Elizabeth Fremantle – Queen’s Gambit


“Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived.”

Title: Queen’s Gambit
Author: Elizabeth Fremantle
Language: English
Publication details: New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013.
Pages: 424

The gist of it:

  • Katherine Parr. Absolutely Ordinary.
  • Henry likes. Makes her queen.
  • Thomas Seymour. Ooh-la-la.
  • Katherine likes. Doesn’t tell anyone because she likes living a tad bit more.
  • Katherine puts up with Henry. He dies. Rejoices abound.
  • Seymour doesn’t live up to expectations.

Bonus side story:

  • Dot. Servant.
  • Likes boy. Different social classes.
  • Drama.

My ponderings:

The Queen’s Gambit is an entertaining and easy read. It reminds me a little of a book version of a TV drama series, but in a good way! It’s not overflowing with nauseating romances, though there is a good helping of it. Well the plot just follows historical events, so no spoilers there. Even so, the charm of the book was that it was able to keep me in suspense despite me (sort of) knowing how the story is going to turn out.

Partly because 1/3 of the book revolves around the fictional character Dot, and partly due to my admittedly hazy recollection regarding the whole Henry and Katherine Parr affair. When one first reads history, it does rather play out like a drama/thriller/mystery.

“Ooh, what’s going to happen next? Is she going to die? She’s going to die, isn’t she? Yep. Knew it. She’s dead. What a world.”

The characters in the book were really likable, especially doctor Huicke! He was such a dear, pity about the jerk-ass boyfriend. Oh yeah, he’s gay, because y’know, every queen needs her sassy gay friend. Maybe the ones before wouldn’t have met such unfortunate endings if they had one too. Dot, Katherine’s servant is loyal to a tee and practically the only person the queen could trust. You can tell she’s fictional because any real character in Tudor times had so many ulterior motives they were practically bursting at their doublets trying to keep it all in.

I can’t help but feel that compared to Bring Up the Bodies, which is also about Henry Tudor and his (not so) merry wives, Queen’s Gambit hosts much more nicer characters. Nicer as in pure of heart and innocent of intent, as compared to the conniving and manipulative court from Bring Up the Bodies. To be fair, the characters in Bring Up the Bodies were based on real people and definitely came off as more realistic. Let’s face it, who can afford to be nice in the Tudor world?

Another juxtaposition to Bring Up the Bodies: the love affairs in Queen’s Gambit were much more passionate in origin, which ironically made them much more scoff-worthy (Ooh look at me, spinster in the making). If they weren’t carried out so well, I would have been rolling my eyes and bemoaning that yet another book has fallen prey to the “girl chooses between boy and crucial responsibilities” formula that we see so often in YA dystopian novels.

I’m sure Thomas Seymour was the bee’s knees, but I do believe someone as wise as Katherine should be able to resist a cute guy’s charming words and so-called ardent profession of love when he had only just met her. Instead she pretty much falls head-over-heels for him. Dot too pretty much develops and instant crush when she lays eyes on court lad, William.

I guess what made these romances somewhat believable to me was when you think about the fact that life with Henry or as a servant must have been so utterly dreary, that one would grasp at any sliver of a chance to fall in love. It provides a good distraction and a wondrous dream to look forward to, no?

More importantly, these ladies didn’t throw all common sense to the wind and put love before their lives. They fell in love rather quick, but the fact that they still prioritized other more important matters made them okay in my books.

Alright I’ll admit it, I found the relationship between Dot and William Savage to be very romantic! He calls her “My dot, my speck, my fullstop”, not really the most endearing of terms, but still ever so sweet. I know it’s rather improbable the way he falls for her despite their class differences, but it was done not too cornily and Dot is so lovable you just can’t help but feel happy for her. Their relationship isn’t all roses and thankfully Dot isn’t too love drunk to stand up for herself when needs be.

I sympathize with Katherine’s position, but she’s a tough old cookie. She didn’t ask to be queen, heck, it was the last thing she wanted! Still when the king says ‘I want you as my wife’, you say, ‘and I want to be your wife!’ *eyelashes fluttering as you slowly die inside*


She doesn’t do anything too extreme, besides having a quick tryst with Thom Seymour in the gardens. It seems like no matter how docile and pliant Katherine was, she was still up for some flowerbed shenanigans. Or perhaps it was the irresistible charm of Thomas Seymour?
Thomas Seymour, played by Andrew McNair in Season 3 of the Tudors. He can be exiled to my court. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

Even I was charmed by the man at first. His words and the way other ladies swooned at him, made you want to latch onto him and scream “MINE!” while clawing at the other pursuers. What a dick he turned out to be though. I don’t really want to give spoilers, though it’s not really a spoiler since it’s actual history. Even so it caught ME off guard so as to preserve the surprise for potential readers I won’t say what he did. Just that he’s slimy.

Overall the story was entertaining. It was interesting to read about Henry’s last years through the eyes of the wife that survived it all. A wise woman who didn’t want this fate but just did what she had to do. She was kind of blindsided by her love for Thomas Seymour but we all make mistakes. I think the best part about this book was the fact that it’s based on actual history, yet managed to instill suspense within me and had me wondering what would happen next.

The prose flowed nicely and made for easy reading. There weren’t any quotes in particular which really hooked my attention though. Ah well.

Definitely up to reading this story again after I’m done with my multitudes of unread books. I kinda wish that the author would write a book on all of Henry’s wives! I’m a real sucker for the Tudor saga.

Recommends it to: People who’d like a delightfully light-weight read regarding Henry’s marriage to Katherine Parr. The book is definitely more story than history, and weaves a nice tale of the past without bogging the reader down with too much info.


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