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The King's Curse

The King's Curse

4.2 43
by Philippa Gregory

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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author behind the acclaimed Starz series The White Queen comes the story of lady-in-waiting Margaret Pole and her unique view of King Henry VIII’s stratospheric rise to power in Tudor England.

As an heir to the Plantagenets, Margaret is seen by the King’s mother, the Red Queen, as a rival to the


From the #1 New York Times bestselling author behind the acclaimed Starz series The White Queen comes the story of lady-in-waiting Margaret Pole and her unique view of King Henry VIII’s stratospheric rise to power in Tudor England.

As an heir to the Plantagenets, Margaret is seen by the King’s mother, the Red Queen, as a rival to the Tudor claim to the throne. She is buried in marriage to a Tudor supporter—Sir Richard Pole, governor of Wales—and becomes guardian to Arthur, the young Prince of Wales, and his beautiful bride, Katherine of Aragon.

But Margaret’s destiny, as cousin to the White Princess, is not for a life in the shadows. Tragedy throws her into poverty, yet a royal death restores her to her place at young Henry VIII’s court where she becomes chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine. There she watches the dominance of the Spanish queen over her husband and her tragic decline.

Amid the rapid deterioration of the Tudor court, Margaret must choose whether her allegiance is to the increasingly tyrannical Henry VIII or to her beloved queen. Caught between the old and the new, Margaret must find her own way, concealing her knowledge that an old curse cast upon all the Tudors is slowly coming true...

Editorial Reviews

“Nobody does dynastic history like Gregory.”
From the Publisher
“Margaret’s story is shocking, deeply moving and offers an alternative view on a much-told tale. Gregory is on form here; her depiction of Henry VIII’s transformation from indulged golden boy to sinister tyrant is perfectly pitched and seems more horrific still when we are made intimate witnesses to the devastation of Margaret’s family. . . . I defy anyone to remain dry-eyed as the story reaches its tragic denouement.”—The Sunday Express (UK)

“Infuses vitality into an oft-forgotten player in the aftermath of the War of the Roses—Margaret Poole, heiress to the defeated Plantagenet clan.”—Closer

USA Today
“The queen of royal fiction.”
New York Daily News
"Gorgeous fun."
New York Post
“Gregory ... always delivers the goods.”
on The White Princess People Magazine
"Loyalties are torn, paranoia festers and you can almost hear the bray of royal trumpets as the period springs to life. It’s a bloody irresistible read."
on The White Princess USA Today
"Bring on the blood, sex and tears! . . . You name it, it's all here."
on The White Princess The Washington Post
"The White Princess features one of the more intriguing theories about the possible fate of the princes."
Associated Press Staff
“There's no question that she is the best at what she does.”
“Philippa Gregory turns real-life historical royalty into royally entertaining novels.”
Entertainment Weekly
“If only grade-school history books were written so vividly.”
The Boston Globe
“In thoroughly researched, wonderfully realized settings, she can make a period come alive.”
Roanoke Times
“Gregory’s fans will recognize Margaret from ‘The White Princess,’ but the character comes into her own in ‘The King’s Curse’ as a multifaceted, ultimately sympathetic character. . . . The book . . . moves smoothly toward its harrowing finish. It is one of Gregory’s best efforts yet.”
Publishers Weekly
Gregory adds to her Cousins’ War series (after The White Princess) an illuminating portrait of historical figure Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, whose royal Plantagenet lineage was both a blessing and a curse. Gregory’s carefully researched story line begins in 1499 with Margaret in mourning for her brother Teddy, who was beheaded by King Henry VII because he was a rival for the throne. Margaret has already been “stuffed into obscurity,” married to an ordinary knight with whom she’s had five children. When Prince Arthur, the King’s son and heir, marries Katherine of Aragon, Margaret becomes lady-in-waiting to the Spanish princess. When Arthur dies, Margaret loses her position; not long afterward, she is widowed and struggles financially. Matters temporarily improve for Margaret with the ascension of the new king, Henry VIII, who appoints Margaret governess to his daughter Mary. But the moody and volatile ruler also forces Margaret and her family to jockey for favor at court. Gregory moves confidently through a tangle of intrigue, revenge, and tyranny toward a shocking betrayal that brings Margaret face-to-face with the king’s ire. Agent: Anthony Mason. (Sept.)
The Washington Post
"The White Princess features one of the more intriguing theories about the possible fate of the princes."
People Magazine
"Loyalties are torn, paranoia festers and you can almost hear the bray of royal trumpets as the period springs to life. It’s a bloody irresistible read."
Library Journal
In this final entry in the "Cousins' War" series, Margaret Pole, cousin to Elizabeth of York, starts by hosting Arthur, the Prince of Wales, and his new bride, Katherine of Aragon, and ends up as a lady-in-waiting to Katherine as she marries her dead husband's brother, Henry VIII. A phenomenally popular series; with a reading group guide and a big push at the American Library Association conference.
Kirkus Reviews
In the sixth of Gregory's Cousins' War series, the last Plantagenets wage a losing and mostly subterranean battle against the unscrupulous Tudor upstarts. Lady Margaret Pole, the principal of this installment, is cousin to many Plantagenet heirs of the house of York, including Elizabeth (The White Princess, 2013), who married Henry VII, the Tudor conqueror, after he deposed their uncle, Richard III. Elizabeth and her mother, a reputed sorceress, called down a curse upon the Tudors: that they would be unable to produce a healthy male heir and their line would die out in three generations, ending with a virgin queen. As we all know, that came true. However, somehow Gregory manages to keep us in suspense as to what will befall her characters. Lady Margaret, married to a lowly knight as Henry VII punishes the Yorks, is named guardian to the Prince of Wales, Arthur, in his Welsh castle. Arthur is clearly in love with his new wife, the Spanish infanta, Katherine of Aragon. But was the marriage consummated? This question, to which only Arthur, Katherine and Margaret know the answer, will trigger the tumult that follows. In deference to Arthur's dying wish, Katherine marries his younger brother, Henry. As king, Henry magnanimously restores the Yorks, including Margaret, to their former lands and titles: She is now Countess of Salisbury and the richest woman in England. But as previous volumes predicted, the wheel of fortune keeps turning, particularly when a loose cannon like Henry rules. Ominously, Buckingham, the most powerful York next to Margaret, is executed for allegedly mentioning the curse. Then Wolsey falls. As the juggernaut of Anne Boleyn threatens to upend the English court; destroy Queen Katherine and Henry's sole legitimate heir, Princess Mary; cause countless executions; change a national religion and civilization as they knew it, Margaret and the Yorks soldier on. It would be a spoiler to recount what happens next although we already know. Under Gregory's spell, we keep hoping history won't repeat itself.

