Eleanor Hibbert

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Eleanor Alice Burford Hibbert
Eleanor Hibbert.jpg
Born Eleanor Alice Burford
(1906-09-01)1 September 1906
Canning Town, London, England
Died 19 January 1993(1993-01-19) (aged 86)
At sea between Athens, Greece and Port Said, Egypt
Pen name Jean Plaidy, Victoria Holt, Philippa Carr, Eleanor Burford, Elbur Ford, Kathleen Kellow, Ellalice Tate, Anna Percival
Occupation Novelist
Nationality English
Citizenship British
Period 1941–1993 (52 years)
Genre Historical fiction, Gothic fiction, Romantic fiction
Notable awards Romance Writers of America – Golden Treasure award
1989 Significant contribution to the romance genre
Spouse George Percival Hibbert (1886–1963)
  • Joseph Burford (father)
  • Alice Louise Tate (mother)

Portal icon Literature portal

Eleanor Hibbert (1 September 1906 – 18 January 1993) was an English author who combined imagination with facts to bring history alive through novels of fiction and romance. She was a prolific writer who published several books a year in different literary genres, each genre under a different pen name: Jean Plaidy for fictionalized history of European royalty; Victoria Holt for gothic romances, and Philippa Carr for a multi-generational family saga. She also wrote light romances, crime novels, murder mysteries and thrillers under the names Eleanor Burford, Elbur Ford, Kathleen Kellow, Anna Percival, and Ellalice Tate.

In 1989, the Romance Writers of America gave her the Golden Treasure award in recognition of her significant contributions to the romance genre.[1] By the time of her death, she had written more than 200 books that worldwide sold more than 100 million copies in 20 languages.[2] She continues to be a widely borrowed author among lending libraries.[3] Her popular works of historical fiction are appreciated by readers and critics alike for their accuracy, quality of writing, and attention to detail.[4]


Personal life[edit]

"I consider myself extremely lucky to have been born and raised in London, and to have had on my doorstep this most fascinating of cities with so many relics of 2000 years of history still to be found in its streets. One of my greatest pleasures was, and still is, exploring London."
—Eleanor Hibbert[4]

Map 1908, showing Canning Town to the north of Royal Victoria Dock.
A shop in Hatton Garden, London’s jewellery quarter and centre of the UK diamond trade.
Plaidy Beach near Looe, Cornwall
King's Lodging, a historic house in Sandwich, Kent.

"I found that married life gave me the necessary freedom to follow an ambition which had been with me since childhood; and so I started to write in earnest."
—Eleanor Hibbert[4]

Albert Court, Kensington Gore, London as seen from the Royal Albert Hall.
The cruise ship Sea Princess in 1986 at Venice.

Hibbert was born Eleanor Alice Burford on 1 September 1906 at 20 Burke Street, Canning Town, now part of the London borough of Newham.[5] She inherited a love of reading from her father, Joseph Burford, a dock labourer. Her mother was Alice Louise Burford, née Tate.

Hibbert left school at the age of 16 and went to a business college, where she studied shorthand, typewriting, and languages. She then worked for a jeweller in Hatton Garden, where she weighed gems and typed. She also worked as a language interpreter in a cafe for French and German speaking tourists.[4]

In her early twenties she married George Percival Hibbert (ca. 1886–1960s),[2] a wholesale leather merchant about twenty years older than herself, who shared her love of books and reading.[5] During World War II the Hibberts lived in a cottage in Cornwall that looked out over a bay called Plaidy Beach.

