Historical author is announced for St Albans Literary Festival

Alison Weir

Alison Weir - Credit: Archant

An acclaimed and bestselling historical author has been added to the line-up for this summer’s St Albans Literary Festival.

Alison Weir - Katherine of Aragon

Alison Weir - Katherine of Aragon - Credit: Archant

Alison Weir will be appearing at St Peter’s Church on the evening of Saturday July 9 to discuss her forthcoming book Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen, which is published by Headline Review next month.

The lives of Henry VIII’s queens make for dramatic stories. In her new novel, the first in a series of six, Alison Weir tells the poignant story of Katherine of Aragon, the King’s first wife, drawing on new research and keeping closely to the historical record.

She approaches her tale from Katherine’s point of view, which affords an intimate psychological perspective on this indomitable, courageous and principled woman.

Was Katherine’s union with Prince Arthur consummated? What happens when a happy royal marriage is overshadowed by dynastic pressures, doubts and the allure of an ambitious woman?

Alison Weir evokes a court peopled by the luminaries of the early Tudor age – Cardinal Wolsey, Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell and the magnificent figure of Henry VIII himself – a young, and athletic Henry, not yet marred by frustration and disappointment. They live in a lost world of splendour and brutality, dominated by faith and by momentous religious change – a world in which there were few saints. This was Katherine’s world, and we can only understand her properly within its context.

She explained: “I am drawn to Katherine of Aragon because of her moral courage and her strength. I believe that, as a woman of high principle and integrity, she deserves to be celebrated as one of the greatest and most loved queens of England. You could see her as the last truly medieval queen, and against Anne Boleyn, who has become almost a modern feminist icon, Katherine seems an anachronism in an age of revolutionary change. But she herself did not see it that way. In defying Henry VIII, and in making a stand for what she believed to be right, she thought that she could make a diffrence, not only to her own life, but to the lives of many others whose convictions were being sidelined – and for that she deserves our admiration. Hers is also a love story. Her love for Henry VIII was deep and true, and it survived every hurt and humiliation that he inflcted on her. Yet her belief in his innate goodness never failed. Such devotion seems almost saintly to us, and is remarkable in any age.

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“Doing justice to Katherine in my novel was a great challenge. Fortunately, finding her voice was easy, because she was a prolific letter writer and recorded her feelings and hopes as well as her doings. Thre is a wealth of source material on her, from which a novelist can extract riches. There was little need to make up storylines because there are so many to weave into the central narrative. Yet I have built on fragments of evidence to construct one particular thread that might hopefully provoke debate!

“In telling her story, I have tried not to make Katherine too much of a saint. She had failings, naturally, and she could take a blinkered approach to crucial issues, but her innate honesty, loyalty, faith and good intentions make her a most sympathetic character. She shines forth as a devoted and loving daughter, wife and mother, a staunch friend to many, and a brave champion of her rights. Small wonder that Thomas Cromwell said of her: ‘Nature wronged her in not making her a man. But for her sex, she would have surpassed all the heroes of history’.”

This year’s St Albans LitFest follows the inaugural event in 2014, which featured authors including Sir Terry Wogan, Jessie Burton, James Runcie, Leanda de Lisle and Conn Iggulden.

It includes talks and workshops taking place in different sections of St Peter’s and also in the churchyard, using the storyteller’s circle opened there in the summer of 2014, as well as select locations around St Albans city centre.

The festival will be kicking off with Ken Livingstone’s appearance at St Albans Cathedral on Monday July 4, with other events scheduled between Friday July 8 and Sunday July 10, and promises a programme of exciting activities aimed at appealing to both adults and children.

St Albans LitFest will also support any fringe events taking place during the weekend, offering publicity and assistance if any organisation wants to run their own talk.

Run entirely by volunteers, the festival is supported by the Herts Advertiser, and editor Matt Adams said: “We are absolutely delighted to announce Alison Weir’s appearance at this year’s LitFest - she is a remarkable author who is sure to draw a large audience so make sure you book your ticket now.”

If you’d like to get involved in the festival, or just want to find out more information as it becomes available, visit the Facebook site or visit the website.

Tickets for all announced events are now available from the LitFest website.