The five surviving children of King Ferdinand of Aragon and Quen Isabella of Castile were given the best of educations, were taught the nuances of statecraft and were raised to realize that their role in life was to increase the power of Spanish dynasty. They learned their lessons well. The son died before he could become king, but the four girls became queens, founding royal lines that exist today. Katherine became Queen of England after marrying Henry VIII. Juana married Philip of Burgundy, then became Queen of Castile and Aragon when her mother died. Both women were pleased by their new husbands, seemed to love them and were loved in return. But in spite of the fairy tale beginning, the sisters didn’t live happily ever after.
Juana was manipulated by the three men she loved most, her husband, her father, and her son. All wanted to rule in her stead. Occasional erratic behavior was conveniently labeled “mad” and she was locked away for most of her life. The story of Katherine and Henry VIII is much more familiar, the first wife tossed aside when the male heir was not produced. Both women were betrayed by their husbands and separated from their children. They then turned to their deep faith to help them endure.
This is a dual biography book that reads as fluidly as fiction, fast-paced and full of colorful detail. The characters were fully fleshed and sympathetic. I was captivated from the first page and found it hard to put down. Because it was so well written without the distraction of dates and endless battle scenes, the information easily embedded itself in my brain. I have a renewed appreciation for the rights afforded women today.
NetGalley Review Publication date 1.31.12
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