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Sister Queens: The Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  2,897 ratings  ·  388 reviews
The history books have cast Katherine of Aragon, the first queen of King Henry VIII of England, as the ultimate symbol of the Betrayed Woman, cruelly tossed aside in favor of her husband’s seductive mistress, Anne Boleyn. Katherine’s sister, Juana of Castile, wife of Philip of Burgundy and mother of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, is portrayed as “Juana the Mad,” whose e ...more
Hardcover, 370 pages
Published January 31st 2012 by Ballantine Books (first published May 1st 2011)
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Lolly's Library
Poor Queen Juana. Like many others who have had even the slightest interest in European history, I'd bought completely the story of her madness. How she kept her husband's moldering corpse with her at all times, how she periodically opened the casket to kiss it and embrace it. How her jealousy knew no bounds and even in death she kept every other woman away from 'Philip the Fair'. How she roamed around, mad as a hatter, and was confined most of her life to protect her and the Spanish countryside ...more
Dec 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Katherine of Aragon is known for suffering in the hands of Henry VIII or more accurately… because of Anne Boleyn. Juana “the Mad” is known for simply being crazy and spending 46 years incarcerated, resulting in us never knowing what the Spanish Empire had been like had she been able to rule in her right (at least her descendents spanned two centuries). There is more to these two sisters, however. Julia Fox attempts to show their characteristics and legacies in “Sister Queens”.

Fox’s “Sister Queen
Oct 03, 2010 rated it liked it

Accessible and easy to read biography of Katherine of Aragon and Juana of Castile. Like many of Alison Weir's bios this offering from Fox reads more like a novel than a bio and is pitched often in quite simplistic terms. There were several stylistic quirks that drove me nuts but on the whole it was a solid read even if Fox sometimes falls into the trap of stating as facts things that we cannot possibly know for sure. There's not a whole lot new here but it is presented from a slightly different
So I read this a few years ago.
I liked it well enough but as I'm currently studying the Iberian continent: Al-Andalus, Grenada, Portugal, Castile, Leon, Asturias, Aragon, etc, I decided to brush up on specifics on Juana I.
The opening chapter about 1.3% into the ebook I ran into factual errors. I mean basic shit than can be checked with Wikipedia.
Below is the inaccurate history quoted from the book and followed by the actual history.

' 1493, he sailed to Africa, much to Isabella’s deli
Deborah Pickstone
I won't read anything more by this author. Sadly, this is not good history; she makes far too many inferences that can't be verified and then refers to them later in the text as if they were established fact. She writes very readably but often seems unsure whether she is writing fiction or history (it is meant to be straight history), telling us how this one or that one was feeling or may have felt. She managed to squeeze in a reference to Prince Charles and Lady Di's wedding which I thought qui ...more
Dec 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I'm not much of one for biographies, despite the volume of European historical fiction that I enjoy reading. This is usually because every non-fiction novel I have ever attempted to read has been incredibly dull, overly complex and, most importantly, incredibly scholarly, but not readable at all. This brings me to Julia Fox's latest offering, Sister Queens, which I originally ordered thinking that it was a fiction novel. It wasn't until I received the book, that I realized I had made a mistake. ...more
Jan 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Sister Queens, an insightful and engrossing dual biography, contrasts the lives of Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII, and Juana, Queen of Castile, both daughters of Spanish rulers Isabel I and Ferdinand II who are best known for their patronage of Christopher Columbus and their establishment of the Spanish Inquisition. The boundaries of Europe were still very fluid and Catholicism was splitting apart when Catherine and Juana dutifully left their childhood home to strengthen Spain ...more
Jan 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Amy by: first-reads
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book as part of the first-reads program from goodreads.This book tells the story of two remarkable women that were sisters who became the queen of England and the queen of Castile.The book covers more of Katherine of Aragon than it does Juana of Castile.Juana of Castile doesn't have as many historical records and accounts left for us today as Katherine does so I found that to not be the fault of the author.This book was well researched by the author and written more in the manner ...more
Wendy,  Lady Evelyn Quince
While Julia Fox's attention to little details is meticulous, her book "Sister Queens…" is mis-titled. It's a lopsided historical account of Katherine of Aragon, with scant attention placed on her older sister, Juana of Castile.

