Philippa Gregory: The Queen of Historical Fiction

We’re not sure about you, but when we think about Tudor England, we conjure visions of huge foreheads, strange dress collars, and a really creepy poem as a means of remembering the order of King Henry VIII’s wives- “divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived”. You’re welcome. 

Being that it’s so far back in history, it’s easy to forget that under all the formality and lead face paint (that’s how they all looked so pale/probably how they died) there were real people just like you and me, and when you read a lot of the stories from a human perspective, they read like a really messed up soap opera. 

Gregory is a staple in the historical fiction genre, and her ability to breathe new life into the people who loved, loathed, schemed, and avenged way back in the day is a revelation in understanding the people defined by the mantle of their histories. While of course some events are assumed and dramatized, a listen to her works reminds us to remember at the end of the day, maybe those who came before us weren’t all that different after all. 

The Other Boleyn Girl

Listen, we know it was another time. But, in the era of “women supporting women” (we love to see it), pitting two sisters against each other to have a straight-up affair with a king is not cute. It’s especially cringey when the girls are teenagers and the king is like 34 but again, different times. King Henry VIII was really out there wilding – sir just because you can doesn’t mean you should, and after like the 4th breakdown of your marriage, how did you not think “maybe it’s me?” Anyways. Listen along to both Mary and the more-infamous Anne Boleyn rise and fall from grace, plot, and more for power, wealth, and the love of a king. 

The Other Queen

Again with the love triangles- whoever said this was a society of buttoned-up prudes was super wrong; about the prudes, not the buttons. We’ve seen those dresses. An inordinate amount of buttons. We also get a power triangle, with Mary Queen of Scots held prisoner, attempting to seduce her married keeper the Earl of Shrewsbury while she schemes to overthrow Queen Elizabeth. Also, there’s a spy named William running around (of course, we’ve never met a Will we trusted) because of course there is. That sounds like a lot. Also, Mary and Liz were cousins which is sad because we’re not sure the exact circumstances but one of the gals def gets beheaded.

The White Princess 

So the Tudor and the York families were not friends. But when Henry- whatever we’ve honestly lost count of now, who is a Tudor, kills the current King Richard of York, to keep peace Henry agrees to marry Richard’s intended wife (and cousin because ew), Elizabeth York. She is less than thrilled at this prospect since she and Richard actually dug each other and now she has to marry his killer. Not ideal. We’ve also got more plots, brothers in hiding who could potentially overthrow Henry’s reign, it’s so much, this must have been life without The Real Housewives. 

The Kingmaker’s Daughter

So we always assumed that dudes became king because they were born to kings, or because later in life someone stabbed someone else. Richard Neville Earl of Warwick killed those theories since apparently, it was a lot more political than just succession or murder. Apparently, he was pretty good at it, which is why it sucked for him that he only had daughters. Don’t worry though because he definitely used them as political pawns in power grabs. Some of these schemes set both girls on collision courses with explosive political and personal fallout. Father of the year. 

The Red Queen

Here we have a woman at the center of lusting for power; it’s the scandalous backstory of Henry whatever’s mother (you know the Henry who killed Richard and started the Tudor Era. That one. Sorry they had like 4 names to choose from back then apparently). Elizabeth was married with a baby (Henry) at 14 because they loved to marry off literal children back then since they could all be dead by 24. Her husband is old and dies and she sends Henry away so he can stay safe, grow up, assemble an army and get to that throne. She seems to have had a lot of ambition, and pretty much zero chills. 

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