Author: Philippa Gregory
Provided Synopsis: Regarded as yet another threat to the volatile King Henry VII’s claim to the throne, Margaret Pole, cousin to Elizabeth of York (known as the White Princess) and daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, is married off to a steady and kind Lancaster supporter, Sir Richard Pole. For his loyalty, Sir Richard is entrusted with the governorship of Wales, but Margaret’s contented daily life is changed forever with the arrival of Arthur, the young Prince of Wales, and his beautiful bride, Katherine of Aragon. Margaret soon becomes a trusted advisor and friend to the honeymooning couple, hiding her own royal connections in service to the Tudors.
After the sudden death of Prince Arthur, Katherine leaves for London a widow, and fulfills her deathbed promise to her husband by marrying his brother, Henry VIII. Margaret’s world is turned upside down by the surprising summons to court, where she becomes the chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine. But this charmed life of the wealthiest and holiest woman in England lasts only until the rise of Anne Boleyn, and the dramatic deterioration of the Tudor court. Margaret has to choose whether her allegiance is to the increasingly tyrannical king, or to her beloved queen; to the religion she loves or the theology which serves the new masters. Caught between the old world and the new, Margaret Pole has to find her own way as she carries the knowledge of an old curse on all the Tudors.
Review: Trust me: with all of the historical fiction stories on the market about Henry VIII’s reign of terror during the Tudor dynasty, it is refreshing to find a storyline that delves into areas besides the king’s numerous marriages. The King’s Curse is narrated by Margaret Pole, a member of the Plantagenet family deposed by the victorious Tudors, and cousin to Henry’s mother, Elizabeth of York. When the book begins, it is Prince Arthur who is the hope of House Tudor now that his marriage to the Spanish Infanta Katherine of Aragon is to take place. Margaret’s husband is Arthur’s guardian in Wales, which places her in the castle during the brief marriage between the young royals before disaster strikes. The tale continues on from there, following Margaret as her loyalty to Katherine and the eventual Princess Mary takes her in and out of the Tudor’s good graces. Through it all, she must remember that her name is a brand on her person, always placing herself and her family in danger of those who feel the need to eliminate the possibility of another claim to the crown.
Margaret’s account includes the marriages of Henry to Katherine, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleaves, and Katherine Howard; as stories note about the king’s numerous marriages there is a loss of favor as death after death visits these women due to their inability to give Henry a male heir. But what is notable about The King’s Curse is that it also covers topics that I have not read about frequently. For example, the story includes the war on religion Henry begins so he can receive his way no matter what. I have always known of the way he removed Catholicism from England so he might be head of the Church of England, but I never truly knew about the extent he traveled to do so along with all of the repercussions of what happened. I’m sure the web extended even farther than the brutality and corruption covered in this book, but I was very interested in the dissolution of monasteries, priories, and religious relics, along with how people would try to defy him and fight back.
I leave this book with a greater interest in Henry’s reign in areas other than his marriages. As a historical fiction reader this is what I want.