Book Reviews

Book Review: The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory

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The King's CurseThe King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory is the final novel in The Cousins’ War Series. This book is told from the point of view of Margaret Pole (née Plantagenet).

The Plot

Margaret Pole is cousin to Queen Elizabeth of York, and one of the few remaining Plantagenet heirs who lives under the Tudor rule. Married off to a Tudor supporter, Margaret’s status changes dramatically. But Margaret is not destined for an ordinary life. When Henry VIII comes to power, she becomes chief lady-in-waiting and best friend to Katherine of Aragon. As Henry VIII becomes increasingly tyrannical, Margaret battles with her conscience – should she and her family stand against the Tudors and risk getting killed?

My review – contains spoilers!

As with The White Princess, this novel has veered off into the Tudor reign, but it is told from the point of a view of a Plantagenet lady. Margaret Pole is certainly an interesting character. She is in a unique position and lives through the reigns of many Queens of England. Her life is also filled with tragedy.

Margaret is proud to be a Plantagenet. She repeatedly states that the Plantagenets are a great royal family. Whilst this pride is understandable, I thought that she should accept the reality of the Tudors as the new royal house.

Readers of The Kingmaker’s Daughter will know that Margaret is the daughter of Isabelle Neville. Interestingly, Margaret’s attitude towards Jane Pole’s inheritance almost mirrors Isabelle’s stance on Anne Neville’s fortune.

I questioned some of Margaret’s motives in this novel. She is cold towards Reginald who is her own son. Margaret’s ambition also proves to be her downfall. She wants her family to be great again. I had a feeling that Henry VIII’s enemies might turn the tide against Margaret. I think Margaret should have steered her family away from the court. It’s ironic because at one point she states: ‘I too tried to keep us hidden’. Really?

With the other characters, Henry VII manages to appear even more odious in this novel than he did in The White Princess. I felt sympathetic towards Katherine of Aragon who falls out of favour through no fault of her own. This novel also shows another side to Henry VIII. He is not romanticised, but instead he turns volatile, fickle and heartless. Henry has a paranoia about the Plantagenets reclaiming the throne, and he turns into his father. However, Gregory indicates that there may indeed have been an underlying threat from the Plantagenet heirs.

One of the standout characters in this novel is the Princess Mary. She is caught in the middle of her parents’ tumultuous marriage. It was touching to read about how Margaret and her family stood by the Princess Mary. They put their lives at risk for her safety.

Final Thoughts

I was curious to learn about what happened to Margaret Pole and her family, and The King’s Curse does not disappoint. This is a well-researched novel filled with twists and turns. Gregory vividly illustrates how Margaret Pole fought for her life against Tudor tyranny, and there are some shocking and heart-breaking moments. The Cousins’ War has been a riveting series by Philippa Gregory.

My rating: ★★★★☆

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