“Telling the Story that History Cannot Tell: Philippa Gregory’s Alternative History of Women”
This paper discusses the fiction of the historical novelist Philippa Gregory and her treatment of the stories of royal women of the Plantagenet period. It outlines how Gregory’s fiction works to reassert the female historical figure and create a different, feminised version of history. It places Gregory’s writing within a theoretical framework established through outlining some important arguments concerning women’s historical fiction and the question of historical truth in a post- feminist and postmodern age. Further, it outlines Gregory’s feminist and postmodern approaches to history and argues that, through combining established historical facts and imagined details, her novels consciously challenge historiographic versions of events in order to create an alternative historical “truth.” Gregory’s ideas concerning historical women and their role in historical events are discussed, and her portrayal of royal women from the Plantagenet period analysed in some detail. Here, Gregory clearly emphasises that women could have and did wield some power, especially when placed close to the centre of authority as queens or mothers of kings-to-be, and that this power enabled them to influence political and historical processes. In addition, Gregory’s representation of these historical women and the obstacles they face is a direct reflection on the hindrances women are still facing today.