My inspiration for this article comes from a discussion we’ve been having on The Anne Boleyn Files Facebook page, regarding the inaccuracies of the movie and novel “The Other Boleyn Girl”, and from the many emails I receive asking me my thoughts on Philippa Gregory’s portrayal of Anne Boleyn.

What concerns me about the emails I receive is that people take “The Other Boleyn Girl” as fact, even though it is marketed as a work of fiction, and I have even heard of people using it for reference when studying Anne Boleyn and the Tudor period!

I realise how tempting it is to take short-cuts when you’re studying a topic, e.g. read the study-notes rather than the actual book, but it is extremely dangerous to base your knowledge on something that is a novel and not the true story. I know that Philippa Gregory is seen by many as an historian BUT The Other Boleyn Girl is not a factual retelling of Anne Boleyn’s life or even that of Mary Boleyn. Although, in the author’s notes at the back of the book, Philippa Gregory talks about how her novel is based on theories outlined in Retha Warnicke’s book “The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn”, and various other secondary sources, there are many, many inaccuracies in the book, along with fallacies and story-lines that have no factual basis.

Let’s examine some of them…

Mary Boleyn the Virgin

In “The Other Boleyn Girl”, Mary Boleyn is the heroine, the “other Boleyn girl” who is telling her story. The book begins with Mary catching Henry VIII’s eye and her family plotting to make Mary his mistress, and the mother of his bastard, to gain status at court. Mary is worried about sleeping with the King and says to George and Anne, “I don’t know how to do it… You know, William did it once a week or so, and that in the dark, and quickly done, and I never much liked it. I don’t know what it is I am supposed to do.” Mary appears innocent and sexually inexperienced and it is Anne who later promises her father and uncle that she will “coach her well enough to get her into his bed”. “The Other Boleyn Girl” movie opens with Mary just about to marry William Carey and worrying about her wedding night because she is a virgin – not true!

Fact: Mary had been the mistress of King Francis I of France and gained a reputation for being promiscuous. The reputation may have been unfair and down to gossip, but she was the French King’s mistress and so was not sexually inexperienced when she arrived back at the English court.

Anne Boleyn Entraps Henry Percy

In the novel, Anne plots to attract Henry Percy so that she can be Duchess of Northumberland and be wealthy. She tells Mary, “I’m going to make him marry me” and Mary watches Anne with Percy and comments “I saw how she played him”. Anne does indeed attract Henry Percy and the couple are betrothed and then consummate the betrothal to make it legal. Cardinal Wolsey steps in and puts an end to the relationship and Elizabeth Boleyn, Anne’s mother, makes Mary forge a letter from Anne to Percy, saying that she has to give him up.

Fact: There is no evidence that Anne set out to trap Percy and it is likely to have been a love match – the two of them meeting at court and falling in love.

Fact: Mary Talbot, Percy’s wife claimed in 1532 that her marriage to Percy was invalid because he was already pre-contracted to marry Anne Boleyn. Henry Percy denied this by swearing an oath on the Blessed Sacrament, in front of the Duke of Norfolk, the archbishops and the King’s canon lawyers. There is no evidence that Anne and Henry Percy slept together.

The Boleyn Family Schemers

In “The Other Boleyn Girl” we see Thomas Boleyn, his wife, Elizabeth Boleyn, and her brother, the Duke of Norfolk, having family conferences and scheming, using Mary and Anne as pawns to raise the family’s status, what my good friend Rachel Fitzpatrick refers to as “Pimp Daddy Boleyn Syndrome”!

We also see them abandoning Anne to her fate at the end of the novel, with Thomas saying to Mary “Don’t you bring me into it… She went her own way, and him and you with her.”

Fact: There is no evidence that the Boleyns/Howards schemed and used the girls as pawns, or that the girls were “coached”. It is likely that Mary caught the King’s eye with her pretty looks and Anne attracted him with her style and confidence, and that the families made the most of their favour. Women were seen as second-class citizens and daughters as chattels, but there is nothing to support the view that Thomas Boleyn set out to win favour through Mary and Anne.

Anne Boleyn and Her Sexual Stranglehold Over Henry

In the novel, when Mary is pregnant, Anne is ordered by her family to flirt with the King and keep him happy so that he does not take another mistress, a woman outside of the family. Elizabeth Boleyn comments to Mary, “Thank God Anne has him in her toils. She plays with him like you might tease the queen’s dog. She has him on a thread” and Anne tells Mary that she is going to “hold out till he sees that he has to make me an offer, a very great offer”. This suggests that Anne set out to trap and manipulate Henry VIII on her family’s orders and that she held out on him sexually as part of the plan to become queen.

Fact: There is no evidence to support this theory. I personally believe that Henry was attracted to Anne and that she wanted to keep her virtue and not end up like her sister, an abandoned mistress with a bit of a reputation. There is no way that Anne Boleyn could have guessed that Henry would ever offer to make her his wife and queen when  she refused to be his mistress, how could she? Henry could have had any woman that he wanted, I’m sure Anne thought he would just move on to the next.

George Boleyn and Incest

The George Boleyn of “The Other Boleyn Girl” has an unnatural relationship with his sisters. He kisses Mary and then says “Kiss me again, kiss me like you kiss Henry” and he kisses Anne like a lover, not a brother:-

“He leaned forward and kissed her again. Her eyes closed and her lips smiled and then parted… his finger went to her bare shoulder and stroked her neck… his finger went into her smooth dark hair and pulled her head back for his kiss.”

Anne later taunts him:-

“Don’t you want to touch me… Wouldn’t you rather take me to your chamber?”

And although we do not have a scene with them actually committing incest, it is clear that we are meant to think that Anne’s third pregnancy is a result of incest. Anne says to Mary:-

“No one knows what went into the making of this baby, Mary. No one will ever know.”


“For I went on a journey to the very gates of hell to get him. You will never know.”

Mary then sees a guilty look on George’s face and concludes that “Anne had taken him as her companion on her journey to the gates of hell to conceive this child for England.”

Fact: Anne and George were found guilty of incest at their trial but there is absolutely NO evidence that they committed incest. The majority of historians believe that they were framed and Philippa Gregory is pretty much alone in believing that either of them would have contemplated it. George was a keen reformer, he would not have contemplated such an abominable sin, and neither would his sister.

Anne Boleyn and Incest

In the Q&A section of “The Other Boleyn Girl” is the following question:-

“How about Mary and Anne’s brother, George? Did he really sleep with his sister so that she could give Henry a son?”

and here is Philippa Gregory’s answer:-

“Nobody can know the answer to this one. Anne was accused of adultery with George at their trials and his wife gave evidence against them both. Most people think the trial was a show trial, but it is an interesting accusation. Anne had three miscarriages by the time of her trial, and she was not a woman to let something like sin or crime stand in her way—she was clearly guilty of one murder. I think if she had thought that Henry could not bear a son she was quite capable of finding someone to father a child on her. If she thought that, then George would have been the obvious choice.”

Fact: The above answer is wrong in so many ways and on so many levels!! 1) There is no evidence that Jane Boleyn (Jane Parker) gave evidence against George and Anne. It does not appear that any witnesses were called at their trials and Jane is not named as the woman who provided the prosecution with evidence against them, it may well have been the Countess of Worcester. 2) “Not a woman to let something like sin or crime stand in her way”! Anne was a very religious person who risked her life and position by having “heretical” books in her possession, there is no way that she would have contemplated incest, it would not even have crossed her mind! 3) What murder? 4) Why would George be the obvious choice? How many women out there having difficulty conceiving consider sleeping with their brother? Aaaaggghhh!

George Boleyn the Homosexual or Bisexual

It was historian Retha Warnicke who put forward the idea that the men who were executed for adultery with Anne Boleyn were libertines who committed sodomy, and in “The Other Boleyn Girl” George not only acts inappropriately with his sisters but he also has a sexual relationship with Sir Francis Weston. He tells his sisters that ” a boy is so clean and so clear” and then announces “I’m in love with a man”. Later in the novel, Mary knocks on George’s locked door and when George opens it, Sir Francis Weston is “straightening his doublet”, suggesting that the two men have been enjoying a sexual liaison.

Fact: There is NO evidence that George, or any of the other four men, were homosexual or bisexual. All of the men confessed to being sinners in their execution speeches and Sir Francis Weston mentioned living in “abomination”, but I think it is reading too much into their words to accuse them of what were illicit sexual acts.

The Deformed Foetus

In “The Other Boleyn Girl”, Anne Boleyn miscarries a “monster”, “a baby horridly malformed, with a spine flayed open and a huge head, twice as large as the spindly little body.”

Fact: There is no mention of a deformed foetus in the contemporary primary sources and the only historical mention of it is in the writings of Nicholas Sander, a man who was a Catholic exile in Elizabeth I’s reign and who set out to blacken Anne Boleyn’s name. He was also the one who described Anne as having a “projecting tooth”, “a large wen” and six fingers. The Imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, who hated Anne and called her “the concubine”, simply reported that “the child had the appearance of a male about 3 months and a half old” and Charles Wriothesley said the same. The deformed foetus story is therefore nothing but a myth to make Anne Boleyn appear to be a witch or to back up the story that she had committed adultery or incest.

Anne Boleyn the B**ch

There is no other way to describe the Anne Boleyn of “The Other Boleyn Girl”, she is a complete b**ch and it’s no wonder I get emails asking why I “defend” such a b**ch! Anne steals Henry VIII from Mary and then taunts her, she takes Mary’s son away from her without her permission, she treats her siblings like her slaves, she quite likely poisons Bishop Fisher and his dinner guests and perhaps Cardinal Wolsey, Princess Mary and Catherine of Aragon too, she is vindictive when Mary announces her marriage to Will Stafford and her pregnancy, saying that she will tell Mary’s son that his mother is dead, and she curses Jane Seymour, saying: “If she gets her hand on my crown and her arse on my throme I hope it is the death of her. I hope she dies young. I hope she dies in childbed in the very act of giving him a boy. And I hope the boy dies too.” Nice!

Also, in the Q&A section at the back of the book, Philippa Gregory says that Anne was “not a woman to let something like sin or crime stand in her way – she was guilty of one murder… ”

Fact: We do know that Anne had a hot temper and she could be pretty nasty at times, e.g. instructing her aunt to box the ears of the “cursed bastard” (Mary) and starve her if  she didn’t behave, swearing that “she would bring down the pride of this unbridled Spanish blood” and even put Mary to death while her father was in France, BUT this is a far cry from actually killing someone. Anne was careless with words, she had a quick temper and often said things without thinking. In my opinion, her words were simply bluster, spiteful but no actual truth to them. We’ve all said things that we regret, and don’t really mean,  in the heat of the moment! Anne was no angel but she was no murderess either.


Anne’s faith and her reformist views are completely missing from this novel.

Fact: Anne was of reformist views. Her father and brother smuggled heretical books into England from the Continent, her brother translated reformist works for her, Anne helped reformist bishops get positions and she encouraged her ladies to read the Bible, which she left open in her apartments. She may not have been the Protestant martyr or revolutionary that some people think that she was, but there is much evidence to show that she had a real faith.

Anne Boleyn the Witch

In the novel, William Stafford says to Mary, “she [Anne] is certainly guilty of dabbling in witchcraft”, and we see Anne taking a potion to bring on the miscarriage of her baby which has died in the womb and later in the novel miscarrying a monstrously deformed baby. The midwife who is present when Anne miscarries the “monster” admits to Mary that she has actually been employed by Henry to watch Anne and that she is a “witch taker”. However, we never actually see Anne dabbling in witchcraft.

Fact: Giving birth to a deformed baby would have been seen as evidence of sexual sin or witchcraft, but there is no evidence that Anne did give birth to a deformed foetus.

Anne and Henry Carey

In Philippa Gregory’s novel, after the death of Mary’s husband, William Carey, Anne Boleyn suggests to her sister that she should adopt little Henry Carey and when Mary protests Anne tells her that it is already done. Mary says to Anne: “So that you have a son, Henry’s son. You have a son who is a Tudor by birth. If he marries you then in the same ceremony he gets a son” and this scene suggests that Anne has taken Mary’s son without her permission, and stolen him as part of her plan to marry Henry VIII.

Fact: Henry VIII granted Anne Boleyn the wardship of Henry Carey’s in 1528, after the death of his father, William Carey. There was nothing unusual about this. Mary was a widow and Anne was in a position to provide for Henry and she could ensure that her nephew had a good education. He received education at a Cistercian monastery and also under the tutelage of the French poet, Nicholas Bourbon. She did not adopt him. We have discussed it on Facebook and Rachel Fitzpatrick pointed out that it was standard practice for the monarch to grant wardships to wealthy and influential courtiers, e.g. Lady Jane Grey was Thomas Seymour’s ward and Catherine Willoughby was Charles Brandon’s.

Jane Boleyn

The Jane Boleyn of “The Other Boleyn Girl” is a nasty busybody who is jealous of her husband’s relationship with his sisters. In the novel, George is not exactly keen on marrying her and he later describes her as “viley jealous” and “light-fingered”. Here is part of a scene where George is discussing Jane with his sisters:-

“It’s not like lust,” he said uneasily. “I can deal with lust. And it’s not variety—I like a little taste of the wild myself. But it’s as if she wanted some kind of power over me. The other night she asked me if I would like a maid brought in. She offered to bring me in a girl and worse: she wanted to watch.”
“She likes to watch?” Anne demanded.
He shook his head. “No, I think she likes to arrange. I think she likes to listen at doors, to spy through keyholes. I think she likes to be the one that makes things happen and watches others at the business. And when I said ‘no’…” He stopped abruptly.
“What did she offer you then?”
George flushed. “She offered to get me a boy.”

Now, you can see where “The Tudors” got their inspiration for Jane from!

Later in the novel, at Anne Boleyn’s fall, Madge Shelton tells Mary Boleyn of how Jane was interrogated the longest and that she wrote and signed a statement. Madge goes on to say, “It was after she had spoken to them that we all had to go in again and they were asking about George. Mary Boleyn, who is telling the story, tells the reader that at George’s trial, “the strongest evidence against him was a statement written by Jane Parker, the wife he had always despised.”

Fact: There is no evidence to support this characterization of Jane Boleyn and Jane did not confess to lying about George and Anne in her execution speech, that is a myth. Jane did tell Cromwell of Anne’s indiscretion about Henry’s sexual inadequacies, but we don’t know what else Jane told Cromwell and it is time to stop using her as a scapegoat. You can read more about Jane in my post Jane Boleyn and the Fall of Anne Boleyn.

Lack of Maternal Love

In “The Other Boleyn Girl”, Anne Boleyn is horrified when she gives birth to a daughter, ” “A girl,” Anne said in horror. “A girl. What good is a girl to us?” “, which is understandable when she knew how important it was to give Henry a son and heir, but there is no relationship between Anne and Elizabeth in the novel. Anne seems to lack maternal love and there is an awful scene where Anne strips little Elizabeth half naked to prove to everyone that she is perfect and beautiful, Elizabeth’s lip is trembling as Anne rages at Henry.

Fact: It was Henry VIII who paraded his naked baby daughter in front of ambassadors to show how perfect she was. Also, Anne loved her daughter dearly and was a keen and good mother in the short time she had with her. Historians David Starkey and Tracy Borman refer to a story of how Anne Boleyn wanted to defy convention by breastfeeding her baby herself, but was prevented from doing so by her husband. Tracy Borman also writes of how courtiers were often embarrassed by Anne’s displays of affection for her baby and that she loved to have Elizabeth next to her on a cushion, rather than shut away, out of sight and mind, in a nursery, and when Elizabeth was given her own household at Hatfield, Anne spent time carefully choosing fabrics for her daughter’s clothes and visited her whenever possible.

The Movie

“The Other Boleyn Girl” movie, starring Eric Bana, Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson is even worse for historical inaccuracies:-

  • Henry VIII rapes Anne Boleyn
  • Anne making Henry promise that he’d never speak to Mary again after she’s given birth to his son
  • Mary Boleyn intercedes on Anne’s behalf and tries to get her pardoned
  • Mary Boleyn walks into court and takes Elizabeth at the end

It makes me cringe and shout at the TV!

Don’t Knock Historical Fiction!

I know I’m going to get people saying that there’s nothing wrong with historical fiction and that I shouldn’t criticise it because people should be able to distinguish fact from fiction and I’m really not having a go at historical fiction. My bookcase is full of historical fiction: Jean Plaidy, C J Sansom, Robin Maxwell, Jeane Westin etc. BUT those authors are not saying that their novels are true and they carefully explain where they have deviated from the truth in their notes. Reading Philippa Gregory’s notes and interviews, she is suggesting that she is an historian and that “The Other Boleyn Girl” is not a distortion of the facts, but is a retelling of Anne and Mary’s story, and that is why I have such a big problem with this particular novel. I am constantly told on social media that I have my facts wrong because “in the Other Boleyn Girl it says…”.

So, if you know someone who thinks they know Anne Boleyn’s story from reading “The Other Boleyn Girl” or you know a student who is doing a project on Anne Boleyn, please tell them about the Eric Ives book, “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn”, or point them to this website. I don’t like to blow my own trumpet, but I am committed to telling Anne Boleyn’s true story by researching primary sources and the works of Tudor historians like Eric Ives, David Starkey, Alison Weir and David Loades.

