Phillipa Gregory (a PhD historian) always writes from the women’s perspectives in the Tudor era and will share her knowledge as a historian while writing about one perspective of history.
In The King’s Curse, Phillipa Gregory follows the life of Margaret Pole, she is a Plantagenet, the family who was usurped for King Henry VII, who was Henry VIII’s father). It begins with Katherine of Aragon arriving in England from Spain and marrying Prince Arthur, Henry VIII’s brother, who died a few short months later. It talks about how Margaret helped to cover up the fact that Katherine consummated the marriage so that she would be able to follow through on a promise to Arthur to marry Henry and become queen.
The King’s Curse follows with part of the story line found in The White Princess (I have read and reviewed it already). There is this historical rumour that the Tudor line was cursed by Margarets aunt and cousin so that Henry VII would lose his son (Arthur) and a grandson and only be left with girls to rule the throne (which is exactly what happened). Incidentally, the same cousin, Elizabeth, became the queen of England to Henry VII.
The book carries on to show how Henry VIII became increasingly erratic over time, it talks about how people felt about the changes to the church, and how easily Henry’s opinions would change of people.
Margaret Pole spent most of her life being regarded as a threat to the throne because her family had previously ruled before the Tudors overthrew them. She fell in and out of favour with Henry a lot. Her son, Reginald, was a scholar who lived in Italy and he opposed the king’s religious decisions regarding his divorce to Katherine and to break from the Catholic Church to form the Church of England.
The story continues on through the marriage of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn, whom many people opposed, and then to Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves and then Catherine Howard. The book ends shortly before Henry married Jane Parr.
Toward the end, the court has became highly unstable as Henry’s alliances and mental stability deteriorated and Margaret Pole’s family and live becomes intertwined in this danger. They must decide where their loyalty really lies and whether to act next without the King knowing because any perceived criticism of the king could be punishable by death…
What I liked the most about The King’s Curse is that it presents a different view about what happened at this point in history. According to the king, Margarets family was a bunch of traitors, but many historians believe that the evidence given against them was probably fabricated. In the book, you get to read about how Margaret wasn’t planning to overthrow the king, she didn’t speak out against him as they claimed. Basically, King Henry VIII was threatened by any criticism against him, any ill thought against him, and would put people to death even if they were never going to act against him and were loyal to him despite their criticism. The entire court was forced to pretend to accept the way things were (or else). Her main goal was to do what it took in order to protect Princess Mary, whom she loved as a child, because the princess was under threat by the king for quite a long while.
A lot of people recognized King Henry VIII as a tyrant, but it is also noted in history that he became pretty unhappy, erratic, and a little unstable later in his life, like around the age of 40 more or less. The King’s Curse certainly highlighted how it wouldn’t be that far of a stretch for people to think that Henry was very mentally unstable (but obviously high functioning). It’s pretty interesting because
I have loved the books by Phillipa Gregory that I have read so far because she doesn’t mind presenting controversial views on history, and telling a story about historical facts to bring it to life for readers. The King’s Curse is a really good choice, especially if you have already read The White Princess.