Monday, May 29, 2006

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

Author: Philippa Gregory
ISBN # 000719031X
Publisher: Harper Collins
1st Published: 2005
490 pages

Katherine of Aragon. We think of her as the barren wife of a notorious king; but behind this legacy lies a fascinating story. Katherine of Aragon is born Catalina, the Spanish Infanta, to parents who are both rulers and warriors. Aged four, she is betrothed to Arthur, Prince of Wales, and is raised to be Queen of England. She is never in doubt that it is her destiny to rule that far-off, wet, cold land. Her faith is tested when her prospective father-in-law greets her arrival in her new country with a great insult; Arthur seems little better than a boy; the food is strange and the customs coarse. Slowly she adapts to the first Tudor court, and life as Arthur's wife grows ever more bearable. But when the studious young man dies, she is left to make her own future: how can she now be queen, and found a dynasty? Only by marrying Arthur's young brother, the sunny but spoilt Henry. His father and grandmother are against it; her powerful parents prove little use. Yet Katherine is her mother's daughter and her fighting spirit is strong. She will do anything to achieve her aim; even if it means telling the greatest lie, and holding to it.

Returning to a study of Tudor royalty, Gregory is certainly on top form. The story is intricate, yet it seems to whiz by at lightening pace. Catalina, the Spanish Infanta, is often seen as the dull 1st wife, set aside by Henry VIII, but this fictional retelling of fact shows her as a determined and strong woman who knew her mind and did her level best to succeed in what she saw as her destiny – the be a good Queen of England. This is engaging stuff and one into which any fan of historical fiction will find a pleasure to sink.

Rating: 8


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