A few years after her husband's death, Eleanor Hibbert bought King's Lodging, a historic house in Sandwich, Kent. She restored it and furnished it opulently but soon found it too big for her taste and too far from London.[5]

She then moved to a penthouse apartment at Albert Court, Kensington Gore, London that overlooked the Royal Albert Hall and Hyde Park.[4]

To get away from the cold English winter, Hibbert would spend three months a year on board a cruise ship that would take her to exotic destinations like Egypt and Australia. She later incorporated these locations into her novels.[6][7][8]

Eleanor Hibbert died on 19 January 1993 on the cruise ship Sea Princess somewhere between Athens, Greece and Port Said, Egypt and was buried at sea. A memorial service was later held on 6 March 1993, at St Peter's Anglican Church, Kensington Park Road, London.[5] After her death, Mark Hamilton of the A.M. Heath Literary Agency took over as executor for her literary estate, estimated to be worth about £8,790,807 at probate.[5][9]

Writing career[edit]

At first Eleanor tried to emulate her literary heroes – the Brontës, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, and Leo Tolstoy – and during the 1930s she completed nine long novels, all of them serious psychological studies of contemporary life. However, none of these were accepted for publication. Determined to succeed, she tried her hand at short stories for newspapers such as the Daily Mail and Evening News. Some also appeared in The Star, Woman's Realm and Ladies' Home Journal. The literary editor of the Daily Mail was credited with steering her writing in the right direction; he told her, "You're barking up the wrong tree: you must write something which is saleable, and the easiest way is to write romantic fiction."

She published her first novel in 1941 under the name of Eleanor Burford, her maiden name, which she used for her contemporary novels. By 1961 she had published 32 novels under this name, including ten romance novels for Mills & Boon.

In 1950, she chose the pseudonym Jean Plaidy for her historical novels about the crowned heads of Europe. The name was inspired by Plaidy Beach near the Hibberts' home in Looe, Cornwall during World War II.[10] Her books written under this pseudonym were popular with the general public and were also hailed by critics and historians for their historical accuracy, quality of writing, and attention to detail.[11] Her Borgia trilogy was among the first to show Lucrezia not as an amoral poisoner but as an innocent pawn and victim of her family's political machinations, an interpretation more in accordance with the historical record than the traditional one. All 90 of Hibbert's Jean Plaidy novels were published by the firm of Robert Hale, who originally told her literary agents, A.M. Heath, "Will you tell this author that there are glittering prizes ahead for those who can write as she does?"[12]

From 1950 to 1953 she wrote four novels as Elbur Ford, a pen name derived from her maiden name, Eleanor Burford. Between 1952 to 1960 she used the pseudonym Kathleen Kellow to write eight novels that were mostly crime and mystery fiction. From 1956 to 1961 she wrote five novels as Ellalice Tate, a pseudonym inspired by her mother's name, Alice Tate.[13]

In 1960, at the suggestion of her agent, Patricia Schartle Myrer, she wrote her first Gothic romance, The Mistress of Mellyn, under the name Victoria Holt. Published by Doubleday in the United States, it became an instant international bestseller.[2][12][14][15] Hibbert wrote a further 31 novels as Victoria Holt, the last of which, The Black Opal, was published after her death. These novels were primarily historical fiction set in the late 19th century.[12]

Hibbert wrote just one novel under the name Anna Percival, a pseudonym inspired by her husband's middle name, Percival.

She appeared as a "castaway" on the BBC Radio programme Desert Island Discs on 24 June 1972, as Jean Plaidy.[16]

She created her last pseudonym, Philippa Carr, in 1972 at the suggestion of her publisher, William Collins, to create a new series showing successive generations of English gentlewomen involved in important historical events starting with the Reformation and ending with World War II.[12]

Hibbert was a prolific writer, churning out multiple books in a year under different pseduonyms, chiefly Jean Plaidy, Victoria Holt and Philippa Carr.[17][18]

By the time of her death in 1993, she had sold 75 million books translated in 20 languages under the name Victoria Holt, 14 million under the name Jean Plaidy and 3 million under the name Philippa Carr.[2][19]

Eleanor Burford[edit]

Single novels[edit]

