From the title, those inclined to prejudgment are likely to think “slut” “bimbo” etc. Of course, her husband, the king, is no longer a prize either. The once handsome and athletic king is now fat, ill , bad tempered and on his fifth wife. Oh and his only surviving son and heir is very sick. This can’t end well.
Young Catherine Howard was doomed from the start when she became the fifth wife and queen to the King Henry VIII. Catherine was the cousin of his tragic second wife, Anne Boleyn and became proof that history can often repeat itself. In "The Unfaithful Queen" by Carolly Erickson, the story of Catherine Howard, another executed wife of Henry VIII has her story told.
The novel begins with Catherine's youth and young adulthood as an impoverished member of the rich and powerful Howard family. Used, abused and neglected as a young girl by family and acquaintances Catherine witnesses the execution of her cousin, Anne Boleyn who was once the beloved wife and queen of Henry VIII that leaves an imprint on her life. Spunky but naïve the men around take what they can. After his third wife Jane Seymore dies in childbirth the king is “forced” to marry Anne of Cleves for political reasons. King Henry is eventually charmed by young Catherine especially when he realizes she is the daughter of his once beloved mistress, Jocasta. When his marriage to the homely and difficult Anne of Cleves falls apart, Henry VIII makes the young Catherine his bride, completely unaware of her romantic past. The marriage is not a success though. King Henry's moods frighten Catherine and she struggles to give a child to the impotent king. Frustrated by her life, Catherine continues previous romantic and passionate affair with Thomas Culpeper, a gentleman in the king's chamber. Her family and lover all seem to think that if Tom fathers a son and the King thinks it’s his everything will work of find. The old codger is likely to last much longer anyway. Catherine's past eventually catches up to her as does her present romance and she is left discarded, forgotten, and eventually executed by the king, the same fate as her cousin who she once watched be executed. "The Unfaithful Queen" is the story of a young woman's rise and downfall, all due to having a past.
I must say I did find some sympathy for Catherine Howard but then again this whole collection of troubled, vindictive and conniving people wasn’t all that attractive. I suspect that the portrayal of some of them was more fictional than historical. I do like historical fiction. The young woman with the troubled background, Catherine Howard, deserved a better shake then….. and in this book.