The Other Boleyn Girl – Is it accurate?
Posted By Claire on October 3, 2019
In this latest instalment of my “Questions about Anne Boleyn” series, I look at Philippa Gregory’s best-selling novel, “The Other Boleyn Girl”, which was also turned into a movie and adapted for television.
“The Other Boleyn Girl” has brought Anne Boleyn and Mary Boleyn’s stories to life for many people, and provoked an interest in Tudor history, but it has also caused a bit of confusion with some readers not knowing which bits of the story are accurate and which are fictional. In this talk, I try to clear up the confusion by pointing out some of the main inaccuracies in the novel and film.
I have listed videos where I go into more details on some of these topics below. They’re all part of my Questions about Anne Boleyn playlist.
Here are links to further videos on these topics:
- Did Anne Boleyn miscarry a deformed foetus?
- Mary Boleyn Facts: Who was Mary Boleyn? (Mary Boleyn 1)
- Mary Boleyn: Mistress of two kings? (Mary Boleyn 2)
- Jane Boleyn – Did she help bring down Anne Boleyn?
- Did Anne Boleyn and George Boleyn have an unnatural relationship?
- Was Anne Boleyn a homewrecker?
- Was Anne Boleyn charged with witchcraft?
- Did Anne Boleyn have much of a relationship with Elizabeth I?
- Did Anne Boleyn steal Henry Carey from Mary Boleyn?
25 thoughts on “The Other Boleyn Girl – Is it accurate?”
I’m gonna have to watch my DVD again before I watch your video. I haven’t seen it in years. I knew there was a lot wrong at the time but I like the actors and thought Eric Bana made a great Henry. I have not read the book and have no plans to.
Finally got to watch this video. Excellent Claire as always. I would like to add one more example of Anne’s love for her daughter: she actually wanted to nurse Elizabeth herself which of course as queen she would not be allowed to do. If she resented Elizabeth as PG claims she wouldn’t even want her around. If Ms. Gregory would just admit that she fiddles with the facts to tell a good story I would have no problem. These people, though dead for centuries deserve better.
I’ve only come across the idea that Anne wanted to nurse Elizabeth in Tracy Borman’s book and I haven’t been able to find a contemporary source to back that up. Where did you come across that?
Thank you Claire. That is exactly where I got that information. I appreciate your knowledge on this.
I’ll have to try and find out where Tracy got it from.
I am also relates to Bettie wtsn n Mary Sheldon n Edward Anne n godels
I love your work, Claire but I’m sure you know that book is not meant to be 100% accurate. It’s a novel. Gregory chose to include the most outlandish speculations to make her book generate lots of interest for people who don’t know the real history. I guess that’s why I don’t like historical novels that involve a real person anymore. I think the real history is a pretty good story that doesn’t need embellishment!
Of course. You probably haven’t watched the video yet, but in it, I acknowledge that fiction is precisely that, fiction, and that with historical fiction it’s obviously inspired by real historical events and people. I talk about that and how I’ve done this because I get questions all the time about what is true and what’s not in this book and movie. However, it’s not just a novel when an author is also using the factual bit, the Q&A section to say rather questionable things like Anne Boleyn is a murderer. It leads to a lot of musunderstandings.
I agree with you. In this case, the story is so exciting, and tragic, as it is, it really doesn’t need messing with.
Claire regarding boeleyns may u contact 07531163781 mob many thanks v Sheldon
No it wasn’t Mary never came to court during or after trial never took Elizabeth and I don’t believe in the mean treatment of Anne to marry or Henry sexually abusing anne
Philippa Gregory writes wonderfully invigorating fiction, even if it isn’t particularly well-written. She has inspired thousands of people to explore their love of history, and she has enjoyed notable success around the world. Is her version of Anne Boleyn’s marriage to Henry VIII inaccurate? Largely, no, but she does base some of her ideas on the historical record. Much of her book is based on Retha Warnicke’s biography of the queen, and Warnicke is a world-renowned scholar who spent many decades in the archives and knows her stuff. Gregory’s version of Anne Boleyn’s date of birth is accurate, based on the sources available suggesting a c1507 date of birth, and her suggestion that Anne gave birth to a deformed foetus may not be strictly true but, again, it is based on Warnicke’s book.
