A fitting conclusion to the Cousins' War series.
Philippa Gregory can count herself almost single-handed ly responsible for reviving a keen national interest in the Plantagenets and Tudors with these books and allowing us mere mortals to even halfway comprehend the family relationships and detailed chronology of this bloody and turbulent period in our history.
To summarise the story would be tricky as it's full of huge families of names and events. But if you remember the brother (one of the Three Sons of York) who decided to be drowned in a vat of alcohol (George), then you'll be off to a good start. Margaret is his daughter, and our narrator. She is perfectly placed to witness much of the next half century's political change. Forced into a marriage her fortunes fall and rise as Henry Tudor makes way for his son Henry VIII, after the death of first son Arthur.
It's fifty years of our history and 600 pages are filled with names, dates, treason, execution and manoeuvring. It's never dull. There are several very useful family trees and a (too short!) note at the end from the author.
Margaret's life is fascinating, I learned huge amounts (who knew how the Sweating Sickness came to England?!). Henry's reign is portrayed in detail you won't have studied in school. And characters you may have thought you liked I. History may not be so palatable now. Henry's early promise giving way to paranoia, spoiled indulgent whims and Dangerous temper is well-drawn and frightening. The note from the author about a potential medical condition illuminating.
Two small negative points. Time doesn't seem to pass in the story in some ways: Margaret seems almost ageless until near the end, when at 62 you finally see she is getting old. Henry's injury that is meant to stink to high heaven in other historical sources is never mentioned.
And Mary (Princess, later to be Queen Mary Tudor) is over-sympathised by the author. As is forever 'poor Mary', and sheltered as 'only' 12, 'only' 16, 'only 17'. I found this strange as every other woman at that time would be considered an adult by this age and not so coddled and sheltered (especially as her father has denounced her royal birth). But small things in the grand scheme.
I really enjoyed this. I think of this series as much as an education as entertainment. I really also appreciated how Gregory chose to end the story and the series. Others haven't liked it but I thought it fit the tone and sense of what had one before. What a life. A period in history. A family.
Don't miss if you've read the others in the series. I hope the White Princess and this are made into TV series shortly, would make a great study set for students and the female characters would make wonderful roles.
This novel rounds off Philippa Gregory's latest series, and is one of the more fluid and accessible books featuring as it does the fate of the family of the tragic Duke of Clarence, one of the three sons of York and brother of two kings, Edward the Fourth and Richard the Third. In the post Bosworth period when reconciliation in the form of the marriage between Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York is the order of the day, the hopes of the entire country rest on the slender shoulders of Arthur, the young Prince of Wales. Margaret Plantagenet, Clarence's daughter and her conveniently humble husband are part of his household as he marries Catherine of Aragon and moves to Ludlow Castle, with fatal consequences both present and future. Margaret's own life in modest circumstances with five children to support changes dramatically when her husband dies and she finds herself in the wilderness financially and with none of the prestige that her family used to enjoy. The White Rose remains a permanent threat to Tudor ambitions and Margaret endures both the executions and exiles that are necessary to reduce the Plantagenet threat as much as possible.
She comes back to prominence in the household of Catherine of Aragon at the time of her second marriage to Henry the Eighth, Arthur's younger brother: a love match and one which promises great things. Sadly, Catherine's ability to produce a living male heir to the Tudor throne fails her time and again, leaving only one legitimate heiress in the form of Princess Mary. The upheavals of the divorce, the Boleyn marriage and its similarly unsatisfactory outcome seem to prove that the Tudor line is indeed cursed and doomed to die out.
The events featured in the book are all well known, the curse of the title is featured in earlier works in the series, as is the role of the remaining Plantagenets as a potential royal family in waiting should Henry the Eighth die without a strong heir. The author has fleshed out these characters and their dramatic, often tragic lives. Margaret sees some of her own children fatally compromised, but keeps her nerve and refuses to give up on the hopes of a Yorkist monarch rescuing England from the seriously cruel and savage man that Henry becomes in later life, lashing out at religious houses and his own family indiscriminately in the quest for the precious Tudor boy child.
The elderly Margaret herself, dragged from the Tower of London at a moment's notice, after months of imprisonment, to be judicially murdered, is a sympathetic character whose ability to bend with the prevailing political wind is remarkable and suffice to say she does not go gently into that good night.
