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The Constant Princess features Philippa Gregory's interpretation of the Spanish Princess Catalina, or better known as Catherine Of Aragon, the first wife of the vicious King Henry VIII. Philippa Gregory is well known for her historical novels, especially her novels set in The Tudor Court. Her most popular novels include The Boleyn Inheritance and The Other Boleyn Girl. A lot of people admire Gregory for the historical atmosphere and giving the reader a feeling for their character. On the other hand, a lot of people discredit her work due to lack of faithfulness in historical fact. It shows that there is sometimes a fine line between letting your imagination run riot and keeping things historically correct.
Having known that, I still went on to enjoy this book. Maria Doyle Kennedy's portrayal of the tragic Catherine Of Aragon engrossed a lot of people's interest in the Queen including mine. There is already a lot of stuff dedicated to Anne Boleyn, so it's refreshing to see another one of Henry's wives in the spotlight instead. The Showtime's TV show and the novel are different timescales but I can't help but feel that they both give the same Catalina that can be connected to the real Catherine Of Aragon.
Catherine believes it is her destiny to become Queen Of England. She believes that deep down in her heart that it is God's will for her to be Queen. But there are also many obstacles that stand in her way. Her husband, Arthur passes away and as we all know she ends up marrying his younger brother, Henry. For those who love reading historical novels and ones about Tudor Court, then I think that Gregory's work might pip your interest here.
As the novel is based on history and facts, it makes me really want to believe that this was exactly what happened, but I know it can't be an exact replica of what happened in history and if it was, it would be a history book and not a novel. I also think that Gregory took a risk and included that Catalina and Arthur's marriage was consummated as a plot device.
Weather Catherine had sex with Arthur in real life is one of the many debates in Tudor History. Gregory obviously believes that Catherine did consummate the marriage as she mentioned in her notes at the end. But Gregory is a story-teller, not an acclaimed historian so just because Gregory writes it, doesn't mean it happened.
Gregory's portrayal of Prince Henry (AKA Harry) is very different to David Starkey's book, Henry (a book about Henry in his youth). Henry in The Constant Princess is described as sunny, but an incredibly spoilt child. It's more of a sign of what is to come in the future. David Starkey however in his book, Henry describes Henry as passionate and religious.
I really did feel for Catherine in the story because switching from third person to 1st person was a very good technique, but the overuse of italics annoyed me because I didn't think it was necessary. Aurthur and Catherine fall in love and when he dies she fulfills his promise to marry Henry so they can make their dreams come true. As we all know fate had other plans which makes me want to admire Catherine even more for her bravery and determination never to give up.
I can see that Gregory tried to create an honest reflection of Catherine Of Aragon in her work and I think she's done a good job on it. I really enjoyed the book and wouldn't mind reading it again at some point. I would also recommend it to people as well and I think because the book is so well written and almost experimental it's worth a 5 stars from me.
This is a review of 'The Constant Princess' by Philippa Gregory. It's a fictional historical novel set in the early 1500s based on the life of Henry the Eight's first wife, the Spanish Queen Katherine (Catalina) of Aragon. I have to say this book was the perfect companion for a couple of snow-bound days inside whilst I wait and prepare for an imminent life changing time - the birth of my first baby.
Philippa Gregory's books are always something I enjoy reading and I was fortunate to get this one off the book swap website readitswapit from a lovely fellow member. My book was a hefty hardback with 490 pages which I find helps me get totally immersed in the storyline.
A bit about the story
The book begins at Catalina's childhood where she is on the battlefields with her parents at a young age whilst they fight for land. You immediately realise the bravery and courage of Catalina, who is named Princess of Wales and betrothed to King Henry the seventh's first son, Arthur. When she is fifteen, Catalina travels to England to marry the young prince and enjoys a brief marriage to him which sadly ends within a year with his untimely death.
A promise on Arthur's deathbed leaves Catalina with a legacy she must fulfil, to marry his boisterous and younger brother, Henry (8th) to carry on their dream and as her destiny dictates, become the future Queen of England. To do this she has to tell a lie and say that her first marriage was never consummated, that she is still pure so that Henry can marry her as a virgin queen. Everyone (conveniently) believes the lie whilst it suits them but will it come back to bite her in the end?
