Book Review: Katheryn Howard: The Tainted Queen by Alison Weir

Trade Paperback Published in Australia on May 12th, 2020 – Hardcover Edition Published October 13, 2020.

Book 5 in The Six Tudor Queens series – add it to your Goodreads TBR here:

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Genre: Historical Fiction

Page Count: 462

ISBN: 9781472227782

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Sypnosis from Hachette Australia


At just nineteen, Katheryn Howard is quick to trust and fall in love.

She comes to court. She sings, she dances. She captures the heart of the King.

But Henry knows nothing of Katheryn’s past – one that comes back increasingly to haunt her. For those who share her secrets are waiting in the shadows, whispering words of love… and blackmail.

The fifth of Henry’s queens.
Her story.

Acclaimed, bestselling historian Alison Weir draws on extensive research to recount the tale of a vivacious young woman used by powerful men for their own gain.


My Review:

I received an Uncorrected Proof Copy of Katheryn Howard: The Tainted Queen from Hachette Australia in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts are my own.

History is completely and unequivocally right, Katheryn Howard did die too soon. Killed for the treasonous action she performed against King Henry VIII, adultery with her distant cousin Thomas Culpepper (who was also beheaded), as they secretly exchanged passionate, fleeting meetings in the dead of night, whilst Katheryn was married to King Henry VIII.

It’s interesting, I’ve always been a history enthusiast, my favourite period being Tudor England and Alison Weir has longtime been my favourite Historical Fiction Author, but I feel like I’ve long since had a less than sympathetic view of Kitty Howard’s life (although I seem to have defaulted to referring to her by nickname, so I suppose I must have always had a secret sympathy and low-key fondness towards this young girl who was really, like so many other young noble-bred women, used as pawns to elevate the status of their male relatives!

It’s completely unknown exactly when Katheryn Howard was born, though her Mother died when Kitty was just a child, which lead for Katheryn to be sent to live with her step Grandmother, Agnes, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. I really enjoyed Alison Weir’s writing depicting Katheryn’s younger years, she depicts the young girl as completely naive and superficial, with a fondness for pretty gowns and jewels, but there’s no denying that she absolutely adored her family, having an abundant amount of Brothers and Sisters, her closest confidante throughout her life (in this book, at least) is Isabel Leigh, wife to Edward Bayntun, who was not only a gentleman in King Henry VIII’s Court, but served as vice Chamberlain to Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second wife and Queen, who was Katheryn’s own Cousin!

Factoring in the fact that Kitty Howard and Anne Boleyn are cousins and given the tragic (yes, I can freely admit that I’ve long been I suppose a fan of Anne Boleyn and I always thought that Henry VIII was frankly, a chauvinistic idiot, who could drizzle favour on someone before ruining them and sending them off to the tower at a mere click of the fingers, for the King saw himself as the Divine voice, equivalent only to God himself.

Like, really? He always thought so highly and divinely of himself, never considering that maybe he could be at fault too for not being able to sire a healthy son (well, okay, sidestepping his Heir that’s born to Jane Seymour, his Third Queen). My point is though, given the accusations that flew around left, right and centre regarding Anne Boleyn’s supposed gallavanting around with Henry’s Courtiers (her own dear brother George Boleyn being one of her accused lovers (something I really just think was conspiracy based on Henry VIII’s part, wanting to throw more fuel on the fire of rumours against Anne Boleyn. It’s just that given everything Anne Boleyn went through as Queen and eventually being executed, I honestly thought Katheryn Howard would’ve known to tread a bit more carefully and maybe not meet secretly for romantic liaisons with one of the King’s men!

The narrative move quickly from Katheryn’s childhood, being educated in Music (leading to some questionable trysts with her Music Master, Henry Mannock, who was given the task of teaching Kitty how to play the ironically titled Virginals, something similar to a keyboard, to then getting to serve as one of Anne of Cleeves (Henry VIII’s fourth wife and Queen) Ladies in Waiting, where the demure but completely beautiful Kitty catches the eye of the King himself, after essentially being forced to do so by her seemingly esteemed Uncle Norfolk, all to put a Katherine on the throne, so the Howards can finally triumph and bask in the King’s favour! They even enlisted Katheryn to help their cause in turning Henry VIII himself against his once closest advisor, Thomas Cromwell!

As Anne Boleyn and her family nudged Henry VIII to his then advisor Wolsey’s deceptions and traitorous nature, its Katheryn’s family that disagree with Cromwell’s ideals and they get Kitty herself to progressively plant the seeds in the King’s brain that his beloved Cromwell is a nasty traitor! It just really goes to show how one can be right at the peak of the King’s favour, but then ruined when rumours (yes, not fact, rumour!). were projected against them.

Factoring this in, I did find myself sympathizing towards Katheryn Howard quite a lot towards the latter half of this book, there she is a beautiful young girl who by rights should just be indulging in fun fossicking around (and I suppose she does really, but rather than getting to completely be free and say marry someone of her own choosing, she’s bound by family ties to seduce the aging King Henry VIII, who sufficed it to say is definitely past his prime when Kitty meets him and is forced to flirt her way to the throne, not too differently than what her ill fated cousin did!

Having read and completely found myself aching over Alison Weir’s completely evocative and beautiful writing with her Katherine Of Aragon: The True Queen and Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession, not to mention her earlier novel about the Nine Day Queen Lady Jane Grey, I knew I was in for a feast for the senses with this book, for I’ve always thought Alison Weir’s Historical Fiction novels, in their immaculately researched fashion, completely bring depictions of The glittering Court of Henry VIII to life, conjuring up images of these completely outrageous and unique personalities, from the gammy-leg-ridden Henry VIII, bloated and definitely past his prime, to the pretty young Katheryn Howard, to her nosy but prim and yet altogether improper Ladies of her Household (though I suppose the same could be said of Anne Cleeves’ Ladies too!) and those charming but cunning men, I completely recommend Katheryn Howard: The Tainted Queen to everyone!


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