Isn’t that a beautiful cover? Alisa M. Libby’s book, The King’s Rose, is a fictional account of the short life of Catherine Howard, one of the wives of King Henry VIII. Like many other people, I knew very little about Catherine Howard. Her story is often overshadowed by that of her more famous cousin and previous queen, Anne Boleyn. This book helped to shed some light on this frequently overlooked wife of Henry VIII.
While the ghost of her cousin Anne’s crimes do haunt Catherine throughout this book, they are not the only things that plague this young queen. Catherine can feel the ghosts of her predecessors crowding around her, but she is determined to be the best queen she can be, even though she is only fifteen years old when she marries Henry. She is pressured by her family to conceal her previous indiscretions and present herself to Henry as one who is completely pure, both of body and heart. She is also being watched constantly to see if she will become pregnant with an heir to the throne. With all of these pressures on her young shoulders, it is inevitable that something will give. When those around Catherine begin to reveal her past sins to the King and his advisors, she is doomed. Even so, she hopes that Henry’s love for her will save her life.
If you know anything about British history, you know that Catherine’s hopes were in vain. She was the second of Henry’s wives to be executed. The King’s Rose, however, does provide the reader with a glimpse of what life as the King’s teen bride might have been like. I, for one, cannot imagine putting that much responsibility on the shoulders of a teenage girl (or even a woman in full adulthood). While much of the story is fictionalized, most events have basis in fact (as can be seen in the author’s note). Libby has done an excellent job of telling the story of one of Britain’s tragic figures, Catherine Howard.