Friday, May 15, 2015

Renaissance woman

Well written biography about Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk. Daughter of Mary De Salinas, lady in waiting to Catherine of Aragon, she was sent to live with Henry's sister Mary and her husband, Charles Brandon with the intent that she and her fortune would be married to their son. When Mary died, Charles, Duke of Suffolk married the fourteen year old girl instead of his son. Katherine Willoughby became a key player in Henry's court, acting as a lady in waiting to several of his wives. Along with Katherine Parr, Henry's sixth wife, she embraced Protestantism, enough so that when Henry died and his Catholic daughter became Queen she had to flee. It was rumored she had an affair with Henry, and when his sixth wife flirted dangerously with the reformation, Henry cast his eye on the widowed Duchess. She married a man of lesser rank, but maintained importance in the Protestant Reformation when she returned to England. Katherine Willoughby was a fascinating person, a woman ahead of her time. In a time when women appeared to be little more than chattel, married off for dynastic reasons, spunky Katherine Willoughby refused to be a victim of her circumstances and made the most of what she was handed. This was a woman that used her resources to send her life in the direction she desired. Faced with inconsolable tragedy when both her sons succumbed to the sweating sickness, she picked up the pieces of her life to carve out a new existence and create a family with Richard Bertie. She was a woman of both fortitude and courage, unafraid to forge ahead and speak her mind in a time when that could cause a beheading. I think Katherine Willoughby is often eclipsed by the bevy of woman who graced Henry's bed, and I loved this book that brought her out to shine as a rare example of a renaissance woman, perhaps even a precursor to the feminist movement in that she was a woman who thought for herself and wasn't afraid to show it.

Happy Reading!
Carole P. Roman

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