Product Details

Publication date:
Plantagenet and Tudor Novels Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

The King’s Curse

  • In the moment of waking I am innocent, my conscience clear of any wrongdoing. In that first dazed moment, as my eyes open, I have no thoughts; I am only a smooth-skinned, tightly muscled young body, a woman of twenty-six, slowly waking with joy to life. I have no sense of my immortal soul, I have no sense of sin or guilt. I am so deliciously, lazily sleepy that I hardly know who I am.

    Slowly, I open my eyes and realize that the light coming through the shutters means that it is late in the morning. As I stretch out, luxuriously, like a waking cat, I remember that I was exhausted when I fell asleep and now I feel rested and well. And then, all in a moment, as if reality had suddenly tumbled down on my head like glossy-sealed denouncements from a high shelf, I remember that I am not well, that nothing is well, that this is the morning I hoped would never come; for this morning I cannot deny my deadly name: I am the heir of royal blood, and my brother—guilty as I am guilty—is dead.

    My husband, sitting on the side of my bed, is fully dressed in his red velvet waistcoat, his jacket making him bulky and wide, his gold chain of office as chamberlain to the Prince of Wales splayed over his broad chest. Slowly, I realize he has been waiting for me to wake, his face crumpled with worry. “Margaret?”

    “Don’t say anything,” I snap like a child, as if stopping the words will delay the facts, and I turn away from him into the pillow.

    “You must be brave,” he says hopelessly. He pats my shoulder as if I were a sick hound puppy. “You must be brave.”

    I don’t dare to shrug him off. He is my husband, I dare not offend him. He is my only refuge. I am buried in him, my name hidden in his. I am cut off from my title as sharply as if my name had been beheaded and rolled away into a basket.

    Mine is the most dangerous name in England: Plantagenet, and once I carried it proudly, like a crown. Once I was Margaret Plantagenet of York, niece of two kings, the brothers Edward IV and Richard III, and the third brother was my father, George, Duke of Clarence. My mother was the wealthiest woman in England and the daughter of a man so great that they called him “Kingmaker.” My brother, Teddy, was named by our uncle, King Richard, as heir to the throne of England, and between us—Teddy and me—we commanded the love and the loyalty of half the kingdom. We were the noble Warwick orphans, saved from fate, snatched from the witchy grip of the white queen, raised in the royal nursery at Middleham Castle by Queen Anne herself, and nothing, nothing in the world was too good or too rich or too rare for us.

