Reviewed by Jennifer Joyce
It’s 1543 and Katherine Parr is widowed for the second time when her aging husband passes away after a long and agonising illness. Katherine and her 17 year old stepdaughter, Meg are called to court to visit Lady Mary. Still only 31, Katherine catches the eye of the king, who is seeking a new wife following the execution of Catherine Howard. Katherine doesn’t want to marry the king but has little choice in the matter, particularly as her ambitious brother urges her to become the next Queen of England, propelling the whole Parr family up the hierarchy.
Katherine finds herself becoming the sixth queen of Henry VIII, bringing timid Meg and their maid, Dot to court with her. The following years are spent dodging the king’s foul temper, hiding her disgust as she tries to provide another son for the king and attempting to keep in Henry’s favour as those around him conspire against her.
I quickly engaged with the characters within Queen’s Gambit and felt Katherine’s despair as Henry set his sights on her. Soon after her second husband’s death, Katherine meets Thomas Seymour and falls in love with him, however she isn’t permitted to marry for love. The king wants to marry Katherine and he always gets what he wants. I couldn’t imagine what it must have felt like to be so powerless, to have your life mapped out for you without any say in the matter. Religion and politics take over Katherine’s life and her marriage to Henry, and at times I feared what would happen to her (although from history, I partly knew) and her allies.