Color me impressed by this book.
It takes Catherine Howard, a woman who has been maligned by historians throughout the years, and turns her into a fleshed out person while not absolutely boring me in the process. Russel claims that she wasn’t ditzy, wasn’t stupid, and she had a very set personality. He also believes that Catherine never committed adultery with Culpepper, a theory that I’ve heard before.
While I’m still not buying the last half of that (because I think that there might have been something physical there and it wasn’t all just words or lies), I really found myself liking this Catherine. She was interesting. She had a personality. She wasn’t some little girl that Henry took an interest in, but really a woman who could have been a great queen because she was brought up in nobility. In some ways, she reminded me of myself. A penchant for getting things right, for not wanting to embarrass herself in front of everyone. And she got upset when someone did embarrass her in any way.
Russell structured giving her personality around explaining the history of her family and the times that they were in, showing how one influenced the other. I thought it was a bit heavy on explaining the history of those around her as opposed to her personal history, which is why I rated it four stars. Having read about this topic quite often, it just felt like but I also learned a lot more about foreign policies and specific family members she had that weren’t key players in the story that is usually presented about her life; that she had sex before Henry, cheated on him, which then led to her death. And that’s all her life amounted to.
In short, this book was beautifully written (seriously, it was for a history book) that challenged what has been said about Catherine Howard both in the past and now. He directly challenges quite a few theories and addresses various things by showing the logical conclusion. He shows what evidence is disregarded to get to those theories, then comes up with his own. That’s quite difficult to do since Tudor history is so talked about.
I found this to be a very refreshing book, one that I want to own and come back to one day to have a closer read.