It read to me like Fox intended to write a biography on Katherine and maybe came up a few pages short, so she crammed in some facts about Juana. They were sisters, both queens, treated cruelly by their husbands and then cast aside in vicious games of politics.

I figure 2/3
3.5 stars

Katherine of Aragon (Henry VIII’s first wife) and Juana of Castile (often referred to as Juana the Mad) were sisters, both daughters of Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain. Katherine went on to become first Arthur’s, then his brother Henry’s, wife and Mary I’s mother. Katherine was divorced by Henry (after he split from the Catholic Church) after she would not give him a son, so he could wed Anne Boleyn. Juana married Philip of Spain and had many children, but was ruled by Philip, although
Sep 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book thoroughly. This was more Katherine's story than Juana's, perhaps because Juana spent so much of her life in captivity, and as a result I was familiar with much of the history, but I still found it fascinating. I will be buying this when the US edition comes out.
Apr 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Although I normally find it reductive or even counterproductive to proclaim how far feminism has come in mere centuries when things like this still exist, after finishing Julia Fox's biography of two Spanish queens--Juana the Mad and Katherine of Aragon--I have to say, oh my GOSH, isn't it great how far feminism has come in mere centuries?

Because these women suffered. And even though sometimes their suffering equated to "I might have to sell my bejeweled golden plate because my prince husband wi
Mar 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2012
Sister Queens by Julia Fox shows how historical non-fiction should be done.

Julia Fox is truly talented. She handled the nemesis of writing non-fiction where events or facts are disputed with finesse. When it could not be resolved whether or not something happened, she would state what is commonly believed and then follow it with something like "Maybe not". For me, this is so much better than arguing back and forth whether or not something is true. That information belongs in the notes not where
Sep 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Catherine is well covered in Tudor literature. There is even fiction devoted to her plight (most recently in the The Constant Princess by Gregory). Juana, Queen of Castile, is usually referenced as a mother or grandmother, rarely as a Queen, and always as "mad". I chose this book from the Vine program to learn more about Juana, particularly why she met the fate she did. I was pleasantly surprised to learn a lot more about Catherine that was new to me.

Most of the text is devoted to Catherine; her
Carolina Casas
Easily my favorite biographies of Katherine of Aragon and Juana "the mad". The author does not shy away from putting the dark aspects of each queen and their characters, as well as how their environments might have shaped them -for the better and for the worst.
Juana has gone into legend as Juana 'la loca' -the mad in Spain. But the author gives many primary sources, evidence, which points to the simple conclusion -she acted spoiled and arrogant, but she was not crazy. Her outburst at the beginni
Lise Petrauskas
Oct 01, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, biography
Interesting if repetitive. The writing was fine, but the book seemed, paradoxically, both too detailed and too broad, overly padded with details of gowns and finery and "cloth of gold" one minute and then jumping ahead by several years the next. The link between the two sisters' stories frequently felt arbitrary and the attempt to create suspense got cheesy when chapters ended with sentences like "Or would it?" I haven't read a huge amount of history on the period, but my impression was that the ...more
Feb 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An excellent, well-written account comparing and contrasting the lives of Katherine of Aragon (Henry VIII's first wife) and Juana of Castile (Joanna the Mad, mother of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V). The author does a wonderful job of bringing the sisters to life, yet making it explicitly clear where the historical record is silent, unreliable, or mysterious.

Being an avid fan of Tudor history, I was well-acquainted with Katherine's marriage to Henry VIII, but knew nothing of her early life (aside
I guess I would have liked a bit more of Juana's tale - though I guess being imprisoned for such a long period of her life there wasn't much to write about whereas as Katherine's life is well documented. Enjoyable read nonetheless and great to see how the lives of the two sisters interconnected.
Apr 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Virtually any reader of Tudor fiction is familiar with the sad story of Queen Catherine, the lawful wife of Henry VIII who was not merely abandoned, but cruelly cut off from her own daughter Mary, after she refused to partake in the murder of her marriage to Henry. Less known is the equally sad story of Catherine’s family, and particularly her sister Juana -- who was likewise placed under house imprisonment and defamed as a lunatic. Sister Queens is a joint biography of Katherine and Juana which ...more
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent look at the life and times of two sisters who at first lead very different lives but at the end whose lives came to resemble each other much more closely. Katherine, fierce and loyal, was anything but the typical cast-off wife. And Juana, while perhaps less well-known, also showed great grit in the face of huge odds against her.
Kiesha ~ 1Cheekylass
Really good book but such a sad sad story for both sisters.

