Study Guide

The Other Boleyn Girl What's Up With the Title?

By Philippa Gregory

What's Up With the Title?

Which Boleyn Girl Is Which?

If for some reason you didn't read the cover of the book, Mary will remind you of the title again and again. Here is but a fraction of the shout-outs to the title within the book.

  • "I am a Boleyn, that's not a small thing to be, and my mother was born a Howard, that's to be one of the greatest families in the country. I'm a Howard girl, a Boleyn girl." (2.7)
  • "I will try to remember that you were innocent of any plotting; that today at least, you were more a girl than a Boleyn." (2.221)
  • I was nothing more than a Boleyn girl, and not the favorite any more. (5.3)
  • When Anne will be queen, Mary wonders what she'll be. "You'll be the other Boleyn girl." (17.116)
  • King Francis: "There was only one girl who could ever match you and that was the other Boleyn girl." (35.221)
  • Then my sister, the Boleyn girl, went out to be crowned Queen of England. (37.249)
  • "If this is another Boleyn girl she has a right to live as much as Anne or me." (41.80)
  • "The best of the Boleyn girls." (47.15)

Most often, the Boleyn girls in question are Mary and Anne. But which one is the other Boleyn girl? Your first instinct might be to say Mary. As one of the above lines says, Anne Boleyn is Queen of England. Mary is…the other one.

But the interesting thing about historical fiction is that it shows us the dynamic of power shifting to and fro like a bad toupee in the breeze.

At the beginning of the book, Mary is the king's mistress, which makes Anne the "other" Boleyn girl. When Anne gains power, Mary is the "other" Boleyn girl. They bounce back and forth like a tennis ball until Anne earns the crown, forever cementing Mary as the "other Boleyn girl." The point is that politics decides which girl is which, and the identity of "the other Boleyn girl" is entirely political.

But there are other other Boleyn girls, too. Mary's daughter Catherine is technically a Boleyn girl, and when she joins the court, Mary warns her to alert her if any men flirt with her. Mary doesn't want Catherine following in her footsteps.

Perhaps the most important other other Boleyn girl is Anne's daughter, Elizabeth. She doesn't have the Boleyn name, but she's a Boleyn at heart. And as everyone knows, she will eventually grow up to be Cate Blanchett, Glenda Jackson, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, and a whole bunch of others, all playing the greatest other Boleyn girl of them all.