The Constant Princess
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|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 sent to England to marry her betrothed, Prince Arthur, the crown prince of England, after a long negotiation between King Henry VII and her parents, King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castille. Their marriage, though initially hostile, secretly becomes a passionate relationship, but Arthur succumbs to the sweating sickness after three months. He instructs Catalina to claim they lied about consummating their marriage so she can still marry his brother, Prince Harry in order for her to carry out their plans for the country. Due to their seemingly loveless marriage, the lie is believed by most, but Henry refuses to marry his son to her under the guise that Harry is too young, though in truth lusts after Catalina himself. One year later, Queen Elizabeth dies and Henry proposes marriage to Catalina, ignoring his mother Margaret Beaufort's advice of the political disadvantages of him marrying Catalina against the advantages of marrying Catalina to Harry. Catalina initially accepts, but when she realizes this marriage will give her no power or role other than to bear his children, she declines and pressures Henry to marry her to Harry.
Henry betroths the two, but refuses to give her an allowance until her parents pay for her dowry, forcing Catalina and her Spanish entourage into poverty. The English nobles begin to neglect and mistreat Catalina, who struggles to maintain her household since both Henry and her parents believe the other should sponsor her and refuse to give her money. After Isabella's death, Catalina hears rumors that Henry had already set aside her betrothal years ago and is planning on marrying Joanna while Harry and his sister marry Joanna's children. Ferdinand sends the other half of the dowry to England, but commands the Spanish ambassador to return the dowry safely upon hearing this, making no mention of saving Catalina. Catalina thinks she will die, but Henry dies of sickness and Harry takes the crown and marries Catalina despite his father's warning. Catalina is quickly restored to a position of wealth and respect, and manipulates a young Harry to remove Margaret's power to intervene. Margaret's eventual death gives way for Catalina to truly rule alongside Harry, and they are crowned King Henry and Queen Katherine.
Complications arise in Catalina's first pregnancy, isolating her from the court for months until she eventually accepts that the child was miscarried. Upon her return, she learns of a scandal between one of her maids-in-waiting, Anne Stafford, and one of Harry's friends. She soon realizes the story is a cover-up for Harry having an affair with Anne, who has become his mistress during Catalina's absence. Harry questions why Anne, who is definitely a virgin, acted differently during consummation, but Catalina manages to fool him and they reconcile. Their second child, Henry, is made Duke of Cornwall, but he dies less than two months later, which further estranges their marriage. Catalina secretly begins to fall out of love with Harry, seeing him as childish and demanding. She is made Spanish Ambassador and unites Harry and her father to invade France together. During his absence, the Scots declare war on England, and Catalina, as regent, successfully leads the English army to victory. She sends Harry the seal of the Scottish king as well as a cryptic message hinting at another pregnancy.
In the end, it is revealed that of all of Catalina's children, only Princess Mary survived. Harry went on to have more mistresses, all of them she thought he would eventually be bored with, but his latest mistress, Anne Boleyn, is the most ambitious and is trying to take her spot as queen. Catalina vows to keep her promise to Arthur and proudly decides to fight for her right as queen.