Study Guide

George Boleyn in The Other Boleyn Girl

By Philippa Gregory

George Boleyn

Born: c. 1504, Died: May 1536
Known for: Being the queen's brother; having an unhappy marriage; maybe being gay; maybe sleeping with his own sister. (Source)

A Real Man's Man

Here is Mary's colorful yet accurate description of herself, her brother, and her sister: "He is a sodomite and my sister is a whore, and perhaps a poisoner, and I am a whore" (37.219). Tell us how you really feel, Mary.

George is a combination of both his sisters. Like Mary, George wants love. Like Anne, George wants wealth and power. And like both his sisters, George likes men. "I'm sickened by women," he says. "By the constant desire and talk of women" (11.114). George finds men simpler and less dramatic, although we don't agree with his assessment. All the women in this book act the way they do because men tell them to. And don't tell us King Henry VIII is either simple or not dramatic.

George's love of men is anything but simple, though. At this time in history in England, homosexuality, known as sodomy, was punishable by death (it was still against the law there even in the 20th century). Mary and Anne discourage George from having gay affairs both because his reputation could hurt the family and because it could end up in him being executed.

Being a man, George has no impulse control. He imposes a bit of a double standard on his sisters, expecting them to give up their loves while refusing to give up his own. He has a flip attitude toward them, like when he quips, after Anne's marriage to Henry Percy is dissolved and her life is ruined, "Well that didn't go too badly" (6.82). It's a funny way of breaking tension, but it also comes across as insensitive.

Despite his occasional callousness, George is loyal to his sisters. He conspires with Anne because the more successful she is, the more wealth and power he receives. It is heavily alluded to that he gets Anne pregnant so she can pass her child off as Henry's male heir.

"There is no honor left in us three Boleyns at all" (35.398), George laments before his death. Mary proves him wrong by leaving court to live in the country. But George is unable to tear himself away from ambitious Anne, and he follows her all the way to the executioner's slab.

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