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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Review - Jean Plaidy's MURDER MOST ROYAL

For readers of historical fiction, the Tudor saga seems endless. The story of Henry the infamous VIII th and his never ending list of wives, mistresses and girlfriends seem tiresome after sometime. But, the strange thing with Jean Plaidy is that the story can be written from so very different angles - the same period in history from the point of view of Katharine of Aragon his first so patient wife, to that of Anne Boleyn (the colorful one) and then the ones who were not so prominent like Jane Seymour or Catherine Howard or Anne of Cleves are all so interesting in their own way.

This particular book dealt mainly with the descending star of Katharine - who did not give up without a very fair fight and the ascendancy of Anne Boleyn - with all the treachery, politicking and planning possible. I did not know till I read this book that Anne was Henry's mistress for over six years and it was only a seemingly unplanned pregnancy which motivated Henry to more actively pursue the divorce in order that her baby would be born legitimate.

The story is sad in parts because it shows that no sooner Anne was heavily pregnant with the so looked forward to "son" Henry's interest in her wavered even during her pregnancy and she had occasion to find him dallying with one or other of her maids. With the birth of Elizabeth, the King seemed to have lost the interest and Anne seems to have lost the firm hold she had on the King.

It was marvellous to read how Henry could justify his looking elsewhere for a wife - with the first wife very much alive - he did it for England, for his people and for the benefit of his country. He discarded Katharine on a point of law which only he could understand - that she was his brother's wife and it is specifically said in the Bible that you cannot marry your brother's wife (this despite Katharine swearing that she was a wife only in name). For Anne it became one trumped up story after another - incest with her brother, treason in every form imaginable. It never helped that Anne was in herself so arrogant and so swollen headed with her own power as Queen that she made enemies by the dozen during her short period of glory. There were many who just waited to see her downfall including her sister in law Jane who brought forward the charge of incest and who on her execution admitted that it was a lie.

Anne enjoyed being Queen, her love for the King was secondary to her love for the position of Queen. She enjoyed the privileges of her position and specially liked to act as benefactor to any of her relations in need. At the same time, she did not forget a slight and to this end went to any extent to see to that person's downfall. She did this with so many statesmen that she turned the normally placid
Englishmen against her who thought she was a witch who had enticed the King to act as he did.

That Henry was putty in her hands during her days of glory - of that there is no doubt. He gave in to her demands, put so many men and women to death (women in his reign for the first time were done to death) but he always found a way to justify his conscience and the stories he spun were remarkable. His courtiers speedily complied with his way of thinking (if they wanted to keep their own heads) and so he went on his way merrily.

The last third of this book deals with Anne's death and how first Jane Seymour becomes Queen and after the birth of her son dies soon after. Just two years later Henry is looking out for someone young, fresh and pretty and his eyes fall on Catherine Howard.But in the meantime a political marriage is arranged but that falls flat as the lady is not pretty, neither young or good looking. After this it is the turn of Catherine who for a very short time  enamours the King completely, who believes that he can now rest in peace for the rest of his days with his very young wife!  but behind the scenes there is her Uncle who is plotting her downfall and poor Catherine leaves the door wide open for anyone and everyone to accuse her of loose morals/adultery and treason. After her sad execution we see Henry alone but not for long!!! he is on the lookout for his next wife.

The other books I have read deal with one character at a time with just a side serve as it were of the other characters in the story. This one deals in great detail of so many of the wives as and when they come into the path of Henry VIII.

Sad but true and very readable.

9 comments:

Sam said...

I think Katherine of Aragon's story is so sad, because she had such a long and happy period of marriage first, before being cast aside on a technicality.

This sounds like an interesting book, thanks for the review!

Just Mom said...

What a great overview - I have read several Tudor books but still find the time confusing - could not have summed it up like you did!

Christina T said...

I am fascinated by Henry VIII and his six wives and Tudor politics and history in general. I have yet to read a Jean Plaidy book and I need to remedy that!

Have you read any of Alison Weir's Tudor biographies? She has a new one about Mary Boleyn that will be published this fall. I also like Antonia Fraser's The Wives of Henry VIII. Very informative and reads like fiction.

I will have to get my hands on a copy of Murder Most Royal. Thanks for the review!

Joanne @ Books, Belles, & Beaux said...

Great review -- I enjoyed this book which focused on Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, and I have enjoyed all of Plaidy's books. The Tudor period in history is quite fascinating!

polkadotpeticoat said...

How have you been ,I thought I would pop over and say hello!

Holly said...

I liked this one a lot but I liked the stand alones she did on Anne Boleyn (The Lady in the Tower) and Catherine Howard (The Rose without a Thorn) better. Love Plaidy-great review!

Heather said...

great review. fascinating time in history, so much happening.

RAnn said...

Henry was a fascinating character and a great character study in the concepts of power

MarthaE said...

Thanks for the good review. I'm not sure I wouldn't feel some annoyance or antagonism at Henry for his behavior. But it sounds like this was an interesting read.