The King's Curse
Lady Margaret Pole, an heir to the Plantagenet line, is married off to a knight to hide her royal lineage, but constantly fantasizes about the life she could and should be leading. With a ruthless king on the throne who is easily led by his merciless, controlling mother, Margaret knows she needs to profess nothing but undying loyalty to those in power.
Margaret and her husband, a loyal knight who also happens to be the governor of Wales, become guardians to the king’s son, Arthur, who will inherit the throne, and his young wife, Katherine of Aragon. When Arthur dies and leaves the Spanish princess a widow, Margaret’s life is once more thrown into turmoil. The king cares little for what happens to the princess, but Margaret becomes her staunch supporter. When her husband unexpectedly dies, she is thrown into a life of poverty without any help coming from the court, especially since her loyalties lie with the Spanish princess. When Henry VIII inherits the throne and decides to take Katherine as his wife, Margaret is once more restored to a position of importance and influence. Having struggled with years of poverty and being out of favor with the court, Margaret rightfully feels entitled to her new status.
"One thing I always enjoy about Gregory’s writing is the way she can bring a historical period to life. She accomplishes that once more here. It’s a story you’ll want to continue even after the last head rolls."
As life goes on at court, suspicions rise once more, and Margaret finds herself defending her allegiance and that of her family to a king whose mood is fickle and unpredictable. As Henry’s feelings wane for Katherine, they also diminish for the queen’s supporters, including Margaret. It appears she can never fully escape her name and royal lineage, no matter how hard she tries.
At the center of court life and drama, Margaret see her fortunes rise and fall on the whims of a king --- a king she knew as a child. She very much wants to believe that the Henry she knew and loved is still capable of ruling justly. What she sees instead is a king who acts like a frightened child and a paranoid man constantly on alert for any hint of disloyalty. Her life is caught up in the drama of the court and those who rule, and there is little she can do.
Margaret is constantly stating and showing her loyalty, but is always ready with a reminder that she’s a Plantagenet. She knows her place, though, and is also aware that to keep her head attached to her shoulders, she needs to remind the king of her loyalty. When she gets her status back, she does a lot of flaunting --- new homes, new titles for her sons --- which she claims are rightly hers, but to some it seems like straight greed. Yes, she was raised to be royalty, and although she spent much of her life hiding, she has no trouble falling back into the life she believes she was meant to lead.
While the money and influence might make Margaret unlikable at times, her relationship to Katherine of Aragon and Princess Mary are what redeem her. She’s fiercely protective and loyal to both, almost to a fault. The love she has for the queen and the princess certainly are a downfall, especially in the eyes of the king and his counselors. But she persists, and this is where the loyalty she was always professing shines true.
Fans of Philippa Gregory will find a lot to like about this book. Margaret is an interesting character in her own right and always in the middle of court drama. With the Tudor court, it’s hard to escape the drama, but here it plays on the outskirts and swirls around Margaret, who handles tragedy and joy with equal measure. One thing I always enjoy about Gregory’s writing is the way she can bring a historical period to life. She accomplishes that once more here. It’s a story you’ll want to continue even after the last head rolls. If you’ve been waiting for the next book in the Cousins’ War series, then THE KING’S CURSE is a welcome addition.
Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski on September 12, 2014