Philippa Gregory is perhaps one of the most discussed historical novelists on the scene today, and it seems readers either love or hate her books. One thing is certain: she's a gateway author. Many readers have picked up her books simply because of the beautifully designed cover art, or because of the TV series, The White Queen, and then moved onto other authors of the genre, hooked on historical fiction. I will say this - she has the best website of any author I have seen! It's a small community in itself with a plethora of interesting articles, quotes, facts, events, videos and news. https://www.philippagregory.com/
I've read and reviewed 10 of her books over the years. Below are few few selected reviews:
THE KING'S CURSE
Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, is an often mentioned background character in Tudor fiction. Though her name is well known, her life as a Yorkist heir married into obscurity and then plunged back into court life with the crowning of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon has never been closely detailed in fiction. Gregory has taken on this White Rose matriarch and given her a chance to tell her version of England’s destruction during the Reformation and the maniacal deterioration of Henry VIII.
Beginning with the marriage of Arthur Tudor to Katherine of Aragon and ending with the countess’s execution almost four decades later, this story covers many triumphs and tragedies as the Plantagenet-born Pole family finds and falls from favor many times over, hiding alliances though never truly overstepping into treason. The madness of the king is the theme, and seen through the eyes of his eldest daughter’s governess, he turns from a beloved young king into a paranoid tyrant over the course of his reign.
The curse is extended from the author’s previous Cousins’ War novels, but readers uninspired by the witchcraft featured in the earlier books won’t find anything otherworldly in the pages of Margaret Pole’s telling. Though loyal to Princess Mary, Lady Pole is always aware of the danger of her royal blood and the positions of her four sons, all in the service of the king. Though devoted to Queen Katherine, Margaret is ever diligent on the matter of her sons’ birthright.
This story covers the deaths of four queens, the disinheritance of Princess Mary, the Reformation, and the Pilgrimage of Grace in detail and is an excellent addition to the Tudor royalty genre, not only for its unique perspective, but also the easy flow of the narrative and the intriguing complexities of characters’ personalities.
THE TAMING OF THE QUEEN
The post-Pilgrimage of Grace religious upheaval late in Henry VIII’s reign finds credence in another of Philippa Gregory’s prolific Tudor series. The protagonist in this story is Kateryn Parr, the sixth wife of England’s most notoriously wedded monarch. While most readers know her fate, the author puts a spin on the tangle of rival factions and also describes the reasoning behind the madness of the King of England.
Though she was in love with another man—future Lord High Admiral Thomas Seymour—twice-widowed Kateryn Parr accepted this third marriage because she had no choice in the matter. Once she’s accustomed to her new role as Queen of England, she discovers a love of scholarship and an interest in the reformed religion, giving her a goal to work toward instead of wallowing in her unhappiness over the unwanted union. She invites debaters and the newfangled preachers to her circle at court, gaining a reputation as a reformer, and unknowingly making many enemies who have the King’s ear. When she hosts a meeting with “The Faire Gospeller” Mistress Anne Askew, it sets off events that threaten the Queen’s very life.
Several characters, such as Thomas Seymour and Henry, the King, are presented in an entirely new light than other books in the genre. Others, such as Anne of Cleves, the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth, and Will Somers are depicted similarly to their personalities in the author’s other Tudor novels, making them read seamlessly like a series.
Kateryn Parr was named Regent during Henry’s campaigning in France, influenced the Third Succession Act, and was the first English queen to publish under her own name. This novel beautifully exemplifies her accomplishments while portraying an honest and emotional woman learning to survive in a dangerous royal court.
THREE SISTERS, THREE QUEENS
One of the less documented Tudor women is explored in Gregory’s latest 16th-century read. Margaret, elder sister of Henry VIII, was a girl of thirteen when she was sent to marry James IV of Scotland and seal the Treaty of Perpetual Peace. Though the title gives the impression of a multiple narration, as in The Boleyn Inheritance and The Other Queen, this isn’t quite the case.
Katherine of Aragon, Queen of England, and Mary Tudor, Queen of France, are prominent figures in the story, though mostly through correspondence with Margaret. The “sister” queens share a rivalry that ebbs and flows with the changing political situations of the three countries. While they each have unmoving opinions of themselves and each other, the birth and loss of children binds them together – yet they each have a desire to be the Tudor princess who produces a son. The story follows Margaret from her wedding and new life in the wilds of Scotland to her role as Queen Mother, culminating at the peak of Henry VIII’s divorce proceedings, where the sisters, each in her own fashion, must graciously step out of the glittering Tudor court.
Margaret’s personality portrays her as proud and stubborn, and one who does not seem to learn from experience and mistakes. This, along with the constantly changing political alliances, will leave the reader’s head spinning. Likewise, those who enjoyed Katherine of Aragon’s characterization in The Constant Princess will find a different person altogether, though this can be attributed to Margaret’s skewed view of her, as well as Katherine’s understandable desperation in her later reign. Without a likeable protagonist, this story may fall short of expectations for some Gregory fans, although there are a few charming characters who add appeal to the detailed storyline.