The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

The Constant Princess tells the story of Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII.  Iconstant princess was familiar with the story of their marriage, but the novel included much that I did not know about Catherine.  She was the daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, the rulers who financed Columbus’ voyages.  Isabella, dressed in armor and accompanied by her children, went with the Spanish troops as they fought against the Moors.  Little Catherine had to learn to be brave in the face of danger!

She needed her courage when, at the age of fifteen, she came to England for her arranged marriage to Arthur, heir to the throne.  The two young teenagers, according to Gregory’s portrayal, were not happy together at first, but they learned to love each other, and Arthur’s death a few months after the marriage was a tragedy for Catherine.  She remained in England as a lonely widow for seven years.  When Arthur’s younger brother, Henry, who had been a ten-year-old boy when Catherine and Arthur were married, came of age, he married Catherine and she became Queen of England.

I had never heard that Catherine served as Spanish ambassador to England or that she was, at the time of her marriage, much better prepared to rule a country than Henry was.  Nor had I known that she served as regent while Henry and the English army were fighting in France.  During this time, the Scots invaded England, and her knowledge of military strategy, her ability to inspire the troops, and her care to provide the English army with adequate supplies played an important role in the defeat of the Scots.

Gregory is a historian with a Ph.D. from Edinburgh University.  Her bestselling novels include The Other Boleyn Girl, whose film version was very popular, and The White Queen, the basis for a TV miniseries of the same name.

(Helen Snow, retired from Information Services)

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