He is a traveller in a time of discovery, and the greatest gardening pioneer of his day. Yet John Tradescant is a man of humble birth, trusted by the kingdom’s greatest leaders: politicians, aristocrats, even royalty. Surrounded by luxury and intrigue, Tradescant gives all his attention to his magnificent gardens, in the midst of a society on the brink of upheaval.
Uniquely skilled at collecting, raising, and nurturing plants, his practical good sense makes him an invaluable servant as he scours the known world for new and beautiful species, and penetrates the most secret activities at court. Here both King Charles I and Tradescant are in thrall to the irresistible Duke of Buckingham, the most powerful man in England.
John Tradescant has always been faithful to his masters, but Buckingham is unlike anything he’s ever known: flamboyant, outrageously charming, utterly reckless. The court may love him but the people hate him. Every certainty upon which Tradescant has based his life is challenged as his personal world is turned upside down while all around him the country slides towards civil war.
Released in 1998
My editor had suggested that I write a biography – they were hugely fashionable in this year – and I wanted to write about someone who worked with his hands. While I was puzzling about who would be the subject of a fictional biography I was given a book on plant collectors and gardeners and read of John Tradescant. It happened that I visited a garden centre, and tripped and literally fell into a tray of Tradescantia. It was enough of a hint! I started research on John Tradescant and found enough material for two books, and developed an entirely new style of writing: the fictionalised biography.
Book opens in 1603
In 1603, at the age of 69, Queen Elizabeth died and was succeeded by her cousin King James VI of Scotland – finally uniting the crowns of Scotland and England and beginning the Stuart reign of England.
Val Hennessey, Daily Mail
"When it comes to writers of historical fiction, Philippa Gregory is in the very top league."
Miranda Seymore, Sunday Times
"Vivid and enthralling… good gripping stuff"
Lisa Jardine, The Times
"Brilliantly true to the period, I was entranced "
"This is a powerful parable for any period of history, but here the details of home life, travel and the attitudes toward human worth make it a potent statement about Stuart absolutism, pre-Restoration chaos and an empire on the cusp of colonization and trade. Gregory's skills as a storyteller give these issues a human focus and result in an absorbing narrative."Full Review
The New York Times
"This tale of forbidden love set against the turmoil of a country in chaos makes for both intelligent and satisfying reading. "Full Review
The Guardian – 'Ten of the best literary gardens'
"Centring on the great early 17th-century gardener John Tradescant, who had access to court via his patrons Cecil and Buckingham; in Gregory's sequel, Virgin Earth, his son becomes gardener to Charles I and emigrates to Virginia during the civil wars."Full Review
"A hugely enjoyable and unexpectedly moving book"