Sunday, November 9, 2008
A Last Wife
"The Last Wife of Henry VIII" by Carolly Erickson
This book is of course a work of historical fiction, but it is fascinating to see Henry VIII, all of his previous wives, his children, and many other historical figures through the eyes, and thoughts, and feelings expressed, of Katherine Parr.
It only became common in the twentieth century that men and women began marrying for love. In previous ages men and women married for dowries, properties, the wishes and commands of parents, and a mutual arrangement in order for the woman to have a man to care for her, and to produce children. Woman were property, servants, and baby makers.
Katherine was Henry VIII sixth and final wife, she also outlived him. They married in 1543 immediately after she became a widow from her second husband. Henry VIII's obsession was to have more son's, his son Edward from his third wife Jane Seymour was sickly, and Henry worried about his health. At this time in Henry's life he was obese and had ulcerated places on his legs, the ulcers oozed and smelled horrific, Katherine was his nurse and also confidante. Historians have wondered to what degree was their relationship, was Katherine Parr a wife as nurse and friend only, or were they intimate. Katherine was a step-mother to the three children of Henry's, she is also known to have helped reconcile his relationship with his two daughters: Mary and Elizabeth. According to this book there was a turbulent relationship between Katherine and Elizabeth which continued throughout the rest of Katherine's life. After Henry's death, she married for love, to Thomas Seymour. Thomas protested his great and undying love for Katherine, but yet he was furtive, sly, and acted inappropriately with Elizabeth. Katherine and Thomas conceived and she delivered a healthy girl named Mary, six days later Katherine died of puerperal sepsis, also called childbed fever. After the age of two nothing more is heard about Mary and she is presumed to have died. Thomas was beheaded for treason less than one year after Katherine's death.