Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Book Review: The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory

Pages: 612
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: September 9, 2014
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Regarded as yet another threat to the volatile King Henry VIII's claim to the throne, Margaret Pole, cousin to Elizabeth of York (known as the White Princess) and daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, is married off to a steady and kind Lancaster supporter Sir Richard Pole. For his loyalty, Sir Richard is entrusted with the governorship of Wales, but Margaret's contented daily life is changed forever with the arrival of Arthur, the young Prince of Wales, and his beautiful bride, Katherine of Aragon. Margaret soon becomes a trusted advisor and friend to the honeymooning couple, hiding her own royal connections in service to the Tudors. After the sudden death of Prince Arthur, Katherine leaves for London a widow, and fulfills her deathbed promise to her husband by marrying his brother, Henry VIII. Margaret's world is turned upside down by the surprising summons to court, where she becomes the chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine. But this charmed life of the wealthiest and & holiest; woman in England lasts only until the rise of Anne Boleyn, and the dramatic deterioration of the Tudor court. Margaret has to choose whether her allegiance is to the increasingly tyrannical king, or to her beloved queen; to the religion she loves or the theology which serves the new masters. Caught between the old world and the new, Margaret Pole has to find her own way as she carries the knowledge of an old curse on all the Tudors."
In Gregory's Cousins' War series, the last book focused on Elizabeth of York; however, in The King's Curse our protagonist is Lady Margaret Pole, Elizabeth of York's cousin.  It has been rumored that her cousin Elizabeth and Elizabeth's mother cursed the Tudors so they wouldn't have any healthy male heirs.  Instead of Margaret marrying someone of royal blood, as she should, she is married off to a knight and is in charge of the Prince of Wales, Arthur, Henry VIII's brother.  Arthur is a good person and Margaret knows he will make a great king. He actually loves his new wife, Katherine of Aragon.  He dies very shortly after they are married and they are both quite young. Katherine insists their marriage wasn't consummated and is looking to be betrothed to the next in line for the throne, none other than Henry VIII.  Henry is very, very different than good natured Arthur, but Katherine insists that this was Arthur's dying wish as he wanted to see Katherine on the throne. As the years progress, Margaret is placed in a high regard at court, but as alliances change, she is then banished for a time, having to fend for herself with little to no money.  But at the Tudor Court things change on a whim and everyone must cater to Henry VIII's current mood.  Philippa Gregory's latest historical tale, The King's Curse, is entertaining and suspenseful despite the fact that readers already know how it plays out.

Margaret Pole is an interesting protagonist for The King's Curse as she sort of sees things from a different perspective. Sometimes it is an outsider's perspective, which makes things rather interesting.  In The King's Curse you can really see how Henry VIII's choices even impacted someone like Margaret. At one moment she is living a lavish lifestyle bringing up the Prince of Wales and then the next moment she is banished from court and can barely survive. It was also interesting to see the Tudor Court from her perspective and watch the events play out, such as Arthur's untimely death, the rise of Henry VIII, the arrival of Anne Boleyn at court and then all of the people executed or imprisoned at the Tower.  Even though I have heard this story before, reading about it again from Margaret's perspective really illustrated how one man, Henry, can truly bring about the demise of so many people.

What I also liked about The King's Curse was Gregory's perspective on Henry VIII. She gave us a glimpse into his childhood and sort of explained why he acts the way he does. He was brought up very differently than his brother, Arthur, and after Arthur died, he was indulged and wasn't exactly raised to be a fair king. I thought this was an interesting perspective and an "aha" moment for me in The King's Curse.

The heartbreaking aspect of The King's Curse is the alleged curse. We all know that this curse may or may not be true, but what is true is the fact that Tudor line does actually end with a virgin queen, Elizabeth I.  So, it was fascinating to sort of explore the idea of a curse and see how it plays out. It was heart wrenching though reading about Katherine of Aragon's many miscarriages and stillborn children as well as Anne Boleyn's. It even prompted me to research why so many of Henry's children either died early on in life or didn't survive childbirth.  There are many theories, but that is beside the point.

I am very pleased with this final installment of the Cousins' War series and if you love the Tudor Court, but would like a fresh perspective, definitely check out The King's Curse. I know I can't wait to see what Gregory has up her sleeve next.


  1. This sounds fantastic! I haven't read the other books in the series yet but I kind of want to read this anyway. Poor Margaret Pole. Henry VIII was pretty horrible.

    1. Margaret Pole was an interesting character--definitely gave me a new perspective on things! Thanks for visiting, Christina! Oh, and I agree with you about Henry…absolutely despicable!

  2. Ooooo I love the sound of this Christina! I don't read too much historical fiction, but I did read The Other Boleyn Girl and absolutely LOVED it, so I think I would really enjoy this one as well. I'm just fascinated by the Tudor court:)

    1. If you loved The Other Boleyn Girl then I think you'd like The Cousins' War series. Gregory does a great job bringing the Tudor Court to life and making it fresh. Thanks for visiting, Jenny!

  3. I've never read anything by this author, but I've always been fascinated by the Tudors--although I'm far from a scholar or expert. This sounds like an intriguing read even if, like you said, most people already knows how it all plays out. I'll have to give this series a try...someday. Great review!

    1. Definitely give it a try if you are a fan of the Tudor Court. The Other Boleyn Girl is also an awesome read by her that brings the whole Tudor Court and Anne Boleyn to life. Thanks for visiting, Natalie!


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