The Other Boleyn Girl Effect
Posted By Claire on June 3, 2013
As you probably know, British TV channel BBC2 has been rather Tudor themed recently, airing some wonderful documentaries about Anne Boleyn, Thomas Cromwell and Henry VII, but what you may not know is that Saturday night (1st June) was a major Tudor ‘fest’. It started with A Tudor Feast at Christmas, then we had Henry VIII: Patron or Plunderer, then The Other Boleyn Girl (the movie version starring Natalie Portman) and then two episodes of The Tudors from Season 2 – phew!
So, why am I writing about programmes that have already been aired? Well, because that night, and in particular The Other Boleyn Girl movie, had a major effect on The Anne Boleyn Files’ traffic and I found that interesting. Traffic to the site has increased recently anyway, due to it being that Anne Boleyn time of year and also due to the BBC2 Tudor Court Season of programmes, but Saturday night saw a major spike and we had the most visitors on the site at the same time. At midnight, about half an hour after the film had finished and half an hour into “The Tudors”, we had 940 people on the site at the same time! Usually, we have a maximum of 100 on at the same time, so it was quite a spike. I was curious to know what topics they were looking for and it turns out that they were interested in knowing about:
- Mary Boleyn
- Who fathered Mary Boleyn’s children?
- Anne Boleyn and Henry Percy
- Sex in Tudor times
- Sweating sickness
- Anne, George and incest
I think it’s safe to say that The Other Boleyn Girl was responsible for the spike in traffic, don’t you?!
What I find encouraging is that the film obviously piqued some people’s interest enough for them to go in search of the history behind the story and to not just take the story at face value. I know from emails I receive and comments I read online, that many people do believe that The Other Boleyn Girl is an accurate retelling of Anne Boleyn’s story and some people even quote it as a source (face palm, head bang), but this gave me a glimmer of hope. I do hope that those people found the answers they were looking for and enjoyed browsing the website. Everyone is welcome here!
If you want to know more about what’s fact and what’s fiction in The Other Boleyn Girl book and movie, then have a read of Anne Boleyn and The Other Boleyn Girl.
17 thoughts on “The Other Boleyn Girl Effect”
Fantastic news and demonstration of the power of the Internet. Well done, Claire and I hope this pushes your books into the stratosphere!!!
That would be lovely! Thank you x
How interesting, Claire! Thanks for sharing.
As you said, I’m glad those viewers who watched “The Other Boleyn Girl” were curious enough to search for Anne’s story. I’m glad they were led to your site!
FYI – In the US, a Google search of “Anne Boleyn” lists your site #3 in the search results behind wikipedia and tudorhistory.org. That’s great!
That’s good to know. It’s funny, when I started the site I really did think that it would just be for myself, a diary of my journey into history.
Sadly..that could be due more to your cache/cookies. If I use my laptop ABF is the first result typing in An/Ann/Anne..using the pc or one of the kld’s laptops, then ABF is 4th or 5th…still a good result for Qc though.
Good point, Anyanka! However, I clear out my cookies/cache each time I exit my browser. I’ve also searched on another PC (for the first time), and got the same results – which is great! 🙂
The spike in traffic is truly great news. I always tell people to watch all the movies and read all the historical fiction you want, but let them be a jumping off point, let them inspire you to go search out what really DID happen.
For me, history has never been about names and dates and locations. From the time I was very small and read Helen Keller’s “My Story” (the autobiography she wrote at age 12) I have been fascinated by the questions of what people did and more important, WHY did they do it?
Apparently this weekend a lot of other people were inspired to seek out the answers to these 2 questions, and that is wonderful!
I had no idea it was on until it was half way through, cos hubby had the remote that night, (a special treat for him 🙂 ) and I was already here, he went to bed and flipped it on for me, saying oh look what you are missing!! I have it on DVD and watched it once, personally I think it is one of the worst telling of that story I have ever seen, worse than ‘Carry On Henry’, because that was meant to be a farce, so I asked him very politely to turn off the T.V.
But I am glad to see that people flocked to the Anne Boleyn Files to check out the truth and get a more in-depth account of Tudor Times. Get stuff, I too hope it pushes up your book sales.
Although it is good that The Other Boleyn Girl caused so much of a debate yet again, I am totally amazed at the growing number of people who see historical fiction as historical fact without doing any research to find out the real story behind it.
