Queen's Gambit is the story of Katherine Parr, the sixth wife of King Henry VIII of England. Henry is one of the most infamous kings in British history, with his first five wives either deceased or divorced after having suffered his terrible temper. Katherine is twice-widowed and over the age of thirty when she becomes the new object of Henry's affection. She can hardly imagine the king interested in marrying her- she has never been able to bear a child and is unlikely candidate for providing an heir. She believes that his attention will pass, and in the meantime falls in love with the charming Thomas Seymour, with whom she hopes to finally achieve a love match. Unfortunately the king has other plans and soon announces his intention to marry Katherine. She is unable to deny his request- to deny the king's wishes would mean death to her and her family. Katherine manages to maintain an air of happiness as she reluctantly weds Henry. During the course of their marriage, she brings together the king's neglected daughters (Mary, daughter of Catherine of Aragon and Elizabeth, daughter of Anne Boleyn), becomes a mother to his heir (the solemn young Edward VI, son of Jane Seymour), and and is named Regent. She believes herself to be an agent of change, hoping to bring Henry around to the new faith; but the balance of power is fragile, and Henry is not fond of outspoken women. Told from the perspective of Katherine and her loyal servant, Dot, this is an enthralling account of Katherine's reign as Queen of England- the only queen to survive her marriage to King Henry VIII.
I can already tell that this book will be hard to beat for favorite read of 2014. It's definitely the book that sparked the biggest (emotional) response in me this year (albeit I have only read eight books so far). To put it simply, I loved this book. Katherine and Dot were both pillars of strength in their time, and despite the vast difference in stations, their relationship is the closest that Katherine had throughout her time as Queen. Katherine had so few people that genuinely cared for her happiness- Dot being one of them. Katherine was barely allowed more than a brief moment of happiness in her third marriage and I greatly admire her willpower and perseverance. Books of this era can sometimes feel tedious but I was caught up in every moment of the story. This is one of those books that I'll be recommending all year long.
Bottom Line Rating: 5/5
- Title: Queen's Gambit
- Author: Elizabeth Freemantle
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2013
- Price: $11 on Amazon
- Format: Hardcover
- Source: Public Library