5 museums around the world you need to visit – says Philippa Gregory

From an enormous Tudor bed to a harem in Istanbul – these sights are truly inspiring.

Press Association
Last updated: 16 May 2018 - 12.47pm

Ever wondered how bestselling novelist Philippa Gregory is inspired to write her historical page-turners?

The author – whose books include The Other Boleyn Girl, Wideacre and her latest, The Last Tudor – has enhanced her love and knowledge of the past by visiting museums all over the world.

Here she reveals five of her favourites:

1. V&A London

The Great Bed of Ware, circa 1590 (Victoria and Albert Museum, London/PA)
The Great Bed of Ware, circa 1590 (Victoria and Albert Museum, London/PA)

“Of course, this is a wonderful museum in a city of wonderful museums. I come here most often to the Tudor gallery and especially to see the ordinary domestic objects,  like the enormous Tudor bed with the meticulous description and demonstration of the layers of padding, linen and blankets. [It’s] more like a geographical drawing than a bed but necessary to give the idea of the importance of the Shakespeare bequest of his second-best bed to his wife.”

2. Jewish Museum Berlin

Jewish Museum Berlin (Jens Ziehe, Berlin/PA)
Jewish Museum Berlin (Jens Ziehe, Berlin/PA)

“I visited the museum [while] researching the medieval history of Jewish people in Europe and in the German states, and found it to be a treasure. It is very moving, with intimate family collections donated to the museum, and collections of religious materials and the work of Jewish artists. It’s strong on everyday life up to the 1930s and the sense of shock and disbelief as the Holocaust developed is vivid. It’s deeply moving without ever being sentimental.”

3.  National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C.


Help spread the word: On Veterans Day 2017, the design competition for the National Native American Veterans Memorial will begin. This will be an open, juried competition. On November 11, people who wish to apply will find design guidelines and additional information on the project website: nmai.si.edu/nnavm 🇺🇸 Native Americans serve in the U.S. military at a higher rate per capita than any other group. The museum has been charged by Congress with honoring this record of service by helping to create the National Native American Veterans Memorial. You can help by letting potential applicants know about the upcoming design competition. 🇺🇸 Please note: In the interest of fair and equal access to information, the museum will not respond to phone calls, emails, or other inquiries about the application process. 🇺🇸 Photo: An honor guard from the organization Native American Women Warriors leads a procession of veterans in the museum's Rotunda. Veterans Day 2016, Washington, D.C. (Kevin Wolf/AP Images for National Museum of the American Indian) 🇺🇸 #PurpleHeartDay

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“On the great avenue of museums where you can take your pick from museums of natural history to space, I always head to the National Museum of the American Indian. [Here] the stories of the great American empires that rose and fell long before the coming of the Europeans are told – from the earliest times of stone-age settlement to the battles against the invaders. I love the survivals of Indian culture, which the museum celebrates, too, and the great cooking – you can eat in the museum cafe, choosing your meal from different cuisines from different nations.”

4. Bosworth Battlefield Experience, Leicestershire

“This is a hugely charming and entertaining place to visit with a core of real history and research. It hosts ‘living camps’ where you can walk around replica medieval tents and meet dedicated and inspiring re-enactors who have chosen their noble house and know almost all there is to know about their lord and his behaviour on Bosworth Battlefield. The great weekend of the year is near the date of the battle, August 22, when the fields of the museum become a vast medieval campsite for Tudor or Richard III supporters. There are battles re-enacted throughout the day but there are exhibitions and special events throughout the year.”

5.  Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

“The most glamorous museum in the world must be this one – housed in the palace of Mehmed the Conqueror, who named the newly conquered Byzantium ‘Istanbul’, meaning ‘We are in the city’, which indeed they were on the fall of Christian Byzantium and the start of the hugely successful Ottoman empire. The palace is a beautiful, fascinating building with a seraglio and a harem, a throne room for the emperor and the empress, and a beautiful collection of weaponry, art and artefacts. The gardens alone, on the bank of the Bosphorus, are worth a visit, with strange hollowed-out trees, a rose garden and views over the river.”

The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory is published by Simon & Schuster.

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