I see the BBC have just run yet another series about one of the Tudors. It is The six wives of Henry VIII. I am pleased to see so much history being broadcast these days and I think Lucy Worsley is a good presenter. I am also glad that the series began by reminding us that Henry had been king for over twenty years before he began to let his fears over the succession poison his previously happy relationship with his first wife. All that time he was a conservative Roman Catholic. All too often people tell the story beginning with the breakdown of his first marriage. I just wish they would find another period to look at.
Is it history or her-story? I do think it is good that they are looking at the story from the women’s point of view, instead of seeing them through the men’s eyes, treating the women as pawns in their games. I have read some of Philippa Gregory’s books on this period and enjoyed them, but not as much as her White Queen series. That is probably because, like most of us, I was a lot less familiar with the Wars of the Roses than with the Tudors. I agree with many critics of the TV version, that the strength of the books was that each one was seeing the story through the eyes of a particular woman, whilst the TV tried to do an amalgamation, which did not quite work.
I enjoyed the book The Other Queen, also by Philippa Gregory, telling the tale of Mary Queen of Scots in captivity. It was told as by three people: her gaoler, the Earl of Shrewsbury, his wife, and Mary herself. Each chapter took a different perspective. Most imaginative. It was also interesting that the story was told by people who were not at Court and saw how things developed in the Midlands, especially the Rising.
I was interested to note, recently, that she is not related to Susanna Gregory, author of historical detective fiction. When I am in the mood for a historical whodunit, I sometimes read her books. They are fascinating in the detail and I like the characters. Sometimes I find the action a little slow, but at other times that appeals to me. I think we need to recognise that we all have moods and not blame the author if we pick up a book at the wrong time.