Title: Murder Most Royal
Author: Jean Plaidy (Pen name of Eleanor Hibbert, also known as Victoria Holt. Confused? Yeah I am too. She also has six other pen names.)
Published: Three Rivers Press, 2006 (originally 1949)
Where I Got It: Where else? Goodwill!
Why I Read It: I find Henry VIII and his wives fascinating
"In the court of Henry VIII, it was dangerous for a woman to catch the king’s eye. Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard were cousins. Both were beautiful women, though very different in temperament. They each learned that Henry’s passion was all-consuming—and fickle.
Sophisticated Anne Boleyn, raised in the decadent court of France, was in love with another man when King Henry claimed her as his own. Being his mistress gave her a position of power; being his queen put her life in jeopardy. Her younger cousin, Katherine Howard, was only fifteen when she was swept into the circle of King Henry. Her innocence attracted him, but a past mistake was destined to haunt her."
Sounds like a bad romance novel right? It’s hard to believe that this is a piece of history. We get personal, yet fictionalized looks into the lives of two of England’s most infamous queens. The first chapter begins around the year 1510, with Anne as a seven-year-old girl, and ends in 1542, after the execution of her younger cousin Katherine. What follows in between is such an interesting, engaging story, so wild it almost seems made up.
One thing I ask of you, please don’t base your facts off of this book. The general facts and events are correct, but many historical discrepancies are taken. These are some that bothered me most as I read (don't mind me while I out-nerd myself here):
- Katherine of Aragon (Henry’s first wife) is described in the book as never being beautiful, even as a young woman. This is definitely not true; she lost her beauty as she aged, but she was a very beautiful young woman, literally called the most beautiful woman in the world.
- On a related note, Anne Boleyn’s beauty is gushed over in this book. According to historical documents, she was rather mousy looking. She attracted men and friends because of her charm and wit, not her beauty.
- It is highly doubtful that Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard ever met, even though they were cousins. They ran in completely different circles. It does add a good story-telling element, two future doomed Queens innocently meeting when they are very young.
- Even more doubtful is that Katherine Howard and Thomas Culpepper (her future lover) were childhood friends...even though they were cousins (too many family relationships going on here!).
- Speaking of that sly git Culpepper, in reality, he was at least ten years old than Katherine. In the books, he's only two or three years older.....Let's just say that historically, Culpepper was much more of a creep than is ever portrayed in this book.
- In the book, Jane Boleyn (Anne’s sister-in-law) is arrested and taken to the Tower of London shortly after Anne’s marriage to Henry for speaking treason against her. She may have been banished from court, as she was later on for trying to get rid of one of Henry’s mistresses, but she was never arrested on that charge. Later on, however....sheesh.
- This can’t really be called an historical error, but Jean Plaidy does take on the rumor that Anne Boleyn had a sixth finger and odd moles on her body. (Not literally an extra finger, just second nail on her left little finger. Still weird.) This is still up for debate.
I'll add that it was refreshing to read a book about Anne Boleyn that didn't make her brother out to be gay for once. That theory really irks me and frustrates me when I read.
If you think you may be interested in this period of time, I wouldn’t recommend starting with this book (start with The Other Boleyn Girl, many historical errors, but a nice overview). Since I am familiar with this era, I thought I might be bored. Jean Plaidy is an author you either love or hate, and even though I nitpicked my way through this book, I still loved every minute of it. The writing style is easy to read, I couldn’t even tell it’d been written in the 1940s. I am definitely interested in reading more of her books (that may take me awhile, she’s written around 100!).
Phew! Thanks for sticking around for my rant!