After the death of his third wife, Jane Seymour, King Henry VIII of England decides to take a new wife, but this time, not for love. The Boleyn Inheritance follows three women whose lives are forever changed because of the king’s decision, as they must balance precariously in an already shaky Tudor Court.
Anne of Cleves is to be married to Henry to form a political alliance, though the rocky relationship she has to the king does not bode well for her or for England.
Katherine Howard is the young, beautiful woman who captures Henry’s eye, even though he is set to marry Anne. Her spirit runs free and her passions run hot—though her affections may not be returned upon the King.
Jane Rochford was married to George Boleyn, and it was her testimony that sent her husband and infamous sister-in-law Anne to their deaths. Throughout the country, her name is known for malice, jealousy, and twisted lust.
The Boleyn Inheritance is a novel drawn tight as a lute string about three women whose positions brought them wealth, admirations, and power, as well as deceit, betrayal, and terror.
About the Author
Date of Birth:January 9, 1954
Place of Birth:Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa
Education:B.A. in history, Sussex University, 1982; Ph.D., 18th-century popular fiction, Edinburgh, 1984
Read an Excerpt
The Boleyn Inheritance
By Philippa Gregory
TouchstoneCopyright © 2007 Philippa Gregory
All right reserved.
Jane Boleyn, Blickling Hall, Norfolk,
It is hot today, the wind blows over the flat fields and marshes with the stink of the plague. In weather like this, if my husband were still with me, we would not be trapped in one place, watching a leaden dawn and a sunset of dull red; we would be traveling with the king's court, on progress through the weald and downland of Hampshire and Sussex, the richest and most beautiful countryside in all of England, riding high on the hilly roads and looking out for the first sight of the sea. We would be out hunting every morning, dining under the thick canopy of the trees at midday and dancing in the great hall of some country house at night in the yellow light of flickering torches. We were friends with the greatest families in the land, we were the favorites of the king, kin to the queen. We were beloved; we were the Boleyns, the most beautiful, sophisticated family at the court. Nobody knew George without desiring him, nobody could resist Anne, everyone courted me as a passport to their attention. George was dazzling -- dark-haired, dark-eyed, and handsome -- always mounted on the finest horses, always at the side of the queen. Anne was at the peak of her beauty and her wits, as alluring as dark honey. And I went everywhere with them.
The two of them used to ride together, racing, neck and neck like lovers, and I could hear their laughterover the thudding of the hooves as they went flying by. Sometimes, when I saw them together, so rich, so young, so beautiful, I couldn't tell which of them I loved more.
All the court was besotted with the two of them, those dark Boleyn flirtatious looks, their high living: such gamblers, such lovers of risk; both so fervent for their reform of the church, so quick and clever in argument, so daring in their reading and thoughts. From the king to the kitchen maid there was not one person who was not dazzled by the pair of them. Even now, three years on, I cannot believe that we will never see them again. Surely, a couple so young, so radiant with life, cannot simply die? In my mind, in my heart, they are still riding out together, still young, still beautiful. And why would I not passionately long for this to be true? It has been only three years since I last saw them; three years, two months, and nine days since his careless fingers brushed against mine, and he smiled and said, "Good day, wife, I must go, I have everything to do today," and it was a May Day morning and we were preparing for the tournament. I knew he and his sister were in trouble, but I did not know how much.
Every day in this new life of mine I walk to the crossroads in the village, where there is a dirty milestone to the London road. Picked out in mud and lichen, the carving says "London, 120 miles." It is such a long way, such a long way away. Every day I bend down and touch it, like a talisman, and then I turn back again to my father's house, which is now so small to me, who has lived in the king's greatest palaces. I live on my brother's charity, on the goodwill of his wife who cares nothing for me, on a pension from Thomas Cromwell, the upstart moneylender, who is the king's new great friend. I am a poor neighbor living in the shadow of the great house that was once my own, a Boleyn house, one of our many houses. I live quietly, cheaply, like a widow with no house of my own whom no man wants.
And this is because I am a widow with no house of my own whom no man wants. A woman of nearly thirty years old, with a face scored by disappointment, mother to an absent son, a widow without prospect of remarriage, the sole survivor of an unlucky family, heiress to scandal.
My dream is that one day this luck will change. I will see a messenger in Howard livery riding down this very road, bringing a letter for me, a letter from the Duke of Norfolk, to summon me back to court, to tell me that there is work for me to do again: a queen to serve, secrets to whisper, plots to hatch, the unending double-dealing life of a courtier, at which he is so expert, and I am his greatest pupil. My dream is that the world will change again, swing topsy-turvy until we are uppermost once more, and I am restored. I saved the duke once, when we were in the worst danger, and in return he saved me. Our great sorrow was that we could not save the two of them, the two who now ride and laugh and dance only in my dreams. I touch the milestone once more, and imagine that tomorrow the messenger will come. He will hold out a paper, sealed with the Howard crest deep and shiny in the red wax. "A message for Jane Boleyn, the Viscountess Rochford?" he will ask, looking at my plain kirtle and the dust on the hem of my gown, my hand stained with dirt from the London milestone.
"I will take it," I shall say. "I am her. I have been waiting forever." And I shall take it in my dirty hand: my inheritance.