Could George Boleyn and the other accused have been lovers? Yes, but there is no evidence to say that they definitely were. In that period, sexuality was much more fluid, there were none of these ridiculous modern labels and people were more willing to acknowledge the reality that most of us are open to different sexual persuasions. In that period, yes, one was expected to reproduce and birth heirs and that was the sole purpose of sex, but that did not preclude wealthy and powerful men from illicit affairs with women and, in secret, other men. Of course, noblewomen and queens could absolutely not do this because of the double standard.
At the end of the day, Gregory’s book is no more inaccurate than “The Tudors” and, while I think it overplays the witchcraft angle, it has much to recommend it. Could the real Anne Boleyn have been anything like the woman in Gregory’s pages? Yes, I think she could have. It was an ambitious, power-hungry age, in which noble families ferociously battled for wealth and power. The court was not a place where you found “nice” people. Even the supposedly sickly sweet Jane Seymour was, in reality, a sly schemer who was more than happy to sit on the king’s lap and canoodle with him while her mistress was recovering from a truly hideous childbirth that apparently left her in “peril of her life”.
The real benefit of Gregory’s novel was that it inspired many people to look into the much-misunderstood and neglected life of Anne’s sister, Mary, a shadowy figure who still remains a mystery today. Gregory’s novel was a work of fiction, a piece of art, and it stands alongside “Wolf Hall” and “The Tudors” as a powerful piece of modern media that captures our twenty-first ideas about the Tudor dynasty and how we think they “must” have been.
It’s good of you to visit my blog.
“Could George Boleyn and the other accused have been lovers? Yes, but there is no evidence to say that they definitely were”, so why should we go with Retha Warnicke’s view that they were. Shouldn’t we challenge it if there’s no evidence. I’m not sure what you’re saying here. I could say that Henry VIII was gay, but there’s no evidence that he was, and just because people could have illicit affairs, doesn’t mean that particular people did. That just doesn’t make sense. I don’t agree with Retha Warnicke’s whole sexual heresy theory, I just don’t see the evidence for it at all, so we’ll have to agree to disagree on that. I know you’re a big fan of it. Eric Ives also spent decades researching Anne Boleyn and I think his very different views of Anne and the men make more sense with the evidence we have.
I’m not sure what you mean about the birthdate, I didn’t mention it.
Yes, Gregory’s work used Warnicke’s book, and I think that Warnicke was quite unhappy as to the result. But TOBG has been hugely popular.
“The real benefit of Gregory’s novel was that it inspired many people to look into the much-misunderstood and neglected life of Anne’s sister, Mary, a shadowy figure who still remains a mystery today.” I’m wondering if you watched my video as that’s a point I make, about Gregory bringing people to their story. However, I’d have to disagree with your point about Mary being neglected. As Eric Ives pointed out, what we know about Mary could be written on a postcard with room to spare, so that’s why she has been “neglected”, there’s not actually much to say about her and, unlike other members of her family, she didn’t do anything of note. Before Gregory published her book, Karen Harper had brought Mary’s story to life in her novel “The Last Boleyn”, so she hadn’t been neglected anyway, and for a woman we know very little about, she’s had quite a few biographies written and has featured heavily in novels and on the screen since.
