The Other Boleyn Girl is a 2001 novel by Philippa Gregory and a difficult read (very verbose). Two years after its release, it was made into this wonderfully delicious film.
10 out of 10 stars. This is fiction, but much of what occurs in the film really happened. It’s a nice little revenge flick because at the end the malicious sister finally gets what she deserves.
First, let me say that the Wikipedia page for this film is wrong in many places. Ignore it.
As the film begins, three kids are playing in a field of wheat. They are the Boleyn children: Anne, George, and Mary. As the kids are playing, their father Thomas tells their mother Elizabeth that the Carey family has offered Anne marriage to their son William and he has declined, offering the Careys Mary instead. Fast forward 10 years and Mary is marrying William Carey who is really unattractive. But she’s satisfied because she wants to live in the country with her children.
Months later, Thomas meets with Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, who is Elizabeth’s brother, so Thomas Boleyn’s brother-in-law. They discuss how to use Anne to gain the family power and wealth. The queen of England, Catherine of Spain, has only produced one heir for King Henry the 8th, a daughter, while she has produced several stillborn sons. Now that she’s entered menopause, Howard says they can use Anne to give him a son. So they invite the King to stay at their home and engage in some local fox hunting. Anne joins in the hunt, riding side saddle which impresses the king, and leads the entourage into a deep ravine where the king is injured. Actually his pride is injured more than his body. Realizing the last person the king wants to see now is Anne, they send in Mary to tend to his wounds (which are really artificial). Days later they are summoned to court so Mary can become the king’s mistress.
Mary doesn’t really like court. She’s kind, devoted to her husband, and does not want to be the king’s mistress, but her husband deserts her and leaves her to the wolves, so she does as the King demands and falls in love with him in the process. And this part is really told as a love story. She becomes pregnant (with a son) which makes Anne extremely jealous. Driven by her competitive nature and injured pride, Anne sneaks off to marry Henry Percy who is already promised to marry Mary Talbert. Ouch. When Mary finds out, she tells their father who sends Anne to France to the Queen of France’s court to learn some manners. And Anne’s marriage to Percy is immediately annulled.
Later in Mary’s pregnancy, she starts to bleed and is ordered complete bedrest. Now the king has no sexual playtoy, so Mr. Boleyn summons Anne back to entertain the king and keep his mind on Mary at all times. Anne, who has vowed revenge against Mary, does exactly the opposite. She seduces the king while refusing him, insisting that he must promise to never speak to Mary again and annul his marriage to Catherine. Surprisingly, the king does just that. He ignores Mary and the son she gives him, sending her instead away to the country. When the Pope and the Catholic Church won’t annul his marriage, he creates a new church, the Church of England, and annuls the marriage himself as the king.
Here’s where the first taste of revenge comes in. While Henry and Mary’s sexual relationship was tender and a love story, his sexual relationship with Anne is the opposite. She has made him do unspeakable things and so he rapes her the first time and afterward can’t stand to be around her. Anne eventually becomes pregnant and gives him a daughter, Elizabeth. But she miscarries their son and then asks George to get her pregnant so the king won’t know. Big mistake. George has been truly unkind and cruel to his wife, Jane Parker who is the king’s cousin. George refuses to sleep with his wife Jane and so she follows him around to see if he’s cheating on her. She catches him in bed with his sister Anne and goes straight to tell the king.
George is unceremoniously taken to the dungeon and beheaded in the morning. No trial. Anne is taken before the Privy Council and judged guilty of incest. Mary arrives after George is killed, but in time to plea for mercy for Anne. The king insinuates that he will free Anne, but then executes her instead. Mary takes Elizabeth home with her and raises Elizabeth alongside her two own children.
Mary lives happily ever after. The moral to the story–don’t reach above your stage in life and be kind to others.
10 out of 10 stars. Loved it.