The Queen's Governess
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The Queen's Governess

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  2,170 ratings  ·  164 reviews
The national bestselling author of "Mistress Shakespeare" delivers the epic tale of Elizabeth I's most trusted companion-a commoner who lived among royals...
Katherine Ashley, the clever, beguiling daughter of a poor country beekeeper, catches the attention of powerful, ambitious Thomas Cromwell-henchman for King Henry VIII. Cromwell secures for Kat a place in the royal c...more
Paperback, 379 pages
Published August 1st 2011 by Ebury (first published December 17th 2009)
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I yield, this is just not the book for me. I can't handle all these *secrets* Kat stumbles across, let alone one more book with Jane Rochford sneaking around spying through keyholes. Ack. Others are waiting their turn at the library, it's going back.

I was quite intrigued by The Queen’s Governess initially. Harper creates an interesting background for Kat Ashley, and I was interested to see how she would get from these fictional beginnings to the position history tells us she later held. Through her interactions with Cromwell, an intriguing hidden world of secret agents and spies is hinted at, as is the sharp mind of Cromwell himself, and I definitely wanted to know more. Unfortunately, Harper’s Cromwell is not Mantel’s Cromwell, and that en...more
Rio (Lynne)
I always enjoy historical fiction with a fresh perspective. Katherine (Kat) Ashley has always been in the background, so I like how Karen Harper brings her to the forefront. She starts with her as a poor girl that Thomas Cromwell brings in as a spy. Then we see how she becomes Elizabeth's Governess and how their relationship withstands the good and bad. I enjoyed the part about Ann Boleyn's locket ring (with picture of mother and daughter inside.) The ring does exist, but no one really seems to...more
Review from

Many know the history behind how Lady Elizabeth became the Virgin Queen. Few have dived into the lives of those who were closest to her from when she had the titles of princess, royal bastard, and thorn in Mary’s side. The Queen’s Governess gives us a view into the life of Katherine Chapernowne Ashley, a woman who spent most of her life at court serving some of the most famous names at the time. From her time as a spy for the ambitious Thomas Cromwell till she was...more
Merry Bones
Interesting. I didn't know much about Kat Ashley beyond that she was a favorite of Elizabeth's. As the author discusses in her notes, researching anyone in the Tudor-era can be challenging, and Kat herself is evidently quite a mystery; everything from how to spell her name to who her parents were and what year she was born in. So if the author played fast and loose with Kat's life in order to weave an interesting story, I think she can be forgiven.

I did feel, though, as if plausibility was bein...more
Stephanie Tracy
This was an excellent book about Elizabeth Tudor's governess, Katherine Ashley, who stayed with Elizabeth for over thirty years as her faithful caretaker and honorary mother. This novel illustrates the time Kat spent serving Elizabeth's mother, Queen Anne Boleyn, and how her relationship with Anne made Kat feel especially close to Elizabeth, who dealt with so many hardships in her life. It is also a beautiful love story - showing the courtship and marriage between Katherine and John Ashley, a ho...more
Oct 13, 2010 Jodi rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
LOVE historical fiction and I love reading about Tudor England so this book was great for me! I have read a variety of books on this time period by a variety of authors and seen many movies/tv series of this time period but this was the first time I have heard from Elizabeth I's governess's point of view! What a life she lead and to such extremes! She came from seemingly humble beginnings with tragedy in her life already and then to be a "lady-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn and to witness her tragedy...more
Often showing up as a supporting character in novels about Queen Elizabeth I, Kat Ashley, Elizabeth's governess, finally gets to tell her story. In "The Queen's Governess," Katherine Champernowne Ashley loses her mother at an early age and under suspicious circumstances. She comes from a poor family, but by helping Thomas Cromwell at the beginning of the story, she gains his respect and works for Cromwell as a spy of sorts. Her connection to Cromwell leads her to the Tudor Court at a time when K...more
I don't know what it is about the Tudors that makes me want to read historical fiction books about them-espcially ones that feature Anne Boleyn. Everyone knows how that story ends-but I'm still captivated and love being tossed back through time. One of the things that drew me to this book was that it featured- Katherine "Kat" Ashley, the governess to Anne Boleyns daughter, the future Queen of England-Elizabeth. In almost every book I've read about this time her name has come up, but she's never...more
One of the reasons I love Karen Harper's books is that she chooses really interesting characters to base novels on (such as Mary Boleyn before TOBG). This one was Kat Ashley, someone who I knew of course, but didn't know anything about her. I was totally fascinated reading about her early life. I had no idea she was a Cromwell spy; I had no idea she had worked for Anne Boleyn. She must have had the most amazing real life, being at the Tudor court for such a span. I want to read more and more abo...more
Colleen Turner
This is the first Karen Harper book I have read (although I have Mistress Shakespeare waiting for me on my TBR shelf) and I loved it! I have read many fiction and nonfiction books about the Tudors but this is the first time I have read it from such a new and intriguing perspective: that of Kat Ashley, longtime governess and confidante of Queen Elizabeth I. She has played minor parts in other books I have read but in this one she is front and center, telling the reader her story of the tragic and...more
There are several portrayels on Kat Ashley: Elizabeth's governess. One of strength and intelligence and a dear protector of Elizabeth even in times of Thomas Seymour's blatant flirtations and one of the usual drive for power in her young charge, striving to have Elizabeth reach the top. Harper's novel finds a middle ground and allows to see the motherly love that Ashley must have felt for Elizabeth, a youth who's mom was beheaded when she was merely about 3 years old.

