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The Boleyn Inheritance

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Other Boleyn Girl, The Queen’s Fool, The Virgin’s Lover, and The Constant Princess comes The Boleyn Inheritance, a novel about three women who share one fate: The Boleyn Inheritance.

The Boleyn Inheritance brings the story Philippa Gregory began with The Other Boleyn Girl full circle. Told in three voices – that of Jane Rochford, the only survivor of the ambitious Boleyn family, and the two queens she served and betrayed: Anne of Cleeves and Katherine Howard – Philippa allows the stories of these three women to unfold in their own words. Anne comes to England a hopeful candidate for the dangerous position of Queen of England, but Henry’s instant revulsion launches a plot that nearly takes her to the scaffold for witchcraft as her lady in waiting, Jane Boleyn, bears false witness against her. The next candidate for the throne is Jane’s cousin Katherine Howard, a child of fourteen, who captures the King’s love but soon finds it is not enough to save her from his murderous spite. It is Jane's testimony about the Queen's infidelity that dooms Katherine to her execution, and finally ends Jane's own life at court – on the very block where Anne Boleyn laid her head.

The court of Henry VIII and his six wives is a subject that has fascinated readers for years and with The Boleyn Inheritance, Philippa Gregory’s extensive research and keen understanding of Tudor politics and intrigue illuminates another corner of this tale. A novel drawn as tight as a lute string about a court ruled by the scaffold and three women whose positions brought them wealth, admiration and power as well as deceit, betrayal and terror, this is the full story of Henry’s forgotten Queens.

Currently, there are more than 3 million copies of Philippa Gregory’s novels in print and she has single-handedly revived the genre of historical fiction in America. The film version of The Other Boleyn Girl is currently in production, directed by Justin Chadwick (Bleak House) and produced by Scott Rudin (The Queen, Elizabeth). Natalie Portman will play Anne Boleyn, Scarlet Johansson will play Mary Boleyn, and Eric Bana (Munich, The Hulk) will play Henry VIII.

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Author Portrait - Philippa Gregory

Born in Kenya in 1954, Philippa Gregory moved to England with her family and was educated in Bristol and at the National Council for the Training of Journalists course in Cardiff. She worked as a senior reporter on the Portsmouth News, and as a journalist and producer for BBC radio. Philippa obtained a BA degree in history at the University of Sussex in Brighton and a PhD at Edinburgh University in 18th-century literature.

Her first novel, Wideacre, was written as she completed her PhD and became an instant world-wide bestseller. On its publication, she became a full-time writer. Her knowledge of gothic eighteenth century novels led to the world-wide success of Wideacre, which was followed by a haunting sequel: The Favored Child, and the delightful happy ending of the trilogy: Meridon. This novel was listed in feminist book fortnight and for the Romantic Novel of the year at the same time – one of the many instances of Philippa’s work appealing to very different readers. Touchstone-Fireside reissued the trilogy in 2003.

In her later novels, Gregory pioneered the genre which has become her own: fictional biography, the true story of a real person brought to life with painstaking research and passionate verve. The flowering of this new style was undoubtedly The Other Boleyn Girl, a runaway best-seller which stormed the US market and then went worldwide telling the story of the little-known sister to Anne Boleyn. The Other Boleyn Girl is becoming a classic historical novel, winning the Parker Pen Novel of the Year award 2002, and the Romantic Times fictional biography award. The Other Boleyn Girl was adapted for the BBC as a single television drama and a film is now in production starring Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn, Scarlett Johansen as Mary Boleyn, and Eric Bana as Henry.

Other Tudor novels followed The Other Boleyn Girl: The Queen's Fool taking a sympathetic look at Mary Tudor through the eyes of a real-life character, a female fool, was a Top Twenty bestseller for twenty weeks in the UK, and has been bought in the US for a four-part television drama special. The Virgin's Lover, telling the story of Elizabeth 1st love affair with Robert Dudley, and the little known story of his wife, was simultaneously in the Top Twenty bestseller lists in both UK and USA whilst being Number One on the New Zealand bestseller list. It reached the Top Ten in paperback. Her third Tudor novel: The Constant Princess, which tells the dramatic life story of Katherine of Aragon, as a princess raised in the Moorish Palace of the Alhambra who achieves her life ambition of becoming Queen of England, stayed in the Top Twenty for thirteen weeks and in the Top Ten for four weeks in the UK.