I loved the beginning of the book, Catalina's childhood was enchanting, and whilst you know the basics of the history of the Tudors and Henry's wives, there is still a lot of 'will she won't she' going on as the couple strive to conceive their first baby, preferably a son as heir to the throne.
The book is typical of Gregory's style, weaving sub plots and alliances amongst the people in the court. Catalina's loyalty to the Spanish, her religion and her role as Queen of England all conflict at times. She turns a blind eye to the affairs and romance Henry conducts whilst she is in confinement towards the end of her pregnancies. The whole time she speaks to her dead first husband Arthur who was her first true love. The book is narrated throughout in the third person, with passages in between in italic that are Catalina's personal thoughts and musing on the situation. This can be a little repetitive sometimes but helps clarify how she feels about things.
Not much for me to moan about in this book but I did find the battle scenes at the end with the Scots a little bit tedious. It did put into perspective Katherine's role in her marriage to Henry and how she manipulated him to get him out of the way whilst she got on with the 'real' business. I didn't really like how the book ended; jumping forward twenty years to her day in court where Henry annuls the marriage so he can move on to his second wife. It did end the story but it felt a bit abrupt moving from her winning the battle with the Scots, skipping over the birth of her daughter Mary, and acknowledging Anne Boleyn's ambition to become the next queen.
I loved the descriptive way the book describes the court, the family politics and how Henry, his dad and brother were all in love with Katherine of Aragon and each wanted her in his own way. She tactically picks her way through the men to get her rightful position as queen of England.
As always, with the fact-based fiction you have to take the story with a pinch of salt. It is not really known whether Katherine did lie about her marriage to Arthur being consummated or how she truly felt about marrying his brother Henry but this book does a great job of imagining how it might have been at this time.
The Constant Princess is yet another in Philippa Gregory's Tudor court stories.
This book tells a fantasy tale of Henry VIII's first wife Katherine of Aragon and follows her rise and fall at his hands. This book is a little unusual compared to the other Philippa Gregory books that I have read as it tells the story of a monarch from their point of view instead of the story of a smaller person at court which just happens to include a monarch as part of it. This does give the book a very different feel to other Philippa Gregory books, as with them there is a greater range for creativity within the story, where as with this tale must follow the dictates of history and as such has a greater storyline which most people will already know.
I was very excited about reading this book as I had become a fan of Philippa Gregory's portrayal of Katherine of Aragon though her earlier book "The Other Boleyn Girl". The first half of the story concerns Katherine's youth, when she was taken from her native Spain to be married to Prince Arthur, the future king of England. There is a great question over weather the marriage of Katherine and Arthur was consummated, a question which latter King Henry would exploited as a reason for divorce. No one will ever know for certain one way or another but this tale tells a heart warming story of two young people forced together who learn to love and respect each other. Pilippa writes this section of the story beautifully conveying all the frustration, fear and finally joy of the young Katherine in such a way as to be believable and endearing. Unfortunately history dictates that this cannot be a story with a happy ending and the portrayal of Katherine's heartache and sorrow is equally as good and believable, as is the justification for Katherine's steadfast determination to deny her marriage to Arthur and refuse to be anything but Queen of England.
I found the beginning of this story a pleasure to read. The love story between Katherine and Arthur was so tender in its portrayal that I found myself wishing that the story would never end, that Katherine and Arthur would be allowed to head off into the sunset like a fairy tail. In fact there is definite Camelot feel to the Ludlow location and their life there. In equal measure I found the post Arthur part of the story heartbreaking and very well written. There are constant reminders thought the book that though Katherine becomes Henry's wife and loves him as a wife should she never forgets his brother and he is never far from her thoughts and heart.
My only complaint about this book is that I believe it finishes in a strange place. Had it finished earlier, for example when Katherine became queen or latter at her death I believe the story would have flowed better but as it is the last section of the book feels like it doesn't belong, even though it does neatly round off some parts of the plot.