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175 thoughts on “Anne Boleyn and The Other Boleyn Girl”
  1. I will say that “The Other Boleyn Girl” (the book) was what originally introduced me to the fascinating life of Anne Boleyn, and I still enjoy the book. For the people who CAN separate fact from fiction and who are interested in learning the facts for themselves, I think the book is fabulously entertaining. I think Mary is the one who really gets the bum deal from the book and from shows like “The Tudors” … she’s either an innocent virgin or a wh*re, when in reality she was most likely just a fun-loving girl who used her good looks to have some fun.

    However, you are right in that it’s dangerous for the many, MANY people who take these things at face value, especially since Philippa Gregory does parade herself as a true historian.

  2. Right on, Claire – not to mention TOBG is one of the most poorly written novels I have ever had the misfortune to skim. PG and her publisher understand that lurid sex sells and unfortunately, as in Anne Boleyn’s case, all the better if the subject is a popular figure from history.

  3. Your explanation of the book echoes my own and why I ultimately don’t care for it – it veers between fiction and faction.

  4. I really enjoyed this article because it helps me organise my thoughts on this whole other boleyn girl business…I haven’t read the book nor I am looking forward to it but I have seen the movie…My biggest problem though is not people believing Greggory’s craziness but she believing herself that what she writes is pure history…Personally I liked the movie and seeing in your article how terrible in the book are Anne and George,I daresay thank God they didn’t show them like this…Natalie Portman looks a perfect Anne the script ruins it all…She manages,as the movie progress a more complicated character but the script totally leaves it up to her to make her Anne a person more than the Disney villain Greggory’s Anne is…There certain scenes where she touches me and approaches a more believable Anne but others …Jim Sturgess was an adorable but kind of forgotten character
    Also,am I the only one who likes more the historical Mary Boleyn than the perfect virginal angel in the movie?Halfway the movie,I really wanted to slap her in order to wake her up(mind you,I love Scarlett).Mary was an interesting person,certainly having enough charisma like her sister and actually one have to say that certainly she was more liberated than Anne,because she had the backbone to leave the life she knew,being raised in courts and castles,to be with the man she loved.
    Also,have you seen Henry VIII,with Helena Bonham Carter as Anne?I could swear some scenes are copy-pasted to the Other Boleyn girl.

  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Claire, for efficiently and effectively rebutting the manifold distortions of history in this trashy novel. It is so wonderful to discover a community of people as outraged by Gregory’s book as I am. Interestingly, it was through comments on a review of TOBG on Amazon that I made a friend who led me to the History Police page on facebook (where you can read all kinds of incisive commentaries on inaccurate historical fictions, Gregory’s among them).

    Let me just add one thing about Gregory’s distortions that I addressed in my Amazon review and which particularly enrages me. Gregory’s “use” of Retha Warnicke’s theory about the deformed fetus is in such bad faith. I have a lot of problems with Warnicke’s quite undocumented and highly speculative assumption that Anne’s miscarriage in early 1536 was of a deformed fetus, but at least Warnicke formulated this theory in response to the kind of misogyny prevalent in the period, a misogyny which commonly demonized powerful women as witches and which depicted their sexuality as aggressive, evil, and perverse. In this sense, Warnicke’s theory is, for all its flaws, a genuinely feminist attempt to analyze and critique the constraints on powerful Renaissance women. Though she has called herself a “feminist” “historian” (both terms needing to be put in quotation marks), Gregory exploits Warnicke’s theory precisely because she is trying to do the very thing Warnicke criticizes: portray a powerful woman as a deviant monster and propagator of monsters.

    It’s so ironic, too, that the very action that is evidence of Anne’s virtue, as her contemporaries would define the term–insisting on marriage rather than becoming the king’s mistress–is seen so often in modern portrayals of Anne as evidence of her lack of virtue, of an ambition represented as self-prostitution. Meanwhile, Mary Boleyn, who really did have a compromised reputation at the time, comes off smelling like a rose because, unlike her sister, she gave into Henry’s demands for an extra-marital liason! It would be funny if it weren’t such a set of tired sexist stereotypes.

    1. Professor Hermione,
      I love your post. Interestingly enough Ms. Gregory’s book
      had the opposite effect on me from what I believe she
      intended. I came away loving and feeling bad for Anne
      and not liking Mary Boleyn at all. I see the book as a
      manipulation tactic to get me to love Mary and hate Anne.
      So Ms Gregory got the opposite of what she was going for.

      1. This is how I felt. I almost found myself cheering Anne and was happy when he pumped and dumped Mary. Also despite knowing how it would end I hoped that Anne would have a boy leaving Mary out in the cold. I really couldn’t stand Mary in this she is such a Mary Sue and I find are always hate Mary Sues no matter how hard the writer tries to get me to like them.ll I couldn’t even hate Anne for for her narcissistic sociopathic tendencies as rember seeing a video about narcissism and how some a made from trauma of being the family scapegoat (Anne) in this while their sibling is the golden child (Mary)

  6. Re: Anne Boleyn & Incest

    The murder plot Philippa Gregory was referring to was against the Archbishop of Canterbury. She mentions this on The Other Boleyn Girl DVD extras.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Philippa is an excellent writer, very creative and she seemed really nice when I met her but I absolutely don’t agree with her views on Anne. I think it’s because her favourite Queen was Catherine Of Aragon and most view her as the wronged Queen. I mean she was but Anne was the first Queen from what I know to face a death as she did. Most people thought the King would intervene at last minute and cancel the execution but as we know, that never happened.

    Great article!

  7. Great article Claire. I totally agree with you that there is nothing wrong with historical fiction when the writer doesn’t appear in the media accredited as an historian and claiming that she is just retelling the story with the facts. Gregory has completely ignored historical facts and distorted others. The whole premise of her story about Mary Boleyn being an innocent virgin is ridiculous in the first place and it just goes downhill from there.

  8. Dear Claire:

    Thank you for the remarkable explanation regarding fact versus fiction. Well done!


    Chula Vista, CA. USA

  9. Ah Yes, The Other Boleyn Girl. People in my family have learned to never EVER mention this book/movie in my presence or they will get an earful.

    I was excited when I first saw the book since I’m a big Tudor fan and I knew nothing about Mary, but one glance at the description left me absolutely livid. I have NEVER seen such gross historical inaccuracies in any historical fiction in my life. I’ve done research on The Other Boleyn Girl and learned the Gregory even misused dates. How can this woman be considered a historian if she can’t properly research the dates of her books?

    Robin Maxwell wrote her novel Mademoiselle Boleyn to counter The Other Boleyn Girl. She even alludes to Gregory’s novel in her Author’s Note. While not entirely accurate (what historical fiction is?) it at leasts portrays Anne in a good light and Mary as well.

    From what I gathered, Gregory was much criticized by historians for her book, that in her book The Boleyn Legacy she had to correct certain things such as making it clear that Anne of innocent of the charges against her, particularly the charge of incest. I can’t say if this is true or not since I’ve never read any of her books, this all just comes from looking it up online.

    All I can say is that whenever I meet a fan of The Other Boleyn Girl, I make sure to lock them into a healthy debate about the Tudor Dynasty. So far I’ve always come out the winner since I have facts on my side and all they have is propaganda.

  10. I refused to read the book when I read a synopsis and a couple of reviews, and I cringed all the way through the movie, especially at the end when they show Anne actually sniveling like a little coward on the scaffold. I don’t ever plan to watch it again nor read ANY of PG’s books.

  11. I think if you’re going to criticize The Other Boleyn Girl, then you need to do so with other authors as well. For instance Jean Plaidy writes of Anne having six fingers and a mole, etc. Also, The Other Boleyn Girl novel has opened many people’s eyes to the Tudor world, which I think is a great thing and has stirred much interest in all of the characters.

    Philippa Gregory does much research and I saw her at a talk about The Other Boleyn Girl, and she said she did take liberties to make the stories come to life. I also think it’s hard to make Anne look like a completely innocent person, especially since she did lure Henry away from his wife and kept an affair going with him, while it may not have been a physical affair it was certainly emotional, and I’m sure there was some physical things that happened, so she’s not completely free of sin, I think it’s obvious that when she saw she had the opportunity to become queen she used it to it’s full advantage.

  12. Thanks for all the wonderful comments! I really enjoyed researching this one.

    Belle, I don’t have a problem with Jean Plaidy because her books are presented as fiction and she did not say that she was an historian and that her novel was the true story. Also, I’m not getting emails from people who are using her books to help them research the period and write essays, or who believe that Anne 100% committed incest and was a murderer because that’s what is said in the author’s notes. That’s what makes me cross.

    1. What I don’t understand about this article is you criticise Gregory for her innacurcy and then go on to say things such as ‘he (George) would not have contemplated such an abominable sin’ and neither would his sister’. Do you have actual evidence of this? Or is this infant your belief and/or viewpoint? If so I find this highly hypocritical since having a personal viewpoint is the very thing you criticise Gregory of. Also, you basically state Gregory is wrong in believing Anne and George committed incest on the basis that other historians don’t agree. This point really angers me, just because you and some others don’t believe this don’t deem it to be untrue, just as Gregory believing it don’t mean it’s true also. Fact is its a point for open discussion, and since neither side have actual proof it’s something we will never know the answer to. That is the beauty of Gregory novels though, she takes unanswered questions and challenges them, such as the princes in the tower or if Catherine and Arthur did consummate their marrige. At no point does she state that her beliefs are absolutely true. Despite what you say, Gregory is a historian and she has studied at university’s to gain her education, she has every right to use this to form opinions, as you do yourself. Finally I would like to end with the point that if you actually picked up a Gregory book, you would see that on the back it says ‘fiction’. So like the other authors you fail to criticise, she also doesn’t state her novels are true. I think it is absurd of you however to dismiss the fact that a lot of it is based on history, and the fact she has studied for long periods of time before writing her books.

      1. Firstly, Gregory is not an historian, her doctorate is in literature not history, secondly in her author’s notes she does say that what she has written is fact. I enjoy her books immensely, I have many of them, but when the author’s notes states that what is in the novel is true and goes on to claim, as fact, that Anne murdered at least one person, then it is not just being presented as fiction. Every week without fail, I receive emails from people who have become confused by this book and think that it is a retelling of Anne’s story, so it is important to point out which bits are not true.

        1. I totally agree. Also just want to add that Anne would never have schemed to become the Duchess of Northumberland by marrying Henry Percy because that Duchy wasn’t created until 200 years later! There is also no evidence George Boleyn was homosexual and he was described by George Cavendish as a notorious seducer of women. Anne Boleyn was extremely devout and so there is no evidence whatsoever of her commiting incest or witchcraft nor do these actions fit with her personality – there are many historical sources which state this. These charges were most likely conjured up as bogus charges in an unfair trial where the outcome was already decided before it began. As for Anne stealing Mary’s child, Anne actually acted as the guardian of Mary’s son and generously provided him an education at a respectable monastery – this was seen as a kindness and this type of education was common among the aristocracy. Anne also secured a pension of £100 pounds for Mary which was generous for the time. Mary too was not the innocent virgin portrayed in the novel, but had actually been the mistress of Francois I of France (with Francois even stating crudely that she was a notorious sl*t) before she was made to leave by Francois’ wife and headed back to England in shame…and all this before she seduced Henry! The Boleyn family, far from using their children as sexual pawns, were horrified at the shame Mary’s actions brought on the family and Anne would have been conscious of this. Lastly, it is agreed between most historians that Anne was the younger sister, not Mary. All of this can be easily verified from contemporary and modern (scholarly) accounts. Gregory clearly did not do her research, and chose the most sensationalist rumours to use in her novel, rather than the most verifiable facts. Not a problem so long as one doesn’t claim such rumours as fact instead of fiction. Hope you didn’t mind me adding this. Great website, by the way!

  13. Thank you thank you claire!! I have always discouraged Phillipa Gregory’s description of Anne. I also get SO angry while watching The Other Boleyn Girl- it makes Anne look like an easy to manipulate woman, when she was anything but! Whenever i have a friend that has seen that movie i make sure they know the several errors shown. I am whole heartedly committed to portraying Anne as she actually was- an immensly strong and brave woman who was framed by Cromwell simply because she could not have a son. It is important that she be remembered as such. Thanks, claire, for helping accomplish this goal!

  14. Oh, I also have read in other books that there is a question mark over Anne’s cruelty towards Princess Mary. Chapuys I know claimed that Anne was poisoning Mary and being cruel to her, but we also know how inaccurate he was since he never actually met her. From what I’ve gathered most of the sources for Anne’s cruelty to Mary were Catholic supporters of the time and are not very reliable. I’ve also read that Anne sent a letter to Mary after Catherine of Aragon’s death offering her condolences and other letters asking for Mary to accept her. I don’t know if this is true or not. I do know Anne had a temper so it wouldn’t surprise me if she got frustrated with Mary and said some thing, but I do think that if these letters are true that it should be considered that Anne actually tried to be nice to Mary. I would be grateful if you would research this for me.

  15. I agree with your article. I was irritated several times in the book and it’s historical inaccuracies. Whilst I realise that some artistic licence is necessary, presenting made-up speculation presented as FACT just annoys me. Phillippa Gregory constantly presents Anne Boleyn as a nasty, vile wh*re who will do anything in some kind of insane lust for power.
    I tried another of Gregory’s novels, but the abuse of Anne continued, and at that point I gave up. Gregory seems to have a hatred of Anne Boleyn, and portrays her constantly negatively, without one shred of Anne’s good character.

    I have not watched the film, and don’t intend to. Once I heard that Henry raped Anne in the film, I had no intention to watch this bulls**t.

    Futhermore, because of Gregory’s lack of knowledge or ignorance, and presenting fiction as fact, thousands of people who have a passing interest in history, don’t know actual truths.

  16. For the sixth finger comment:

    It’s only really becoming common now to not give Anne the sixth finger. Many people thought this was true, even Thomas Wyatt’s grandson believed it and he wrote biography of Anne, or so I’ve read. In her first book on Anne, The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn, Robin Maxwell gives her a sixth finger but in Mademoiselle Boleyn, Maxwell makes no mention of it. It seems clear that only now are historical fiction authors scrapping the idea of a sixth finger since now it is becoming common knowledge that she didn’t have one.

  17. Well, what a hornet’s nest! Since I write historical fiction, I’ll give you my take for what it’s worth. I try to be as accurate as possible given the many sources available, including this website and the Elizabeth File. I don’t like it as a reader when the writer goes completely off the track–( as in the incest-as-fact mentioned earlier) The story of the Tudors is quite fascinating enough without deviating too much from the facts as we know them. My job is to make the whole thing human and believable. To bring the events and the characters to life. It reminds me of the hoopla that surrounded the DaVinci Code–folks who read it took it as factual rather than speculative. We need to educate our readers about the difference between fiction and nonfiction.
    Great discussion, Claire!

  18. Hi Claire and all Anne Boleyn Files readers: as an historical novelist in both the Tudor and Restoration periods, I want to assure readers that authors think hard before they change history, either dates or substance. Real lives, our own or 16th Century ones, do not always flow in a straight line, or make sense to modern audiences. Why did Elizabeth or Dudley do this or that? My job is to write a good story based on my interpretation of the why of history in a way that makes a good read. That’s all my publisher cares about. I have been advised more than once that I can depart from historical fact to make the action more readable. It’s all about the characters and action. History is sometimes messy and makes little sense to modern novel readers without interpreting it through a story. It is not a cop-out to report that there are editorial and reader demands in historical fiction…the market trumps fact, an unfortunate truth.

    I read non-fiction history and novels, but I try not to demand from novels what I can only get from facts. Novels try for their own truthl.

    Jeane Westin, His Last Letter, Elizabeth I and the Earl of Leicester, NAL, August 2010

  19. Thanks so much for your expert opinions on this very tricky subject, Jeane and Anne, it is a complete minefield. However, the point I’m making is that most historical fiction authors do not say that they’re historians and that the story is true. Alison Weir is an historian and a fiction author but she does not claim in the notes at the back of her novels that they are true, she explains that they are inspired by historical events and, like you, Jeane, explains where she has deviated from history or where she has filled in the blanks with her own theories as to what happened. That’s what I like!

  20. Claire thank you so much for this article. I strongly dislike this book because I found it to be so false in regard to Anne and her family. I am a huge fan of Eric Ives biography of Anne because of his way on stating the facts and ignoring the hearsay about Anne.

  21. I love this article because ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ is one of the only historical fiction books I have ever read. It ended up being thrown at the wall more regularly than it spent in my hands. I haven’t seen the film, but a good friend who did see it described it as two and a half hours of her life that she’d never get back!

  22. Claire,
    Your writing is always a pleasure to read. I look forward to them every week!

    One thing I would like to add is even if it is a historian writing ,the facts are only what THEY interpret them to be.
    In Eric Ives book that you mentioned he says that Paget states that Anne was born in 1501 because of the hand writing in a letter addressed to Thomas Boleyn while staying at the court of the Arch Duchess.
    Paget’s paper was written in 1980. It discusses the 4 men who were writing about Anne’s birth, which is what created the whole birth date dispute. Paget even said that the writing was terrible NOT as Ives claims as being so well written that it must have been written by an older Anne and not the 7 year old she would have been if Anne had been born in 1507.
    The truth is the letter is very hard to read, is not well written, has many mistakes in it, and must be read phonetically if one is to understand it because it was dictated to Anne and as such Anne wrote it phonetically instead of using correct spelling.
    Many of the closer to period writings are ignored because they were written years after Anne’s death. If those sources are to be ignored because of having been written so far afterwards then the writings today must come under close scrutiny. In The Life of Jane Dormer it states that Anne was not yet 29 when she was beheaded. Many ignore this writing because Jane Dormer was born years after Anne’s Death, but Jane Dormer was a lady to Queen Mary. We all know that Mary had an obsession with Anne and her daughter and I feel that Mary would have talked about Anne to her closest women, of which Jane Dormer was one. There is also the writing of William Camden about Queen Elizabeth I. In the margin he had written that Anne’s date of birth was 1507. This had to be approved by Elizabeth. IF that date was wrong would it not have been corrected?
    In the letter to Thomas Boleyn Duchess Margret made comment of how advanced Anne was for her young years. Why make such a comment if the normal age for fostering was 12? There is also the documentation of the excavation of the Chapel where Anne and others were buried to consider.
    SO what does my long winded comment comes down to is this; Always check sources and keep in mind no matter who is writing whether it be a person such as myself or a well known historian never believe everything that is written but check their sources and how they are interpreted.

