The Constant Princess - Philippa Gregory
The story of Katherine of Aragon
Katherine is the most neglected of Henry's wives in historical books.I think this is because she was staunchly Roman Catholic and England became mostly Protestant after these times and so she has been pushed aside. Philippa Gregory puts this right by painting an in depth picture of this Constant Princess. Throughout the book between the narrative Philippa Gregory allows Katherine of Aragon her own voice, telling her own feelings at each turn of events in her life. This is a wonderful book tracing the life of a great Queen, greatly wronged.
Forged in a crucible
Katherine, or Catalina as she is known for the first chapters, was born and lived on the battle field. Her mother Isabella and father Ferdinand of Spain live their life in battle against the Moors. Isabella has a strong belief that God's will, will be done and that she knows this will. She is the inspiration for her troops.
Ever since she was three Katherine of Aragon has been betrothed to Arthur Prince of Wales. She is addressed as Princess of Wales and knows that she will one day be Queen of England. This is her destiny. Philippa Gregory is a consummate story teller and uses her skills to the best advantage in this charming book.
From the Alhambra palace to England
From the age of six till fifteen Katherine lived in the beautiful Alhambra palace which had been created by the Moors with beautiful gardens with water features. This was the most peaceful time in her life. At fifteen she was sent off to England to marry Arthur Prince of Wales and never saw Spain or her parents again.
Philippa Gregory tells of Katherine's relationship with her first husband Arthur and has decided that their relationship got off to a rocky start but then blossomed into a loving sexual one. This is one of the crucial decisions as Henry uses her relationship with Arthur as an impediment to their marriage and the reason for an annulment. Katherine always maintained that the first marriage was not consummated. I find it hard to believe that such a devoutly brought up woman as Katherine could swear to something not true. Miss Gregory's argument is that Katherine believed she was the rightful Queen of England and all other matters were secondary. So we read of the happy times Arthur and Katherine had at Ludlow. Then Arthur dies of a sudden fever and once more Katherine's life is turned upside-down.
Did Katherine have a full marriage with Arthur?
It took seven years before Katherine of Aragon came out of oblivion to marry Harry (Henry VIII). Previously the the king, his father having been widowed had courted Katherine, but her parents had stood out against that, only the heir would do.
This book gives us a very rounded portrait of Katherine in all her struggles, joys and sorrows. Certainly a courageous woman and a wronged woman. I was brought up by parents who were highly suspicious of the Roman Catholic church and so as a child I was not overly sympathetic to Katherine of Aragon. This book has given me much more sympathy for this woman in all that she endured.