This isn't my favourite of Philippa's books and didn't seem to flow the same way her other books do, perhaps because she had less scope for artistic licence but it is an enchanting tale none the less and well worth reading.
Why this book
This is a book that I received as a gift from someone who knows I like my historical fiction and it was a great present and book.
About the author
Philippa Gregory is an internationally renowned author of Historical fiction. She holds a PhD from Edinburgh University. She lives in Yorkshire on a small farm several of her novels have been adapted fro television and film the most famous probably of these is The Other Boleyn Girl. A full author's biography can be found at her website which is www.philippagregory.com
About the book
This book centers on Katherine of Aragon Henry the VIII first wife. The book begins in Katherine's childhood when she born Catalina the Spanish Infanta. She is initially betrothed to Prince Arthur the first son of Henry the VII and is raised to be initially the Princess of Wales then Queen of England. The story follows her from Spain to Tudor England where she finds Arthur a young boy and the strange customs of the land very difficult. The marriage to Arthur develops into love but when he dies she is left to make her own future. The only way she can become Queen and fulfill her destiny to be Queen is to become Henry (Arthur's younger brother) wife. His father and grandmother are against this but can she triumph and become Queen.
I have to admit I was really looking forward to this book as I always have had some sympathy for Katherine and how shabbily Henry treated her. But beyond that I really wasn't hugely aware of some of her history.
The book is told in a wonderful duet of narration and first person singular. The italics are Catalina's/Katherine's memories of how things occurred, and the normal type face print is the author's blend of know historical detail and fiction. I found it very easy to follow this and it gave the novel a wonderful pace as it alternated between the two dialogues.
Philippa Gregory's portrayal of the Princess of Aragon within this novel is very much a warts and all account with nothing hidden. We see Katherine at her worst full of pride and arrogance in her rights as a Princess and future Queen. We witness her stubborn faith in her parents' manifestoes and how she is unable to see how her parents' claims were often at odds with their actions. However we also see her portrayed as someone who is vulnerable. During the course of the book you find yourself admiring her for her courage and tenacity. You might not always like her methods or agree with how she acts but you cannot help but admire the bravery and strength of mind she exhibits in order to obtain the results she so desires. That said there are times in the early part of the book where you just want to tell Katherine to shut up about the "I will be the Princess of Wales and Future Queen of England"
I didn't totally believe Philippa Gregory's assertion that Catherine and Arthur's marriage was consummated as after all in this period of time where everyone was watched too many people would have known if this was true. Also Henry VIII's henchmen would have left no stone unturned in their bid to discredit Katherine when he was trying to marry Anne Boleyn. But it's a credit to Gregory's writing I found myself wishing that it had been so, as this would definitely transform Katherine from the pious and devout wife of history who allowed Henry to ride roughshod over her, to a Queen who had loved and lost but whom had achieved her ultimate goal to be Queen of England
Her portrayal of Henry VIII is clearly done to lay the foundations for what would happen to him during the years to come. He is portrayed both as boy and a man who is very vain, lazy and is an easily manipulated character. Whilst the vain is almost certainly true I do think she probably over played his ability to be manipulated as Henry VIII within history also liked to pull other peoples strings. He was preoccupied with having a son and heir but I don't think really the way he is dammed a bit in this book for this preoccupation is fair really. This is because given the period this book is set in it would have been most men's preoccupation, indeed it is still some men's today!
The book at times felt as though there was too much political correctness going on really. There were reflections on the subservient role of women in education, religion, medicine and politics which was also coupled with plea for understanding between faiths these seemed out of place in Tudor Britain to me. That said I did love how the Moors were painted so beautifully, and given such a voice. You see that these people were brutally treated, and that the Spanish Inquisition destroyed a Europe that could have been, as the moors held so much knowledge on medicine, literature, science, and health. This gives the story a richness that would not have been there otherwise.
This novel does include Gregory's trademark descriptions around events, clothing, and locations, all of which are captivating and are intricately detailed and provide the reader with a wonderful picture in your minds eye.
