Sunday, 3 August 2014

The King's Curse

The King’s Curse is the final book in Philippa Gregory’s amazing Cousin’s War series. I have really enjoyed all of the novels which gives accounts of the war between the Yorks and Lancasters from the integral women on both sides. It gives a fascinating point of view from each family and you end up rooting for different characters in each one.

The King’s Curse tells the story from the view of Margaret Pole who I have admired in all of the books so far. She had an eventful life born into an infamous and powerful family and was surrounded by tales of murder and deceit. Her mother Isabelle Neville (daughter of the Kingmaker Richard Neville) dies at an early age, her father George, Duke of Clarence was drowned in a barrel of red wine on his brother’s orders and her brother Edward was imprisoned as boy in the Tower of London by Henry VII and executed as young man. This book begins as Margaret is giving birth in the tower just after her brother’s death. Although she is devastated she has to remain part of the court of the current King who ordered the murder of her brother and the queen her beloved cousin Elizabeth  for her survival.

Margaret Pole had a fascinating life, living with the Prince of Wales Arthur and his young Spanish bride Katherine and telling the ultimate lie so that Katherine could still gain the throne once Arthur died by marrying his brother Henry. Margaret supported Katherine during her bleakest times and was given the task of running the household for Princess Mary. During Henry VIII’s reign she was in and out of favour several times and put herself and her beloved sons in real danger by staying a loyal supporter to Katherine and Mary once they were cast aside by Henry.

The King’s Curse is an epic read at over 600 pages long, but it keeps your attention with the combination of loyalty, deceit, scandal, murder and a large cast of historical figures who were all instrumental in changing England and its religion. I particularly enjoyed reading about Margaret’s relationships with Elizabeth, Katherine and Mary as well as her children. I did not realise how close to Henry VIII her sons were and the dangerous game they played in all covertly supporting Katherine. I also enjoyed reading about Bisham Priory and the long-gone Syon Abbey which are both near to where I live. And I always find the Tower of London a fascinating and terrifying place.

The end of the book packs a powerful punch and makes you think about how you would coped in Margaret’s position. I really admire her as a woman who stood up for what she believed in as well as surviving for so long in such dangerous times. This is a well-researched and grippingly written book, The Cousin’s War series has been Philippa Gregory’s best work and I look forward to seeing which period of history she will focus on next.

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