The history behind C. J. Sansom's Lamentation

08 March 2016

By Pan Macmillan

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 Although it would not be published until 1548, almost a year after the king’s death, the sentiments she expressed, and Katherine’s devotion to the ‘new’ religion, meant she came very close to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.



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.

Start reading Katherine the Queen


More Tudor history:

 Tudors

Rich in detail and atmosphere and told in vivid prose, Tudors recounts the transformation of England from a settled Catholic country to a Protestant superpower. It is the story of Henry VIII's cataclysmic break with Rome, and his relentless pursuit of both the perfect wife and the perfect heir; of how the brief reign of the teenage king, Edward VI, gave way to the violent reimposition of Catholicism and the stench of bonfires under 'Bloody Mary'. It tells, too, of the long reign of Elizabeth I, which, though marked by civil strife, plots against the queen and even an invasion force, finally brought stability.

Read the first chapter
 

Crown of Thistles

The struggle between the fecund Stewarts and the barren Tudors is generally seen only in terms of the relationship between Elizabeth I and her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots. But very little has been said about the background to their intense rivalry. 

Crown of Thistles is the story of a divided family, of flamboyant kings and queens, cultured courts and tribal hatreds, blood feuds, rape and sexual licence on a breath-taking scale, and violent deaths. Linda Porter sheds new light on Henry VIII, his daughter, Elizabeth, and on his great-niece, Mary Queen of Scots.

Read the opening chapter 
 

The Genius of Shakespeare

Who was Shakespeare? Why has his writing endured? And what makes it so endlessly adaptable to different times and cultures? Exploring Shakespeare's life, including questions of authorship and autobiography, and charting how his legacy has grown over the centuries, this extraordinary book asks how Shakespeare has come to be such a powerful symbol of genius.

The Genius of Shakespeare is a fascinating biography of the life – and afterlife – of our greatest poet.

Read the first chapter
 

The Lost Tudor Princess

Royal Tudor blood ran in her veins. Some thought Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox, should be queen of England. 

She ranked high at the court of her uncle, Henry VIII, and was lady of honour to five of his wives. Beautiful and tempestuous, she created scandal - twice - by falling in love with unsuitable men. 

Throughout her life her dynastic ties to two crowns proved hazardous. A born political intriguer, she was imprisoned in the Tower of London three times, once under sentence of death. Her husband and son were brutally murdered, she warred with two queens, and proved instrumental in securing the Stuart succession to the throne of England for her grandson.

Find out more
 

Thomas Cromwell

Born a lowly tavern keeper's son, Cromwell rose swiftly through the ranks to become Henry VIII's right hand man, and one of the most powerful figures in Tudor history. The architect of England's break with the Roman Catholic Church and the dissolution of the monasteries, he oversaw seismic changes in England's history. Influential in securing Henry's controversial divorce from Catherine of Aragon, many believe he was also the ruthless force behind Anne Boleyn's downfall and subsequent execution.

Thomas Cromwell was also a loving husband, father and guardian, a witty and generous host, and a loyal and devoted servant. With fresh research and new insights into Cromwell's family life, his household and his close relationships, Tracy Borman tells the true story of Henry VIII's most faithful servant.

Find out more
Lamentation
Katherine the Queen

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