“The Other Boleyn Girl” is a film adaptation of the novel of the same name, written by Philippa Gregory and published in 2001.  It is considered to be the most popular of the many novels that have been published by the author.

Mary Boleyn is the other, less well-known of the Boleyn girls, and the subject of the present story.  Royal watchers are more familiar with the name Anne Boleyn, who was the second wife of Henry VIII after the execution of Catherine of Aragon, his first wife, who did not produce a male heir for the King, but did have a female child named Mary, who eventually reigned as the Queen of England for five years.


Scarlett JohanssonCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                        Scarlett Johansson - Wikimedia


The film opens with an invitation to King Henry VIII (Eric Bana) to visit the estate of Sir Thomas (Mark Rylance) and Elizabeth (Kristin Scott Thomas) Boleyn to participate in a Hunt.  The Boleyns have two daughters and a son; Anne (Natalie Portman), Mary (Scarlett Johansson), and George (Jim Sturgess).  The parents are extremely interested in raising the status of their own family through marrying their children into Royalty.  Actor Eric Bana is a handsome actor, highly suited to portray the young King Henry VIII, who was considered to be a charismatic and attractive King.  In his later years, though, Henry’s indulgence in food and drink led to his extreme obesity and change in character.  A jousting accident in which he was thrown from his horse, during the time of his marriage to Ann Boleyn, is often blamed for the alteration in his personality.

Mary was married to William Curry (Benedict Cumberbatch).  The Duke of Norfolk, uncle to the Boleyn children (David Morrissey) and their father, Sir Thomas, have conspired to pair Anne with the King in order to produce the male heir that he desires.  Anne, an expert horsewoman, joins the Hunt and the King’s horse falls into a ravine as he followed Anne down the wrong path.  Mary, Anne’s sister, was given the task of attending the King while he was recuperating at the Boleyn estate.  The King was attracted to Mary and offered both her and her husband, William Carey, positions in the King’s court.  William Carey was to be added to the Privy Council while Mary was made a lady-in-waiting to the Queen.  Mary did not want to accept the offer, knowing that she would become the King’s mistress, but they learned that they were being assigned to their positions, rather than being asked.  William Carey was given an assignment by the King which would take him conveniently away from the court.


Eric BanaCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                                 Eric Bana - Wikimedia

Mary’s Pregnancy

Mary was called to be with the King that very night.  She did fall in love with him.  She became pregnant, but was having a precarious pregnancy and was forced to be lying-in for the remainder of her confinement.  Anne had caught the eye of Henry Percy and was chided for her father who had planned for her to seduce the King.  He refused to accept her marriage to Henry Percy as valid.  Anne was sent to France to join the court of the French King to learn proper royal etiquette until her father would forgive her.  The King rewarded their brother, George, Viscount Rochford, by having him marry Jane Parker, who then became Lady Jane Rochford.

Anne was eventually asked to return to England to entertain the King so that he would keep his mind on Mary at all times rather than being tempted to stray.  The plan was foiled when the King became attracted to Anne and her bold ways of behaving with him.  He tried to gift her twice with a jeweled brooch.  She sent it back twice.  Anne said to him “How can I trust you, when I saw how you betrayed your wife, and now my sister.”  She wanted the King to have his marriage annulled before she would submit to him.  Her refusals only fueled his desire for her.  She had a worthy opponent in Catherine of Aragon who stated “I am the King’s one true wife.  I recognize only the authority of the Pope.”

Mary gave birth to a healthy boy named Henry.  When Anne pointed out to Henry that his son was illegitimate and not entitled to inherit the throne, Mary and her son were sent back to the country, at the prompting of Anne, and according to the King’s wishes.  Mary eventually married William Stafford (Eddie Redmayne) who helped to raise her son.


Natalie PortmanCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                           Natalie Portman - Wikimedia

Anne becomes the Queen of England

Anne continued to badger Henry, urging him to declare himself  to be the Head of the Church of England, thus breaking with the Church at Rome.  He acceded to her wishes, which changed the course of England for all time.  Henry and Anne were married, making Anne Boleyn the Queen of England.

Anne gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth, disappointing the King once again for not producing a boy.  Henry began a secret affair with a lady-in-waiting, Jane Seymour.  Anne became pregnant but lost the baby, a boy, and feared for her life.  She asked her brother George to have sex with her so the King would not find out about the miscarriage she had.  George agreed at first, but then relented and refused.  However, his wife, Lady Jane Rochford overheard their conversations and informed on them to the King.  Anne knew that he hated her for forcing him to break with the Catholic Church.  He called her a witch.  Both she and George were accused of treason, adultery and incest, and were executed.

Some Inaccuracies

Philippa Gregory’s novel, as well as the film, contains some inaccuracies.  Anne is considered to be the elder sister in the novel when, in fact, Mary was older.  Also, Gregory claims that Cardinal Wolsey succeeded in getting an annulment of King Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon.  He did not.  The claim by Philippa Gregory that Anne and her brother George had an incestuous relationship is considered to be false.

Philippa Gregory is conceded to be the expert on the Royal Families of England, having produced 25 novels, most of which concern the Tudors.  Her many fans are Royal Watchers who enjoy her renditions.


The Other Boleyn Girl
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