  1. Daughter of Anna (1941)
  2. Passionate Witness (1941)
  3. The Married Lover (1942)
  4. When the Entire World Is Young (1943)
  5. So the Dreams Depart (1944)
  6. Not in Our Stars (1945)
  7. Dear Chance (1947)
  8. Alexa (1948)
  9. The House at Cupid's Cross (1949)
  10. Believe the Heart (1950)
  11. Saint or Sinner (1951)
  12. Bright Tomorrow (1952)
  13. Dear Delusion (1952)
  14. Leave Me My Love (1953)
  15. When We Are Married (1953)
  16. Castles in Spain (1954)
  17. Heart's Afire (1954)
  18. Two Loves in Her Life (1955)
  19. When Other Hearts (1955)
  20. Begin to Live (1956)
  21. Married in Haste (1956)
  22. To Meet a Stranger (1957)
  23. Blaze of Noon (1958)
  24. Pride in the Morning (1958)
  25. Red Sky at Night (1959)
  26. The Dawn Chorus (1959)
  27. Night of Stars (1960)
  28. Now That April's Gone (1961)
  29. Who's Calling? (1962)

Daughters of England Series[edit]

6. The Love Child (1950) (later re-published under the Philippa Carr name)

The Mary Stuart Queen of Scots Series[edit]

  • Royal Road to Fotheringhay (1955) (later re-published under the Jean Plaidy name)

Jean Plaidy[edit]

Many Jean Plaidy books were published under different titles in the United States. Her trilogies were also later republished as single books, often under different titles than those shown.

Single novels[edit]

  1. Together They Ride (1945)
  2. Beyond the Blue Mountains (1948)
  3. The Goldsmith's Wife (1950) (aka The King's Mistress)
  4. Daughter of Satan (1952)
  5. Lilith (1954)
  6. Melisande (It Began in Vauxhall Gardens) (1955)
  7. The Scarlet Cloak (1957)
  8. Milady Charlotte (1959)
  9. Evergreen Gallant (1965)
  10. Defenders of the Faith (1971)
  11. Madame du Barry (1994)
  12. The King's Adventurer (1996) (Originally This Was a Man by Ellalice Tate)


  • Katharine of Aragon (omnibus of novels 2 – 4 in The Tudor Saga)
  • Catherine De Medici (1969)
  • Charles II (omnibus of novels 2 – 4 in The Stuart Saga)
  • Isabella and Ferdinand (1970)

The Tudor Saga[edit]

  1. Uneasy Lies the Head (1982)
  2. Katharine, the Virgin Widow (1961)
  3. The Shadow of the Pomegranate (1962)
  4. The King's Secret Matter (1962)
  5. Murder Most Royal (1949)
  6. Saint Thomas' Eve (1954)
  7. The Sixth Wife (1953)
  8. The Thistle and the Rose (1963)
  9. Mary, Queen of France (1964)
  10. The Spanish Bridegroom (1954)
  11. Gay Lord Robert (1955) (republished as Lord Robert (UK) in 2007 and A Favorite of the Queen (US) in 2010)

The Catherine De Medici Trilogy[edit]

  1. Madame Serpent (1951)
  2. The Italian Woman (1952) (aka The Unholy Woman)
  3. Queen Jezebel (1953)

The Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots Series[edit]

  • Royal Road to Fotheringhay (1955) (first published as by Eleanor Burford)
  • The Captive Queen of Scots (1963)

The Stuart Saga[edit]

  1. The Murder in the Tower (1964)
  2. The Wandering Prince (1956)
  3. A Health Unto His Majesty (1956)
  4. Here Lies Our Sovereign Lord (1957)
  5. The Three Crowns (1965)
  6. The Haunted Sisters (1966)
  7. The Queen's Favourites (1966)

The French Revolution Series[edit]

  • Louis the Well Beloved (1959)
  • The Road to Compiegne (1959)
  • Flaunting, Extravagant Queen (1957)

The Lucrezia Borgia Series[edit]

  • Madonna of the Seven Hills (1958)
  • Light on Lucrezia (1958)

