Brazen by Katherine Longshore
This is the tale of Mary Howard. She is a relatively unknown Duchess, growing up in the court of Henry VIII and Queen Anne Boleyn. Her story is a completely young and new perspective to this period of Tudor history and a refreshing change to the many books written from the viewpoint of one of Henry’s 6 wives.
Mary was the only daughter of Thomas Howard, the powerful and extremely ambitious 3rd Duke of Norfolk who was the prime instigator involved in securing his niece Anne Boleyn to be married to King Henry VIII. Her mother, was a cold woman who alienated her in court. As a result, when Mary is married to Henry Fitzroy (referred to as ‘Fitz’ in the book), King Henry VIII’s illegitimate son from his relationship with Elizabeth Blount, when she is only 14, she finds herself pushed into a dangerous court life. As the queen had only one heir, the young Princess Elizabeth, Fitz became a strong contender for the throne. Some English nobles even believed that the king intended to make Fitz his heir when Anne continued to miscarry sons.
Although not intended to be a love match, the more Mary gets to know Fitz, the more she finds herself falling in love with her husband. Due to their age, and a belief that young boys cannot consummate a marriage too young as it might kill them (this was a crazy theory that King Henry supposedly believed that having an early intercourse with Catherine killed his brother Arthur) the two are parted and forbidden to see each other. It soon becomes clear they might have to go behind the king’s back to be together.
Life at court was precarious, and particularly when Anne Boleyn begins to fall out of favour with the king. Those closest to the queen even had to try desperately to keep their lives. Mary, being her cousin, found herself and her young husband as the center of this.
This book was a really interesting read as I have never heard of Mary Howard before! I though the relationship she had with Henry is really believable, with them both enjoying poetry and being recognized as finding each other attractive, and I enjoyed seeing this period of time from a young girl’s voice. Although only covering a three year span, even the Acknowledgment at the end of the book taught me a lot about this plucky Duchess!
*This images was taken from: www.amazon.co.uk There are no real examples of portraits of Mary Howard that I could include! The closest is a “Portrait of a Young Woman” by Hans Holbein the Younger, that some have argued might have been Mary Howard… however she could equally be a young Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife.