Murder Most Royal: The Story of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard

Murder Most Royal: The Story of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard

by Jean Plaidy

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One powerful king. Two tragic queens.

In the court of Henry VIII, it was dangerous for a woman to catch the king’s eye. Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard were cousins. Both were beautiful women, though very different in temperament. They each learned that Henry’s passion was all-consuming–and fickle.

Sophisticated Anne Boleyn, raised in the decadent court of France, was in love with another man when King Henry claimed her as his own. Being his mistress gave her a position of power; being his queen put her life in jeopardy. Her younger cousin, Catherine Howard, was only fifteen when she was swept into the circle of King Henry. Her innocence attracted him, but a past mistake was destined to haunt her.

Painted in the rich colors of Tudor England, Murder Most Royal is a page-turning journey into the lives of two of the wives of the tempestuous Henry VIII.

Look for the Reading Group Guide at the back of this book.

Also available as an ebook.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307345394
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 01/24/2006
Series: A Novel of the Tudors , #5
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 591,458
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Jean Plaidy is the pen name of Eleanor Hibbert; she was also known as Victoria Holt. More than fourteen million copies of her books have been sold worldwide. Visit for a list of other historical novels available from this prolific author.

Reading Group Guide

1. Henry’s romance with Anne Boleyn is described as the first time he has truly been in love. Why do you think he was so easily led to condemn her?

2. Catherine Howard’s early romances and her flirtation with Culpepper provided ample grounds for Henry to find fault with her. Were it not for these transgressions, do you think Henry could have remained happily married to her, or would he have been able to find other faults? Should Catherine have admitted her affairs before marrying the king? What do you think would have happened if she had?

3. Who is the wisest of Henry’s wives and why?

4. In planning his divorce from Katharine and pursuit of Anne, Henry mused, “The girl was there, and it pleased him to think of her in his arms, for such reflections were but natural and manly; and how she was to be got into that position was of small consequence, being a purely personal matter, whereas this great question of divorce was surely an affair of state.” This separation of state and personal matters, while contrived, does make some effort to mediate the cruelty he is to inflict on his wife by casting the divorce as a purely political matter. How much does this division and decisive (if deluded) reasoning carry through in Henry’s future marriages? Does this way of thinking conflict with Henry’s later identification of himself with England as one and the same?

5. Plaidy writes of Wolsey, “The Cardinal’s true religion was statecraft.” Discuss Wolsey’s adherence to statecraft as opposed to his allegiance to the church of Rome. How does this “religion” work? What can he hope to achieve through it?What is his endgame?

6. Before she agrees to marry him, Anne tells Henry that she must have the
chance to love him as a man as well as a king. She thinks: “Love first, power second. Ah, could I but love this man!” Do you think Anne has real hope that she could grow to love Henry, or is this merely a way of buying time before she is forced to succumb? Do you think she grows to love him? How would you describe their relationship as king and queen?

7. After More’s death, the powers of Europe mourn the execution of a great thinker and leader. The English people mourn a brave martyr. Henry’s reaction is to cast blame on Anne. The author paints More’s execution as the point at which Henry is revealed as a tyrant, a “cold, cruel, implacable, relentless egoist.” Why is this moment so significant?

8. Though Henry is often irrational and irascible, he does have certain predictable impulses and patterns of behavior that are observed and manipulated by his counselors and confidantes. What traits of Henry’s make this type of manipulation possible? What would you consider the most important things for his close counselors to understand about the king if they are to survive their posts?

9. Though Henry’s negative traits grow more menacing through his reign, his powers as statesman also increase as he grows to appreciate his father’s frugalness and shows an awareness of his duty to England as a European power. Do you see any significant signs that Henry is developing as a ruler? What experiences lead him to develop as he does?

10. Discuss the reaction of the “sentimental” and “superstitious” people to the serial dismissal of Henry’s wives. Do their loyalties appear fickle, or do you recognize any constants in their opinions?

11. A theme in the book is the willful delusion of one’s conscience to avoid responsibility. This is the case with Henry throughout his romantic adventures; with the dowager duchess as she allows Catherine Howard to be brought up with little or no discipline or education; with Catherine and Derham as they declare themselves married to enjoy an illicit romance. What drives these characters to behave as they do? Is this mere carelessness, or is there something more at play?

12. Who do you consider to be the heroes of the book? What makes a person heroic or even virtuous in this story?

13. Why does Jane Rochford spy and tattle as she does? In the case of Anne Boleyn, she is driven partly by jealousy and vindictiveness–but why would she continue this dangerous behavior with Catherine and others? At what point do you think Jane goes mad? Is George to blame?

Customer Reviews

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Murder Most Royal 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book gives good insight into Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard's early life. However, once Catherine Howard becomes queen it tends to rush rather quickly to when she gets beheaded. All in all I would say this book is more about Anne Boleyn than it is about Catherine Howard. Murder Most Royal though is quite interesting and makes you wonder about these women. It does give you the story from thier point of view but it also jumps to others, whose insight tends to steer the book away from the main story. If you are a Tudor history buff or want to learn a little bit more about Tudor England and two tragic queens then this book is a good read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I wouldn't say that that I had a difficult time putting this book down, because put it down, I did, several times. However, it was well written and the more I read the more enveloped I became in the story. I am an avid Tudor History buff, with many years under my belt of fiction and non-fiction Tudor England. The inconsistencies in these historical works of fiction KILL me. I can't understand why on earth, you can't just write the factual happenings, and then develope the story line. Overall, Plaidy does indeed write a great story with very many accuracies. Anne Boleyn's worry, and pain, are felt, and the assumptions on Catherine Howard's life are comedic, to a fault. I would recommend the book.
DevourerOfBooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What do Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard have in common? Not only were they the two wives that Henry VIII had beheaded for infidelity, they were also cousins. Their relationship, although not close, does make them ripe for comparison and logical for an intertwining of their stories.Somewhat unsurprisingly, but also somewhat disappointingly, the majority of the book dealt with Anne, not Katherine. Katherine did get the some pages here and there during Anne¿s ascendance and reign, and of course had the end to herself, but I would have liked to see a bit more of her.Plaidy seems to treat both Anne and Katherine very evenhandedly. Anne has her faults and lets her power and fear go somewhat to her head, but she is not someone who deserves her execution. Katherine is a naive and sexual human being who essentially doesn¿t know better than to dally with men in her grandmother¿s house, but she isn¿t the conniving nymphomaniac purposefully cuckolding Henry as other books sometimes describe her.Like ¿To Hold the Crown,¿ this was one of Plaidy¿s better, more flowing works. In some of her books the writing gets somewhat stilted and is more old fashioned, but that isn¿t the case with ¿Murder Most Royal.¿ All you Tudor historical fiction fanatics, give this book a try.
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Although intresting , i didn't enjoy her out look on Anne and Catherine. Plaidy made Anne look like she was never really in love with Henery , which is totaly false. Anne loved and stood by Henery for the whole ten years she was with him, they were incredibly passionate for one another the first 7 or 8 years together. As for Catherine she down played how much Catherine actully cheated on Henery when they were married, making her seem all to insent. There is no doudt about it. Catherine cheated on Henery A LOT. So historically it was kinda lame. But for someone just beging to explore the Tudors phonomena, it does a good job catching your intesting and understands they way of life in that time peroid.