The Sixth Wife_ The Story of Katherine P - By Jean Plaidy


The life-story of Katharine Parr, from the time she became Henry VIII’s sixth Queen until her death, reads, in many respects, more like a tale of fiction than of fact. I feel therefore that I should say to those readers who are not fully acquainted with the events of this time, that although some of the extraordinary happenings related herein may seem incredible, I have founded my story on the basic facts recorded by historians of the period. As an example: Strickland, Tytler, Speed and Fox all record as historical fact the fortuitous dropping of the all-important document and the discovery of this by Katharine’s faithful servant; yet this incident might appar to be manufactured melodrama; and indeed, but for this event, Katharine’s story would undoubtedly have had a different ending, and Henry might have been known as the husband of seven instead of six wives.

Historians, while agreeing in the main as to events, disagree widely in their estimation of character. Froude, for instance, would have us believe that Henry was a hero; yet Tytler says of him: “It may be doubted whether in the wide range of English history, there is to be found any monarch whose moral features, upon minute examination, become more harsh and repulsive than Henry VIII. Vain, capricious, profligate and tyrannical, he seems, even in the generous season of youth, to have exhibited but few indications of a better mind.”

In view of the wide differences of opinion, I feel that my estimation of character is likely to be as near the truth as others.

I wish gratefully to acknowledge the help I have had in writing this book from the following:

The National and Domestic History of England. William Hickman Smith Aubrey.

The Lives of the Queens of England. Agnes Strickland.

Henry VIII. A.F. Pollard, M.A., Litt. D.

The Political History of England (1485–1587). H.A.L. Fisher, M.A.

The Private Character of Henry VIII. Frederick Chamberlain, LL.B., F.R. Hist. S., F.R.G.S., F.R. Ast. S., F.S.A., M.R.I. of Gt. Brit.

The Wives of Henry VIII. Martin Hume.

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Ed. by Dr. A. Clarke, M.A.

British History. John Wade.

A History of Everyday Things in England. Marjorie and C.H.B. Quennell.

Henry the Eighth. Francis Hackett.

England in Tudor Times. L.F. Salzman, M.A., F.S.A.

History of England: Henry VIII. James Anthony Froude.




SPRING HAD COME TO ENGLAND. THERE WERE MARSH marigolds along the banks of the river, and in the royal park the saxifrage showed gold and green on the damp sweet-smelling earth; the buds were bursting open in the hedgerows; and the songs of the thrush and the blackbird filled the air.

In his royal palace of Greenwich, his “Manor of Pleazaunce,” the best-loved of all his palaces because it was his birthplace, the King was aware of the coming of spring. He was melancholy and he knew the reason for his melancholy. It was little more than a year since his fascinating but unfaithful wife had, at his command, lost her head. A whole year! It was a long time to be without a wife.

The small eyes seemed to sink into the puffy face, the mouth grew prim, as he thought of all he had suffered at the hands of his wives. The first and second had deceived him; he had divorced one and beheaded the other; the third had died giving him his son; the fourth he had not loved at all and had lost no time in divorcing her; and the fifth—that faithless wanton, Catharine Howard—whom for the last year he had been unable to banish from his thoughts, had walked out to Tower Green on a February day of last year and laid her head on the block.

This was an unnatural deprivation for a man to suffer; and, he reminded himself, if I am a King, I am also a man.

And the remedy for his melancholy? A wife.

The King must look for a sixth wife.

BLUSTERING MARCH WINDS buffeted the walls of a mansion close to the Charterhouse Priory in the City of London. On one of the window seats, her tapestry in her hands—although she was paying little attention to the design she was working—sat a woman. She was small and her hair, which was fair and abundant, showed beneath her hood of black velvet; her gown of the same material was richly embroidered, but in dark colors; and the skirt was open in the front to display her silk petticoat, which was a somber shade of purple; the long veil flowing from the back of her headdress proclaimed her a widow. Her face was charming,