Two of Gregory’s best-loved novels: Earthly Joys and Virgin Earth are based on the true-life story of father and son John Tradescant working in the upheaval of the English civil war.

Her most recent novel, The Boleyn Inheritance (Touchstone Books, December 2006), will delight her millions of readers world-wide. It tells the stories of three extraordinary women: Jane Boleyn, the widow of Anne Boleyn’s brother George, Anne of Cleves, the young woman who was brought to England by Henry VIII to be his bride, and then spitefully rejected by him, in favor of Katherine Howard the girl, almost a child, whom he adored and then killed. As the three women tell their stories in their own words the paranoid court of the ageing King comes to life on the page.

Philippa's novel A Respectable Trade took her back to the 18th century where her knowledge of the slave trade and her home town of Bristol produced a haunting novel of slave trading and its terrible human cost. This is the only modern novel to explore the tragedies of slavery in England itself, and features a group of kidnapped African people trying to find their freedom in the elegant houses of 18th century Clifton. Gregory adapted her book for a highly acclaimed BBC television production which won the prize for drama from the Commission of Racial Equality and was shortlisted for a BAFTA for the screenplay. Touchstone-Fireside will release A Respectable Trade in February 2007.

Philippa makes regular contributions to newspapers and magazines, with short stories, features and reviews. A frequent broadcaster, she is a regular member on Round Britain Quiz, Quote Unquote, and is the Tudor expert for television Channel 4's Time Team and presents historical programs for BBC, most recently an exploration into eighteenth century African slavery in the North East of England. She was the primary judge for the Whitbread novel of the Year prize.

In her spare time, Philippa runs an extraordinary charity, founded by her and a Gambian schoolmaster, Ismaila Sisay. Gardens for The Gambia digs wells for schools and communities in The Gambia financed by money raised and donated by Philippa herself. The charity is the biggest well-builder in The Gambia and is creating market gardens in this, the poorest nation in Africa at the rate of two a week at present. Philippa and Ismaila have created more than sixty wells so far.

Philippa lives with her family on a small farm in the North of England. She welcomes visitors to her website where there is a readers group, historical background material to the novels, her travel writing, journalism, and updated reports on Gardens for The Gambia.

Q & A session with Philippa Gregory...

Q: In your newest novel, THE BOLEYN INHERITANCE, you depict the life of King Henry VIII and his court through the eyes of three very different characters. Why did you choose to narrate this story through multiple voices and why these three women in particular?

A: I have a great liking for the first person narrative because I think it gets the reader into the head of the character; it’s a very immediate style. I realized that I wanted to tell the story from the point of view of the three women who were so intimately involved in the perils of being Queen of England at this time. Anne of Cleves, the wife that Henry chooses and rejects, Katherine Howard the girl he adores but who is too young to keep herself safe, and the woman who advises them both to their great danger: Lady Rochford, Jane Boleyn.

Q: The Boleyn family utilized scheming and jockeying for favor in the court and in particular, for the favor of King Henry VIII. For Jane Rochford, the last in the Boleyn family, do you believe she knew her fate, the final fate of the Boleyn inheritance, when she went back to court?

A: Jane’s belief was that the Boleyn inheritance was wealth and fame and she sacrificed her husband George and her sister in law Anne Boleyn to try to retain the family name and fortune when they were found guilty of treason. But as the novel suggests: the Boleyn Inheritance is ultimately the scaffold and death.

Q: Why did Anne of Cleeves survive?

