The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory

the king's curseImage from Passages to the Past

Disclaimer: I love historical fiction. Novels, movies, TV shows… I’ll take it all. Extra points if the story is centered around Medieval or Renaissance Europe. Triple points if the story is about the Tudors. Basically, having a bit of Tudor-era-focused historical fiction is my equivalent of being a kid in a candy shop: I freak out with excitement, I try to make the goodness of the experience last as long as possible, and – if there is more than just one option available to me – I generally lose my shit.

And who started this love affair? Philippa Gregory! It began with her bestselling novel (turned movie!), The Other Boleyn Girl, and it just generally spiraled out of control into mayhem from there.

The King’s Curse is the sixth installation of Gregory‘s series, The Cousins’ War. I read the first five novels in the series (I particularly loved The White Queen and The White Princess), so it was only natural for me to pre-order the concluding novel of the series (and obviously proceed to read it the moment it appeared on my Kindle).

The novel is about Lady Margaret Pole, a cousin of Elizabeth of York (The White Princess); Elizabeth of York may be better know today as the mother of Henry VIII (yeah, the one who went through six wives). As the daughter of a [beheaded] traitor and an heir to the Plantagenet bloodline, Margaret was married off at a young age by the Tudors to a low-ranking Lancastrian (in those days, one who supported the new rule of the Tudor family). In case you’re wondering, she was married so lowly as to make her invisible – she and her children, as cousins of the queen (who was heir to the throne in her own right), would be potential heirs to the throne as well. If you’re wondering how the Tudors treated “pretenders” to the throne (aka other possible heirs), look up the deaths of George Plantagenet (Margaret’s father) and Edward Plantagenet (her brother).

Gregory‘s story follows Margaret through her days of relative anonymity as essentially Prince Arthur’s (the Prince of Wales… and Henry VIII’s older brother) governess into Arthur’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon and his subsequent death. From the rise of King Henry VIII (and Margaret’s own family’s ascension and escape from poverty and the protection that anonymity provides) to his abandonment of Catherine of Aragon, separation from the Catholic Church, and ascension to tyranny… and finally to Margaret’s family’s [tremendous] fall.

Though it didn’t beat out The White Princess or The White Queen as my favorite novel in The Cousins’ War series, The King’s Curse was an engrossing read. The ascension and fall of a royal bloodline, the founding of the Anglican Church, the ways in which women waged war at court, and nobility’s reaction to tyranny – it’s all there. I would recommend The King’s Curse to anybody who has an interest in the Plantagenets and Tudor-era England. And – for the record – no, this novel should not be categorized as a “historical bodice-ripper”.

What’s your favorite genre of books to read? Any recommendations for what I should read next?