"Alison Weir draws on extensive research to recount one of the most tragic tales in English history – that of a lively, sweet but neglected girl, used by powerful men for their own gain.

History tells us she died too soon. This mesmerising novel brings her to life."



A naive girl, thrust forward by her ambitious family. A pretty girl, who has captured the heart of a king. 

  She sings, she dances, she delights in the pleasures of being queen. The King tells the world she is a rose without a thorn. He extols her beauty and her virtue. But Katheryn has a past of which Henry knows nothing. It comes back increasingly to haunt her, even as she courts danger yet again.

   KATHERYN HOWARD – the fifth of Henry’s queens.

   Alison Weir relates one of the saddest chapters in English history. 

   Those who gather roses should beware the thorns.



"I’m just galloping up to the end of Katheryn Howard and am loving it – you always manage to surprise me with how you portray each wife so vividly – and so differently from how I expect them to be.  She is so alive – and of course so very young in every way – you’ve captured a real innocent & she has charm even if she does have her own foibles  and doesn’t always make the wisest decisions…It really is galloping along and is wonderful!"

"I’ve just finished KATHERYN HOWARD, and had to write straight away to say what a fantastic story! Katheryn’s vivacity and zest for living is so joyful, her flaws and foolishness terribly human and her end pure tragedy. The losses of her mother figures in the early part are heartbreaking, and I love the relationship she forms and continues with Isabel (a lovely character) right up to the moment of her death.
   Her teenage years are extraordinary - the laxity of the girls’ life at Lambeth is startling, and it’s fascinating to see Katheryn drawn into the hedonism of the dorter, and the change as she moves into higher circles at court. There’s a simplicity to her ambitions and pleasures in life, despite or perhaps because of her youthful lack of sense, that make Henry’s truly falling in love with her seem absolutely natural. This plays beautifully against the manipulation she faces from the other men in her life – the increasing nastiness of Francis Dereham, whose obsession with her gives such tension to the narrative, the questionable intentions of Tom Culpepper, and the ruthless expedience of her uncle, who clearly has not learned the lesson of his previous attempt to force a queen on Henry. While Katheryn can’t see it (and frankly isn’t interested!), the reader has a powerful sense of the political machinations moving behind the scenes.
   As ever, it’s such a delight to be back in the Tudor world, seeing the palaces and gardens through Katheryn’s eyes, meeting again characters like Jane Rochford, Margaret Douglas, the Ladies Mary and Elizabeth, and seeing them, and of course Henry, from her new perspective. Reading the author’s note I can see how cleverly you have had to weave accounts of Katheryn’s story into the novel, and I think it’s very successfully done. Katheryn retains a strange kind of innocence – she’s never malicious, never deliberately intending to cause pain, and she’s easy to love – and yet so many lives in addition to hers are destroyed by the end of her story.
   So thank you for a wonderful, heartrending addition to the series!"

"I wanted to tell you how much I loved reading Katheryn Howard. Oh my goodness, she’s a total joy, and what an extraordinary life she led, considering she was in many ways so sheltered and died so tragically young. All the dorter detail is incredibly compelling – it’s so much fun to read, but deeply disturbing the more you think about how vulnerable she was. I found the shadow that Anne (Boleyn) casts over Katheryn deeply moving too – like the moment she realises why the cannons have been fired. It’s never too much, but so effective, especially because you know Katheryn’s own fate will mirror that of her cousin. Particularly towards the end, I was reading it with my hands half over my own eyes, but just couldn’t stop. She really got under my skin. I can’t wait for more people to read this one and get to know your version of her Many congratulations, I really did love it."

"I just loved this novel, it is so poignant and moving, and the Katheryn you’ve painted is so human and fallible--we empathize with her and care about her, in spite of everything. What an amazing, agonizing story, and so wonderfully told.  I can’t wait for my colleagues to read it too.  This series just goes from strength to strength. I am hugely impressed by your imagination and skills as a novelist.  Congratulations on this superb book!