A: Historians suggest that Anne of Cleves survived by good luck and her own stupidity. They suggest that she was insensitive to the insult of divorce and settled down to be the King’s sister so cheerfully that he forgave her the failure of their marriage. Reading the records with more sympathy, and with a feminist perspective, I suggest that she knew very well how to manage a domestic tyrant: having suffered from a drunk and perhaps delusional father and a powerful brother. I think she understood the dangers of Henry’s temperament before his more familiar court did so. Then, I think she set her sights on simply surviving the dangers that opened before her. She accepted the divorce offer without complaint or much resistance, and she accepted the financial settlement. She was clearly so relieved to be safe and divorced that many commentators remarked on her blooming looks and health when she came back to court for her first Christmas in England and was a chosen favourite of the King and his new Queen: Katherine.

Q: In THE BOLEYN INHERITANCE you reintroduce Mary Boleyn and her daughter to the plot. What ultimately happened to them?

A: These are the Boleyn heirs who really break the curse. Mary Boleyn died of natural causes, an Essex landowner, wife and mother. Her daughter Catherine was a close friend of her cousin (or half-sister) Elizabeth, and went into exile with her protestant husband Francis Knollys during the years of Queen Mary. Catherine and her husband and beautiful daughter Laetitia returned to court in triumph when Elizabeth 1 came to the throne. I describe the scene in The Virgin’s Lover.

Q: THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL is being made into a film. What is it like as an author to have the words you wrote on a piece of paper translated into scenes on a cinema screen? What part do you play in the process of adapting your novel into a film?

A: I have been employed as consultant on the film and so I have been closely in touch with the development of the script. Making a film is such a different process from writing a novel that I have learned to leave it to the film-makers. When I first saw the actors on location there was a haunting moment when it almost seemed as if they were real, really in Tudor England, and we in modern clothes were the illusion. It is extraordinary to see something that I have imagined suddenly become solid and real. To see them in costume, performing a scene, in an ancient setting is almost more powerful than to see them filmed on the screen. It is a magical moment.

Q: When did you first decide that you wanted to be an author?

A: I had the great good fortune to decide that I would be a professional author when my first completed novel was published and enjoyed great success. It was called Wideacre and is now available in paperback published by Touchstone Books. Before then, I had written as a journalist and as an historian but I had not written fiction. Even now, I am still rather surprised to see the course my career has taken, and am very happy with it.

Q: How do you think being a journalist has helped your fiction writing?

A: In the early years when it is easy for a new writer to become apprehensive about the task of writing and the length of the research it was very good to have had the training as a journalist where you sit down every day – whether in the mood or not – and write. Also, my training as a journalist taught me to ask the awkward questions – and this pays dividends in historical research too.

Q: What inspires you to write historical fiction?

A: I love history. In almost any circumstances I always ask ‘but how did it get like this? How did it start?’ These are questions which come naturally and automatically to an historian and that is what, by instinct and training, I am.

Q: How do you choose your subjects and do research for your books?

A: The subjects come to me when I am working on other things. So far, they have always – as it were – suggested themselves. Their characters strike me or I learn something interesting about their background that intrigues me, and then I research them from that point. Most of my research is book based, the Tudors especially have a huge collection of histories written about them, and I find a lot of interesting material in very old history books. The Victorians were very taken with the Tudors and some of their historians look at aspects of their lives that modern historians neglect. Also, I almost always travel to the sites I describe and I always find that very inspiring and often moving. I read around a lot too – I like to know the specialized history of the period, not just the events and the characters. I like to know about coinage and agriculture and transport…all those things that the reader should not know that I have researched, but they should feel at home in the detail of the Tudor world.

What tips or advice do you have for aspiring writers?

A: Never write for the market place, you can’t judge it, and you certainly can’t catch up with it. Always write the very best you can about the things that you feel passionate about. You are your first reader, never write down to yourself. If you are writing historical fiction then at least half your time and work should be the research – there is nothing more important than the honest basis of the fiction.

Q: What do you think the impact of book clubs, which are rising in popularity, is on the sales of fiction?

A: I have special pleasure in talking about book clubs because my own career received a tremendous boost from the support of book club readers all around the country. By recommending my book The Other Boleyn Girl from one group to another, passing it from one reader to another, from one group to another, they generated an enormous buzz about the book which turned it from a relatively small paperback original historical novel into a big publishing sensation. Since then all of my books have been read in book clubs and the response I get from book club readers is one of the greatest pleasures for me as an author.