"I am Catalina, Princess of Spain, daughter of the two greatest monarchs the world has ever known...and I will be Queen of England."
Thus, bestselling author Philippa Gregory introduces one of her most unforgettable heroines: Katherine of Aragon. Daughter of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain, Katherine has been fated her whole life to marry Prince Arthur of England. When they meet and are married, the match becomes as passionate as it is politically expedient. The young lovers revel in each other's company and plan the England they will make together. But tragically, aged only fifteen, Arthur falls ill and extracts from his sixteen-year-old bride a deathbed promise to marry his brother, Henry; become Queen; and fulfill their dreams and her destiny.
"They tell me nothing but lies here and they think they can break my spirit. I believe what I choose and say nothing. I am not as simple as I seem."
Widowed and alone in the avaricious world of the Tudor court, Katherine has to sidestep her father-in-law's desire for her and convince him, and an incredulous Europe, that her marriage to Arthur was never consummated, that there is no obstacle to marriage with Henry. For seven years, she endures the treachery of spies, the humiliation of poverty, and intense loneliness and despair while she waits for the inevitable moment when she will step into the role she has prepared for all her life. Then, like her warrior mother, Katherine must take to the battlefield and save England when its old enemies the Scots come over the border and there is no one to stand against them but the new Queen.
"It was my dying husband's hope, my mother's wish, and God's will that I should be Queen of England; and for them and for the country, I will be Queen of England until I die."
Raised on the battlefield and in the most beautiful Moorish palace in the world, sent to England alone at the age of sixteen to take her place in a court where she couldn't speak the language, and abandoned and forced to endure poverty after the death of her husband, Katherine remained a woman of indomitable spirit, unwavering faith, and extraordinary strength. Philippa Gregory brings to life one of history's most inspiring women and creates one of the most compelling characters in historical fiction.
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December 05, 2005
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Excerpt from The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory
THERE WAS A SCREAM, and then the loud roar of fire enveloping silken hangings, then a mounting crescendo of shouts of panic that spread and spread from one tent to another as the flames ran too, leaping from one silk standard to another, running up guy ropes and bursting through muslin doors. Then the horses were neighing in terror and men shouting to calm them, but the terror in their own voices made it worse, until the whole plain was alight with a thousand raging blazes, and the night swirled with smoke and rang with shouts and screams.
The little girl, starting up out of her bed in her fear, cried out in Spanish for her mother and screamed: "The Moors? Are the Moors coming for us?"
"Dear God, save us, they are firing the camp!" her nurse gasped. "Mother of God, they will rape me and spit you on their sickle blades."
"Mother!" cried the child, struggling from her bed. "Where is my mother?"
She dashed outside, her nightgown flapping at her legs, the hangings of her tent now alight and blazing up behind her in an inferno of panic. All the thousand, thousand tents in the camp were ablaze, sparks pouring up into the dark night sky like fiery fountains, blowing like a swarm of fireflies to carry the disaster onwards.
"Mother!" She screamed for help.
Out of the flames came two huge, dark horses, like great, mythical beasts moving as one, jet black against the brightness of the fire. High up, higher than one could dream, the child's mother bent down to speak to her daughter who was trembling, her head no higher than the horse's shoulder. "Stay with your nurse and be a good girl," the woman commanded, no trace of fear in her voice. "Your father and I have to ride out and show ourselves."
"Let me come with you! Mother! I shall be burned. Let me come! The Moors will get me!" The little girl reached her arms up to her mother.
The firelight glinted weirdly off the mother's breastplate, off the embossed greaves of her legs, as if she were a metal woman, a woman of silver and gilt, as she leaned forwards to command. "If the men don't see me, then they will desert," she said sternly. "You don't want that."
"I don't care!" the child wailed in her panic. "I don't care about anything but you! Lift me up!"
"The army comes first," the woman mounted high on the black horse ruled. "I have to ride out."
She turned her horse's head from her panic-stricken daughter. "I will come back for you," she said over her shoulder. "Wait there. I have to do this now."
Helpless, the child watched her mother and father ride away. "Madre!" she whimpered. "Madre! Please!" but the woman did not turn.
"We will be burned alive!" Madilla, her servant, screamed behind her. "Run! Run and hide!"
"You can be quiet." The child rounded on her with sudden angry spite. "If I, the Princess of Wales herself, can be left in a burning campsite, then you, who are nothing but a Morisco anyway, can certainly endure it."