A smooth and cohesive story...more
Rachael McDiarmid
For those of us with a love of Tudor history, this book filled a gap in the market. There was a lot thrown into this book - different times, different monarchs - and it would have been an interesting exercise to have them in a series so you weren't swamped with them all at once. I felt the book was too ambitious but I did enjoy it. In my mind Kat Ashley is always linked to Elizabeth I, so to place her under the guidance of Cromwell, in the court of her mother, and so on and so forth, was educati...more
Elizabeth I was raised by the main character in this book, Katherine Ashley. Although she writes the story of her life, how she was brought to court and became first to Anne Boleyn who begged her to take care of her little Elizabeth. Once assigned to Elizabeth's household she only leaves her for short periods. I know so much of Tudor history that I was already familiar with the events in this book. I have given it a score of three stars. It is well written and would probably be a more diverting...more
I have always liked Elizabeth I ever since reading an historical fiction novel in the form of her diary and to read about Kat Ashley, her governess and to see not only the influence a governess could have in the court of Tudor England but how an ordinary woman managed to work her way up to the court.

I found Kat Ashley interesting to read about especially as she lived through most of Henry VIII's rule and her view on the royalty that she was surrounded with. I especially liked the view that she...more
Danielle Reily
Anyone who knows me, or has seen my "read" list knows I love Tudor History. I've read dozens of books on the subject, biographies, historical fiction, even contemporary accounts. The down side of reading so many books in the subject is that they become repetitive at times. I get very excited when I find a book with a unique perspective.
This book was unique in its point of view. I really enjoyed it, I couldn't put it down. " The Queen's Governess" is the story of Elizabeth as told from her gove...more
Elis Madison

This is the story of Katherine Ashley, who was governess and lifelong friend to Princess/Lady/Princess/Queen Elizabeth. In some ways Kat was a rather obscure person, in that nobody knows for sure where she came from. We do know that she did time in the Tower for Elizabeth's sake, and later languished in Fleet Prison for her Protestant faith.

My one grumble with the story is that, since it presents itself as a historical novel (in other words, at least some effort was made to recount the history...more
Helene Harrison
ISBN? - 9780091940416

Genre? - Historical Fiction / Drama

Characters? - Elizabeth I / Kat Ashley / John Ashley / Mary I / Edward VI / Anne Boleyn / Henry VIII / Robert Dudley / Katherine Parr / Thomas Seymour / Thomas Parry / William Cecil / Thomas Cromwell

Setting? - Hatfield & London (England)

Series? - N/A

Title? - Kat Ashley was Elizabeth I's governess and friend.

Character Analysis? - I loved the portrayal of Kat, and watching the development of Elizabeth I into the Queen we recognise today....more
Deborah Dicks
Review from Amazon:

I admit I am slightly hooked on novels on the Tudors and have read a fair few of them from a variety of authors. So it was mixed feelings that I picked up this book - part of me felt that familiar attraction to a novel of this time period, and part was wondering whether it could stand out from the rest or whether it would be just another story of Elizabeth Tudor. I was pleasant surprised - this novel has a completely different feel to it and that is mainly due to perspective.

There's not much known about the historical Kat's background so the author naturally takes a few liberties with the unknown to make Kat's story seem more interesting, especially in the beginning. Of the known facts in Tudor history, it seems pretty accurate, though there are some discrepancies. But most importantly, all the fictional aspects worked and made sense.

The second half of the book was much more interesting than the first. Because Kat does not play a huge role in some of the biggest eve...more
Riccarla Roman
I love to read books about the royals in history, especially the British. This book is about Kat Ashley who was the companion to Anne Boleyn and later governess to Elizabeth I. I have read about Kat in other books about Elizabeth and it is great to see her get her own story.