It's good stuff and a fitting end to the series. Definitely recommend.
on 28 October 2014
I have never spent quite so long reading a book before - and that is mainly because of the grim-ness of the read and the fact that I knew how it would end. I almost willed it to end differently - but of course, it couldn’t and was in fact even more grim that I expected.
Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury had fulfilled many functions in her long life. First as member of the royal family of Plantagenet’s - her Uncle being King Edward IV and her father being George Duke of Clarence. But in an instant a Plantagenet’s life can change - the title going from Royal to ‘Dangerous’. In a short period of time, she had lost her mother, father, uncle, brother and must have sighed with dismay with each son she gave birth to as their very existence spelled danger for them all. Gregory makes this very clear in her story telling as well as providing some wonderful period detail which made the book come to life for me.
Without going into further detail of the extraordinary woman’s life it is worth noting that Philippa Gregory’s story is very sympathetic to her even though I found myself shouting at the literary version of Queen Katherine of Aragon to ‘tell the truth about your virginity and go into a nunnery - it would have saved so much terrible upheaval if she had. Her failure to admit to the lie that Gregory had so perhaps unwisely portrayed for her made her a character that I could both weep for and yell at .
Gregory’s portrayal of Henry is grim. She makes no attempt at all to show he had a conscience or that he pondered over the monstrous decisions he took - and that is fair enough. As a historical novelise she can take any line she likes. Plenty of novelist try to show Henry as ‘a man’ rather than ‘a monster’ but Gregory certainly shows that madness and fear that must have been felt at the time of his reign. Perhaps we need to stop seeing Henry as merely the King with Six Wives but in fact the monstrous King who was responsible for murder and tyranny and is perhaps one of our very worst Kings of England.
This was truly a grim read - and once again illustrates the extreme danger of being anywhere near to the throne if the King has no heir or is insecure on his throne. It happens time after time in England’s history - best known as ‘the Princes in the Tower’ also later known as the persecution of the Grey sisters by first Mary and then Elizabeth, and the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. Gregory is clearly very at home with the subject matter having written several other books on this period. I hope she writes about Reginald Pole next or any surviving Plantagenet's.
on 12 May 2015
I am clearly in the minority here but I really didn't enjoy this book. I have read every other book in this series and have loved almost all of them. However, I found that this book read more as a chronicling of events rather than a story. I struggled to feel much empathy for the main character, Margaret, and just didn't relate to her at all.
The story also became quite repetitive - again, partly because it read like a series of events. There wasn't much story outside of the strict guidelines of what needed to happen for it to be historically correct. One of the things I love most about Philippa Gregory books is her character relationships...but this book didn't seem to have any! Margery had no love interests, didn't have any friends and seemed to only really have 1 significant relationship outside of her family - that of Princess Mary.
I think the main problem really is that all the events covered in this book have been covered before in other parts of the series, starting with The Constant Princess. This means that none of it is new and fresh.
This book just came across as being quite dry and very slow moving - nothing ever seemed to happen. In fact, on a couple of occasions I put the book down and a few days later had totally forgotten about it and having to actually remind myself that I hadn't finished it. Definitely not one of Gregory's best.
on 30 August 2014
The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory is the sixth and concluding novel in The Cousins' War series, and follows in the footsteps of its preceding books - The White Princess, The Kingmaker's Daughter, The Lady of the Rivers, The Red Queen and The White Queen. This final chapter in The Cousins' War saga is centered on Margaret Pole, the daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, who was executed for treason by his own brother, King Edward IV. Though not a prominent player in the story in the earlier books, some passing references have been made about her without going into too much detail. The King's Curse chronicles the tumultuous period from 1499-1541, around the period when Katharine of Aragon comes to England and her eventual death.
It is not easy to bring history to life, let alone discuss about it, more so when it comes historical figures. Philippa Gregory deserves to be commended for a work well done. What is striking about The Cousins' War, particularly The King's Curse, is the meticulous research undertaken to bring the details to life, and this book, as with the others is well researched and detailed. It paints a fascinating picture of Margaret Pole, who is the cousin of King Henry VIII's mother, Queen Elizabeth of York. Her Plantaganent bloodlines make her a strong contender to the throne. But the lesson of her innocent brother who was executed as a young man just because of his royal blood left a permanent mark on her. She is determined not to draw attention either to herself or her children.
