SNARK WEEK: Philippa Fucking Gregory

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Philippa Fucking Gregory is a prolific and successful author of historical fiction. Shitty historical fiction, many of which have been adapted into increasingly shitty films and miniseries: A Respectable TradeThe Other Boleyn Girl (adapted twice), The White QueenThe White Princess, and coming soon, The Spanish Princess.

A Respectable Trade 1998

That’s right, an early PFG book you’ve never heard of was adapted! A Respectable Trade (1998) is set in the 18th century and about the slave trade. Never read/seen it, sorry.

I’ve read a number of her books, starting with The Other Boleyn Girl, which I actually quite enjoyed. But as she started churning out shittier and shittier books, I finally gave up on her, so it’s been a number of years since I’ve read any of her stuff and my memory is fuzzy. I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while now, but I refuse to go back and read any of her shitty writing — but it’s Snark Week, and The Spanish Princess is chapping all of our hides, so I’m going to take one for the team and attempt to articulate why she is Philippa Fucking Gregory.

She Doesn’t Understand the Characters

Granted, there are many historical fiction authors who have this same problem. In order to have a New Take on established history, they take the known facts and events about a historical figure but then tweak the characters. So Anne Boleyn, say, will still do Events 1, 2, and 3, but her motivations are different. While I can understand the desire to bring something new to the story, this rewriting-character-motivation thing drives me crazy, because:

  1. The point of historical FICTION is that you’re able to make guesses and fill in gaps in the historical record, as well as the kind of things that don’t get captured – what people thought about X or Y, what they were doing behind the scenes. And sure, it’s fiction, so you can do whatever you want with it. But when an author like PFG totally rewrites someone’s motivations to be far different than what they actually likely were, they end up losing the real historical person and context.

Take Anne Boleyn. If you just make her a megabitch, you lose what we really know about Anne. Author Susan Bordo has a great analysis of Gregory’s version of Anne Boleyn in her book The Creation of Anne Boleyn. As I wrote in my review of Bordo’s book,

Bordo SERIOUSLY takes Philippa Gregory to task through her takedown of The Other Boleyn Girl (primarily the novel, but also the big-budget screen adaptation). She argues that Gregory presents Anne as “the wicked witch and Mary the long-suffering, virtuous heroine.” In addition to listing all of the MANY things TOBG gets wrong about Anne, Bordo criticizes Gregory for claiming that she 1) is a feminist and 2) respects the history. Despite stating in the book’s introduction and in multiple interviews that she’s ALL about not tinkering with the known history, Gregory incorporates almost every known myth and smear about Anne Boleyn in her book and adds more of her own: She had six fingers; she gave birth to a deformed child; she steals Henry from Mary; she has sex with her brother; and more. Given the massive popularity of TOBG novel, all of these things have now shaped many, MANY people’s understanding of Anne Boleyn.

So instead of understanding Anne’s intellect and interest in the Reformation and just maybe the fact that she was basically stuck because of Henry’s interest in her, you get this evil conniving mean girl who’s just power hungry and randomly bitchy. Great, thanks for erasing centuries of academic scholarship.

Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn in the big-budget movie version of The Other Boleyn Girl.

Then, take Catherine of Aragon, main character of PFG’s book The Constant Princess (currently being adapted into a Starz miniseries under the title The Spanish Princess). In reality, Catherine of Aragon was extremely pious and had a great sense of duty. When Henry VIII wanted to divorce her, she had two main motivations for resisting: looking out for her daughter’s (the future Queen Mary I) interests, and her sense of duty that she had a serious responsibility to be queen of England, something that she couldn’t just shrug off. Also, Henry’s claimed concern about his marriage to Catherine was that she was previously married to his elder brother, Arthur, who died. Henry kept trying to get Catherine to say that her marriage to Arthur was consummated, which would have made her marriage to Henry invalid*. Catherine refused to admit to this to her dying breath, and given how deeply Catholic and religious she was, she would have been (in her mind) facing certain eternal damnation if she were lying — proof that she wasn’t.

In PFG’s version, Catherine and Arthur were in LUV and shagged, and she only lied about it because Arthur made her promise him she would on his deathbed and so she did it for Arthur. Which totally changes the established historical understanding of Catherine. According to PFG, Catherine wasn’t a woman of principle, character, and duty, but instead a woman who was most motivated by passionate romance. In other words, NOT THE CATHERINE OF ARAGON THAT IS KNOWN TO HISTORY/EXISTED. If you take away Catherine’s sense of duty, you lose the essence of her real character.

*They also got a papal dispensation so technically, even if Catherine and Arthur’s marriage had been consummated, Catherine and Henry would be fine. But still, Catherine would not have sworn to her dying breath that she was a virgin when she married Henry if it was a lie. No way, no how.

Bad Writing

So I actually thought the pacing and storyline of The Other Boleyn Girl was quite entertaining. But PFG’s later books get shittier and shittier, as her books start becoming “this happened. Then this happened. Then this happened.”

But my biggest pet peeve:

Philippa Fucking Gregory Philippa Fucking Gregory Philippa Fucking Gregory

D’you. WHYYYYY??????????? In what world is this ONE RANDOM CONTRACTION (no other phrase gets regularly contracted!) APPROPRIATE TO HISTORICAL FICTION?? Okay, so most of what we have is written language, not spoken, and probably historically people spoke more casually than they wrote. But give me ONE ACTUAL HISTORICAL EXAMPLE OF THE USE OF “D’YOU” FROM THE ERAS ABOUT WHICH PFG WRITES. And, just from a modern perspective, WHY USE THIS OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN AND WHY NO OTHER CONTRACTIONS IT’S ENDLESS AND EVERY TIME I READ IT I WANT TO CIRCLE IT WITH A RED PEN AND WRITE “NO!!!”

 

She Has a Weird Thing With Incest

I mean, have you READ the Wideacre trilogy? These are books PFG wrote before The Other Boleyn Girl, and MAN, girl has some issues. They’re set in the 18th century, and I remember nothing else except brother/sister shagging in a field before I noped out. Sure, I grew up in the Flowers in the Attic era, but thanks no thanks.

 

The Fucking Adaptations aka Starz Just Dropped the Full Spanish Princess Trailer Because Starz Loves Snark Week

Let’s do this:

And now, let’s really do this:

2019 The Spanish Princess

Margaret Beaufort (left) is looking very chin-strappy in her ginormous, 30-years-too-early French hood.

2019 The Spanish Princess

Okay, Catherine’s hair is up, but I hate the clunky cross. I’m guessing that’s younger sister Juana?

2019 The Spanish Princess

Prince Arthur! Bowl Cut FTW!!

2019 The Spanish Princess

The wedding gown, complete with an embroidered tulle veil that seems VERY modern.

2019 The Spanish Princess

More wedding. See my previous post about this dress for more details.

2019 The Spanish Princess

Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. Hey, they got that Isabella is blond! Impressed! Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. Never mind!

2019 The Spanish Princess

I DO NOT understand this weird padded headpiece (is it so she can sleep on the plane?) and the embroidered-edge-veil. I’m also WTF-ing all over the place at the neck strap on the dress.

2019 The Spanish Princess

“Prince Harry” (aka the future Henry VIII), who they actually seem to have cast well (tall! redheaded!) and were clearly inspired by modern Prince Harry but should be rocking the same bowl cut as his brother.

Henry VIII circa 1513, Denver Art Museum.

What Henry’s hair looked like in 1513 (12 years later), image lightened to better see the hair | Henry VIII circa 1513, Denver Art Museum.

2019 The Spanish Princess

Okay what the…

2019 The Spanish Princess

WHY ARE THERE HOLES IN HER SKIRT?

2019 The Spanish Princess

Yes, the Spanish developed the farthingale, and yes, in its first iterations, the hoops were themselves sewn to/visible in the actual fashion fabric skirt. BUT SHE’S NOT A WINDMILL.

What this skirt should look like. YOU KNOW, A SKIRT. WITHOUT MISSING PANELS | Pedro García de Benabarre, Retable of St. John the Baptist, 1470-80.

2019 The Spanish Princess

Margaret Beaufort (played by Harriet Walter). French Hoods Did Not Stick Up In the Air Like That. And didn’t really come into fashion until 30 years later. Rock on, fashion-forward Margaret Beaufort.

Actual English hoods of the late 15th/early 16th century.

2019 The Spanish Princess

Oh medieval maiden of yore!

2019 The Spanish Princess

Why hairpin when you don’t gotta, amirite?

2019 The Spanish Princess

WAIT WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT KNIT/FRINGEY THING ON HENRY’S SHIRT THAT IS NOT WHAT BLACKWORK (black on white embroidery typical of this era) LOOKS LIKE

Detail from Hans Holbein, Jane Seymour, 1536-7, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

What 16th-century blackwork embroidery actually looks like. Detail from Hans Holbein, Jane Seymour, 1536-7, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

2019 The Spanish Princess

Now Margaret Beaufort is going sort of 17th c. Dutch? And with a kicky shrug?

2019 The Spanish Princess

Okay it’s a pretty shot.

2019 The Spanish Princess

Someone find me that crown on Aliexpress, stat!

2019 The Spanish Princess

Stephanie Levi-John as fictional lady-in-waiting Lina de Cardonnes seems to be stuck in Head Necklace Land.

2019 The Spanish Princess

Oh Modern Bride!

2019 The Spanish Princess

Laura Carmichael (Downton Abbey) as Margaret “Maggie” (RETCH) Pole. I don’t hate it, she’s go the wide sleeves of the era and hey, a partlet!

2019 The Spanish Princess

We guessed right, sword-fighting (is that what the kids are calling it these days?) with Henry.

2019 The Spanish Princess

Okay, so they spiral laced that, but someone didn’t know where to start the lacing so the pieces are misaligned. A total pet-peeve of mine. Also, note inflatable-plane-pillow headdress.

2019 The Spanish Princess

I am a PRINCESS OF SPAIN. I slay Moors personally! My lady-in-waiting on the right is stuck in a Little House on the Prairie calico print dress with wonky sleeve puffs!

2019 The Spanish Princess

I’m guessing back in dreamy Spain? Hey, I like the gold overgown/purple undergown combo!

2019 The Spanish Princess

HOLY SHIT MARGARET BEAUFORT IS IN A PERIOD-APPROPRIATE GABLE HOOD HANG ON I NEED TO LIE DOWN

2019 The Spanish Princess

Sticky-uppy French hood. Henry gets his kit off.

2019 The Spanish Princess

I’d wail if my lady had to wear a shark-fin mourning hat too.

 

Philippa Fucking Gregory. The Spanish Princess. What chaps your hide the most?

 

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104 Responses

  1. Athénais De Montespan

    Love your analysis of the trailer. I’ll watch TSP but I’m not very optimistic about its costumes or historical accuracy in general. Just 2 things:
    1) Juana is not Katherine’s younger sister but her elder sister. Katherine was the 5th and youngest of the Catholic Monarchs’ unfortunate children.
    2) The older monarchs you tagged as Isabella & Ferdinand are, in fact, Katherine’s in-laws Henry VII & Elizabeth of York. The actor cast as Henry VII looks nothing like him, he should have longer hair and not beard! Someone like Hugh Laurie would be a decent Henry. We know Queen Isabella will be portrayed by Alicia Borrachero, who was Boabdil’s angry momma in s02 of “Isabel” and also starred in the 2nd Narnia movie. A very talented and beautiful actress, but her dark looks have nothing to do with Queen Isabella’s pale complexion. At least she will give us a good (if not physically accurate) performance as the Spanish princess’ mother.

    By the way, I hate when late Medieval – early Renaissance flicks don’t get headpieces right, which is almost always. Don’t want to sound like an old prude, but women are almost always shown wearing her hair loose or wearing ridiculous tiaras instead or appropriate and elegant Gable headresses, French hoods or the henin for the 1400s.

    Reply
    • Kendra

      Thanks for catching the character mix-up! Duh now I remember that we discussed who was playing Isabella in the last post 🙈

      Reply
  2. Trystan L. Bass

    SO MANY HEAD NECKLACES! Also the inflatable-plane-pillow headdress looks a BS thing you find in the SCA for generic medieval. Oh, & kicky shrugs? As in the shitty MQoS movie? That’s a thing now? Fuuuuuuuck.

    Reply
    • Janet Nickerson

      Apparently head necklaces have made an appearance on Vikings, as I saw a FB post complaining about chain mail headbands on ‘Vikings’. Also, mayhap someone saw a pudding cap in a painting and thought adults wore them, too.

      Reply
      • Sarah

        Have they taken the headdress worn by the lady in La Dame a la Licorne tapestries, do you think? that looks sort of inflatable plane pillow like
        .

        Reply
  3. thedementedfairy

    Off to a rollicking start missus! Love it, love it love it. I think I saw that one about the affair with the slave…very odd, didn’t realise at the time it was PFG. I seem to recall finding it quite entertaining [UNTIL the sudden rolling around under trees indiscreet passion thing. Wotevva. Don’t recall the costumes at all though

    Reply
  4. Saraquill

    Did their research for the costumes begin and end with watching “The Tudors?” What other crappy faux-historical stuff might they cite as research, ergot poisoning?

    Reply
  5. picasso Manu

    Off to a running start! I dislike PFG because, as Alexandre Dumas said: “you can rape History, but you have to give her beautiful children”. Not that I condone rape, but you get the idea. What PFG produces is what we, sadly, get on screen, and it sure isn’t pretty.
    Case in pint (well, point, but pint would help for sure): That first picture. If I told you that’s Marco Polo escorting a Chinese princess to her wedding, I think it would be more believable than what it’s supposed to be. (And I love that gent’s face: “oh, crap, that’s not going to look good on my resumé!”)

    Reply
  6. Pyrite

    The weird padded roll headdress on Catherine strongly reminds me of the hairstyle on a few of the women in the unicorn tapestries. It’s supposedly their hair in the tapestries, but it has that same silhouette and funky little twist at the top.

    Reply
    • Roxana

      Padded headrolls were high fashion in the Fifth century Byzantine Empire. See the mosaic of Empress Theodora and ladies in Ravenna Cathedral. I don’t think the fashion lasted to early 16th c. Spain however.

      Reply
    • Erin

      Fun fact, I’m not sure when people started wearing white to their weddings, but it was WAYYYYY before Queen Victoria! Before bleach came along, white was a difficult fabric colour to both produce and keep clean, so wearing it showed you were wealthy af: your family could afford to buy it and you didn’t have to worry about getting it dirty because you didn’t have to work.

      (side note: Tudor Monastery Farm, which is obviously set around the same time as most of PFG’s works, has some great scenes showing how the ammonia from collected and fermented human urine was used to whiten clothing. I assume there wasn’t enough urine to go around for everyone’s use–Ruth Goodman points out that the monks’ white sheets and clothes, which it is part of her task to wash, are about five times whiter than her own, because they get urine access priority over their tenant farmers.)

      Since the wedding was an opportunity for the bride’s family to show off their riches and show the value that they and their daughter would bring to the groom’s household and the alliance with the groom’s family, white was a really obvious choice for rich families for a long time before Queen Victoria. White cloth interwoven with metallic threads of gold or silver was also very popular. I don’t know when it started, but I think given the above information I’m guessing that dressing the bride in white was a not uncommon choice by Tudor nobility.

      By-the-by, this also meant that white as a symbol of purity and virginity was sort of a secondary meaning for the colour for a long time. The main reason was a dick-measuring contest.

      Oh, and another fun fact in case you didn’t know: despite her religiousness, Queen Victoria didn’t choose a white gown to symbolise her purity: she did it to showcase her patriotism. Why? With the industrial revolution leading to machine-made lace for a fraction of the cost, a shitton of lace-makers in England were out of work. So Queen Victoria decided to use a massive piece of English hand-made lace (Honnington lace, I think?) on her wedding gown to show that she, the Queen of England, supported the English economy, and hopefully it would encourage other women to use hand-made English lace on their wedding dresses too. White was chosen as the best colour to show off the lace. (The plan totally worked, btw.)

      I’m not providing specific details because I have pretty bad ADHD and if I go look for them, I will click link after link after link and end up on a three-day obsessive research bender about something completely unimportant to my real life (that type of bender is how I found this very site). But it is very easy to find informative search results for something like ‘queen victoria white wedding myth’ if you want to find out more. It’s pretty interesting actually, and it’s a great lil tale to pull out at parties if you like being that “well, actually” person. is totally guilty of being that “well, actually” person.

      If anyone has any further details or has a correction, please feel free to chime in!

      Reply
      • Nick Friend

        OMG, did you just “nerdsplain” at us? :) I’ll see your fun fact and raise you one: medieval whitening was also done by draping linens over bushes or spread out on grass, so that (as I understand as a non-biologist) clorophyll drawn out of the plants by the sun would aid in the bleaching process. I’ve read of late medieval linen-producing towns surrounded by pastures covered in yards and yards of new white linen. Of course, linen was for underclothing and bed sheets, for the most part, and could be cleaned by boiling, which was obviously not an option for expensive clothing. I’m sure the rich wouldn’t be caught dead wearing it as a fashion layer for weddings.

        Reply
        • Liutgard

          Actually Nick, urine was used to whiten linens in the MA. And you’ll note that even Tudor Monastery Farm (which is excellent scholarship, BTW) mentions it. And I was watching something by Lacy Worsley just today, that mentioned that fact. Dr Worsley is not only a historian, but is Joint Curator of the Historic Roayl Palaces in Britain. She might just know her stuff.

          Reply
          • Nick Friend

            I don’t believe I contradicted her information, just added to it. Hence my wording, “ALSO done.” :)

            Reply
          • Domina Anglicus

            Urine was indeed used to whiten linen, BUT I think linen was considered quite a cheap fabric, and the rich would probably not had had outer-garments made of it.
            They would have worn garments made of far more expensive, luxurious fabrics.

            Linen probably was thus generally used for undergarments or bed sheets rather than royal wedding gowns.

            Reply
      • Jessica

        I’m completely fascinated about all of this. Everyone always talks about how it was never a white dress before Queen Victoria though I do recall reading somewhere that it was less common because you had to be rich enough to keep it clean. Bless Victoria for giving those lace-makers something to do!

        Reply
        • Michelle Girard

          I think it is more that after Victoria, and thanks to things like early photography, printing press, and widening of the world during Victoria’s time, white became the expected default. She did not invent it, but she popularised it. Yes, people wore white before her, but also other colors. Often times, it was simply the best dress you owned. In the Gilded Age America, whatever it was you wore it your first year of marriage at high society events.

          Reply
    • Michelle Girard

      . . . and are those supposed to be French bees embroidered? They don’t look like pomegranate . . . whatever they are, I’d lay money they are anachronistic . . .

      Reply
  7. Nzie

    Love this take down. I am not sorry I don’t get these “premium” channels. Also, head necklaces everywhere!

    Reply
  8. Johanna Mead

    Love this! And, yeah, PFG is weeeeeirdly obsessed with incest. Weren’t the creepyawful Wildacres books her fault, too?

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      Yes, those Wildacres books were tragically bad. I’d randomly picked up 2 of them & started reading them in a sort of car-wreck fascination fugue state. SO MUCH INCEST, WHY?!?!?

