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Young and Damned and Fair: The Life of…
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Young and Damned and Fair: The Life of Catherine Howard, Fifth Wife of… (original: 2017; edição: 2017)

de Gareth Russell (Autor)

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1226175,706 (4.05)10
"Written with narrative flair and historical authority, this biography of the tragic life of Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII, breaks new ground in our understanding of the young, doomed woman who became queen at a time of unprecedented social and political tension. On the morning of July 28, 1540, as King Henry VIII's former confidant Thomas Cromwell was being led to his execution, a teenager named Catherine Howard began her reign as queen of a country simmering with rebellion and terrifying uncertainty. Nineteen months later, she was on the scaffold, accused of adultery and high treason. Until now, Catherine 's story has been incomplete. Unlike previous accounts of her life, which portray her as a naive victim of an ambitious family, this compelling and authoritative biography reexamines her motives and social milieu, including both fellow aristocrats and the servants who eventually conspired against her. By illuminating Catherine's entwined upstairs/downstairs worlds and societal tensions beyond the palace walls, Gareth Russell offers a fascinating portrait of court life and the forces that led to Catherine 's execution--from diplomatic pressure and international politics to the long-festering resentments against the queen's household at court. Including a forgotten text of Catherine 's confession, Young and Damned and Fair changes our understanding of one of history's most famous women while telling the compelling and very human story of complex individuals attempting to survive in a dangerous age."--Jacket.… (mais)
Membro:ktlavender
Título:Young and Damned and Fair: The Life of Catherine Howard, Fifth Wife of King Henry VIII
Autores:Gareth Russell (Autor)
Informação:Simon & Schuster (2017), 464 pages
Coleções:Sua biblioteca
Avaliação:
Etiquetas:to-read, giveaways, own

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Young and Damned and Fair: The Life of Catherine Howard, Fifth Wife of King Henry VIII de Mr. Gareth Russell (2017)

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Excellent history of the life and tragic times of Catherine Howard, the fifth wife of serial mongamist and complete psychopath, Henry VIII. This is the second work by Gareth Russell that I have read in quick succession: I enjoyed his recent work on the Titanic -- The Darksome Bounds of a Failing World https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2868688394?book_show_action=false -- so much, that I just couldn't wait to get my hands on this. And I wasn't disappointed. For me, this reads like a psychological thriller crossed with a horror story. With footnotes. Bliss.

Catherine Howard has always been the runt of the litter of the six women whose lives were mangled under the wheels of the Narcissist King. Unlike Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, and Katherine Parr, Howard was lacking, it seemed, in any personal talents or depth. Unlike Jane Seymour or Anne of Cleves, she didn't even have any novelty value -- by either dying tragically in the noble effort of giving Henry the son and heir he craved, or surviving the whole sorry mess. She was married to Henry, and Queen, so briefly that there are no confirmed portraits of her, no surviving marks of her arms (her "brand"), nothing that can be pointed to as her "legacy." Catherine Howard has always seemed like Anne Boleyn.2 -- the unsuccessful, short-lived reboot (right down, creepily, to the fact that she was Boleyn's first cousin.). A blip on the radar of the insanity of Henrican England -- it was easy for Henry, his contemporary chroniclers, and future historians to more or less airbrush her out of the picture. Her only "moment," the last, pathetic one -- the lingering image of a girl who has not yet reached her 21st birthday rehearsing with the block she will die on, so that she can at least go out with dignity.

Gareth Russell does an excellent job of redressing the balance, and filling in the blanks, where he can. Emphasis here, because, amazingly, there is just so much that isn't known about Howard. Like, her precise date or year of birth, for example. Like, the precise date of the beginning of her relationship with Henry, and the "trajectory" of the start of that relationship. For example, had she become his mistress, as he assuaged his (enormous) ego after the disappointment of Anne of Cleves? And did the relatively hasty marriage happen because they/he/she thought she was pregnant? There were contemporary rumours to that effect, but then -- as Russell makes clear -- there were always lots of rumours swirling about Henry's court and its main players. OR did Howard take a leaf from the book of her more politically astute cousin, and keep Henry at arm's length until she got the ring -- and manage to convince him that on their wedding night, he was taking a blushing 18 year old virgin to the marriage bed? (Yes, I know: ewwww ....) Again, there are hints and rumours. And until some heavy-handed builder, or energetic chimney sweep at Hampton Court, or one of the other palaces that would have been familiar to Catherine Howard, reveals some long-hidden diary (complete, I would imagine, with glittery unicorns and rainbow hearts ...) we will never know what Catherine Howard was thinking. What could have possessed her ...