    But when King Richard was killed, we went overnight from being the heirs to the throne to becoming pretenders, survivors of the old royal family, while a usurper took the throne. What should be done with the York princesses? What should be done with the Warwick heirs? The Tudors, mother and son, had the answer prepared. We would all be married into obscurity, wedded to shadows, hidden in wedlock. So now I am safe, cut down by degrees, until I am small enough to conceal under a poor knight’s name in a little manor in the middle of England where land is cheap and there is nobody who would ride into battle for the promise of my smile at the cry of “À Warwick!”.

    I am Lady Pole. Not a princess, not a duchess, not even a countess, just the wife of a humble knight, stuffed into obscurity like an embroidered emblem into a forgotten clothes chest. Margaret Pole, young pregnant wife to Sir Richard Pole, and I have already given him three children, two of them boys. One is Henry, named sycophantically for the new king, Henry VII, and one is Arthur, named ingratiatingly for his son Prince Arthur, and I have a daughter, Ursula. I was allowed to call a mere girl whatever I wanted, so I named her for a saint who chose death rather than be married to a stranger and forced to take his name. I doubt that anyone has observed this small rebellion of mine; I certainly hope not.

    But my brother could not be rechristened by marriage. Whoever he married, however lowly she was, she could not change his name as my husband has changed mine. He would still hold the title Earl of Warwick, he would still answer to Edward Plantagenet, he would still be the true heir to the throne of England. When they raised his standard (and someone, sooner or later, was bound to raise his standard) half of England would turn out just for that haunting flicker of white embroidery, the white rose. That is what they call him: “the White Rose.”

    So since they could not take his name from him, they took his fortune and his lands. Then they took his liberty, packing him away like a forgotten banner, among other worthless things, into the Tower of London, among traitors and debtors and fools. But though he had no servants, no lands, no castle, no education, still my brother had his name, my name. Still Teddy had his title, my grandfather’s title. Still he was Earl of Warwick, the White Rose, heir to the Plantagenet throne, a living constant reproach to the Tudors, who captured that throne and now call it their own. They took him into the darkness when he was a little boy of eleven and they did not bring him out until he was a man of twenty-four. He had not felt meadow grass under his feet for thirteen years. Then he walked out of the Tower, perhaps enjoying the smell of the rain on the wet earth, perhaps listening to the seagulls crying over the river, perhaps hearing beyond the high walls of the Tower the shouts and laughter of free men, free Englishmen, his subjects. With a guard on either side of him, he walked across the drawbridge and up to Tower Hill, knelt before the block, and put his head down as if he deserved to die, as if he were willing to die; and they beheaded him.

    That happened yesterday. Just yesterday. It rained all day. There was a tremendous storm, as if the sky was raging against cruelty, rain pouring down like grief, so that when they told me, as I stood beside my cousin the queen in her beautifully appointed rooms, we closed the shutters against the darkness as if we did not want to see the rain that on Tower Hill was washing blood into the gutter, my brother’s blood, my blood, royal blood.

    “Try to be brave,” my husband murmurs again. “Think of the baby. Try not to be afraid.”

    “I’m not afraid.” I twist my head to speak over my shoulder. “I don’t have to try to be brave. I have nothing to fear. I know that I am safe with you.”

    He hesitates. He does not want to remind me that perhaps I do still have something to fear. Perhaps even his lowly estate is not humble enough to keep me safe. “I meant, try not to show your grief . . .”

    “Why not?” It comes out as a childish wail. “Why shouldn’t I? Why shouldn’t I grieve? My brother, my only brother, is dead! Beheaded like a traitor when he was innocent as a child. Why should I not grieve?”

    “Because they won’t like it,” he says simply.

  • Meet the Author

    Philippa Gregory is the author of many bestselling novels, including The Other Boleyn Girl, and is a recognized authority on women’s history. Her work has been adapted for the screen in The Other Boleyn Girl movie and the critically acclaimed STARZ miniseries The White Queen and The White Princess. Her most recent novel is The Last Tudor. She graduated from the University of Sussex and received a PhD from the University of Edinburgh, where she is a Regent. She holds two honorary degrees from Teesside University and the University of Sussex. She is a fellow of the Universities of Sussex and Cardiff and was awarded the 2016 Harrogate Festival Award for Contribution to Historical Fiction. She welcomes visitors to her website, PhilippaGregory.com.

