The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

(Cover picture courtesy of Devon County Council.)

Katherine of Aragon is betrothed at the age of three to Prince Arthur, son and heir of Henry VII of England.  She is raised to be Princess of Wales, and knows 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 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.  Unexpectedly in this arranged marriage, a tender and passionate love develops.

But when the studious young man dies, she is left too make her own future: how can she now be queen, and found and dynasty?  Only by marrying Arthur’s young brother, the sunny but spoilt Henry.

Yesterday I reviewed Patience, Princess Catherine, which is aimed at tweens and young teens.  This book is the adult version of Carolyn Meyer’s novel and it also gives a new perspective to the tale of Katherine (usually spelled ‘Catherine’) of Aragon.

In Philippa Gregory’s version of events, Katherine is a highly ambitious woman raised by her warrior-queen mother, the indomitable Isabel, to be Queen of England.  So when she is married to Arthur, she readily accepts the arranged marriage, knowing it is her duty.  Yet something happens that neither she nor Arthur expected: they fall in love.  But shortly after that, Arthur dies and tells Katherine on his deathbed to marry Henry and achieve her dream.  She, of course, keeps her promise to him and waits seven years to marry Henry and become Queen of England.

The Constant Princess is not a fast-paced novel by any means, but it is one of my favourite books by Philippa Gregory, simply because the characters are so well developed.  Most of them are three dimensional and Katherine is a wonderful narrator that can command your attention easily.  It also has one thing I prize in historical fiction: historical accuracy.  So if you’re looking for a historically accurate tale of love, ambition and heartbreak, you will love The Constant Princess.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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