Katherine of Aragon's story is not new to us. We all know that she got a raw deal from Henry VIII. I did not know that Henry VII also treated her harshly after Arthur's death. She was forced to take out loans for bare necessities. Unfortunately, her father did little to help. She was able to elevate hers self somewhat by playing into politics and becoming an ambassador for her father to the English. When she was finally able to marry Hen
I think the author wanted to show that these two women were able to be powerful in spite of their sex in a male dominated society. If so, she failed. It is clear that at least Katherine was quite intelligent and wanted to keep her position and power. However, ultimately, she failed completely. She was buried as the Princess Dowager, widow of King Henry's older brother, not as a current queen of England. I don't necessarily agree that Juana was as intelligent as the author wanted her to be. She e ...more
Aug 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Katherine of Aragorn's place in English history is well-known to everyone: Henry VIII's first repudiated bride, Queen of England for eighteen years, thrust aside in favour of Anne Boleyn, mother of 'Bloody Mary'. Her history is indelibly caught up in the history of England's break with Rome, the Reformation, the turn from Catholicism to Protestantism. Less well-known, in fact almost neglected, is her role as a Spanish princess, as an important part of a family dynasty that reached across Europe, ...more
Feb 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This book is better than Fox's first book on Jane Boleyn probably because there is more source material for Katherine and Juana. Although annoyingly Fox does still conjecture about the emotions of both women. Most of this book focuses on Katherine and is just a rehashing of what has already been published. I wish Fox would have given more attention to Juana. She just seems to accept as a fact that Juana was not mad without really discussing what is known or not known or elaborating on different ...more
Jan 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
This dual biography of Katherine of Aragon and Juana of Castile paints an interesting and sometimes overlooked portrait of these women. Most historical biographies are dry, but this one was extremely readable and had great pacing. While the bulk of the story was focused on Katherine I really enjoyed Juana's story as it dispels the coon myths about her being insane. Also from a different angle, the story of Katherine paints a different picture as it doesn't solely portray her as a woman scorned b ...more
Kathy Moberg
Feb 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
A very readable, sympathetic historical biography. The author has to do a bit of "squeezing water out of a stone" to write much about Juana because so little primary source material exists, but she is very honest about it, too. She does cast serious doubt on Juana's madness. As for the portions relating to Katherine of Aragon, she did a fine of job not getting bogged down in the dull details. It's rather astonishing how many letters and other written records exist for historians of this period!
Feb 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
A disappointing book. She wants to argue that Juana was not "mad" but virtually omits mentioning any evidence of hereditary instability. She also wants to link the two sisters, then spends much time remarking on how little they thought about each other. Too much repetition of points with little to back her position up. Although Juana's husbsnd was probably a jerk of the first order, I cannot buy the position that all the men in Juana's life just hated her because she was female since her mother ...more
I found myself thinking two divergent thoughts while reading this book: There's so much about history we think we already know AND there's so much history we are not given the chance to know. There's that old saying, 'history is written by the victors,' and unfortunately for a long time, the victors were men. Old white men. This book for for the women of history. And it does a fantastic job of telling it.

My knowledge of Katherine of Aragon, I'm ashamed to say, is mostly from a tiny bit told in h
interesting book looking at the lifes of the sisters katherine and Juana and how they were treated by their husbands after growing up in Castille and Aragon and how wifes were expected to be the property of their husbands... this book shows through the author's research how both were restricted in their political and social circles , lied to by those close to them but both sisters were true to what they believed in
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Julia Fox was born in London. From a very early age, she set her heart on becoming a teacher and taught in a public and private schools in north London. She left teaching to concentrate on researching and writing 'Jane Boleyn'. Her interests include music, theatre, walking and cooking. She lives in London with her husband, the Tudor historian John Guy, and their three cats.

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