Set at a time when the Tudors are on the throne and not the Yorks, The King's Curse is a story of political intrigue, loyalty, loss and love. It is about significant events in the lives of Henry VIII, Katharine of Aragon, Princess Mary, and Lady Margaret Pole. It provides an in-depth look at the life of a woman who was both powerful and vulnerable, and fittingly brings to an end a series that is both engaging and enlightening.
on 26 April 2015
No doubt about it, Ms. Gregory writes an action packed story but, given that the setting is mostly the earlier half of the C16th with the newly victorious Tudors attempting to establish their dynasty following several hundred years of Plantagenet supremacy, this is hardly surprising. As always, she has researched the period meticulously and the unfolding events are related in the first person, seen through the life of Margaret Pole, a cousin to Elizabeth the mother of Henry VIII, whose fortunes change according to the whim of the monarch and who has the final distinction of being the oldest victim of Henry's to be executed on Tower Green.
After his father's reign of harsh measures and high taxation, the accession of young Henry promises to be a kingship of kindness, of light and laughter. But as time passes, promises are broken and the country is again plunged into darkness, fear and paranoia. And it is not just the nobles who suffer the increasingly tyrannical rule of the monarch. Everywhere and everyone is affected by Henry's increasing instability. This was a terrible time and Ms. Gregory captures well.
Unfortunately, I couldn't help but feel, however, that if our heroine had held as much power, wealth, intrafamily connection and popular support as was suggested, her avarice (and that was clearly stated) alone would have galvanised her into a more proactive approach and England might have thrown off the Tudor yoke and reinstated the old dynasty - there was certainly enough of them at least at first. So I felt unable to reconcile myself to the woman appearing in these pages which, though not spoiling the story for me did leed to a removal of one of the stars.
Even so, I recommend this to anyone with an interest in the times of Henry VIII. It certainly goes much deeper than the mere glamour of court life and a simple counting of his wives.
Only one year after the publication of 'The White Princess', Philippa Gregory has produced yet another novel in her 'Cousins' War Series' and one which takes us into the realms of one of the most well-documented of the Tudors: King Henry VIII. Our story begins in 1499 and focuses on Margaret Pole, one of the few remaining members of the Plantagenet dynasty to survive after the Wars of the Roses. Daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, who was brother to Edward IV and Richard III, Margaret is also cousin to the reigning King Henry VII's wife, and it is the Plantagenet blood, which runs in the veins of Margaret and her brother Edward, who is incarcerated in the Tower, which makes it too risky for Edward to remain a free man. Margaret, however, has a marriage arranged for her by the King's mother, to Sir Richard Pole, a Tudor supporter, and Margaret, for her own peace of mind and for the safety of her future children, acquiesces and lives quietly away from Henry VII's court; however, she is still very much involved with the royal family as she and her husband are appointed as guardians to Henry VII's eldest son, Prince Arthur, at Ludlow Castle.
When Margaret's brother, Edward, is executed, she is devastated - however, for her own sake, and the sake of her children, she carries on without allowing her grief to overwhelm her. And then the Spanish Infanta, Katherine of Aragon, comes to England to marry Prince Arthur, and Margaret finds herself becoming close to the young princess. When Prince Arthur succumbs to an illness and dies, Margaret becomes Katherine's confidante, and when Katherine is then married to Arthur's brother, Prince Henry, and later becomes his queen, Margaret is appointed as her chief lady-in-waiting, which results in her life changing for the better, but also, as we shall discover, for the worse. As time passes and Queen Katherine falls from favour when she cannot provide a much-needed male heir for her husband, Henry VIII, Margaret has to choose between her loyalty to the discarded queen, or the tyrannical Henry, finding herself involved in a fierce political battle which the increasingly ruthless King has no intention of losing. As the years pass, Margaret falls foul of Henry's wrath on more than one occasion and if you know your history, you will be aware of Margaret's tumultuous life and of her tragic plight; however, if you do not know the whole story of the heroine of this tale, I won't spoil it here for you with this review. As the author states in her interesting Afterword, this is a novel about the decline of Henry VIII from a young handsome prince, into a sick, obese tyrant, and there is a huge amount more to this 600 page story of plotting, rivalries, treachery and betrayal than I have revealed here, and much more for prospective readers to discover for themselves.
