Many of you may remember The Other Boleyn Girl from the movie adaptation which was released in 2008, featuring Natalie Portman (Anne Boleyn), Scarlett Johansson (Mary Boleyn) and Eric Bana (King Henry). The book that the movie was based on was originally published in 2001.
For those of you who may not be familiar with the plot, The Other Boleyn Girl is a historical fiction by Phillipa Gregory, a PhD level historian. I think she focuses on Tudor era literature. In the book, the “other Boleyn girl” is literally Mary Boleyn, the sister of Anne Boleyn. Originally, Mary was put in the way of King Henry VIII to become his mistress and directed to try to improve her families position at court, bear him a child or 2, ideally a son, and go from there. Eventually Mary was put aside by the king in favour of her sister, Anne. Infatuated with her, the King started making radical changes to the church in England in order to divorce his wife and hopefully get a son out of a new wife. Anne Boleyn is the woman for whom King Henry VIII divorced his first wife of 27 years, Catherine of Aragon. Unfortunately, Anne Boleyn had only given King Henry 1 living daughter and, no matter how much I read, there seems to be a consensus that King Henry VIII was very, very worried about getting a son. After about 3 years of marriage, Anne Boleyn was taken up on charges of witchcraft and adultery, her marriage to the king was annulled, and then she was beheaded. Mary had eventually become less involved in the court affairs and managed to leave unscathed, but their brother, George was beheaded on adultery charges at the same time. It was also interesting to learn more about the life of Anne Boleyn As much as this is historical fact and even though I know how it all know how it ends, I still really enjoyed the book because it’s told from a different perspective and much more detailed than the basic facts.
Having read The Other Boleyn Girl now, I also definitely liked it better than the movie adaptation because it went into depth more and didn’t seem to rely on theatrics as much in order to drive the plot, which is honestly theatrical enough without adding anything.
Plus, to add insult to injury, Anne Boleyn’s family was basically destroyed by her rise to power. Her own brother was beheaded for adultery with her. Her parents lost much of their power that was gained. The only people who seemed to get through unscathed was her uncle and her sister, sort of. Mary had an affair with King Henry VIII so that didn’t really leave her all that unscathed while her family used her for their own purposes. What I hadn’t realized before reading the book was that Mary actually had 2 living children by Henry and then she ended up marrying a man who was considered to be beneath her (kind of snotty sounding, but it was a classic system so…) and she ended up living away from court for many years after the death of Anne Boleyn. Even told from the sisters perspective, Anne Boleyn was not generally regarded as a warm, kind, or fuzzy sort of a woman; she was domineering and hot tempered and willing to do anything it took to gain power, but I also think that she was quite intelligent. Her daughter, Elizabeth, is one of the most well known queen’s that England ever had so I guess that that’s a good thing.
I really like Phillipa Gregory’s books, I think that this is probably my 4th, and I think that they are all well worth reading.
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