Professor Warnicke is a respected historian and has done her research but she didn’t go as far as Gregory and certainly didn’t believe Anne was guilty of anything but that her and the men were targeted because of prejudices against certain kinds of sexuality and sexual preferences and because of the growing fears that Henry had been cursed through his marriage to Anne. Yes, she also believed the theory around the birth of a deformed baby in January 1536 being a key factor in Anne’s downfall. However, as I have said below, Professor Warnicke relied heavily on the information provided by Nicholas Sander who wrote 60 years afterwards and was not exactly a friend to Anne’s family. In fact as a Catholic priest and scholar, Father Sander had good reason to be fearful of Elizabeth as Anne’s daughter and to write a piece of propaganda, as part of a much larger work which discredited Anne. Not that we should believe George Wyatt in everything either who had every reason to write in Anne’s favour, but there is actually no contemporary mention of a deformed child. In fact the description in Gregory far outweighed anything described at the time and is similar to the ridiculous description of John Rous of the birth of King Richard iii, which he was paid to write as a piece of Tudor nonsense. Professor Warnicke dismisses completely more contemporary efforts such as Eustace Chapuys who, although not a friend of Anne at least was assigned to the English Court and his work is often backed up by others. He doesn’t say anything about the men having illicit sexual relations or that Anne gave birth to a monstrous child. He in fact, alongside Edward Hall and three other accounts says the baby was about four months in the womb, looking male and was a fair child, in other words a normal healthy child. The miscarriage was naturalistic and there was in appearance nothing wrong with the little boy: it was a tragic miscarriage and one which greatly weakened Anne’s position. Even then there was no evidence of Henry actually believing he was affected by witchcraft and an off the cuff remark from a grieving and angry father is hardly the basis of an entire theory. Henry did seek advice on how to end his marriage by two canon law experts but we don’t know the full details so we cannot assume it had anything to do with witchcraft but he may have again being looking at the convenient fact that he had slept with two sisters. This would have invalidated his marriage to Anne unless Henry obtained the appropriate dispensation, as is illustrated in the marriage of Richard iii and Anne Neville because his brother George was already married to her sister, Isabella Neville. However, whatever advice Henry received, he certainly didn’t act upon it and there is evidence that he was reconciled to Anne during Lent 1536. In any case, Anne was never called a witch or charged as one, even in popular opinion. She might have been regularly called a whore because she had replaced Queen Katherine of Aragon, but that is the lot of a woman who goes out with a married man, sadly even today. Even Professor Warnicke said Anne and those accused with her where the victims of attitudes towards them for their life choices, but she didn’t say anyone was guilty of adultery and treason, let alone the heinous sin of incest. PG takes all of these vile rumours and runs with them as if they are fact. Yes, Professor Warnicke wasn’t too keen on her work being exploited in the way it was by PG and TOBG and it is only in this novel and film that Anne and George have a sexual encounter. Even Professor George Bernard who thinks Anne may have slept with Henry Norris and possibly Mark Smeaton has declared that if you wanted to have a child because your partner was not up to the job, the last person you would sleep with is your own brother. This is purely in the imagination of PG and the theory has been debunked so many times by many prominent historians. Eric Ives showed in excellent details how and why most of the charges brought against Anne can be disproved out of hand and the rest are dubious at best. Anne and George might well have been two of the most scheming people in history and Mary a beautiful Angel but that doesn’t make them guilty of murder, incest, adultery and treason. (Note I am being sarcastic here). The destruction of the reputation of this family over the last 500 years is disappointing and disgraceful, especially in the light of evidence to the contrary and the availability of contemporary sources which help us to understand them better. The Seymour family were indeed just as ambitious as the Boleyn family and ambition was rewarded and praised at that time so I don’t think of it as a fault. How else did a knight and his family advance in life but through service at the Royal Court? Thomas and Elizabeth were well and truly moving up the power ladder before Anne and Mary made their debut at the English or French Courts. The work of Professor Warnicke is one theory among many others on the causes behind the fall of Anne Boleyn, which was swift and brutal, but it isn’t backed by most of the contemporary evidence. In any event her work wasn’t intended as a hatchet job with the result of destroying the reputation of Anne Boleyn and her family all over again.
I just re-read your comment and am shocked and sickened. You say:
“Could George Boleyn and the other accused have been lovers? Yes, but there is no evidence to say that they definitely were. In that period, sexuality was much more fluid, there were none of these ridiculous modern labels and people were more willing to acknowledge the reality that most of us are open to different sexual persuasions.”
“Ridiculous modern labels” – are you really sure you want to go there?
The main problem I have isn’t with the film which is of course fiction and Claire has done several fine articles on this and we all know it’s fictional, but with the fact that Philippa Gregory actually does believe Anne slept with her brother and promoted this idea as if it was fact. She presents herself as an expert historian and has a high profile on social media, in documentary history, on the television and the internet as an “expert historian” when her ideas are mere fantasy. She doesn’t present this nonsense which no historian worth their salt would endorse, as if it is fiction and her own theory, but as if this was how it happened. Gregory backs the ideas of Nicholas Sander which was promoted by Professor Warnicke that Anne Boleyn gave birth to a deformed foetus in 1536,_which lead to her unjust execution, for which there is no contemporary evidence and she also claimed in at least one documentary that the birth of a deformed foetus was evidence of immoral conduct. This backs up her own theory, played out in the book and film, although it is ambiguous as to whether or not George and Anne actually did have sexual relations or not. Two tracts are cited by Warnicke published in 1536 and 1552,_but it wasn’t official Church policy. However, Warnicke believed Anne was innocent of all the charges against her and it is PG who has twisted this work to promote her own ideas. It is because PG is high profile that so many of her readers unfortunately believe her fictitious errors to be fact and this is why Anne’s reputation gets bashed yet again by another generation who cannot be bothered to research the truth.