Gregory glosses over Katherine's shining moments as Queen really such as her holding back the Scots, and skips forward through 13 years of her reign with Henry to her court appearance at the hearing of the "Kings Great Matter". The book ends abruptly really with a brief but moving chapter about her thoughts prior to her appearance in court. I know the book is titled the Constant Princess and hence is more focused on this time in her life rather than her life as Queen. But I was left thinking rather than rushing the ending perhaps a sequel, chronicling Katherine's life as queen until her death, might be a worthy novel for Gregory to consider, as I would like to enjoy her take on Katherine's thoughts during these dramatic times for her.
This is a wonderful book centered on the young Katherine of Aragon. The author does take some historical license with some facts but if you are reading it for enjoyment and can put the thought of accuracy to one side then it is an enjoyable read. Katherine is portrayed as a strong willed woman and you are left wanting to know more about her and I would certainly like to read a novel on Katherine's thoughts as Queen both reigning and in exile by Gregory as I warmed to her portrayal of Katherine within this novel. I would recommend this book to fans of Philippa Gregory and people who enjoy reading historical fiction and just remember this is book is fiction not fact.
Paperback: 490 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd (2 May 2006)
On sale on Amazon for £5.46 or for 1 pence on Amazon Marketplace.
Having read numerous reviews of Philippa Gregory's novel, all of them favourable, I still wasn't sure about them. Most of them are based on historical characters and events, mainly Tudor England, with the gaps filled in with fiction where we don't know exactly what the truth is - specifically dialogue and personal interactions between characters. My concern was that readers would take these stories as gospel, when in actual fact they are only one possible version of events.
But I decided I ought to give them a go. I have enough of an interest in Tudor times and Henry VIII to be curious as to what Gregory had come up with in her versions of history.
I chose The Constant Princess as a starting point. It tells the story of Katharine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first wife, so it seemed as good a place to start as any. The history which forms the basis of this novel is Katharine travelling to England to marry Arthur, Henry's older brother and heir to the throne. Arthur died a few months into the marriage, and Katharine swore the marriage was not consummated, that Arthur was unable to, and so she went on to marry Henry after his father's death, and become Queen of England. It has never been known conclusively whether she was telling the truth about her marriage to Arthur.
The Constant Princess opens with Katharine as the Infanta Catalina, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. Gregory gives some wondeful descriptions of Moorish Spain, and really made me wish I was there. But right from the off, I wasn't terribly impressed with her writing style. I can't quite put my finger on what it was, it wasn't bad writing as such, but I think the best description is that it is unsophisticated.
As a result I found myself underwhelmed by the novel to begin with, and couldn't quite understand what all the fuss was about. However as the story got going properly, I found myself caught up in it and couldn't put the book down.
As for the story itself...I'm not quite sure what to make of it. The possible version of history that Gregory chooses to follow in the novel is, I think, the one that makes most sense for a novel. Other options would not have made for such a page-turner. I'm not going to say what this version is, because I went into it having no idea what was going to happen, and got quite a surprise when the story got going.
Saying that, I'm not convinced that she has chosen what actually happened. Of course we can't know for sure what did happen with Katharine of Aragon, Arthur and Henry, but I think that there are elements of the story Gregory has written to fill in the gaps in history which are likely to be the truth, but that she takes it too far. By that I mean that I think she has hit on the most likely option, but has run with it and elaborated it far too much. But again, this is the best option for a novel.
Overall, I did enjoy The Constant Princess, but I was glad that I was able to take it with a pinch of salt. I haven't come away thinking "so that's what happened in the bits the historians are unsure of", I know that this is a dramatization and is therefore not definitive history. I hope others do the same.
One very positive effect of reading The Constant Princess is that I have come away keen to read about Ferdinand and Isabella, and the Spain they lived in. I covered the bare bones of their story at university, but only enough to give me an overview.
I enjoyed The Constant Princess, and will continue reading Gregory's novels, with caution. I've got a few more from the library already, one of them The Other Queen, about Mary, Queen of Scots. I know her story well, so the novel could infuriate me, but then again it might be right on the button!
