No. 3 in the Sunday Times bestseller list

Chosen as one of Amazon's
Editors' Picks: Best Books of the Year, 2021

Check out the beautiful Waterstones' paperback edition of Katharine Parr: The Sixth Wife!


Two husbands dead; a life marred by sadness. And now Katharine is in love for the first time in her life.
   The eye of an ageing and dangerous king falls upon her. She cannot refuse him. She must stifle her feelings and never betray that she wanted another.
   And now she is the sixth wife. Her queenship is a holy mission yet, fearfully, she recalls the tragic parade of women who went before her. She cherishes the secret beliefs that could send her to the fire. And still the King loves and trusts her. 
   Now her enemies are closing in. She must fight for her very life.
   KATHARINE PARR – the last of Henry’s queens. 
   Alison Weir recounts the extraordinary story of a woman forced into a perilous situation and rising heroically to the challenge. Katharine is a delightful woman, a warm and kindly heroine – and yet she will be betrayed by those she loves and trusts most.   

   Too late, the truth will dawn on her.



"Katharine is a total revelation – I’m enjoying spending time with her so much. She’s intelligent and resilient, and has real presence. And two husbands within eighty pages, nice work! They’re both such fascinating love stories in their own way – I was really moved by how her relationship with Edward grows. I love their friendship and understanding of each other, particularly within the terrible, knife-edge atmosphere of that house. I couldn’t be more pro how you delve into the subject of women and education in this book and, unsurprisingly, I’m thrilled by all the Yorkshire drama and my beloved Pontefract Castle as rebellion HQ. Can’t wait to read on…"

"I’ve absolutely loved The Sixth Wife. It’s such a detailed, wide-ranging and fascinating story, and Katharine herself stands out as an extraordinary woman. Her combination of strong personality and great personal strength shines through the book, and her intelligence and humour are shown beautifully as she grows in confidence and power. I think you’ve really drawn out her development and emotional journey as she grows up and learns how and where she can control her life, and how she manages to resolve her emotions when she can’t. She has a different type of pragmatism to Anna of Kleve, and I liked seeing her proactivity and thoughtfulness – a complete contrast to Katheryn Howard’s impetuousness! I particularly enjoyed reading about her time in Yorkshire and being given a new perspective on this side of Tudor England, away from the court and with the impact of Henry’s reforms starting to hit home. It’s lovely to spend much more time with the precocious Elizabeth and see all three of Henry’s children through Katharine’s cool gaze. I did enjoy earlier storylines (the Seymours’ tumultuous early relationships, for example) coming back into play! What a magnificent conclusion to a remarkable series this is."




"For the first time I felt as though - thanks to Alison's skilful writing and storytelling - I came to "know" Katharine. The book is utterly exceptional and beautifully crafted, with a keen eye for detail - solid gold for Tudor history lovers! I would be delighted to do anything I can in order to support it. It's a huge triumph, and I have no doubt that it will be a bestseller!" (Nicola Tallis)

"This book is excellent." (Carol McGrath)

"This brilliant series has brought Henry VIII's six wives to life as never before, and with Katharine Parr Alison Weir has saved the best until last.  With stunning period detail and compelling drama throughout, Katharine emerges as a woman far ahead of her time: fiercely intelligent, courageous, passionate and inspiring, charting a course through the deadly waters of the Tudor court.  This novel will enthrall and inspire, just as much as it will break your heart." (Tracy Borman)

"I have to admit I savoured this book, reading far more fully as I knew it was the last one. And I shed a tear on finishing Katharine Parr The Sixth Wife. For the first and only time in my life, I earnestly wished that Henry VIII had married twelve wives instead of six so I could continue to be enthralled with Alison’s portrayal of them. Katharine Parr The Sixth Wife is a tour de force. Known to all school children as “survived”, Katharine Parr is shown to be the essence of goodness and a heartwarming, brave soul living in ruthless times. If you think you know everything about Henry VIII’s last queen, you’re in for a wonderful treat—you don’t!" (Susan Ronald, author of Heretic Queen and The Pirate Queen)

"Weir’s final book in the Six Tudor Queens series is an engaging and deeply researched take on Henry VIII’s final wife, Katherine Parr... Weir brings her expertise of the Tudor era to bear with rich detail and historical perspective on politics and religion, and the many intelligent conversations between Katherine and Henry VIII add to the charm. With a mercurial, captivating king as hook, Weir serves up a sharp and lucid blend of grim fact and stylish fiction." (Publishers Weekly)

