Author: Julia Fox
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 31st January 2012
Format: E-Book - EPUB
Genre: Non-Fiction / History
Source: ARC from NetGalley
The history books have cast Katherine of Aragon, the first queen of King Henry VIII of England, as the ultimate symbol of the Betrayed Woman, cruelly tossed aside in favor of her husband’s seductive mistress, Anne Boleyn. Katherine’s sister, Juana of Castile, wife of Philip of Burgundy and mother of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, is portrayed as “Juana the Mad,” whose erratic behavior included keeping her beloved late husband’s coffin beside her for years. But historian Julia Fox, whose previous work painted an unprecedented portrait of Jane Boleyn, Anne’s sister, offers deeper insight in this first dual biography of Katherine and Juana, the daughters of Spain’s Ferdinand and Isabella, whose family ties remained strong despite their separation. Looking through the lens of their Spanish origins, Fox reveals these queens as flesh-and-blood women—equipped with character, intelligence, and conviction—who are worthy historical figures in their own right.
When they were young, Juana’s and Katherine’s futures appeared promising. They had secured politically advantageous marriages, but their dreams of love and power quickly dissolved, and the unions for which they’d spent their whole lives preparing were fraught with duplicity and betrayal. Juana, the elder sister, unexpectedly became Spain’s sovereign, but her authority was continually usurped, first by her husband and later by her son. Katherine, a young widow after the death of Prince Arthur of Wales, soon remarried his doting brother Henry and later became a key figure in a drama that altered England’s religious landscape.
Ousted from the positions of power and influence they had been groomed for and separated from their children, Katherine and Juana each turned to their rich and abiding faith and deep personal belief in their family’s dynastic legacy to cope with their enduring hardships. Sister Queens is a gripping tale of love, duty, and sacrifice—a remarkable reflection on the conflict between ambition and loyalty during an age when the greatest sin, it seems, was to have been born a woman. (Goodreads Synopsis)
This is an interesting book, following the lives of sisters, Katherine and Juana from promising beginnings to tragic ends.
I already knew a great deal about the life of Katherine of Aragon from after her marriage to Henry VII, but I really enjoyed learning more about her childhood in this book. Juana was a figure I had come across only in passing, so I was also captivated by her story.
Julia Fox has managed to capture their lives in a book that offers great insight without becoming bogged down in historical detail and without 'preaching' one particular version of events.
What I loved about this book was the excellent flow of the prose and the way my interest was held from start to finish. The end matter contained some useful illustrations and notes that would lead one to further reading on the subject.
This is a well-researched and well-presented double biography that should appeal to those interested in European/Renaissance history who like character portraits as opposed to facts and figures.