My Review of The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory
Finished on: 11th July 2013
Rating: 4 stars
Reading Challenge Book Number: 44
It’s the story that nearly everyone in the country knows, the divorce of Henry VIII and his first wife Katherine of Aragon in the 16th century, on the grounds that she was his brother’s wife. But The Constant Princess goes further back, to when 15 year old Katherine, known then as Catalina, the Infanta of Spain is sent to England to marry Henry’s brother Arthur. As he lays dying, he urges Catalina to make a solemn deathbed promise to him, that she will lie about them having consummated their marriage so she can marry Henry and be the Queen she was destined to be without Arthur at her side.
I think this adds a really intriguing dimension to such a well-known story, especially as it has been remarked upon so much as to how honest a woman Katherine was and therefore must have been telling the truth. The Constant Princess shows she’s not that saintly but is not a straight up liar or perjurer, she is simply a confused girl keeping a promise to a man she loved to fulfil the destiny she has been told she has since being a small child. All the way through The Constant Princess, I do feel sorry for Katherine, but I also admire her strength and constancy as well as the moments of vulnerability. She is a master of her gestures and actions which makes her a force to be reckoned with and what nobles would take to be a true royal. She has been abandoned by all those close to her and therefore can trust no one but herself, which in some ways hardens her heart and makes her reluctant to anyone attempting to get close to her.
Is it historically accurate? Probably not. I’ve studied the Tudors in depth and there is not really any compelling evidence to show either way whether the marriage was consummated or not. However, it is an intriguing concept and I think that this is something that historical fiction does well. But do not read this without taking a pinch of salt to the most controversial points, there are many things we cannot really find out about a period so far in the past.