"A very rich tapestry. A tour de force. If you think you know everything about Henry VIII's last queen, you're in for a wonderful treat - you don't!” ' (Susan Ronald, author of The Pirate Queen)

"Chronicling Katharine Parr’s life from her first marriage through to the end of her fourth is a huge accomplishment. Each marriage is well explored, each with dangers to keep the reader on edge. Weir portrays Katharine as a fully rounded, mature woman. [She] delivers engaging historical characters, filling the white spaces of their lives with believable interests, convincing motivation, and realistic daily routines. Secondary characters such as Katharine’s mother and siblings are vivid. You will anxiously watch them all, at Snape, Henry’s private gardens, Katharine’s home at Blackfriars, the King’s private rooms, or visiting her brother at court. The conversations are sparkling, gripping and word-perfect. As King Henry ages, the machinations of his vicious court are never far away. This masterly novel seamlessly blends history into the story’s fabric. A superb read and a remarkable end to a brilliant series." (Carol McGrath, Historical Novels Review)

“An absorbing and fascinating read, meticulously researched as is always the case with Alison's work, and she really made Katharine live”
(Sarah Rayne, author of A Dark Dividing)

"Back when Cultural Wednesday was new the first in Alison Weir’s Six Wives series was one of the first review copies that I was sent. Now the final part has been published. Each novel has seen the title Queen become a three dimensional being rather than a just a name in long list. I came away from each book viewing all the wives in more appreciative light.  If you haven’t discovered this excellent series yet, lucky you!  If you have, prepare to dive into the pool one last time." (Cultural Wednesday) 

"A compelling tale of religious suppression, unrequited love and regal duty.' (Waterstones Weekly)  

"Well researched and engrossing."  (Good Housekeeping)

"In the long-anticipated finale of her six-part series, Alison Weir brings Katharine’s relationship with the King to vivid life." (BBC History Magazine)

"Katharine Parr deserves better than to be known just as Henry VIII’s sixth wife – the one who survived. And there’s no-one better placed than Alison Weir to restore her to her rightful place. Alison gives full weight to Parr the writer and reformer – the first woman in England to publish under her own name! – but she also explores the loving, passionate Katharine who was so much more than just a nurse to the ageing Henry. The ‘Six Tudor Queens’ series has been something of a groundbreaker in showing the light historical fiction can shed on historical fact. It’s wonderful to see it go out on such a high note." (Sarah Gristwood)

"Beautifully written and impeccably researched this last book in this wonderful series is every bit as good as I knew it would be. I'm really sad to see the conclusion. Each book has been such an absolute joy to read and has brought one of Henry's six wives to life in a meaningful and very readable way. Each novel has been a fascinating insight into the lives of six very different women who lived their eventful and short lives in the full glare of Tudor politics." (Jaffareadstoo)

"Katharine’s early life is brought to life in this novel. It is full of the colour of the dresses she wore, the palaces and places where she lived and visited, and the complex political and religious conditions in which she lived. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this classic historical novel. This is probably a definitive fictional biography of a woman of great significance in many ways in the lives of Henry’s heirs, who managed a difficult balance of faith and self preservation during her third and most famous marriage, and took delight in some of the aspects of wealthy family lives." (Northern Reader)      

[W]ith Katharine Parr, The Sixth Wife…Weir cements her well-deserved renown as a novelist and historian who elevates both genres far beyond expectation. Perhaps most poignant and memorable is Weir’s creative entry into the depths of a Tudor queen’s heart and mind. Katharine’s personality seems no mere fantasy, but an honest and empathic embrace of feminine power and vulnerability that is deeply relatable for women of every historical era.” (Bookreporter)

"A gripping and heart-wrenching read!" (History from a Woman's Perspective)

"A truly superb final flourish for what has been one of the very best Tudor series. The story of Katharine – her rise from a noble family through death and tragedy, four marriages, and a perilous passion for the emerging ‘new religion’ – is the enthralling last chapter of author and historian Alison Weir’s groundbreaking sequence of novels featuring Henry’s wives. Weir’s insightful and ambitious project has plucked these 16th century royal women from the dusty, male-orientated pages of history books and given them a ‘real’ and extraordinarily authentic persona, allowing readers a more human perspective on the harsh realities of their precarious situations in the turbulent Tudor court. Each book has been written using the author’s vast historical knowledge, in-depth research, and a tantalising slice of artistic licence, and this brilliantly seductive and deeply moving portrait of the intelligent, compassionate, and all too often underestimated, Katharine sees Weir on her best form yet. Weir could not have ended her remarkable series better than with this immaculately researched, richly detailed and sensitively imagined portrait of Henry’s last – and arguably most complex, courageous and heroic – wife. This is Katharine’s world rewritten by a consummate historian whose Six Wives novels have been fashioned by blending her extensive knowledge of Tudor history with a remarkable ability to breathe new and palpably real life into the leading players of 16th century royal history." (Lancashire Post)

