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Published by Simon and Schuster on April 4th 2017
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Historical, Royalty, Women
Written with an exciting combination of narrative flair and historical authority, this interpretation of the tragic life of Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII, breaks new ground in our understanding of the very young woman who became queen at a time of unprecedented social and political tension and whose terrible errors in judgment quickly led her to the executioner’s block.
On the morning of July 28, 1540, as King Henry’s VIII’s former confidante Thomas Cromwell was being led to his execution, a teenager named Catherine Howard began her reign as queen of a country simmering with rebellion and terrifying uncertainty. Sixteen months later, the king’s fifth wife would follow her cousin Anne Boleyn to the scaffold, having been convicted of adultery and high treason.
The broad outlines of Catherine’s career might be familiar, but her story up until now has been incomplete. Unlike previous accounts of her life, which portray her as a naïve victim of an ambitious family, this compelling and authoritative biography will shed new light on Catherine Howard’s rise and downfall by reexamining her motives and showing her in her context, a milieu that goes beyond her family and the influential men of the court to include the aristocrats and, most critically, the servants who surrounded her and who, in the end, conspired against her. By illuminating Catherine's entwined upstairs/downstairs worlds as well as societal tensions beyond the palace walls, the author offers a fascinating portrayal of court life in the sixteenth century and a fresh analysis of the forces beyond Catherine’s control that led to her execution—from diplomatic pressure and international politics to the long-festering resentments against the queen’s household at court.
Including a forgotten text of Catherine’s confession in her own words, color illustrations, family tree, map, and extensive notes, Young and Damned and Fair changes our understanding of one of history’s most famous women while telling the compelling and very human story of complex individuals attempting to survive in a dangerous age.
Young and Damned and Fair is an impressive take on Catherine Howard, Queen of England, fifth wife of Henry VIII. Clearing up half-truths, fables, and misconceptions of the unfortunate young woman’s life and demise, a clearer picture—though in some ways still frustratingly mysterious—of who she really was and what happened from her girlhood until her untimely demise.
I’ve always loved reading about the Tudors, especially about Henry’s wives. Catherine Howard and Anne Boleyn are both my first cousins 17x removed, so I’m especially interested in those two. Gareth does a wonderful job of clearing up long persisting myths about various figures, from “Flanders Mare,” to “Rose without a thorn.” Catherine, herself, is treated fairly through research and though her actions were very foolish at times—she is not dismissed as an irrelevant subject to understand. The first few chapters were slow buildup, but even someone familiar with Catherine Howard will be sucked into the book until the very last page.