Within the span of 2014 and 2015 I think I read almost every single book from Philippa Gregory.
I started out with the Cousin’s War series (which I think I read out of order – not unusual for me), moved on to the Tudor Court series, and quickly learned anything and everything about that particular period of English history. I was intrigued by the history, and entranced by the awesome female leads. Each of Gregory’s books focused almost entirely on the perspectives of the women in the stories – oft overlooked in history.
Of course, Philippa Gregory is most famous for the runaway bestseller The Other Boleyn Girl which was released in 2002. It took the world by storm, winning the Parker Pen Novel of the Year and the Romantic Times fictional biography award. It quickly became a film, which starred Scarlett Johansson as Mary Boleyn and Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn.
Now, I have to say, if you want to start with The Other Boleyn Girl, go for it.
That’s not what I would do though 😉
Maybe it’s the history major in me, but I think that Gregory’s novels are best consumed in chronological order. That way you have all of the historical background and context to really understand the events in future novels!
This is easier said than done – Gregory not only wrote the Tudor Court series first, even though it would be chronologically later, but she also wrote each individual novel out of order. So if you want to read them straight through in publication order, you aren’t anywhere close to reading them in chronological order.
That seemed really confusing, so I’m going to break it down a bit more.
Start with the royal family that came before the Tudors – the Plantagenets. That means starting with the Cousin’s War series. The historical order would be The Lady of the Rivers, The Red Queen, The White Queen, The Kingmaker’s Daughter, The White Princess, and The King’s Curse.
The series incorporates some of the mysticism and superstition of an Arthurian England, which creates a very unique historical fiction/fantasy combination. Each one is spearheaded by a female protagonist, and follows her through court intrigue, historical events, and adventure.
The end of the Plantagenets (spoiler: everyone dies) will lead you practically seamlessly into the Tudor Court series, which would progress historically from The Constant Princess, through Three Sisters, Three Queens, The Other Boleyn Girl, The Boleyn Inheritance, The Taming of the Queen, The Queen’s Fool, The Virgin’s Lover, finally ending with The Other Queen.
One of the amazing aspects of this series is that you move really quickly from having a character be a villain in one novel to being the protagonist in the next! Of course, Henry Tudor never exactly gets to be a sympathetic character (spoiler: beheadings for everyone), but the queens and ladies of the court really shift from good to evil and back again.
Of the two series, I think that the Cousin’s War series is a lot more cohesive. While the Tudor Court series jumps around with multiple narrators and perspectives, the Cousin’s War series is quite a bit more straightforward.
Now, if you want something with a bit more YA flair, you can always pick up Gregory’s Order of Darkness series. She also has a collection of children’s stories, including a series centered on Princess Florizella (a rather unconventional princess).
Honestly, no matter where you begin with Gregory, you’re in for a treat. Her characters are amazing and multidimensional, her stories well paced, and her novels easy enjoyable reads.
I may recommend an all-of-the-above approach, but feel free to start anywhere!