Sunday, 21 October 2007

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

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.

Whe this book came out it did not get the greatest of reviews and some even said it was their least favourite of Philippa's books and yes, for me I don't think it rates as highly as The Other Boleyn Girl or The Boleyn Inheritance. However, that said could it be the subject matter? For me, Anne Boleyn is one of the most fascinating figures in our history and possibly why I loved TOBG so much.

Throughout my fascination with Tudior history I have never really been all that intrigued by Katherine of Aragon, for me she was just Henry's first wife who gave birth to Bloody Mary! However, I was deeply fascinated by this book, from Katherine (Catalina's) young life in Spain though the Tudor court and her marriage to Henry VIII. I have never delved deep to find out much about her marriage to Henry's older brother Arthur, but I so felt for Katherine when he died and felt she really truly loved him.

Of course, the burning question is did Katherine ever consummate her marriage to Arthur? Going by this book then yes I think she did but, as I said I haven't read much about Katherine so will have to read more on her but, back to the book I think this was gloriously written and I really was addicted when I didn't expect to be going by past reviews, I really should start reading things for myself rather than relying on other people's opinions.

Thankfully being a Philippa fan I may not have read this book otherwise, and whether Philippa's version is correct or not I think Philippa does a fantastic job in arousing peoples interest in our history and it is definitely through Philippa that I have gone on to discover authors like Jean Plaidy.


Daphne said...

Great review!! I also enjoyed this book - not as much as TOBG ot TBI - but I really liked the portrayal of the young Catalina and her relationships with both Arthur and Henry. By the time Anne came along, Katherine was the "old, dowdy wife". But before that, she surely was a fascinating person in her own right.

Clare said...

Thanks Daphne, she certainly was. I still think Anne is more fascinating but, Katherine is much more interesting than I thought she was before reading this.

Margo. said...

This is one of my most favourite books, and I preferred this one to The Boleyn Inheritance. TOBG is still my number 1 though.

Katherine of Aragon is my most favourite queen, but I haven't read up on all of them, so that could change.

Great review Clare. xXx

Rhinoa said...

I have this on my list and I just haven't found the time for it yet. I have enjoyed her other books though so will make time soon hopefully.