María de Salinas is dying.
Too ill to travel, she writes a letter to her daughter Katherine, the young duchess of Suffolk. A letter telling of her life: a life intertwined with her friend and cousin Catalina of Aragon, the youngest child of Isabel of Castile. It is a letter to help her daughter understand the choices she has made in her life, beginning from the time she keeps her vow to Catalina to share her life of exile in England.
Friendship, betrayal, hatred, forgiveness – All Manner of Things tells a story of how love wins out in the end.
I found this novel to be a different approach to Katherine of Aragon than I was used to. Told from the point of view of her companion and best friend Maria, we see a Katherine who is hopelessly unhappy. From the first, she was guilt-ridden because the innocent young Earl of Warwick was executed so that she could marry Arthur, heir to the English throne. It was her father’s doing; Ferdinand would not countenance her marriage as long as a claimant to the throne still lived. This self-reproach colored her view of the world for the rest of her life. It looked for a while that the love between Katherine and Arthur would wash away her unhappiness, but his untimely death just proved that she was destined to suffer. When Queen Elizabeth proposed to her that she should marry Harry, Arthur’s younger brother, she was dubious. As explained by the queen:
“His sister Margaret weds soon the King of Scotland and is acknowledged by all at Court as Scotland’s queen.” The queen shook her head. “He knows full well that being prince gives him greater right than an ordinary child. But the day when he needed to give precedence to his sister, may the good Lord have mercy on us. The temper! I wish to speak no disrespect of the dead, but his temper is evil, just like my mother’s, God give her peace. My son is only a boy but so tall and strong. If you gave him a quick glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking Harry a young man already. I fear he won’t be much longer without knowledge of women.”
Catalina looked at the queen with wide eyes. “Why me? Why do you want me for your son?”
The queen inhaled a deep breath, sucking in her lower lip. She lifted her chin; her blue eyes glowed like sapphires set in ermine. “My Kate, because you fear God. With God’s help, and with yours, I hope to see all my fears about Harry come to nought.”
This was certainly not the most encouraging proposal to a recently bereaved girl-widow. But Katherine knew her duty. Of course, she was not to know that she and her household were destined to undergo seven long years of destitution before the proposed marriage came to pass. Ferdinand couldn’t be bothered paying his daughter’s dowry since Arthur’s death rendered Katherine irrelevant. Of course, her penury went far to justify that she deserved to suffer for Warwick’s death.
During all this, Maria supported her mistress as best as she could. We suffer with her through Katherine’s long and disagreeable widowhood. Then, when Henry VIII became king and married Katherine, Maria is the one who saw through his bluff exterior. She disliked and distrusted him from the first, even though her naïve mistress felt just the opposite. That didn’t last long! As things went from bad to worse for Katherine, Maria tried to snatch at a little happiness for herself. But, true to form, Henry had to poison her life, too. We get very little joy in this book, which I suppose is appropriate for such a sad life—or lives, if we count Maria, too.
Meet Wendy Dunn
Wendy J. Dunn is an Australian author, playwright and poet who has been obsessed by Anne Boleyn and Tudor History since she was ten-years-old. She is the author of three Tudor novels: Dear Heart, How Like You This?, the winner of the 2003 Glyph Fiction Award and 2004 runner up in the Eric Hoffer Award for Commercial Fiction, The Light in the Labyrinth, her first young adult novel, and Falling Pomegranate Seeds: The Duty of Daughters.
While she continues to have a very close and spooky relationship with Sir Thomas Wyatt, the elder, serendipity of life now leaves her no longer wondering if she has been channeling Anne Boleyn and Sir Tom for years in her writing, but considering the possibility of ancestral memory. Her own family tree reveals the intriguing fact that her ancestors – possibly over three generations – had purchased land from both the Boleyn and Wyatt families to build up their own holdings. It seems very likely Wendy’s ancestors knew the Wyatts and Boleyns personally.
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