Because, going back to comparisons with thrillers and horror stories, the Catherine Howard that Russell reconstructs with painstaking, forensic details, reminds me of the pretty, slightly dim and silly babysitter in a teen-slasher movie. Don't go down into the basement, Pretty, Dim Babysitter!! we cry. PLEASE, for the love of God, don't marry the King!! But she never listens. The details that we do know about Howard come from the criminal depositions -- of her, and those who knew her, and were involved in her downfall -- and they tell a sorry story of a very silly girl who seemed addicted to romance, with absolutely no clue of the danger that she was putting herself in, from the very first moment she allowed the King to consider her as a suitable bride (having spent her early teen years fooling around with various handsome equerries in her step-grandmother's household -- in an era when there was no such thing as "fooling around" and even getting to first base could be considered a binding pre-contract of marriage.)

It was like she hadn't been paying attention to the world she was living in. (Err, excuse me: dead cousin? In fact, cousins, as Anne's brother George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, was collateral damage in Anne's downfall ... The reek of burning heretics lingering in the air? Henry's chief advisor and right-hand man in the dissolution of the monasteries (Thomas Cromwell, for of course, it is he) having his head knocked off, even as Catherine and Henry were saying their vows and eating the wedding breakfast? No? We don't see a pattern here?)

Russell doesn't make that mistake: as little as we can know, directly, of Catherine Howard, he does his best to put her firmly in the context of her time -- and a true horror story it is, all depending on the whims and ego and greed (material, sexual, egotistical, emotional) of one man. You could be best friends with Henry on one day, and on the scaffold the next. You could be indulging in some heavy petting with the boss's granddaughter, thinking that perhaps you could get lucky and "marry up" -- and two years later, find yourself having your innards ripped out in front of a baying mob. The final chapter, the usual what became of ... for the major and minor players in this tragedy is a real horror story, as almost every single one, with the exception of Princess Elizabeth, was dead, horribly, within ten years. (And don't get me wrong, I think Francis Dereham was a creep. Just sayin' that the punishment was, perhaps, a bit excessive to t he crime ...)

Russell also plausibly debunks some historical myths that Catherine had been, well, let's be blunt, pimped to Henry by the Howards to get their family back in the top echelon of his court. Russell convinces me that that evidence shows that they had little to do with her catching Henry's eye, and their involvement with his court didn't change much once she became Queen. And Russell makes the excellent point that, if they were being Machiavellian, they did it very badly, because Catherine's history of flirtations was a live grenade, waiting to go off. And there would have been any number of Howard nieces/granddaughters who would have had a clean slate, and would have been a better candidate to indulge Henry's fantasies of youth.

One or two of the less than glowing reviews I have read have complained about too much detail. I LOVE the detail. I think it's used to perfection, to fill in the outline around the blank that is Catherine Howard, and create a plausible scenario to explain why she did what she did, and died as she did.

