This is the story of deposed royal Margaret Pole, and her unique view of King Henry VIII’s stratospheric rise to power in Tudor England.

Margaret Pole spends her young life struggling to free her brother, arrested as a child, from the Tower of London. The Tower – symbol of the Tudor usurpation of her family’s throne – haunts Margaret’s dreams until the day that her brother is executed on the orders of Henry VII.

Regarded as yet another threat to the volatile King Henry VII’s claim to the throne, Margaret is buried in marriage to a steady and kind Tudor supporter – Sir Richard Pole, governor of Wales. But Margaret’s quiet, hidden life is changed forever by the arrival of Arthur, the young Prince of Wales, and his beautiful bride, Katherine of Aragon, as Margaret soon becomes a trusted advisor and friend to the honeymooning couple.

Margaret’s destiny, as an heiress to the Plantagenets, is not for a life in the shadows. Tragedy throws her into poverty and rebellion against the new royal family, luck restores her to her place at court where she becomes the chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine and watches the dominance of the Spanish queen over her husband, and her fall. As the young king becomes increasingly paranoid of rivals he turns his fearful attention to Margaret and her royal family.

Amid the rapid deterioration of the Tudor court, Margaret must choose whether her allegiance is to the increasingly tyrannical king, Henry VIII, or to her beloved queen and princess. Caught between the old world and the new, Margaret has to find her own way and hide her knowledge of an old curse on all the Tudors, which is slowly coming true . . .

Behind the book

Released in 2014

This is a novel which changed its nature, content and significance from when I started research until publication. Right up until the last stage of copy editing I was revising and adding material and characters to this dark story. I started it, thinking that it would be a relatively simple telling of the tragic story of Margaret Pole – daughter of George Duke of Clarence and Isabel Neville. George was the brother of Edward IV, probably drowned in a vat of Malmsey wine for treason against Edward and Queen Elizabeth. As the book progressed I discovered that Margaret was a central figure in the Tudor court, and probably actively involved in the endless conspiracies against Henry VIII and his advisors. This hidden rebellion reached its peak in the uprising of the North called the Pilgrimage of Grace. The pilgrims won their aims of defending the Roman Catholic traditions and the return of the traditional advisors, but Henry reneged on his promises and sent his troops for a terrible persecution to men who held a royal pardon. Margaret, and her entire family, came under suspicion too and this novel moved far from the template of a persecuted heroine and became the story of a merciless murder of a family. Margaret's betrayer, and her defenders all come under the gaze of a king who was increasingly frightened and, I believe delusional. It's been a chilling and powerful book to write and the image of Henry VIII, composer of 'Greensleeves' beloved of primary school history, will never be the same again for me. He was a serial killer and this book traces his steps towards psychosis.

Book opens in 1499

England is under a Tudor king. Henry VII has two sons with Elizabeth of York, which should have secured his line, yet his court is still filled with fear and suspicion. Plantagenet is a dangerous name to carry and the heiress Margaret Pole is swiftly married off to a staunch Tudor supporter, but her brother Edward's claim cannot be ignored. Henry executes him on Tower Hill, leaving Margaret to face a lifetime of uncertainty.

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Elizabeth Fremantle, Sunday Express

"The queen of historical fiction is on fine form with the tale of Margaret Plantaganet and her shocking fate at the hands of Henry VIII....Margaret’s story is shocking, deeply moving and offers an alternative view on a much-told tale. Gregory is on form here; her depiction of Henry VIII’s transformation from indulged golden boy to sinister tyrant is perfectly pitched and seems more horrific still when we are made intimate witnesses to the devastation of Margaret’s family....I defy anyone to remain dry-eyed as the story reaches its tragic denouement."

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Good Housekeeping

"Gregory vividly recreates the heart-breaking choices Margaret had to make between the king and her beloved queen. This is popular historical fiction at its finest."

Kirkus Reviews

"Gregory manages to keep us in suspense as to what will befall her characters.... Under [her] spell, we keep hoping history won't repeat itself."

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Historical Novel Society (Editors' Choice)

"an excellent addition to the Tudor royalty genre, not only for its unique perspective, but also the easy flow of the narrative and the intriguing complexities of characters’ personalities."

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Library Journal (starred review)

"[A] gripping and detailed chronicle, with plenty of court intrigue and politics to spice up the action....Highly recommended."

Publishers Weekly

"an illuminating portrait.... Gregory moves confidently through a tangle of intrigue, revenge, and tyranny toward a shocking betrayal."

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"Infuses vitality into an oft-forgotten player in the aftermath of the War of the Roses – Margaret Pole, heiress to the defeated Plantagenet clan."

Miami Herald

"Gregory takes us beyond the seductive trappings of historical detail and makes us feel the terror of what living through that turbulent period might have been like."

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The Sun News (Myrtle Beach)

"Without a doubt, Gregory has made another powerful addition to the genre.... This historian’s extensive knowledge of the English monarchy truly brings this famous story to life."

The Irish Times

"Gregory has built a reputation as a historical novelist of the first rank, and this latest work has historical accuracy and vivid storytelling."

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NPR Books

"This one has a glimpse of young Henry's early pathological anxiety, and a charismatic main character — Margaret Pole is tenacious and intelligent. "

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The History Lady

"The novel is one of her best....Gregory does an excellent job of showing the impact of the Dissolution of the Monasteries on the people of England"

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Open Letters Monthly

"Gregory’s already covered the cataclysm, and now she ends her long series by dissecting the bitter aftermath, and she makes the marvelous dramatic decision to do that in the person of Margaret Pole....reads with unflagging energy"

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"Nobody does dynastic history like Gregory"

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Irish Examiner

"Gregory has given us another fabulous heroine; a likeable, clever character who becomes one of the wealthiest women in the country. The reader is drawn into her passion for life"

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Blackpool Gazette

"With her trademark vivid imagination and powerful sense of the communion of women, Gregory portrays Margaret’s harrowing life and times against the backdrop of the second Tudor king Henry VIII’s descent from golden prince to irrational tyrant. And it is this electrifying depiction of the king’s terrifying paranoia and his uncertain grip on the throne that steals the show, adding palpable tension to the plight of a woman caught between the past and the present....Once again, Gregory throws new light on a medieval woman of substance"

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Daily Mail

"She has created a wholly believable narrative voice in Margaret Pole"

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Marian Keyes, Woman & Home

"The book I'd like to give: The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory. She's just so good and every woman I know loves her books"

Kate Saunders, The Times

"A gripping story: Gregory's style is lively and accessible"

BBC History

"Philippa Gregory is a writer supremely at home in a period of English history she has made her own. She has brought her sequence of novels about women of the Plantagenet dynasty to a fine conclusion"


"It is wonderful stuff....a fantastic read. However much there may already have been written about the Tudors, this is well worth adding to your collection. "

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