The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory

BoleynThis historical novel has as its narrators two of Henry the Eighth’s wives and a woman from Henry’s court.

Anne of Cleves comes to England to become Henry’s fourth wife, selected for political reasons and also because, as depicted in her portrait by Holbein, she appears to be an attractive young woman. Upon meeting her in person, Henry takes an instant dislike to her. Will she follow Anne Boleyn on the scaffold?

Katherine Howard enters the story as a beautiful but superficial 14-year-old girl. She catches Henry’s eye as soon as she comes to court, and she eventually becomes Henry’s fifth wife. Will his love for her last? If not, what will her fate be?

Gregory goes beyond the usual stereotypes (the ugly wife, the stupid wife)to draw a more complete portrait of each young woman.

The third narrator is Jane Boleyn, whose testimony sent her beloved husband and her sister-in-law Anne to their deaths. She is a schemer, a betrayer of those who trust her–but, as Gregory portrays her, not a wholly unsympathetic character.

At this stage in his life, Henry is aging–and not gracefully–lashing out at those around him because he is unhealthy, in pain, and no longer the handsome prince he once was. If you enjoy reading about English history, you’ll find this a fascinating glimpse at a relatively unfamiliar part of the story of Henry the Eighth and his six wives.

Gregory’s other novels include The Constant Princess (about Catharine of Aragon), The Other Boleyn Girl (about Anne’s sister Mary), and The Virgin’s Lover (about Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley).

(Helen Snow, Information Services)

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One Response

  1. I love Gregory’s novels and would also list The Queen’s Fool as one to read for those who are getting to know her work. Great review! Thanks!

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