Ford Madox Ford’s novel about the doomed Katharine Howard, fifth queen of Henry VIII, is a neglected masterpiece.
Kat Howard—intelligent, beautiful, naively outspoken, and passionately idealistic—catches the eye of Henry VIII and improbably becomes his fifth wife. A teenager who has grown up far from court, she is wholly unused to the corruption and intrigue that now surround her. It is a time of great upheaval, as unscrupulous courtiers manuever for power while religious fanatics—both Protestant and Catholic—fight bitterly for their competing beliefs. Soon Katharine is drawn into a perilous showdown with Thomas Cromwell, the much-feared Lord Privy Seal, as her growing influence over the King begins to threaten too many powerful interests. Originally published in three parts (The Fifth Queen, Privy Seal, and The Fifth Queen Crowned), Ford’s novel serves up both a breathtakingly visual evocation of the Tudor world and a timeless portrayal of the insidious operations of power and fear in any era.