Synopses & Reviews
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
The history books have cast Katherine of Aragon, the first queen of King Henry VIII of England, as the ultimate symbol of the Betrayed Woman, cruelly tossed aside in favor of her husband’s seductive mistress, Anne Boleyn. Katherine’s sister, Juana of Castile, wife of Philip of Burgundy and mother of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, is portrayed as “Juana the Mad,” whose erratic behavior included keeping her beloved late husband’s coffin beside her for years. But historian Julia Fox, whose previous work painted an unprecedented portrait of Jane Boleyn, Anne’s sister, offers deeper insight in this first dual biography of Katherine and Juana, the daughters of Spain’s Ferdinand and Isabella, whose family ties remained strong despite their separation. Looking through the lens of their Spanish origins, Fox reveals these queens as flesh-and-blood women—equipped with character, intelligence, and conviction—who are worthy historical figures in their own right.
When they were young, Juana’s and Katherine’s futures appeared promising. They had secured politically advantageous marriages, but their dreams of love and power quickly dissolved, and the unions for which they’d spent their whole lives preparing were fraught with duplicity and betrayal. Juana, the elder sister, unexpectedly became Spain’s sovereign, but her authority was continually usurped, first by her husband and later by her son. Katherine, a young widow after the death of Prince Arthur of Wales, soon remarried his doting brother Henry and later became a key figure in a drama that altered England’s religious landscape.
Ousted from the positions of power and influence they had been groomed for and separated from their children, Katherine and Juana each turned to their rich and abiding faith and deep personal belief in their family’s dynastic legacy to cope with their enduring hardships. Sister Queens is a gripping tale of love, duty, and sacrifice—a remarkable reflection on the conflict between ambition and loyalty during an age when the greatest sin, it seems, was to have been born a woman.
"Daughters of Spain's Isabella and Ferdinand, the sister queens Katherine of England and Juana of Castile epitomized the pitfalls of being 'born female in a male-dominated society.' Although Juana became queen of Castile after Isabella's death, her closest male kin, beginning with her bullying husband, Philip of Burgundy, usurped her throne by circulating rumors that the temperamental queen was deranged; then her father, and then her son, kept her as an abused prisoner. But Juana bore healthy sons and her descendants dominated Europe for some two centuries after her death. The politically astute Katherine was Henry VIII's closest adviser in their marriage's early days and enjoyed a productive, contented life. But she lost Henry's affection and her title as queen consort when she failed to produce a male heir. If Fox's (Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford) recreation of the characters' interior worlds feels contrived and her downplaying of Katherine's self-righteousness and Isabella's brutal religious fanaticism are questionable, the author offers an absorbing, rich, and fresh view of the entwined royal relationships that helped define the 15th- and 16th-century European political landscape. 16 pages of color photos; 1 map." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
After graduating from the University of London, Julia Fox taught history in both public and private schools for a number of years, specializing in the Tudors and in nineteenth-century Britain and Europe. She also worked as a historical researcher. She currently lives with her husband, the historian John Guy, and their two cats. She is the author of one previous book, Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford.