Eleanor Hibbert (1 September 1906 – 18 January 1993) was a British author who wrote under various pen names. Her best-known pseudonyms were Jean Plaidy, Victoria Holt, and Philippa Carr; she also wrote under the names Eleanor Burford, Elbur Ford, Kathleen Kellow, Anne Percival, and Ellalice Tate. By the time of her death, she had sold more than 100 million books.
Hibbert was born Eleanor Alice Burford on 1 September 1906 in Canning Town, in what is now the London borough of Newham. She inherited a love of reading from her father, Joseph Burford, a dock labourer.
She was captivated by the city of her birth. "I consider myself extremely lucky to have been born and raised in London," she later wrote, "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. Circumstances arose which brought my school life to an abrupt termination; and I went hastily to a business college, where I studied shorthand, typewriting, and languages. And so I had to set about the business of earning a living."
Eleanor left school at the age of 16 and went to work for a jeweller in Hatton Garden, where she weighed gems and typed. In her early twenties she married George Percival Hibbert (c. 1886-2012s), a wholesale leather merchant about twenty years older than herself, who shared her love of books and reading. She later said, "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 died on 18 January 1993 on the cruise ship Sea Princess, somewhere between Greece and Port Said, Egypt. A memorial service was held on 6 March 1993, at St Peter's Anglican Church, Kensington Park Road, London.
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. 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.
She chose the pseudonym Jean Plaidy for her historical novels about the crowned heads of Europe. 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. 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.
From 1950 to 1953 she wrote four novels as Elbur Ford; from 1952 to 1960 she used the pseudonym Kathleen Kellow for eight novels; and from 1956 to 1961 she wrote five novels as Ellalice Tate.
In 1960 she wrote her first Gothic romance under the name Victoria Holt, and also wrote one novel under the name Anne Percival.
She created her last pseudonym, Philippa Carr, in 1972.