Philippa Gregory depicts Mary, Queen of Scots, as darkly beautiful and simultaneously demure and alluring. She was actually unattractively pale, eyebrow-less, and thin-lipped. This demonstrates Gregory’s skill in reinterpreting and putting different perspectives on historical figures and episodes, in this case Mary’s 19 years of imprisonment and her relationship with her admirer and jailer, the Earl of Shrewsbury. The twist in the tale is that the businesswoman wife of the Earl, Bess of Hardwick, emerges as an unlikely heroine. The rising action leading to Mary’s death feels like Waiting for Godot, with convoluted sub-plots drawn out in minutiae and the beheading occurring only in a dream. Nevertheless, it is an entertaining, thought-provoking read, with a subtle feminist sub-text.
Philippa Gregory is a prolific English novels who has been writing historical novels since 1987. The best known of her works is The Other Boleyn Girl (2001), which in 2002 won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award from the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and has been adapted into two separate films. The Other Queen and The Other Boleyn Girl are part of the eight novels in her Tudor Court series.