As a drama the Other Boleyn Girl is fantastic. It is genuine escapism and tells a good story, with Mary Boleyn as the focus, rather than Anne, about whom we know so little. However, it is also written to put the character of Anne in a very bad light, as mean, calculating, sometimes downright nasty and controlling and who blames her prettier and kinder sister for ruining her life. On the other hand, when Anne can’t give Henry a living son, we see a woman who is totally desperate and afraid and who acts out of that desperation, with the help of Mary. It is a tragic and heartfelt moment. Mary is appealed to by Anne to help and has compassion. This is the only reason Mary would have helped Anne to have a child by another man because her actions could lead to them both being killed. In reality, the meeting away from the Court is impossible for Anne because as Queen she would never have been alone and never allowed to ride off without an escort or help. Nobody else was ever accused of giving her any help to meet with the amazing arrays of men that she is supposed to have slept with and Anne must have had great stamina to run around night and day from palace to palace, sleeping with up to 100 men, not just the seven arrested or five condemned with her, usually just after giving birth or having a miscarriage or while heavily pregnant. Mary is shown as very compassionate, compared to Anne, who I actually wanted to slap at times, because she puts herself in danger and goes to Henry to plead for her sister’s life, only to be told not to come to Court again as she waited for a last minute reprieve on behalf of Anne. We also then see a determined Mary at the end who walked into a poorly guarded palace, without being challenged, straight into the royal nursery, where Elizabeth is alone with their own mother, Lady Elizabeth Boleyn and demands that the child is handed into her care. Mary then spirits little Elizabeth away and the Princess lives happily ever after with Mary and William Stafford and her two cousins in the middle of the English countryside.
All very nice but pure fantasy, although the fictional story is here telling us that our heroin who rejected a life of wealth and excess at Court does better than her overly ambitious siblings and finds happiness in the simple life with the man she loved in the country. Yes, Mary and William did find a more contented life but not without help and being given access to funds from their families and long negotiations for Mary’s inheritance, which she didn’t live long enough to really enjoy. Mary definitely didn’t take charge of Elizabeth and poor Elizabeth Boleyn would already have retired to Hever where she and Thomas remained to mourn their children for at least the next two months. Thomas did go back into the service of the King but only because he had no choice.
The film and book also don’t do the reputation of the Boleyn and Howard patriarchy and favours. Thomas Boleyn is shown as a man who doesn’t have any qualms about his daughters being put in the Kings bed or their virtue and are shown as literally pimping them out. George is shown as a twit rather than the man of whit and intelligence of reality. Even in a drama meant to show the good side of Mary, this is extreme and adds damage to already demolished reputations. Nothing could be further than the truth, but even though this is fiction, the number of people who believe this nonsense is staggering. That is the real danger of films like this, people actually take them too seriously. They are good as dramatic historical entertainment, but that is all they are, for us to escape into and watch an interpretation, not for people to think they are showing us real history. If the Other Boleyn Girl was written by the bard William Shakespeare, it would be seen as nothing more than brilliant entertainment. Very few people with any intelligence take his history plays as factual. However, because PG has been on a few documentaries her books are taken as gospel truth. I really don’t understand how people can be that naive.
Here here BQ. We’ve had conversations in the past about PG so you know I agree with absolutely every word of what you say. This is why I love Claire’s work through this site and her daily vidz. Just because Anne and her contemporaries died 500yrs ago it is not proper to continue to damage their reputations to line your pockets. If your writing historical fiction tout it as such and stop muddying the waters. Put yourself in the place of your subjects. Would anybody want these kind of lies told about them even 500yrs from now? You may have living decendants then and those lies about you could effect them. The Tudor era was an exciting time of extreme change and intrigue and anything else you would want in a soap opera. There is no reason to lie to make it more exciting.
