Skip to main content

The Constant Princess


The Constant Princess

When I heard that Philippa Gregory's new novel focuses on the life of Katherine of Aragon from the Tudor period of England, I knew I had to have it. I've read and loved THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL, THE VIRGIN'S LOVER and THE QUEEN'S FOOL, all by this author. They whisked me from modern day back to a period of time and a place that I can't get enough of. Needless to say, this was an auto-buy for me.

While it wasn't exactly what I expected, Philippa Gregory never disappoints. The painstaking historical research she performs for each work of fiction is apparent on every page. It's hard to believe that she wasn't there as a close confidante of the people about whom she writes. It is as if she assumes their identity while penning the pages of these books.

THE CONSTANT PRINCESS begins with Katherine of Aragon's childhood in Spain, something I don't recall ever reading about, where she was known as the Princess Catalina. We become acquainted with her extraordinary mother, Queen Isabella of Spain, and even in his absence, we are given a glimpse of her father, King Ferdinand. This book takes pains to show us what made Katherine into the strong, Catholic queen she was to become.

When Katherine first travels to England before her sixteenth birthday, she is to be wed to Prince Arthur, Henry VIII's older brother, future heir to the throne of England. What starts out as an uneasy match soon turns into true love, but then true love turns into sorrow when Arthur dies early in the marriage.

While Katherine may be without her true love, she is left with a mission and a promise to her late spouse. The mission: to become Queen of England. Katherine does what she has to do in wedding the little brother of the man she loved, Henry VIII, never dreaming what course her life is to take.

The main premise of the story is no surprise to anyone interested in the Tudor time period; the story's bare bones facts do not change after 500 years. The thing that does change with this book is the perspective and inside view into a very plausible interpretation of the events of the time.

The picture Ms. Gregory paints of Henry VIII as a spoiled and cosseted youth seems extremely likely. What else would contribute to a man selfish enough to put aside wife after wife in order to reach his one true goal of an heir to the throne? What kind of man could be callous enough to end the lives of two women and divorce two others simply because he grew tired of them or because they did not produce the much-needed heir, not to mention breaking with the Catholic Church in order to form the Church of England when things didn't go his way? The other two wives were lucky in that one died before him without a trip to the executioner's block and the final, Katherine Parr, managed to outlive him. An admirable feat if ever there was one.

While this was a riveting book revealing the resolve of Katherine of Aragon from an early age, I was sorely disappointed that the novel ended at the point where Henry VIII was to divorce his queen. I would have loved to have read more by Philippa Gregory of Queen Katherine's life after the divorce and the stoic determination that was shown to be a part of her even after she had been put aside by the King of England. I can only hope for a sequel!

At any rate, this is a beautifully written book that will transport, entertain and amuse anyone with an interest in history and most certainly those of us who can't get enough of the Tudor time period.

Reviewed by Amie Taylor on December 28, 2010

The Constant Princess
by Philippa Gregory

  • Publication Date: December 6, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 393 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • ISBN-10: 074327248X
  • ISBN-13: 9780743272483