This is the story, as told by Philippa Gregory, of Katherine of Aragon, Spanish princess, Queen of England. She was betrothed to Arthur, Prince of Wales at just four years old and grew up knowing she was destined to be Queen of England. As he lays dying, she promises Arthur to become Queen even without him. The only way to do this is to lie, and claim that her marriage to Arthur was never consummated, and to marry his brother Harry. After years of waiting, she finally fulfills her deathbed promise to Arthur and marries the new king Henry VIII to become Queen. In the end, though, of course, Henry will betray her for Anne Boleyn.
The Constant Princess is Gregory’s fourth (of five) books about the Tudor family of England. This book takes place primarily before the events of her first and best known Tudor book, The Other Boleyn Girl.
In general, I thought this book was good. Katherine is frequently a secondary character to the story of Henry and his wives, but in her youth she was as compelling as any of the other Tudor women. I especially liked the way Gregory interspersed the third-person narrative with the Katherine's first person point of view; it was an excellent narrative device that allowed us to see both the outsider's point of view and Katherine's inner thoughts.
Unfortunately, I can't help but compare The Constant Princess to The Other Boleyn Girl, which makes Princess seem a little dull in comparison. This is probably partly because The Other Boleyn Girl was new for me, as it was one of the first historical fiction books I read set in this era (I have since gone on to read lots). But mostly I think Princess fell down a bit in comparison for me because its pace is slower. While Gregory focused the book on incidents throughout Katherine's life, there are stretches where not much really happens, as all the players are just waiting for someone to make a move. Princess is contemplative book, whereas The Other Boleyn Girl is more intense. Now that I think about it, though, this is a pretty apt comparison of the heroines of each of these books, Katherine and Anne Boleyn, too!
Altogether, though, The Constant Princess is a worthwhile companion to Gregory's other Tudor books. Fans of her writing, or historical fiction, will enjoy. And since this book stands on its own very well, those who haven't read The Other Boleyn Girl will be able to jump right in and enjoy.
Buy The Constant Princess on Amazon.