Skip to main content

Review: The Boleyn Inheritance, by Philippa Gregory

The Boleyn Inheritance is the story of Henry VIII's fourth and fifth wives, Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard, and Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford. Anne of Cleves comes to England, the product of a dynastical alliance between the Duchy of Cleves and Tudor royal house.
She arrives speaking no English and quickly becomes distasteful to her husband when she rejects him. And even when they divorce six months after marriage, Anne of Cleves is still not safe from the tyranny of her ex husband. Ultimately, she's the character we most sympathize with. Her inheritance is the lands that once belonged to Anne Boleyn, which she was given at her divorce.

History has a bad impression of Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford. The former sister-in-law of Anne Boleyn, Jane Boleyn sent her sister-in-law and husband to their deaths--allegedly to save her inheritance, though more likely than not because of jealousy. Part of the story is told through Lady Rochford's eyes, and its an interesting view. She sees herself as utterly blameless. At the very end, she pretends that she's mentally unstable so that she won't be executed--a gamble that eventually doesn't pay off. This was a detail that Gregory made up to show that Jane Boleyn was mentally unstable for having sent her brother and sister-in-law to their deaths, though I would argue that, in order to fully realize what she had done, Jane Boleyn was completely sane.

In the Author's Note at the end of the book, Gregory claims that she wanted to show Katherine Howard as anything but silly; but there's no other way that Henry VIII's foolish and vain fifth wife can be portrayed. Married at sixteen to the fat, aging king, Katherine Howard has an affair with Thomas Culpeper, the handsome Groom of the Bedchamber. She naievely believes that, because she's Queen of England, she'll be saved from the ax. Her inheritance is the block, which she requested be brought to her chamber the night before her execution, so that she could practice.

This is the best book I've seen from Philippa Gregory in a long time. The Boleyn Inheritance is a welcome change from the single-person narratives she's written in the past, where the main character is seen as utterly blameless and pure. I liked The Boleyn Inheritance maybe more than I enjoyed The Other Boleyn Girl.


Lezlie said…
This was my favorite Gregory book by far. I'm glad you liked it! I kept telling my husband, "I know how it all ends, and I'm still hanging on the edge of my seat!" :-)

Have a great day!

PS I'm reading Alison Weir's "Innocent Traitor" right now, and if you liked "The Boleyn Inheritance", you might want to give it a try. The style is very similar, told with multiple narrators.
Laura said…
I read The Other Boleyn Girl earlier this year, and I've been wondering how this one compared. I'm glad to hear it is also a good read!

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy:, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy:, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…

Review: Midnight in Peking, by Paul French

Pages: 259 Original date of publication: 2013 My copy: 2013 (Penguin) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Phoenix bookstore, May 2013
In January 1937, the body of a young British girl, Pamela Werner, was found near Peking’s Fox Tower. Although two detectives, one British and the other Chinese, spent months on the case, the case was never solved completely, and the case was forgotten in the wake of the invasion of the Japanese. Frustrated, Pamela’s father, a former diplomat, tried to solve the crime. His investigation took him into the underbelly of Peking society and uncovered a secret that was worse than anything he could have imagined.
At first, I thought that this would be a pretty straightforward retelling of a true crime, but what Paul French (who spent seven years researching the story) reveals in this book is much more than that. Foreign society in Peking in the 1930s was stratified, with the British colonials at the top and the White Russian refugees at the bottom, but…