This was my first foray into books about the wives of Henry the 8th that was not written by Philippa Gregory. I have to admit that I was somewhat concerned that the quality of the writing and the story would not meet my expectations. Thankfully, that was not so. I enjoyed The Last Wife of Henry VIII very much.
This novel tells the story of Catherine Parr, the woman who was to become Henry’s last wife – and one of only two who managed to survive him. Unlike several of Henry’s wives, Catherine Parr did not have ambitions to become queen or to hold any lofty title at that. She remained in Henry’s favor long after she first asked him to intercede on her behalf when settling the issue of her first marriage. From that point forward, it was simply a matter of the right stars falling into proper alignment.
Catherine blamed Henry for the death of her first husband and her unborn child. She cursed him and avoided him whenever possible. She even accepted the marriage proposal of a kindly, yet old, man to “escape” the king’s request that she join the court as one of Queen Katherine Howard’s ladies in waiting. She did not love Lord Latimer, but he was a gentleman in every sense of the word and she enjoyed caring for her stepdaughter. It was while married to him that she met and became lovers with Thomas Seymour, the uncle of Henry’s only male heir, Prince Edward. There plans for marrying after Lord Latimer’s death were thwarted, however, by Henry. As her soveriegn king, Catherine could not turn down his proposal. All that Catherine had left was the courage and the hope to survive her third marriage with her life.
While reading this book, I felt as though I got to know a little of what it was like to live with our King Henry at the end of his life. It was actually quite sad how paranoid and unhappy he became. He started down the slippery slope of believing his own hype years before, but as his health declined, his common sense and ability to discern situations and people quickly deteriorated. He was a man who had everything, yet nothing at all.