If you like ruins – “The Constant Princess” by Phillippa Gregory

April 29, 2012 at 10:39 am 4 comments

The Constant Princess” by Phillippa Gregory, Published in 2005 

During my first trip to Scotland my husband and I were staying in a Bed and Breakfast in Cullen.  It was

Findlater Castle, ancestral seat of the Earls ...

Findlater Castle, ancestral seat of the Earls of Findlater. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

owned by an elderly woman who offered some humorous traveling insight.  Sitting at breakfast the first morning I told her that we were planning to go see the ruins of Findlater Castle right outside of town.  When we asked her if it was worth seeing she responded  in her best surly tone “I guess so, I mean if you like ruins.” And so with that, liking ruins and all, we trekked out to Findlater Castle.

This book kept reminding me of that statement.  This book is about Catherine of Aragon, Henry the VIII’s first wife, and you will like it if you like historical fiction about the Tudors.  If you don’t then you really will just be reading a bunch of rubbish and should probably move onto to something else.  I actually do like books about the Tudors so I enjoyed it.

This is my first Phillipa Gregory book but, of course, fans of British historical fiction know who she is – the writer of “The Other Boleyn Girl” fame.  Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain,in an effort to unite both the two countries was sent to England at the age of fifteen to marry Henry the VII’s heir Arthur.  If you remember Catherine’s story at all, you will probably remember that Arthur died soon after the marriage. Because she claimed to still be a virgin Catherine was then married to Henry the VIII.  Of course here is where Gregory adds her poetic license.  She claims that Catherine and Arthur were madly in love and that Catherine was no virgin *gasp*.  But instead, when Arthur was on his deathbed, he made Catherine promise that she would somehow still be Queen of England and have the next heir to the throne.

And so Catherine remains in England after Arthur’s death intent on marrying Henry the VIII when he turns 15 years old.  Though it takes longer than planned and much scheming is involved, Catherine does eventually marry Henry. And then enter Anne Boleyn head still intact.

There were a few interesting things that I learned from this book. Though Catherine is always depicted in books and movies as the old lady that Henry had to marry, she was only 6 years his senior.  I also learned quite a bit about what was going on in Spain during this time in history – so points for giving me a bit of an education, Ms. Gregory.

The narration switches from third person narration to first person (Catherine’s voice) which at first I found jarring but after a while I did get used to it. I don’t plan on rushing out and purchasing another Gregory book anytime soon but, hey, I like the Tudors and of course ruins so who knows what will happen.

Young Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry...

Young Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII of England, by Michel Sittow. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. This is a contemporary painting of the princess around the time she came to England. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Entry filed under: April 2012 reads. Tags: , , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Literary Tiger  |  April 29, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Ruins are fun. 🙂 I’ve read some of Gregory’s novels. The two I like the most are The Other Boleyn Girl and Queens Fool.

    • 2. Emily C  |  April 29, 2012 at 7:28 pm

      I need to check out her other books, thank you for the suggestions.

  • 3. Claire 'Word by Word'  |  April 29, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    I enjoy reading about these women and the times they lived in more than the TV series, I started watching ‘The Tudors’ and was so put off the character of Henry I stopped, I really enjoyed ‘The Other Boylen’ and prefer the way she portrays Henry and the girls for sure.

    I’ve just started ‘The Maid and the Queen’ – A Secret History of Joan of Arc (non-fiction) which is facinating, it’s hard to keep up with all the Kings and matchmaking of their betrothed in order to maintain peace, amazing how a prospective wife was bartered as a way to keep peace between nations.

    I always felt sorry for Catherine of Aragon, usurped by the ambitious and cunning Anne, all for nothing.

    • 4. Emily C  |  April 29, 2012 at 7:27 pm

      The Maid and the Queen sounds interesting. I may need to check it out.
      I agree – Catherine had it rough but honestly what a dark history for all women. It is amazing.


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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.


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