Monday, July 29, 2013

The Tudor Court Novels

I don’t know when it started – I can say this though, it started long before the sexually explicit Showcase series The Tudors, with Jonathan Rhys Meyers – but I have this fascination with the history of the Tudors, especially Mary Tudor (aka, Bloody Mary).


My interested with the Tudors may have actually germinated in late 1980s or early 1990s with the publication of Margaret George’s The Autobiography of Henry VIII with Notes by His Fool, Will Sommers:  A Novel, which I bought around the time of publication, but I haven’t read it yet.  It’s on my books-to-read-before-I-die list.

Philippa Gregory
I think my interest in the Tudors climaxed, so-to-speak, in 2009, when I started reading Philippa Gregory’s The Tudor Court Novels.  It all started with The Other Boleyn Girl, which I couldn’t put down, once I started reading it.  This is odd because there was a time when I thought Philippa Gregory was "popular trash," the sort of fiction that one finds in Walmart bargain bins.  I actually remember seeing a Philippa Gregory novel in my cousin’s car, years ago, and all I thought, rather snobbishly, when I saw the book in the back seat, was, 'I thought she [my cousin] was smarter than that.'


There are six books in the Tudor Court Novels:

The Constant Princess
Copyright:  2005
Read:  September 2009 

The Constant Princess is the third book I read and the fourth published, but in historical chronology, it’s the first book in the series, if that makes any sense.  This is the story of Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first and most loyal wife.  Her life is one of constantly waiting.  On a scale of 1 through 10, this book is Phillippa Gregory's 5.

The Other Boleyn Girl 
Copyright:  2001
Read:  May 2009

This is the book that started it all, literally.  This book made Philappa Gregory a literary superstar.  It’s the story of Anne Boleyn as seen through the eyes of her sister, Mary.  On scale of 1 through 10, this book is Philappa Gregory’s 10.  This is the book by which all other Philippa Gregory books will judged against.  I'm no historian but I would wager that this book resurrected Mary, the other Boleyn girl, to history.

The Boleyn Inheritance
Copyright:  2006
Read:  July 2009

On the 1 through 10 scale, this book is Philappa Gregory’s 1 or 0.75.  Like the sexually explicit Showcase series The Tudors, this book is soft-core porn.  It concerns three women: Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII's third wife and lived, Katherine Howard, the fourth wife and was hung, and Jane Rochford, the wife of George Boleyn, brother to Anne Boleyn--both whom are dead.   Henry VIII dies in this book--the pig bastard.

The Queen's Fool 
Copyright:  2003
Read:  July 2013

On the 1 through 10 scale, this book is Philappa Gregory’s 8.  This is the story of Mary Tudor, the first queen of England.  Mary's story, like her mother's story, Catherine of Aragon, is tragic, even pathetic.  This book also contains some extrasensory perception events, but it's done tastefully, I think.  Will Sommers, as noted above, appears in this book. I would love to see this book made into a BBC television miniseries.

The Virgin's Lover
Copyright:  2004
Not Read
As I just finished reading The Queen's Fool, I'm going to hold off for a while before I read another Philippa Gregory novel.  I don't want to get bored of her.  This book, by the way, is about Elizabeth. 

The Other Queen
Copyright:  2008
Not Read

And this book is about Mary, Queen of the Scots.  After The Autobiography of Henry VIII with Notes by His Fool, Will Sommers:  A Novel, the next Margaret George novel released was Mary Queen of Scotland and Isles.   It was published in 1992.  Mary Queen of Scotland and Isles, like The Other Queen, is in my library and, I should note, on my books-to-read-before-I-die list.


Mary Tudor:  The First Queen
by: Dr. Linda Porter
Copyright:  2007
Read:  December 2009

This book is "academic" and is concerned with the life of Mary Tudor.  The author, an historian, provides a sympathetic understanding of "Bloody Mary" and her reign.  Oddly, I read this book a lot quicker than I read the Philippa Gregory novels and on the Philippa Gregory scale (as noted above), I would give this book a 10.  Personally, I have this connection to people with tragic lives, like Nixon for instance, which may account for why Mary Tudor fascinates me.
Princess Mary by Master John

Generally speaking, I’m impressed with Philippa Gregory’s books.  Her novels are fun to read and despite having a Ph.D in 18th Century Literature, one should read Philippa Gregory the way one watches Hollywood movies that claim to be a true stories: you aren’t watching (or reading) a documentary.

NOTE:  The White Princess, which is part Philippa Gregory’s The Cousins’ War Series has been made into a television miniseries.  I look forward to watching it.

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