Yes, completely agree, Michael, the real story is exciting enough without lies and nonsense, although it is fine to write fictions and to use dramatic license but within parameters. The Tudors is actually probably the best example of how to use dramatic license and get away with it. The Tudors is blatantly clear on that point that it is entertainment and has never claimed they are presenting fact. In fact the Tudors at times was so outrageous that I am totally amazed anyone took the majority of it as serious history. That is were the series differs from PG and her novels, history isn’t being rewritten, it’s being turned into entertainment for the brain dead over sexed public. PG on the other hand tries to claim outrageous theory as her own history and fact and put such emphasis on the worst unproven ideas that she herself has become an “expert” on those ideas without any justification. I am not knocking her or her books, but people need to read them with a healthy pinch of salt and ask genuine questions, not use them as a reference guide for history.
I am glad I never had a chance to watch The Tudors as I would probably have yelled at the television on quite a number of occasions.
The book is far from ambiguous on the illicit nature of Anne and George relationship and the baby is shown as monstrous and the product of their incest and not only that, Anne is a witch, all of which is nonsense, but again today people have raised it as entirely possible because of this novel which rather over emphasised this immoral behaviour. The incest charge was nothing more than added to make out Anne and George were capable of anything, adultery and plotting to kill the King. George is really portrayed in a terrible manner, his wife is the woman who betrayed her homosexual husband and Jane Boleyn has suffered the destruction of her own reputation because of the nonsense put forward by PG and this is all held as true because PG says it is. Yes, it is fiction but the novel is far worse than the film and it really is shocking in places. Again, that people believe it without looking into the real history, says more about the power of the myth furthered by PG in her talks and writing on her books about Anne and Mary Boleyn. There is no evidence for anything in the Other Boleyn Girl and again it is really amazing how many people take it as the ultimate portrait of Anne and who use it as a historic reference guide. I would suggest people look at the videos and the articles on this site and the sources which are available in order to discover the real Anne and Mary Boleyn and their families true reputations.
Finally, George Boleyn was an intelligent and talented young man, as was his sister who was very well educated. He was a reformer and he translated religious books by French reformers. Anne was sent to France after being educated for a year at the Court of Margaret of Austria to work with Mary Tudor as her attendant and then was sent for several years to the Court of Queen Claude. She wasn’t sent to France because she slept with people and tricked Henry Percy into her bed as in the Other Boleyn Girl. Anne was sophisticated and deeply religious. She would not risk her immortal soul to sleep with her brother and have his children, even if she was desperate. Incest was abhorrent, as was homosexuality. The very notion proposed in this fictional portrait are preposterous. What is particularly annoying is that most of the ideas put forward by PG have previously been debunked by proper historians.
If PG wasn’t presented as or didn’t represented herself as ahistorian I would have no qualms about what she writes.
The reign of King Henry V111 was a turbulent exciting hedonistic cruel period in our history, and Anne Boleyn his second wife has been rightly described as one of the most fascinating personalities we ever produced, as such writers of historical fiction such as Gregory have a field day with her, she has also written Victorian romantic fiction which I have enjoyed very much, but I’m no fan of her works on the Tudor period and those that centre around Anne and her sister Mary Boleyn, but she is largely responsible as someone has already stated, for many people having an interest in Henrys second queen through the movies inspired by her books, it makes very good drama, there’s sex politics ambition, and throw in incest for good measure and it has people hooked, but as the point of the discussion of this article is, it is more about fiction than fact, those who have no knowledge of Tudor history see the film and think oh god, Anne Boleyn slept with her brother, she gave birth to a grotesque child with all the sin and vice of its parents plain to see stamped on its pitiful lame body, she is made out to be a Messalina the corrupt wife of the Emperor Claudius who slept her way round the eternal city, and her corrupt living was the cause of her own death, in fact the whole Boleyn family were shown to be as power hungry as ruthless as its most famous daughter, yet the reality is far different, Anne in her youth is described as being most pleasant cheerful, and she appears to have possessed a zest for life, she was only young when she met her first love Henry Percy the heir to the earldom of Northumbeland, she may have been influenced by ambition more than love we do not know, as then she was merely a knights daughter and the prospect of becoming countess of Northumbeland one day must have been a thrilling prospect, she would become a member of the peerage and be very rich, but she never went out to trap this young man, as far as we know, looking back into history all we have to rely on are the sources available to us and what we do know is according to one contemporary, is that a certain love passed between them, yet for dramas sake Gregory has Anne telling Mary as sisters do in the privacy of the bedchamber, that she means to snare him come fair means or foul, she also potrays Anne as ruthlessly setting out to snare the King as poor Mary sick with love lay prostrate in her bed awaiting the birth of her baby, and there’s another piece of travesty, the baby was a son yet her first born was a daughter, Catherine Carey, Anne wanted to be queen and encouraged by her father and uncle who is always shown as a bit like