In my end is my beginning… Mary Queen of Scots


In Huckleberry Finn the Duke and the Dauphin stage a play called ROYAL NONESUCH recounted in chapters 22 and 23:

So the duke said these Arkansaw lunkheads couldn’t come up to Shakespeare; what they wanted was low comedy — and maybe something ruther worse than low comedy, he reckoned. He said he could size their style. So next morning he got some big sheets of wrapping paper and some black paint, and drawed off some handbills, and stuck them up all over the village… at the bottom was the biggest line of all, which said: LADIES AND CHILDREN NOT ADMITTED.

“There,” says he, “if that line don’t fetch them, I don’t know Arkansaw!”

In many ways Tudor England – especially the court of Henry VIII – resembled Twain’s Arkansas in ways scarcely imaginable to the reader’s of the expurgated and sanitized histories that have flowed so charitably from English pens in the succeeding centuries. Finally there is some redress and these two volumes give Catherine of Aragon and Philip II of Spain their due as sophisticated thinkers and rulers in a generation where the throne of England was inhabited by syphilitic dissipates, adulteresses and their bastard offspring. In a way Catherine had the final victory since it was her grandson [son of her daughter Mary] who finally succeeded to the throne and finally brought England into the Renaissance.

Catherine of Aragon : Henry’s Spanish queen : a biography Giles Tremlett London : Faber and Faber, 2010 Hardcover. 1st ed., later printing. xv, 458 p. : col. ill., map ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 431-443) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

The image of Catherine of Aragon has always suffered – as wives are wont to do when compared to mistresses in the popular mind – in comparison to Anne Boleyn. But when Henry VIII married Catherine, she was an auburn-haired beauty in her 20s with a passion she had inherited from her parents, Isabella and Ferdinand. This daughter of the monarchs who drove the Moors from Spain showed the same steel and sense of command when organising the defeat of the Scots at the Battle of Flodden and Henry was to learn, to his cost, that he had not met a tougher opponent on or off the battlefield when he tried to divorce her.

Henry introduced four remarkable women into the tumultuous flow of England’s history; Catherine of Aragon and her daughter Queen Mary [whose marriage to Phillip II almost made him king of England]; and Anne Boleyn and her daughter, Elizabeth I. From the contest between two mothers and two daughters, was born the religious passion and violence that inflamed England for centuries. Reformation, revolution and Tudor history would all have been vastly different without Catherine of Aragon.

Giles Tremlett’s new biography is the first in more than four decades to be dedicated entirely and uniquely to the tenacious woman whose marriage lasted twice as long as those of Henry’s five other wives put together. It draws on fresh material from Spain to trace the dramatic events of her life through Catherine of Aragon’s own eyes.

Philip of Spain Henry Kamen New Haven, [Conn.] : Yale University Press, c 1997 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xiii, 384 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 363-368) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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Philip II of Spain — ruler of the most extensive empire the world had ever known — has been viewed in a harsh and negative light since his death in 1598. Identified with repression, bigotry, and fanaticism by his enemies, he has been judged more by the political events of his reign than by his person. This book, published four hundred years after Philip’s death, is the first full-scale biography of the king. Placing him within the social, cultural, religious, and regional context of his times, it presents a startling new picture of his character and reign.

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Drawing on Philip’s unpublished correspondence and on many other archival sources, Henry Kamen reveals much about Philip the youth, the man, the husband, the father, the frequently troubled Christian, and the king. Kamen finds that Philip was a cosmopolitan prince whose extensive experience of northern Europe broadened his cultural imagination and tastes, whose staunchly conservative ideas were far from being illiberal and fanatical, whose religious attitudes led him to accept a practical coexistence with Protestants and Jews, and whose support for Las Casas and other defenders of the Indians in America helped determine government policy. Shedding completely new light on most aspects of Philip’s private life and, in consequence, on his public actions, the book is the definitive portrayal of Philip II.

 

 

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