The Isabella and Ferdinand Trilogy[edit]

  • Castile for Isabella (1960)
  • Spain for the Sovereigns (1960)
  • Daughter of Spain (1961)

The Georgian Saga[edit]

  1. The Princess of Celle (1967)
  2. Queen in Waiting (1967)
  3. Caroline, the Queen (1968)
  4. The Prince and the Quakeress (1975)
  5. The Third George (1969)
  6. Perdita's Prince (1969)
  7. Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill (1970)
  8. Indiscretions of the Queen (1970)
  9. The Regent's Daughter (1971)
  10. Goddess of the Green Room (1971)
  11. Victoria in the Wings (1972)

The Queen Victoria Series[edit]

  1. The Captive of Kensington Palace (1972)
  2. The Queen and Lord M (1973)
  3. The Queen's Husband (1973)
  4. The Widow of Windsor (1974)

The Norman Trilogy[edit]

  • The Bastard King (1974)
  • The Lion of Justice (1975)
  • The Passionate Enemies (1976)

The Plantagenet Saga[edit]

  1. The Plantagenet Prelude (1976)
  2. The Revolt of the Eaglets (1977)
  3. The Heart of the Lion (1977)
  4. The Prince of Darkness (1978)
  5. The Battle of the Queens (1978)
  6. The Queen from Provence (1979)
  7. Edward Longshanks (1979) (republished as The Hammer of the Scots in 2008)
  8. The Follies of the King (1980)
  9. The Vow on the Heron (1980)
  10. Passage to Pontefract (1981)
  11. The Star of Lancaster (1981)
  12. Epitaph for Three Women (1981)
  13. Red Rose of Anjou (1982)
  14. The Sun in Splendour (1982)

The Queens of England Series[edit]

  1. Myself My Enemy (1983)
  2. Queen of This Realm (1984)
  3. Victoria Victorious (1985)
  4. The Lady in the Tower (1986)
  5. The Courts of Love (1987)
  6. In the Shadow of the Crown (1988)
  7. The Queen's Secret (1989)
  8. The Reluctant Queen (1990)
  9. The Pleasures of Love (1991)
  10. William's Wife (1992)
  11. Rose Without a Thorn (1993)

Children's novels[edit]

  • Meg Roper, daughter of Sir Thomas More (1961)
  • The Young Elizabeth (1961)
  • The Young Mary Queen of Scots (1962)

The Spanish Inquisition Series (non-fiction)[edit]

  • The Rise of the Spanish Inquisition (1959)
  • The Growth of the Spanish Inquisition (1960)
  • The End of the Spanish Inquisition (1961)

Historical non-fiction[edit]

  • A Triptych of Poisoners (1958)
  • Mary Queen of Scots: The Fair Devil of Scotland (1975)

Three Rivers Press editions[edit]

In the Spring of 2003 Three Rivers Press, an imprint of U.S.A. publisher Crown Publishing Group, started republishing Jean Plaidy's stories.[20][21] Three Rivers Press published some of the books with new titles which are listed here:

  • Mary, Queen of Scotland: The triumphant year (23 November 2004, ISBN 0-609-81023-5) previously published as Royal Road to Fotheringhay (1955) by Eleanor Burford.
  • The Loves of Charles II (25 October 2005, ISBN 1-4000-8248-X) is an omnibus that collects The Wandering Prince (1956), A Health Unto His Majesty (1956), and Here Lies Our Sovereign Lord (1957).
  • Loyal in Love (23 October 2007, ISBN 0-307-34616-1) previously published as Myself My Enemy (1983).
  • The Merry Monarch's Wife (22 January 2008, ISBN 0-307-34617-X) previously published as The Pleasures of Love (1991).
  • The Queen's Devotion (26 August 2008, ISBN 0-307-34618-8) previously published as William's Wife (1990).
  • To Hold the Crown (7 October 2008, ISBN 0-307-34619-6) previously published as Uneasy Lies the Head (1982).[22]
  • The King's Confidante (7 April 2009, ISBN 0-307-34620-X) previously published as Saint Thomas' Eve (1954).[22]
  • For a Queen's Love (2 March 2010, ISBN 0-307-34622-6) previously published as The Spanish Bridegroom (1954).
  • A Favorite of the Queen (2 March 2010, ISBN 0-307-34623-4) previously published as Gay Lord Robert (1955).

