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Philippa Gregory: The Top 5 Works

My Favourite Author of All Time...

By Annie KapurPublished 5 years ago 7 min read

Philippa Gregory will always have a special place in my heart as being my favourite author of all time. The woman is an incredible writer of voice and personality. Her books are a timeless example of what happens when history meets fiction and when that meets great writing. Her first person accounts in which her books are normally written are brilliant evocative of the time, place, speed, history, relations and much more of what she is trying to convey.

When I told myself "I want to list five of my favourite books by Philippa Gregory" I then proceeded to think "only five?" I have so many books I want to tell you about by her. And yet, I wanted to keep it like my other lists on Carson McCullers, Bret Easton Ellis, James Baldwin etc. So, I resisted my want to bump the number up to ten or fifteen and kept it to five. It was SO hard to choose only five and I want you to know that I've actually been thinking about this for around two weeks because I had so much trouble.

Let me now tell you a little history of when I started reading her books:

When I was around 12 or 13, I was exploring some historical fiction and had just finished reading something by Antonia Fraser (which isn't fiction, I know, but it was still a good book) and I believe it was her one on Henry VIII and his six wives. I went to put it back on the shelf when at the other end was "historical fiction" (as opposed to non-fiction, where I was standing). I walked over and started browsing the shelves. I then proceeded to find several books on one line by a woman called Philippa Gregory. I thought to myself, "Well, if so many books are here, then she must be of fair importance." I looked her up after that (oh and in that day "looking her up" meant asking the teacher... Google wasn't that yet advanced and not many people knew how to use it. Definitely not myself! I wasn't big on computers growing up). My teacher directed me to my history teacher who said she was a great writer and thus, I began my journey.

By the age of 17, I chose to study Philippa Gregory's books for a piece of coursework I was writing. I still have the piece and the coursework was entitled:

"How does Philippa Gregory use language present private and public lives in the following works: The Lady of the Rivers, The White Queen, The Wise Woman, The White Princess and The Red Queen?

I know, right!

The White Princess had only been out a few months and had absolutely no research on it whatsoever yet and so it got difficult, but it wasn't impossible! It stands to date as my favourite piece of coursework I have ever written. It was so much fun analysing her books like that and her books are some of my favourites of all time.

When I was 21, I studied Philippa Gregory's books yet again for an assignment we had to make a group podcast in the style of an analytical book club and me and my friends chose "Three Sisters, Three Queens" by Philippa Gregory and again, it had been out only a few months and so, we were very excited. (I was quite happy there were other Philippa Gregory fans around like me!) We had such a fun time reading and analysing that book, talking about it, putting together the recording and just having fun with the newest Philippa Gregory novel.

To this day, I have read every book she has ever written, and I don't like it when people call her research 'sloppy.' Hello, it's historical FICTION it is supposed to be half made up. If you want a nonfiction book, look somewhere else.

Anyways, here are my five favourite books by Philippa Gregory:

5. Three Sisters, Three Queens

“There is nothing but the gleam of mysterious light—not dawn and yet not starlight—where the unlit earth meets the night-black sky, and the only sound is the haunting call of the owls.”

This book is about (mainly) Princess Margaret - the wife of James IV of Scotland. It is all intrigue, murder, gossip, love, betrayal and everything you would expect of a novel that contains characters like Prince Henry (later King Henry VIII) and Katherine of Aragon, set to marry the eldest brother—but his untimely death will shake things up in court. A beautifully written novel with all the typical Gregory traits, the voices are so perfect, you can practically hear them talk to you.

4. The Red Queen

“I am old enough to be married twice. I am old enough to be bedded without tenderness or consideration. I am old enough to face death in the confinement room and be told that my own mother—my own mother—has commanded them to save the child and not me! I think I am a woman now. I have a babe in arms, and I have been married and widowed and now bethrothed again. I am like a draper's parcel to be sent about like cloth and cut to the pattern that people wish. My mother told me that my father died by his own hand and that we are an unlucky family. I think I am a woman now! I am treated as a woman grown when it suits you all, you can hardly make me a child again.”

The Red Queen also known as Margaret Beaufort is the Queen that was probably one of the most forthright women in all of English History. She was powerful, she wanted more, she was a woman though—with feeling. I think history misses that last part out and turns her into a villain sometimes. Philippa Gregory brings all the historical humanism back to Beaufort's life and shows us that she too was perfectly a normal person with normal feelings, sometimes those that were extreme.

3. The King's Curse

“How would I know? I don’t hold with prophecies and predictions and long-lost kings. I don’t have giants in my family tree, like you Nevilles. I don’t have three suns in the sky like you Yorks. I am not descended from a water goddess who comes out of a river to mate with mortals! When your family was founded, no one had ever heard of us. When your uncles were on the throne, mine were quiet City men. I don’t know what you might have, what you might have kept from those times—a banner or a standard, a bead-roll or letter. Anything that shows your descent, anything that shows your royal blood, any prophecy that you once had the throne and will have it again. But whatever you have, your ladyship, clear it out and burn it. Nothing is worth the risk of keeping.”

This book is about the life and death of Margaret Pole, known as one of the last people to experience the curse of King Henry VIII. Margaret Pole's life was filled with turbulence and heartbreak and Gregory's novel that spans her adult life definitely shows that. My favourite part is when Margaret Pole is imprisoned because, famously, she was executed and carved some words on to the wall of her prison.

2. The Lady of the Rivers

“When you pray, you know that you want something, that's always the first step. To let yourself know that you want something, that you yearn for it. Sometimes that's the hardest thing to do. Because you have to have courage to know what you desire. You have to have courage to acknowledge that you are unhappy without it.”

This book is about the Lady of the Rivers, who is the great Jacquetta Woodville. She Famous met Joan of Arc and experienced a lifestyle that shook England, giving birth to history's most enigmatic family. The story of the Rivers' family is something to be cherished, and Gregory writes it in unbeatable style. My favourite part, of course, is either when she meets Joan of Arc in prison or when she witnesses Joan's burning at the stake.

1. The Wise Woman

Possibly my favourite book by Philippa Gregory, this one is entirely fictional set against a backdrop of historical accuracy. It is about a character called Alys, who is living with her mother. She and her mother are both "wise women" who were often mistaken for witches during the time in which they lived. She gets a job at the court as a midwife and begins trying to hide her past. But when there is a birth of a baby made from candle-wax, things begin to stir amongst other people. Gossip and intrigue begin to ruin lives. It is possibly one of Gregory's smartest novels and I have loved it for a very long time. I hope you enjoy it too.


About the Creator

Annie Kapur

195K+ Reads on Vocal.

English Lecturer

🎓Literature & Writing (B.A)

🎓Film & Writing (M.A)

🎓Secondary English Education (PgDipEd) (QTS)

📍Birmingham, UK

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