Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl
is a story of Mary
Boleyn, sister to Anne Boleyn, who would become King Henry VIII second wife.
Mary has been married to William Carey at the age of twelve. She is one of
Queen Katherine's ladies-in-waiting. Anne comes home from the French court to
serve Katherine and wait for her marriage to be made. The girls are opposites;
Mary is fair and sweet-tempered, Anne is dark and quick-tempered. Mary catches
the eye of the king and, since the queen has been unable to give him a son, her
family sees a chance to raise themselves up. If Mary can give the king a son,
he may decide to put the queen aside and marry her. This is their family
ambition. Mary is told to make the king fall for her and invite her to his bed.
Anne advises her to make it hard for the king, to keep him chasing her for
awhile. Mary does not take her advice and allows the king to catch her easily.
She conceives quickly and is awarded with lands and titles to her family. She
has to put aside her marriage for the time so the king knows her child is his.
She is happy doing her duty until the birth of her daughter. She realizes then
there is more to life than pleasing a self-absorbed king. She continues her
duty and gives birth to a boy. This time, however, her family has placed Anne in the king's path to divert him while Mary is
preparing to give birth. The king is happy he has a son, although the child is illegitimate, but Anne intrigues him. She plays him, letting him get close but
not close enough to catch her, and he cannot resist. Mary is put aside as the
favorite. She is happy however, to not be at the king's beck and call. As the
court prepares to travel for the summer, many of the people come down with the
sweat. Anne is deathly ill, she had been making progress with the king but as
the queen and king are not ill, they become close again and Anne is forgotten
for the time being. Mary also loses her husband. In the fall, Anne is back as
the favorite and the queen's demise is only a question of time. Mary falls in
love with a young man from her uncle's train, but is afraid to make a move for
fear of angering her family and losing her children.
She watches Anne rise and
rise and finally cannot stand it any longer. She leaves and travels by herself
to William Stafford's land far from London. They marry in secret but he insists
on returning and doing what they can to secure her children. Anne has succeeded
in pushing the queen aside, although they cannot yet marry. The king needs a dispensation
from the pope. The king tires of waiting and changes the church so he can rule
on the marriage himself. He and Anne marry and Anne adopts Mary's son. This way
the king has an heir from her now. Anne gives birth to a girl. She conceives
again but loses the baby after a couple months. This happens again. She and her
family manage to hide these miscarriages from the king and court but then she
has an incident that she cannot hide. The court knows something is wrong. The
king hires a witch-watcher to see if Anne in hiding more. She gives birth to a
badly deformed stillborn baby. The king now has the evidence he needs and sets
about to rid himself of a second wife. Anne is accused of bewitching the king
and making him impotent; this is treason, punishable by beheading. Mary has
helped Anne in everything but manages to stay out of the trial and questioning.
She has to stay until it is resolved as Anne has taken her daughter as a
lady-in-waiting to the tower with her. Anne is promised life in a convent but
the king goes back on his word and beheads her and several others accused with
her. Mary, with her husband and children, goes back to their home in the
countryside to stay away from court and the terror it has become to those who
even think to oppose the king in anything.