Born in Kenya in 1954, Philippa Gregory moved to England with her family and was educated in Bristol and at the National Council for the Training of Journalists course in Cardiff. She worked as a senior reporter on the Portsmouth News, and as a journalist and producer for BBC radio. Philippa obtained a BA degree in history at the University of Sussex in Brighton, and a PhD at Edinburgh University in 18th-century literature.
Her first novel, Wideacre, was written as she completed her PhD and became an instant world-wide bestseller. On its publication, she became a full-time writer. Her knowledge of gothic eighteenth century novels led to the world-wide success of Wideacre, which was followed by a haunting sequel: The Favored Child, and the delightful happy ending of the trilogy: Meridon. This novel was listed in feminist book fortnight and for the Romantic Novel of the year at the same time – one of the many instances of Philippa’s work appealing to very different readers. Touchstone-Fireside reissued the trilogy in 2003.
In her later novels, Gregory pioneered the genre which has become her own: fictional biography, the true story of a real person brought to life with painstaking research and passionate verve. The flowering of this new style was undoubtedly The Other Boleyn Girl, a runaway best-seller which stormed the US market and then went worldwide telling the story of the little-known sister to Anne Boleyn. The Other Boleyn Girl is becoming a classic historical novel, winning the Parker Pen Novel of the Year award 2002, and the Romantic Times fictional biography award. The Other Boleyn Girl was adapted for the BBC as a single television drama and a film is now in production starring Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn, Scarlett Johansen as Mary Boleyn, and Eric Bana as Henry.
Other Tudor novels followed The Other Boleyn Girl: The Queen's Fool taking a sympathetic look at Mary Tudor through the eyes of a real-life character, a female fool, was a Top Twenty bestseller for twenty weeks in the UK, and has been bought in the US for a four-part television drama special. The Virgin's Lover, telling the story of Elizabeth 1st love affair with Robert Dudley, and the little known story of his wife, was simultaneously in the Top Twenty bestseller lists in both UK and USA whilst being Number One on the New Zealand bestseller list. It reached the Top Ten in paperback. Her third Tudor novel: The Constant Princess, which tells the dramatic life story of Katherine of Aragon, as a princess raised in the Moorish Palace of the Alhambra who achieves her life ambition of becoming Queen of England, stayed in the Top Twenty for thirteen weeks and in the Top Ten for four weeks in the UK.
Two of Gregory’s best-loved novels: Earthly Joys and Virgin Earth are based on the true-life story of father and son John Tradescant working in the upheaval of the English civil war.
Her most recent novel now out in paperback, The Boleyn Inheritance (Touchstone Books, August 2007), will delight her millions of readers world-wide. It tells the stories of three extraordinary women: Jane Boleyn, the widow of Anne Boleyn’s brother George, Anne of Cleves, the young woman who was brought to England by Henry VIII to be his bride, and then spitefully rejected by him, in favor of Katherine Howard the girl, almost a child, whom he adored and then killed. As the three women tell their stories in their own words the paranoid court of the ageing King comes to life on the page.
Philippa's novel A Respectable Trade took her back to the 18th century where her knowledge of the slave trade and her home town of Bristol produced a haunting novel of slave trading and its terrible human cost. This is the only modern novel to explore the tragedies of slavery in England itself, and features a group of kidnapped African people trying to find their freedom in the elegant houses of 18th century Clifton. Gregory adapted her book for a highly acclaimed BBC television production which won the prize for drama from the Commission of Racial Equality and was shortlisted for a BAFTA for the screenplay. Touchstone-Fireside will release A Respectable Trade in February 2007.
Philippa makes regular contributions to newspapers and magazines, with short stories, features and reviews. A frequent broadcaster, she is a regular member on Round Britain Quiz, Quote Unquote, and is the Tudor expert for television Channel 4's Time Team and presents historical programs for BBC, most recently an exploration into eighteenth century African slavery in the North East of England. She was the primary judge for the Whitbread novel of the Year prize.
In her spare time, Philippa runs an extraordinary charity, founded by her and a Gambian schoolmaster, Ismaila Sisay. Gardens for The Gambia digs wells for schools and communities in The Gambia financed by money raised and donated by Philippa herself. The charity is the biggest well-builder in The Gambia and is creating market gardens in this, the poorest nation in Africa at the rate of two a week at present. Philippa and Ismaila have created more than sixty wells so far.
Philippa lives with her family on a small farm in the North of England. She welcomes visitors to her website www.PhilippaGregory.com where there is a readers group, historical background material to the novels, her travel writing, journalism, and updated reports on Gardens for The Gambia.