The Constant Princess
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (June 2008)|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|ISBN||0-7432-7248-X (hardcover edition)|
|Followed by||The Other Boleyn Girl|
The Constant Princess is a historical fiction novel by Philippa Gregory, published in 2005. The novel depicts a highly fictionalized version of the life of Catherine of Aragon and her rise to power in England.
Catalina of Aragon is betrothed to Prince Arthur Tudor after a long negotiation between his father, King Henry VII, and her parents, King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castille. Miscommunication and misinterpretation makes their marriage initially cold and hostile, but they secretly turn it into a passionate marriage. The two plan for when they become King and Queen of England, but Arthur succumbs to the sweating sickness. On his deathbed, Arthur makes Catalina promise to keep the pretense that they did not love each other and deny they consummated their marriage so she can marry his brother, Prince Harry, and become queen so she can carry out their plans. A year later, Arthur's mother, Queen Elizabeth, dies and Henry, who desires Catalina, the dowager princess, proposes marriage, ignoring the political disadvantages of marrying her and the political advantages of marrying her off to Harry, as pointed out by his shrewd mother, Margaret Beaufort. Catalina accepts despite her parents' refusal, but when she learns that Margaret will have all the power of a queen while Catalina herself will do nothing but bear children for Henry, she rejects him and persuades him to betroth her to Harry.
Henry betroths the two, but he and the rest of the Tudor women and courtiers begin to neglect and mistreat a poverty-stricken Catalina, who can barely afford to keep her own household under the pretense that Catalina cannot have an allowance from the crown until her parents pay for the other half of her dowry. He prolongs her poverty for years by claiming Harry is still too young to marry her, and demands a fully paid dowry before he can let her marry Harry. Catalina learns of rumors that Henry has set aside the betrothal years ago and will instead form an alliance with Catalina's sister's family, and when this rumor reaches her father's ears, he practically abandons Catalina in England when he commands the Spanish ambassador for the dowry's safe return but no mention of his daughter. Catalina's luck changes when Henry dies suddenly of his sickness and Harry disregards his father's warning and marries Catalina. She manipulates Harry so that she and him control the kingdom without Margaret's intervention, and after Margaret's death, she and Harry are crowned Katherine of Aragon, Queen of England, and King Henry VIII, with Catalina placing herself with high power.
During her pregnancy, Catalina and the English doctors are in denial about a miscarriage, and she desperately turns to a Moor doctor, whose religion her parents have taught her to loathe. She begins to see the error in her judgement of them, and accepts that she has lost her baby. She returns to court and hears of a scandal regarding one of her ladies-in-waiting and the king's friend William Compton, but slowly realizes that it is just a cover-up for Harry, who has taken Anne Stafford as a mistress. Because Anne came to Harry a true virgin, he begins to suspect Catalina's claims of not consummating with Arthur when her actions differ from Anne's, but she manages to fool him and they reconcile. Catalina becomes the Spanish Ambassador and bridges Harry and her father to invade France together, and Harry leaves her regent while he is away. During his absence, the Scots declare war on England, and Catalina successfully leads the English army to victory. She sends Harry the seal of the Scottish king as well as a cryptic message that she is pregnant once again. In the end, it is revealed that Harry had more mistresses, but his latest mistress, Anne Boleyn, is the most ambitious and is trying to depose her as queen. Catalina had several more miscarriages and only one surviving but sickly daughter, Princess Mary, named after the child Arthur had wanted, and Catalina vows to keep her promise to Arthur and proudly decides to fight for her right as queen.