“Weir delivers engaging historical characters, filling the white spaces of their lives with believable interests, convincing motivation, and realistic daily routines. The conversations are sparkling, gripping and word-perfect. . . . This masterly novel seamlessly blends history into the story’s fabric. A superb read and a remarkable end to a brilliant series.” (Historical Novel Society)

"A solid choice for Tudor enthusiasts looking for a well-researched, entertaining novel.” (Library Journal)

 (Antonia Senior, The Times)

You can read my article QUEEN KATHARINE'S RESTLESS BONES in Historia at 


Described as an ‘incomparable woman’, Katharine Parr became Henry VIII’s sixth wife in 1543. She was then thirty and twice widowed, and she was in love with someone else. She was also a closet heretic who risked being burned at the stake if her secret was discovered.

Despite the dangerous deceptions that clouded her married life, Katharine and Henry forged a relationship based on love and respect. His affection for her is evident in his letters and his generosity to her.

Katharine narrowly missed becoming the third of Henry VIII’s wives to suffer execution - and only escaped because a warrant was dropped in a palace gallery.

Characterised by the Victorians as a staid bluestocking, Katharine was in fact a feisty woman of independent spirit - and temper - who thought nothing of throwing caution to the winds in pursuit of love. She was a strong woman who assimilated the many changes in her life with fortitude and good grace.

She was much loved for her goodness and her intelligence. It was said that every day at her court was like a Sunday. She loved books, flowers, shoes, dancing and riding.

Katharine lived through - and subtly advanced - the momentous changes of the English Reformation. As the wife of a man of suspect loyalty to the Catholic cause, she stood in real peril at the time of the uprising known as the Pilgrimage of Grace.

Several times she had to contend with bullies - her father-in-law, the rebels who occupied her home, her jealous sister-in-law, even her last husband. It did not make for an easy life.

Katharine suffered a devastating betrayal by those who should have cherished her. It would haunt her until she died.

With four husbands, Katharine was England’s most married queen. She was 'the flower of her sex, renowned, great and wise, a wife by every nuptial virtue known'.

This is beautiful foiled limited-edition proof copy of Katharine Parr: The Sixth Wife, which is being sent out to reviewers.

THE QUEEN'S CHILD is the first companion e-short to Katharine Parr, and tells the story of her daughter, Mary Seymour. The second e-short, IN THIS NEW SEPULCHRE, recounts the Queen's strange and sometimes macabre afterlife.  



Doing an image search on Google, looking for ideas for a jacket for a book, I came across a Tudor portrait I had never seen before (above, left). It featured on a site where art books are reviewed, and I was astonished to read that it was a hitherto-unknown portrait of Elizabeth I, aged 9, by Hans Holbein, dating from 1542. That claim was made by Graeme Cameron, an art research historian, whose findings can be read in his book, The Secrets of Leonardo da Vinci (VegaScans, 2011).

In the book, Cameron identified the Mona Lisa as Leonardo da Vinci’s 60-year-old mother. I make no comment on that – I’m not a Leonardo expert - but I have been studying Tudor portraiture for over 50 years, and I do dispute his findings on the portrait said to be Elizabeth. I am grateful to him though for engaging in a debate with me about the sitter’s identity. Historians sometimes have to agree to differ.

The richness of the hood, the expensive jewel on the breast and the intricate pearl-and-diamond carcanet all indicate that the sitter was of royal or noble rank. None of this jewellery appears in the hundreds of images of Elizabeth I that I have studied, or in her inventory. The medallion jewel depicts the judgement of Paris as to which of the three goddesses, Aphrodite, Hera and Athena, was the more beautiful. In a painting by Hans Eworth, dated 1569 (above, left), Elizabeth I is shown excelling all three of the goddesses.  The judgement of Paris was a popular theme in the art and culture of the sixteenth century, so that painting, which was executed more than 24 years after the latest date for this portrait, cannot be evidence to prove that a sitter wearing a jewel depicting the legend was Elizabeth, as Cameron has asserted. It is possible that the jewel in the portrait was originally designed by Holbein, as he suggests, although there were other jewellers much in demand at court in the 1540s. 

