The Constant Princess
The Constant Princess is a historical fiction novel by Philippa Gregory, published in 2005. The novel depicts a highly fictionalized version of the life of Catherine of Aragon and her rise to power in England.
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|ISBN||0-7432-7248-X (hardcover edition)|
|Followed by||The Other Boleyn Girl|
Catalina of Aragon's initially loveless arranged marriage to the crown prince Arthur secretly develops into an intimate relationship where they share their plans to rule England together once Arthur is king. But Arthur succumbs to the sweating sickness three months into their marriage and, in his deathbed, convinces Catalina to deny consummating their marriage so she can be considered a virgin and still eligible to marry his younger brother Harry and carry out their plans. She begins negotiations with King Henry VII to marry Harry, but Henry secretly lusts for her and refuses. After Queen Elizabeth dies, Henry offers his own hand in marriage and Catalina accepts. However, she immediately rescinds this when she realizes her only role as queen is to bear Henry's children (whom Henry will not favor over Harry in the line of succession), while his mother (Margaret Beaufort) takes over the queen's role in all but name. She pressures Henry to betroth her to Harry, which he eventually allows.
Years after her betrothal, Catalina and her retinue live in poverty as Henry refuses to sponsor her until her parents fulfill her dowry while her parents believe the English crown should pay for Arthur's widow. After her mother's death, Catalina hears rumors that Henry set aside her betrothal years ago and is arranging a marriage proposal between his children and the children of Catalina's sister. Catalina's father commands the Spanish ambassador to return the dowry he had sent, but makes no mention of saving Catalina. Catalina gets sick with worry, but is saved when Henry dies of sickness and Harry marries her despite his father's warnings. Catalina is restored to a position of wealth and respect and manipulates Harry to remove Margaret's power in court. Margaret's eventual death gives way for Catalina to truly rule alongside Harry, and they are crowned King Henry and Queen Katherine.
Catalina's first pregnancy isolates her for months until she accepts the child was miscarried. Upon her return, she eventually realizes that the court gossip of a scandal is actually a cover-up for Harry and his new mistress. Harry's mistress, a verified virgin, leads Harry to question Catalina's virginity as she acted differently on their marriage bed, but Catalina lies and they reconcile. Their second child, Henry, is made Duke of Cornwall, but his death two months later strains their marriage. Catalina begins to see Harry as childish and demanding, and manipulates him to make her Spanish Ambassador and unites him with her father to invade France together. During his absence, the Scots declare war on England and Catalina successfully leads the English army to victory when the Scots attempt to invade England. She sends Harry a cryptic message hinting at another pregnancy.
Years pass, and Catalina admits to herself that her actions are for her own interests as much as Arthur's. Out of all of Catalina's children, only Princess Mary survived, leaving the fate of England unstable. Harry had more mistresses, all of whom she tolerated quietly as Harry eventually grew bored of them all and were never a threat to her. But his latest mistress, Anne Boleyn, is the most ambitious and is trying to take her spot as queen. Catalina vows to keep her promise to Arthur and proudly decides to fight for her right as queen. At this point, the novel ends, with Katherine entering the court hearing.
In reviewing the book, Publishers Weekly summarized the book as: "Gregory's skill for creating suspense pulls the reader along despite the historical novel's foregone conclusion." The Historical Novel Society review wrote: "The facts are well known, but the way that Gregory tells the story is a wonder."
In a 2005 book review in Kirkus Reviews noted the history and "how Gregory fills in the gaps is pure romantic fiction." The review summarized; "Gregory makes the broad sweep of history vibrant and intimate—and hinges it all on a bit of romance."
- The Constant Princess. Publisher's Weekly review
- The Constant Princess. Historical Novel Society review
- "The Constant Princess". Kirkus Reviews. 6 December 2005.