Elizabeth Fremantle provides a fascinating and intelligent portrait of Katherine Parr – a queen who only just manages to survive King Henry VIII’S reign.
The story follows Katherine Parr from when she was made a widow for a second time, to her being given the greatest position a woman could aim for. But Katherine also has to use all of her wits to survive court life and the tyranny of King Henry VIII, who has become increasingly suspicious of those around him.
Fremantle’s novel paints a vivid portrait of a woman who was extremely intelligent, caring – but at times naive as her experiences with Thomas Seymour prove. But it also showcases a woman who was increasingly vulnerable and had many enemies that she had to keep at bay – particularly when it came to regarding to her faith.
It is also interesting to note Katherine’s attitude to Dot and Meg, very maternal and always looking out for their best interests. It is most remarkable that she would feel this way for Dot, a lowly servant – but perhaps a sign of how she believed that people be treated equally.
Meg is a character whose part in the novel isn’t made clear as she begins to decline. Her character is quiet, modest and unconfident due to an experience that took place before the novel begins, but as lovely as she is the character doesn’t make much of an impact on the story.
Written in a straightforward manner, Fremantle gradually increases the tension to great effect – particularly with regards to Katherine’s increasingly strained relationship with the King, which is the most brutal portrait of the king that I have ever read in a novel. King Henry VIII comes across cold, calculating and violent at some moments while at others he is a completely different personality – really emphasising his danger as both king and man.
It is a vivid portrait of difficult time in the King’s reign that is rarely covered in comparison to his marriage to Anne Boleyn for example, but it feels as though it is just lacking slightly in finesse in terms of the details, moving quickly from one year to the next.
Interesting, intense and dramatic, Queen’s Gambit offers a darker insight into Tudor Court life at the latter stage of Henry VIII’s reign.
Queen’s Gambit is available to buy through Amazon now.