The general perception of Katherine Parr, the sixth and last wife of Henry VIII, is that she was a provincial nobody with intellectual pretensions who became queen of England because the king needed a matronly consort to nurse him as his health declined. In the various studies of the six wives of Henry VIII she receives much less attention than Katherine of Aragon or Anne Boleyn. Her main achievement, in the famous rhyme about Henry's six wives, is that she survived.
Yet the real Katherine Parr was attractive, passionate (she had a mighty temper when aroused) ambitious and highly intelligent. She was 30 years old (younger than Anne Boleyn had been) when she married the king. Twice widowed, held hostage by the northern rebels during the great uprising of 1536-37 known as the Pilgrimage of Grace, her life had been dramatic even before she became queen. It would remain so after Henry's death, when she hastily and secretly married her old flame, the rakish Sir Thomas Seymour. Katherine died shortly after giving birth to her only child in September 1548, her brief happiness undermined by the very public flirtation of her husband and step-daughter, Princess Elizabeth. Despite the vivid interest of her life, this is the first full-scale, accessible biography of this fascinating woman who was, in reality, one of the most influential and active queen consorts in English history.