Philippa Gregory is the queen of queenly historical fiction, and we all love her for it. Many of her books focus on royal women in the English court across centuries, and the passions and power struggle they deal with. Each novel is so thoroughly researched that you get a true look at what women had to go through during each period of time in which the story is focused, and her writing is so riveting: the stories are full of secrecy, revenge, and romance.
I was lucky enough to read her newest book, TIDELANDS, which is the first installment in the new The Fairmile series. It was also the first Philippa Gregory book I’d ever read, and my immediate reaction was to be in complete awe of how spectacularly she builds the world in the story so you get a true sense of the time and the characters.
For someone like me who loves historical fiction, her books are a gold mine—and lucky for everyone, she’s written upwards of 30 other novels to dig into. If you’re just diving into a Philippa Gregory series, or you’re already a fan and not sure which one to pick up next, the best place might be the Plantagenets and Tudor series. But with 15 books in the series covering everything from The War of the Roses to the Elizabethan Era, it can be hard to know where to start.
So, if you’re looking take on Philippa Gregory’s robustly built world of historical fiction chronologically, here’s the order you should read the series in!
While this wasn’t the first book to be published in the series, this story takes place the earliest in history. It follows Jacquetta, the Duchess of Bedford, who brings her family to power during the War of the Roses. With a secret marriage, English court, visions, and a struggle for power, this book leads up to a woman setting up her children for the best future possible—which could be the throne.
This one picks up with Jacquetta’s daughter, Elizabeth Woodville, who secretly marries the newly crowned king and creates an uproar in the court. She’s determined to set her sons up to take their father’s seat; however, they become pawns in the game for power, and eventually become one of England’s lasting mysteries: the two princes who disappear in the Tower of London.
The wars of the Plantagenets are brought to life through the dramatic story of Elizabeth Woodville, a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition who secretly married the newly crowned boy king, and whose sons become the central figures in an unsolved mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the murdered princes in the Tower of London.
The third book you should read focuses on the power struggles and betrayals between warring families. Margaret Beaufort of the House of Lancaster is mother of the future king of England. She passionately believes that her son, Henry, is the rightful heir to the throne, so in a novel full of conspiracy, stone-cold ambition, and intense passion, she mounts a massive rebellion that ultimately shapes the future of England.
Margaret Beaufort, young widow of Edmund Tudor, must use her wits and determination to ensure that her only son triumphs as king of England.
We jump back in time just a bit in this story, to the same time as THE WHITE QUEEN. Two daughters—Anne and Isabel—grow up at court with their incredibly powerful father, known as “The Kingmaker.” Revenge and conspiracy are everywhere as Anne has to fight to survive after being widowed at 14, and her sister is married off to an enemy.
Anne Neville is a beautiful young woman who must navigate the treachery of the English court while her father, known as “the Kingmaker,” uses her and her sister as pawns in his political game.
The two princes lost in the Tower of England had a sister, and that sister is our heroine in THE WHITE PRINCESS: Elizabeth of York. Elizabeth is betrothed to Henry Tudor—which everyone hopes will unite a divided country and end the War of the Roses. But Elizabeth isn’t in love with Henry; she loves his dead enemy, leaving Henry to worry that if her missing brothers reappeared he would be overthrown—and the effects could be lasting and devastating.
The marriage between newly crowned King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York is meant to unify war-torn England, but the bride is still in love with her groom’s slain enemy.
Next up: The infamous Tudor court, starting with Katherine of Aragon. You may already know her as the woman wife Henry VIII divorces to marry Anne Boleyn, but before she dealt with this devastating ordeal, she was daughter of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand of Spain, betrothed— and eventually married—to Prince Arthur of England, Henry’s older brother. Their love, and their plans for the country, are destroyed when Prince Arthur dies tragically, and she has to navigate the Tudor court: avoiding desire and loneliness, dealing with spies and poverty, and leading a military battle, all while trying to grasp at a chance to be the queen.
Here Gregory pivots slightly, and focuses on Margaret Plantagenet, a lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine. As the strife between Henry VIII and Queen Katherine grows, Margaret must decide where her loyalties lie, how to survive the impending split, and protect her knowledge of a curse on the Tudor family.
Margaret Pole, once regarded as a threat to Henry VIII’s claim to the throne, becomes a trusted friend of the young Prince of Wales and his bride, Katherine of Aragon.