After the loss of her mother and the intrusion of a stepmother, Kat is recruited by Thomas Cromwell to be educated for future tasks. She is sent to her uncle's house where she studies with his children. Her task turns out to...more
A well-researched book, Karen Harper brings the Tudor era to life once again, only this time from the perspective of the woman who raised Elizabeth I, her governess, Katherine Ashley. I was excited to read this book, and inhaled its contents over the course of a single day.

(view spoiler)...more
The Queen’s Governess by Karen Harper
Historical Romance - Aug 2nd, 2011
4 stars

Katherine Champernowne is the daughter of humble beekeeper in Devon. Throughout her adolescent years, she longs to escape her simple life, go to London and catch a glimpse of the court. By a lucky chance, she meets with Cromwell who later recruits her as a spy. Steadily, Kat climbs the ladder in court and becomes one of Anne Boleyn’s ladies. Kat watches the rise and the fall of Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour as she is as...more
Marie Z. Johansen
I had anxiously awaited the publication date for this book and was so pleased when it arrived at my door!

This book is told through the voice of Elizabeth Tudor's governess, companion and friend, Kat (Katherine) Champernowne Ashley (Astley). The book recounts the story of Kat's life and spans the years 1516-1560; a tour through the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey and Mary Tudor. We follow Kat's story, beginning with Kat as a poor young girl living in the wilds of Devon with a ste...more
Angela Simmons
Have you ever wondered what it was like to be among the court of the English King Henry VIII? He was the only King to ever have absolute power during his reign. He had the power to build you up and also the power to destroy you. We often hear the tales of those who reign, their stories told from their perspectives. Now emerges the story of Katherine Ashley, the only woman to have been in the midst of it all. This is Kat’s story which begins during the end of Queen Katherine’s reign and ends dur...more
This is the first book I've read by this author but I thought the concept sounded interesting, even if I do think that perhaps the Tudors are starting to be a bit done to death! The story is in many ways about Elizabeth I, but the narrative character is Kat Ashley, Elizabeth's governess (as from the title!) and later her chief lady of the bedchamber.

The novel is written in the first person, which can be a little clumsy in the hands of an unskilled author, but Harper carried it off well. I was in...more
Amber (The Musings of ALMYBNENR)
Jun 07, 2010 Amber (The Musings of ALMYBNENR) rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who want to gain another historical/fictional perspective on the life of Elizabeth I.
The Queen’s Governess is a historical fiction book from the point of view of Kat Ashley, Elizabeth Tudor’s long-time governess and friend. Born in Devon as Katherine Champernowne, she one day has a chance encounter with Master Thomas Cromwell, who has fallen from his horse. He lodges with her poor family and learns of Kat’s interest in learning and seeing London. Years later when Anne Boleyn’s star is rising, Cromwell calls on Kat to serve Anne and be his eyes and ears. She admires Anne and is t...more

I enjoyed this retelling of the story of Elizabeth Tudor from the point of view of her much beloved governess, Kat Ashley. It wasn't quite as page-turning as a Philippa Gregory book (with whom she is compared on the back cover), but it was certainly an informative and satisfying read.

After a short prologue set at the beheading of Anne Boleyn, the author takes us right back to Kat Ashley's childhood. As she explains in the notes at the end of the book, Ms Harper had to make several va...more
Once Upon
If you like to be immerse in rich details when you read historical, in this case the Tudor’s Era, this is definitely the book for you. At the very beginning of the novel you are introduced to a young lady with a humble and very sad life after her mother’s death, some say by accident but she has suspicions of foul play from her soon after stepmother. At the very first opportunity offered to her, she escapes the dominating and abusive stepmother to become a servant for the royal family. Katherine...more
As a fan of all things Tudor fiction, I'm always happy to devour more. Though I admit the period has started to get a little stale, especially surrounding the infamous Anne Bolyen scandal, there are still a few gems out there. I would consider Karen Harper's first Tudor novel, The Queen's Governess, to be one of those gems. Though there is plenty of discussion around Henry VIII's second queen, the focus is on the intelligent, well-schooled commoner Katherine Ashley, who practically raised the yo...more
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A New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Karen Harper is a former college English instructor (The Ohio State University) and high school literature and writing teacher. A lifelong Ohioan, Karen and her husband Don divide their time between the midwest and the southeast, both locations she has used in her books. Besides her American settings, Karen loves the British Isles, where her Scott...more
More about Karen Harper...
The Last Boleyn The First Princess of Wales Mistress Shakespeare The Poyson Garden (Elizabeth I, #1) The Irish Princess

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