    Brief Biography

    Yorkshire, England
    Date of Birth:
    January 9, 1954
    Place of Birth:
    Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa
    B.A. in history, Sussex University, 1982; Ph.D., 18th-century popular fiction, Edinburgh, 1984

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    The King's Curse 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 43 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I have read all of Greggory's novels and The King's Curse entertains as the others did. However, it did feel like a retelling of the same story we have already read several times before. Margaret Pole is certainly offers her own perspective as the protagonist, but I felt like these historical events have already done to death by Greggory. Nothing has ever quite matched up to The Other Boleyn Girl.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I'm a huge fan, and have read nearly all her books. This one is just a little drawn out and the storyline became repetitive.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Gregory's storytelling always leaves me wanting more. She weaves exciting fiction into a "history lesson." I always come away feeling educated and entertained!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    The King's Curse was the final chapter of the Cousins War series in my mind, not a continuation of the Tudor series, but the prequel to it.  As usual, Gregory's writing is indicative of her relentless research and does a fine job of mixing history with well-told fiction.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I think I've read just about every historical novel Ms. Gregory has written. The last one I read, "The Other Queen" just about bored me to tears. I was afraid I was getting burnt out on her work, but this pulled me back in. It starts with Margaret Pole serving Katherine when married to Arthur and covers quite a bit of ground. If you like the Tudor period I really recommend this book.
    Mirella More than 1 year ago
    The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory is the final novel in The Cousins' War series that began with The White Princess, The Kingmaker's Daughter, The Lady of the Rivers, The Red Queen and The White Queen. This concluding novel is about Margaret Pole, the daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, who was executed for treason by his own brother, King Edward IV. This tale is set between 1499-1541, the years when Katharine of Aragon became Queen of England until her death. Philippa Gregory has brought to life the extraordinary women who lived in this fascinating and treacherous era. The story is written with meticulous research and great depth of understanding of the political and royal intrigues of the time. Margaret Pole, her fears, her aspirations, her emotions are vividly portrayed. She is a woman who preferred to play down her noble heritage – being the cousin of King Henry VIII's mother, Queen Elizabeth of York, and her royal Plantaganent bloodlines that place her and her offspring in direct line to the throne. But to vie for the throne brings murder and execution, and for this reason, Margaret Pole does everything possible to avoid bringing attention to her family. Another highly recommended and truly beautifully rendered masterpiece by Philippa Gregory and the War of the Roses! 
    peaches14ct More than 1 year ago
    Philippa Gregory's Other Boleyn Girl, the Virgin's Lover, The Queen's Fool and The Constant Princess mesmerized me entirely - but her subsequent Tudor dynasty books have not lived up to the standard she set with those first four. The King's Curse was good but not "really good" - I'd call it one of the worst Gregory books I've read. There is a lack of character development and focus on actual interactions between the main characters - it feels like Gregory is trying to simply drive the plot vs let you into the world of Margaret Pole and help you really get to know her. Perhaps the lack of a romantic relationship also contributed to the boring factor of this novel, but I don't think that is a must to make this story more compelling. All in all, I think Philippa needs to focus less on covering every major character in the Henry Tudor saga, and more on writing interesting stories that also develop her characters really well - like she did with the 4 books mentioned above.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    A very enjoyable read.
    Anonymous 14 days ago
    I have always enjoyed Miss Gregory's books look forward to the next
    Anonymous 7 months ago
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    Trayclee More than 1 year ago
    I usually love her books but this one was a bit predictable and at times boring. Maybe she just wasn't that interesting of a person to write about. King Henry is at his best horrible self.
    Bshorty More than 1 year ago
    It was a great book! Very heart-wrenching. At times it seemed repetitive but well worth the read if you are a fan of historical fiction and the Tudor era. I have read all her books from this era, always transports you back in time.
    SuzeQ18 More than 1 year ago
    This is the first of Gregory's books that I have read. I will read the other books in her series as well. I enjoyed the story of Henry VIII as told from the perspective of Margaret Pole. I would recommend reading her books.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    typical Gregory novel.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Loved it!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Excellent book and the author is an outstanding writer. I've always loved her book. Thanks for this one.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Good read but not her best work. Started off really interesting but the last 150 pages were a drag.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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    Virginiaw More than 1 year ago
    This was a good book but not my favorite of hers.  I did like how she showed King Henry as being a bit of a spoiled brat.  Being real people it was a little hard to really like any of the characters.   They had to be  hard people but it is hard to read about.