  23. Jeez! There’s the occasional “stretching” or “bending” of the facts, and there’s poetic license. Were Mary, George or Anne alive today, I have no doubt they would be suing Ms. Gregory for libel.

  24. AMAZING article, Claire!!! In my opinion, this book is not fiction, it’s a libel against Anne. Gregory seems to hate Anne. She is no historian, just a writer, people should know that. This article helps a lot so that people once and for all know that what they read and watch is not the truth.

  25. People dislike ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ because of the way it portrays Anne, which I completely understand and agree with. However, ‘The Tudors’ is praised to the hilt by many of the same people who critisize Gregory, because of the mostly favourable way it depicts Anne. I know that ‘The Tudors’ doesn’t present itself as being historically accurate in the same way that Gregory presents herself, but it does portray George Boleyn as a bisexual rapist who buggered his wife on their wedding night. It also portrays him as a silly little boy with no indication of the intelligent and powerful man he really was. I think that particular slander for the sake of entertainment to be as awful as the representation of Anne in ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ because a lot of people believe it. What I’m trying to say is, that whether we like historical fiction or not, is very dependent upon how they portray our favourites. Had ‘The Tudors’ depicted Anne in as poor a light as they chose to portray George I doubt whether readers of this site would like it so much.

    1. I disagree that The Tudors portrayed Anne favorably. In fact, Anne’s biggest supporters tended to think The Tudors fell into the trap of portraying her as the wicked queen of legend. What made her sympathetic despite her scheming and the bad things she did, was Natalie’s performance. She brought such humanity to Anne in her manner, facial expressions, vocal inflections, passion, etc. that no matter what she did, good or bad, you could relate to her.

      The Tudors excoriated George Boleyn. It’s not an insult to say he was gay, as there is nothing wrong with being gay; and there were other characters depicted as gay on the show who had no such historical reputation that I know of. But it is an insult to say he participated in the attempted murder of Bishop Fisher, which resulted in the deaths of four people, and it is an insult to depict him as a rapist.

      All of that said, the Tudors never pretended to be 100% historically accurate and as far as I know, no one behind the scenes ever said “It’s true, George was a rapist.” Both The Other Boleyn Girl (the movie) and The Tudors got me so interested in the Tudor family that I started doing a great deal of reading and it was fun to find out what on The Tudors was true or at least supported, and what was not.

      I like a few of Gregory’s books (TOBG not being one of them as I felt it was very badly written), but I do disapprove of her not backing up her accusation against Anne of being guilty of a murder, and I take everything she says with a grain of salt.

  26. When The Other Boleyn Girl film first came out I watched it and thought nothing of it, however that was before I found my passion for this historical period in time and this was largely due to discovering The Tudors this past winter. After watching the first three seasons of the show I couldn’t get enough and started to research the characters and time period, specifically Anne Boleyn, to see how the show deviated from history and to see if any of the show was accurant. What I found was truly fascinating and I’ve recently delved into the Elizabethan era too! However, I decided to rewatch TOBG since it had been so long since I had watched it and I wondered how that deviated from fact. Even though the movie was slightly entertaining I was shocked at the storyline and now I am more glad then ever that I never read the book because it is quite different from the movie and from the sounds of the book (ie. Anne’s bitchery, kissing brothers, incest, and lack of religion) I would have often thrown the book against the wall.

    I’m an aspiring writer, especially that of fiction so I understand that one needs intrigue and an expantion of truth. Formally, I was working on a fiction story about mythological creatures. However, now I want to try my hand at writing a historical fiction novel about Anne Boleyn and I can’t wait to expand on the truth but I would never tell anyone that what I wrote, especially something that was purely fiction, was complete fact, because when you do that you mislead the populace who went out of their way and spent anywhere from 20 to 30 dollars on your book.

    Claire, I truly love the Anne Boleyn Files and the Elizabeth files and your articles have truly opened my eyes to the wonderful world of history. I’ve always loved hisotry, but now I’m going to go back to school after Christmas and try to achieve a doctorate in history. However, until that day, I’d never declare what I have written to be truly fact, and even then it would definitely depend on the book I’d be writing, either be it non-fiction or fiction.

    And Jeanne, I truly look forward to reading His Last Letter!

  27. I enjoyed it because I enjoy historical fiction. Key word being fiction. One thing to always keep in mind, if the book you pick out is in fiction literature, then it is fiction.

  28. I only wish there were more people like you to point out these historical shenanigans. I classify these sort of books into two categories: Historical and biographical fiction. In the former–books which openly present themselves as imaginative works written against a historical background, not serious history–I can understand and forgive some blatant deviation from known fact.

    Biographical fiction, however–using the names of real people in the past and purporting to be “factual”–has a moral obligation to stay as true to reality as possible. Otherwise, you’re just libeling the dead. “The Other Boleyn Girl” is a prime example of the horrors to which this genre can sink. (Although you wouldn’t believe the garbage that gets written about Edgar Allan Poe in some of these novels…)

    Anyway, thanks for the post. Keep up the good work!

  29. The reverse can also be true – some people get rather out-of-sorts when historical fiction does not follow the historical facts closely enough. It’s all in the title – historical (bits of real history) fiction (made up!). I generally have a real history book near me when I read historical fiction so that I can see where the facts separate from the fiction in the book, That’s really where I find enjoyment – the talent of the writer to cract believeable fiction from bits of history…wish I had such talent!

    Loved this article – so well written and well researched. Thank you !

  30. i didnt think it was factual. i love anne boelyn -i feel an odd connection seems forever.she was born ahead of her time………

  31. Claire — what a GREAT article. I’ve only read one of Ms. Gregory’s novels (The Virgin’s Lover) and was unimpressd with the plotting, the writing and her treatment of those real life individuals. I had seen excerpts of The Other Boleyn Girl on Amazon and had been slightly tempted as the Boleyns have always fascinated me…but then decided against it. Having now seen the movie (which left me screaming at my TV more often that not), I’m glad I did. I’ve been reading historical fiction my entire life, and I know that no movie is 100% accurate, but there comes a point when you at least ought to try to maintain some authenticity and truthfulness, and Ms. Gregory’s work — for me anyway — is not even a good guilty pleasure. TOBG feels like out and out character assasination on Anne, as well as George. (She tosses out that comment about Anne being guilty of at least one murder with not a single fact, and as a history buff, that drives me INSANE).

    None of the Boleyns were perfect, as you said Claire, but there was more to them than what PG seems to wish to tackle. I just know that if the book is anything like the movie — with Mary Boleyn simpering around, pretending to be some virginal innocent; Anne is a b**** in the first degree — I wouldn’t have finished it. I don’t know what her true motivation is, but if putting forth lies and innuendo as fact is part of it, she doesn’t earn my respect as a writer (or a so-called historian)….And yeah, that scene of Mary coming to court and taking Elizabeth had me screaming my head off! What a load of…well, what a load.

    Anyway, thanks Claire for another insightful article. THIS is why I love the site so much.

  32. Thank Goodness someone finally clarified that the portrayal of Anne in TOBG is not based on truth!!! SO tired of hearing false assumptions!

  33. I love your articles on Anne, her family and the world that she came from! I have always been a fan of her’s, knowing that she was human and made mistakes. I cannot understand why people who don’t know the entire story would judge her. When history is written by your enemies, what good can come from it? She was a good mother and she was treated badly by the people that she loved and trusted, (like Henry). I hope that someday, people will realize what we already know, that she was a strong woman who was ahead of her time!

  34. Once again, Claire- you have hit the nail on the head! About the only thing that I liked about TOBG movie was the costumes, and even those were not historically accurate. As for the book…I had to put it down after reading her characterizations of George. It was so one dimensional and didn’t do him any sort of justice in breathing life into him.

    I think that PG fancies herself a historian, but falls short of the mark. When she vaguely hints that some of the things she has written or hypothesized are truth, then it misleads readers in a way that is really unfair. I don’t know why people do things like that- perhaps to build up hype to sell more books? It was, after all the only one of her novels to be made into a movie…and it was done twice!

    I suppose that if taken for pure entertainment value, it’s a decent novel, but it is about as accurate as Yellow Submarine was about the shenanigans of the Beatles.

  35. I read “The Other Boleyn Girl” a long time before I was really interested in knowing more about Tudor history and even when reading it, I found parts of it hard to take as I kept thinking about how Anne was portrayed in the 1970’s series. I remember thinking back then that Anne was so pretty and lively. This website helped me to find some non-fiction books about the Tudors and also to understand that the Showtime series was not accurate in many ways, like HBO’s “Rome”. I had read some non-fiction books about the fall of the Republic and the real history was so much more interesting than the made up stuff. I also realized that more than one interpretation of events was possible, again making the real thing so much more intriguing. I find seeing how facts can be interpreted in different ways to show that history is not set in stone and you never know when a new piece of the puzzle will turn up. I knew I would never read a Gregory novel again, and yes, I did think she was a historian at first because of what she said. So my at home library has better books and this website has really helped me to understand and appreciate what a good historian and a good author can do, and also how much you can learn from other people interested in the same subject. I always feel welcome at this site and appreciate the patience other contributors have shown when filling me in on the gaps of my knowledge. And the Gregory book ended up in a pile of things to be donated.

  36. Great article! I know most writers of historical fiction may tweak facts but she went totally overboard. I so loathed that book that I threw it out after I read it! Normally if i don’t like a book i’ve bought I just take it to work to our book trade table so others can read it.

  37. Louise has an excellent point re: PG vs The Tudors. Sometimes, it does come down to whose ox is being gored. And I’m guilty of continuing to watch The Tudors while gleefully pointing out the errors, but not being bugged enough to quit watching, as long as they’re treating my girl Anne halfway decently. I also enjoyed both Elizabeth movies with Cate Blanchett even though they were riddled with inaccuracies. I just get so hungry for any portrayal of this period that I ‘put up with’ all but the most egregiously inaccurate ones, based on which character(s) I like best.

  38. Well done Claire! I have always detested Gregory’s portrayal of all the Boleyn family! Anne (and indeed her family) have been villified down the centuries with no right of reply so it is good that people like you point out the facts as they are known!
    It is true that historical fiction will manipulate the facts to make good reading (or films) but TOBG , both book and film make my blood boil!
    I loved The Tudors (if Henry V111 had really looked like that I might have chanced my own head!) and Natalie Dormer is my favourite Anne Boleyn after Genevieve Bujold but the series has never claimed to be historically accurate!
    Ms. Gregory take note!!

  39. I read TOBG when a friend loaned it to me. I got through it in about 3 days and that was with some breaks to rant at her about how wrong it was. Anne was a lot of things, but stupid wasn’t one of them. Ambitious? Yes. But smart with it. Anne in this book was nothing more than a calculating bitch who drove herself right into disaster. And don’t get me started on George and Mary. They were both portrayed badly.

  40. This is what I had said, the movie is just too fake and not accurate. I saw it once and have no desire to ever see it again. I understand some books and movies are for entertainment only, but I don’t see the reason to spend the time on them.

  41. Thanks so much for this long-awaited article! When I saw the movie TOBG a view months ago, I was nothing but shocked. In fact it is an interesting movie for people,who are interested in history, but it blames Annes true story in every way I can imagine. A raping Henry,a ruthless Anne and a holy Mary – that’s not history,that’s rubbish! I hope that people,who like both novel and book,are interested and open enough in finding out the truth about Anne. So thanks again for this great article,which absolutely fits my thoughts on the topic. Thanks Claire and greetings from Germany (I hope my English is not that bad 🙂 ) Sophie

  42. i really think this book is a pile of crap and why and how is this woman consider a historian?it makes me laugh! but that aside i do think other book present a romantic sugar coated anne b. but i think she would have to been a little bit of a b!@thto climb here way to the top in the slippery world of tudor poltics!

  43. Hi Claire,
    Thank you for pointing out the right from wrong. Every time I see ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ movie being shown, I always quickly change the channel because it makes me so angry every time I see them make a fool out of Anne.
    Your site is fab!

  44. Thank you so much, Claire, for addressing this issue. I, too, have enjoyed reading Jean Plaidy, among others – however, readers really do have to realize they are just fiction for entertainment purposes, and to bring attention to the subjects, so that one would be inclined to do your own research and find out about the real people involved. I found The Other Boleyn Girl entertaining to a point, but wildly inaccurate, almost to distraction at times – the scenes of Mary walking in and telling Henry off, and taking Elizabeth at the end actually had me laughing and shaking my head – what woman in those days,especially with Anne’s fate right in front of them, would dare even raise their eyes to Henry, much less challenge him like that! It really has me reluctant to even read any more of Phillipa Gregory’s work.

  45. I didn’t like this book at all for all it’s inaccuracies and it was evident that Gregory really doesn’t like Anne Boleyn. I reviewed it as such and I’m happy to say that since I did and started researching I’ve found others who didn’t like it either. Thank you for this brilliant article!

  46. I hated “The Other Boleyn Girl”. The actress who played Anne Boleyn had no idea of who Anne was. It was terrible.

    1. That’s not entirely Natalie Portman’s fault, though. She was given a script, and direction, and took it from there. I like Natalie as an actor, and, from the evidence I’ve gathered from my constant researching of Anne, she looks enough like her. And I liked the cool confidence she sometimes presented in Anne. I blame the writers of that… for making Anne completely off character. Natalie was basically just doing her job.

  47. I had read a few Philippa Gregory novels before reading TOBG and I was hugely disappointed by her take on Anne Boleyn. I could not believe that she could be so inaccurate and vindictive. My feeling is that she writes well and that she does her initial research but then abandons any pretence at accuracy for whatever she thinks will sell. In recent years most of what has been written about Anne Boleyn has been largely favourable; I think she deliberately set out to be controversial and different.
    That’s a liberty that novelists are entitled to take, I suppose, although I have always preferred those who stick more closely to the facts. However, presenting herself in the guise of a historian is just misleading and plain wrong.
    The best that can be hoped is that it will lead peple to find out more and that they will see how skewed her account is!

  48. Thank you Claire! I am so glad that you mentioned PG’s constant need to reaffirm that she is a historian and her books are complete fact! Even Retha Warnick distances herself from PG. I think one of my favorite quotes of PG is her claiming that Anne Boleyn isn’t a feminist icon. While sometimes Anne Boleyn is over glorified, PG is working towards destroying all of the work historians have done to rehabilitate her image.

  49. I think the most disgusting part of the movie was when Henry VIII raped Anne. As much as it was inaccurate, it was also a disgusting disservice to history. There is absolutely no evidence to support it whatsoever and furthermore, if anyone’s bothered to know anything about Henry VIII’s actual personality, he was pretty incapable of doing something so aggressive. It’s just the perpetual characterization of him as a monster, but in reality he can’t really be seen that way until much later than when the movie portrays. And how anyone could think Anne would just kind of be like “oh hey that’s okay i’ll still marry you!” is absolutely beyond me.

  50. Well said Claire. I actually can’t agree with people who say that inaccuracy in historical fiction is ok, because ‘it’s just a novel’ etc.etc. I think when you are writing fiction about real people you have an absolute duty to be as accurate as possible; adhere to all known facts and only invent in so far as does not contravene those facts. I mean, imagine how we’d feel if someone reinvented our lives in fictional form; suggested we’d commited incest, didn’t care about our kids, saddled us with lovers and deeds and opinions we never had! Because we’re alive we could sue, the dead don’t have that privilege, but they still have as much right to respect and honesty.

    If people want to invent stories that don’t stick to known facts then why not just make up fictional people and write about them? if you are writing about someone who really lived, then common decency demands you respect their real lives.

    That’s the main reason I can’t bear PG, or the damn Tudors.

  51. This was so well written Claire! Thank you! I must admit that the book is what made me get interested in Anne Boleyn in the first place because she was so cartoonishly played as the Villianess! So I began to read, watch and devour everything I could about her aftewards! Hence, my discovery of your website! I fell completely in love with her as a result of that book so I can’t say I hate it! but when I think about the inaccuracies now I makes me cringe!!

    I read Ms Gregory’s books still, knowing full well that they are hokum and LOOSELY based on facts!!! but I am an avid reader and also read books about vampires lol which I don’t put any stock in either! LOL!!
    – XO Gina

    1. Oh my, I absolutely agree! That is exactly what happened to me as well. I just re-read the book and re-purchased the movie, it was a dissappoint now that I know so much more about her.

  52. I love how you’ve set all of this right!! I do love Philippa Gregory’s books and I’m on the second to last one. At first I thought mostly all of it was true until I started to do more and more research (how I found your website 🙂 ). I find it irritating that even hundreds of years later people are STILL calling Anne a witch and having 6 fingers etc etc.
    Thank you for commenting on Eric Ives’ book on Anne it’s now in my collection :).

