Book Review – ‘The King’s Pleasure’ by Norah Lofts

'The King's Pleasure' by Norah Lofts (1969).
‘The King’s Pleasure’ by Norah Lofts (1969).

I recently finished reading Norah Lofts’s The King’s Pleasure, about the life of Katherine of Aragon.

It was an interesting read, but I felt that parts of it were not very accurate, or did not portray very well the depth of emotion and the hardship. I also felt that parts of the story were shortened, particularly Katherine’s childhood in Spain, which got only a few pages.

Genre/s: Historical Fiction / Romance / Drama.

Setting: Alcala de Henares (Spain), Ludlow (Wales), London, Kimbolton, Ampthill, Buckden (UK)

Characters: Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII, Maria de Salinas, Arthur Tudor, Maria de Moreto, Dr de la Sa, Eustace Chapuys, Francisco Felipez, Isabella I of Castile, Ferdinand II of Aragon, Henry VII, Joanna of Castile, Isabella of Castile, Mary I, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I, Thomas Cromwell.

Storyline: The King’s Pleasure follows Katherine of Aragon’s story from her birth in Spain to Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon during the Granada campaign, up to her death in exile at Kimbolton in northern England. Between, she had been married to Arthur Tudor, then had to suffer in poor conditions until her marriage to his brother Henry. She had several miscarriages, one surviving daughter and then had to suffer through the divorce and exile.

Point of View: Various: Henry VIII, Katherine of Aragon, Maria de Moreto, Mary I, Eustace Chapuys.

Strengths: Lofts’s writing style is engaging, and her description really helps you to imagine that you’re there. For me, this was particularly effective during Katherine’s exile, particularly right at the end, when she was

Katherine of Aragon by Lucas Hornebolte
Katherine of Aragon by Lucas Hornebolte

dying. I think more could have been made of the contrast of the court compared to Kimbolton, but otherwise her style was impressive. Although her dating wasn’t brilliant, the progress of the novel was good, following what we accept as fact, and trying to fill in the gaps. I preferred this to Margaret George’s The Autobiography of Henry VIII but most historical novels I’ve read are better than this one.

Weaknesses: Lofts seems to have been amiss on some of the details of the period and fails to mention a lot of the time what year it is. She’ll say, for example, April, but you won’t know which year until a major event happens, and even then you’ll only know if you understand the historical context of the novel. Chapuys seems entirely different in the novel, to what the archival record suggests – he seems more conniving and sly than the record shows, and more willing to pitch mother against daughter, which there is no record of him doing. Largely, my problem with Lofts’s novel is her historical accuracy, although she also seems to skim over parts of Katherine’s life, like her childhood and marriage to Arthur.

Overall Rating: 14 / 20.

Recommend? Debatably. I don’t think it was executed as well as it could have been. To me, Lofts seems to be an author who does not fully research her period.

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