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Henry VIII’s True Daughter

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"Henry VIII's True Daughter: Catherine Carey, A Tudor Life" by Wendy J Dunn offers a captivating insight into the lesser-known figure of Catherine Carey, who was believed by some historians to be the illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII. Dunn's meticulous research brings Catherine to life, painting a vivid portrait of her experiences within the Tudor court. The book skillfully navigates through Catherine's relationships, challenges, and contributions, offering a fresh perspective on this fascinating period of history. Dunn's narrative is engaging, offering both historical accuracy and a compelling storytelling style that will appeal to fans of Tudor-era biographies. Overall, "Henry VIII's True Daughter" is a must-read for anyone interested in the Tudor dynasty and the lives of its lesser-known figures.

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This is an interesting book that speculates on the life of Catherine Carey, the maybe-maybe-not illegitimate child of Henry VIII. It does a good job of digging into the sources, but has trouble moving beyond them when they prove too limited to tell Carey's full story. There's a lot of literature on the life of aristocratic women and local histories that could have been used to fill in the gaps and provide a richer view of what Carey's life might have been like, instead of focusing on the Tudor monarchs whenever Carey disappears from the record.

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*Many thanks to Wendy J Dunn, Pen & Sword, and NetGalley for arc in exchange for my honest review.*
Ms Dunn presents a quite convincing idea behind the parenthood behind Mary Boleyn's children, focusing mainly on Catherine (Katryn) who married Francis Knollys and whose blood still flows in the Windsors' blood. Catherine may have witnessed the execution of her aunt at the Tower, experienced Marian exile, and later on remained close to Elizabeth Tudor despite being in her late thirties/early forties and having born probably fifteen children. It seems she did not do any grand deeds but she was clever enough to survive in times when heads rolled down easily, especially that her husband was a Puritan. Among many daughters, you will find Lettice Knollys of whom Tudor fans must have heard.
An interesting read, written in an accessible way, not too scholarly although you may feel a bit lost if this will be your first book on the Tudor period.

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I have always been fascinated with the extended Tudor aristocracy and royal families. I know I am not alone in thinking that Catherine *MAY* be a child of good old Henry VIII. This book provides a good argument in this favor, and I found them to be quite credible and enjoyable to read. While I enjoyed this book, there were a few nuances that I didn't quite vibe with.

If you are an Anne Boleyn fan, definitely read this. Her legacy lived on not only in her daughter Elizabeth, but also in her niece and nephew.

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Henry VIII’s True Daughter: Catherine Carey, A Tudor Life is a layman accessible, well annotated and fascinating story of one of Henry VIII's potential illegitimate offspring, who was the niece of Anne Boleyn (his 2nd wife) by Anne's sister, Mary Boleyn. Due out 1st Feb 2024 in the USA from Pen & Sword, it's 256 pages and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats.

The author, Dr. Wendy J. Dunn, is also a gifted and prolific writer of fiction, and the prose in this volume is more lyrical and flows better than the average pure (dry) academic history. The subject, Catherine (Katryn) Carey won't be familiar to many readers, but there is credible historical evidence to suggest that she really was Henry VIII's daughter, and spent time at court with her ill-fated aunt. This is where the author's adeptness comes through, instead of just a dry recitation of dates and names, she manages to bring the actors to life for modern readers.

Like fiction, there's pathos, and drama, and danger, documented 500 years ago and rendered into a comprehensible story; but in this case it's true, to the best of the historical records from the time period. One of the strongest features of the book is the story of the daily life and how it was to live at court with the intrigues and dangers that entailed. It's rich in detail, and the author is adept at collating it into a readable whole.

Four and a half stars. Well annotated throughout, the historical notes and references will provide hours of additional reading. Recommended for public and school library acquisition, home reference, gift giving, and for fans of history/historical re-enactors/SCAdians.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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I didn't love this one but I also didn't hate this one. However I'm not sure how I feel about this one.

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I was so happy for the opportunity to review this book. I had never heard of Catherine Carey before. It seems as though I am constantly learning more about Tudor England and I was happy for the chance to learn more. I found the material well researched and very interesting to read. I plan to return to this book in the future because I love nonfiction history and especially British History.

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I was really excited about this book because this is one of my favorite Tudor theories. I am so glad I found a history book that talks specifically about this!

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This book explores the intriguing life of Catherine Carey, Anne Boleyn’s niece, believed to be Henry VIII’s daughter. Favored by Elizabeth I, Catherine’s unique view offers insights into the Tudor monarchs. Delving into her life from childhood to serving Elizabeth I, it unravels the mysteries of her parentage and tells the rich story of this fascinating woman.