      Reply
      • Elizabeth Kerri Mahon

        I remember it having something to do with the heroine being obsessed with Wideacre and the fact that she couldn’t inherit the house because she was female. So the incest thing was to control her brother so that she could really run the house or something like that?

        Reply
  9. pandaemonaeum

    If they want to have them in clothes from a mishmash of historical eras, and men running about without shirts and women sword-fighting as some kind of weird metaphor for sex, why don’t they just make fantasy stuff? No-one cares if someone in Game of Thrones sticks an upside down visor or an Aliexpress tiara on. The real irony is that the makers of GoT wouldn’t !

    Reply
    • Nzie

      EXACTLY. Like, if you like the idea but don’t like what happened, take inspiration and run with it! That is 100% fine. It’s even encouraged. How many fun and excellent movies and shows have been inspired by history or literature and yet retold it in a different way, different setting, etc.?

      If you want to impose something on a story, just write your own. Don’t bastardize history (or literature—looking at you, “gritty” Anne with an E that somehow totally missed the whole point of Anne and the Anne books).

      Reply
  10. Elizabeth Kerri Mahon

    I still remember attending a conference where Philippa Gregory was one of the Guests of Honor. She spent her entire speech talking about how historically accurate she is and how she gets no respect compared to Hilary Mantel. It was awful and made her look ridiculous given how many millions she’s made off her books and TV adaptations.

    Reply
    • Kendra

      Yeah, I meant to rant about her whole butthurt about not being taken seriously as a historian, but then starz dropped the trailer and I got distracted!

      Reply
      • Aleko

        She’s also not above sniping at other historical novelists for not being as well-researched as her. Sometimes when she does that she really put her foot in it, as here:

        “I remember years ago reading [Hugh] Walpole’s novel on Judith Paris and she escapes by opening a window and climbing down a drainpipe – before sanitation had been invented. I was loving the novel up until that point but it completely lost me then and I always hold it in my mind as the sort of thing I don’t want a reader of mine to experience.”

        (From: http://www.philippagregory.com/news/news/229)

        The idiot woman was so keen to diss Walpole that she completely failed to notice that the drainpipe in question is clearly described as one taking rainwater from the roof gutter to a water butt. Such downpipes have not only existed since the Middle Ages – from 1724 it was a legal requirement for houses in London to have them, and many fine Georgian buildings in Britain still have their original pipe-work from roof to ground. Walpole 1: Gregory 0.

        Reply
    • Michelle Girard

      Yeah, you can get historical fiction that you can use as a guide to learn more about the source (for me it was Victoria Holt/Jean Plaidy [same person]). Hang the fiction from the facts or twist the facts for a dire narrative need. Reordering birth order, changing known history for kicks and giggles, not so much.

      The Constant Princess was almost a hate crime, it was so bad. Now, if you want me at a book club, because, no, make it a book club dedicated to hate reading, especially PFG, and I’ll show up and debone a bitch.

      Reply
  11. alexandriaweb

    Oh thank goodness it’s not just me who has noticed a rise in “weird tiaras I wishlisted on aliexpress” turning up in costume dramas of late

    Reply
  12. Eowynsword

    The padded headdress thing reminds me of something one of the modern York princesses would wear to a family wedding. And the “Moorish” lady-in-waiting’s head necklace looks like it was “borrowed” from sub-Saharan African-inspired fashion. To put it on the only obviously dark-skinned character plays to the swamp of racist, sexist fetishism that is “exoticism”. Par for the course when it comes to the school of televised “history as soap opera”.

    Reply
    • Kendra

      Yeah, I get that they’re going for “foreign/exotic” with that character, but it seems very heavy handed. Also why is she wearing giant honking “chains of office” type chains? Is she mayor? ;)

      Reply
    • Peacoclaur

      I was waiting for somone to point that out. As much as I like seeing diversity in my period pieces (and would love to see a great deal more) one thing that always bothers me is the whole “Moors = Black” thing, which simply isn’t true. Moor in the 15-18 centuries meant Arab/Berber/Kurdish et al, and not “African”. In this time period most educated Europeans called Sub Saharan Africans “Ethiopians”, regardless of where they were from, and would not have conflated the two like most modern filmmakers do today. This conflation of two very different people groups is a combination of lazy racism and some well meaning but ultimately misguided mid twentieth century afrocentrism. The fact that this actress is being used as the token exotic makes this all the worse for me.

      Reply
  13. Miles

    That farthingale with the missing panels…I feel like it’s going to start twirling and she’s going to fly off like a helicopter

    Reply
    • Nick Friend

      It’s the unholy spawn of a farthingale and a pair of paned pluderhosen. Pludingale? Sounds like a shore bird, or maybe a dessert.

      Reply
  14. hsc

    I love the way that the facial expressions of the actresses in the framegrabs look like they’re seeing themselves in those getups for the first time, from bewilderment to disgust to outright “throw your head back and scream”.

    Reply
  15. Sam Marchiony

    I’m disgusted not just on a historical level, but on an aesthetic level. At least in garbage like Dangerous Beauty, it (mostly) looked pretty. Here, nearly everything looks tacky, like they rented half their stuff from a local production of Once Upon A Mattress, and the other half from The Tudors.

    Reply
  16. Sharon in Scotland

    I remember watching “A Respectable Trade” in the 90’s?.
    It had Warren Clarke, Emma Fielding and Richard Briers, playing against type, as a slave trader………….I seem to remember “enjoying” it…………as a woman of colour, it was hard to watch at times, e.g., one of the female slaves/servants was made to wear a scold’s bridle. It all ended unhappily.

    Reply
  17. Charity

    BLESS THIS POST.

    What PFG did with both Anne Boleyn and Katharine of Aragon chaps my ass. It really does. Philippa does not write ‘true to historical fiction,’ she writes ‘every slander used against them is true’ historical fiction. There IS a difference. (BTW, her book about Catherine Parr, the pious and religious intellectual wife of Henry VIII opens with Catherine Parr having sex with Thomas Seymour. Ha, ha. No. And it goes on to include some really cringe-worthy S&M type stuff with old, bloated, gouty H8. No thanks. Gag. That’s the first time I ever wanted to bleach my eyeballs after reading a book. OMG just no. Stay away.)

    Can I just comment on that trailer? Like who the hell is the guy with the beard? Is that supposed to be Henry VII? Who NEVER GREW A BEARD? WHO LOOKS NOTHING LIKE THE GAUNT HENRY VIII? WHY. WHY. WHY. For God’s sake. I’d say get Stephen Dillane to play H7 because he’s perfect for it in my head, but on the other hand, I want him nowhere near this disaster.

    Arthur looks sullen and pissy.

    I’m okay with their Elizabeth of York. Still, hubby – BEARD. NO.

    Um. Philippa… and Starz… Henry 8 was 10/11 at the time he met KoA. Not 18 as this “hawt” teenage boy suggests. But I appreciate that at least both of them are redheads this time.

    Hahaha, windmill. I knew you’d love that pic.

    Margaret Beaufort is always fabulous, regardless of who is playing her as a “mega-bitch” (which imo she wasn’t; she was crazy smart, devout, and kind to poor people, though ;).

    I’m torn. The White Princess was such an awful shit-storm of HORROR that seriously nothing would shock me here; there’s no way to top that level of dreadful. So part of me has a tiny bit of hope that I won’t hate, loathe, and detest this as much as I think I might.

    Either way, I’ll hate watch the entire thing and bitch about it. ;)

    Reply
    • Kendra

      CATHERINE PARR HAVING SEX WITH THOMAS SEYMOUR??? A THOUSAND TIMES NO!!!!!!

      (And I’ll be hate watching along with you!)

      Reply
      • Charity

        Yup. And then she hurried back to tend her dying husband. Just eww.

        YAY! Someone will be hate watching it with me! I figure I need actual fodder for my rage and not just broad generalizations. Also, ALWAYS KNOW WHAT YOUR ENEMY IS DOING.

        Ahem.

        Reply
    • Domina Anglicus

      I totally agree. Gregory also did a total hatchet job on Margaret Beaufort in The White Queen, which is frankly slanderous. She makes her out to have been a raving, Machiavellian religious fanatic, when she was in fact a fiercely intelligent woman who translated books and even founded a college.

      Oh, and she also made out Margaret to have been a crazed psychotic mass murderer who was responsible for the deaths of (among others) her teenage half-brother, who actually lived to a rope old age and died in his bed, the demise of the practically the entire house of York, and the murder of Princes in the Tower. No evidence for any of it of course, but who wants to let the facts get in the way of the story?

      Reply
      • Charity

        applauds you

        I actually spend far too much time online trying to argue fools out of believing all the stupid PFG-related accusations against Margaret Beaufort, because if it was on a show, it must be true. :P The poor woman must be rolling over in her grave. If ghosts exist, I hope she haunts that writer’s ass.

        Did you see the horror-fest that was The White Princess? At one point, Henry VII actually drags his mother across the floor BY HER ANKLES and throws her out into the hall — a “much deserved public humiliation” when he finds out she murdered the Princes in the Tower. That show had already made my eyes bleed by that point, but after that I wanted to beat my head on the floor and scream. :P

        Reply
  18. Valéria Fernandes Da Silva

    Thanks for your text. I did not know Susan Bordo’s book about Anne Boleyn, so I bought it immediately. :D But may I point one thing? Harry was not cast well. If this Harry in the trailer is Prince Harry when he meets Catherine fot the first time, he was a boy of 9. So, they should have cast a boy, not a young man. I’m tired of that laziness about changing an actor, or actress, if necessary due to their age or ageing. If it’s necessary, it must be done.