  53. Great article, Claire! 🙂

    I first read fiction about Anne in 1971, when I was 10 years old. I was inspired after watching “Masterpiece Theatre’s The Six Wives of Henry VIII” (IMO, Dorothy Tutin is still the best Anne of tv and film; her black eyes are gorgeous and you could believe men being mesmerized by them); I’ve loved Anne ever since. My parents warned me that fictional history was often romanticized, and not to take it as fact. They then suggested I read non-fiction about Anne, which I did (I was lucky enough to have a mother who would check out adult books from the library for me to read).

    That, to me, is the chief benefit of historical fiction: to inspire someone to want to read nonfictional works about the person or time period of interest to them.

    My favorite fictional books about Anne are “Anne, the Rose of Hever” by Maureen Peters (1969; my paperback copy is from 1971), “Anne Boleyn” by Evelyn Anthony (1960; mpc 1974), “Brief Gaudy Hour” by Margaret Campbell Barnes (1949; mpc 1972), “The Concubine” by Norah Lofts (1963; mpc 1972), and “Threads” by Nell Gavin (2001).

    I was so angered by PG and TOBG; I’m glad I’m not alone!

  54. Well done Claire! Although this book/movie does keep people talking about Anne, I wish it were factual and not all the sad made-up stories about her. I just detest this book, it is so inaccurate in every way, shape, and form!

    Has anyone ever read Gregory’s book “The Boleyn Inheritance”??
    I have to say, I enjoyed that book far more. It’s still full of inaccuracies, but the thing I find VERY interesting about it is that Gregory portrays Jane Boleyn as having a guilty conscience and, in the end, going mad over the fact that she falsely accused and brought evidence against Anne and George because she was jealous of their close relationship. She goes on to say that she hated all three of the Boleyns, and that they never included her in their little circle. How childish!
    I just find it utterly amazing how you can write all these fallacies in one book, claiming them as historical facts, and then in the next book, completely negate them and claim them as facts…… WTF?
    I wouldn’t have so much of a problem with Gregory if she wasn’t so full of herself to presume she is a “historian”. Write a novel.

    1. I agree about ‘The Boleyn Inheritance’, it is the other PG book I have read and it was entertaining. Jane Boleyn was quite annoying and childish in both books in my opinion. I thought her character was SO over done.

  55. I was just looking at Anne’s ghost page. I hope Anne’s ghost haunts P Gregory for slandering her name. I won’t go anywhere near any of her books around the Tudor period. She is just as harsh on Elizabeth making outlandish claims that are not true. It’s irresponsible and wrong not to mention delusional as she seems to believe all that she writes. That is interesting Christina about the Boleyn Inheritance. How can anyone take anything that she says seriously.

  56. Claire,

    I so agree with you about historical inaccuracies-even in historical fiction. For those who are not familiar with Tudor history, it might make them think all of them are acutal fact! Tudor history is so dramatic and interesting “as Is’, that writers such as PG certainly don’t need to embellish it. Thank you for your article.

  57. Your post inspired me to reread ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ which was not the first but one of the first books that got me interested in Anne Boleyn. Knowing what I know now about Anne I am horrified with the liberties Philippa Gregory has taken with the truth, though,dare I say it…I like some of her other novels and the points of view they provide. Like the Virgin’s Lover, which I feels shows a lot of the different sides of Anne’s daughter. Or The Queen’s Fool which tries to humanize Mary I as something other than ‘Bloody Mary.’ But I agree with you entirely that I cannot stand it when people take this novel as fact and see Anne not as the amazing women she was but an ambitious blood thirsty wh*re. I do not think that Mary Boleyn was the right person’s point of view to use because history knows her not as the innocent 14 year old used for her family’s ambition but as first the mistress of Francis I of France then later the mistress of Henry VIII, mother to his two bastards. What I do like about this novel is that it makes people ask questions about this period and the amazing people who lived in it.

    1. I (for my sins ) have also read “The Queen’s Fool” and found the device to “humanize” Mary interesting, as was the fall of Calais, mixing a real event with fictional characters.
      There are many faults to the book, as with TOBG, which would not be a problem if authors were honest about their source material and to what extent is fiction and which is fact (yes, PG I do mean you!). I also found Warnicke’s “The Rise And Fall Of Anne Boleyn” to be heavy going at times with rather too many assumptions made by the author. A far lighter book by Suzannah Dunn is “The Queen Of Subtleties”, centering around Mark Smeaton. Fluffy, but fun, and never pretending to be something it isn’t (Oh dear, PG again?). Regardless of the accuracy, or otherwise, of television or books at least it produces debate (sometimes heated) and interest about a subject we all love, and that cannot be a bad thing, can it? I think the motto must be keep reading, keep watching and above all enjoy, be it historical fiction or historical fact, just don’t mix up the two by misleading claims by some authors (nameless!).

  58. I like this article very much – just the dish that I need to make the Tudor dinner complete 🙂 It is always really nice to be able to read both sides of the story, knowing where the yardstick is and how far a the deviation has takem themselves to. A very very crucial article for me personally in understanding the Tudors’ more 🙂 Thanks so very much for publishing this 🙂

  59. Claire,

    You’re welcome! Thanks for reminding me of “Murder Most Royal.” I knew there was at least one old favorite of mine that I’d left off of the list… 🙂


    I agree with you re: Mary Boleyn. It was one of the things that annoyed me so much about TOBG. Mary was no innocent, and no saint, either. Still…she seems to come off better in TOBG, believe it or not, than in Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall”, where Mary seems to come off as a vindictive little witch who undermines Anne to Cromwell every chance she gets, while batting her eyes at him and conveying a “Poor Little Me” attitude while she flirts with him. Ugh. A horrid character, who makes me grateful I never had a sister. “With friends like that”, etc. (I did, however, like the physical description of Anne in this novel; it seems closer to the truth than most novels of the past 20 years of so have gotten, when it comes to what Anne probably looked like.)

  60. I did like how they physically described Anne too. When she was first coming home Mary seemed to capture the very essence of Anne Boleyn-that you feel very strongly about her(either positive or negative). She was alive and vibrant. Mary hated yet loved Anne. But what I really don’t like was Anne was all ambition and no heart-even when it came to Henry, her family, or Elizabeth who we known she loved very much. But it did show an aspect that I haven’t seen in some other the other novel. The game physically changed and weakened her. Slowly she turned into a ghost. In the novel it wore down on her morals-if in the novel she ever had any! I did like how they did George(the funny flirt!) except for the part where he kissed and slept with Anne. I think that was very over the line. But how she used one of the theories about him being homosexual(and in a dangerous time like that!) was very interesting.

  61. I am kind of torn. Yes, I agree that novelists and hollywood types do have a responsibility to portray things accurately, but on the other hand, I love to play the “what if” game and reimagine many historical moments in my own brain, and kind of like seeing it actually played out in another person’s perspective. Not to mention the fact that I love Tudor history so much, that I love any kind of attention it gets. Because at least that way, it’s getting into people’s minds. They also have a responsibility (people who read/watch) to go out there and look for themselves and not believe everything they see. Personally, I love PG’s books, because its such a nice little treat after reading all the non-fiction, kind of like reading those nasty romance novels, LOL. But I take it all with a grain of salt and know that first and foremost, she is a novelist, not a historian even if she claims it. Her Margaret Beaufort book was awesome and made me really want to delve in to her history. TOBG was what got me hooked into Tudor history, but I think it’s her worst book. And I am always telling my husband “that’s not true!” when we watch the movie, LOL but I still had to buy the special edition when it came out on DVD and saw it twice in the theatre. But yes, authors should denote whether things are historically accurate or not because not everyone devours those nonfiction books like we Tudor Lovers do!

  62. im 14 and obsessed with the anne boleyn/ tudor thing and come on people do you seriously believe anne boleyn wasn’t planning this the whole time! she wouldnt have paraded around henrys court for 6 years as his almost lover and let people call her a witch if she thought he was just going to say ‘ok im done now time for jane seymour’ no she was definitly planning it the whole time. as for the murders there was an account of a certain bishop and like 6 of his friends being poisoned and he barely surviving. what a coincidence that anne really needed to get rid of him to become queen! and katherine of aragon was also believed to be poisoned and when she died anne had the court wear yellow. also, when she had the cardinal wolsey charged with treason and he died, she presented a masque entitiled ‘sending the cardinal to hell’
    do you still think she wasnt planning this and she wasnt a bitch?

    1. Elizabeth,
      I’m sorry, I simply couldn’t let you comments slide:
      1. Anne resisted Henry’s advances for a long time. At the time she could have had no possible way of knowing that Henry would have offered her marriage. It’s extremely unlikely that the thought even crossed her mind. The best she could have possibly hoped for from him was to be his mistress, and she turned that down.
      2. Katherine died from cancer. Not poisoning. Katherine’s death was actually one of the contributing factors to Anne’s downfall, but not for the reason that you seem to think. While Katherine was alive, Henry couldn’t cast Anne aside. If he did, he would be admitting that he was wrong and pretty much forced to go back to Katherine. However, once his first wife was dead, he could cast Anne aside and take on a new wife, Jane Seymour, without any troubles from those that believed that Katherine was his true wife.
      3. Wosley was old and had been in ill health. It’s hardly surprising that he died. Also, Anne didn’t have the power to charge ANYONE with treason. That wasn’t her role, even if she had been Queen at the time (which she wasn’t).
      4. Why on earth would Anne have poisoned anyone? She had the King on her side. She didn’t need to do away with anyone.

      My only suggestion to you would be to take the time to read some non-fiction accounts of Anne’s life (such as Ives or Starkey) so that you can get a better idea of the real and true events that took place during Anne’s life.

    2. Elizabeth,
      I agree with Kim and here are my replies to your points:-
      1. “come on people do you seriously believe anne boleyn wasn’t planning this the whole time” – Yes, I do seriously believe that Anne was not plotting. It is clear from the love letters that Henry sent Anne that she was very upset when he offered to make her his official mistress, that she refused and that she left court and went to Hever. She had the courage to reject him and there’s no way that it could have been a ploy because Henry would have been more likely to have moved on and found a woman who was willing rather than pursue Anne. How on earth could she have known that he would pursue her?
      2. What murders? – Whatever Philippa Gregory says, there is no evidence that Anne murdered anyone and if she had been considered a murderess then she would have been accused of this at her trial and it would have been a good reason to get rid of her. Anne was hot tempered and made threats in fits of rage but they were empty threats and she was too intelligent to act on them.
      3. Katherine of Aragon was not poisoned – Her heart was black and that was thought, at the time, to be proof of poisoning, but we know that it is down to cancer/heart disease today.
      4. Anne did not have the court wear yellow – Some sources have Henry wearing yellow, others have Anne wearing yellow, but sources also say that Anne wept privately.
      5. Anne may have had a part in Wolsey’s downfall but it was ultimately Henry’s decision to have him arrested. As Eric Ives says Wolsey “lost Henry’s confidence from late August onwards by miscalculating the king’s mood and by mishandling the Treaty of Cambrai, in which Francis I totally deceived him and caused him, in turn, to mislead his master” so Wolsey made some big mistakes and this turned Henry against him.
      Please do not trust The Other Boleyn Girl as an account of what happened.

    3. Personally I think that you have simply just watched and/or read The Other Boleyn Girl and have watched The Tudors because all of the “facts” you suggest are from such things. I agree with Kim and Claire completely, reading the facts first is best. Then you may tell what books are elaborating and which aren’t. Maybe even find entertainment from it but figure out the facts first.

  63. I like this article very much. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit I believe TOBG as an accurate description of not only our beloved Anne, but her family as well. I read it when I was quite young, probably not even a teen yet. It’s only very, very recently that I’ve been reading about the true Anne. And I’ve fallen in love with her. Even CENTURIES after death, she still has the power to make women and men alike adore her!! She’s someone I admire very much, and I’m committing to long hours on this site and reading books that you suggest to find out about this grealy wronged lady.

  64. Ironically, it was my disgust towards this particular film that led me to this website. I watched the movie when it first came out, seriously contemplating throwing things at the screen at certain scenes. It was only this week that I was able to actually watch it again AND write a scathing review of all the most irritating historical inaccuracies and the absolutely wretched character assassinations. I blame all of you and your excellent articles for my impatience with this portrayal of Anne and I thank you for it. It’s led to my reading more on the fascinating lady herself.

  65. Having read all the comments, I feel they seem to be missing the point about historical fiction. Its exactly that…fiction! These novels are meant to entertain, surely, whatever the accuracies/inacuracies.
    If you want facts, then read nonfiction…such as David Starkey’s books and others like him. I think Starkey is the foremos historian on the Tudor period.
    Many books have been written about Anne Bullen/Boleyn and she, like many other historical figures, has been romanticized. Over centuries, it happens. What is one man’s accuracy is another man’s innacuracy. No-one will ever know all the actual facts of the Tudor period or any other.

    1. Professor Hermione,
      I love your post. Interestingly enough Ms. Gregory’s book
      had the opposite effect on me from what I believe she
      intended. I came away loving and feeling bad for Anne
      and not liking Mary Boleyn at all. I see the book as a
      manipulation tactic to get me to love Mary and hate Anne.
      So Ms Gregory got the opposite of what she was going for.

  66. Hi Gill,
    I completely agree with you when looking at historical fiction as a whole, but Philippa Gregory has made a big deal in her notes and interviews about TOBG being based on fact, therefore she is not marketing it as historical fiction and that’s where the problem lies.

  67. I agree that fiction is fiction and shouldn’t be taken seriously, but the point I make above is that irrespective of the fact that The Tudors doesn’t hold itself out as factual, if Anne had been depicted in it as she is in The Other Boleyn Girl it would not be as popular with Anne fans. Fiction or not, I think that is a fact. I’m not suggesting the Hirst is as bad as Gregory, because he admits the programme is lighthearted and inaccurate, whereas Gregory portrays her fiction as factual. It’s the popularity I question, because if we’re honest, enjoyment of fiction is dependent on how they depict our favourites. If our favourites are portrayed as cruel or/and sexually depraved it makes it very difficult to enjoy it even if we tell ourselves it’s just fiction.

  68. Well….as a historian I would say that in all honesty there is no truly accurate way of either affirming or denying either this website’s defense of Anne nor PG’s version. History is written either by the vanquishers or the vanquished, rarely by the impartial.

    What we do know is that 1) she was a maid to the same queen whose husband she later married and some would say “stole”. This does not make her a saint no matter how many books on church reformation she carried in her possession. 2) We know that she had a violent temper, and while the website’s author would say this does not equate to murder we also know that there were people who died rather conveniently around her. This always casts individuals in a bad light–even with modern police departments. 3) We know that she died with a great deal of dignity by all accounts. 4) We know she was considered enchanting by all accounts. 5) We know her husband was a tyrant and that she was considered “the most happy” married to a man who was a murderous tyrant who had either beheaded or harmed people in his life he once cared for. If this were a love match…what does that say about her own character?

    I think she was probably part sinner, part saint as are we all.

    1. Just a quick note, in those days “Happy” meant fortunate, as opposed to joyous. That might not change your point of view at all, in fact it might even bolster it, but it does put her motto in a different context.

  69. Just as Richard 111, in the Elizabethan era, I fear Philippa Gregorys book The Other Boylen Girl is set to paint a unjust image of Of Anne. It is my hope that others may read other books to get a better more factual image. After reading her version of Anne , I will never read another book wtitten by her again.

    I cannot be sure of getting a fair picture of any of her subject she writes about. She made Mary the heroine. In any event they were both victims of Henry v111, In my opinion the other Boylen Gilrl is simply rubbish and lies.

  70. I have many friends who are livid that they did not see the historically overweight Henry in the later seasons. My opinion however is such: Henry was sexually active allegedly until Kathryn Parr (but that is speculation, of course, since his will did mention any offspring of Lady Parr to be in the line of succession after Edward, and unless he was truly just that mad, they ….well, you get my point). And like any television series and/or most movies you see today, how often are we entertained with ‘fattened’ love scenes. Please, I am not criticizing. I am large as well, so I could understand the insult. This is merely an observation. I am not sure, as deliciously handsome as Rhys-meyers is that I could enjoy him playing a fat man rolling about sweaty and out of breath on top of sweet seductresses.

    Historical facts: I can’t really recall any movie that truly diverges the facts precisely. Elizabeth I was confounded with misinformation, as well as Braveheart, the Titanic, etc…however, much like you, as well as, Borman state, it entices you into that stunning Tudor environment, rich with beauty, scandal and curiosity. While I know some portrayals in the series were so far-fetched that it left you dumfounded, it still made it worth while to see someone else’s outlook on The Great Matter, his illnesses, his mindset.

    Also, you mentioned Phillipa Gregory. I had learned the hard way that her work is made of up convoluted misinterpretations and so many historical wrongs that I almost desire to burn her books. I own three of them. The third, ‘The Boleyn Inheritance” I cannot even finish. It was her that reared me back into the love of the 16th Century though, sending my thirst for Anne Boleyn’s facts and innocence into a raging need, but only to learn that all that she had written was so inaccurate! I was appalled. I do realize that it is fiction, but to change facts completely for the satisfaction of your readers?? That does nothing but dummy down and mislead any of whom look to her book for answers, as I did in my naivety. Happily, I am now set in reading as many ‘truer’ books that I can find in hopes to mediate this informational betrayal while still enriching my senses with possibilities and wonders. I welcome any and all author and book suggestions. In fact, I just read The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George. I did not do a background check on her before reading, so if anybody has an opinion of her work, I would LOVE to hear it. 🙂

  71. Well as much as I think that there is nothing wrong *cough* artistic liscene with certain historical facts and I appreciate that it would be impossible to stick to the facts as there is so much we don’t know…(like who was the father of Mary’s eldest daughter?) I hate the fact that PG seems to ignore them and pretend they don’t exist.

