First of all, I am pleased to say that Philippa Gregory has done it again! She has managed to put her readers completely into the world of the two Tudor kings. Unfortunately, it is a world where I was glad to simply be a visitor, and not one who had to reside there She has brought this insane world to life through the telling of Margaret Pole’s life, a Plantagenet living in the dangerous world of the Tudors.
In this book, Gregory gives us a new look at Henry VIII, a look that shows all his warts and few of his glory. In fact, after reading this book, I feel hard pressed to even think of one glorious thing about Henry. That is not much of a reach for me, since he put his first wife Catherine of Aragon aside, and in an attempt to kill her, forced her into a damp castle with no luxuries to keep her well; beheaded his second wife Anne Boleyn, over trumped up ridiculous charges no one then, nor now believed; his third wife Jane Seymour, died shortly after delivering his son; his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, was lucky to have her marriage annulled and herself to be called Henry’s sister and kept well-maintained away from court; his fifth wife, Catherine Howard was not so lucky, being beheaded, again on charges no Queen should have been brought up on; and his final and luckiest wife, Catherine Parr managed to outlive the King.
Margaret Pole was a Plantagenet, related to King Richard III who Henry VII had defeated to begin the reign of the Tudor’s. It is here that the curse is begun. The curse that no first-born Tudor son would rule, and that the Tudor rule would end in the reign of a Virgin Queen. How odd that this curse worked. It was the bane of Henry VII, and Henry VIII, and from what I’ve read and studied seemed to be at the root of the evil created by the two Tudor Kings.
I won’t ruin the book, just tell you that once again we have a well-researched beautifully created work of historical fiction that is mostly historical and a little fiction. Just the way I like my historical fiction. The story is exciting, leaving me wanting to keep reading long after I should have been in bed. It was a pleasure, even though it took the glitter off Henry VIII. There were already many things that I thought about Henry and when the glitter was removed, it was the women in his life who had my sincere admiration. I highly recommend this book, and will leave you with a wonderful quote from Philippa Gregory:
“The fiction, as always, is secondary to the history; the real women are always more complex and more conflicted, greater than the heroines of the novel, just as real women now, as then, are often greater than they are reported, sometimes greater than the world wants them to be.”