Loaned to me by Janette, The Constant Princess was a good dose of historical fiction, and one that offered me new insights on the life and role of Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife. Even having studied “The Tudors” at several stages of my education, I’d never really approached late 15th and 16th century English history from any other perspective than the core members of three generations of the Tudor dynasty: Henrys VII and VIII, Edward, Mary and Elizabeth.
Philippa Gregory starts with Katherine’s childhood, growing up in Spain, one of the daughters of Isabella of Castille and Ferdinand of Aragon. As Los Reyes Católicos, this powerful couple conquered the Muslim kingdom of Granada and brought to an end Muslim rule in Iberia after centuries of the peninsula forming the northern boundary of the Arab empire.
With Spain becoming the most powerful country in Europe, Katherine was always destined for a dynastic marriage and at an early age was betrothed to Henry VII’s elder son, Arthur – named in honour of the mythical King Arthur of Camelot and in anticipation of a similarly golden age under the Tudor kings.
With such an upbringing it’s not surprising that Katherine struggled in to adapt to the cold and less catholic climate of England. However, as the story of The Constant Princess unfolds we are shown how she matures, becoming adept at handing both politics and love with enduring pragmatism whilst never forgetting her duty to her faith and family.
Amazon.co.uk link: The Constant Princess – Philippa Gregory