    As an author she has every right to be tweek known facts and explore her own interpretation but she also has a duty to the history to state exactly WHERE she has strayed from the history books!

    As far as I can see…Anne was a facsinating and beautiful woman. She may not have been a saint but she def wasn’t an adulteress, murderer or capable of incest!

  72. I am so glad you wrote this article! I can’t stand Philippa Gregory’s books! In each and every single one she completely butchers the facts in favour of disproven, outlandish gossip and scandal. I’m actually an historian myself, but most people aren’t and will have no idea that what they are reading is wrong – and being an historian naturally for my leisure time I love to read historical fiction and watch historical based films/tv shows (most of them inaccurate but an historian has to take entertainment where she can!), but, it’s been said before in the comments here, the big problem is that Philippa Gregory claims in her notes that what she’s just written is not imaginative but untrue fiction that she’s made up to make the story more salacious, but that it’s true, or at least the most likely version of events, and she says things like she’s dedicated to historical accuracy above all else! ARGH!

    It then makes me want to tear my hair out when I hear people referring to her as “an historian”!!!! NO! She is NOT an historian. Her PhD is in 18th century literature, NOT history! You might say “well, she’s sort of an amateur historian because she does all that research when she goes to write her novels” which she then changes, yes, but I’ve seen inaccuracies in her novels which were obviously oversights and not deliberate changes, meaning that Gregory’s research is definitely not up to scratch and does not make her an historian. I even saw her on a factual history programme recently in which she was brought forwards to be one of those “talking heads” on the basis that she was “a Tudor historian” and an “expert on the death of Amy Dudley”.

    That’s where the problem is – that she claims that what she’s written isn’t untrue (or indeed complete fantasy in some cases!) but that it is completely accurate or at least the most likely version of events, so anyone who isn’t actually an historian won’t know the difference and will just basically accept what she’s saying, and now the general public’s perception of Anne has just been thrown back 100 years and for the next generation we’re going to have to put up with people thinking she had 6 fingers or was a witch all over again… Urgh, all the work done to rehabilitate her image and uncover the REAL Anne Boleyn – not a saint, not an evil harpy, but a real, complex woman – ruined!!! As an historian, who fell in love with historical factual books about the Tudors from age 5 (and Anne and her daughter Elizabeth particularly), and who has been working on this period for 17 years, you can understand why I’m annoyed.

    I commend you for writing this article debunking TOBG! I’ve written reviews on Amazon but the Gregory fans always nobble me with their unhelpful votes! I think it’s quite despicable how some people use the unhelpful vote not to actually point out a flaw in a review, a review that has missed covering something or similar, but as punishment against people who simple didn’t have the same opinion as they did but whose review actually does cover all the pertinent points. It would make so much more sense to have JUST a helpful vote, that way if you don’t get any then people can still see if your review was unhelpful but it would prevent people using the unhelpful button as “punishment” just because people in the world like different things from one another!

  73. If only she wouldn’t claim to be a historian whose books
    were based on fact and just admitted half of it’s fiction. As for
    the film, some of those scenes were plain disturbing, but at least
    there is a note at the end that explains: ‘This is a work of
    fiction. The characters, incidents, and locations portrayed and the
    names herein are fictionous, and any simularity to or
    identification with the location, name, character or history of any
    person, product or entity is entirely coincidental and
    unintentional.’ Not quite true methinks! How could anyone make up
    the life of Anne Boleyn? Also, it controdicts strongly with what PG
    say… So that all got me confused, how exactly could any of it be
    coincidental and unintentional?? It was obviously meant to be
    LOOSELY based on historical fact. Hmm…

  74. I agree with most of what is said but incest and rape
    occurred frequently. Women were second-class citizens and many
    parents still make such decisions for their children as a part of
    arranged marriage. As for homosexuality, according to many pieces
    I’ve read on that time period it was not unusual for men to have
    sex. I am not disagreeing with your research I am simply stating
    that nothing is certain and to disagree with an author based on
    your facts which reflect what is “likely true” does not necessarily
    reflect the reality either.

  75. I know that both movies “The other Boleyn girl” are not of
    fact, but I think what they tried to do with these movies is just
    make them more entertaining than anything. I watched both movies
    and they are both completely different from one another but both
    have historical fiction in them. Let’s just hope that people that
    watch either movie knows that its all just a movie and not fully
    based on real events etc. I personally didn’t care for either
    movie, but I love Eric Bana, so he was fun to look but he
    looks nothing like Henry. Neither does Jonathan in “The Tudors”. I
    can’t remember if Jared Harris looked close or not. I have tried to
    wipe those movies out of memory. When my daughter was doing a
    report on the 6 wives of Heny VIII, I made sure she researched
    everything twice for verification due to so many peoples personal
    views verses facts.

  76. I hesitated to write this response and even deleted it before posting a few days ago, but I was taught that to allow ignorance to stand out of fear of being remonstrated for speaking up is something we should all fight against.

    Steff, please don’t take this as anything personal because I’m sure you’re a nice person and I do think it’s great that you’re interested enough in the Tudors to be on the website… but quite a lot of what you say in your post is wrong. Incest and rape did not occur frequently – undoubtedly it did more than today because of the lack of law enforcers in the form of a police force that we have today, but especially in the case of incest it would have been minimal occurrence. The overwhelming majority of people were religious, and whether it was Catholic or Protestant or other, piety was extremely important, and incest was considered a grave sin (think for example of Henry VIII who tried to get a papal dispensation to marry Anne because he’d previously been involved with her sister, today we wouldn’t consider that to be incest but back then even tenuous connections like that could be counted as incest). You might think that maybe Anne was one of those people who wasn’t particularly religious, but even people who aren’t religious wouldn’t think it was normal or acceptable to commit incest, and actually Anne was a devoted and very pious Protestant.

    It’s obvious that homosexuality is older than history itself, but it was not commonplace in Tudor England. Don’t forget, even people with that orientation, not all of them would have acted on it as religion would have been teaching them that it was sinful, and as aforementioned the vast majority of people were very religious. And my apologies if this sounds harsh, but your statement “according to many pieces I’ve read on the time period” is a pretty empty statement. WHICH books? What are their names and who are they by? When were they published? What sources do they use and what evidence do they dismiss? You see, we can’t consult these “many pieces on the time period” without names, and the date matters because they might be outdated studies, and the sources they use are important because we don’t know what evidence these books have used and what evidence they’ve chosen to ignore, and fact of the matter is that in the academic world also if you give me an artefact I’ll give you 101 different interpretations and opinions from different scholars about what that artefact means or implies. And at the end of the day, one has to treat reading about history through books with caution as the information and interpretation is filtered through the conclusions that the author makes – you can’t beat going straight to the source and getting your hands on the unedited evidence. I didn’t want to disappoint anybody, but reading a few books on a period doesn’t make you a specialist on it; it actually takes years and decades of in-depth continuous study and making a profession out of it. So unless you’re a qualified historian who’s devoted a considerable effort to studying both the original material and all the varying interpretations and opinions on a period, I’m gonna trust the professional over the casual hobbyist who’s read a couple of books.

  77. TOBG was one of the reasons that make me researche more about the Tudors, mostly because when I finished the book, I just couldn’t believe that Anne was such a bitch, even without knowing about Tudor history. To me, Anne Boleyn was a very complex woman, which definately was no saint, but she wasn’s a heartless witch either. I found funny that many people calls her a wh*re, while the same time they say her refusal to be Henry’s mistress was just plotting, how can she be a wh*re if she refuse to have sex with him, till the very end. Was she plotting? In a way I think yes, maybe not in the begging but likely in the time of the king’s great matter, I do believe she say no at first due to virtue, and because she wanted something else for her life, not to end like her sister, and at first she probably believe the king would find some other women, but when the king keep insisting, welll part of me believe that she keep saying no because she realized she could assure herself a better ending than what she may have imagine, its hard for anyone not get what you can in an unexpected and lucky situation, like the one she found herself when the king fell in love with her, but that doesn’t make her a monster. Even if she married the king not for love, something we cannot know, love marriages were not the rule back then, and when the king propose how could she have not accepted? After all she was claiming her virtue was for her husband, what exucse could she have use to turn him down after that? To me what PG does is just going with the easy exit with a character she can’t actually write in all its complexity,sorry but to me is a lack of her skills in writing the result we get in TOBG, I love to write and I would be awsome to explore a character such as Anne Boleyn, with all her good and bad traits. Instead PG goes to the extremes describing Mary as such a good girl and Anne as a total bitch. I was a radical surprise to me to find out the reputation mary had after finishing the book, i was like: “Can’t believe she dare to do that”. That’s why I prefer the Tudors, as innacurate as they might be, I think their characters, are slightly closer to reality.
    Sorry for my possible grammar mistakes, I’m from latinamerica and still iimproving my english. And also…thanks for creating this site, I loved it!

  78. I agree with Anya! Even though you say you don’t speak English very well, I understood you perfectly and I though you made some really good points. I also think that Philippa Gregory takes her characters to extremes too much, when in reality people are much more complex than that. I think she does that half because she can’t write subtle characters very well, and the other half of the reason is because she lets her own favourites get into her work – so whoever she really likes from history she makes the heroine in her books and makes them a really good person and she leaves out all the things they did that weren’t so nice, and whoever she really dislikes she turns into an evil bitch and leaves out all the good things they did. A real historian will try hard not to do this (though sometimes it still happens because we’re all only human!) because in factual books and academic papers you’ve got to make sure that you don’t let your bias creep in to your conclusions.

  79. I love this site and thank baby jesus i stumbled across it looking for more information on George Boleyn. I fell in love with Anne Boleyn and the tudors when i as 11 and i firmly believe to this day and cannot be dissuaded from the belief the trial was a gross miscarriage of justice! Anyhoo back to TOBG! I hate that film with a raw passion which has lead me to vow to burn that book if its ever presented to me! Mary a saint? I almost fell off my sofa in shock! It really upsets me that PG won’t just accept and admit her book is pure fiction based on theories that have been disproved! I have read many historical fiction books my particular favorite being Jean Plaidy but TOBG took it to far for me, it was just gross! I will never read one of her books! EVER! She wouldn’t know historical fact if Eric Ives’ book (a beloved crimbo presnt) hit her on the head!
    As you can see i really am disgusted by this so called historian!

    1. 😀 You have Eric Ives’ work too? Seminal piece, isn’t it? Now there’s a true expert on the Tudor period. I actually think that Mary Boleyn must have been so interesting… but the REAL Mary Boleyn, not TOBG’s simpering saintly version, the real Mary who was the mistress of the king of France and got recalled back home in disgrace.

      Did you know that in her latest books on the Wars of the Roses period, if you look on the inside jacket of the book where they do the little author profile thing, it actually now reads “Philippa Gregory was an established historian in the Tudor period before she wrote the best-selling The Other Boleyn Girl”? How many times must it be reiterated: Philippa Gregory is NOT an historian! Her PhD was in Eighteenth Century Literature, not History. As if rewriting and spreading misinformation about history long-past wasn’t bad enough, she’s now retroactively altering her own personal history!

  80. I have stated more than once that it is not necessary to make up events when writing about the Tudor era. It is complex and interesting enough without fictionalized accounts of events that never happened. I believe an author of historical novels have a duty to respect the known facts and within rthe paramenters of known facts can add fictionalize dialog that might be a reasonable version of what actually took place. Example: When Anne confronted Henry while holding Elizabeth just days before her arrest, an eyewitness wrote that he appeared to be angry while Anne appeared to be pleading with him. The witness could not hear what was being said and later reported to Queen Elizabeth it was a scene he would never forget as she was but a “babe” in the arms of her mother. Whatever was said between Henry and Anne can be imagined in dozens of ways and would make an interesting read. A perfect example of taking a known fact and based on fact, make a reasonable assumption of what took place. I have always thought Anne had tried to plead with Henry to find out what was going on and why she was being ignored by him. She might have also pleaded with him to patch their damanged relationship for the sake of Elizabeth and give her another chance to give him a son. Anne was probably beginning to realize that events were happening around her that she had no control over and was desparate to find out what Henry was planning; she also probably felt out of control of her emotions and wanted assurance that he still had feelings for her. Just this particular event could be written in so many interesting ways and still be based on the eyewitness account. And this is how fictionalized historical novels should be written, speculation based on known fact. And at no time should the author of fictionalized historical novels announce it is the truth. History was not written in detail. Many people wrote letters, journals,and reports but they did not write down each word spoken very often. Even the execution speeches differ from one report to another. I have kept a journal for many years; I do not write complete conversations in detail; rather I write about the topic of conversation, who was involved in the conversation, and only use an exact quote when I feel it is important enough to write it down word for word.

    So I hope that PG and other authors of historical novels will take this to heart and realize that within these parameters, they can write amazing novels that are based on known fact and give the reader things to contemplate by trying to figure out what might have happened within the context of known facts.

    Ummmm. Maybe I should just write a book using this prinicipal and see if I can knock PG off the NY Times Best Seller lists!!!!! Maybe a story about Henry’s court as seen through the eyes of a cleaning maid or the son or daughter of a council member or lady in waiting. Someone no one would normally even notice and so they were able to witness events and hear conversatons because the nobility did not even consider their presence worth worrying about.

    Sorry this is so long. I am in bed with 5 herniated disks, taking pain meds, and trying to keep my mind off the fact that in less than a week a surgeon will but into my back and fiddle around with my spine. I can only give thanks that I am not living in Tudor England with this problem!!!! The doctors back then would not have had any clue as to what to do for this!!!

  81. What I think is the most funny thing about ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ is the fact that it was what got me into King Henry the 8th! See, I’m seventeen(almost eighteen) and in history class there was a small paragraph about King Henry the 8th and that was it. So when I heard about the fact that he was the first king to kill his wives, I was intrigued. Ironically it was around the time when the movie was being casted and started filming so I wanted to finish the book before the movie came out so I could compare, which I like to do. So I thought that the book was decent(at the time) and I was very much intrigued by Anne. Just because of the power and confidence she had after coming back from France. Natalie Portman’s monologue about great men is my favourite part in the movie and I have done that speech several times when I needed to for class. (I will continue this when I can, gotta go)

  82. (Opps, sorry I had to break in my rant…) Back to what I was saying. Oh after reading that book and seeing the movie I really wanted the necklace. So I started searching the internet and that is how I found this website and have been visiting all the time now. Once I started reading the articles I noticed how wrong Mrs. Gregory was. I have yet to read ‘The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn’ or any other books recommended but I will very soon. I just think it is ironic how the book started my “obsession” and now I just bought the movie after not watching it for about a year and being sadly disappointed. I still love the intensity in Anne Boleyn played by Natalie Portman but other than it was just awful. Also I am suppose to do my senior paper on The Other Boleyn Girl but I might change that if I get the opportunity to. My teacher might not let me but I am hoping so.