Now some fiction is just that: fiction and is meant to be fiction: Carry On Henry, the Prince and the Pauper, the Scarlet Letter and so on. They are classic books, films or comedy, but they do not pretend to be anything else but a parady of the times or historical fiction for entertainment only. Even when one is about a real person, many of the facts are changed or invented to make it more dramatic, especially these days as such a thing could be made for TV. In fact I think some authors write historical fiction with its dramatic affect in mind. Yes, TV take liberties with books and authors do not have control over productions, but people need to have more common sense than to believe TV films as direct evidence for fact.
It is the sort of thing you did 40 years ago while at school, take a film as fact: our teachers were too lazy to decipher things otherwise. Fortunately I knew more about history than my history teacher and was not that stupid. I read, read, and read, fiction, but good fiction: Jean Plaidy was the fiction Queen in those days, but also some books on the people: Anne for example. Marie Louise Bruce was my favourite full biography I read on Anne and The Court of Henry VIII by Neville Williams was lent to me by a teacher that encouraged my love for history. I think history was in my DNA.
I may have enjoyed historical fiction and most of it is very good, but these days I find I have to be more discerning not just about historical fiction but fiction in general. The Other Boleyn Girl is fine if you look at it in that light that it is a good story based on a theory and nothing to do with fact. This is a book that Philippa Gregory believes put a true fact to the test: and has the theory that Anne had relations with her brother George in an incestual manner. That is fine if that is what she believes and the book is meant to be presented as that. However, there is a problem as Ms Gregory has been set up by documentaries as an expert on history: Anne Boleyn and Queen Elizabeth in particular, and that gives her books more authority. So, people read them and watch the film and see it as a true depiction of the life of Anne Boleyn. That is a pity because it takes away the pleasure of simply looking at the film as a piece of entertainment and historical drama.
However, there is value in the questions that the film raised and that are in your main article. The parentage of Mary’s children has been of some debate for many years; and the question around Anne and Mary’s sexual experience were looked at in a new light, but of course the idea of Mary being a virgin when she got married was ridiculous. The relationship between Henry Percy and Anne was actually handled in an interesting manner. I believe that Anne was engaged to Percy and wanted to marry him, but that Cardinal Wolsey broke them up so as King Henry could pursue his own plight to her. But that she had the power to entrap the son of a noble house, while an entertaining idea, is of course nonsense. The film went much further having them secretly married and having copulated, consumating that marriage, which would have made the marriage lawful. The marriage is ignored by the Boleyn schemers as you call them, Anne’s family and the Duke of Norfolk somehow has a way to make sure that it is annulled and the Percy wedding to Mary Talbot, daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury, that carries on. But this does not come up again later in the film, as it should have done.
The so called pre contract with Henry Percy was raised by Mary Talbot later on and Henry had Northumberland as he was then in 1536 declare as to the truth of any pre contract. The Earl denied it and swore before two bishops and several clrgy and offcials. But there was nothing about any actual marriage and yet in the Other Boleyn Girl Film Anne entraps Henry Percy and marries him. A spiteful and holier than thou Mary reports them to their father and some ridiculous mean girl rivalry grows up for the rest of their lives. Mary and Anne did fall out in 1534 when Mary married William Stafford without royal approval and was sent from court, but before this there is no evidence of this rivalry or mean spirited relationship.
Finally, the ending of the film is the worst of all with Mary slipping into court and taking Princess Elizabeth home with her. She had been forced to give her own children up to Anne, which is not true, and this seems to be a reverse role. Princess Elizabeth had her own establishment and although it was reduced when her mother was executed, she had plenty of food to keep her well and alive. She may have out grown her clothes but I am sure that someone saw to it that she did not go naked. Compared to most children of her day, she was well provided for, even if love was missing. In some ways it is a pity that Mary was not given the care of Elizabeth as I am sure she would have loved her as a mother.
A good story, but the film was aweful to be honest, even the sets were gloomy and cold, not the grand courts of Henry VIII’s England; but it is only meant to be seen as a promotion of a theory; not to be taken too seriously, certainly not as a source for the life of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII.
Yes, The other Boleyn girl was one of the worst movies ever made about that time period. Especially the scene of Annes execution! Just awful!
Interesting indeed! I sure hope people will the answers the were looking! Although the Other Boleyn Girl was quite an entertaining novel, it is a shame most people will think it an accurate account of Anne’s life without researching it further, thus perpetuation the myths that have become so popular. That’s why sites like yours are so important!
