This book follows the early years of Katherine of Aragon, born Catalina, Infanta of Sapin. Beginning in Spain at the conquest of Alhambra, the five-year-old Infanta of Spain and Princess of Wales watches as her mother and her father leading the troops, discussing tactics, and working as equals. Then she is sent to England to marry her betrothed, Prince Arthur, son of King Henry VII. It is another world. She goes from the dry, warm days and nights of Spain to a damp dark life in England. She is looked at strangely for wanting to bathe daily and thinks they are so far behind because they have to fill a tub for her instead of drawing a bath.
When she first meets her future husband, there is a lot of tension and awkwardness between them. He is shy and unsure of what to do, even how to talk to her. It wasn’t until she almost froze on the way to Wales that he realizes how he has been treating her. Those days in Wales were days of love and romance and planning the future of England.
But the mysterious sweating sickness claims Arthur before they can conceive an heir and her status in England becomes unknown. Arthur wanted her to marry Henry, his younger brother, so that she could still become queen and carry out their plans for England. From here life becomes quite complicated and calculated.
This book sucked me in very quickly. Much of the book is told by the narrator, but there are sections, sometimes long, that are told from Catalina’s, later Katherine’s, point of view. It really gives you an insight into how different life was in England than in much of Europe. I also have much more respect and awe for her as well. Her parents raised her to be a strong woman, and she would not simply be a wife who was submissive to her husband. Her ability to strategize is probably what kept her at the king’s side for so long. One thing I really liked about her was how she slowly realized that her parents were wrong in so many ways. She was really ahead of her time.
It also helps to put Henry into perspective. I didn’t know how spoiled he was as a child. I also didn’t know what his father had done to become king. That explains so much. He would be very determined to have a legitimate son and heir.
It gives you a different way of thinking when you read the rest of the books. This should definitely be the first book anyone reads in this series!
The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory
SBC: Read a book about royalty or a royal character