Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The King's Rose

Princes and princesses. Gowns of gold and the royal jewels. Fame and fortune. The royalty of an England from long ago seems like a fantasy world we only know about through the movies. We seldom think about the thoughts and struggles of the people who were subject to such a life. What did they wish for? What did they want from life? We don't stop to think about the young girls who were married off to kings for the advancement of their own families. Were they happy about it? Did they really have no other desires?

Catherine Howard was one such girl. At the age of 15 she was paraded in front of King Henry Tudor and she became just the next wife in a long line of women whom many would claim were victimized by the throne of England. Alisa M Libby's novel The King's Rose explores the rise and fall of Catherine Howard through her initial excitement over the prospect of being married to King Henry to her eventual death at the hands of King Henry's advisors. As the story begins, Catherine is somewhat thrilled that she has been chosen. She is mesmerized by the gifts bestowed on her - but marrying such a powerful man has its disadvantages as well. Catherine's main job as the king's wife is to produce a male heir (which she finds increasingly difficult to do with the king's progressing ailments) while hiding a past that King Henry would surely find treasonous.
As her ascent begins, and through her descent, Catherine is haunted by the events that led to her cousin Anne Boleyn's rise and fall just years before her. As things for Catherine start to unravel and come to light, her new objective becomes to save herself. While many of us are familiar with how the historic story ends, The King's Rose takes a look at the relationships and betrayals that led to Catherine Howard's demise.

The King's Rose provides a deeper look into the life of a woman who was pawned by her family for their advancement, and Libby's writing makes the story catchy and fascinating. The historical significance and references in the book make it one where the reader can learn so much about the lifestyle of the historic court of England - even some of the amusements which people used to pass the time, such as bear-baiting, are described for us. While I would be tempted to recommend this book at both the middle school and high school level for its fascinating look at a portion of Tudor history, the graphic nature of some of the sexual scenes pushes my recommendation to eighth-grade and beyond. This would be a great book to have as an independent read in both history and English classrooms, or even to recommend to students who might be working on a research project dealing with the content. Of course, this book could also be used to discuss the topic of feminism throughout history, as we gain an educated look into the mind of a woman who was used by her family for status gain. All in all, The King's Rose was a page turner that I would highly recommend.



11 comments:

averch said...

This book is so great for history classes. King Henry is such a scumbag isn't he? My students and I always have this discussion about him. This book just shows he is one of the first real evil historical characters. Catherine is one of my favorite, though, of the many wives that he had, I love her story.

Heather Hoffman said...

He WAS a scumbag!!! I have to admit that all I really knew about him came from when "The Other Boleyn Girl" movie came out a few years ago. Catherine's story is very fascinating, and The King's Rose also sheds some interesting light on Anne Boleyn's story as well!

Mallory Umar said...

This book seems really exciting. You're right, we don't think of the young girls who are married off to royalty. The families are the ones who benefit, often the girl is given the short end of the stick. This could help teach a very important period of time in an English or History class. A teacher can talk about the customs of the time.

Mallory Umar said...

This book seems really exciting. You're right, we don't think of the young girls who are married off to royalty. The families are the ones who benefit, often the girl is given the short end of the stick. This could help teach a very important period of time in an English or History class. A teacher can talk about the customs of the time.

Donna N said...

Your book sounds historical in nature and I'm sure it was interesting reading about the history of Royalty in England. I often wonder why so many books meant for young adults have to include sexual themes in them.

Donna

Heather Hoffman said...

Donna-

I think that the reason that so many young adult books have sexual themes is because young adults often deal with it every day! And especially, with a book such as this, you cannot leave out the historical element -- this book would have seemed watered down and pretty "lame" had the sexual aspect been taken out for censorship purposes.

-Heather

VCaste said...

This book sounds extremely interesting to me and your post provided a lot of information about the book itself and the time period surrounding the book. I have been intrigued by King Henry ever since studying him in history class and also seeing the movie "The Other Boleyn Girl" which chronicles the lives of Ann Boleyn and her sister. It would be interesting to see how things changed after Ann Boleyn's execution and his marriage with Catherine.

Overall, great post! I'm looking forward to picking up this book to read!

Marcella said...

I think this book would be great to teach and it would get students interested in British Lit. This is the class I remember discussing King Henry in depth and was one of my favorites because of historical events such as this one. Thus, this period in History always interests me no matter how many times I hear this story.

Amy said...

Heather, I too LOVED The Other Boleyn Girl and all those books are on my list to read. I find that history amazing especially after reading some things by Queen Elizabeth I in my women's lit class. This book sounds really good and I always think it's always good for students to learn through stories. I think I learn more now through historical fiction than I ever did in high school simply because I didn't pay attention to text books like I did/do books.

Danielle Bartman said...

Amy I agree with you about learning more through books, then text books! By having them read these books gets them away from the boring reading the textbook routine they do every day.

Krystal Tanami said...

I agree Henry VIII was a scumbag but lets not forget that it was her uncle that was the major scumbag of the story. Her family through her under the king's bus hoping to make amends for the supposed crimes of Anne Boleyn. That being said I love the story of Catherine Howard and will have to read this book.