Written with an exciting combination of narrative flair and historical authority, this interpretation of the tragic life of Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII, breaks new ground in our understanding of the very young woman who became queen at a time of unprecedented social and political tension and whose terrible errors in judgment quickly led her to the executioner’s block.
On the morning of July 28, 1540, as King Henry’s VIII’s former confidante Thomas Cromwell was being led to his execution, a teenager named Catherine Howard began her reign as queen of a country simmering with rebellion and terrifying uncertainty. Sixteen months later, the king’s fifth wife would follow her cousin Anne Boleyn to the scaffold, having been convicted of adultery and high treason.
The broad outlines of Catherine’s career might be familiar, but her story up until now has been incomplete. Unlike previous accounts of her life, which portray her as a naïve victim of an ambitious family, this compelling and authoritative biography will shed new light on Catherine Howard’s rise and downfall by reexamining her motives and showing her in her context, a milieu that goes beyond her family and the influential men of the court to include the aristocrats and, most critically, the servants who surrounded her and who, in the end, conspired against her. By illuminating Catherine's entwined upstairs/downstairs worlds as well as societal tensions beyond the palace walls, the author offers a fascinating portrayal of court life in the sixteenth century and a fresh analysis of the forces beyond Catherine’s control that led to her execution—from diplomatic pressure and international politics to the long-festering resentments against the queen’s household at court.
Including a forgotten text of Catherine’s confession in her own words, color illustrations, family tree, map, and extensive notes, Young and Damned and Fair changes our understanding of one of history’s most famous women while telling the compelling and very human story of complex individuals attempting to survive in a dangerous age.
About the Author
Educated at Oxford University and Queens University, Belfast, Gareth Russell is a historian, novelist, and playwright. He is the author of The Ship of Dreams, Young and Damned and Fair, The Emperor, and An Illustrated Introduction to theTudors. He lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
“Young and Damned and Fair is a gripping account of a young woman's future destroyed by forces beyond her control. Gareth Russell moves effortlessly between Catherine Howard's private, inner world and the public life of the Henrician court, providing an unparalleled view into this tragic chapter of Tudor history. This is an important and timely book.” — Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and A World on Fire
"This fascinating and ultimately heartbreaking account of Henry VIII's doomed fifth wife brings to life the cruel, gossip-fueled, backstabbing world of the court in which Catherine Howard rose and fell. The uncommonly talented Gareth Russell has produced a masterly work of Tudor history that is engrossing, sympathetic, suspenseful, and illuminating." — Charlotte Gordon, author of Romantic Outlaws, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography
"This is a timely and powerful re-examination of Henry's fifth queen who was probably guilty of nothing more than failing to reveal she had been betrothed before her wedding to the king old enough to be her grandfather, and then falling in love with a young man after their marriage. The author has done some beautiful new research to indicate that Catherine was not as foolish as some historians have suggested, and that her death was managed and manipulated by her offended husband, purely for his own revenge. It's particularly strong on the detail of Catherine’s short reign and the reaction of those who tried to defend her. I love it when historians take the women who have been neglected by history seriously and study their lives rather than accepting stereotypes." — Philippa Gregory, #1 New York Times bestselling author
"Securely rooted in the sources and mercifully devoid of sentiment, this is the most fully rounded, best written biography of Catherine Howard we have so far." — Julia Fox, author of Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford
"A magnificent account of the rise and fall of Henry VIII's tragic fifth queen - compelling, thought-provoking and above all real. In Russell's meticulously researched narrative Catherine Howard and her household are brought to life as never before." — Adrian Tinniswood, author of The Long Weekend: Life in the English Country House Between the Wars
"In Young and Damned and Fair Gareth Russell marries slick storytelling with a great wealth of learning about sixteenth-century personalities and politics. The result is a book that leads us deep into the nightmarish final years of Henry VIII's reign, wrenching open the intrigues of a poisonous court in a realm seething with discontent. At the heart of it all is the fragile, tragic figure of Catherine Howard, whose awful fate is almost unbearable to watch as it unfolds. This is authoritative Tudor history written with a novelist's lightness of touch. A terrific achievement." — Dan Jones, author of The Plantagenets and The Hollow Crown
"Scholarly yet highly readable...fresh and compelling...a stunning achievement...Catherine is given a makeover so complete that she is virtually unrecognizeable from the hopelessly naive girl of traditional history books."
"Russell's is an excellent account, putting the oft-ignored Catherine in her proper historical context....he is a scrupulous historian."
"Bold...assured...A novelist turned historian, he veers with laudable theatricality between the claustrophobic and the panoramic, from intimate, febrile exchanges in noble and royal households to the public spectacle of courtly high diplomacy...Let us hope he fixes his sharp eye on the further, more opaque past--here is a historian unafraid of the dark, whether of depravity or documentation."
"With exemplary skill, Gareth Russell puts clear blue water between his and other, more romantically inspired treatments of Catherine Howard's story by using the workings of her household as a framework for his interpretation of her sixteen-month period as Henry's queen."
"Russell's portrait effectively underscores the machinations of this volatile court, the treachery of sycophants, and the importance of the all-seeing servants. Dense with material and flavor of the epoch."
“Russell expertly tells a tale of jewels and dancing and thrilling trysts that sees Catherine move dizzily towards the block.”
“Highly readable and peppered with engrossing stories, this book is also fascinating for its details about what was considered sexually moral in 16-century England. Biography lovers and those intrigued by the lives of the royals will welcome this tragic story of Henry VIII’s fifth wife.”
"A robust portrait of a complex individual...a painstakingly thorough and original revaluation of both Catherine and of the mad scramble by the members of her household to protect themselves rather than their queen."
"To the vivid phrasing of a novelist he adds a forensic eye for fact and an encyclopedic knowledge of the personalities of the late Henrician court....Russell is a formidable new talent from whom big things can be expected, surely."
"[A] fascinating new book...In revisiting Catherine Howard’s story, Russell seeks to shift the emphasis from the personal to the professional, stressing how the households of queens and powerful noblewomen could become focal points for a level of power and influence earlier historians haven’t always fully credited."
"Thorough in his research, convincing in his analysis, and eloquent in his telling of Catherine Howard’s life story... exquisitely written. Gareth Russell’s writing style simply stated rivals that of Stacy Schiff and David McCullough....Beyond the outstanding historical content, this book provides a wonderful writing lesson in the art of biography composition....Write this down and take it to the bank. Gareth Russell is one “big bio” away from joining the world’s elite biographers composing in the English language today.