I’m so pleased for you and your solid website, Claire. It’s great that the television programming drove new users to your site, and that they’re curious. Nice!
Hi Claire, I’m absolutely thrilled that people researched your site after watching that dreadful movie. The other Boleyn girl truly made me sick and I have never watched it again, one time was enough for me. I have no interest in ever reading the book.
I don’t understand why someone would write something and call it truth or fact when there is no evidence to prove any of it. Its called a personal opinion not fact!
I will say that after I watched season 1 and 2 of The Tudors with Natalie Dormer is what sent me on my journey to learn about Queen Anne and your website is what I found on my search for the Real Truth about Queen Anne and Ive never left. Everything I wanted to know has been right here. And the countless books I’ve read also.
I know a girl that’s in college and she recently came to me and said she had to write a history essay on someone in the 1500’s and of course I said that’s easy, you should write about Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII second wife. And can you believe she had no clue who I was talking about. I was completely shocked!!
I had so much fun helping her with that essay and all the research was done from your site and she received a score of 96 on the essay!!
Oh and I would love to know how to correct something on google search about Queen Anne, its is stating that she had 3 children Mary I, Elizabeth I and Edward ummmmm
Are they serious? People that doesn’t have a clue will take this as a fact.
Does anyone know how to get this changed on google search?
Give up on the Google search … you cannot legislate for the insane! The Internet has its downsides and this is one of them! Perhaps Claire will be able to post an article rubbishing this fanciful idea!
You’re right Melanie, I thought about the google search about Anne’s children and I remember reading awhile back from Claire and her husband found it on google and showed her. It may still be here on the site.
I’ve just found my article on it – https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/googling-anne-boleyn-oh-dear/ – I just couldn’t believe it! I also quite often read about Henry VIII and Jane Seymour being buried with Anne’s miscarried son when, in fact, it is the infant son of Queen Anne the Stuart Queen. So much misinformation out there!
Unfortunately film makers screw events to satisfy the requirement for films to make money! The best phrase to demonstrate this is Sex Sells! and historical sex sells really well if you can weave in a fatuous conspiracy theory ergo Mary taking Princess Elizabeth and giving up her own children to Anne!
Historical fiction writers should base their stories on solid research – it takes a long time and can be a lonely road. However, I found evidence in the National Archives at Kew that demonstrated that something happened in 1560/1561 that elicited a change in the way ELizabeth I was portrayed on the front of the Rolls detailing the proceedings of the Queen’s Bench of Common Pleas. This happens at a time when her reign is precarious and precisely the same time as her beloved Dudley’s wife dies by falling down the stairs. Conspiracy theory, Sex, political intrigue – the whole real scenario reads like fiction. Why did the anonymous artist choose this precise time to change the Queen’s image where she is portrayed as the purveyor of God’s mercy and justice. These are formulaic front sheets and not viewed by anyone except, in their time, lawyers and now, scholars and academics. Clearly someone wanted to make a comment about the Queen – but why?
I admit I am a writer of fiction, but my book, The Truth of the Line (which Claire reviewed so wonderfully at the beginning of the year – thank you Claire) is actually based on the research I did for my Master’s Degree. I was advised to put my theories about this P and Nicholas Hilliard’s Attici Amoris Ergo portrait into a novel because they are controversial and the opinion was the academics would get upset that they hadn’t thought of this line of thought themselves. However, I ask my readers to consider the evidence and make up their own minds as to whether my theory has weight.
As to the whole series of historical fiction by Philippa Gregory, who has her doctorate in literature, I think Mantel takes the historical facts and writes a far superior novel to Dr G, (in my opinion). It appears that having a PhD gives you authority for what you write to be taken as solidly researched fact. Gregory has captured the reading public’s imagination, but is her research as solid as it should be?
It is very satisfying to see that people were curious enough to click on The Anne Boleyn Files to explore the true facts behind Saturday’s film and so learn the real story. Claire’s research and hard work will, hopefully, put people straight as to what really happened to the Boleyn sisters. Claire, thank you for this website and The Elizabeth Files.
Perhaps we should all email Justin Chadwick and tell him that his future forays into historical drama should follow the facts, which are just as salacious – if not more so in some instances – than anything he might dream up to satisfy the film financiers!