Sisters, yet enemies: The lives of three Tudor women are intertwined in their desire for power. Katherine of Aragon and her two sisters-in-law, Margaret and Mary Tudor, are uniquely bonded in more ways than one. As they each become queens in different countries, their husbands and children die, and kings are overthrown, their relationships grow even more complicated and intense. Get ready for the betrayal, loss, and passion that only a book about sisters who become rivals could bring.
This story offers peak conspiracy, passion, and betrayal. Enter Mary Boleyn: a young teenager who captures the eye of King Henry VIII. As his affections take hold, Mary gains some power in court. However, her family has other plans, and Mary loses her love—and position—to none other than her sister, Anne. But she doesn’t want to give up on her desires so easily. Cue staying up all night to finish in one sitting . . .
Spoiler alert: Henry VIII had many, many wives, which we can only imagine (and Gregory so astutely depicts) caused some suspicions and competition at court. After Anne is killed, terror and jealousy run amok among the royal circles—particularly between three women, who each will be impacted by Henry’s choice of a fourth wife. There’s the woman who Henry intends to marry to gain a political alliance, Anne of Cleves; the intensely passionate woman he desires, Katherine Howard; and Jane Rochford, the malicious and lustful woman who ultimately sent her sister-in-law, Anne Boleyn, to death.
Three women find wealth, admiration, and power in the court of Henry VIII, but at what cost? Amidst treachery, courtly drama, and the constant threat of the axe, they share one fate.
Next in the lineup is THE TAMING OF THE QUEEN, which takes place when Henry is moving onto wife number four. Wife number four only lasted 16 months, so when the king commands Kateryn Parr to marry him, she knows to expect danger. And danger is what she gets—as a strongly independent woman who fights for education, she is accused of heresy by her own husband.
Throughout her many historical novels, Philippa Gregory illuminates all of King Henry VIII’s queens. In this story, his final queen, Kateryn Parr, holds her own as an independent woman, but in her attempt to save the Protestants, she finds herself accused of heresy, punishable by death by fire.
When Henry VIII died, the stress and fractures among the court did not die with him, as we see in THE QUEEN’S FOOL. We’re up to year 1548 in this one, when a young Jewish girl who can see the future leaves Spain and arrives at the Tudor court and hired as a “holy fool” for Queen Mary. Hannah’s story of impossible love, heresy, espionage, and danger is set against the backdrop of more religious and power struggles in England—and it’s absolutely breathtaking. We love a little mysticism in our historical fiction!
Risking imprisonment for heresy, treason, and witchcraft, Hannah Greene, a young Jewish refugee from Spain, must choose between the safe life of a commoner and the excitement and danger of the royal family.
We’ve entered The Elizabethan Era! While you might think it will be smooth sailing from here out since this is almost the end of the Tudors, we’re not quite there yet . . . Elizabeth inherits a completely bankrupt, treasonous country on the brink of war. Elizabeth is then advised to marry—but the one man she wants is already married. Enter a love triangle, betrayal, and death.
Newly crowned Queen Elizabeth I faces the simultaneous dangers of the French invasion of Scotland and her passion for the convicted traitor Robert Dudley.
Henry VIII left behind a bit of a tangled mess with his multiple marriages and resulting children. His son, Edward, died at 15, and in his will left the crown to Jane Grey—a Tudor cousin—instead of his half sister Mary, the Catholic daughter of Katherine of Aragon. However, Mary claimed the throne anyway, and killed Jane. Jane had a sister, Katherine, who later becomes heir to childless Queen Elizabeth, and as such was not allowed to marry and produce a Tudor son herself. Got it so far? Good, because this is where it gets really juicy: Katherine has a secret marriage, a secret pregnancy, and is condemned. Her sister, Mary, now faces exceptional danger as the last with the family name, and a desire to defy the queen.
The final book in the series focuses on Mary, Queen of Scots—the queen who was ousted during violent rebellions and flees to the court of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth. She is imprisoned with an earl—but will not accept the fate that has been given to her. She plots and manipulates those around her, all in an effort to reclaim the Scottish throne . . . while trying to take Elizabeth’s as well.
Really any Philippa Gregory novel will fill the “Outlander”-sized hole in your heart, but THE OTHER QUEEN will probably fit best, given that it centers around Mary, Queen of Scots. Set two hundred years before the events of “Outlander” (well, the parts featuring Jamie, anyway), THE OTHER QUEEN is filled with scheming, opulence, and lush historical detail.