What Philippa Gregory Does for History

I have to assume it is Phillipa Gregory's own choice that only one of her books has been made into a movie. Each one of them is a story worth telling and would draw a serious audience to the big screen.

"The Other Bolyen Girl" - the book that was made into the movie that attracted the talents of no less than Natalie Portman (The Black Swan), Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers), and Eric Bana (The Time Traveler's Wife), was the first of Gregory's books I ever read. I was on a twelve-day cruise and - even though I thoroughly enjoyed the cruise - I managed to get through it - twice. I just liked the way she told an intriguing story while I was unintentionally learning something about the history of England and its monarchy. That trait has held true through the other dozen or so of her books I've read - most of them more than once. An unexpected bonus of writing this hub has been discovering several Gregory books I've missed along the way. For me that's better than a pay-out from HubPages any day.

"This has to be one of my favourite books of all time for it is the one that made my name, was adapted by the BBC and Hollywood (2008), and established the style that has come to be my 'signature' style: the first person view of history from a lesser known, or perhaps unknown historical character," wrote Gregory about her breakout novel, the first of the many she has since written about the characters who make up the British monarchy.


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Gregory's Oldest Book Historically

By historical chronology, "The Women of the Cousins' War: The Duchess, the Queen, and the King's Mother" is the Gregory book going back the farthest in time. The Cousins' War is more commonly known as the War of the Roses or the Hundred Year War when the Lancaster and York branches of the royal family tree turned on each other and left only one cousin standing, Henry Tudor or Henry VII. This work is her only effort at writing specific history, and she did so with the assistance of two other historians, David Baldwin and Michael Jones. But it wasn't written and published until 2011 in an effort to satisfy the curiosity of her readers about three women revealed in her earlier books for whom there was virtually no documented biographical information. Those three women were Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford (The Lady of the Rivers), Margaret Beaufort (The Red Queen), and Elizabeth Woodville (The White Queen).


Her First Effort

Gregory wrote her first book, "Wideacre", in 1987 as she was completing her PhD in 18th century history and literature at the University of Edinburgh. The novel is set in the second part of the eighteenth century during the time of the British Parliament's enclosure acts. These laws' removed the rights of local people to graze stock, cut wood or peat, draw water or grow crops on common land.

Written by hand in an old ruled notebook, she confidently inscribed the front with these words, 'Philippa Gregory - Best Selling Novel'. And it was. It sold world-wide in a bidding war, and Gregory decided to make her way in the world as a fulltime writer.

Gregory's Latest Book

The average person would have a limited appetite for British history. But Gregory has had no less than ten best-sellers based on the six monarchs between King Henry VI and Queen Elizabeth I. Her latest is "The White Princess" based on the life of Elizabeth of York, the daughter of King Edward IV, the sister of the two lost "Princes in the Tower, the suspected lover of King Richard III, and the eventual wife of Henry VII whose crowning ended the Cousins' War. By the way, she was also the mother of arguably England's most notorious King, Henry VIII. Gregory seems to have come full circle.


So What Has Gregory Done For History?

How often have you heard history described as the lifeless recitation of meaningless dates, facts as written by the victors of wars, and boring debates by no one other than academics? What Gregory has done for history is cautiously to protect the facts that can be documented and generously to fill in the gaps between them with her vivid, and often sensual, imagination and her considerable story-telling talents. People stand in line for her books to hit the shelves. That's not bad for a doctor of history.

Read these books in chronological order or start smack in the middle, as I did, and see how successful you are at keeping the historical figures in the right order. Maybe if she chose to have more of her novels made into movies, we'd have an easier time with history.

Gregory on the New Heir

Ebooks and Paperbacks by Kathleen Cochran

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Comments 22 comments

Theater girl profile image

Theater girl 3 years ago from New Jersey

I am such a fan of Philippa Gregory! "The Constant Princess" is actually my favorite....but I have enjoyed so many! Thanks for sharing this great article!


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Theater girl: I can't say I'm a fan. I'm probably best described as an addict! I only discovered her about two years ago. Bought every thing I could find on Amazon and read them all in one summer. That fall I was so excited when the White Princess came out. But then I had to wait years between new releases!!! I was so spoiled. A favorite? The Other Bolyen Girl - I'm too predictable. Thanks for the comments.


Georgie Lowery profile image

Georgie Lowery 3 years ago from Slaton, Texas USA

The book The Other Boleyn Girl was the first of hers that I read and it was the start of a decade long fascination with Anne Boleyn for me. I just finished reading The White Queen and I have a copy of The Boleyn Inheritance ready to read when I have the time.

