Thursday, May 20, 2021

Review of the final book in Alison Weir's Six Tudor Queens Series: Katharine Parr, The Sixth Wife

Henry VIII was neither her first nor her last husband, yet it’s Katharine Parr’s status as his sixth wife, naturally, that commands the most attention. Weir’s admirable conclusion to her Six Tudor Queens series reveals Katharine as a woman of intellect, kindness, and strategic acumen who plays the long game to attain her heart’s desires.

Twice-widowed when she marries Henry, she brings a diverse range of experiences to her queenship. Weir smoothly knits all these life segments together, showing how Katharine’s background shapes her character and beliefs.

Raised amid a loving family that respects women’s education, she first weds a nobleman’s son and secondly an older, Catholic baron. The story strikes a clear path through the complicated political and religious circumstances of 1520s-40s England as the action sweeps from Lincolnshire to Yorkshire during the Pilgrimage of Grace to dazzling London.

In choosing Henry over personal happiness, Katharine, secretly Protestant, seeks to guide the realm in that direction. She comes to love the King, despite his age and infirmities, but influential women tend to acquire enemies.

Her relations with her stepchildren are handled with realistic nuance, and Henry’s death drops her into intense romantic intrigue. This wide-ranging novel expertly showcases Katharine’s courageous, eventful life and many noteworthy accomplishments.

Katharine Parr, The Sixth Wife was published by Ballantine this month in the US, and by Headline Review in the UK.  I wrote this review for Booklist and it appeared in the April 15th issue. 

This is the fifth book in the series I've reviewed... all except the first book, which focused on Katherine of Aragon. This book and the third, Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen, are my favorites. With this one, I particularly liked how Weir devoted so much time to Katharine's life before her marriage to Henry VIII; she was well-educated and traveled quite a bit within England. She had five stepchildren in all, including, of course, the future Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I.

Now that this series is complete, I wonder what direction Weir will take next with her fiction.


  1. The Henry VIII reign is one of those times in history that's endlessly fascinating. And to live through it without social media! (He did what?!) I have one of Weir's books on my TBR, about Katherine Swynford, and look forward to it. Thanks for the review!

  2. I haven't read much of Weir's nonfiction (except for her Britain's Royal Families genealogy, which I refer to often). I do have her book on Katherine Swynford and should read it sometime soon, along with, maybe, a reread of Seton's Katherine.

    As for Henry, this image of the six wives has been going around on social media, and was recently shared by Weir on her FB page. I thought it was hilarious and apropos.

    1. So funny! Those poor ladies!

    2. I know - how happy they might have been! I especially like the new version of Katharine Parr.