Katherine of Aragon is the Spanish Infanta. Her parents are notorius rules and warriers - Isabella and Ferdinand of Castile. She is raised in full knowledge tht she is destined to become Queen of England, married to the eldest Prince of England, Arthur - Prince of Wales. She is betrothed to him at age 4.
When she arrives in England she is faced with strange food, cold weather, new customs and a prospective husband who is not strong and regal as she expects a man of nobility to be. There is a language barrier between her and her future husband which she must overcome.
She marries him and gradually falls in love with him, when he dies she is left to fend for herself. She is neglected by the King. She is still determined to be Queen of England, her inheritance that is due to her.
As such she vows to marry Henry. Her determiination and fighting spirit prevail and they marry. She becomes Queen of England and mother to Mary, the future monarch.
The book's latter chapters begin dealing with Henry's affair with Anne Boleyn and the divorce proceedings.
This book is similar to the Other Boleyn Girl in style and originality. Gregory brings the Young Catherine to life through strong will and determination. It is so refreshing to see a book with the spotlight on Catherine as she is all too often neglected by history being overshadowed by Anne and Henry's subsequent wives.
The details of her marriage to Arthur nd then to Henry are really romantic, you really feel the love that was pure and true. You really see why she was never able to concede to Anne Boleyn and even died beleiving she was still the true Queen of England and Henry's true wife. It is really heartwarming and makes you empathise with a woman cheated of her birthright.
Although this is a historical novel many hstorians will argue the Gregory has fabricated much of the story. Who cares? The author is bring history back to life, making it accesible and enjoyable and it is all based on fact. We read a novel in full understanding that some elements are fabricated but what a good way to learn about our past none the less. How many people have now become interested in history because of these novels!
I love how the novel really captures the essence of Catherine's Catholic faith and how strong she was in her religious convictions. I really felt the woman behind the Queen shine through in this novel and thoroughly enjoyed it.
The Constant Princess - Philippa Gregory
This novel follows the life of Infanta Catalina, Princess of Spain and Princess of Wales (Katharine of Aragon) beginning during a battle to take Grenada when she was just 5 years old; yet she knows she is betrothed to Prince Arthur (the son of Henry Tudor and elder brother to Henry VIII). She is sent away to England to be married when she is just 15 years old, but fully capable of holding her own in an argument against the King of England. She looks forward to ruling England with Arthur as she is sure that the death of his father will come soon (for being old and bad tempered) and keeping England in alliance with Spain while her mother is ruling as Queen of Spain. King Henry is satisfied with the marriage, because the alliance meant that Spain would protect England from France.
Catalina was brought up from the age of 5 when her parents Queen Isabel of Castille and King Ferdinand of Aragon won Grenada and the Alhambra Palace from the Moors (African muslims) which becomes home to the family. Throughout the novel we hear how Catalina misses the Alhambra palace and the customs they adopted the moors, like food and the clothing. England, in comparison, has bizarre customs and most prominently in Catalinas mind when she first moves there, is the complete lack of wash rooms.
Catalina has to find a way to cope after the sudden death of her husband from the Sweat at just 15. She is devastated and in despair as they had fallen in love, which was unusual in arranged marriages. They had also planned their life, their children and what they were going to do/make happen when Arthur became King and she becomes Queen. She makes him a deathbed promise that she will become Queen and make their Kingdom. There's only one way to do that, and she sets about it with Arthur in mind for always.
This is the 3rd of Philippa Gregory's books that I have brought. I chose this one after seeing it in Tesco's priced at £3.50 and thought it was a bargain after how much I enjoyed her other books.
A lot happens in the first few chapters and I thought it was quite difficult to get my head round, because I'm not exactly knowledgable about history and the like, although I do find it fascinating. As soon as I had given it a bit of thought about how it all fitted together it wasn't really a problem because it was all well explained.
This book is jam packed full of description, and it's easy to picture the beauty of the Alhambra Palace, the glare of the Spanish sun, the taste of the fruit and vegetables which are so abundant in Catalinas life before she moves to England. Similarly, the description of England from her perspective when she is suddenly uprooted, it's a culture shock to her regardless of knowing for as long as she could remember that she was betrothed to Prince Arthur of England.
