When I heard that Philippa Gregory's new novel focuses on the life
of Katherine of Aragon from the Tudor period of England, I knew I
had to have it. I've read and loved THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL, THE
VIRGIN'S LOVER and THE QUEEN'S FOOL, all by this author. They
whisked me from modern day back to a period of time and a place
that I can't get enough of. Needless to say, this was an auto-buy
While it wasn't exactly what I expected, Philippa Gregory never
disappoints. The painstaking historical research she performs for
each work of fiction is apparent on every page. It's hard to
believe that she wasn't there as a close confidante of the people
about whom she writes. It is as if she assumes their identity while
penning the pages of these books.
THE CONSTANT PRINCESS begins with Katherine of Aragon's childhood
in Spain, something I don't recall ever reading about, where she
was known as the Princess Catalina. We become acquainted with her
extraordinary mother, Queen Isabella of Spain, and even in his
absence, we are given a glimpse of her father, King Ferdinand. This
book takes pains to show us what made Katherine into the strong,
Catholic queen she was to become.
When Katherine first travels to England before her sixteenth
birthday, she is to be wed to Prince Arthur, Henry VIII's older
brother, future heir to the throne of England. What starts out as
an uneasy match soon turns into true love, but then true love turns
into sorrow when Arthur dies early in the marriage.
While Katherine may be without her true love, she is left with a
mission and a promise to her late spouse. The mission: to become
Queen of England. Katherine does what she has to do in wedding the
little brother of the man she loved, Henry VIII, never dreaming
what course her life is to take.
The main premise of the story is no surprise to anyone interested
in the Tudor time period; the story's bare bones facts do not
change after 500 years. The thing that does change with this book
is the perspective and inside view into a very plausible
interpretation of the events of the time.
The picture Ms. Gregory paints of Henry VIII as a spoiled and
cosseted youth seems extremely likely. What else would contribute
to a man selfish enough to put aside wife after wife in order to
reach his one true goal of an heir to the throne? What kind of man
could be callous enough to end the lives of two women and divorce
two others simply because he grew tired of them or because they did
not produce the much-needed heir, not to mention breaking with the
Catholic Church in order to form the Church of England when things
didn't go his way? The other two wives were lucky in that one died
before him without a trip to the executioner's block and the final,
Katherine Parr, managed to outlive him. An admirable feat if ever
there was one.
While this was a riveting book revealing the resolve of Katherine
of Aragon from an early age, I was sorely disappointed that the
novel ended at the point where Henry VIII was to divorce his queen.
I would have loved to have read more by Philippa Gregory of Queen
Katherine's life after the divorce and the stoic determination that
was shown to be a part of her even after she had been put aside by
the King of England. I can only hope for a sequel!
At any rate, this is a beautifully written book that will
transport, entertain and amuse anyone with an interest in history
and most certainly those of us who can't get enough of the Tudor
Reviewed by Amie Taylor on December 28, 2010