From the #1 New York Times bestselling author behind the acclaimed Starz series The White Queen comes the story of lady-in-waiting Margaret Pole and her unique view of King Henry VIII’s stratospheric rise to power in Tudor England.
As an heir to the Plantagenets, Margaret is seen by the King’s mother, the Red Queen, as a rival to the Tudor claim to the throne. She is buried in marriage to a Tudor supporter—Sir Richard Pole, governor of Wales—and becomes guardian to Arthur, the young Prince of Wales, and his beautiful bride, Katherine of Aragon.
But Margaret’s destiny, as cousin to the White Princess, is not for a life in the shadows. Tragedy throws her into poverty, yet a royal death restores her to her place at young Henry VIII’s court where she becomes chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine. There she watches the dominance of the Spanish queen over her husband and her tragic decline.
Amid the rapid deterioration of the Tudor court, Margaret must choose whether her allegiance is to the increasingly tyrannical Henry VIII or to her beloved queen. Caught between the old and the new, Margaret must find her own way, concealing her knowledge that an old curse cast upon all the Tudors is slowly coming true...
Gregory adds to her Cousins' War series (after The White Princess) an illuminating portrait of historical figure Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, whose royal Plantagenet lineage was both a blessing and a curse. Gregory's carefully researched story line begins in 1499 with Margaret in mourning for her brother Teddy, who was beheaded by King Henry VII because he was a rival for the throne. Margaret has already been "stuffed into obscurity," married to an ordinary knight with whom she's had five children. When Prince Arthur, the King's son and heir, marries Katherine of Aragon, Margaret becomes lady-in-waiting to the Spanish princess. When Arthur dies, Margaret loses her position; not long afterward, she is widowed and struggles financially. Matters temporarily improve for Margaret with the ascension of the new king, Henry VIII, who appoints Margaret governess to his daughter Mary. But the moody and volatile ruler also forces Margaret and her family to jockey for favor at court. Gregory moves confidently through a tangle of intrigue, revenge, and tyranny toward a shocking betrayal that brings Margaret face-to-face with the king's ire.
AudioBook Review: Stars: Overall 4 Narration 3 Story 4
Stars: Overall 4 Narration 3 Story 4
I’m obsessed with the Tudors, and this early glimpse at the machinations behind the return and rise of Henry VIII is a story rife with intrigue, danger, passion, danger and political machinations: far better than any drama you could hope for. Especially as fictional imaginings are laden with fact, and brings the simple truth to light – power will corrupt.
The King’s Curse is the sixth book in The Cousin’s War series by Phillippa Gregory, a series that starts with the Plantagenet’s – a 400 year history that brought forth the house of Tudor and York and the War of the Roses.
Although this is the sixth in the series, it is the first of this series that I have read, but Gregory is meticulous in her research (although known for taking liberties) and detail, providing information necessary to the understanding of the characters and events that allows readers to catch on quickly. In just over six hundred pages, and twenty four hours of audio, the details range from broad strokes to minute, requiring readers and listeners to pay attention or miss details.
In this story, set with Margaret Pole as protagonist, is the tale of Henry VIII, and his transformation from promising Prince to tyrannical egomaniac with a child bride. Margaret is an oft-overlooked woman in history, partly because women are often regarded as having less import, but in Margaret’s case, she just wasn’t a particularly likable woman. Acutely aware of her own birth and royal blood, she’s the niece of Richard III, and her life has been a series of tragedies and political matches to remove her political power as a potential figurehead for the Plantagenet dynasty. Cousin to the mother of Henry VII, her life consisted of some minor royal duties as Lady in Waiting to the young Catherine of Aragon.
While managing to present the majority of the story in an “as you are living it” way, the historical hiccups in this story seem to come more from conflicting scholarly theories regarding the progression of events and people, rather than moments that serve the fictional plot. While Margaret’s staunch support of Katherine of Aragon and Mary and her abiding vehement dislike for all things Anne Boleyn are occasionally far beyond what I would have thought safe or prudent considering the treachery and whispers in the ranks of courtiers as everyone jostled for primacy of position, the sense of Margaret’s snobbery and self-import was solidly reinforced in those moments. Because Margaret was, above all things, a snob; measuring each encounter with an eye to bloodline and birth.
The pacing is solid and steady until near the end, when a change in the immediacy of the events being detailed seems to slacken: we are, however detailing the downfall of Henry VIII, and the events that brought it about, and that almost feels fitting.
Narration for this story is provided by Bianca Amato, and does provide the necessary elements of remove, scorn and self-import to Margaret that she needed to make the character come to life. Other characters are detailed and delivered with an overlying touch of Margaret’s opinion of their character, some silly, others sly which drew me into Margaret’s view of the world around her in a rather unique way. Small adjustments to tone, pitch and delivery did help to delineate characters, but for the most part, one was also TOLD who was speaking, and with a story so full of characters familiar and not, it was a difficult task to present distinction that was both unique and solely owned by just one character. Amato has a lovely voice and delivery style, and her careful pacing allowed for easy listening.
While not a read or listen in one sitting type of story, if the television production of The White Queen interested you, or you are a fan of Philippa Gregory’s work, this is a wonderful addition with a protagonist that will not be on the ‘most loved’ list, but certainly has an interesting place in the Tudor history.
I received an AudioBook copy of the title from Simon and Schuster audio for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
The King’s Curse
Excellent book! Definitely recommend buying: it will be absolutely sensational!