    Reply
    • Charity

      Starz is actually making it more… um… appropriate by aging him up. I have read this novel and I kid you not, 10 year old Henry is sexing Catherine up with his eyes all through it, when he is just a child. And she describes him as more mature than his years. So the ick factor goes down when you, you know, cast a teenager instead of someone who resembles Ron Weasley in the first Harry Potter movie. :P

      Reply
      • Nzie

        OMG that is repulsive. Seriously, that is literally the excuses pedophiles make. Add this in with the reports of an incest obsession in some of her other books and I am genuinely creeped out.

        Reply
  19. KayHay

    That farthingale dress belongs in an Alice in Wonderland adaptation. The Yellow Queen?

    Reply
  20. Faye

    Maybe you can do a whole post about the changing fashions of English Renaissance hoods? I admit, while I know the broad strokes – which hoods belong in which dates – I have no idea how they’re supposed to be worn. Please enlighten us as to how a French hood should be seated if not standing upright?

    Reply
  21. Sophie

    On the scale of things it’s minor, but Henry VII’s surcoat has pomegranates on it. But it’s Catherine of Aragon’s symbol. (In fact you can see the same fabric in a different colourway on Catherine in the BBC’s Wolf Hall.) Unless he’s supposed to be doing a sort of “Hello people from Aragon, look I am wearing your symbol in solidarity. Marriage, yay!” thing, which I sincerely doubt, it /really/ goddamn bugs me. How did no one notice??

    Like I said, it’s minor, but Catherine holds a special place in my heart, she’s buried in my hometown cathedral, which is why I will be avoiding this like the plague…

    Reply
    • Susan Pola Staples

      Your hometown cathedral is gorgy. I don’t blame you for avoiding PFG and this travesty Luke the plague.

      Reply
    • Amy Brown

      I do. It made the mistake of being both historically inaccurate and boring. Mary was portrayed as a whiny, spoiled baby who was obsessed with one thing. The only thing she could think about apparently because she thought it exactly the same way for four pages in every freaking chapter.

      Reply
  22. Kaite Fink

    What pisses me off the most, is that there are authors out there, even in historical fiction land, that have written about these same people and still made it feel so damn real and well researched, but all we get are these shit-shows. Any author that talks about themselves as much as PFG does, makes me feel ill. The costume people clearly don’t care what is really correct for the time period, as long as it helps sell the over-dramatic schlock.
    Argggggghhhhh!!!!!

    Reply
      • Susan Pola Staples

        Great idea.

        What about a miniseries based on The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn or Madamoiselle Boleyn? Both are by Robin Maxwell

        Reply
  23. Lillian

    Those costumes, ugh… they just look so cheest and fake, and above all, CHEAP. I honestly don’t understand how anyone could think they look good…

    Reply
  24. Susan Pola Staples

    I’m going to binge on season 4 of Outlander. Lord John is yummy. The other show I’ll be watching instead is season 2 of Mrs Maisel.

    I avoid PFG bc she’s a lousy writer who should be shunned. Her historical fiction isn’t researched. And I cannot comprehend why she writes this trash. She denigrates all her characters especially both the pious AB (Protestant) and KoA (Catholic).

    Both women were trapped by HVIII and I don’t believe any author of fiction has addressed it.

    Reply
  25. nazzy

    A Respectable Trade wasn’t terrible (from my vague memories of it), but that was written long before she disappeared into a fog of Tudor revisionism, never to be seen again.

    Reply
  26. ZelM

    It was an absolute laugh-riot to see you shred this.
    I know Caterina d’Aragona was one of the few royal brides to wear white*, but it just looked like something out of the ’80’s with those huge puffed sleeves. Was there not at least a description of what she wore?
    I literally thought I was hallucinating when I saw the gaps in her skirt- like, ‘Are you f*cking kidding me?!’
    Lol- I knew the head necklace would get you.

    *A royal bride was more likely to wear silver, til Victoria (her cousin the ill-fated Princess Charlotte’s wedding dress is in a museum, I believe)…. and you’d think that costume designers would leap at such an opportunity, but no- brides wear white, no matter the century or circumstances… “Else how are you going to know you’re witnessing a ‘mawwidge’, and who’s the bwide??” Slap me sideways, the audience aren’t idiots… well, PFG’s fans…

    All I can say is, thank God they haven’t adapted the Wideacre series (shudder).

    Reply
    • Domina Anglicus

      Yes, totally yes! That is what I have heard. That literally nobody (or very few) wore white wedding dresses before Queen Vicky. In fact, I seem to recall on Tudor Monastery Farm (a popular documentary show from the UK), or some such that White was generally worn for undergarments and baptismal robes for babies and the like

      Reply
  27. Sarah

    Very entertaining, thanks. BTW, I looked up Laura Carmichael’s character and see she’s called Maggie Pole as if she’s some jumped up serving maid, not the niece of two kings and cousin of another one. That is just as infuriating as all the costume solecisms.