  83. I am personally on the side that Anne Boleyn was a very misunderstood and is a very misrepresented woman. I think that since in that time period women were perceived as meek and bended to the will of their masters (fathers, husbands, etc), a strong-willed woman (a quality that gave her daughter Elizabeth I the ability to bring england into the golden age) was something to criticize and turn into a problem. Hence: people coming up with all sorts of rediculous rumors: adultery, witchcraft, etc, etc.
    I think she was a beautiful, intelligent, strong, (sometimes too fiery with her temper lol) woman. Never a murderess, never a harlot, never a witch.
    I have a great respect and adoration for the Tudors, every one of Henry’s wives and his children and all the great people of that era. But I do have to say, the adultery rumer…thats up in the air, something we can never prove nor completely discourage. No disrespect, everone can argue that she never committed adultery as much as they’d like, but technically unless you were there, you dont really know. I beleive she was subject to Henry’s advances, and that honorably she turned him down as mistress. But do remember that Katherine of Aragon was STILL alive when Anne and Henry married, in secret, and without Papal decree stating that Katherine and Henry’s marriage was null and void. In fact the Pope decreed that Katherine and Henry’s marriage was legal and binding. Katherine of Aragon was imprisoned in less that suitable conditions for years while Henry worked to get his legal marriage nullified based on a thin excuse that he wasnt supposed to marry his brother’s widow.
    Henry worked for if im not mistaken, 7 years to get the Pope to declare his marriage to Katherine deemed invalid so that he could marry Anne. I’m sorry, but no matter how amazing Anne was, how do you marry a man, that would get rid of his first wife in that manner? She KNEW Henry was trying to invalidate his marriage to Katherine. The whole country knew. Consider the facts that when Anne was at court, she may have not actually let Henry into her bed, but she accepted his favors, his presents, his bestowing the title of Marquess of Pembroke on her, (obvious signs of special attention, singling her out among women) when he was still a married man. Maybe not a homewrecker, but if she was trying to keep her honor, she could have turned down Henry’s attention a bit more. (I’m sure as a girl, it was flattering and any woman in that time would have killed for her position. But in accepting small favors like that, its like she was contradicting herself a bit) So she may not have been technically an adulteress, but she wasnt a saint. And I may be going out on a limb, but since the Pope never invalidated Henry and Katherine’s marriage, (Henry declared himself Head of the Church in England to serve his own marriage to Anne purposes), then technically he was still married to Katherine, and his marriage to Anne wasnt legal till Katherine died.
    I can honestly say me and my mom are HUGE Elizabeth I lovers. I think she was God’s greatest gift to the English monarchy. But if Henry’s marriage to Anne wasnt legal by those standards, then technically (please dont kill me lol) Elizabeth was born out of legal wedlock.
    The point about Henry and Katherine’s marriage being legal and valid, and that being just a thin excuse for Henry to get himself a new wife so he could try to produce an heir, is proven in the simple fact that Henry and Anne got married in SECRET. I still dont think she had any big fault in this. I hold in the opinion that she loved him, which is why she went along with it, and that she held out as long as she could and tried to keep her honor and dignity.
    I think that mostly the big hate of her was fed off of Katherine of Aragon supporters. (Which had every right to be angry, but not at Anne, they should have directed it at Henry,….but then again, like I said before. Anne wasn’t blind. She knew what Henry was trying to do.) I cant completely condemn Henry in that either though. In that time period, monarchs needed heirs. SImple as that. And since he didnt have a male heir, he would do anything to have one. Which makes sense, but still. He didnt have to be quite such a brute about it. If he was done with Anne, why not give her a nice little pension and a house and divorce her and marry Jane Seymore. No need to kill her and ruin her reputation with false accusations Henry….
    I’m torn. Cause in a way its amazing and touching and a bit endearing when you think of how badly Henry fought to be with Anne, this incredible woman. But then you think of how he killed her off for his desperate need for an heir and then I’m kind of like….WOW Henry.
    Last point: Anne gave birth to Elizabeth just a year after being given the title of Marquess of Pembroke. They’d had a secret wedding, but in the eyes of the world, Henry was still married to Katherine of Aragon. Draw your own conclusions. Adulteress or not?
    I dont like the word adulteress where it concerns Anne Boleyn. Too harsh a word. But definetely not a saint. Keep in mind people, though alot of stuff is fabricated for historical fiction, there are two sides to every story. And there is alot we’ll never know because WE WERENT THEREEEEEEE.
    I’m torn and that way I’ll stay. I wont beleive EVERYTHING i read, especially not the psycho crap that Philippa Gregory writes, but I wont rule out either, that that time period was a complicated mess that we’ll never really know all the exact details of because the story has been twisted so much from all the versions there are of it.
    SERIOUSLY THOUGH i dont agree with philippa gregory coming up with gross stuff like incest between anne and george or the witchcraft thing, or anne having george’s baby, or making mary out to be the virgin mary when she was the true harlot. But like somebody posted before, sometimes its nice to sit back and imagine ourselves what things really might have been like, what words were actually said, what the romances were really like. because we’ll never really know.

  84. Thank you so much for posting this! I agree with you that fictional portrayals of history – movies, novels, television shows, etc – are good if they encourage people to learn more about the actual events; but in cases like this, where even the most basic facts are so distorted and changed to fit the author’s agenda…well, the book probably should come with a disclaimer! What especially rankled me was how Gregory claimed, in the Q&A at the back of the book, that everything in her book was based on fact except for the thoughts and emotions of characters. Acting as though she was writing about what really (or most likely) happened with only a few dramatic embellishments is irresponsible to her readers. I think her book has probably helped to revive the ‘Monster Legend’ of Anne Boleyn that dear old Nicholas Sanders started so many years ago!

  85. Whoa at the PG hating.
    She actually had no control over the film….she was a consultant and said herself they would call her and say Miss Gregory what do you think of this and she would say her piece and then they would still go off and do what they were going to do in the first place.
    Having met Philippa herself and yes spoken about TOBG ( and she knows of her inaccuracies cos I pointed them out to her) she quite simply said that she does not ‘hate’ Anne Boleyn, she actually quite admires her and Anne’s portrayal in TOBG was written with how Anne was viewed by people when she herself was alive, and lets face it, she was hated and suspected of many a very mean thing. Incest, witchcraft and so on, yep they believed Anne was getting up to it.
    The fact it, hate TOBG or not, (and I don’t-I know its inaccurate but it s a very good story regardless) it gave Anne Boleyn a massive boost of interest and made people interested in learning about the real Anne. I don’t doubt before that they could have written what they knew about her on the back of a postage stamp and still had room left over.
    I wouldnt want to be a historical novelist. You can’t do right for doing wrong.

    1. I don’t hate Philippa Gregory, Sass, and I was not writing about the film, apart from at the end of this article, I am talking about the novel which Philippa Gregory does have to take responsibility for. Philippa Gregory blatantly says that her work is based on fact and that “Anne was clearly guilty of one murder”, that is what I protest to. I love historical fiction when it is presented as fiction or when the author explains in the notes which bits are historical and which are fictional, but I find that Philippa Gregory novels are very misleading in that she calls herself an historian and presents them as a retelling of history rather than as fiction.

      1. I didnt mean you specifically hate PG Claire, I was just generalising.

        PG does actually have a degree, cant remember in what however. I didnt defend the inaccuracies, she knows about them. I think the “clearly guilty of one murder” comment has been taken out of context, perhaps to PG Anne Boleyn was clearly guilty of one murder. Thats her perception and shes entitled to it the same as everybody else is to theirs.
        I too prefer notes detailing departures from history 😀 and perhaps it would be better if PG added them. However, thats her choice. Some do, some don’t. (I think I enjoy those notes more than the actual novel sometimes lol) but more importantly, if somebody reads TOBG and thinks wow, ok I want to learn more about this person/these people then thats great and if someone reads TOBG and takes it all for gospel then uses it as fact, well, they should do their homework.PG’s job is that of a storyteller rather than teacher. She entertains, not educates and I think people should keep that in mind for ANY historical fiction novelist. I have been PG’s fiercest critic for innaccuracy, something she is very aware of and she says it does matter to her. (I did apologise for being so mean and sarcastic about her work face to face because shes very nice and not at all stuck up like some writer/historians)

        About the film….I think everyone can agree that it was just God awful and I myself came out of the cinema saying something along the lines of what.the.hell.was.that?

  86. George Boleyn was in fact a bi-sexual if not straight out gay. It is fact in his last words. Please search for them and you will see that he was indeed gay and his lover “Francis” was indeed executed with him. George cried for the loss of his true love. I have searched for the facts of this book and that was one fact that continued to come up over and over again.

    1. Hi Lori,
      Thanks for your comment but I have to disagree. I have researched George Boleyn in detail and there is absolutely no evidence that he was bisexual or gay or that he and Francis Weston were anything but friends. In George Cavendish’s “Metrical Visions”, Cavendish makes George out to be quite a ladies’ man and flirt, not bi-sexual or gay, and those who use Metrical Visions and George’s execution speech are twisting George’s words to fit their theory. Here is a quote from Louise, a regular commenter re Metrical Visions and she explains it so much better than me:-
      “I agree with you that there is no evidence to suggest George was bisexual or indulged in any kind of sexual deviancy. Both Warnicke and Weir are very selective in their use of Metrical Visions when it comes to their theories regarding George. For anyone interested, Metrical Visions is available on the internet as a scanned document on Google book search. Cavendish’s terminology such as ‘bestial’ and ‘unlawful lechery’ are used frequently in his work to suggest any behaviour he considers inappropriate, such as adultery. These cannot be taken to mean buggery, because that was not Cavendish’s sixteenth century intention for these words. He even talks of Henry’s unlawful lechery on page 94, and presumably he wasn’t suggesting Henry indulged in same sex relationships!”
      As for George’s execution speech, there are a few different versions of it but even if we go for the one in Metrical visions it certainly is not evidence of homo- or bi-sexuality:-
      “Alas, to declare my life in every effect,
      Shame restraynth me the playnes to confess,
      Lest the abhomynation wold all the world enfect:
      Yt is so vile, so detestable in words to expresse,
      For which by the lawe condempned I am doughtlease,
      And for my desert, justly judged to be deade”

      George is simply following the usual scaffold protocol/choreography. He confesses that he has led a sinful life, as everyone has, that he had been judged by the law and condemned to die and that he deserves death, as do all sinners. He is not confessing to anything other than being a sinner and I think it is very wrong to read too much into his words. He was a man preaching to the crowd, using his last moments to speak “the language of Zion” and to urge the crowd not to make his mistakes and to follow the truth.
      We have to remember that George was very religious, an evangelical, and so would have believed that homosexuality or any deviance from the 16th century “norm” was a huge sin, it was also illegal and we have to remember that these men were not charged with or tried for sodomy or any sexual sin apart from adultery with the Queen, or incest in George’s case. There were no rumours at the time of George being gay or having an inappropriate relationship with Francis Weston, or another man. So, it is far from being a fact, it is a theory and I don’t believe there is evidence to back it up.

  87. To be honest, I think the film is nowhere near as bad as the novel – not surprisingly. The film, in my opinion, portrayed Anne as more vulnerable despite her spitefulness – and I love Natalie Portman, I think she’s a great actress who actually did a good job portraying Anne. It was Johansson’s pathetic portrayal of Mary which irritated me the most.

    I think the worst part of the book is the complete absence of Anne Boleyn’s religious faith, and how SHE actually contributed to the English Reformation. There is no mention, whatsoever, of her reformed views, her books, her contributions to Protestant bishops’ rise to the top – and there were no fewer than 10 in her time – as Alison Weir states, no one was burned as a heretic during Anne Boleyn’s queenship. Anne was devoted to religion, and I think it’s a real shame this was missed out, as religion was a vital aspect of sixteenth century life and was particularly important in this remarkable woman’s.

    It seemed to me – and it still does – that Gregory was determined, at all costs, to portray Anne as evil, corrupt, nasty, spiteful, a homewrecker, a witch, etc etc, and Mary as innocent and almost a victim. AND, what I despise most, is the fact that the sisters were not close in real life. Now I eagerly await Weir’s book on Mary Boleyn, published this autumn, but having corresponded with her, it is clear that Mary and Anne Boleyn were NOT close.

    They were not rivals, they may have been friends, but having been separated at childhood at the ages of about 14 and 13 respectively in foreign courts, to Mary’s banishment in 1534, it seems to me – tragically – that the sisters were, not strangers, but were not close. They certainly did not have the strong bond that Anne and George had. There’s another simple part I loathe – Gregory’s order of their births. It seems clear to me that Mary was born in 1499, Anne in 1500-1, and George no later than 1504.

    And it is really horrible, actually, to turn an innocent yet intense relationship that Anne and George had into something incestuous and evil. How could she? They were both clearly intelligent, artful, intense, insightful people, who enjoyed a remarkable relationship, but to portray it as incestuous and sexual is very low in my opinion. It ridicules and shames them both.

    Also, what is it with the Howards’ being involved?! You touched on this Clare, but it is clear from contemporary sources that Norfolk hated Anne, he referred to her as a wh*re, he seemed jealous of her, their religions were different, etc etc. So why does Gregory portray them as allies, working together for the benefit of the Howards? Has she got Anne mixed up with Katherine Howard, or something?

    As you say, it is fiction. And I agree with Sass partly.

    I know you may all hate me for saying this, I do agree with people who say that Anne may well have been close to how she is portrayed in the novel. She may well have been spiteful and vindictive to her family and friends, she could have committed adultery, she could have committed incest.

    It is a COULD.

    I don’t believe any of it for a second – I believe in basically all Clare has said. But it’s a possibility. However, the novel, it is entertaining, but not at all accurate, and is good reading, but should not be taken seriously. At all.

  88. I enjoy historical fiction. It makes for entertainment, which is what they are.

    I don’t think historical authors should be bashed for it. (Not implying the author of the post is, just saying as a general statement ) If people are not interested in it, why read it?

    Some authors must skew the facts, because the truth is boring. If I want to read a history book, I will. I turn to historical authors for pure entertainment purposes. If some rely on this for accuracy, well, that’s their problem, but I don’t think these authors should have to take flack for something that is clearly stated is fiction.

    For example, “the other boleyn girl” is clearly written as story. Nobody, should even ask about accuracy. It’s pretty obvious it isn’t.

  89. Philippa Gregory’s book the other boleyn girl was a great read for me and thats what ignited my love for the tudors, i never knew before then about them and the facts and falses didnt mean anything to me until i looked them up 🙂

  90. Hi guys,

    I am myself a person drawn to research facts as a result of being intrigued by Philipa Gregory’s novels. I have to say It’s clear from your responses that intentional or not, factual or not….Anne Boleyn has become an unquestionable Feminist figure, and has inspired a great many succesful people, with the lies about her as much as the truth and we shouldn’t forget this.

    But I do feel on reading these responses that too many people take the injustice of fabrications against her name to heart. We are talking of a time riddled with corruption and fear, a time when many documents were destroyed without a second thought, and there is no way any of us can know what is true fact and true fiction. To be anything other than what the monarch of the time proclaimed you should be was a dangerous thing, any evidence of this would have been destroyed with no trace, be it proof of soddemy, incest, and depending on the year, catholic or Protestant. Any proof of these things would have been cast from your home and never mentioned again. And in the meantime just like now, I’m sure there were enough corrupt men in court to falsify documents and make things seems far more simple than true events.

    None of us, no matter the research we have done can say what kind of person she truly was, because she lived in a time when everyone kept their true thoughts at court to themselves. I personally think PG’s books are wonderful and capture your imagination in just the right way to you wanting all you can find about this intriguing time in our history. Who knows what relics might be found from this time in the future, and what new facts they may unfold? And in the meantime, I think we’d be better off agreeing that truth or fiction, her name was immortal for a lifetime in a corrupt court long before PG was old enough to put pen to paper. And that maybe it should be gossip and folk lore that is to blame for the story’s told about AB that seem to have no base in fact. But again who are we to cast that to one side? Gossip was once the fastest way for news to travel through villages…story’s of old passed down generation to generation in a population mostly illiterate. Isn’t that, the hidden mysteries of the time, what makes it all so enthralling…

  91. I have just discovered this site and am absolutley thirlled with the views published. I have been interested in Anne Boleyn for a long time now and am always trying to sort fact from fction.
    I too have read the other boleyn girl and was so dissapointed by the way that Anne was portrayed.
    She was of course no saint but she was most certainly not as evil as she is made out to be in this book.
    I will be a regular visitor to this site now.
    Its nice to find like minded people.

  92. I think the perception of history in modern media culture is fascinating. TOBG and The Tudors are prime examples of how history is twisted into sensationalism.
    I think historical novels are interesting and fun to read (it’s acutally how I got interested into the Tudor period), however, I think what is forgotten is that these are real people that we’re dissecting and reading and writing about. They lived and breathed and felt, they were human and weren’t perfect. They weren’t angels but they weren’t devils either.
    We risk over-glorifying Anne Boleyn and Queen Elizabeth but at the same time we also risk demonizing Mary I and Thomas Boleyn. That’s where I’m insulted but historical fiction. The inaccuracies aren’t necessarily the problem (God knows that there are enough lies about living celebrities) it’s the way that people take this inaccuracies and mold them to shape what they want people to be.
    I’ve neither read nor seen TOBG but from the comments I’m reading and the article I assumed this is what happened. PG took her liberties (which is her right) but didn’t use them to condense the plot or to make Tudor politics more lucid to the modern reader. She specifically rewrote history to change people’s characters. And then said that this was an accurate portrayal of the Boleyn family despite the obvious inconsistencies.
    Am I right?

  93. I love the Tudor period. Before reading TOBG I had read works by David Starsky and Alison Weir, so when I picked up the Other Boleyn girl it was for a light hearted read. As a Tudor lover I really liked the book, yes there were huge departures from history, The character of Anne was I think misrepresented but I still found it an interesting read. What I don’t like is what others have said, that it has lead a lot of people to think that the image of Anne in TOBG is an accurate one, but if you read the Boleyn Inheritance PG does go back on most of the things she says in TOBG.

  94. Claire, this is a fantastic post. Even though TOBG is what initially got me interested in Tudor history, upon further research I realized just how inaccurate it really is. I read the book years ago, so I don’t remember it as well as the movie, but one thing that stuck out to me (and INFURIATED me) was that right at the beginning, Anne said to Mary – “Younger than me, more beautiful than me, married before me…” – YOUNGER than Anne?! Anyone who’s researched Anne Boleyn AT ALL knows that Anne was the youngest Boleyn sibling. That one fact alone messed me up for years – I would always have to think twice about who was actually older, because I learned the WRONG way first! I don’t remember if they said the same thing in the book, but that was a complete disservice to viewers of TOBG. For me, I think fiction is a fun way to be introduced to parts of history – it’s creative and enjoyable, and it can make people WANT to pick up nonfiction books and really delve into the history. However, in this case (and really in the case of the ENTIRE movie/book), I think it only served to confuse people. I have friends now who know of my love for the Tudors and they say, “Oh, I know what you mean! I LOVED ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’!” …it makes me cringe! No disrespect to Philippa Gregory – I admire her writing style and I do enjoy her books, but ONLY because I have a passion for learning the truth about the stories she writes about.

  95. Obviously The Other Boleyn girl is fiction, strongly biased toward Mary. However, I think your dissection also requires a pinch of salt, being equally biased toward Anne.

    I also find it actually dishonest that you present personal opinion as fact, as in your comments under the heading “Anne Boleyn and Her Sexual Stranglehold Over Henry”. Your entire refutation of this point is personal opinion. There is no evidence for, but equally none against and therefore your defence of Anne is entirely supposition.

