The King’s Curse – England – Philippa Gregory

Kings curse

Why a booktrail?

There was one women who could see exactly what was happening in the Court of Henry VIII – for she was in a unique position in plain sight….

Story in a nutshell

This is the final book in The Cousin’s War series and instead of focusing on one Queen, this is the story of someone who saw events unfold both in and outside the Court.

Lady Margaret Pole is the daughter of George, Duke of Clarence – himself executed by his own brother King Edward IV. So already Margaret has suffered at the hands of the Court and so hides in the shadows even when she attends at the palace. Her father and brother dead, she becomes guardian to Arthur who is the young Prince and his new bride – a certain Katherine of Aragon.

Later as she becomes lady in waiting to Katherine she’s is in pole position to see and hear everything as Katherine is cast aside for Henry VIII’s second wife Anne Boleyn.

Knowledge can often mean power in the Tudor court but for a women it can only lead to a dangerous trap and disaster.

Place and setting

If you see the palaces of London and England trough the eyes of those who swept down their hallowed halls in candlelight amidst some of the most dangerous times in history, then it makes for an amazing journey back in history.

The author describes the palaces she calls ‘ Margaret Pole’s places’ in the back of the novel and these are the places she either called home or where she spent much of her time in the Royal households.

There is also a booktrail to be had in London itself since this was the centre of Royal Life – with Richmond Palace, Sheen Priory, Syon Abbey, Greenwich Palace being used by the royals over the years. Of course Westminster Palace, Tyburn, L’Erber and the Tower of London are perhaps the most iconic and infamous.

The Tower of London Penshurst House, Kent Cowdray  House Bisham Manor LudlowCastle
The Tower of London
Penshurst House, Kent
Cowdray House
Bisham Manor

Kings curse

The five places of Margaret Pole –

Berkshire – Bisham Manor

Said to be one of Margaret’s favourite homes. In 1518 –

We celebrate the feast of Easter at Bisham with just our family. The Royal court is still closed to everyone but Henry’s inner circle.

Margaret spends time here to avoid the sweating sickness and later on Elizabeth I was even imprisoned here for a time

Welsh marshes – Ludlow Castle

This was the castle where Arthur and his young bride Catherine of Aragon went to live until Arthur’s death at a very young age.

The infanta expects to bathe daily, an outlandish habit I hope she will give up when she feels the cold winds that buffet the towers of Ludlow Castle

West Sussex – Cowdray House

Now only in ruins yet this was the house where Guy Fawkes was briefly employed as  a footman on the estate and even was said to warn of the gunpowder plot on parliament. However in Margaret’s day, she spent a year confined here as she was being interrogated.

My chamber in the Cowdray tower is small and cramped and my bedroom even smaller


A party was held here for Henry VIII and his new bride Katherine of Aragon. The Duke of Buckingham lived here for a time and he was one of the main suspects of killing the princes in the tower since he was a main supporter of Richard III

If you visit this home for real you might recognise it as an actual film location for ‘The Other Boleyn girl – part set in the great Baron’s Hall!

The Tower of London

Iconic and infamous in so many ways. Of course this was the place where the princes in the tower were last seen – said to be kept imprisoned there by Richard III and the last place where they were seen alive.

There were many famous prisoners here – Anne Boleyn being one of them and this was also the site for many executions.

Also a palace long before it was a prison. Elizabeth Woodville speaks of her brothers – the princes in the tower  – and the curse that was put upon their killers

It was that whoever took my brothers from the tower, whoever put them to death should die for it

This iconic building is somewhere that fascinates as much as it repulses you for what went on there but a place where Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I and the princes in the tower spent significant historical moments is a haunting place to visit for real.

Bookish musings

Having read the rest of the Cousins War series I did wonder if I would have read this before – but using Margaret Pole as the main narrator – a woman who had access to a lot of information and her eyes and ears primed in so many directions at once, this proved not to be the case.

She is one of the few to have known Henry VIII and the others from when they were small and to have seen him grow and his moods change. What would she have seen and thought – knowing that this man was responsible for destroying her family – her father, brother and son  were killed

A woman I had come across in her other novels but not one I’d paid much attention to – a lady quite literally in plain sight who few noticed – ideal to see how she saw Henry become the mad tyrant that history showed him to be later on.

There are so many locations and historical strands to this story – Plantagenets and the Tudors, Guy Fawkes, the Princes in the Tower  -that I was really pleased to have read it.

It does bring history to life and makes it much more interesting than it otherwise may have been.

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