The Other Boleyn Girl Fact-Checker

Fiction is fiction, of course, even historical fiction, and can’t be held to the same standards as biography or history. But Phiippa Gregory has said that all her narrative “choices can be defended as a historical probability.” In fact, many of the details, and indeed the whole premise of the book, cannot be defended as anything other than pure imagination:

1. Concocted fictions:

Anne deliberately “steals” Henry from Mary (Henry’s affair with Mary was over before he began to pursue Anne.)

Mary Boleyn has two children by Henry, one of whom is a son (Elizabeth Blount, Henry’s former mistress, had Henry’s son).

Anne forces Mary to give up her son to be raised at court.

Anne says she wants Wolsey dead.

Anne behaves viciously to her sister on many occasions.

Anne induces a miscarriage (third pregnancy) when she thinks the fetus is dead.

Anne has sex with her brother in order to conceive a child.

2. No Evidence or Contrary Evidence:

Intense rivalry between Anne and Mary (no evidence).

Anne had sex with Henry Percy (sex–no evidence. Precontracted, perhaps—though Percy denies it.)

Brother George has an affair with Francis Weston. (Retha Warnicke’s theory of a “homosexual ring” at Henry’s court. Possible, of course, but no evidence.)

Mary was a virgin before her first marriage. (Many reports of her sexual activity in Francis’s court.)

Anne’s mother hides evidence of Anne’s miscarriage (second pregnancy) by burning the miscarried fetus. (It’s possible that Anne hid a miscarriage, but it’s speculation. No evidence at all that her mother burned a fetus.)

Anne gives birth to a “horridly malformed” baby (This is Retha Warnicke’s theory, but there is no evidence for it. In contemporary accounts, the fetus is referred to only as “a shapeless mass”)

3. Added in the Hollywood movie (screenplay by Peter Morgan):

Henry was attracted to Anne first, but got turned off when she humiliated him in riding. (In fact, Henry had a long affair with Mary before he became interested in Anne.)

Anne was exiled to France after marrying Henry Percy (Anne was sent to Austria, and then France, when she was 12, to be educated and “finished”)

Anne orders Henry never to talk to Mary again if he wants to have Anne.

Henry becomes hostile and indifferent to Anne sexually even before the marriage. (Henry pursued Anne for six years before they married—a prolonged courtship missing from the movie—and the evidence suggests that he was in love with Anne for at least a year after the marriage, perhaps longer.

Henry VIII rapes Anne Boleyn.

Mary intercedes on Anne’s behalf and tries to get her pardoned.

Mary Boleyn walks into court and takes Elizabeth at the end.


Filed under The Other Boleyn Girl Fact-Checker

5 responses to “The Other Boleyn Girl Fact-Checker

  1. Maya

    Thinking of that book reminds me of that Dorothy Parker quote: “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly–it should be thrown with great force!”

  2. Michelle

    You say Philippa Gregory ‘concocted’ Mary having 2 children by Henry but it is entirely possible that one or both of Mary’s children were infact Henry’s. Also while there are rumours of Mary’s behaviour at the French court there is no actual evidence that she she slept with Francis so could have been a virgin at the time of her 1st marriage.

    • Es muy improbable que los hijos de María fuesen concebidos por Enrique VIII. Tal vez Catalina, pero Enrique Carey no. De haber sido su hijo, el rey lo hubiera reconocido simplemente para demostrar su virilidad.

      • Michelle

        The Carey’s are not the only possible illegitimate children Henry VIII didn’t acknowledge. See
        or Jones, Philippa (2009). The Other Tudors: Henry VIII’s Mistresses and Bastards.
        Henry Fitzroy, the only child he did acknowledge was the only child born to an unmarried mother. The rest were named after the mother’s husband. Henry acknowledging Fitzroy basically marked the end of Bessie Blount’s court career, this would have been harder to do with Mary as her husband and family were based at court and forcing her out could have caused offence. Much easier to let Carey claim him. Also bastard children could cause problems for legitimate children later on- especially if the only legitimate child is female and the illegitimate is male. Henry may have wanted to minimize the chances of someone supporting Henry Carey’s claim to the throne, bearing in mind by this point he knew Catherine was unlikely to have more children.

  3. Autumn

    I don’t believe Anne slept with her brother. I think Henry had her executed mainly because he wanted her out of the way so he could marry Jane Seymour.

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