After the Wars of the Roses, some much-needed stability started returning to the English court. Alison Weir starts her book with Henry VII’s negotiations with Ferdinand of Castile to marry his son Arthur to Ferdinand’s daughter Katherine.

Nearly half of this book is with Katherine of Aragon, a bit surprising when you think of the bare fact of the book is split into three parts, but this was the most stable part of Henry VIII’s reign. And, as already mentioned, there’s plenty of background before Henry comes on the scene. The negotiations were protracted, and then when Prince Arthur dies months after their marriage, there are more protracted negotiations all around for a second marriage to Henry.

From there, it’s the more familiar tale, but told in much detail, and careful looks at all the principle actors. That said, I’ve only ever known the barest outlines of this period, so it was all very informative for me. Between Henry, his current wife, whoever he’s starting to look at next, advisors, ambassadors with vested interests, and a few other subjects, there’s a lot of things to keep track of at the same time. Weir handles all of this very well, while sticking with a fairly strictly chronological format. This is deeply appreciated, and cannot have been easy to manage.

Weir’s writing here is also the best I’ve seen from her, and helps carry a complicated narrative forward with infectious interest from the author.