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Showing 1-10 of 345 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 600 reviews
on July 22, 2014
I thoroughly enjoyed this revisioning of the early years of Catalina of Spain who would later be known as Catherine of Aragon, the long-suffering first wife of King Henry VIII. An often silent and very religious presence in many fictive accounts, a woman who stood by Henry for over twenty-seven years before her marriage to him was ended in tumultuous circumstances, resulting in not just the rendering of her only living child to Henry, Mary, a bastard, but the over-turning of the Catholic faith in England, Catherine as a person remains an unknown quantity. She also tends to hover in the margins when it comes to Henry’s reign and his other wives and the fate that befell them, especially Anne Boleyn, the women who took Catherine’s throne and husband and whose daughter went on to become the “Virgin Queen”, Elizabeth 1st.
Well, Gregory sets about to change that, presenting readers with a delightful account of Catherine’s unconventional childhood, as the much-loved younger daughter of Isabelle and Philip of Spain. Possessed of bellicose parents whose ambitions were to conquer and claim lands and people, Catalina’s girlhood was spent in military encampments, always on the move until, finally, her parents settled. Though they tried to destroy the Moors and suborn them to their faith, they end up adopting many of the habits of those they try to oppress. Catalina carries an appreciation for the skills, hygiene, knowledge and artistry of the Moors and Islam her entire life.
Revelling in her privilege as a princess – the Infanta - Catalina is also raised to understand she is destined to be the Princess of Wales and eventually Queen of England and it is to Arthur, eldest son of Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of England that she is betrothed. But this is no love match for, like many young noble women, Catalina is but a pawn in a long political game.
For those of you who don’t know the history of Catherine and Arthur and Henry – please read no further. For those of you who do, the book remains true to events, but offers readers of the period something more.
Arthur tragically dies after only a brief few months of marriage, and Catherine eventually becomes the wife of his younger brother, Henry. What Gregory does, is present the relationship between Catherine and Arthur in an interesting light – very different to other accounts both historical and fictive (though, as I inferred above, in many ways this period of Catherine’s life (let alone the figure of Arthur) is barely addressed by other writers except as a footnote).
After Arthur dies, Catherine loses her position at court and, in many ways, her identity as well and in a ruthless way determines to have both restored. From this point on in the novel, it could have been subtitled: “I Wanna Marry Harry”, so single of purpose was the young Infanta.
The story of Catherine’s patience, of the way she deals with hostile forces at court (mainly Henry’s grandmother and later, father) and how she eventually triumphs is wonderfully done.
Segueing from third person to first person point of view, we get that omniscient narration of events as well as personal and sometimes heart-breaking accounts. There were points at which the first-person parts grew repetitive and a bit tedious, but more often they offered insights into the emotional and psychological energy and passion of this remarkable woman.
Henry is also presented in a different light - as the selfish, bombastic and indulged king historians have long known he was. Playing to his strengths and indulging his weaknesses (of which there are so many), pandering to her husband to get her own way, Catherine is presented as a strategist par excellence but one with a heart and a conflicted soul.
Capable, shrewd, loving and forgiving, one of the most affecting things about the novel is those of us familiar with her story know how it will end. Gregory does well to finish the book as she does and leave readers with a sense of satisfaction rather than desperation for the woman at its centre. You cannot help but love Catherine and loathe the forces that dealt her such a cruel blow and the people that ensured where and when it would land.
A fabulous read for lovers of history and a great story about a woman of substance.
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on May 15, 2015
BORING! It's a good thing I read Book 3 and Book 2 (in that order) before reading Book 1 because if I had read this book first I would never ever gotten to any of the other books. It was complete torture reading this book. To think the writer then wrote sequels that were way way more interesting! I am now reading Book 4, I can only hope it's better than Book 1 (I don't think it can be much worse but who knows). Part of the problem is that there's hardly any interaction. There's an ENDLESS amount of time spent of the central character thinking to herself (whole sections wasted on her repeating the same thoughts over and over and over). This is a work of fiction, the writer could have come up with a lot of more interesting options. And the endless mention of Arthur siiiigh okay, we got it, she adored him and was just doing what he made her promise, why spend sooooo much time going over that.
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on July 18, 2017
What I LOVE about this depiction of Katherine (or Catalina) of Aragon is that it's a 100% different take on her as a person, and quite frankly I like it a lot more and almost feel like it's more realistic.

