The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

Betrothed at the age of three to the crown Prince of England, Arthur Tudor to strengthen the ties between emerging power England and the super power of Europe -Spain, Catalina of Spain (Queen Katherine of England in the future) was always destined to be Queen. With powerful parents in King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabelle of Castille, Catalina grew up in the midst of a holy war to establish Christianity as the supreme religion of the world and drive away the so called heretic religion of Islam (as it was known in the early 15th century) from the face of the earth. Her journey from a young girl from Spain to the most powerful and beloved Queen that England ever had, is riddled with hardships, intrigue, love and the biggest lie of them all.

At the age of 16 after a grand marriage to Arthur and exploring her new life with her young and brave husband destined to be the next King, Catalina finds herself widowed in a new country and clueless as to what her future maybe. The foundation of her dreams and future which was built upon her destiny to become the Queen of England is shattered as she is caught in a political war between her parents the most powerful and feared monarchs of Europe and her equally cunning and savvy father in law king Henry of England. She soon discovers that she is nothing more that a pawn in the struggle for power and she cannot trust her own parents to rescue her from a savage land to fulfill her destiny to be Queen. Refusing to be controlled like a puppet and having her dreams and future destroyed by those who have no personal interest in and based on her promise to her beloved husband Arthur on his deathbed, she tells the biggest lie of them all and takes control of her own destiny – the lie about the truth of her marriage with Prince Arthur.

After a great struggle she finds herself engaged to Arthur’s younger brother Harry (a.k.a Henry the VIII) the next future King. She faces the Kings formidable grandmother and puts all those who shamed her in her place and takes her place as the Queen of England. However this journey is not smooth sailing as she strives to be a good queen along side a king who is just a young boy who was not really destined to be the king, cannot stand to have anything go wrong and is vain and selfish to his needs and desires. Slowly but surely she starts running the country with her knowledge acquired over her lifetime with great parents and her husband comes to depend on her to guide him in making England a powerful country!She comes into her own right when she commands the English army to their greatest victory of all times – against the Scots!

The book very beautifully explores her life from a being a young innocent girl transforming to a regal Queen. The emotional turmoil in her mind and her faith in God is shaken a lot but she never gives up. She also learns that her parents were wrong about just driving people and nations that follow Islam and other religions to establish Christianity as the ultimate faith and begins to understand that success lies in driving away the evil and bad that lies in the world and not a particular religion. Her travails as her women as her honor is questioned and put to the ultimate test when her husband tries to nullify their marriage citing Kathrines inability to have sons, to take on a younger queen after more than 3 decades of marriage is very beautifully etched out.

The book started out slowly and I was wondering if it would be as good as the racy “The Other Boleyn Girl”. But I was not disappointed, the book gradually picked up pace and kept me glued after a certain point to know what comes next. The beauty of 15th century Spain and savage England is beautifully described. The contrasts between the old English court commanded by her father-in-law to the young court captained by her young husband is also brought out well. The political pulse of the time, the ambitions of the Kings and their willingness to sacrifice anything or anyone to fulfill their own agenda is quite shocking, not to mention how women were given no place in those times where the Queen job was to give birth to the next male heir without which she means nothing. It is pretty ironic that in spite of Harry’s obsession for a son, England finally ended up being ruled by women starting from his daughters with his Queen Katherine. Queen Mary and till today is still being ruled by an English Queen! In fact some of its golden years was when it was ruled by Queen Elizabeth again one of Harry’s daughters and step sister to Queen Mary, who was cast aside by the great king when she was young. Does that tell you something? Well I think women have powers that even they are not aware of and if only we could channel these powers in a good way rather than idling in gossip or frivolous activities we would make grand strides in every way!

If you enjoy historical fiction, love hearing about medieval England and Tudor history, this book is definitely a must read.


One comment

  1. Hey Smita – Do give historical fiction a chance! Some books are pretty racy like "The Other Boleyn Girl" or any of Dan Browns books like Da Vinci Code or Angels and Demons. You should not be disappointed with those 🙂

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