Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. The ancient rhyme, of course, recalls the fates of the six wives of King Henry VIII. But a popular misconception still bedevils the reputation of the last of them. Queen Katherine Parr is often depicted as the sober, middle-aged widow whose soft lap and quiet demeanour eased the final years of an obese, syphilitic despot – an autocrat positively Trump-like in his irascible unpredictability.

In fact, the real Katherine couldn’t be more different. A...

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