Thursday, January 15, 2015

444 (2015 #1). Sister Queens

by Julia Fox

This was a surprisingly easy-to-read dual biography about two daughters of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain:  Katherine of Aragon, the first wife of England's Henry VIII, and Juana "la loca," the queen of Castile, in the period from Isabella's and Ferdinand's takeover of Granada and the Alhambra in 1492, to Juana's death in 1555 (and a bit beyond, to the death of Katherine's daughter Mary, Queen of England, in 1558).

The book is well researched.  End notes and the bibliography take up the last 14% of the book (27 pages in print), which also includes photographs of relevant portraits, locations, and maps, as well as genealogical charts.  The print book would probably be better for the photographs and charts, as they are too small on an e-reader.

The book provides a balanced portrait of these two queens, Katherine usually portrayed as saintly, while Juana was typically described as crazy.  Both share the misfortune of being female in very male-dominated society and era.  The reader also learns a little about their fascinating mother, about whom I'm now eager to read more.

I felt I knew Katherine pretty well, from the many books I've read on Tudor England, both fiction and nonfiction, that include her as a major or minor character.  Juana was a new subject for me, and it was heartbreaking to read how her husband, father, and son in succession took advantage of her, locking her away with rumors that she had gone mad.

The book reads more like a novel than a dry history, with plenty of detail about ceremonies and clothing, and not much political analysis - which was fine with me.  A good introduction to Juana and another view of the well-known first wife of the infamous Henry VIII.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[This e-book was borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]

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