The Spanish Bride by Laurien Gardner
Genre: Historical Fiction
The queen who married a Tudor and a tyrant.
Her name was Catherine. For over two decades, she was Queen of England, until her failure to bear the king a son, her advancing age, and King Henry VIII’s obsession with Anne Boleyn cost Catherine the crown, her marriage, and her life. This is her story, told from the point of view of Estrella de Montoya, her trusted maid of honor, who travelled from Spain to England with her, and witnessed the triumphs and tragedies of her amazing life.
I have read a previous novel by the fantastic author Laurien Gardner based on Anne Boleyn called ‘A Lady Raised High‘. I loved it and couldn’t put it down and I still have fond memories of reading that novel, and that was over a couple of years ago! I am such a Tudor fiction nerd, that I am pretty sure that I have most of the Tudor historical fiction as an electronic copy or a physical copy, but if I don’t have it, it is on my Amazon wish list. So when I discovered on Amazon that there was another Tudor historical fiction book, but this time based on Catherine of Aragon, I purchased it straightaway!
‘The Spanish Bride’ starts with Catherine of Aragon, her maids-in-waiting and the rest of her party travelling to England for Catherine’s upcoming nuptials with Prince Arthur, the heir and first son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. However, the novel follows Catherine’s journey and struggles not through Catherine’s point of view, but from the point of view of her maid-in-waiting, Estrella de Montoya.
As the reader, we see how Catherine was eager for her marriage to Prince Arthur, only to see him die a couple of months after their marriage which led into Catherine basically being a political foreign prisoner of Henry VII, so that she can used for his purposes at a further date. However, Catherine sees the young Prince Henry (the future Henry VIII) as her white knight in shining amour who will come to rescue her, but as nearly everyone knows from their history lessons at school, things for Henry and Catherine don’t go to plan and end up turning sour. Estrella is a good and faithful servant to her mistress, but her life does not go to plan either, as she suffers many losses throughout her life, but only ever truly loved one man in particular.
I enjoyed this novel as I personally loved how the novel was structured, as the book started with Catherine crossing over to England in 1501 and played out her story during her marriage with Arthur and the developments after Arthur’s death. Although, the next part of the story fast forwards to 1527 and onwards, to play out Henry’s decision to divorce from Catherine and marry Anne Boleyn which leads to the Reformation of the English Church. Both storylines are intertwined as they have similar themes of loss, and how Catherine loved Henry and also believed that he was influenced by others and will find his way back to her.
Despite showing the similarities between Catherine’s life from 1501 and Catherine’s life from 1527 onwards, the novel was interesting as it also showed the contrasts between the two stages of her life, as after Arthur died, Catherine struggled as her father barely did anything to help her and she became poor as she had no money to be able to pay her household or feed herself and her household. Also, the novel also shows the suffering that Catherine had to endure with Henry VII, but for all the longing and hope that Prince Henry was going to be her saviour, in the end Henry turned out to be the cause of her suffering until the day she died by saying that after over 20 years of marriage they were never married and declaring their only living child; Mary, illegitimate.
The main characters in the novel is Catherine of Aragon (obviously as the novel is about her), and her lady-in-waiting Estrella. Both of them are very likeable characters as they both suffered throughout their lives, and with how the author have written these inspiring and strong women, you cannot help but empathise with them and sympathise the pain that they have endured. Whilst reading the novel, you can get the sense of the strong bond and a close friendship that both the women had throughout their lives. Catherine of Aragon has been documented throughout history as being a brave, loyal and a fighter right until the end of her days! ‘The Spanish Bride’ novel manages to capture that personality perfectly by depicting Catherine as a hopeless romantic and in certain situations, tries to think more positively about the situation and certain individuals. When Henry decided to appeal to Rome for a divorce, Catherine held strong and remained regal throughout the trial and separation from her daughter. Catherine was also depicted throughout the book putting the needs and well-being of the people of England first, making sure that she judged situations carefully before she took any form of actions in protest against her husband or to improve her situation.
The author clearly demonstrated her Tudor knowledge and turned historical events, into a historical fiction drama but in a way that is believable but dramatic nonetheless! I highly enjoyed this book, and would recommend this novel to anyone would like to read about the trials and tribulations of Catherine of Aragon, and would like to read about strong women in history!