Philippa Gregory’s body of work was not the first royal fiction that I began reading but, as I look at the bookshelf that houses my historical/royal fiction (four shelves high), it has definitely become the most prolific of all the authors that I read. When I picked up Gregory’s newest addition to The Cousins’ War series, The Kingmaker’s Daughter, one of the blurbs on the back caught my attention and made me smile with agreement. Entertainment Weekly raved, “If only grade-school history books were written so vividly,” and I definitely had to agree. Gregory’s body of work was not the first royal fiction that I began reading but, as I look at the bookshelf that houses my historical/royal fiction (four shelves high), it has definitely become the most prolific of all the authors that I read.
Gregory’s work is painstakingly researched and the sheer amount of detail that pervades her novels is, by far, a more enjoyable way to learn than purely informational texts citing dates and reasons politic. Gregory incorporates heart and emotion and personal motivation into her novels, breathing life and kindling warmth and love and rage and betrayal and mercy into these historical figures who have gone before us and yet shaped our world with their passing. She has contributed to my ability to be able to quote, from memory, the history of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I’s courts in all their tumult of heart and politics. As I did so to my husband on a drive home one day, he finally just looked at me, marveling, and asked, “How do you remember all of this?” My response was, “Are you kidding? Even soap operas couldn’t come up with stories as good as this! It keeps me coming back for more; I can’t help it!” And it does, Gregory’s work keeps me salivating for more and more. When I heard that The Kingmaker’s Daughter was coming out, I was very excited, trying to imagine the tale that she would weave around Warwick’s poor daughter Anne in the court of the dashing Edward IV and his painfully-beautiful queen Elizabeth Woodville. I picked it up this past Friday and have begun reading it. But I am taking it in slowly, rather than devouring it all at once. If I devour it, cloister myself away with it, as Inigo Montoya says, “It’ll be over too quickly.” And I want this experience to last, as I do all of them.
Gregory’s love for her art shows in the work that she puts into each novel, not just her royal fiction but every novel series. Her ability to bring these figures across the bridge from mere history into character whom we fall for, root for, care about, love, and hate. They become characters that we hold close to us and that is a feat in and of itself: breathing life into history and making it relevant to us. These figures go through many things that we do: family squabbles, destroyed relationships, unstable economies, following our hearts despite societal expectations, etc.
So, Philippa Gregory, thank you for all you have done with your work, for the beauty that you have given to history once more. Your talent is amazing and a blessing and I will continue to look forward to and devour your work.