This book is largely speculative, given the little clear evidence of Catherine’s life. Even so, it offers a fascinating look into the lives of Tudor women.

Thanks, NetGalley, for the ARC I received. This is my honest and voluntary review.

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Dunn puts too much emphasis on speculation for me to categorize this as a pure biography, but it does make for a fascinating look at the process of research to writing historical fiction, as Dunn talks a lot about how she chose to portray Catherine Carey in her own fiction books, and what she thinks was plausible to have happened in Catherine's life.

I also loved how this makes a clearer picture of the many women that would have surrounded both Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I. Far from ever being alone, these women would have had servants, courtiers and relatives - some even considered friends - there at all times, offering support, service, guidance and occasionally trouble and scandal.

Catherine Carey could have had a terrifying front row seat to her Aunt Anne Boleyn's fall, and even if not there at the execution, as Dunn postulates, she definitely took notes on how easy it was to put a foot wrong in the Tudor court, which might have been why she made such an excellent lady-in-waiting to her sister/cousin Elizabeth I later on, always in the background but never one of the ones who came to the forefront through scandal and disgrace.

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Wishes do come true and I am a big fan of these books.....Thank you.

Henry VIII’s True Daughter by Wendy J Dunn was a book I enjoyed from start to finish and I love reading about Henry VIII and Tudor times, not saying I would love to live then........

The lives of Tudor women were amazing women especially what they had to put up with and Catherine's life was no different. She was the daughter of Mary Boleyn and the possible daughter of Henry VIII, the niece of Anne Boleyn and the favourite of Elizabeth I.

Wendy J. Dunn takes these brief details of Catherine’s life and turns them into a rich account of a woman who deserves her story told and I am glad she did. This book follows a faint trail of her life from her earliest years up to her death in the service to Queen Elizabeth,

Wendy examines in detail the evidence of Catherine’s parentage and views her world through the lens of her relationship with the royal family she served till her death. It presents an important story of a woman who saw and experienced much tragedy and political turmoil during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary I. All of which prepared her to take on the vital role of one of Elizabeth I closest and most trusted women. It prepared her to become the wife of one of Elizabeth’s privy councillors, who was a man also trusted and relied on by the queen. Catherine served Elizabeth during the uncertain and challenging first years of her reign, a time when there was a question mark over whether she would succeed as queen regnant after the failures of England’s first crowned regnant, her sister Mary.

This book was amazing and a joy to read from the very first page.
I loved it.

Big Thank you to Netgalley and especially Pen & Sword, Pen & Sword History for making my wish come true - well, the book to review!!!

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Whilst the book provides a lot of solid fact about the period of history inhabited by the Tudor, there is also a lot of supposition. I found it difficult to engage with the narrative.

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What a intriguing book that adds some amazing uncovered historical facts about King Henry VIII and Mary Boleyn, and there relationship together. You can determine whether you feel Mary Boleyns daughter, Catherine Carey was really Henry VIII daughter. Mary was Anne Boleyns sister.
The book is full of information to let you know what it was like to live during that time period. This is important to know as it plays a key role in understanding and unraveling this complex story. Life was very different and you're dealing with when dates were not documented as they are now, two different calendars adds to the confusion.
Find out about how Anne Boleyn plays in this puzzle. Also what happens to Catherine Carey during her lifetime.
It's most enlightening book and anyone who loves this the Tutors this is one for your library.

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A well written and detailed look into
a woman's life in the sixteenth century.
A life with royal connections. The book is extremely readable and gives valuable insight to fraught times. The well off didn't have easy lives.

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The book Henry VIII’s True Daughter by Wendy J. Dunn tells the story of Catherine Carey, the daughter of Mary Boleyn and, probably, Henry VIII. The author has done an excellent job of describing Catherine’s fate in a way that reads like a novel. It is evident that Dunn has a background in writing historical novels, and this is reflected in her writing style. I enjoyed reading about how the author came to her conclusions.
It is interesting to note that the author is Australian.
The chapters are well divided, and the historical surroundings give you a lot of context. I recommend this book to all Royal history enthusiasts. It is a must-read.

Thank you to NetGalley and Pen & Sword History for a free digital review copy. This is my honest review..