Not many historical fiction novels portray much of Katherine of Aragon, apart from when Henry VIII cast her aside for Anne of Cleves. This is the first I have come across that speculates on her childhood and for that reason it really grabbed my attention and held it to the end.
I really took a liking to Catalina/Katherine in this book, because she is determined to achieve what she was born for. Also, the reader sees the side of her which is yearning for her mother to be more motherly when Catalina is desperately missing her home.
Also, this is the first historical novel that I have read which portrays Henry as the young man that captures the eye of plenty of girls, rather than the ruthless beheadings/cruelty/ everything else that was mentionned in history at school. You can really see why Catalina begins to see him as something other than the younger brother of the love of her life.
Other characters are glossed over a bit, and I found myself wondering about Henry Tudor and wanting to know a bit more about him than is let on in the novel. Although, I took an instant dislike to his mother who ruled her son, grandsons and tried to rule Catalina, before she knew of her stubborn side.
This book is definately worth a read, especially for those who don't know much about history and the events that unfold throughout the story because everything is explained well and easy to imagine.
This book is priced at £3.99 on amazon, or is currently available in Tesco for £3.50 or 2 for £5.
I love historical novels - that is, stories based on fact, with things added to fill in the gaps in history that people can't be sure of. One of my favourite authors of this genre is Phillippa Gregory - I've read all of her books, and reviewed a fair few already. The Constant Princess is one I only read recently, having used Dooyoo miles to buy it as a present for myself.
Catalina of Aragon has always known what fate destiny had in store for her- betrothed during infancy to Arthur, the oldest son of Henry VII, a king who won his throne through battles and violence, she always knew that one day she would be the Queen of England.
Growing up in the battlefields around Granada, as her parents, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand waged war against the moors, and then later, in the glorious garden palace of the Alhambra, she led a privileged life - a life in which the will of god was an absolute certainty.
At sixteen, the time came for the betrothal to end and the marriage to begin. Leaving her beloved home Catalina travels to England - and is shocked by the welcome she receives from the King, Henry VII. Her illusions are also shattered when Arthur proves himself, not a chivalrous knight, but an uncouth and unloving husband. However, over time the relationship deepens to love- a love that is soon cut short on Arthurs untimely death.
But Catalinas destiny is still set in stone, especially when she makes a deathbed promise to her beloved husband, a promise that could see her become her destiny - Katherine of Aragon, Queen of England. However, there are many obstacles along her path, Henry VII chief amongst them, and she must rely on a lie if she is to gain, and hold, the throne.
As with many of Gregorys books, this centres once again on the Tudor court, and particularly on the complicated and sometimes shocking goings on in royal circles. Readers of other works from Gregory may have some idea of her writing style - she writes very emotionally, and gives a great depth of understanding of the characters involved. In this book, she writes alternately in first person and in third person, in order to cover both what Catalina is thinking, and to also cover the political events of the era.
There is probably less known about Catalina/Catherine of Aragon than of Anne Boleyn - and Gregory does a good job of interesting us in her early childhood, educating us on her parents, her culture, and the early hero worship of her mother.
This book is slower paced than any of the others - I don't mean that it is boring in any way, just that it covers in great detail the events of her earlier life, rather than throwing us in at the moment when Catalina marries Henry VIII.
As with other books, theres also plenty to learn from this that I didn't know before - for instance, just what an excellent strategist Katherine of Aragon was, and of the work she did for this country. However, some of it is, of course, guesswork - such as the paragraphs containing Katherines thoughts, and indeed the deathbed promise, the central theme of this book, itself.
However, the story is entirely plausible and however accurate Gregorys interpretation of the gaps in historical record, it's also highly educational and a fun read!
As always, she makes history come alive, and I highly recommend reading this book, which is available for 5.59 on Amazon.co.uk
Splendid and sumptuous historical novel from this internationally bestselling author, telling of the early life of 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 fahter-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.