Study Guide

The Other Boleyn Girl Family

By Philippa Gregory

Family

I was the baby at fourteen to Anne's fifteen and George's nineteen years. We were the closest of kin and yet almost strangers. (2.90)

This line introduces us to the core of the Boleyn family, and to the time period when families didn't grow up together. They consider themselves close siblings even though some of them were raised on different continents. What accounts for their closeness?

"Oh, don't think I'm doing it for you. I am doing this for the advancement of the family." (4.20)

The Boleyns are expected to act not out of their own interests but in the interest of their family. Their family is more like a small political party than the Brady Bunch; they're the Boleyn super PAC. But how do politics and family relations really mesh? Is this a healthy thing?

"But she was my little girl." (9.37)

Throughout the book, we are told that girls are useless, especially when if they're in the royal family; Henry wants a male heir above anything else, after all. Mary, on the other hand, changes her mind when she has a daughter of her own. The bond between mother and daughter is unbreakable to her. Maybe it's partly because she understands from experience what her daughter will go through.

"It's just a baby," [Anne] said flatly. "And chances are she'll die. You'll have dozens more. Are you going to be like this over all of them?" (9.111)

If we can count on Anne for anything, it's to dump ice water all over a heartwarming moment. These lines show Anne's utilitarian attitude for everyone, including children, and they foreshadow how she'll treat her own child later.

"Family comes first," my father said slowly. "It must do." (10.33)

We understand Anne and Mary's father a little better when we see that he is in a situation similar to that his own daughters are in. He married into the family, so his position among the Boleyns is tenuous if he doesn't do what his brother-in-law wants him to do.

"Because you miss your child?" My mother had to have confirmation, the thought was so strange to her. (14.23)

Mary may be close to her daughter, but the older generation sure doesn't seem to care much for their kids. Mary's mother appears to have no bond at all with any of her children, for example. She treats them more like tools than her own flesh and blood.

"Families should not quarrel. There has been an alliance between Spain and England for as long as I can remember. It's all wrong when we are divided." (16.16)

Family issues aren't confined to trashy power-hungry families like the Boleyns and Howards. They apply to royal families, too. (How do you think most of them got to be royal families? It sure wasn't divine right.) In their world, the family is only as strong as its political alliances.

"I think you will find that your boy is still your little boy whether he is in breeches or short clothes," he said gently. "I loved my mother till the day she died, God bless her, and I was always her little boy—however big and disagreeable I became." (27.45)

Mary sees William Stafford as a sensitive man after he gives a speech like this. A man who loves his mother can't be bad, can he?

She was risking everything to see her daughter. (30.54)

Mary sympathizes with Katherine of Aragon most when she realizes that, like Mary herself, Katherine will do anything to see her children. Mary draws inspiration from Katherine later on.

He smiled. "Our babies," he said. "I want a house filled with little Staffords. Don't you?" (37.104)

William is willing to take care of children who aren't his. Henry won't even see children who are his. William is a good family man, which makes him the perfect match for Mary, who has more family feeling than all of the Boleyns put together.