9 June 2014

The Constant Princess and The Boleyn Inheritance

Author:  Philippa Gregory
Year published: 2005 and 2006
Series: The Tudors, books 1 and 3 (chronologically)
Pages: 490 and 528
Time It Took To Read: A day each

I read The Other Boleyn YEARS ago, which was Philippa Gregory's first Tudor novel (although the second, chronologically) and decided to read these as something light while revising. Which was a mistake, because these books are bloody addictive. They're not in the same ballpark as Mantel, but still enjoyable, and interesting. 

The Constant Princess covers the life of Katherine of Aragon, my favourite wife of Henry VIII. It tells the story of her first years in England, and her first marriage as well as her second. Katherine, if you didn't know, was married first to Henry's older brother, Arthur. That was his grounds for trying to divorce her years later when she didn't give him a healthy son. God was punishing him for shagging his brother's wife. Except that the Bible actually states you SHOULD shag your brother's widow if he dies heirless. But that's by the by: the crux is that Katherine claimed her first marriage was never consummated, and since Arthur died not long after their marriage, nobody could prove it either way. This book attempts to explain why she stood her ground over the virginity/divorce matter, and also portrays her as a young woman instead of the fat, barren, old hag that hangs in the background of other Tudor fiction as though she was always that way. The glaring historical inaccuracies are annoying if you know your Tudor onions, but it's still a good read.

The Boleyn Inheritance springs forward thirty years to the fourth and fifth marriages of Henry VIII. Anne of Cleves was divorced because of non-consummation, Katherine Howard was beheaded for sleeping with other men. The book speaks through Jane Rochford, who was the sister in law of Anne Boleyn, and narrowly escaped with her head after that due to giving evidence against both Anne and her husband George. She then returned to court, as Anne of Cleves lady in waiting and Katherine Howard's after her. She was complicit in Katherine Howard's adultery, and lost her head for it. That's the historical element: the book weaves a tale of Jane Rochford being an instrument of the Duke of Norfolk, and either really foolish or really evil. I enjoyed this one, as these wives of Henry VIII tend to get overlooked as ugly and slutty, when they were somewhat more complex than that.

Now...I have finished my exams (OH THANK GOD) and reading can commence once more! I have a pile of unread books like you wouldn't believe...

Book count: 20/50

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