Wednesday, November 25, 2009 By: Suzanne

The Constant Princess: Audio

The Constant Princess is not the first audio book by Philipa Gregory that I have listened to, but it is the first I have been disappointed in. Not because it wasn't a wonderful story (It is). Not because it wasn't well written (It is). And certainly not because Katherine of Aragon led an uninteresting life (No one could say that). But simply because of all the liberties Gregory takes with the historical part of her historical fiction. I know that she often twists parts of the history to make a more interesting plot but seriously why in the world would you have to twist anything in Katherine's story?

I didn't know much about this Queen. Often when people tell stories about the Tudor Court, it is starting with Henry's obsession with Anne Boleyn and his break from Roman Papacy. But this more than 20 years after Katherine and Henry were first wed and the fact that she was first married to his brother, who was supposed to be King, is fascinating enough without adding all the silly twists that I guess romance readers like to see. After I finished the book, I decided to look a little closer at Katherine's real history and see what I was missing, because I just felt this wasn't a complete picture. What I was looking for at first was what happened to her after Henry put her aside for Anne. No one really talks of this and neither did Gregory. I was surprised to learn that she lived in poverty for the last few years of her life, with few servants. She refused to be called Princess instead of Queen, holding to the belief that she was Henry's rightful wife until she died. It may be a good thing she only lived a few more years and didn't see the craziness that came after Anne. My point is, Gregory completely passes on telling this story. She ends her book with Katherine believing she will triumph in her opposition to Henry. It just made me sad knowing this wasn't true. It could have made an even better book to leave out the inaccuracies and then end the book with the proud Queen-now-Dowager Princess. I loved the fiery-ness of this Katherine, though. It is something that is rarely told but knowing her parents are Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain, it's not only believable but plausible. Is it accurate? I don't know if that is something anyone could really know.

I would like to continue reading historical fiction. I enjoy the stories, even if the view points and thoughts of the characters have to be made up. That I don't mind. I got into the genre because I have always been fascinated by the story of Jane Grey and was thrilled when I read Alison Weir's Innocent Traitor. Now I'm a little turned off. Does anyone know who the good writers are? The ones who tell a good story without taking too many liberties with the history?