    1. I actually say:
      “Fact: There is no evidence to support this theory. I personally believe that Henry was attracted to Anne and that she wanted to keep her virtue and not end up like her sister, an abandoned mistress with a bit of a reputation. There is no way that Anne Boleyn could have guessed that Henry would ever offer to make her his wife and queen when she refused to be his mistress, how could she? Henry could have had any woman that he wanted, I’m sure Anne thought he would just move on to the next.”

      I explain that there is no evidence to support this theory. Not even Chapuys, who called Anne “the Concubine” and “the putain” (wh*re), referred to Anne having any type of sexual hold on Henry or manipulating him with her sexuality. I then go on to say “I personally believe”, showing that I am sharing my own personal opinion, so I’m very clear. I do not present my opinion as fact and I don’t feel I’m being dishonest. I always cite my sources when writing about Anne Boleyn and I make use of contemporary sources.

  96. This is good to know, although it doesn’t surprise me. I agree that Ms. Gregory is rather harsh in her depiction of Anne. And it does seem wrong that she would gloss over the speculation in her novel and imply that it is truer that it is.

    However, I also believe that just because there is no evidence of something historical, does not mean it shouldn’t be speculated upon. The atmosphere of intrigue at court, though there is no evidence for it, seems pretty likely to have some basis in truth. That kind of social climbing happens to this day. And I’m sure that homosexual behavior happened often in those days just as it does now. The lack of a record about it could largely be a result of denial, much as homosexuality in celebrities was ignored in the early 20th century. To gossip about it was to give it legitimacy. And many people were in denial that it even existed.

  97. Just to bring more of a balanced view on the subject, I am thankful for Gregory’s novel. As a young child I loved Tudor History and as a younger adolescent was struggling to find material. Some other novels of that period were difficult to get into and the language of a biography was still too sophisticated for me. So I began with Gregory’s novels to get back into the era and even though books by Starkey, Ives and more are well-thumbed, The Other Boleyn Girl is just as reread and reread.

    I don’t agree with everything that Philippa says in her books, but I love her writing style and as her book is found in the fiction section because it is fiction, I have no problem with it. I confess, that as I hold the book here in my hands I see no mention of her being a Tudor Historian, which some insist that she claims to be. She holds a PHD in eighteenth-century literature and in that respect she could be classed as a Historian, but I don’t see anything that screams ‘I AM AN EXPERT TRUST ME IN THIS!!’

    In her Author’s Note she says: ‘I am indebted to Retha M. Warnicke, whose book The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn has been a most helpful source. I have followed Warnicke’s original and provocative thesis that the homosexual ring around Anne, including her brother George, and her last miscarriage created a climate in which the King could accuse her of witchcraft and perverse sexual practises’. She then goes on to list the other works that she has followed. Personally, I read it as she is simply supporting an opinion. She is not saying it is true, she just has the balls to push the limits and to explore this theory in fiction.

    I think some people on here have been very upset by how Anne Boleyn was portrayed in the book. I adore Anne Boleyn, truly I do, and I don’t know if it is because I am weird but I like the portrayal of her in the novel. I like the passion that she gives and Gregory has made her into an phenomenal character. Maybe not 100% accurate, but personally I and many others (quite a few of whom are still Anne Boleyn fans) enjoyed it.

    At the end of the day, no one knows the truth about what happened then. We can all cite our sources until we are blue in the face, but Anne’s autobiography is yet to be discovered – and even then, as all us humans do, it is bound to be slightly biased.

    Anne is a controversial figure. And I find it exciting to see all of the different opinions about her life. There are MANY things written about her that I don’t agree with, but I respect the persons right to have an opinion to say those things. To have the balls to question something.

    I’m not having an attack here, even though it prolly looks like it, I just wanted support Gregory a bit more from what seems to be turning into a bitchy tirade. First and foremost she’s an author. She needs to sell books.

    In terms of the film, I have only seen the first five minutes of the 2003 one before turning it off because I was bored. The 2008 one I was so excited to see, I played and replayed the trailer again and again, only to find that the trailer was far better than the film. While I continue to respect the rights to opinion there were significant errors (a.k.a Anne being sent to France AFTER the Henry Percy scandal, and Mary casually raising Elizabeth) and the whole production was just a lavish ‘lets make Natalie and Scarlett look hot’ thing.

    I look forward to reading more of your articles; and I do appreciate that it must be annoying getting emails from people who take The Other Boleyn Girl as fact, but I don’t think that all of the blame can be laid on Gregory’s door.


  98. Just watched the film on BBC2 and first (Loud Scream) where on earth did Philippa Gregory or the film makers think Henry VIII and Anne lived? It looks as if they have taken some huge gloomy castle like Rochester and filmed completely in the dark!

    Henry’s court was colourful and gay and the palaces were luxourous and looked like great places to live. I am sure they were also drafty but the Tudors had dozens of fires and the place was ablaze with them. The entire set looked gloomy and grey and like one huge stone tomb!

    Now for another loud scream! I am sorry but I did not realize that Hever Castle was also in the middle of a swamp! The entire set had mist all around the inside and the outside of the house all save one scene, when Henry came to dinner!

    Back to the actual story itself. The film has some great actors and some good moments because of thar, but it takes liberties with the liberties and Anne and Mary are really portrayed as if they are a pair of she cats fighting all the time and getting one over on the other one. Anne is the mean sister: Mary the demure and nursing sister and then they are both just out to outdo the other. But I really did feel that the rape scene is too far. It is not the first time Anne has been shown being raped by Henry and I am not so sure that this has any basis in fact at all.

    I know you should take the Philippa Gregory theory as a piece of fiction and as a novel it is just that a great piece of fiction with a theory that a desperate Anne approached her brother and sister to help her to get pregnant and pass of the child as the King’s. At the end you realise that she actually does not go through with it, but the implication is there and you have to guess. I know it is only a theory meant for a piece of fiction, but recently Gregory was on TV being shown as an authority and this makes people think that her books are factual. If novelists were hailed as fiction writers in the credits then it would be easier to see that they are only giving an opinion and are not historians or experts.

    The novel is much better than the film and the mini series is much better written and gives a truer picture. The theory is very controversial and as you say George and Anne may have been found guilty of incest, but there was no evidence to support this or the other accusations against Anne Boleyn.

    Finally, to anyone doing a remake: better, brighter sets! Please (loud scream)

  99. It`s the first time I saw someone that has a critical vision of this book/movie. Sincerely I don`t like Phillipa`s books, and I am tired of people who thinks knows everything about Boleyn`s family after read or watch The other Boleyn Girl. I really enjoyed your site.

  100. I must say, my cookery book shows Anne and her story in a more historically accurate way than PG.

  101. I feel really relieved that i haven’t read the book. I watched a few clips of TOBG and read a few comments on Youtube. I wanted to throw my phone at the wall, hunt the commenters down, give them a shake and slap them across the face while screaming about the inaccuraccies in the movie. There were REALLY baised comments, based purely the movie. One person was trying to say that Anne was jealous of her younger sister (when really Mary was probably the oldest)and so tried to pioson her (WHAT???!!). The scene where Mary begs the King to release her sister and the duke of Norfolk (?) says that the only one who could change the King’s mind was Mary. I hate how it is over-romantised history and it really ticked me off. It portrayed Mary as the Angel Gabrielle. The only person who could prevent Anne’s Death was Henry himself, by the time of Anne’s execution Mary was nothing but a cast aside mistress who had married a man way beneath her station. I get its only fiction but i absolutely hate it when people take a fictional history novel as hard solid fact.

    BTW, wouldn’t Anne have been the Other Boleyn Girl at the beginning of the movie? She was the unmarried younger sister of Mary Boleyn, who was married to William Carey, cousin to the Kings. Mary would have been placed higher up during the early 20s, not Anne. So if anyone is the other Boleyn Girl (at the begining) it would have been Anne.

    I’ve just finished my rant!!


  102. After reading all the fact and fiction of The Other Boleyn Girl, it made me think of the tv series, The Tudors. It seems to be much more factual and in line with what really happened, although, of course, I’m sure there are still many fictitious parts to the series.

  103. agree wih this entirely. have been uncomfortable with Phillipa Gregory’s telling of the stories. In fact I have all her Tudor novels; thought I was going to have a good read but stopped after the 3rd because of the serious bent. Should be advertised as ‘wildly ficticious”

  104. Yes Jessica!!

    It’s because of attacks like these on anyone who has a different opinion that I decided to stop going on this website.

    1. The fact is that these people also don’t know the real truth about Anne, nobody does or can. I just find it ridiculous that a nasty debate would come from this. Philippa states her book as fiction and she is infant a historian. Websites like this have too much opinion, they’re trying to display Anne Boleyn as a perfect character and in doing so they’re messing with the actual truth.

      1. Just to interrupt, as this is my website, if you read my posts I do not display Anne as perfect at all and I don’t encourage “nasty debate”. I point out the inaccuracies of a book that is taken by many people as factual because Gregory is seen to be an historian, when she isn’t (her doctorate is in English literature), and her author’s notes state that Anne was a murderer. My research is based on the primary sources and that’s what I share on here.

      2. I found Gregory’s notes regarding the incest allegation very odd.
        “I think if she had thought that Henry could not bear a son she was quite capable of finding someone to father a child on her. If she thought that, then George would have been the obvious choice.”
        As someone who encountered fertility issues due to problems with my partner’s sperm count, I found it offensive that Gregory thought it was natural for a woman to turn to her brother for help getting pregnant. WTF!
        I agree with Claire that that idea would never have crossed the mind of Anne, or anyone woman of her day who held strong religious beliefs. This was a society that was religious and also highly superstitious. Incest would have been a big no no.
        Incest does seem to be a recurrent theme in her books too.

    2. And yet you’re here! Welcome back.

      I don’t attack people that have different opinions and I actually actively encourage debate. This site is used regularly by people who have very different opinions and we enjoy discussing them. No attacks here, just debate.

  105. Just flicked through all my Gregory books – you must have a super rare addition if it says that she knows all the facts.

    And I get the pointing out the differences between fact and fiction, I do it the same – but clare you do it in an incredibly unpleasant way which is why gradually more and more of your at first loyal readers are beginning to boycott the site and go for others that are more forgiving.

    1. You just have to flick to the back to the author’s note section and the Q&A section. There you will find comments like Anne was “not a woman to let something like sin or crime stand in her way – she was guilty of one murder”. Perhaps they don’t appear in all editions, but they’re in my paperback.

      All I did in the above article was take a bit of the storyline of the book or movie and then debunk it by looking at what the primary sources tell us. I don’t understand why that’s being “incredibly unpleasant” or not “forgiving”. I did exactly the same with some of “The Tudors” storylines.

      I haven’t heard of anyone boycotting the site and I’m still receiving comments and emails from people who have been following the site for years. I would be sorry to lose anyone, but I will point out inaccuracies and challenge myths if they are misleading people and causing confusion. I never mean to come across as unpleasant and so am sorry to hear that you view me as so. I’ve made many friends through running this site and love the interaction I have with people here, it’s always polite and friendly.

      This article is also from 2010, so is over three years old, and I don’t believe that I’ve written another on The Other Boleyn Girl or Philippa Gregory.

    2. The author’s notes and interview are in my edition too, an ebook version, so it’s not rare.

      Claire, you can’t please everyone and you’re bound to upset some people if you disagree with them or point out inaccuracies in what they take as fact. I wouldn’t worry.

      1. I don’t want to upset people though, although I suppose you can’t control other people’s feelings.

        I think it’s important to differentiate between disagreeing with someone and a personal attack. I disagree with Gregory’s claims in the back of her book but she’s a lovely lady and I don’t have a problem with her personally. There are people who don’t agree with me and debate with me on the points I raise and unless it resorts to name calling then I don’t see that as a personal attack. History is all about debate and things can get heated because people are passionate about the subject, but I think generally people know the difference between debate and attacks.

  106. Well, I’m obviously in the minority here, because I loved THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL (the book) as a GREAT READ, people! I mean, it’s fiction, you know? Not a college thesis or a biography or a work by the great Alison Weir or Ruth Warnick! It’s an imaginative look at the relationship between two sisters in a an age in which women were manipulated by the men in their lives–

    The undercurrent of the book is that the love between Mary and Anne was warped by the pressures put upon both women–

    Certainly I can believe that Anne, desperate to produce the male heir that would ensure her continuance as Queen (if not the continuance of Henry’s love/lust/passion), would be horribly jealous of Mary’s fertility.

    And I can also believe that she would be jealous and angry that Mary was able to build a life for herself, marrying the man she loved and who loved her, unlike Anne and Henry Percy, who loved each other but were torn apart by others.

    As for the movie version of TOBG….it was horrible! And as I said to my daughter as we walked out of the theatre:

    “For a movie about Mary Boleyn, it was certainly a movie about Anne..”

    And I corrected my daughter’s impression that Mary took Elizabeth to raise her. Which to me was the absolute worse thing about the movie!!!!! And there was a lot of things wrong with that movie!, which is too bad, because there was a lot of promise there.

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  108. I didn’t have time to read everyone’s comments….I will definitely do that later. So sorry if I missed something or am repeating. But Philippa Gregory does write ‘FICTIONAL” books. She doesn’t claim them to be FACT. She usually explains that in the back of her books. She admits that she fills in the blanks to make a story. I think she is an enjoyable historical fiction author and I hope this article doesn’t shed a bad light on her.

    1. She helped introduce me to these wonderful historical people which made me want to read and learn more FACTUAL things about them.

  109. Thanks Claire! This was fantastic! I will admit something to you though… I am from Australia and was never lucky enough to learn English history at school, I WAS lucky enough to travel to England in 2009 and LOVED London. I knew a little of Henry VIII after the visit, but not alot. Then i watched ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ and for some reason this sparked ALOT of questions for me… this resulted in me becoming ever so slightly obsessed with Anne and last year on a holiday we spent some more time in London, and i visited Hampton Court Palace, Hever Castle and the Tower. Since then i have been utterly hooked, have watched all the Tudors (sparking more questions!) and have purchased Eric Ives book. I also spend alot of time reading your articles. So, thank you for all the work you do, its a world of fiction out there, and while fiction is good for reading, i am very thankful to know i can come to your website and read these types of articles. I think Anne will always play a part in my life now! She has sparked a love of history in me and i find her very inspiring and interesting!

  110. I have been visiting this site for about 3 years and I have yet to see an attack on someone. Disagreeing does not equate to an attack, and claiming so is a violation of our most basic right to have freedom of speech. In turn, freedom of speech does not include the smearing of a person’s name or image, PG has every right to believe what she will of the Boleyns, but publishing it without warning people that this is pure fiction and she just borrowed names and places is an entirely different story.

    I am very pleased with this site, as I am by no means an expert on Tudor history, and in my country certain books are hard to find (I had my sister bring me Eric Ives The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn from the US) and I do admit I started being curious about the subject due to The Tudors TV show, but this site has been very helpful in clearing out the many innacuracies the show gave us, and I have yet to see Anne Boleyn projected as a perfect woman. This site is giving me an image of Anne as a human with many traits and flaws, as we all have. Few times have I seen someone quote as many sources as she could find, and explain where the sources come from, as many sources are everything but objective. The work you put into every post is not something one might conjure out of their sleeve on a 15 minute coffee break.

    Cheers, and thank you for this wonderful site, keep up the good work.

  111. Good article! I think it’s frustrating for anyone who values factual research to see those facts disregarded. I write biographies. I spent six years researching my first book, and took great pains to do hundreds of interviews, getting all points of view, and verifying and re-verifying facts. Unfortunately, there was also a big Hollywood movie based on the same subject. The movie was so highly fictionalized that, in the end, the only thing that really couldn’t be disputed was the name of the main character. I subsequently had people challenge the facts in my book because it either wasn’t something they saw in the movie, or something they saw portrayed differently (usually falsely) in the movie. I even had people fault me for not including in my non-fiction biography people who were actually completely fictional characters added to the movie to further some devised plot. The fact of the matter is that whenever someone either writes or films a largely fictionalized account of the life of a real person, even if it’s labeled as fiction, many people will walk away thinking they’ve just seen a factual depiction of that person’s life. It’s terribly discouraging. (By the way, aren’t children wards of adults, not the other way around?)

      1. The first one was on Jim Morrison, of The Doors, and his wife, Pamela (so I’m referencing Oliver Stone’s horrible movie “The Doors”). The second book was on Barry Manilow.

        And, sorry, I had no idea when I commented on the article that it was several years old! Sorry I didn’t find it sooner!


  112. Thank you so much Claire for this article. I totally agree. I saw the movie first and thought they did an awful job with telling Anne’s story but then I thought: hey, it’s just the movie, maybe the book is better. So I got it and read it. I was so disappointed, even angry. Not only because I thought the author was claiming this was “History” but also because the style of writing was, in my opinion, designed to make you dislike Anne the evil b***h and her lover/brother George, and also pity poor, innocent Mary. Come on! There aren’t good guys and bad guys in historical novels like that! Maybe on a war novel but not in this one. Definitely left me with a bitter mood and never wanting to read anything by Philipa Gregory ever again. I know it is fiction but even with fiction you have to be cautious. So once again thank you Claire for clarifying this.

