Review: The Queen's Mistake by Diane Heager

by Diane Heager

Rating:  4 / 5

The Queen’s Mistake – Catherine Howard has to be the saddest story of all of Henry VIII’s wives, right after that of Katherine of Aragon. She was only a teenager, when her life was ended by the executioner’s sword on a charge of treason, a.k.a. you pissed off the King royally (no pun intended…or maybe it was…I’ll never tell ).

Catherine’s mother died when she was very young, her father quickly remarried and just as quickly forgot about Catherine. Neglected by her father, Catherine is moved to the home of her Grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, who also ends up neglecting her. Left to her own devices and those of the immoral and corrupt wards in her Grandmother’s household, Catherine becomes promiscuous at a young age with Francis Dereham, more for something to pass the time, than inherent debauchery, I think.

When Catherine’s uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, sees that she has grown into a stunning woman, the wheels are immediately set in motion. Norfolk has been disgraced ever since that Anne Boleyn fiasco and this is just the chance he needs to get back in King Henry’s graces. And what better way to do that than to thrust a gorgeous young lady in his path?! So, Norfolk throws another lamb to the slaughter and procures a position for Catherine as a lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves. As you guessed, it didn’t take long for King Henry to notice her and by the time he and Anne of Cleves had their marriage annulled, it was rumored that Catherine was already pregnant with Henry’s child – though like many rumors, it was not true.

Now, this may sound all well and good – the unwanted, unloved Catherine is about to become Queen of England – she should be ecstatic, right?! Well, on one hand she was thrilled about the possibility of becoming Queen and tempting by the thought of wearing the crown; on the other hand, her betrothed is 30 years her senior and morbidly obese. There’s another problem, she’s in love with Thomas Culpepper, who happens to be in the service of the King. Not a good situation all the way around if you ask me! Even though Thomas loves Catherine, he knows that she is lost to him once Henry placed his claim.

Unfortunately, Catherine’s past comes back to rear it’s ugly head and place her future in jeopardy. One of the ladies in her Grandmother’s household would prove to be her downfall. Mary Lassells knew everything about the relationship between Catherine and Francis Dereham and first, used this information to her advantage when Catherine became Queen - earning her a spot among Catherine’s ladies-in-waiting. She would constantly dangle this damaging information over her head. Mary was a staunch protestant and her fear of England returning to Catholicism through Catherine was enough to move her hand and eventually she passed on her information to Thomas Cranmer. At first, King Henry refused to believe this, but after more evidence was discovered he was convinced and she was charged with treason, along with Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpepper. Catherine was only 19 years old and 2 years a Queen when she was executed.

I greatly enjoyed Diane Heager’s writing and thought this was a great portrayal of Catherine. Another one of Haeger’s that I enjoyed A LOT was Courtesan, which is about Diane de Poitiers – the mistress to King Henry II of France.

Catherine’s last letter to Thomas Culpepper (the only surviving letter from Catherine):

Master Culpeper,

I heartily recommend me unto you, praying you to send me word how that you do. It was showed me that you was sick, the which thing troubled me very much till such time that I hear from you praying you to send me word how that you do, for I never longed so much for a thing as I do to see you and to speak with you, the which I trust shall be shortly now. That which doth comfortly me very much when I think of it, and when I think again that you shall depart from me again it makes my heart die to think what fortune I have that I cannot be always in your company. It my trust is always in you that you will be as you have promised me, and in that hope I trust upon still, praying you that you will come when my Lady Rochford is here for then I shall be best at leisure to be at your commandment, thanking you for that you have promised me to be so good unto that poor fellow my man which is one of the griefs that I do feel to depart from him for then I do know no one that I dare trust to send to you, and therefore I pray you take him to be with you that I may sometime hear from you one thing. I pray you to give me a horse for my man for I had much ado to get one and therefore I pray send me one by him and in so doing I am as I said afor, and thus I take my leave of you, trusting to see you shortly again and I would you was with me now that you might see what pain I take in writing to you.

Yours as long as life endures,


One thing I had forgotten and that is to instruct my man to tarry here with me still for he says whatsomever you bid him he will do it.

Her (supposed) last words: 'I die a Queen, but would rather die the wife of Culpeper.'

More novels by Diane Heager:  The Secret Bride: In The Court of Henry VIII | Courtesan | The Ruby Ring | The Perfect Royal Mistress | The Secret Wife of George IV | My Dearest Cecilia |



  1. Adding it to my TBR on Goodreads right now. I really enjoy Diane Haeger, too.

  2. I"m looking forward to reading this one at some point. I also really liked Haeger's "Courtesan". Have a great weekend!

  3. Good review!! I also liked this book. I have a few ofher other titles that I have had a long time. TIme to blow the dust off them and read them!!

  4. I really enjoyed The Secret Bride by Haeger as well.
    I see you are reading The Princes in The Tower! I read that over a year ago and don't recall specifics except that I did enjoy it! I love the princes in the tower stories as there never seems to be a definitive answer to the question of their fate. Looking forward to your review!

  5. Kathryn Howard is one of my favorite royals (I wrote about her life in both of my nonfiction books, ROYAL AFFAIRS and NOTORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES) and I'm looking forward to reading Diane's historical fiction take on Kathryn's life.

    I will add, for the record, that there were many witnesses to Kathryn's execution and the line "I die a queen, but I would would rather die the wife of Thomas Culpeper" is pure fantasy, more like something a Hollywood screenwriter would say than the terrified Kathryn Howard. Not only that, she didn't die a queen, so she wouldn't have uttered those words anyway. Kathryn was stripped of her title after she was imprisoned in the tower. Of course, if Diane used the quote in a work of fiction, that can be fun, but Kathryn no more uttered those words in real life than Marie Antoinette ever said "Let them eat cake".

  6. I liked your review of this book. Sounds like a good read!

  7. I also enjoyed Haeger's writing, enough that I went out and bought "The Secret Bride"

  8. Beautifully written reviews, thanks for sharing and all the very best.

  9. I like books like this so I hope to read it eventually. Thank you so much for the long review.

    I'm inclined to disagree with you about Katherine of Aragon being the saddest of Henry's wives. I think that Anne Boleyn was. Katherine died of natural causes whereas poor Anne was sentenced to death.

  10. Great review! I haven't read anything about this historical period yet, and this one sounds worth checking out.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  11. This has been on my list since I started seeing reviews of it. 2010: the year I get back to HF

  12. Now I remember Amy, she was the one who was executed along with her lover. God! I must be really getting OLD or something.
    Though I didn't really know all this intricate details. :(

    I would love to read this one!

  13. What a sin?! Poor woman. That letter puts the review over the top. Even though it's a sad story, I will still read it.
    If I lived back then I would never go to court. God forbid Henry should lay an eye on you.


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