A Woman of Noble Wit
by Rosemary Griggs
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 08 Sep 2021 | Archive Date 15 Oct 2021
Few women of her time lived to see their name in print. But Katherine was no ordinary woman. She was Sir Walter Raleigh’s mother. This is her story.
Set against the turbulent background of a Devon rocked by the religious and social changes that shaped Tudor England; a Devon of privateers and pirates; a Devon riven by rebellions and plots, A Woman of Noble Wit tells how Katherine became the woman who would inspire her famous sons to follow their dreams. It is Tudor history seen though a woman’s eyes.
As the daughter of a gentry family with close connections to the glittering court of King Henry VIII, Katherine’s duty is clear. She must put aside her dreams and accept the husband chosen for her. Still a girl, she starts a new life at Greenway Court, overlooking the River Dart, relieved that her husband is not the ageing monster of her nightmares. She settles into the life of a dutiful wife and mother until a chance shipboard encounter with a handsome privateer, turns her world upside down.…..
Years later a courageous act will set Katherine’s name in print and her youngest son will fly high.
A Note From the Publisher
Average rating from 11 members
A Woman of Noble Wit by Rosemary Briggs What an enjoyable read. I've found myself reading a lot of historical fiction and reading one about a person who would have actually existed makes it , for me , all the more enjoyable. This story is about Katherine a young girl who we meet whilst still going and enjoying life with her brothers. At 9 she is sent away to improve her education and to be a companion / helper for her grandmother. She grows up and married , and one of her sons goes on to become a person who we are all taught about in our history lessons. They say behind every great man is a woman , and in this case they are correct. His mother Katherine. The author brought alive what the expectations of being a woman was all about in that time , often having to marry a man that would improve your own famillies status within the hierarchy of Nobility.
I have read a lot of historical fiction, set around the Tudor period but I have never read any fiction ssurrounded Sir Walter Raleighs mother and I really enjoyed it. It was well written and really evoked life in Tudpr England and the court of Henry the 8th. A really good book
My thanks to Rosemary Griggs, Matador and Net Galley for the ARC of A WOMAN OF NOBLE WIT. Superb of course, the Tudor era is a favourite of mine and I loved the references to other characters that I had read so much about. How much they went through, the women in particular with their many painful births and losses. Katherine is Walter Raleigh's mother and her tale is an interesting foray into Tudor life and how they felt about the happenings within the Royal family, seen from an ordinary family's point of view. I loved it.
Rosemary Griggs, A Woman of Noble Wit, Matador 2021. Thank you, NetGalley, for providing me with this uncorrected proof for review. Rosemary Griggs takes her title from the description of Katherine Champernownes (c1519-1594) in The Book of Martyrs, under her name upon her second marriage, Katherine Raleigh. The attributed phrase appears well into this fictional account of Katherine, ‘our heroine’ as Griggs designates her in the ‘cast list’ at the end of the book. However, it is used on several earlier occasions to emphasise one of the influential characteristics of the woman who wanted more from life than that determined by her gender and the times. The narrative follows connected families whose lives were varied, links to the courts of Henry V111, King Edward, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth 1, at times being the least of their activities. Some family members remained wholly apart from the Court, others had some association, and yet others were fully involved. The interest in this book lies in the disparities between members of the same family or their connections. Even those family members who went to the Court at times had thriving lives outside. These lives are sympathetically realised with a combination of fact and fiction in Rosemary Griggs’ novel. This departure from the retelling of the lives of Kings and Queens and their courts is refreshing. The Champernownes, Carews, Courtenays, Gilberts and the Raleighs were families of import in the period, may sometimes appear in books about the monarchs, but here their lives independent of Court intrigues and activities are also followed. Other recognisable characters are John Pollard, William and Joan Hurst, John Hooker and Agnes Prest. All the characters are described in an excellent list at the end of the novel. Fictional characters are also acknowledged, for example, the maids and tutors who help give the plot additional life as they interact with the main actors. Women’s secondary and limited place, acknowledged as reality but questioned by Katherine, provides a background to her biological family relationships, those with her two husbands, her domestic arrangements, and her interaction with the outside world. The relationship between Katherine and her older brother, Johnny, in the opening scenes makes it apparent that Katherine despises the limitations imposed on her by society’s expectations of women. Her fear of an arranged marriage to a much older man is joked about, but as the story proceeds, with the ageing king on the throne taking youthful wives and then dispensing with them it is subtly acknowledged that Katherine’s fear was not misplaced. She does marry as part of a business arrangement, but although Otho Gilbert is young, he is uninspiring and, most importantly, not of her choosing. Ironically, the event that ties her to the Gilbert family, her pregnancy with her first child, also gives her some status in the house in which her mother- in- law and sister-in-law have previously ruled. Here, Katherine gains prestige through her motherhood – a fixture in a woman’s life for acceptance in the period. Although, the first child is a disappointment – a girl – boys are born thereafter consolidating Katherine as the mother of men whose lives will be more important than hers. As a background to Katherine’s domestic life, through this first marriage and its short comings, to her second which appears to have suited both partners, events on a larger canvas take place. Royal deaths and subsequent changing attitudes toward the accepted religion; engagement in war; poverty and plague; and the marriages of her kin and friends move the family though comfortable living, together with fear of changes. However, although these latter impinge on Katherine and her family, the story of lives led on the periphery of danger and exultation, rather than lives in the thick of Court intrigue are a fascinating reminder that monarchs’ lives, although a world event, were not necessarily the only influences in ordinary, and even important, peoples’ lives. Rosemary Griggs has brought those lives into being in this well-crafted combination of fact and fiction. This is a lengthy novel, with a myriad of characters. It sometimes moves into discursive and detailed writing that, while ultimately engaging, demands the skills which need to be brought to non-fiction writing. At times I found these limited. However, the story rings with authenticity, and perhaps it is Griggs’ attention to telling as much as she can from the known history that impedes some of the liveliness anticipated in a fictional account. Whilst I mention that caveat, I enjoyed the novel. I found its real appeal in Griggs bringing to the page the lives of people many of whom I had not heard through studying Tudor and Stuart history and reading other fictional accounts of the period.
As most historical fiction novels set during the Tudor period, much of what happens to families is due to political upheaval and the lives and deaths of the monarchs. While the same is true of this book, the royal family drama was but a footnote to explain the rise and fall of family members, and the focus of the story was centered on Katherine-Kate. Married while still a child as was common practice of the time, Katherine-Kate is dutiful and understanding of her fate. The story shifts when Walter Raleigh is introduced and I enjoyed learning more about this rich historical figure.
I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful book about the life of Katherine Raleigh. I admittedly love most Historical Fiction that is set in and around the Tudor period, especially when it is from the perspective of a woman. The fact the book is set in Devon (my home county) meant I knew a fair few of the places mentioned, which made it all the more enjoyable for me. I enjoyed learning about Katherine’s life during a turbulent period of history, and how this affected both her and her family, even though they lived many miles away from the centre of things at court. It is fascinating to see her day to day life, beliefs and values and how these went on to form her children into the people they became, most notably, of course, her last-born child, Sir Walter Raleigh. Her life is full of ups and downs, turmoil and grief but she also finds love, passion, contentment and joy which I believe makes this such a brilliant page-turner. Rosemary Griggs has a great ability to take the minimal facts known about Katherine’s life and merge them with her fantastic knowledge of the period and localities involved to form this amazing, vivid, piece of fiction. I truly didn’t want the book to end. I hope to read more from Rosemary in the future.