the godfather, sitting behind his desk swearing and bellowing orders, a grim forbidding figure and he was shown thus in Wolf Hall, yet Lacey Baldwin Smith described him as being quite affable in nature, where is the reality in any of Philippa Gregory’s works of historical fiction? There is none really except she is spot on with Annes overweening ambition, but we have to remember she was only like that when she agreed to marry the King, not before as we know she did her best to avoid him, not trap him, Anne was no scheming Jezebel she was not popular with the queens supporters understandably, but her biographers from the earliest, Thomas Wyatts grandson through to Agnes Strickland down to the plethora of historians we have today, Claire among them, all agree she was not interested in Henry V111 she may have loved Henry Percy and could well have been very upset when their tryst was discovered and they were seperated, sources tell us she was angry and nursed a deep hatred for the cardinal who she ever said if it was in her power she would cause him as much discomfort as he had done her, he had referred to her as a foolish girl and she must have felt deeply insulted, but poor Percy had come of far worse, he had rebuked him quite harshly in front of his household which had made him weep, he was then dragged back up north by his irate father and later married the Earl of Shrewsburys daughter, neither Percy nor his wife loved each other and we can safely assume had he been allowed to marry Anne they could well have been very happy together, but domestic bliss was not for Percy or for his old love either, and both were fated to die young, Gregory’s book then has us seeing Anne as flirting with Henry and doing all in her power to captivate him her goal being queen, I believe the motion of becoming his queen was the furthest from her mind, she knew high born influential women only married kings, daughters of kings usually foreign and who could advance their countries politically, and as we all know these betrothals were usually planned in infancy, how would Anne ambitious and strong minded and brave as she was, ever be so arrogant as to think she could ever become Henrys queen? She was not stupid or ignorant, Katherine of Aragon was Henrys consort she had been thus for twenty years, she had powerful allies in Spain the country of her birth and in her nephew the emperor Charles V, why does Gregory think she thought the King of England would replace her with mistress Anne Boleyn a mere knights daughter and one of her own ladies in waiting, Gregory says her works are just fiction and it is plain to us that if the reader wishes to know Annes real story to read a biography of her, Gregory cannot be blamed if people take her work as the gospel truth, there have been many writers of historical fiction, Plaidy and Lofts among them, Rosemary Hawley Jarman, these early writers are all dead but I feel they had the edge on Gregory, and more telling their books were never so defamatory towards Anne and her family, the deformed foetus nonsense which Gregory says was inspired by Warnickes theory, which Warnicke herself denies, I do find Warnickes theory strange as iv said many a time before along with Bq and Michael, as she uses her source of info from Nicholas Sander who was just mud slinging at Elizabeth 1st, and of course Anne came in for her fair share, it was Chapyus who although was the Boleyns enemy, provided us with a lot of information of the court of Henry V111, most of which is very reliable, all he said about the birth of Annes last child was it had the appearance of a male nothing more, heartbreakingly sad and so tragic for his mother whose fate rested on his poor little life, Gregory says she believes this child was the result of an incestous union between Anne and George, this she actually believes as well as putting it in her book, in the documentary about Anne she said she believes she was ruthless to sleep with her own brother, she’s entitled to her view but I find that very repulsive as many a normal person would, and going rather into the realms of the depraved and the corrupt way of thinking, Anne was a normal healthy heterosexual woman, there is no evidence that George was not either and she fails to take into account his character as well, does she honestly think this man who was a normal intelligent person married happily or not, would agree to copulating with his own sister contrary to the laws of man and nature, a man known for his deeply religious views on reform like his sister and many of their friends, something which they both knew they would burn in everlasting hell for? I feel Gregory insults them both and her own intelligence, when writing books like the movie industry they are all done to shock to scintillate as much as possible, drama and excitement is the key here, where people are merely fiction does not matter, what does matter is where the subjects of this entertainment actually lived, they were real people who like us lived and loved, they suffered and died hundreds of years ago and because of the distance in time maybe historical novelists like Gregory does not think it matters much to portray them as vile loathsome sexual deviants, yet if it means it actually misrepresents them to people interested in history I believe it does, but the onus is on them to read real biographies real history, not to take her books as fact, Gregory’s books are very popular because they are so torrid, I hope readers of her books will also bother to read the true story of Anne and her family, as they have all been sadly misrepresented in her novels, her mother that quite shady persona who is only a name to us, Lady Elizabeth Boleyn nee Howard, she is shown as indulging in fraud, she was very close to Anne and to me she appears a quiet gently lady not someone who would set out to deliberately deceive, her husband a very clever man who earned his position at court on his own merit, is shown as a kind of pimp when as Claire explains and what Chapyus recorded he was not happy about his daughters relationship with this most fickle of Kings, I think he had the foresight to see it could end in disaster, thus I end my long rant, sorry for going on so much my pen does get carried away sometimes!