Compared with the portrait of the ten to twelve-year-old Elizabeth in the Whitehall dynastic group at Hampton Court of 1544-5 (above, centre), or the painting of her aged thirteen at Windsor (above, right), this is unlikely to be the same sitter. Elizabeth’s forehead was higher and broader, and her face was rounder. Her eyes were wider. Her features were not as angular as they became in maturity, so the control image from 40+ years later – the Armada portrait used by Cameron - would not be an accurate comparison. The hair might be the correct shade, but the other features do not tally. But identifying Tudor portraits on features alone is subjective and unreliable, as the competence and vision of artists varies considerably. We must look at other evidence. 

The portrait is in an elaborate frame. Among its pigments is blue azurite, rarely found in works by Holbein’s followers because of its cost. Painting techniques conform to Holbein’s. The wood panel comes from the Baltic/Polish region, as do Holbein’s oak panels. In 1998, a full dendrochronological examination established that the panel must date from 1537 to 1545. The style of the costume, the hairstyle and the squarer shape of the French hood indicate that the portrait was painted towards the end of that period, coinciding with Katherine Parr’s tenure as queen. By the time this hood came into fashion, in the mid-1540s, heralding the fashions of the 1550s – the hood in the portrait is one of the earliest known examples - Holbein was probably dead.

Compared with authenticated portraits by Holbein, this one is clearly of inferior quality – one only has to compare it with Holbein's portrait of a lady, probably Elizabeth Seymour, in Toledo, Ohio, (above, left) to see that it is not by the master. The rendering of the shoulders is clumsy and disproportionate, even in infra-red scans, something that is never apparent in Holbein’s portraits. I would suggest that this portrait is by a follower or pupil of Holbein, possibly a member of his workshop, which would explain the use of the panel, the costly pigments – which could be justified when a queen was paying for the portrait - and the style of painting. 

The initials HB are said to appear in the embroidered blackwork of standing collar of the gown, along with ‘Ae 9’ - ‘aged 9’. The HB is said to be Holbein’s monogram. But Holbein did not use his monogram in this covert way. A close study of his paintings reveals that he used the letters HH, in Roman. Examples are to be found on eleven works: a book in the portrait of Hermann von Wedigh, on the portrait of Benedikt von Hertenstein  (both in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), the portrait of Jakob Meyer at Basel, the dead Christ, six drawings of the Apostles, and a drawing of Christ nailed to the Cross at Basel.

Copyists of Holbein’s works, such as Wenceslaus Hollar, occasionally used the monogram HBi, for ‘Holbein invenit’ – meaning Holbein invented the work, but the follower copied it. As for the number 9, there is no example of the age of a sitter being inscribed in this manner on a Holbein portrait. The usual form is AETATIS SVAE followed by the age, inscribed on the background. Furthermore, the sitter looks considerably older than nine years. My conclusion is that these supposed symbols are actually part of the design of the embroidered collar.

In the portrait of Katherine Parr (below), her carcanet, or necklace (above, left) - which is distinctive and unique in portraits of the period - is almost identical to the one in the portrait said to be Elizabeth (above, right). It’s almost certainly the same one, it fits a description of a carcanet listed in the Queen's inventory, and it appears in other portraits. It is this that convinces me that we are looking at a portrait of Katherine Parr, not the young Elizabeth. In 1835, the portrait on the left was copied by Henry Bone as Anne Boleyn (Royal Collection, below right; a copy is at Sudeley Castle).

Apart from the necklace, there are other similarities to the portrait. Both sitters above wear similar attire, a black gown with a standing collar, and a red French hood of a similar shape. Both have a similar hairstyle. The hair colour in our portrait resembles that in authenticated portraits; the chin is the same shape, the eyebrows similarly winged, the eyes strikingly alike.

We know that Katherine Parr commissioned at least twelve portraits of herself, and at least seven miniatures from John Betts alone. She was also painted by Hans Eworth, who came to England around the time she became queen. This unknown likeness may be one of those portraits.

For 300 years, the portrait was owned by Katharine's cousin, Sir Lionel Duckett, and his descendants. In 1832, it was put on sale in London with the rest of Sir George Duckett’s collection, and sold to Sir Joseph Neeld of Grittleton House near Chippenham Wiltshire. In 1851, it was described in the Grittleton catalogue as ‘the portrait of Queen Anne Boleyn’.  Grittleton was owned by the Neeld family until 1973, when it was bought by the Shipp family. At that time, the Neeld collection was split up, some going to the National Portrait Gallery, some to the V. & A. and the rest to museums and private collectors. The portrait is now in a private collection.