, the king is unwell making him a difficult person to contend with. Earlier injuries in his life are not mentioned which are believed to have caused his erratic behaviour and failing health. During the first part of the book he is almost portrayed as someone of sound mind. As the story goes on, it becomes clear that he is mentally unsound.
This historical period has always fascinated me. With the exception of lengthy discussions on religious doctrine, I enjoyed the book immensely.