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Author Wendy J. Dunn’s book theorizes that Mary Boleyn’s daughter Catherine is actually the progeny of Henry VIII. Since Mary was the known mistress of Henry, I can see where this book is coming from, but I am not sure that there is a lot of actual evidence. Dunn doesn’t really have any actual evidence, but she discusses it thoroughly and also what court life was like during Tudor times. An interesting read.
Thank you NetGalley, Wendy J. Dunn, and Pen & Sword for allowing me to read an advanced copy of Henry VIII's True Daughter: Catherine Carey, A Tudor Life

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Catherine Carey Knollys, (c.1524–15 January 1569), was chief Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Elizabeth I, who was her first cousin.She was the daughter of William Carey of Aldenham in Hertfordshire, Gentleman of the Privy Chamber and Esquire of the Body to Henry VIII, and his wife Mary Boleyn, who had once been a mistress of the king. Catherine was thus Elizabeth I's maternal first cousin. Some historians believe that Catherine was an illegitimate child of Henry VIII, which would make her also Elizabeth I's paternal half-sister.Catherine had a younger brother,Henry Carey,1st Baron Hunsdon.Catherine was said to be a witness to the execution of her aunt, Anne Boleyn, in 1536.Catherine went on to become Maid of Honour to both Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard, the 4th and 5th wives of Henry VIII. On 26 April 1540,she wed Sir Francis Knollys.Her husband was knighted in 1547. He was also treasurer of the Royal Household. From the time of her marriage, Catherine became known as Mistress Knollys and from 1547 as Lady Knollys. When not in London, the couple lived at Reading in Berkshire and Rotherfield Greys in Oxfordshire, and because they were staunch Protestants, they went into exile during the reign of Queen Mary I.Catherine was appointed Chief Lady of the Bedchamber after Elizabeth became queen.For the first 10 years of the reign,Lady Catherine combined the most senior post among the ladies-in-waiting with motherhood to more than a dozen children.Elizabeth never recognized Catherine as her half-sister, and it was certainly not a relationship that Catherine or Sir Francis ever openly claimed.At court,Catherine was acknowledged as the queen's favourite among her first cousins, and Elizabeth's lack of other female relatives to whom she felt close may be adequate to explain this favoured position.Sir Francis and Lady Knollys produced a number of offspring who survived to maturity. Of the children listed, only the last, Dudley, is known to have died in infancy.She died at Hampton Court Palace,being outlived by her husband and children.Catherine received a befitting epitaph as she lived an upright,
virtuous,and Godly life, without blemish.

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I want to thank Netgalley and Pen and Sword Publishing for an uncorrected proof of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I have never read any of Dunn's fictional work, but it is clear from this book that she has a strong connection to the real-life people for whom she creates fictional works. She speaks of Catherine Carey Knollys with reverence and respect that I not only admire but indicate to me she is the kind of person who writes enthralling fiction.

That being said, this work of nonfiction was not enjoyable for me. I've tried to condense my reasoning for disliking this work into a short list which I expand on further down.

1. Feelings are not facts.
2. Quotes from uninteresting sources
3. Events were difficult to follow and were repetitive
4. It is unclear if Dunn believes her argument
5. I am not sure what value this work adds to the larger narrative of Tudor History

Point 1. As a reader of history, I understand that the sources for those less prominent figures in history can be difficult to find and sometimes historians have to extrapolate. For example, Anne Boleyn's birth date is not known, but historians use contextual clues to help formulate an argument for 1501 or 1507. However, after reading this book there appears to be very little evidence about Catherine Carey's life at all. At every turn, Dunn says things like "lost to time", "speculate", and "if only we knew for sure". Now, some of this makes perfect sense, Catherine lived nearly 500 years ago, but to write a whole biography and have nothing of any historical substance makes this book really hard to justify. And to make it all the way to the end and hear that Dunn wants to write another Elizabethan historical novel with Catherine as a background character (which is excellent and should be commended) and this current work of nonfiction on Catherine helped push her forward in that process makes it feel a bit like this book should have been an extended blog post or promotional speech.

Point 2. There were several times throughout this work when Dunn quotes her own work of fiction about Catherine's life and merely mentions actual historical records that I would have much rather read a quote from. For instance, the correspondence between her husband and Robert Dudley. I understand we have no surviving letters of Catherine's but it really feels like the sources are there for her husband and even maybe her children so why did Dunn not make this a work about the Knollys' family? The quotes did make me want to pick up Dunn's fiction writing, but that is not why I was reading this book. Also, the letter Elizabeth wrote to Catherine before she left England for a time really does A LOT of heaving lifting in this book. Dunn uses it to justify Catherine's level of intelligence and their close connection.

