I read The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory when I was around 13. The book came to be in my possession via my Grandmother, and I remember the year well. It was 2002,I was in year nine, I was (and still am) madly obsessed with Henry VIII, and the American Twin Towers had fallen the year before.
I was hooked by Gregory’s style and flow, her stories about forgotten woman. I had not read what was called ‘Historical Fiction’ before then and from then I made it my mission to read as much as possible, and waited with excitement for the next Philippa Gregory novel. You could track my highschool years through the release of her novels. I received the Constant Princess for Christmas 2005, The Boleyn Inheritance the year after, and then the shift from Tudors to their predecessors ‘The Cousins’ was a wonderful introduction to the War of the Roses (The White Queen was haunting)
It was a dream come true when I got to meet Philippa Gregory at the National Theatre for the release of ‘The Taming of the Queen’ the story of Kathryn Parr, Henry VIII’s final wife. Kathryn Parr was the first woman in England to write in the English language and publish under her own name. And the act of history, history deliberately obscures female accomplishments and most people would not know this about Kathryn Parr.
Gregory describes herself as a feminist, she is not a misandrist. Although, on some occasions men are very irritating. but that’s just human nature.
As you can tell from the above Philippa Gregory is warm, funny and witty. The conversation with Chris Campbell explored how she came into writing fiction. She had written a Thesis, and then Margaret Thatcher happened. Yes, Thatcher was dead, but some things will never be finished for those who were most affected by her government. It hit the poor, but it also hit the poor intellectuals and no university would hire Philippa Gregory. So she wrote novels. She writes her novels in first person so her characters are not blinded by hindsight.
Her favourite part of writing what she does: She doesn’t have to start with the birth, or end with the death. If the life was interesting, and worth exploring she can start the novel at any place. She’s creating a work of fiction not recording a history.
She jokes that she has been with Henry VIII for 30 years now. Longer than any of the wives, and longer than any of her marriages.
After writing about all 6 of Henry’s wives, is there any favourites? Always the one you’re working on, but in a nutshell Katherine of Aragorn is extraordinary, Anne Boleyn steals the show, Gregory doesn’t have al ot of time for jane Seymour, Anne of Cleaves is admired as she talked her way into a marvelous divorce settlement. She got Hever Castle. Result! and Kathryn Parr talked her way out of trouble. She knew one of them would die during their marriage, she just had to last long enough.
A few months prior to this Gregory was on the TV commentating and offering advice on the procession of Richard III in Leicester Cathedral, She was on the couch,with the woman who had found him, Phillipa Langley. Looming on the screen was Historian David Starkey, huffing and puffing and insulting Philippa Gregory. He called her ‘a novelist’. It was hilarious.
When i met Philippa at the end of her talk at the National Theatre I said i found it was probably meant as an insult from Starkey, but i suspect he is jealous. He has no room for imagining and recreating these stories to bring to another generation, she is doing us all a favour and ensuring these stories, particularly of women who are footnotes in history, never fade away. Her response ‘Mr Starkey is a pantomine cartoon villain, he’s awful’
Resource: The National Theatre recorded this conversation as a podcast, you can listen to it here. https://player.fm/series/national-theatre-podcasts/philippa-gregory
Disclaimer: Featured photos are saved from internet sources and are not the product of my own skills. All workshops/events are paid for by me and all reviews are mine from my own notes, opinions and experiences