A sympathetic, even laudatory biography of the sixth wife of Henry VIII.
Porter (The First Queen of England: The Myth of “Bloody Mary”, 2008) offers a favorable treatment of Katherine Parr (1512–1548), crediting her even with the glories of the Elizabethan Age. According to the author, she was attractive, clever and religious, and was a wonderful surrogate mother for Mary Tudor and a loving spouse four times (thrice widowed). Porter follows the scant material available on her subject and provides some fresh interpretations of her nature and behavior, writing that Katherine grew to love Henry, despite his profound physical odiousness, irascibility and roving eye. The author begins at a moment of discomfort for Katherine in 1547—the day of Henry’s death, when the court was keeping the news from her and from the rest of the country. She was uncertain of her standing with the king and, perhaps, worried for her life. Then the narrative retreats for Parr family history. Katherine was born into her influential family sometime in 1512, but precious little is known of her girlhood. In her midteens, she married her first husband, who died a few years later. Her second husband, Baron Latimer, who was twice her age, got caught up in the Pilgrimage of Grace but escaped the fatal fate of some of his more zealous companions. After his death, Henry VIII, having beheaded Katherine Howard, married Parr and seemed happy. Porter believes that Parr annoyed him only when she found, through her publishing, some fame for herself.
A rich narrative, but generous to a fault.