  113. I, like so many others, was introduced to Anne Boleyn & the Tudor era by reading TOBG. I liked the book a lot, but I hated the movie, left in angry tears, lol. I knew it was a fictional book, in fact, I enjoyed it so much that I then read The Constant Princess, The Queen’s Fool, The Virgin’s Lover, & The Boleyn Inheritance. Again, knowing that they are fiction. But because of those books, I felt the need to know Anne Boleyn, really know her, and I began researching her life….which is how I found this website! I was so excited!
    I did really hate the way Anne was portrayed in TOBG, she seemed so conniving & vindictive, and I felt the same way about how Elizabeth I was portrayed in The Queen’s Fool & The Virgin’s Lover. Again, scheming & weak, and I don’t believe that about either of them.
    My beef with P. Gregory is that she insists these are historical ‘facts’ instead of just admitting that they are historical fiction. Especially, since there are no records to support her story lines, or just vague rumors about what may have happened. There is no shame in writing historical fiction, just be honest about it up front.
    Thank you, Claire, so much for this wonderful site, I have learned so much about Anne, and other Tudor ‘players,’ and I love the way you present your information. I love This Day in Tudor History on Facebook, as well.

  114. This is a great article Claire, thank you so much.

    I did enjoy reading Philippa Gregory’s TOBG enormously although I knew it was heavily deviating from the known facts about the Boleyns.

    What I like about your article most is that you’ve commented on the glaring inaccuracies in the film. I am an actress and dancer and I actually had a part in this film and spent a day on set at Great Chalfield Manor in Wiltshire dancing in the wedding scene. I had the wonderful experience of holding hands with Jim Sturgess as he was the person next to me in the circle and of speaking to Natalie Portman as she was standing next to him on the other side. I enjoyed the film itself when it came out but what did annoy me was that when Mary married William Stafford it had not been made clear at any point in the film that her first husband, William Carey, had died of sweating sickness some years before. The person sitting next to me said he was highly confused as to how Mary could suddenly marry another man when surely she was already married? That is a mistake that the makers of this film really should not have made. Didn’t they realise that it would be construed as bigamy? I also think they should have followed the generally accepted view among historians that Anne was younger than Mary. Also it was a crying shame that they didn’t have George Boleyn reading out in Court “what, that the King is well nigh impotent?”. I still love the film and the leads gave brilliant performances in it but it annoyed me in the way that the film about Queen Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots made a long time ago did – it starred Glenda Jackson and Vanessa Redgrave and it had the two queens having a secret meeting, arriving on horseback. Again, a glaring historical inaccuracy as the two queens never actually met.

    1. How fun that you were in the movie! I remember when I watched the movie and saw that bit about Mary and William marrying and I said at the time, “Isn’t she already married?” It did seem like something that could have very easily been clarified in the movie.

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  116. I have tried to watch this film twice and have had to switch it off because it annoyed me so much with the multitude of inaccuracies
    I did read the book,it was not as bad as the film but still annoying

  117. i have read most of Philippa Gregory’s books and love them.
    To be fair, ‘the Other Boylene Girl’ is listed as a ‘ HISTORICAL NOVEL’ – NOVEL.
    Her books are fiction based on facts, I can’t see the problem.

    1. I don’t have a problem with historical novels at all, as I said above, but when a novelist states as fact in the accompanying notes that Anne Boleyn committed at least one murder then that is unfair and inappropriate, as well as misleading and inaccurate. Yes, write fiction, but don’t then claim that it’s true.

      1. Not that I wish to argue with you, as I love the page you have set up here!

        But in regards to Philippa Gregory stating Anne Boleyn committed at least one murder, I believe she is actually quoting a historian in regards to the attempted poisoning of Bishop Fisher (whom from your own research I assume you know she was accused of trying to murder) but again this is just a suggestion and I may be wrong.

        As for relying on historians as one of your main target area’s against Gregory, she references Weir, Starkey, and only adopts the homosexual attributes surrounding Anne on the basis that Warnicke’s “The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn” offered this as a different perspective.

        Hope this helps a little, keep up to good work!! I find your discussions really riveting!!

        1. P.s I also am aware that this is supposed to be a fictional novel, and I am by no mean disregarding the fact it shouldn’t be used on a factual basis!

  118. I have read Phillip Gregory’s book but also note they are in the Fiction section not Non-Fiction. I adore Anne and Elizabeth, but do know research needs to be done from many sources.

  119. Thank you for re-posting this article because I very much enjoyed the read. It was this movie, and other period films like this that really got me interested in the history of royals. As a curious person when I read something or see a movie or show that is historical fiction, it is my nature think “I wonder if that really happened?” and go do the research to find out how close to the real history it is. So I thank writers like Phillipa Gregory because they sparked my interest to not take the stories at hand but to go and learn for myself.

  120. I watched the movie The Other Boleyn girl and it did have a lot of mistakes but what got me me mad was Anne saying to Mary that William Carey was weak and not a good lover which no one knows for sure William could have been really good in bed and if the king wanted Mary he couldn’t say no anyway they were friends the King and William Carey as well as cousins. I think Henry did have manners and would have asked nicely it is possible that Mary Boleyn did refuse him at first.
    I don’t think Anne was as nasty as she was in the movie but she was a schemer and did do things that made her seem a bit guilty flirting a lot which she picked up from the French court and had a temper. I have heard that she did lots of charitable things I think she made a lot of enemies unfortunately I think she would have made a really great Queen Henry was silly to get rid of her he should have talked to her about her behaviour
    One thing The Other Boleyn did was encourage people to find out for themselves if the book was true or not

  121. I think Natalie Portman was great as Anne but the relation ship between Anne and Elizabeth must have been fairly close as Elizabeth when she was Queen kept a ring that had a portrait of Anne in it.

  122. I watched the movie long time ago and I didn’t know it was based on a book and I wasn’t interested in the Tudor era back then,and when I started my research on Tudors I had completely forgotten about the movie until some days ago my sister knowing of my love toward this fascinating time in history told me her friend had given her an interesting movie about Anne Boleyn so I asked her what the movie was and when she said TOBG I got really angry and the surprising part was that she said her friend insisted that the movie is entirely based on reality and it took me almost an hour to convince her that it has a lot of errors and still the next day she told me her friend didn’t believe her and told her that ur sister (meaning me) is wrong because if a movie says it is based on reality then it is true.So I guess not everybody go research about what they have read or watch specially if they are not interested in history specially if its a story of another country.

  123. On Anne and George having committed incest:

    I am an Anne Boleyn fan all the way, and I DO NOT believe she committed adultery with all those men. The evidence is simply ridiculous, but that of course a longer discussion.

    I do understand, however, when Phillippa Gregory says that if Anne had contemplated sleeping with another man to produce an heir to Henry, George would have been the obvious choice.

    It is a disgusting thought, but if Anne had slept with Norris for example, and the union had produced a boy, and that boy grew up as an exact replica of his father imagine the shitstorm! (pardon my french)

    If she was to sleep with another man to conceive an heir, sleeping with George would at least have insured that the child looked like Anne and her family. If the heir looked completely like another man at court, it would have been rather revealing. Just imagine Henry’s rage. It would not have been pretty. And it would probably have been bloody.
    But it is after all not uncommon that children bear resemblances to their aunts and uncles as it is the same gene pool on the mother’s side.

    Again, I do not believe Anne committed the adultery she was accused of, but producing a child with anyone from outside of the family would have been extremely dangerous. If the child could not look like Henry, it would have had to look like Anne.
    So in that context I do understand Gregory’s argument.
    (But do not get me started about my feelings towards the other inaccuracies of that book and movie……..)

  124. This topic has probably been beaten to death by now–which is good!
    I completely agree that Phillipa Gregory’s presentation of her novel as “fact” is deeply erroneous and worryingly influential–considering just how many people accept it without question or further research.
    I have always considered her novels as fiction, but if we’re looking at them through the lens of interpretation of history, that changes them dramatically. There are so many gross misinterpretations and, frankly, lies involved in this book. Again, if it was presented as fiction or the author’s personal opinion, that’s up to the author and everyone can agree or disagree without warping historical truths. But–if she’s writing a biography or historical analysis, that changes things.

  125. Great site!
    I’ve only seen the movie(though I intend to read the book soon) but I agree that the author shouldn’t claim that the book is true when she clearly took a lot of liberties, I love historical fiction and inaccuracies are almost a staple of the genre so while I might grouse over the inaccuracies I’ll still gladly watch films like TOBG.

    Also have you ever read the young royals series by Carolyn Meyer? It’s aimed at slightly younger readers than the books you usually talk about and falls victim too many historical inaccuracies but I like them because unlike some other historical fiction novels, it takes women like Anne Boleyn and Marie Antoinette and portrays them as three dimensional imperfect human beings rather than the monsters others have made them out to be.

  126. Thanks for a great article! I love cheesy, dramatic history movies and books. Its fun to think about the what-ifs and hear other people’s theories about what want on behind the scenes. There’s so much that we’ll never know the truth about because it wasn’t all documented but I love coming here to learn about the facts that we do know of and I appreciate all of the love and work that you put into researching!

  127. What is wrong with being an ambitious woman? It is true that powerful women were threatening to men and were often put “in their place” at the time. It was “unnatural”. Given such constraints, would it be such a surprise that a character such as Anne would exist? Her efforts would have to correlate to the odds against her. Many powerful women today are seen as bitches, wh*res, and would have been called witches at the time simply for asserting themselves. And I do believe that it is absurd to believe that a woman as intelligent and forward thinking as Anne would never have entertained the idea of overtaking a barren woman when presented with a man desperate for a legitimate son. Also, as we all should know, an outward show of piety or even a genuine belief does not necessarily dictate behavior.
    Many of you seem to believe that the true Anne Boleyn was actually like PG’s depiction of Jane Seymour, but with a bit more temper on occasion. Given what she accomplished and her persistence over such a long time, there is not a chance that she was a saint. BUT that does not mean that she was a bad person. Remind yourself that the world was a very different place at that time. Thievery was a hanging offense. The concepts of life and death and punishment and position etc are sometimes difficult for us to really conceive of in our current world.
    I think it is an insult to Anne Boleyn if you take away her role in the marriage that changed England and the church forever. To take away her agency makes her little better than a pretty, charming girl who had nothing more to with her fate than any other woman at Henry’s court. You forget as well that with history you must read between the lines. I could write a diary and be completely delusional about myself so despite what I write my actions portray a different story. If no one were to consider human nature, etc, etc, and doubt my account, that diary would be a primary source and could be taken as entirely true by future historians.
    PG has taken an angle on fact, which in truth is what anyone who was not actually there does, and just because you don’t like it, does not mean that it is not true. Anne Boleyn was the queen of England and for years before she actually held the title most knew that was where she was going. Who would write against her? Who would risk angering such a volatile king? Many of those who did ended up dead at his hand. So it stands to reason that the majority of accounts describe a lovely, pious woman who could never do anything so outrageous as to press her own advantage (how dare she!).
    I admire her immensely, in PG’s depiction as well as others. Women had very little power and even if she did manipulate, murder, sin, she was using what she had available to her, which was not much being a young unmarried woman completely dependent on the men of her family. Henry needed a son. His determination on that point is, I hope, not lost on anyone. He went as far as to defy the pope – again, something difficult for some of us to conceive of the gravity of at the time – to get one. After multiple attempts she had not given him one.
    Is it really impossible to believe that she would turn to the only person in the world she could truly trust with such a scenario, who no one would suspect anything of her being alone with, to help her in this, (I’m talking about George to those of you who have not read the book or have only seen the movie but still seem to feel your opinion is valid or credible) especially after being very intimately familiar with what happened to Katherine when she could no longer provide an heir. It does not make her a witch, a wh*re, or a bad person. If it happened, it would be the last resort of a desperate woman.
    My point is that I do not think that the Anne of TOBG is the witch people accused her of. I think it shows why people thought so badly of her. And I think it shows a young woman with big dreams/goals who got in over her head and a woman who did not allow many people, even her own sister, to know the truth of her heart. Is that really so unbelievable? Put yourself in her shoes and forget that there are laws that protect you; imagine that you are property, that you are at the mercy of your father, or husband and that you have absolutely no say, that there is nothing you can do when they make a decision for you as if you are ten years old. Just because they had no rights and were expected always to submit and obey does not mean that none had the wherewithal to work around that within such a confining scope and make something more for themselves.
    I believe (as you all believe rather than know because none of you were there, were her, or can know anything for certain) that Anne in TOBG does not confirm the charges against her but rather shows that most were false, that many, given the ridiculous beliefs of the time, were valid (and that that is crazy), that those which might be true do not make her a villain, and that she was a woman determined to take her life in her own hands and changed the world in exchange for her life. To say that she was a passive participant, an innocent maid who did nothing more than resist the king and that alone drove him so mad that he would do anything to have her over years and years is to reduce her. You say it is a distorted, unjust depiction of Anne. I say yours is the distorted, unjust opinion.
    *My use of ‘you’ refers to the author of the article and those who commented (and I am addressing the women in the room, sorry guys). I am also not debating facts such as dates, etc, but rather the depiction of Anne Boleyn herself.

  128. Anne Boleyn didn’t commit adultery with her brother, four other men or the man in the moon for that matter.

    That is a statement of fact, for which yes, we do have evidence. The times and places of Anne’s alleged crimes were made up to paint her in the worst possible light. She had people with her all the time and couldn’t sneak off to her sister’s house in the middle of the night in order to have sex with her brother. In the film it doesn’t happen, anyway, she can’t go through with it. Anne would need to be escorted and helped and nobody else was charged with helping her meet her alleged army of lovers. Yes, I said army as she was accused, not officially, but in Henry’s mind of having over 100 lovers. Adultery wasn’t a crime, but conspiracy to kill the King with her lovers was, added to make it a capital offence. A charge of incest showed that Anne was capable of anything. Anne was pregnant or recovering from pregnancy during many of the alleged incidents or she or the men, including George were in another place when the meeting took place. These charges are easy to disprove. Even Anne’s biggest detractors, Eustace Chapuys among them, thought it was all nonsense. Professor George Bernard even now claims you wouldn’t sleep with your brother to get pregnant, especially if your husband had even occasional impotence. Henry would have known the child was not his. Anne didn’t have sex with her brother or anyone else.

    Yes, the Other Boleyn Girl is fiction, but PG does state in documentaries, her notes and on her blog that she believes Anne had incest with her brother in order to get a baby. Henry wasn’t stupid. Nor is there anything but a complaint by Anne that he had any sexual problems while married to Anne. As a film it should be seen as entertaining but not as history, no more than the Tudors or Richard iii by William Shakespeare. All very good for entertainment, but very low on accuracy. I would say watch and enjoy, read and enjoy, but don’t take it as a serious rendition of history.

    The portrayal of both Anne and Mary and their parents is completely backwards. Anne and Mary were not meal tickets for the Boleyn family who had been in the service of the King and Queen for a long time. Thomas Boleyn didn’t pimp out his son and daughter, Anne didn’t have a secret marriage to Henry Percy, she didn’t get shipped of to France in disgrace but went when she was about fourteen to serve Queen Claude. Her sister went to serve Princess Mary Tudor, Henry’s sister and Anne was at the sophisticated Court of Margaret of Austria. Anne didn’t tell Henry never to see Mary again, he wasn’t a week minded idiot controlled by women and Anne was chased by him, not the other way around. Yes, Mary married William Stafford and was banished, but we don’t know if she came back to Court. No, Mary didn’t beg for her life. No Henry didn’t rape Anne Boleyn. No Mary didn’t take over care of Princess Elizabeth after Anne was executed. No George Boleyn wasn’t either homosexual, as far as we have evidence for nor a complete twit. In fact he was a poet and scholar like his brilliant sister, he interpreted evangelical works in French, he was a close companion of King Henry and he was politically astute. No, Jane Boleyn didn’t conspire with Cromwell or anyone else against her husband or bear false witness against him.

    Yes, we as historians, and Claire’s little finger is more of a historian than PG, lovely person as the latter may be, as is Claire of course, do have evidence for every fact cited above and in this article. She isn’t having a go at PG, just trying to show how twisted her history is in this film and her own claim that George and Anne Boleyn committed incest. Sorry folks, that is Jamie and Cersie Lanister, fictional twins in Game of Thrones, not Anne and George Boleyn, factual people from the sixteenth century. PG has every right to believe what she likes, yes, that is free speech but she doesn’t have the right to claim it is what really happened, without evidence, especially when most historians can demonstrate otherwise. If it’s her invention, fine, but that is not what she says. In a recent documentary she made a whole speech about Anne and George being strangers when they met again as young adults and so they formed a natural sexual attraction as this is what happened if siblings are apart for years. What? Is she a therapist now as well? She is given expert status and people think she is being authoritative, when in fact she is merely giving a very odd, unsubstantiated opinion. PG also has it that Anne gave birth to a monstrous child which is based on the work of Nicholas Sander writing six decades later and for which there is no contemporary sources. In fact four sources say poor Anne in January 1536 had normal, if tragic miscarriage and the baby was not deformed but “a fair boy”, that he was about three to four months and it was not “a shapeless mass of flesh”. Nicholas Sander was reporting gossip and he was there to discredit the regime of Elizabeth I on the authority of the Papacy. Part of this was to write down her mother, Anne Boleyn. PG has the idea from Professor Warnicke that having a deformed child was as a result of sexual sin, shown in two tracts from 1536 and 1556, but this was not officially Church teaching. It is not relevant anyway as Anne didn’t have a deformed child. This is the kind of stuff PG puts into her novels and sells as fact. She is entitled to do this, but must back up her ideas and point out it is her idea or the sources. At least then people can make informed choices about what knowledge they accept.

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