    Have you ever read the one and two star Amazon reviews for Gregory’s books? highly recommended

    Reply
  28. j paull

    Kendra – I have in my hands a shrink wrapped 2 VHS pack copy of Respectable Trade. Not only is it a Mobil Masterpiece Theater presentation, it is also possesses a BBC logo. I will be happy to bless you with the still unopened copy at Costume College 2019, if you so wish. (no money was actually expended by me, my family, or friends in acquiring said movie)

    Reply
  29. Roxana

    In My Opinion, inexpert but the result of literally decades of reading Tudor history, Catherine of A would never have told a deliberate lie but false memory is not impossible. Whatever happened between her and Arthur happened eighteen years before to a bewildered virgin who was probably genuinely confused about what exactly constituted consummation. Hence the mixed messages at the time. Catherine would have been more than human if she hadn’t edited her memories subconsciously to match what she wanted to believe.

    In fact the question of consummation was irrelevant. A consummated marriage could be dispensed as well as an unconsummated one. The real issue was the wording of the dispensation and Henry’s insistence that the Pope could not dispense an impediment based on Holy Writ. Which BTW were the worst possible grounds he could have chosen.

    And what the heck is it with costume designers? Why can’t they Look At The Damme Artwork??

    Reply
    • Kendra

      Hmmmm, I think your first penetrative sexual experience would be pretty memorable. I can still remember mine. Especially since it would have been a Big Deal to CoA on a “official consummation” level, whether or not she’d been told much about sex beforehand.

      Reply
      • Roxana

        At the time everybody acted like consummation had occurred, including Catherine. The question only arose after Arthur’s death. As I recall Catherine’s confessor and her Duenna, both of whom should have known, told different stories. Catherine herself had nothing to say until eighteen years later.

        Reply
  30. Lillian

    Is it just me, or does Anne’s dress in The Other Boleyn Girl look really like a synthetic fiber?

    Reply
  31. Jessica

    It appears who have articulated why I haven’t actually read any of her other books that I own. I have them. They stare at me and I. Just. Can’t. I had no idea why until now, so thank you for that! I also may have hurt myself giggling through this whole thing.

    As to the fringe collar accessory that Henry is wearing, perhaps it’s a “Spanish” love token?

    Reply
  32. Lillian

    So I haven’t seen any sign of a White Princess season two. Dare we hope its been cancelled?

    Reply
  33. Teresa

    Thanks to Frockflicks and historical fiction sites, I now know better than to waste my time reading PFG. Your mention of the incest theme made me curious, however, so I looked up Wideacre and found that the first book was published in 1987. As a mystery reader, I remember that at around that time, there was a rash of detective novels in which incest was the plot device that eventually led to homicide many years later. (And I got pretty disgusted at the repetition of this plot–in a mystery novel it often didn’t surface until the end of the story.) Anyone think there might be a connection?

    It also looks as if PFG writes a lot of her novels in the present tense. If I hadn’t already been warned off by the revelation of her many inaccuracies, d’you know, the present tense would be enough to put me off.

    Reply
  34. Roxana

    The man in the top image made me think of Columbus but I had no clue who the women could be. Catherine of Aragon would NOT have been my first guess. Or my fiftieth. BTW ‘Moors’ were North Africans not sub-Saharan Africans. The latter were present in Europe mostly as ornamental slaves though many achieved freedom and higher status. Given the precarious status of ‘Moors’ in newly reunited Spain C of A is MOST unlikely to have included one in her entourage. I’ve certainly never seen any record of such a attendant.

    Reply
  35. Bruja

    I was totally done with Philippa Gregory after l stumbled ovee a scene in one of her books, where Amy Robsart, already married to Dudley, went to milk the cows. She herself. Milk the cows. Fuck me, WHAT?!
    It didn’t help at all that Elisabeth Tudor was depicted in this book as hysterical drama queen with a pea brain, capable of thinking about Dudley’s hotness only.

    Reply
    • Roxana

      What bugged me was the depiction of Elizabeth and Cecil as little country cousins as opposed to courtier Robin Dudley.

      Reply
  36. Domina Anglicus

    First of all, I love your posts. Second of all, what ON EARTH is Margaret Beaufort even doing in The White Princess? Even a quick search can tell you Margaret died very shortly after her grandson Henry VII’s coronation in 1509.

    Also, I totally understand what you mean about incest. Some disturbed people actually seemed to think that the whole incest between Richard III and and Elizabeth of York in The White Queen was sweet and romantic. There’s even a line of Ricardian fan fiction which has him impregnating some of his other besotted nieces.

    Very disturbing indeed.

    Reply
  37. Michelle Girard

    Wow. I thought I was the only one who knew Philippa Gregory’s middle name. And down with the “WTF ‘D’yous “!

    I read TOBG when it came out and after my blood pressure stabilized swore never again. Then I got sick, house-bound, and bored and went through a stage of hate reading her crap.

    All you say and more. And I will probably hate watch the show, since I just pushed through the first.

    At lease Katherine looks about right. Eddie Red–I mean Henry looks too old. Whatevs. Not Historical anything. Maybe alt-history in the world of bad romance dreck.

    Reply

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