Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Constant Princess - Phillipa Gregory

The Constant Princess is the first book (in historical time, not first written) in Gregory's Tudor series. The book is about Katherine of Aragon (Catalina), daugher of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain. As a baby, she is promised to the Arthur, heir to the throne of England and brother of Henry VIII. She grows up thinking of herself as the Queen of England, and all that demands from the people around her. Once married, Arthur falls ill and dies shortly thereafter. Katherine must then convince the court that the marriage was never consummated and somehow figure out a way to get married off to Henry. The book switches from Katherine's first-person perspective to an omniscient narrator. Her arrogance is overwhelming, and while at times she demonstrates the strength of her mother, who ruled Spain while fighting in the Crusades, more often she tends toward the whiny and entitled. As with Gregory's other books about the Tudors, there is a focus on the lives of the women at Court - their search for independence, but their inevitable dependence on the men around them. All friendships are suspect, as people are constantly maneuvering to get into the King's good graces. Anne Boleyn makes an appearance at the end of the novel, setting the stage for The Other Boleyn Girl. My favorite (small) part of the book involved Katherine's interaction with a Moorish doctor after suffering a miscarriage. The Moor's medical knowledge far exceeds that of his Christian counterpart, but Katherine's religious convictions and her fear of going against a King's servant lead her astray. Gregory's novels seem well researched, though it is difficult to know how much license she is taking with the characters and their beliefs. Whatever the case, they are fun fast reads that have definitely made me more interested in this period in history. I may have to start watching that TV Series "The Tudors" soon.

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