The history behind C. J. Sansom's Lamentation

C. J. Sansom's sixth Shardlake novel, Lamentation, set us off on a quest to learn more about Catherine Parr, or Katherine, as her name is sometimes spelt.

C. J. Sansom's sixth Shardlake novel, Lamentation, set us off on a quest to learn more about Catherine Parr, or Katherine, as her name is sometimes spelt.

Apart from being the last of Henry VIII's sixth wives and one of only two to outlive him, Katherine was also the first woman in England to publish in English under her own name – a huge feat and one which advanced the cause of women in literature.

She was deeply sympathetic to and well-read in the new protestant faith and, in some respects, saw marriage to the king as fulfilling a religious duty: he had freed England from the rule of the pope. Katherine believed that, with her guidance, she could prevent the king from lapsing back to Rome and possibly even advance the protestant cause.

It was her second book, The Lamentation of a Sinner, which caused a breach in her marriage to Henry, despite the fact that Katherine favourably compared him to Moses. Although it would not be published until 1548, almost a year after the king's death, the sentiments she expressed, and Katherine's devotion to the ‘new' religion, meant she came very close to disaster. It's C. j. sansom's interpretation of this chain of events that lies at the heart of Lamentation.

The queen who 'survived' did so only by the skin of her teeth. And though the story of her life has been curiously neglected, she left an enduring impression on English history.

Katherine the Queen by Linda Porter

Discover more about Henry VIII's sixth wife in the first full-scale biography of Katherine Parr, Katherine the Queen by Linda Porter.

'Packed with intrigue and danger,' says A. n. Wilson, it illuminates the life of the queen history has largely forgotten – or at least misremembered.

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Book cover for The Lost Tudor Princess

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