"Absolutely stunning. I was completely gripped from the first page to the last. Katheryn emerges from the pages of this beautifully realised portrayal as beguiling, vivacious and, in the end, tragically naive.  Her story, as a young woman who fell prey to the ruthless scheming of the men around her still resonates today, and Alison Weir tells it with characteristic verve and stunning period detail.  This novel will captivate you and break your heart.  Utterly sublime."
(Tracy Borman, author of The Private Lives of the Tudors and Henry VIII and the Men Who Made Him)

"The best yet. They get better and better. I think Alison captured her personality with great understanding and empathy and respect. Motivations and circumstances are brilliantly explored in this novel." (Carol McGrath, author of The Woman in the Shadows and the Daughters of Hastings trilogy)

"A wonderful book. What an absolutely heard-rending story it is. I was in tears by the end. Katheryn Howard is, for me, the most tragic of Henry VIII’s wives and in her latest novel Alison Weir covers her life from its early beginnings of impoverished nobility, her family wholly dependent on royal patronage, to her short period as Queen, a position she had been pushed into, used as a pawn by her power hungry family, though she lacked the intellect or sophistication to negotiate its pitfalls. The novel conveys the heart-rending pathos of a young woman executed, whose only real crime was her naïveté and her desire to be loved. Weir demonstrates her deep knowledge of the period offering fascinating detail on all aspects of Tudor life, from methods of family planning to religious practices in a state of flux and also demonstrating the staggeringly limited choices for women of the time, even those of noble birth. It is a profoundly moving story that lingers long after the last page is turned." (Elizabeth Fremantle, author of Queen's Gambit and The Poison Bed)

"This is a beautiful and well-written account of Katheryn's life, from a different perspective; and I would recommend it for young adult readers upwards. It is a wonderful novel and well worth reading." (The Bookbag)

"Of the series of novels on Henry VIII’s wives this is my favourite, probably because I’m familiar with the known sources of information about the ill-fated young queen and can see how cleverly Alison Weir has woven them together to create a believable narrative of the girl’s early life in the care of her step-grandmother, and beyond. A good read – recommended." (Marilyn Roberts, author of The Mowbray Legacy)

"Alison Weir has once again triumphed in her fifth book about the wives of Henry VIII, Katheryn Howard, the Tainted Queen. What could Alison have written to make such a short, childless marriage with such a young girl so compelling? Alison’s sensitively drawn novel—as always sticking as close as possible to the facts—will change everyone’s preconceptions. Katheryn was a victim of beauty, birth, and sixteenth century politics. Henry is portrayed as the ageing, caring lover, caught up in a tissue of lies before his marriage—and also a victim of the very laws he had set in place to protect himself. Henry truly loved Katheryn, or who he thought she was. I heartily recommend Katheryn Howard to read cover to cover. Do not omit Alison’s astonishing true revelations in her afterword." (Susan Ronald, author of Conde Nast and A Dangerous Woman)

"Katheryn Howard, Henry VIII’s “rose without a thorn,” not only deceived the King about her previous lovers but dallied with another man during their marriage. What on earth was she thinking? In the fifth novel in her Six Tudor Queens series, Weir convincingly imagines the answer to that question. Incorporating period sources about Katheryn (which weave smoothly into the narrative), she plunges readers into the viewpoint of a fun-loving, naive young woman whose unorthodox upbringing and poor choices precipitated her downfall. Though Katheryn lacks the intellectual depth of Weir’s previous heroines, her character portrait is similarly astute." (Booklist)

"Alison Weir is an expert at weaving together historical detail, political power-play and the feelings of a naive woman." (Woman and Home)

"From the first pages, I was hooked by this version of Katheryn that I felt I hadn’t met before. The novel is replete with Weir’s scholarly research, and these moments give a depth to the narrative that aids the reader to see Katheryn as a real little girl, rather than a two-dimensional figure from history. This novel is a well-researched journey to another time period. Weir’s research creates a narrative full of details that make a compelling story, whilst bringing new aspects to previously stereotyped characterisations. A good read!" (Ruth Stacey)

"Weir brings thorough research and spirited storytelling to her portrayal of Katheryn Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife... Weir sees Katheryn as an impetuous young woman dazzled by wealth and glamour. As maid of honuor, she exulted, “she would live in palaces, have beautiful gowns, dance and make merry.” To her great delight, seducing Henry involved many luxurious new vestments and jewels. After their marriage, “dizzy with elation,” she exclaimed to herself, “She really was queen!” But not for long: Betrayals, plots, subterfuge, and her unbridled passion caused “the whole glittering edifice” of her life to implode. A vivid re-creation of a Tudor tragedy." (Kirkus Reviews)