I too loved The Tudors and the recreation of the Chateau Vert pageant I thought was spectacular, with the gorgeous displays and the silver and gold dresses Anne and the other ladies wore, the scene where Francois threw Henry was good too in the Field of the cloth of Gold as that did happen and like men when they get hot under the collar, they nearly came to blows, Claude and Katherine had to calm their men down, yes I agree you can enjoy it as drama, if you dont take it seriously as we know they did contort the facts somewhat, it was a bit like a 16th c Dynasty tv series, with fighting and sex scenes and men jostling for power, Alison Weit herself mentioned it was good drama so I think she must have watched it and enjoyed it, but she said the costumes were all wrong, they were historically inaccurate, I did not like Mary and Margaret being mixed up either and I think all the characters were far more attractive then the actual people they portrayed, Jane Seymour was a very pretty blonde and she was quite plain in real life, and Mary Tudor was dark haired in the series yet she was a red head and the actress who played her mother Katherine
was rather tall and thin, yet the real Katherine was small in stature, auburn haired and very fair, as Henry V111 was not dark like Meyers who played him, but very fair with red hair which he passed onto his two daughters, we all know Henry V111 was a colossal sized red head with a beard at least in his older years, yet all the way through Meyers was trim and athletic but I did find Meyers was brilliant in his role, he had a terrific temper and charisma, he showed no remorse when Richard Rous was boiled to death nor at the beheading of his wives, I must add I thought Annes execution scene was terrific and very poignant, as it showed Anne looking back into the past when she was playing in the gardens with her father and brother, the little girl who played her was so cute, the moment the sword struck a flight of birds took off and Annes spirit was once more back in the garden of her childhood, the scene in Wolf Hall was very good to, there was a gasp in the crowd when the executioner drew his great sword from under the straw, and that possibiy happened in real life, it must have been harrowing to watch, a woman in her early thirties about to die a horrific death, and it was also unprecedented as no King had ever sent his queen to her death in history before, I did not like the execution scene in The Other Boleyn Girl as though I do like Natalie Portman, she showed her as edgy nervous not speaking fluently as Anne actually did, and though we know the poor woman must have been frightened the eye witness accounts say she conducted herself well on the scaffold, Portman was just acting how she was told to so that’s no fault of hers, but I thought that bit was a very real let down to the movie and then the daft bit where Mary was watching in the crowds, she was no doubt with her husband in the country with her children, or maybe she was with her parents consoling each other on that dreadful day, I cannot see any member of that family going along and witnessing the death of Anne, they would find it way too awful, the Boleyns were a broken family and why would they wish to see her death anyway? I find it strange Gregory’s novels are made into films and she must make plenty of money out of which, basically is sheer nonsense.
