Monday, November 24, 2014
The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory
Philippa Gregory has retold the oft-told tale of the War of the Roses and the emergence of the Tudor dynasty through her Cousins' War series. Each volume is narrated by one of the principal women involved. Overall they present the viewpoint of the Plantagenets, whose internecine feuds eventually lost the crown to the cunning schemes of Margaret Beaufort and her son, Henry Tudor.
In an effort to mend the country and secure his hold on the throne, Henry Tudor married the York princess Elizabeth, whose two young brothers had disappeared into the Tower of London when their uncle Richard II usurped the throne. The "Little Princes in the Tower" were never seen alive again. But their disappearance and presumed death cast a shadow over the new Tudor regime that continued to roil the peace of the realm. Henry VII was never easy on his throne, and the early death of his eldest son and heir, Prince Arthur, was a devastating blow. His younger son, Henry, was charming but willful and jealous of Arthur's preferment over himself.
The King's Curse tells the sad end of the Plantagenets in the person of Margaret Plantagenet, first cousin of Elizabeth of York. Over the course of her long life, Margaret's fortunes rise and fall and rise and fall again, dependent upon the good will or paranoia of Henry VIII.
As several reviewers have noted, this book chillingly portrays how Henry VIII began his reign, a young man of brilliant promise and immense popularity that lasted for twenty years, then insidiously metamorphosed into a brutal, malicious tyrant who destroyed everyone he touched.
In the book the curse is a witch's curse that predicts the death of sons and the end of the Tudor line. In her Author's Note Gregory cites recent medical speculation that a genetic defect passed through the maternal line to Henry VIII could have been responsible for both the deaths of so many of his children by Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, and his own mental and physical deterioration over time.
Click HERE for a British review of The King's Curse; click HERE for an American review.