Point 3. There were so many times throughout this book when I had to go back and reread sections because we went from a moment in time when Catherine was pregnant at court and then jumped back to before she was pregnant. The difficulties with time also became more pronounced when we discussed Catherine's life (or conjecture of it) during Elizabeth I's reign. One minute we were on progress, then we were dealing with Elizabeth's smallpox, but now we were in the later 10 years of Elizabeth's reign. Francis Knollys was busy housing Mary, Queen of Scots, then in the next paragraph Mary, Queen of Scots had her son, James. It was whiplash-inducing at times and honestly, there are still a series of events I am not sure in what order they happened.

Point 4. The central argument of this book is that Catherine Carey was Henry VIII's daughter with Mary Boleyn and that everyone at the time knew this as fact. However, I am not entirely sure what evidence Dunn has to support this argument other than the timing works out and they look alike. Is that circumstantial evidence, sure. Is it definitive no. Also, given how dangerous it was to have royal blood during this time I cannot imagine that would have been a thing that Catherine or her mother highlighted especially after Anne Boleyn was beheaded. Also, if Dunn is so certain that she has proven Catherine is Henry's daughter why does she refer to Catherine as Elizabeth's cousin throughout the book and sister only a few times? Setting aside the paternity of Catherine, isn't it possible that Catherine was so well esteemed by Elizabeth simply because she was a Boleyn? Elizabeth cared greatly for her mother's family and that in my opinion would have been more than enough to cement a relationship between the two. I feel like if Dunn had really made her argument she wouldn't have been so willing to say it's possible that Henry wasn't Catherine's father in later chapters.

Point 5. There are a great deal more facts about the women who surrounded Elizabeth I and Elizabeth herself than there are about Catherine. Which really left me wondering what Dunn's goal was with this book. The title tells the reader this book will be about Catherine Carey, but the only actual evidence that I saw about Catherine's life were, letters written to her and information about her funeral. The rest was conjecture. So, is Dunn's goal to paint a picture of court life under Elizabeth? I think maybe as we take several tangents to look at other ladies of the bedchamber, maids of honour, and ladies in waiting but when those stories become interesting we have to go back to "our Catherine". Dunn cites interesting sources in this work including Weir, Fraiser, and Borman, which is excellent we love a nice citation, but I am not entirely sure how this work distinguishes itself from those cited.

Overall, I would not recommend this book. I did not feel that it deepened my understanding of Catherine Carey or her relationship with Elizabeth I at all. It did leave me a clear understanding of Dunn's opinions on the matter, which while not unreasonable are not really substantiated with clear evidence. I also do not think this book did a good job connecting Catherine and the other members of her acknowledged family. The greatest detail we have is her connection with her husband, Francis Knollys, but even the details about their relationship were not overly specific.

Content Warnings
Graphic: Pregnancy, Grief, Chronic illness, Death, Blood, and Misogyny

Moderate: Death of parent, Child death, Religious bigotry, Terminal illness, and Pandemic/Epidemic

Minor: Cancer and Miscarriage
After reading this book I don't want to read the word "blood" for a long while. It seemed to be the only descriptor available for either Anne Boleyn's execution or Henry VIII's reign as a whole.

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A look at the possible life of Catherine Knollys (nee Carey) who was probably the daughter of Henry VIII & his mistress, Mary Boleyn. Niece of Anne Boleyn, Catherine was looked after but not favoured by Henry VIII, & was pretty much ignored by Edward VI & Mary I, but Elizabeth I would go on to welcome her into her inner circle of trusted women where she stayed until her early death around the age of 45. Balancing her duty to her monarch alongside birthing fifteen children (with thirteen living into adulthood), Catherine's line survives down to modern times in the British Royal family with Elizabeth II having been directly related via her maternal family.

This was an interesting & engrossing read. Unfortunately there is very little evidence left today of how Catherine lived, & much of the book is "probably" this & "maybe" that, with a lot of the day-to-day details extrapolated from the lives of Elizabeth's other Ladies -in-Waiting. The book does give us a lot of insight into the lives of high-born Tudor women including the birthing chamber. (The supposition that it could have been a popular herbal medicine (actually a poison) used in childbirth that was to blame for the deaths of Katherine of Aragon's short-lived other children is sad & poignant.) I think it could have been organised a little better in respect of the fact that topics seemed to skip around a bit rather than being strictly linear. Sentences in one chapter could have perhaps fitted in better in another & some seemed to be almost repeated. I did enjoy reading it though & feel as if I have learned some new information about the Tudors. 3.5 stars (rounded up)

My thanks to NetGalley & publisher, Pen & Sword History, for the opportunity to read an ARC.

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I had never heard of Catherine Carey before and Wendy J Dunn does a great job bringing her to life in this book. It was a fascinating read. It was great look into the Tudors and I learned something that I never heard of before.

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