The general perception of Katherine Parr, the sixth and last wife of Henry VIII, is that she was a provincial nobody with intellectual pretensions who became queen of England because the king needed a matronly consort to nurse him as his health declined. In the various studies of the six wives of Henry VIII she receives much less attention than Katherine of Aragon or Anne Boleyn. Her main achievement, in the famous rhyme about Henry's six wives, is that she 'survived'. Yet the real Katherine Parr was attractive, passionate (she had a mighty temper when aroused) ambitious and highly intelligent. She was thirty years old (younger than Anne Boleyn had been) when she married the king. Twice widowed, held hostage by the northern rebels during the great uprising of 1536-37 known as the Pilgrimage of Grace, her life had been dramatic even before she became queen. It would remain so after Henry's death, when she hastily and secretly married her old flame, the rakish Sir Thomas Seymour. Katherine died shortly after giving birth to her only child in September 1548, her brief happiness undermined by the very public flirtation of her husband and step-daughter, Princess Elizabeth. Despite the vivid interest of her life, this is the first full-scale, accessible biography of this fascinating woman who was, in reality, one of the most influential and active queen consorts in English history.
Linda Porter has a doctorate in History from the University of York, where she studied early modern English and French history under the late Professor Gwyn Williams. She was the winner of the 2004 Biographers Club/Daily Mail Prize, which helped launch her on a new career as an author. Her first book, Mary Tudor, The First Queen, was published to critical acclaim by Portrait in 2007. She is a regular contributor to BBC History Magazine and History Today. She lives in Kent.