Elbur Ford[edit]

Single novels[edit]

  • Poison in Pimlico, 1950
  • The Flesh and the Devil, 1950
  • Bed Disturbed, 1952
  • Evil in the House, 1953

Kathleen Kellow[edit]

Some of these novels were re-published under the Jean Plaidy name.

Single novels[edit]

  • Danse Macabre, 1952
  • Rooms at Mrs. Oliver's, 1953
  • Lilith, 1954
  • It Began in Vauxhall Gardens, 1955
  • Call of the Blood, 1956
  • Rochester, the Mad Earl, 1957
  • Milady Charlotte, 1959
  • The World's a Stage, 1960

Ellalice Tate[edit]

All these novels were later re-published under the Jean Plaidy name.

Single novels[edit]

  • Defenders of the Faith, 1956
  • The Scarlet Cloak, 1957
  • The Queen of Diamonds, 1958
  • Madame du Barry, 1959
  • This Was a Man, 1961 (re-published as The King's Adventurer by Jean Plaidy)

Anna Percival[edit]

Single novels[edit]

  • The Brides of Lanlory, 1960

Victoria Holt[edit]

Single novels[edit]

  1. Mistress of Mellyn (1960)
  2. Kirkland Revels (1962)
  3. Bride of Pendorric (1963)
  4. The Legend of the Seventh Virgin (1965)
  5. Menfreya in the Morning (1966)
  6. The King of the Castle (1967)
  7. The Queen's Confession: The Story of Marie-Antoinette (1968)
  8. The Shivering Sands (1969)
  9. The Secret Woman (1970)
  10. Shadow of the Lynx (1971)
  11. On the Night of the Seventh Moon (1972)
  12. The Curse of the Kings (1973)
  13. The House of a Thousand Lanterns (1974)
  14. Lord of the Far Island (1975)
  15. The Pride of the Peacock (1976)
  16. Devil on Horseback (1977)
  17. My Enemy, the Queen (1978)
  18. Spring of the Tiger (1979)
  19. Mask of the Enchantress (1980)
  20. Judas Kiss (1981)
  21. The Demon Lover (1982)
  22. The Time of the Hunter's Moon (1983)
  23. The Landower Legacy (1984)
  24. The Road to Paradise Island (1985)
  25. Secret for a Nightingale (1986)
  26. Silk Vendetta (1987)
  27. The India Fan (1988)
  28. The Captive (1989)
  29. Snare of Serpents (1990)
  30. Daughter of Deceit (1991)
  31. Seven for a Secret (1992)
  32. The Black Opal (1993)


  • Remember, Remember: The Selected Stories of Winifred Holtby (2000)

Anthologies in collaboration[edit]

Philippa Carr[edit]

Daughters of England Series[edit]

  1. Miracle At St. Bruno's (1972)
  2. The Lion Triumphant (1973)
  3. Witch from the Sea (1975)
  4. Saraband for Two Sisters (1976)
  5. Lament for a Lost Lover (1977)
  6. The Love Child (1950) (first published under the name Eleanor Burford)
  7. The Song of the Siren (1980)
  8. The Drop of the Dice (1981)
  9. The Adulteress (1982)
  10. Zipporah's Daughter (1983)
  11. Voices in A Haunted Room (1984)
  12. The Return of the Gypsy (1985)
  13. Midsummer's Eve (1986)
  14. The Pool of Saint Branok (1987)
  15. The Changeling (1989)
  16. The Black Swan (1990)
  17. A Time for Silence (1991)
  18. The Gossamer Cord (1992)
  19. We'll Meet Again (1993)