One aside: Gareth Russell has a real talent for picking wonderful titles (See Titanic volume, above ...). The title here is taken from a poem by Stevie Smith, about the myth of the Lorelei, and it couldn't be more perfect for a girl who was young and damned and fair, and died because she wasn't paying attention. ( )
  maura853 | Jul 11, 2021 |
As a retired English professor specializing in the Tudor and Stuart periods, and a long-time Tudor junkie, I've read many books about Henry VIII, his six wives, and his court (including a few truly dreadful novels--avoid Suzannah Dunn at all costs!). Aside from Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, the king's fifth wife, may be the one about whom least is known. A teen-aged lady-in-waiting to the soon discarded Anne of Cleves, Catherine's vivacity and beauty captured the stout, ailing, middle-aged king's heart--and then broke it. Gareth Russell's biography, while an enjoyable read, doesn't offer much that is new. We know that Catherine had a bit too much freedom in her step-grandmother's house, leading to several flirtations that may have been full-blown sexual affairs. We know that she and Francis Dereham may have thought themselves betrothed, a question of importance during her trial. And we know that she engaged in a flirtation with Thomas Culpepper that included exchanges of letters and gifts and nighttime visits to her chamber that may or may not have been sexual. And we know that, to some extent, she was a pawn in the political games being played by her family members and a group of courtiers who opposed them. Catherine's naiveté, set against this background of vipers, is at the heart of Russell's biography. An enjoyable read, but perhaps more so for readers who know little about this ill-fated queen. ( )
1 vote Cariola | Oct 15, 2018 |
I found this a very readable and captivating history. Katherine Howard is a bit of an enigma - so little is actually known about her. It is possible to tell her story in many ways and present her in different lights. The portrait presented here is quite believable based on the evidence - a young woman without the guile needed for her role, who was unfortunate to first attract the attention of a king and then hurt his pride. I particularly felt, in reading this, the tensions that must have been present at all times among the members of the court, knowing that their lives could be ended by shifting faction loyalties or the whims of a single man. ( )
  duchessjlh | Sep 8, 2018 |
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I won this book via Goodreads Giveaways. (Not received yet)
  ktlavender | Jul 17, 2017 |
Catherine Howard was the fifth wife of Henry VIII, she was a teenager whereas Henry was middle-aged, corpulent and tyrannical. After the death of Jane Seymour, Henry needed to make a political marriage and his advisor Cromwell settled on Anne of Clever. However Henry did not find her attractive and divorce was quickly sorted. Henry looked for an attractive bride next and the flirtatious young Catherine fitted the bill. Although naive, Catherine had a history, she had been involved in a relationship with Francis Dereham which may or may not have involved sex. All the pieces were in place for a tragedy when Catherine's head was turned by the younger, attractive men at court. Before she was twenty-one Catherine became the second of Henry's wives to lose their head accused of treason.

That is the simple story of Catherine Howard, she is either a silly naive girl or a girl who was abused at an early age and know no better. In this biography Russell tries to learn more about her background and deliver some evidence about what really went wrong for Catherine. Her family life was difficult, related to Anne Boleyn and with a father who seemed to go from disaster to disaster, she was brought up in the household of her grandmother. However the 'Maiden's Chamber' was a place where girls flirted with the young men of the household and sometimes went further and Russell explains how this 'education' created a women aware of her charms but also demanding of attention. In terms of marrying Henry, Catherine didn't really have a choice but Russell places her position into context. I felt that the research here cast a lot more light on Catherine's actions by placing them in the context of the court and he offers a balanced picture of Catherine as Queen - her relationships with Henry's children are particularly telling. ( )
  pluckedhighbrow | Jun 26, 2017 |
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"Written with narrative flair and historical authority, this biography of the tragic life of Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII, breaks new ground in our understanding of the young, doomed woman who became queen at a time of unprecedented social and political tension. On the morning of July 28, 1540, as King Henry VIII's former confidant Thomas Cromwell was being led to his execution, a teenager named Catherine Howard began her reign as queen of a country simmering with rebellion and terrifying uncertainty. Nineteen months later, she was on the scaffold, accused of adultery and high treason. Until now, Catherine 's story has been incomplete. Unlike previous accounts of her life, which portray her as a naive victim of an ambitious family, this compelling and authoritative biography reexamines her motives and social milieu, including both fellow aristocrats and the servants who eventually conspired against her. By illuminating Catherine's entwined upstairs/downstairs worlds and societal tensions beyond the palace walls, Gareth Russell offers a fascinating portrait of court life and the forces that led to Catherine 's execution--from diplomatic pressure and international politics to the long-festering resentments against the queen's household at court. Including a forgotten text of Catherine 's confession, Young and Damned and Fair changes our understanding of one of history's most famous women while telling the compelling and very human story of complex individuals attempting to survive in a dangerous age."--Jacket.

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