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on 1 January 2006
I'm a fan of Philippa Gregory's other novels about the Tudor court and I found this one was no disappointment to me. In fact I enjoyed it second only to 'The Other Boleyn Girl'. She has taken a most interesting and inspiring subject and breathed into it fresh life. Katherine of Aragon is once-again the formidable and brave woman, no longer overshadowed by Anne Boleyn. I enjoyed her relationship with Arthur, which was told very tenderly and you can see how Katherine grows and matures as she achieves her life's ambition, to be Queen of England.
I'm not disappointed by this novel at all and found it to be a little more involved and interesting, less inclined to melodrama, than The Queen's Fool, or The Virgin's Lover. Good Stuff!
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on 5 June 2006
As a fan of Philippa Gregory I was initially very disappointed with this book, and was tempted to stop reading. It definitely gets better after about a third, but some of the things which annoyed me remained. These included an excessively modern perspective (giving characters points of view and ideas they would never have held at the time) and switching between action and interior monologue, which did not really enhance the storytelling and could easily have been incorportated into the main body of the story. I at times found the writing more childish and simplistic than Philippa Greogry's earlier work, and this really detracted from my enjoyment. On the plus side, she has as usual done her research very well (though perhaps not AS well) and has crafted complex and interesting characters. The story does eventually becoming captivating and Gregory is able to portray Katherine of Aragon in a more sympathetic and complex light than the role of the silent victim she has been given by history.
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Following the recommendation of my wife and daughter, I read The Other Boleyn Girl a few years ago, and thought it a good story, in spite of not being a huge fan of historical fiction. I picked this up to take along on a recent trip to Granada - having vaguely remembered that Katherine of Aragon had something to do with the Alhambra - and was very glad I did. The novel opens with the famous scene in which Queen Isabella (Katherine's mother) exhorts her army (which is besieging Granada) to build a new camp after the old one has been destroyed by fire. The new camp - named Santa Fe - was built in stone, and was the location of the surrender of Boabadil (the last Moorish king of Granada) to Ferdinand and Isabella at the conclusion of the siege. You drive past it on the way from the airport to the city.

In the story, Katherine's memories of the Alhambra, her formidable mother and her wily father are like a seam of gold that runs through her internal monologues during her early life in England, and which helps her to maintain her dignity and sense of destiny in spite of feeling unloved, confused and frustrated. The book concentrates on this part of her life, and brings her marriage with Arthur to life (instead of it - as usual - being invoked as one of Henry VIII's excuses for divorcing her), alongside her intriguing relationship with Henry VII, and the maturing of her abilities as a monarch. There's also room for sobering reflections on the subservient role of women in education, religion, medicine and politics, and a thinly-veiled plea for understanding between faiths. The book ends just as the question of the divorce is being raised, but since this already a much-tilled field in fiction, I think it's right to stop there.
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on 31 July 2008
At the moment I am going through a Philippa Gregory phase. I simply can't get enough of her Tutor novels. 'The Constant Princess' is my fourth Gregory novel to read but while I enjoyed it I certainly don't think it was as good as her other novels.

The main problem with 'The Constant Princess' is that it lacked the consistency to be found in Gregory's other books. It was a painfully slow-starter. Even leaving aside the tedious first chapter, which describes a battle in Spain (Gregory's first chapter is always a tad contentious but at least we get a look into the way young Katharine was brought up) you easily have to read at least the first 150 pages before this story starts to take off. The first 150 pages are long and dull with far too much description than required and basically no where near enough story and aboveall dialogue. Instead we are forced to endure long accounts of Katharine of Argaon's first marriage to Arthur and how despite a rocky start they came to supposedly passionately love each other. What surprised me is that in her other books Gregory has a fantastic ability to write romance. I don't know what happened to this ability in this book. Instead of breath-taking love scenes and witty one-liners we are instead left with 'Tell me a story' where Catherine tells Arthur tales of her homeland in Spain. Interesting if you have an interest in Spanish culture at that time. Dull if you're after a bodice-ripping read that she usually delivers.

The good news is that this book does pick up it's pace after the first 150 pages (strangely after Arthur's death and the introduction of Henry into the picture) and we can then enjoy the more familiar setting of the Tutor Court but just as Gregory has almost redeemed herself she abruptly finishes the novel almost as if she got tired of writing. What annoyed me was that the birth of Mary was completely ignored in this novel: almost as if Gregory simply assumes we know she has a kid. Furthermore the Queen's later years and the problems she endured by Henry's desire for a divorce are not dealt with at all. Perhaps Gregory felt that her account of the Queen's suffering in 'The Other Boleyan Girl is sufficient to cover that part of Katharine's life.