I was a little surprised to see that a lot of the things that Gregory writes into her novels are not historical fact and, at first I was a little irate at being misled. Then I gently reminded myself that they are fictional accounts of history. Kind of like The Tudors, which is one of my all time favorite tv shows.

At the very least, Gregory gets people talking about history, which some of us find much more interesting than the Kardashians!


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Georgie Lowery: There is room for interpretation. I get a character so fixed in my mind, when I see another adaptation I feel like I'm the victim of a forgery. Recently watched the movie, "Pillars of the Earth." I had a hard time with the version of Maud and Stephen, which was very different from previous versions I've read. And historical fact, to a great extent, is in the eye of the beholder.

You are going to enjoy "The Boleyn Inheritance" !!!


Elias Zanetti profile image

Elias Zanetti 3 years ago from Athens, Greece

Although I'm not familiar with the author and her work I found your hub quite interesting. I guess I should follow your advice and start reading a book this summer.


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Elias: Oh, to have all these great stories waiting to be read! You are in for a treat. This is not straight history. It's as much as the author can find in history, then her imagination fills in the gaps. If I were you, I'd go to her website, find the historic timeline, and start reading from the earliest date to the most current, then read them in order chronologically. She didn't write them in that order, but it will help you keep the history straight. Enjoy!


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Kathleen - What an enthusiastic and informative Hub! :) I have never read a Phillipa Gregory book and I am the historian! Somehow I was always more focused on Germany, Russia, and Greece, but I will certainly take your suggestions under advisement. Maybe next summer when I visit the Lake House to relax (instead of scrub and paint) I will have a stack of her historical novels on the nightstand. Great hub. Sharing. Theresa


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

T: When you are ready, I have most of them in paperback. Let me know when and I'll loan you a stack of them!


Theater girl profile image

Theater girl 3 years ago from New Jersey

Theresa, you must you must! She is so wonderful!


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

OK, ladies. I am convinced. Next summer will be the summer of Philippa Gregory. :)


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

If anyone is watching "The White Queen" on Starz, they are following Gregory's books pretty well. But there is so much more than they can fit into one hour episodes.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM

Thanks so much for a review of an interesting author. Regrettably, I have not read any of her books, although I am familiar with her. I am inspired to read them now, thanks to your review. She will be next on my list.


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

suzettenaples: Oh to have all of them ahead to read! I'd start with "The Lady of the Rivers" or "The Women of the Cousins War" (this one especially if you are not all that familiar with this period of history.) Then read them in chronological order. You can check her website for the order not the publishing date. She didn't write them in order. Have fun!


grand old lady profile image

grand old lady 2 years ago from Philippines

This was my first time to learn of Philippa Gregory. Definitely, I want to see The Other Boleyn Girl. I saw the very old movie, Anne of 1,000 Days and would like to know her interpretation of this woman's story. I'm also interested in reading about the Boleyn Inheritance.


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

grand old lady: You are in for a treat. The movie and STARZ's "The White Queen" went very much by the book. Enjoy!


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 2 years ago from California

I started reading her books recently and enjoy them! Nicely written article about her work!


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Audrey: Thanks for commenting. If I were starting her books over again, I'd read them in historical order. Enjoy!


Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy Goodfleisch 21 months ago from Planet Earth

Kathleen - I've not read this author yet, and I am looking for some good reading for the coming months. I like your advice to read them in historical order - I'd not thought of that! Thanks for introducing me to this writer!


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 21 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Oh, Marcy! Are you in for a treat! Just don't expect to get anything done once you start!!!


Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy Goodfleisch 21 months ago from Planet Earth

Oh dear! She's that good, huh? Wow! I trust your judgement, Kathleen - I'll check out her books.


L.M. Hosler profile image

L.M. Hosler 21 months ago

Philppa Gregory is my favorite author. I really enjoy the books and the history that goes with them. I plan on reading all of her books. I just finished "The White Queen" and loved it. I have been trying to watch the series but I wish they were close captioned.


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 21 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

L.M. I thought they did a good job with The White Queen on TV. Gregory wrote the screenplay, I think. They didn't change as much as they did for The Other Bolyen Girl, but then, they had to cut that book down to two hours. The series for TV was long enough to include more from the book.

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    Kathleen Cochran profile image

    Kathleen Cochran532 Followers
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    Kathleen Cochran is a writer & former newspaper reporter/editor who traveled the world as a soldier's better half. Her works are on Amazon.


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