I have to admit I loved the Tudors because it was great entertainment and after giving up after the first episode of anything resembling historical accuracy, enjoyed it for what it was, well acted, well done, well presented fabulous costume drama. It was historically correct on a number of points, although the compression of time during the first series was a bit wild. I didn’t like the mixture of Princess Mary and Margaret, Henry’s two sisters but that’s a dramatic ploy so it did work after a fashion and the scenes like Chateaux Vert and the dancing in France by Anne and her ladies were recreated very well. I am not too fussy when it comes just to just seeing history as entertaining, but when long debunked myths are claimed as fact, that really gets my goat. I can watch the Other Boleyn Girl, the TV version is best, because it’s the same as watching Shakespeare, I can criticise it afterwards. The book is a bit different as the ambiguity isn’t there. Then there are later PG adaptations which are really awful and did have me screaming after 5 minutes. I won’t be watching the White Princess again or the Spanish Princess. I actually like the White Queen which combined her Cousins War series and was well done. They didn’t call it the Cousins War, that was used as a marketing ploy for the books; in fact they probably did have a word to describe the conflicts we have come to know as the Wars of the Roses. History has devised names for wars because we have to name a domestic conflict or long foreign war something in order to distinguish the period from others. It is believed Walter Scott probably used the term, just as Shakespeare used the term “roses both red and white ‘ and another myth was born. The House of Lancaster of whom Tudor is an illegitimate offshoot, via the House of Beaufort, didn’t have a red rose as its symbolic emblems. The Beaufort symbol is the portcullus and it is believed they had a rose of some description somewhere in their emblems. It isn’t actually known how or why they and the House of Lancaster became associated with a red rose but it adds to a good Tudor myth. As for the White Rose, the House of York did adopt this as a wider symbol and white roses pop up everywhere a member of the House went. Tewkesbury Abbey is absolutely covered in them because of the victory of Edward iv there in 1471. The various symbols of the House of York, the Sun in Splendour, from the Sun dog or sun burst at Mortimer’s Cross, the personal White Boar of Richard iii and the White Rose of Edward, Earl of March have all been intermingled with the White Rose representative of the York family in general and their supporters. Henry Tudor didn’t have the red rose either. He used a dragon banner. Elizabeth Wydeville didn’t use it either and was never called the White Queen, her family at first being both neutral and then fighting for Henry vi. They changed allegiance of course when she was Edward’s Queen. Her own emblems were some kind of pink carnations and a Talbot dog. So how she was the White Queen is anyone’s guess. Still the books have to have a title. The myth of the White Rose and Red Rose becoming one was pure propaganda and clever propaganda as a new emblem was born for the House of Tudor to symbolise the marriage of Elizabeth of York and Henry Tudor. Now England and Wales and parts of Scotland at some point became literally covered in the Tudor Rose. It was all part of a legitimizing mythology. If the Tudors could claim ancient ancestors, they could be more easily accepted. Thus Shakespeare used the terms of the unity of the red and white roses and his Tudor and Stuart Royal audiences were pleased. The myth then gave way to a period we now call the Wars of the Roses. Dramatic stories of this period buy into the same mythological ideas and history is reshaped to reflect that. I love good historical fiction, but I like it to be reasonable and well written as well as mostly accurate. Where it isn’t I expect the author to say it was an idea they had not to try and claim things known to be fictitious as if it was true and they are the experts on this matter. TOBG is extreme in its inaccuracies, but it is also claimed to be the truth by the author, which it isn’t. If PG invented something, she should state I believe this but most others do not. As a drama it is fine, it is fiction, you watch knowing this and move on. However, that’s not were the problem stops. The notes in the book, the Q and A and blogs all promote the OBG as history purely and factual and PG is held as an expert on the miscarriage of Anne Boleyn and the alleged deformed foetus and makes the case for incest, again as if she can provide proof of it. This is very misguided and it is very confusing when her readers don’t know the real story behind the book or Anne and Mary Boleyn and it’s why Claire gets constant questions. Yes, it has lead many people to ask serious questions, but it also has the other effect, that of numerous people who don’t understand history, believing and promoting this and other PG works as if they were the truth and nothing else is good enough. I almost gave up the will to live not so long ago when someone reviewing the recent biography of Thomas Cromwell by D McCullough gave him one star because “this novel is not a patch on Philippa Gregory” . What can you say about history to people who can’t even tell the difference between a novel (fiction) and biography (well researched scholarly fact)? No wonder some people cannot escape into drama without believing they are watching something that is 100% accurate. Rant over.
Thank you Claire. I am really interested as to where Tracy got that so i hope you CAN find out. I just assumed in her position with HRP she ran across it in her research.
Hi do any of you have any theories on whether or not Mary Boleyn’s children were actually the King’s? I’m a descendant of Catherine Carey and have always wanted to know!!!