The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
It was a bit slow going and very depressing. Margaret Pole daughter of George, Duke of Clarence (King Edward IV and King Richard III's brother) tells the tale. The book opens with the execution of her brother whose only crime is being the Plantagenet male heir. Margaret herself was married off to one of the King's poor relations Sir Richard Pole, who is the Prince of Wales' (Arthur) guardian. When Arthur marries Katherine of Aragon, Margaret becomes close to the young wife. When Arthur dies of The Sweat, Katherine begs Margaret to support her claim, that she is still a virgin untouched by her young husband, so she will be free to marry his brother Henry. Margaret agrees to know nothing of what went on in their bed.
When Margaret's husband dies she is left destitute. The King's Mother (Margaret Beaufort) tries to use this to force Margaret to betray Katherine. When she refuses to betray Katherine she is forced by poverty to send her children away and go into a nunnery. Upon the death of Margaret Beaufort and Henry the VII, Henry the VIII marries Katherine of Aragon and Margaret Pole becomes one of her ladies in waiting, and her children are brought to court except for Reginald Pole (Margaret was forced to give him to the church when she was destitute). Reginald is sent abroad to study theology. Margaret is also made Countess of Salisbury and her family lands are restored to her making her one of the richest peers in England. Her oldest son (Henry) becomes Baron Montague. When Henry and Katherine have a son she is appointed as his Governess, but sadly the child dies soon after it's birth. She is appointed Governess to each child that is born to the couple and watches with dismay as the child dies after a few hours. Finally a baby is born that lives, but alas it is a girl. Margaret is devoted to her charge Princess Mary. King Henry VIII starts looking for reasons why his children are dieing after becoming enchanted by Anne Boleyn and decides it is because Katherine was his brother's wife. Margaret recalls the curse that Elizabeth Woodville and Elizabeth of York placed on the murderer of the Princes in the Tower and believes it has fallen on Henry VII and his line. But she wisely doesn't remember a curse whenever she is asked about it.
Margaret Pole and her family fall out of favor with Henry VIII's "marriage" to Anne Boleyn especially when Reginald finds it invalid. They are outraged when Princess Mary is declared a bastard and their support of Lady Mary puts them in danger.
Henry the VIII descends further into paranoia and madness with the execution of Anne Boleyn. Even the birth of Edward Prince of Wales doesn't reassure him, he begins to see enemies everywhere and eventually trumps up a reason to execute Margaret Pole her son Baron Montague, imprison Montague's son (who disappears in the Tower) and execute the rest of his Plantagenet cousins and imprison their heirs. The surviving Plantagenet heirs are only released from the Tower when Princess Mary becomes Queen of England.
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