The saintly nurse of popular imagination was, in fact, an influential radical
The 19th-century historian Agnes Strickland did much to create the impression that Katherine was some kind of saintly nurse. She imagined her as the sort of woman whom the Victorians would have found an admirable wife for an old and sick man.
There still remains a powerful image of her changing the bandages on her husband’s ulcerated leg, perhaps enduring the smell to sit with him in order to comfort him. This is misleading, though, because the king had a team of male servants and doctors to give him ‘body service’. His queen certainly would not have done it.
More recently, historians have recreated Katherine as a bluestocking, interested in radical religion, using her position to promote an agenda of change in the light of Henry’s increasing conservatism. She was, after all, the first woman to publish a book in English under her own name, which was called Prayers or
Meditations. She was responsible for the excellent education given to her step-daughter, Elizabeth I, perhaps our greatest queen ever. Katherine was an intellectual powerhouse.