Excerpt from The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Constant Princess

by Philippa Gregory

The Constant Princess
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  • First Published:
    Dec 2005, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2006, 416 pages

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Perhaps it could be betrayed by a traitor; but what fool could be found who would abandon the steady, serene power of the Moors, with all the known world behind them, with an undeniable faith to support them, to join the rabid madness of the Christian army whose kings owned only a few mountainous acres of Europe and who were hopelessly divided? Who would want to leave al-Yanna, the garden, which was the image of paradise itself, inside the walls of the most beautiful palace in Spain, the most beautiful palace in Europe, for the rugged anarchy of the castles and fortresses of Castile and Aragon?

Reinforcements would come for the Moors from Africa; they had kin and allies from Morocco to Senegal. Support would come for them from Baghdad, from Constantinople. Granada might look small compared with the conquests that Ferdinand and Isabella had made, but standing behind Granada was the greatest empire in the world -- the empire of the Prophet, praise be his name.

But, amazingly, day after day, week after week, slowly, fighting the heat of the spring days and the coldness of the nights, the Christians did the impossible. First there was a chapel built in the round like a mosque, since the local builders could do that most quickly; then, a small house, flat-roofed inside an Arabic courtyard, for King Ferdinand, Queen Isabella, and the royal family: the Infante, their precious son and heir, the three older girls, Isabel, María, Juana, and Catalina the baby. The queen asked for nothing more than a roof and walls; she had been at war for years, she did not expect luxury. Then there were a dozen stone hovels around them where the greatest lords reluctantly took some shelter. Then, because the queen was a hard woman, there were stables for the horses and secure stores for the gunpowder and the precious explosives for which she had pawned her own jewels to buy from Venice; then, and only then, were built barracks and kitchens, stores and halls. Then there was a little town, built in stone where once there had been a little camp. No one thought it could be done; but, bravo! it was done. They called it Santa Fe, and Isabella had triumphed over misfortune once again. The doomed siege of Granada by the determined, foolish Christian kings would continue.
 

Catalina, Princess of Wales, came upon one of the great lords of the Spanish camp in whispered conference with his friends. "What are you doing, Don Hernando?" she asked with all the precocious confidence of a five-year-old who had never been far from her mother's side, whose father could deny her very little.

"Nothing, Infanta," Hernando Pèrez del Pulgar said with a smile that told her that she could ask again.

"You are."

"It's a secret."

"I won't tell."

"Oh! Princess! You would tell. It is such a great secret! Too big a secret for a little girl."

"I won't! I really won't! I truly won't!" She thought. "I promise upon Wales."

"On Wales! On your own country?"

"On England?"

"On England? Your inheritance?"

She nodded. "On Wales and on England, and on Spain itself."

"Well, then. If you make such a sacred promise, I will tell you. Swear that you won't tell your mother?"

She nodded, her blue eyes wide.

Copyright © 2005 by Philippa Gregory Limited. Reproduced by permission of Simon & Schuster Publishing.

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