Friday, February 10, 2012

Sister Queens: The Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile by Julia Fox

A remarkable and exceptional recreation of the lives of two nobelwomen.


Synopsis:

Daughters of the formidable Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain, Katherine and Juana were born in to a world of privilege and luxury that came at a devastating personal price. They were trained from an early age to understand European diplomacy and to revere their position as defenders of Catholicism against any threat to their religion. In an age of family politics, the sisters were useful only as a way to secure new alliances through marriage; both at the mercy of the men they were to marry. Katherine's marriage to Prince Arthur appeared to go well until he died suddenly after ten months. Marriage to King Henry VIII did not result in the vital heir, and soon Henry was displaying his despotic nature, with the execution of 'traitors' and high-handed affairs. Juana fared no better with Philip of Burgundy, whose naked ambition and cruelty made her life equally difficult. Julia Fox's new biography vividly portrays the harsh realities of being a queen within a world dominated and run by men. She provides a fresh take on the sisters' characters and interior worlds by setting them within their family and Spanish contexts. In the case of both women, this vibrant biography graphically illustrates the dangers of being a royal commodity at such a perilous time, and gives a highly revealing portrait of two forceful female personalities thwarted by the men around them - including the men closest to them who should have cared for them the most.
Opening Sentence:

The snow-covered mountains of the Sierra Nevada were clearly visible from the high, castellated red walls of the citadel as the slight figure of Boabdil, the last king of Granada, slipped out of its gates for the final time.

Review:

Sister Queens is a biography about two Spanish sisters who became queen - Katherine of Aragon and Juana of Castile.


Both were daughters of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. From the very start, Isabella planned and schemed to marry them to the most powerful kings in Europe.


Katherine, heiress of Aragon, was married to Arthur, the elder brother of the notorious King Henry VIII who was a mere prince at the time and who was destined to become her second husband.


Juana, heiress of Castile, was married to Philip of Burgundy, a cruel, ambitious man hungry for power and control.


Philip of Burgundy

This biographical non-fiction book focuses on their equally tragic lives as they fell victim to the aspirations and ruthless power-seeking men in their lives. Although women could hold power and govern lands in their own right, they often faced insurmountable barriers by husbands, brothers, and fathers. Julia Fox did a wonderful job with researching lesser known facts about their lives. What results is an entertaining, sympathetic portrayal of two women who struggled against great adversity.

Although the book focuses heavily on the life of Katherine, likely due to the popularity of the Tudors, she delves a little less, but adequately into the life of Juana. There have been many novels written about these two fascinating queens, however none carry as much detail as Sister Queens. It is evident the author utilized authentic historical sources; she credits them throughout this book's pages, so there is an aura of credibility from start to finish.

I highly recommend this book for everyone interested in English and Spanish history. There is no doubt that Sister Queens will stand as a valuable resource because of its accuracy and veracity for generations to come. It was truly an enjoyable read, rich with life, strife, and trouble.