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The King's Curse

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Overview

The final novel in the Cousins’ War series, the basis for the critically acclaimed Starz miniseries, The White Queen, by #1 New York Times bestselling author and “the queen of royal fiction” (USA TODAY) Philippa Gregory tells the fascinating story of Margaret Pole, cousin to the “White Princess,” Elizabeth of York, and lady-in-waiting to Katherine of Aragon.

Regarded as yet another threat to the volatile King Henry VII’s claim to the throne, Margaret Pole, cousin to Elizabeth of...

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Overview

The final novel in the Cousins’ War series, the basis for the critically acclaimed Starz miniseries, The White Queen, by #1 New York Times bestselling author and “the queen of royal fiction” (USA TODAY) Philippa Gregory tells the fascinating story of Margaret Pole, cousin to the “White Princess,” Elizabeth of York, and lady-in-waiting to Katherine of Aragon.

Regarded as yet another threat to the volatile King Henry VII’s claim to the throne, Margaret Pole, cousin to Elizabeth of York (known as the White Princess) and daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, is married off to a steady and kind Lancaster supporter—Sir Richard Pole. For his loyalty, Sir Richard is entrusted with the governorship of Wales, but Margaret’s contented daily life is changed forever with the arrival of Arthur, the young Prince of Wales, and his beautiful bride, Katherine of Aragon. Margaret soon becomes a trusted advisor and friend to the honeymooning couple, hiding her own royal connections in service to the Tudors.

After the sudden death of Prince Arthur, Katherine leaves for London a widow, and fulfills her deathbed promise to her husband by marrying his brother, Henry VIII. Margaret’s world is turned upside down by the surprising summons to court, where she becomes the chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine. But this charmed life of the wealthiest and “holiest” woman in England lasts only until the rise of Anne Boleyn, and the dramatic deterioration of the Tudor court. Margaret has to choose whether her allegiance is to the increasingly tyrannical king, or to her beloved queen; to the religion she loves or the theology which serves the new masters. Caught between the old world and the new, Margaret Pole has to find her own way as she carries the knowledge of an old curse on all the Tudors.

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  • The King's Curse
    The King's Curse  

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Few fictional lives can match the dramatic triumphs and tragedies of Margaret Pole (1473-1541), the ill-fated Countess of Salisbury. In this final volume of her acclaimed and controversial Cousins' War series, "Queen of Royal Fiction" Philippa Gregory tracks the life of a woman first thrust into contentious court battles first by birth and then by an arranged marriage. This full-bodied, 624-page novel blends the pleasures of history, romance, and fiction. (P.S. Pole was the daughter of Isabel Neville, one of the main subjects of The White Princess, the penultimate entry in this epic.)

Publishers Weekly
07/21/2014
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.)
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."
The Washington Post
"The White Princess features one of the more intriguing theories about the possible fate of the princes."
USA Today
“The queen of royal fiction.”
New York Post
“Gregory ... always delivers the goods.”
USA Today
"Bring on the blood, sex and tears! . . . You name it, it's all here."
New York Daily News
"Gorgeous fun."
New York Post
“Gregory ...always delivers the goods.”
Library Journal
04/01/2014
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
2014-07-31
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.
Booklist
“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

New York Post
“Gregory ... always delivers the goods.”
USA Today
“The queen of royal fiction.”
New York Daily News
"Gorgeous fun."
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."
Redbook
“Sexy…Scandalous…Smart.”
Associated Press Staff
“There's no question that she is the best at what she does.”
Time
“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.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451626117
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 9/9/2014
  • Pages: 624
  • Sales rank: 12,406
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Philippa Gregory is the author of several bestselling novels, including The Other Boleyn Girl, and is a recognized authority on women’s history. Her Cousins’ War novels are the basis for the critically acclaimed Starz miniseries The White Queen. She studied history at the University of Sussex and received a PhD from the University of Edinburgh. She welcomes visitors to her website, PhilippaGregory.com.

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

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.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 28 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 28 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2014

    Interesting but repetive

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2014

    Wonderful example of historical fiction

    Gregory's storytelling always leaves me wanting more. She weaves exciting fiction into a "history lesson." I always come away feeling educated and entertained!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2014

    Loved!

    A very enjoyable read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 29, 2014

    This was a good book but not my favorite of hers.  I did like ho

    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.   

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2014

    Ok

    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.

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  • Posted October 31, 2014

    Great book

    Loved this book if you like England history it's a must read!

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  • Posted October 19, 2014

    Makes History Fun

    As always Philippa Gregory allows us an inside look at the lives of the English royalty in and around the reign of Henry VIII that is interesting and personal. I especially love how she writes about the same period (and people) from the perspective of different main characters. This book is a wonderful read and will be hard to put down!

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  • Posted October 14, 2014

    Another Great Tale Comes to a Dead End

    White Queen, Red Queen, Kings Arthur/Henry? Edward.....Who is really keeping things going? The women behind the throne, of course. Having read the earlier historical novels in this series by Ms. Gregory, I kind of knew what I was getting in to. Margaret Pole was a lady in waiting to Queens and Princesses during the Tudor era, and this story provides a different perspective to English history than the earlier stories. It wasn't easy being close to the throne, especially when so many players were related by blood or marriage, or both.I enjoyed the read and enjoyed fact checking afterwards to separate fact and fiction. Ms. Gregory does a superb job working them into her novel.

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  • Posted October 12, 2014

    Keeps you wanting more

    Some insight into the life of Margaret Pole, and other decendents of the York dynasty. My interest began with Elizabeth Woodville, and Philippa Gregory has opened a new world for me. This novel answers some questions many readers my have, what happened to those children?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2014

    Another Great Story

    This book should appeal to fans of historical fiction told from a woman's point of view. I have read all of Gregory's books about the Cousins' War and enjoyed this one just as much as the others. The author has an amazing ability to get inside the heads of her characters and tell their stories in what could have been their own words. The Cousins' books can be read in any order--and you'll want to read them all!

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  • Posted October 9, 2014

    Great Read

    This book was a surprise to me. I presumed it was about Henry VIII, but it really was about his intention to get rid of the real threat
    to his ascension of the throne by genocide of the Plantagenets. He was
    always a spoiled boy who enjoyed the flattering of his ego and wanted
    to be the best of all the kings of England. Although he was raised by
    a Plantagenet nanny as a favor to his mother, he forgot everything she
    ever taught him. He favored her children for a while but only to throw them off the scent of his true plans. While they lived he would
    always feel they were waiting to take over the throne. I could not put
    this book down once I started it. I recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of England.

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  • Posted October 6, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory is the final novel in The C

    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! 

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  • Posted October 4, 2014

    Highly readable and a must have to understand the Tudor rulers

    I enjoyed this book and it filled in a lot of holes around the decision of Henry VIII to kill off his cousins on his mothers' side. This does show that they had a much better blood right to the English throne after the death of Richard III than Henry Tudor, afterward Henry VII.

    The story revolves around the life of Margaret and how she keep her family in the forefront of the Tudor court by serving Henry and Katherine, his first wife, in public and in the private world of the court.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2014

    The King's Curse was the final chapter of the Cousins War series

    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.

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  • Posted October 3, 2014

    Good but not great

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2014

    Disappointef

    Did not enjoy reading this book nearly as much as her other books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2014

    Chase

    Touches your face and the fangs shrink into normal teeth"i like you as a demigod not vampire"

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2014

    Emily

    I know that but i wont hurt u

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2014

    The King's Curse

    Philippa Gregory is a master at historical fiction. As told from the perspective of Margret Pole we see a different view of the Tudor court and all its intrigue. A great read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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