I seem to be in a bit of a Tudor-ish mood lately...
"I am Catalina,
Princess of Spain, daughter of the two greatest monarchs the world has
ever known...and I will be Queen of England."
bestselling author Philippa Gregory introduces one of her most
unforgettable heroines: Katherine of Aragon. Daughter of Queen Isabella
and King Ferdinand of Spain, Katherine has been fated her whole life to
marry Prince Arthur of England. When they meet and are married, the
match becomes as passionate as it is politically expedient. The young
lovers revel in each other's company and plan the England they will make
together. But tragically, aged only fifteen, Arthur falls ill and
extracts from his sixteen-year-old bride a deathbed promise to marry his
brother, Henry; become Queen; and fulfill their dreams and her destiny.
tell me nothing but lies here and they think they can break my spirit. I
believe what I choose and say nothing. I am not as simple as I seem."
and alone in the avaricious world of the Tudor court, Katherine has to
sidestep her father-in-law's desire for her and convince him, and an
incredulous Europe, that her marriage to Arthur was never consummated,
that there is no obstacle to marriage with Henry. For seven years, she
endures the treachery of spies, the humiliation of poverty, and intense
loneliness and despair while she waits for the inevitable moment when
she will step into the role she has prepared for all her life. Then,
like her warrior mother, Katherine must take to the battlefield and save
England when its old enemies the Scots come over the border and there
is no one to stand against them but the new Queen.
was my dying husband's hope, my mother's wish, and God's will that I
should be Queen of England; and for them and for the country, I will be
Queen of England until I die."
Raised on the
battlefield and in the most beautiful Moorish palace in the world, sent
to England alone at the age of sixteen to take her place in a court
where she couldn't speak the language, and abandoned and forced to
endure poverty after the death of her husband, Katherine remained a
woman of indomitable spirit, unwavering faith, and extraordinary
strength. Philippa Gregory brings to life one of history's most
inspiring women and creates one of the most compelling characters in
Whew, what a summary! Is there even any room for my review in all of that?
MY RATING: 4 STARS
knowledge of Katherine of Aragon is limited to five facts: 1) she was
the daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand, king and queen of Spain, 2) she
was first married to Arthur Tudor, Henry VIII's older brother, 3) she
was Henry's first wife, 4) she was a devout Catholic, 5) she was
Princess Mary's mother. For all I know, her life story is as Philippa
Gregory wrote it, but after the misinformation of The Other Boleyn Girl, I highly doubt it.
it bears repeating that Ms. Gregory is a good storyteller, in the sense
that she made me finish reading what might as well be a novelized soap
opera. My liking for Katherine carried over from TOBG and grew as she
was portrayed with greater detail. She transformed from an obedient
daughter to an independent, if troubled widow, and from there into a
victorious queen. I grew so attached to the love story with Arthur that
it fairly broke my heart when it ended, and my initial ambivalence
towards Henry was cemented once again into dislike. Arrogant, selfish,
demanding, and with the power to have you put to death if you annoyed
But back to Katherine, or Catalina, as she's called
here. Her initial motive was to fulfill her destiny to please her
parents, and that made for a dull start (one of the books problems, but I
liked it as a whole, anyway). Her love and passion for Arthur, once it
took off, got me caught up in no time, hopeless romantic that I am. It
was her vow to become Queen of England no matter what that set things
rolling. Was it really her determination to keep her promise that drove
her, or did the promise just give her an excuse for her ambition? Did
her pledge to Arthur really inspire her to cast him off and publicly
denounce him, or was she serving her own purposes? And even after
denying they were ever truly husband and wife, she still loved him heart
and soul, and remained constant to him even as she was married to
Henry. See? See what I did there?
No, really, "constant" could
refer to many things about Catalina. Constant determination, patience,
perseverance, deception, pride, and constant devotion to her dead
husband and lover. The next time I read TOBG, my view of Queen Katherine
will have changed quite a bit...
About the shifts from third to
first person--I didn't mind in the slightest. The reader has the
omnipresence to see what's going on everywhere else in the story, and
the intimate, personal account of the heroine herself. I'm partial to
alternating POV, myself, so I was already slanted in Ms. Gregory's favor
on that part. I would have liked to split the time mostly between
Catalina's marriages without the long portion focusing on her widowhood,
as that's when things lost a lot of steam, but other than that, I
enjoyed this more than TOBG. *gasp* I really did.
with Katherine ready to defend her marriage to Henry with
her--paraphrasing here--having the courage to lie again knowing he would
never be brave enough to tell the truth, and fighting for her
daughter's rights as a legitimate princess, her queenship, and (truly,
this time) the promise she made Arthur...brava. Highest point of the
whole book, seeing she was all but defeated and yet anything but. My
favorite scene by far, and that, if nothing else, makes this one worth
In closing: historical inaccuracies likely, reminiscent of
daytime TV, less opulent than TOBG but with more...spirit, shall I say?
This one has less grandeur, but more of something else that I can't
quite put my finger on. Either way, I liked it, plain and simple, flaws
Your humble book nerd,