I should also mention that I liked the way she dealt with Katharine's life most importantly the lie she told. Too many productions take the view point that it wasn't a lie but I found Gregory's representation very credible. Yes it is clear that Gregory is very pro-Katharine. Another author could have used the lie against her and blamed her as being overly-ambitious but Gregory's skill as a writer really makes us love and admire Katharine both as a person and indeed Queen of England. Given that so many productions present Katharine as an old, sour hag of a woman incapable of giving the King a son it is refreshing to read a novel which focuses on the moral dilemma this devoted woman faced and the contribution she made to the history of England: something easily overlooked in movies which prefer to focus on Katharine's failure to provide and heir and being just wife number one.

Other than that I enjoyed reading this novel despite the slow start and hasty finish. Other reviewers have complained about her writing style ie: that of narration and then personal reflection. To be honest I didn't find her style a fault in this book. If anything it helped give a very personal feel to the book although I do agree that at times especially the beginning it was a bit repetitive with all the "It is my duty...it is God's will" etc but I don't find this a reason to fault the book.

To conclude 'The Constant Princess' is an enjoyable read if you can get past the slow start and are prepared for a hasty end. Undoubtedly not as good as her previous works or indeed as romantic I wouldn't recommend reading this book first. Instead I'd recommend starting with 'The Other Boleyan Girl'.
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on 11 April 2006
I can not tell you howmuch I enjoyed this book. It was wonderful to get an insight into Katherine when she was a young desirable woman and not the wife that Henry divorced which is inevitably the focal point of so many books about the Tudor period. In this book Katherine is young, desirable and beautiful; we get an insight into her marriage to Arthur, about Henry's childish infatuation with her as well as learning about Katherine's character.The dignity with which she handled her time as a virtual hostage in England, her questioning of her mother's religious zeal as well as her relationship with her children as a mother vs. as a queen concerned about the well being of her country. Fantastic read,highly recommended.
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on 10 November 2009
This was my first taste of a historical novel, and it simply blew me away! What a fantastic read. After getting the impression from school that Katherine of Aragon was nothing but a sad, unfulfilled, unloved encumbrance to Henry VIII, what an eye-opener! Nothing could be further from the truth ...and what an incredible woman.
Philippa Gregory writes with authority from the facts, and yet the book is never dry or dull; it focusses on the people involved - Gregory is very talented at authentic characterisation - but it made me want to learn far more about the Tudor period too.
I have recommended this to my daughter now; for both pleasure and educational purposes, it is hard to surpass.
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on 1 January 2006
This book compares well with The Other Boleyn Girl. I like the pace of the book and its insights into Katherine's formidable parentage and background. For me she emerges as a more rounded historical figure than I had thought. I liked the balanced approach to her Spanish and Moorish influences and the reasons, why she is able to stand up to Henry. Gregory's grasp of the historical nuances and the possible motivations for Katherine's actions in the book carried me along to the very end. I have read most of her work and I think this is her best yet - it has the Alhambra Palace and Moorish Spain, Arthur and his ambitions plus Henry V11's forceful presence. The young Henry V111 is shown to be the rather spoilt boy who will be a selfish king.
I enjoyed this book more than Earthly Joys or even Virgin's Lover and you always get a well researched book from this author -top marks.
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VINE VOICEon 13 December 2007
This is the second of PG novels that I have read, and I was left pleasantly surprised again. They are not books which I would actively seek to buy and read and still wouldn't after The Constant Princess, but if received as a gift again, I would not sneer at them.

The book gives you an insight into a more colourful and different time, the detail in the research shows through and I think this makes the novel much richer. I liked the author's process of switching between telling the 'tale' and sharing Queen Katherine's (as she eventually became) personal thoughts and intimate details. It was a fascinating period and although this isn't a true and exact account of events, PG gives you a pretty reliable take on what *could* have happened, we will never know of course.

My only fault with the book, was towards the end it got very bitty and seemed in a rush to finish and complete the story with the defeat of the Scots and the more marked arrival of Anne Bolyen as a real contender for wife number 2.
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VINE VOICEon 20 August 2010
This novel offers an excellent (albeit in places fictitious) insight into the character and background of Katherine (Catalina) of Aragon. Most portrayals of this queen have focussed on her later years when she was the suffering and unrelenting wife of Henry VIII, refusing to relinquish her position in order to make way for Anne Boleyn. However, this novel shows the early years, a side not often depicted, and we are offered a view into her childhood and upbringing. We see a princess brought up to be a leader and a warrior, and yet denied that position in England, a woman who loved her first husband and lost him, an intelligent and determined character married to a youthful braggart who had to play a careful game so as not to upstage him. Although many of the events may well be fictional, and indeed the author acknowledges that she has had to select certain interpretations of the story, this book is well worth a read for the other side of Katherine that it presents
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on 7 October 2009
I am really very surprised and rather upset at some of the negative reviews of this wonderful book.

I have recently started reading Philippa's Tudor series and must say that I couldn't put The Constant Princess down.

The book makes you take Katherine to your heart and I almost didn't want to finish it as I knew what was going to happen to her and almost detested Anne Boleyn for turning his big, silly head!

I was very sad when I had finished it and would definitely read it again.
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