The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory


The Taming of the Queen is a poor title for what is actually an interesting book. This tells the story of Henry VIII’s sixth wife Katherine Parr, the only one to have survived this murderous king. Hope that’s not a plot spoiler.

Apart from ‘survived’, I knew practically nothing about Parr so the character was interesting and the plot compelling. It’s as if we lose interest after the first five wives. Post the glamour of the Boleyn years, we get a portrait of a bloated tyrant on his deathbed and his suffering, repressed wife, secretly in love with a swashbuckling Seymour.

I think there is a tendency to be snobbish about poor Philly- her books are about highbrow history topics. Therefore high-minded readers, who’d never condescend to comment on a Jackie Collins, feel compelled to distance themselves from Gregory’s books.

True, this isn’t one of her best. There’s a little bit too much theology at the expense of what one would really read Gregory for; medieval characters, racy affairs, courtly intrigue and politics. But she’s constrained by history- religion was a cornerstone of Parr’s life.

Historian haters gonna hate: Gregory’s novels are the most accessible, mainstream, and successful examples of the historical fiction genre.

Read: if you dont like history books but miss The Tudors.