Catalina is the daughter of the first monarchs of Spain and one of the greatest Queens of Europe, Isabella of Castile, and I've always had a hard time accepting that Catalina was this simple pious pawn of a Queen married to Henry VIII. She was raised in battle and saw her parents come to power by taking a citadel that hadn't been taken in 700yrs, and then saw them further grow their empire...so she had to be more than that, and there has to be more to her than that...and I think Philippa Gregory has captured that side of her without stretching too far. Catalina is still a Princess (and a woman) in 15th century Catholic Europe with limited power, but Philippa shows us how Catalina has influence over a nation, and over history, despite that.

This is the Katherine of Aragon that I want to believe existed. She had strength beyond her piety, she had passion beyond motherly love, and she was an ambitious, intelligent, and strong Queen Regant, not a simple obedient Queen Consort. Philippa shows us that Catalina was a player in her own right- not just a pawn....and I love it!!

Next to The Lady of the Rivers, this so far is my 2nd favorite book in this series.
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on October 12, 2016
I ordered a used copy, and it turned out to be an "Advance Uncorrected Reader's Proof" so maybe the final book is easier to read. This one goes back and forth between something happening, and Catalina musing it over.
It's more of a 2 1/2 stars, because it's not horrible, but it's just not up to the level I expect from her books. I'd just finished The Taming of the Queen, and it was SO much better, that this book disappointed me. It is signed by the author.
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on June 3, 2017
I love historical fiction. This was an amazing book. It was an emotional roller coaster but Catherine held strong where I think others would've gave up, hence the constant princess. I felt that there was a lot of great wisdom written in these pages, whether fact or fiction it definitely made you think and ponder over things happening in our times now and maybe even personally in our own lives. I listened to this on audio, I would've highlighted some points if I hadn't been driving, but this is a book I could reread. Phillipa Gregory has done it again.
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on March 31, 2017
Part of Gregory's Tudor series, all told from the viewpoint of the women involved. This is not the point of view that we usually see in history. She takes a particular view of some events which may be disputed in most histories, but that view holds up in her narrative. Because this is history, characters from one book interact in other books or influence other books. She is consistent and this is a fascinating look at things we thought we knew but may not really know.
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on August 30, 2016
Do not confuse this book with history..it is fiction. And while I enjoyed learning more about Katherine and her youth with her famous parents, spending half of the book on her four month marriage to Arthur, based on opinion and speculation, was a waste of time. Does it make a romantic story? Yes. Did I think I was reading a romance novel? No.
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on August 26, 2012
My feelings on this story are so completely torn. I love Philippa Gregory and I love almost everything I have read. Also, let me say I go into everyone of her works knowing that it is historical fiction...emphasis on the word fiction. I was excited about this considering there is not a large body of work on this era of Catherine's life.

Now, lets get down to brass tacks shall we?

Concerns/Issues: (My list is pretty much identitical to most of the other reviewers)

1) The consensus of most historians seems to be that the marriage between Catherine and Arthur was not consummated.

2) Henry VII was one of the few Kings throughout history who was not know for infidelity and there are many historians who believe he really loved his wife (of course there are many who just believed he was just not an amorous man, consider how pious his mother was that is actually quite believable). The only reference to him having an illegitimate offspring was before his marriage. The idea that he would have lusted after Catherine is a but much.

3) Catherine's forward thinking and use of Moorish doctors seems a bit of stretch. Her parents were such vigilant Christian warriors and were never tolerant people.

Now, with all of that said, I really enjoyed this book. After an initial heistancy I let go of all the documented history that I am aware of and really allowed myself to fall in love with Catherine and Arthur. It was a truly beautiful love story.
Overall I enjoyed this story. I would recommend it to others.
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on June 1, 2017
I have to admit Philippa Gregory isn't my favorite medieval historical fiction author but I enjoy reading her work. This book started out great, with wonderful details about Katherine of Aragon's childhood, but then it felt like a balloon was deflating. Ms. Gregory skipped over 7 years between marriages, then provided only bits and pieces from the early years with Henry VIII. I guess I should have expected that with the title of The Constant Princess & not Queen; still, I was disappointed & feeling dissatisfied at the end.
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on August 26, 2017
The book was not one of my favorites, but only because although I loved reading about Katherine's relationship with Arthur and her early years with Henry, I would have loved to get her inside thoughts of when Anne Boylen entered the arena. The book just skips ahead to when she is called to court to testify on her own behalf. Still a good book to read to follow the history.
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