Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Constant Princess

I read this book once before but didn't have anything else on hand, and I again enjoyed another book by Philippa Gregory.  This book focuses in on King Henry VIII's first wife, Catalina of Spain.  She was first married to Arthur, his elder brother.  When he passed away she was eventually married to Harry, or Henry.  She had been raised with the knowledge her entire life that she would be Queen of England, and so she was.  I have read about her mother Isabella of Castille, and it was a pleasure to read about Katherine again.  She was a strong, capable and determined woman.  She was a young widow without her parents, far away from her home, left at the mercy of the King for many years.  With no income and half her dowry still unpaid, neither her father or the King seemed to want her.  She was eventually married to Henry because it was advantageous to all for the alliance and it was told she had never consummated the marriage with Arthur because he was young and weak. 

Philippa Gregory bases this book on that key point- and if it was true or not.  It seems to have been believed widely, but what if it wasn't true?  Why would she lie?  So the novel takes shape and we try to figure that out.  Was it a deathbed promise from Arthur that she marry his brother?  Was it her ambition and her family's, and that she didn't want to return to Spain?  Whether it was true or not, she endured much hardship and was married to King Henry after his father's death after several years of waiting, and helped to plan a war to defeat the Scots.  I liked that the book focused mainly on her early love with Arthur, her trials in trying to outwit and outlast the King and his mother, and her own father.  Katherine at last came to be Queen of England, but her path was not to be easy.  I admired her courage, strength, fortitude and faith.  The Tudor period is fascinating because of the ambitious and extraordinary people that lived in that time.  People seem to forget Queen Katherine, his first wife of over 20 years, and instead focus on Anne Boleyn and her daughter Queen Elizabeth.  It was an easy and fun read.  I especially loved the beginning when she is happy and in love with Arthur, and they dream of making their very own Camelot in England.  I highly recommend this book if you want to start getting into the Tudor period; start off with his first wife.

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