Single novels[edit]

  1. Daughters of England (1995)


  1. ^ "RWA Awards". Romance Writers of America (RWA). Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Eleanor Hibbert, Novelist Known As Victoria Holt and Jean Plaidy". The New York Times. 21 January 1993. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  3. ^ Ami Sedghi (Feb 8, 2013). "Library lending figures: which books are most popular?". The Guardian UK. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Richard Dalby (April 1993). "All About Jean Plaidy". Book and Magazine Collector #109. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Moira Burgess (September 2004). "Reference Entry for Hibbert Eleanor Alice". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  6. ^ "It Feels Like 'Coming Home': Mrs Eleanor Hibbert. English Author Would Like To Live Amongst Us". The Sydney Morning Herald. Mar 1, 1970. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  7. ^ Marie Knuckey (Feb 4, 1972). "Would The Real Mrs Hibbert Please Stand?". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  8. ^ Margaret O'Sullivan (Mar 2, 1978). "Just Like A Character From the Past". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  9. ^ Jean Plaidy (Feb 17, 2010). "Front Matter of the novel 'The Rose Without a Thorn'". Three Rivers Press. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Jean Plaidy, Romance writer". The Baltimore Sun. January 21, 1993. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Eleanor Alice Hibbert". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  12. ^ a b c d Elizabeth Walter (20 January 1993). "Obituary: Jean Plaidy". The Independent. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  13. ^ "Eleanor Hibbert; Wrote As Victoria Holt, Jean Plaidy". Associated Press (The Seattle Times). January 21, 1993. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  14. ^ Carolyn Cash (2007). "Eleanor Hibbert 1906-1993". Writers Voice June–July 2007 [Official Bulletin of the Fellowship of Australian Writers NSW Inc]. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  15. ^ Edwin McDowell (June 5, 1990). "Booksellers Mixed on Fall Outlook". The New York Times. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  16. ^ "Desert Island Discs - Castaway : Jean Plaidy". BBC Online. BBC. Retrieved 14 August 2014. 
  17. ^ Judith Appelbaum (January 30, 1983). "The Price Perplex". The New York Times. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  18. ^ "Eleanor Hibbert; Prolific Romance Novelist". Times Wire Services (LA Times). January 22, 1993. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  19. ^ "Eleanor Alice Burford". GoodReads. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  20. ^ Donahue, Dick (12 Nov 2001). "Love & history --- a perfect match". Publishers Weekly (248.46): 24–30. "Eight years after her death, Eleanor Hibbert (1906–1993)--aka Jean Plaidy, Victoria Halt and Philippa Carr—continues to ride a wave of historical romance popularity. Last month, Three Rivers Press inked a deal with Hibbert's agent, Elizabeth Winick of McIntosh and Otis Inc., to reissue 10 Jean Plaidy books in trade paperback. 'They're going to do a guaranteed first printing of 30,000 to 35,000,' says Winick, who in just the past few weeks has also received requests from Eastern Europe to reprint several Plaidy titles. Crown associate editor Rachel Kahan, who acquired the books, adds, 'We have gotten a lot of good feedback about the books from our reps. We're going to publish two a season, and we'll redesign the covers to give them a really elegant look.'" 
  21. ^ Dyer, Lucinda (11 Nov 2002). "To be continued: publishers and authors are finding clever new ways to connect the series dots—and significantly grow the readership". Publishers Weekly (249.45): 26–31. "As such, she's particularly excited to be republishing two of the 90 or so novels of Jean Plaidy in spring 2003: Lady in the Tower and A Rose Without a Thorn. 'Plaidy is really the godmother of the genre,' says Kahan. Ross reports that part of the impetus for bringing back the Plaidy titles came from the online historical fiction community." 
  22. ^ a b "Historical Fiction Repromotion Plan". Three Rivers Press. 2009. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 

External links[edit]