"We’ve now reached the fifth novel in this superb series by Alison Weir. Alison brings the tragedy home. One of the aspects of this series that I have enjoyed throughout is Alison Weir’s depiction of Henry VIII. He is the constant through the novels, changing before our eyes, and it’s been fascinating watching him evolve. As a historian, Alison Weir does such a good job of enriching her novels with Tudor details. I love the descriptions of the clothes, the houses and palaces and the people in them. It’s filled with colour. This is fiction, not non-fiction, and it reads like it, flowing along and proving very hard to put down. Alison Weir has done a wonderful job of bringing Katheryn Howard to life, with a distinct voice and character, loving, charismatic and beautiful, and doomed. I did find the end difficult, unsurprisingly, but it’s a necessary part of this absorbing and utterly compelling retelling of the stories of Henry’s six wives. One more to go – Katharine Parr. She will be in very safe hands with Alison Weir."  (The Sunday Express)



Katheryn Howard’s story is one of the saddest and most shocking episodes in English history.

Was Katheryn Howard a promiscuous wanton, a capricious flirt or a needy young girl looking for love?

Far from being an abused child, as many believe, she was a joyous young woman who drove her own destiny, but became caught up in a situation from which there was no disentanglement.

In her short life, Katheryn loves four men; all will contribute to her ruin, and the only man who truly loves her will be the one who sends her to her death.

Telling her story from her own perspective offers new insights. Poorly educated and naïve, she was ill-equipped for the role of Henry VIII’s fifth queen.

Katheryn is the victim of the powerful and ambitious persons who surround her: her neglectful step-grandmother, the ruthless Duke of Norfolk, the sinister Lady Rochford and the volatile Francis Dereham.

Katheryn’s own cousin, Anne Boleyn, was beheaded for adultery and high treason. Katheryn should have learned a lesson from this, but she clearly didn’t.

But did Katheryn and her kinsman Thomas Culpeper actually commit adultery? Was there love on both sides? Or did Culpeper have another agenda?

To Katheryn, Henry VIII is an adoring, attentive husband. What happens in their marriage is his tragedy as much as hers. Did he really want her to be put to death?

What happened in the dreadful three months after Katheryn’s misconduct came to light was one of the most difficult stories I have ever had to write.

Ramping up the proclamations – how Henry VIII dealt with epidemics
You can read my article at Culturefly here:

You can read my article 'Why didn't Katheryn Howard learn a lesson from Anne Boleyn's fall' here at Tudor Times:

WATCH: Interview with Alison Weir, Tudor history sensation

You can read my interview with author Pamela Taylor at

"I read between the lines of history' - you can read the interview in Yours magazine

Talking about Katheryn Howard, the Tudors and Thomas Seymour in this Tudors Dynasty Podcast at .

Did Henry VIII really want Katheryn Howard to be executed? You can read my theory at Historia here

Above: Preliminary jacket designs


Two e-shorts to accompany Katheryn Howard: The Tainted Queen


‘The King would not approve of my falling in love … My marriage was in his gift’
Brought up in the magnificent castles of Scotland under the storm of her parents' turbulent marriage, Margaret Douglas is well-acquainted with the changing whims of those who hold power. And when her father is exiled by King James V, Margaret is sent to England to seek refuge with her uncle, King Henry VIII.
Margaret is an asset to Henry, who plans to use her eligible marriage status for his own advantage. But, surrounded by the excitement and indulgences of the English court, will Margaret be able to resist the temptations of a young admirer? As she well knows, keeping secrets from the King can be a dangerous game…


1525. As Anne Boleyn's star rises at Henry VIII's court, Jane Parker's marriage to Anne's brother, George brings her status and influence. But theirs is not a happy union and results in a bitter and bloody end.

1540. When Katheryn Howard, a young cousin of the Boleyns, becomes the King's fifth bride, Jane's past allegiance to the crown secures her a senior rank in the new Queen's household.

But memories of her own ill-fated marriage stir Jane's sympathies towards Katheryn and her secret liaison with a young man at court. Her collusion places both women at tremendous risk, while the fate of Anne Boleyn weighs heavily on their minds. They must decide where their loyalties truly lie, before it's too late...