Sunday, July 24, 2011

Review: 'The Constant Princess' by Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory takes on Cathrine of Aragon in her historical fiction The Constant Princess.  Catalina was born the youngest daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain.  At a young age, she was betrothed to Prince Arthur of England, the son of King Henry VII.  Because of this, she felt destined to be Queen of England when she grew up. 
For me, the important word to remember here is "fiction."  History says that Catalina married Arthur but he died before the marriage was ever consummated  dubbing her the Virgin Widow.  Because of this, she was able to go on to marry Arthur's brother, Harry, who eventually became Henry VIII. 
Gregory's story turns history on it's head by turning the brief marriage between Catalina and Arthur into a great tragic love story, where Arthur forces his bride to swear an oath that she would lie and say they never had sex so that she could marry his brother and fulfill her destiny to be Queen.  Readers should be aware that no evidence of this romance ever existed and that everyone, including Catherine and Henry VIII himself swore in court that the King took her virginity on their wedding night. 
Historical inaccuracies asside, it was a pretty good book.  I found Catalina's childhood experiences, first on the battlefield and later living in the amazing Alhambra Palace, to be fascinating.  Her Moorish influence is also something I never thought of before.  To go from a palace with modern plumbing and frequent bathing to England where the people only bathed a couple of times a year must have been serious culture shock.  I love the conversations she has with a Moorish doctor about her fertility and pregnance issues. 
Overall, I give The Constant Princess...
Plot - 3 1/2 bookmarks
Character Development - 4 bookmarks
Love Story - 3 bookmarks
Historical Accuracy - 2 bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as how I pictured while reading) - Demi Lavato (Catalina), Logan Lerman (Henry VIII), Alexander Ludwig (Arthur), Jason Statham (Henry VII)

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