First-person related by Margaret, Philippa Gregory's latest novel is, as in her other 'Cousins' novels, written in the present tense which provides a sense of immediacy to her writing and also makes the reader feel that even if we already know the outcome of the story, her characters might just be able to change their fates. Regular readers of Philippa Gregory's novels will be aware that although the author researches her subjects well (there are over one hundred publications listed in her Bibliography) she admits to using a certain amount of artistic licence and her own vivid imagination to compose her historical stories, so if you want your history backed up by rigid and scrupulous adherence to historical facts, then this may not be to your taste. However, if your taste for history is lighter and you want to escape to the distant past for a few hours with an easily readable and entertaining story, then immersing yourself in Philippa Gregory's Tudor England could well be what you are looking for.
Previous books in the Cousins' War series:
The White Queen (1);The Red Queen (2);The Lady of the Rivers (3);The Kingmaker's Daughter (4);The White Princess (5)
on 8 September 2014
I do like Philippa Gregory however I am not a an avid reader of her work. Thus reading this book has placed me in a position different from a fan that reads her books regularly. I did read the White Queen and I also watched the television production so I do have some of the background of the cousin war. When I started reading the Kings Curse I did not have a pre-fixed view on the content of the book. But I did understand the characters within the story. I must say I have really enjoyed this book. Some reviews have mentioned that there was to much focus given to the main character Margaret Pole. I really felt this format worked for me. It allowed me to use her as the central person and one that was easy and uncomplicated to understand. The text flowed easily and I galloped through this book which is quite lengthy piece of work. I have became interested in this era again and now intend to read the White Princess. I am doing a backward reading model but it does not matter as long as I am enjoying it. I would recommend this book to anyone with a basic knowledge of the cousins war and Tudor times. I really enjoyed the bits which explained how wealthy society worked at that time and how they looked out for each other or they just let them be destroyed if they were not on the side of the powerful one at that time. They really seemed a horrible lot but that is what made this a great read both educationally and extremely entertaining.
on 26 June 2015
Excellent book, about the heroic Plantagenet Princess, Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, who lived quietly, 'under the radar' at the court of Henry VII. Then she blossomed at first under Henry VIII and his plucky first wife, Katherine of Aragon but eventually fell foul of the despotic tyrant in his later years and is mainly remembered for being the oldest Plantagenet who was butchered on the block by the second Tudor.
I don't recall reading any other books where Margaret is the heroine, she usually only plays a minor role as 'friend to the Queen' (either Elizabeth of York or Katherine of Aragon). Or she is mentioned as the daughter of the unfortunate Duke of Clarence or her murdered brother, Edward. So this book with her as the central character is almost like meeting a new historical character. I would have preferred it not to be written in the first person, but it does put the book into an interesting perspective - especially the final moments.
But all in all, a very good read and thank goodness the Tudors, especially the revolting Margaret Beaufort, Henry Tudor's horrible mother, are portrayed in an unfavorable light.
on 5 January 2015
we know all about the Tudors - Henry who took the throne by force, Henry and his wives and so on. Many authors, including Phillippa Gregory, have given us excellent and informative novels based on their reigns. But there has been little on Henry VIII early years. Katherine of Aragon is usually seen as an ageing, bitter and supplanted queen with no real history other than being Arthurs widow who Henry married. Here, through the eyes of Margaret Pole, the matriarch of the surviving Plantagenets,we see Katherine as a young bride, widow, bride again and her gradual eclipse.We also see the destiny of The Plantagenets after defeat, Margarets determination for them to stay in obscurity and avoid the suspicions of the insecure Tudors, and how their fotunes fluctuated. We see Henry's growing paranoia, his over-reliance on young, inexperienced courtiers and the way that Wolsey effectively runs the kingdom until his downfall, and the rise of the Boleyns. We see Mary as a young girl with a bleak future. Overall, not a pretty picture but in the hands of this author, totally believable. A good end to the series.