Copyright © 2006 by Philippa Gregory Limited
Excerpted from The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory Copyright © 2007 by Philippa Gregory. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Reading Group Guide
Reading Group Guide
The Boleyn Inheritance
We are players in this game, but we do not choose our own moves. The men will play us for their own desires. All we can do is try to survive whatever happens next...
In Tudor England, three women are determined to escape their circumstances and start anew in the court of King Henry VIII.
There is Jane Boleyn, who longs once again for the world of courtiers and royal intrigue even though the last scandal in which she became entangled resulted in the deaths of her husband and her sister-in-law, Queen Anne. There is fourteen-year-old Katherine Howard, who has her cousin Anne Boleyn's beauty and precociousness. When she catches the king's eye she sets in motion a dreadful political plot she is too young to understand. And there is Anne of Cleves, a duchess from a far-away country who cannot even speak the language in her new homeland. Desperate to flee her abusive mother and brother, she is willing to marry Henry and sit on England's throne under the shadow of its last three queens.
A vengeful and unpredictable king, Henry descends deeper and deeper into madness. The peril runs deep, especially for these three women, recalling the terrified days leading up to the death of Anne Boleyn five years earlier. To be a favorite of the king comes at a risk. Will one of these three women inherit the fate of the former queen and pay with her life?
Questions for Discussion
1. What reasons do Jane Boleyn, Katherine Howard, and Anne of Cleves each have for seeking a place in Henry VIII's court? Do any of them believe it might be dangerous to be a part of the royal circle, or is it a risk they're willing to take? Does your opinion of each woman change over the course of the novel?
2. Why does Anne of Cleves believe it is a matter of need for her to escape the house of her brother and mother? How does the advice Anne's mother gives her-to be demure, to wear chaste clothing-actually work against Anne in her relationship with Henry?
3. When Anne arrives in England, the courtiers "judge her harshly for her shyness and her lack of speech. They blame her for her clothes and they laugh at her for not being able to dance or sing" (75). Why do the members of the court refuse to give Anne a chance? How significant are the language and cultural barriers that hinder Anne when she first comes to England?
4. Compare the way the court initially treats Anne to how they treat her during the Christmas festivities at Hampton Court after the dissolution of her marriage to Henry. In what ways has she re-made herself? What is the single greatest factor in Anne's transformation?
5. Discuss the encounter in which the king comes to Anne of Cleves in disguise, and she rejects his advances. Why does this incident have such an impact on Henry's mental state? How is this incident a turning point for both Anne and for Katherine?
6. Does Jane realize the implications of having given evidence against her husband, George, and sister-in-law, Anne Boleyn? Did she do it to save George and Anne, or did she do it out of spite and jealousy? Why is Jane so eager to return to Henry's court given what happened the last time she was there?
7. Jane is reluctant to give false evidence against Anne of Cleves, as she's ordered to do by the Duke of Norfolk. Why then does she go ahead with it? Does Katherine Howard, who has a friendly relationship with Anne, feel any remorse about usurping Anne's place as queen? Why or why not?
8. What are Henry's motivations for setting Anne of Cleves aside? Is his decision not to have her executed a political one or a personal one?
9. Why does Anne prefer to remain in England rather than return to Cleves? Ultimately, is she satisfied with her life as a single woman?
10. How does the Duke of Norfolk use Jane and Katherine to further his own political advancement? Is Jane a willing participant or more of a pawn in the duke's schemes? How much responsibility does Katherine, who is fourteen years old when she first goes to Henry's court, bear for her actions?
11. When Jane is locked in the Tower awaiting sentencing, she decides to act crazy in order to avoid the executioner's block. Is Jane truly mad or merely a good actress?
12. The Duke of Norfolk tells Jane that she is "a byword for malice, jealousy and twisted love" and that she is "an evil woman" (457). What empathy, if any, do you feel for Jane? Does Jane possess any positive traits? If so, what are they?
13. In what ways does the memory of Anne Boleyn haunt Jane, Anne, and Katherine? What is each woman's "Boleyn inheritance"?
14. Did reading The Boleyn Inheritance give you an understanding of the inner workings of a 16th-century royal court? How so? Discuss the social and political realities of the time-particularly the roles of women-as they apply to the circumstances of Jane, Anne, and Katherine.
15. Have you read Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl, The Queen's Fool, The Virgin's Lover, and The Constant Princess, all of which deal with Tudor-era figures? If so, how did The Boleyn Inheritance compare to these novels?
Book Club Tips
Along with The Boleyn Inheritance, read and discuss The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory's novel about the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn as seen through the eyes of her sister, Mary.
Learn more about the Tudor monarchs (and see portraits of Henry VIII's six wives) at www.tudorhistory.org.
Set the scene by serving traditional English tea and pastries. A variety of teas is available at www.englishteastore.com, along with Norfolk Manor biscuits, Currant Scone Mix, English Clotted Cream, and other delicacies. You'll also find a selection of English Tea Party Recipes at www.joyofbaking.com/EnglishTeaParty.html.
Visit Philippa Gregory's website, www.philippagregory.com, to learn more about the author, view a Tudor family tree, and read background information on The Boleyn Inheritance.