Author: Munson, James
Date published: June 1, 2011
Catherine of Aragon Henry's Spanish Queen: A Biography. Giles Tremlett. Faber and Faber. £20.00. xv + 458 pages. ISBN 978-0-571-235117. This new biography excels in its understanding of Catherine's Spanish background and in the use of material in Spanish archives: in that sense it will replace Mattingly although the portrayal of Catherine is roughly the same. This material gives us a far fuller picture of Catherine's background, life, trials and sufferings. However there are two caveats. By not having notes, which are confined to the pubUsher's website, readers wül wonder which quotation depends on newly discovered material and which does not. As a result, readers cannot evaluate a quote's worth and on some occasions will not be sure who is speaking. Such a policy may save the publisher money but does not improve the book. Secondly, the author, like so many modern writers, seems uneasy when discussing the Christian rehgion and, more pertinently, the Catholic Church. The Queen, we are told, 'celebrates' Mass (only priests and bishops can do this); sometimes C of E terms are used to describe Catholic services which causes confusion; St Matthew's Gospel is referred to as 'the New Testament Book of Matthew'; the Duke of Suffolk 'had taken' Mass (i.e.
heard Mass); Mary 'took Communion and confessed' whereas she would have confessed before receiving to be in a state of grace. These may be minor errors but they undermine the writer's audiority. Even worse is the odd sweeping generalisation: we are told that the clergy, apart from the Observant Friars, were 'widely corrupted by wealth'. This is an inaccurate slur. (J.M.)