Study Guide

The Other Boleyn Girl Marriage

By Philippa Gregory

Marriage

We had sworn that we would stay together, that marriage was for the making of children, that God had put us together and no man could put us apart. (2.196)

Marriage in this society is less about romantic attachment and more about business alliances and the birthing of heirs. Perhaps that's one reason why people aren't so shocked about the fact that everyone is having affairs. If marriage isn't about love, people are probably going to try to find love elsewhere.

"Maybe we'll all end up with our wives in the end," William said quietly. (4.95)

This is an ironic line because basically no one ends up with his or her spouse in the end. Anne is executed. So is George. Mary does end up with a husband, but it's a different one from the one she was with at the beginning of the book. For a variety of reasons, marriages do not work out well in this novel.

"I have told him this day that such freakish sports are not fitting in one who will inherit the countries of the North and whose marriage is a matter for his father, for the king, and for me." (6.43)

The older men of the family dictate whom their daughters should marry. But so do the older men of families with sons. Henry Percy's father has the ultimate say in who his son marries. That's one way in which the (young) men and women in this novel share a similar lack of freedom and independence.

"Your marriage is the business of the family and you will leave that to us." (6.81)

The families approach marriage more like two CEOs merging a business than people who want to plan a fun wedding party. It's all about money and power, not about love.

"I am your wedded wife," I said gently. "And I never forgot it, though our lives took us far apart. If we ever have to be married in very truth, William, you will find me a good wife to you." (18.105)

Being a wife is a role that many if not most women have to play at this time, whether they want to or not. Mary slips into the role when William returns. She does it so well that she convinces herself that she wants to be his wife. It's not until her second marriage that she realizes what a happy marriage might actually look like.

"Whatever you wish, William." (18.111)

To be William's wife, Mary must be subservient to him. This is especially insulting because it comes at a time when Mary is learning to relish her independence. Being a wife takes this independence away from her.

We met almost as strangers and he courted me. It was the oddest, simplest, and sweetest thing that an estranged husband has ever done for an errant wife. (20.4)

Mary actually learns to enjoy being a wife with William. It's good training for her marriage to the second William, William Stafford, who is romantic with her and allows her to have her independence.

"He is a married man. He cannot promise anything to another woman. His word is my word. He is married to me." (24.34)

The queen believes in the sanctity of marriage. It's not a stretch, really, given the fact that divorce as a concept doesn't exist…until Henry invents it.

"Clearly love does not go with marriage, marriage is quite another thing."

"My marriage has music," Anne said. (42.22)

One of the men of the court says what we've realized all along. Anne wants to be contrary and act like she's in a loving relationship. Fake it 'til you make it, we guess. But if Anne's marriage has music, it's probably a funeral dirge.

"You have married a poor man for love, you can eat love, you can drink it. You can live off it. Go to his little farm in Rochford and rot there." (42.60)

Anne is so nasty to Mary because she is jealous that her sister has found love. Anne wants love, too, but after having been denied it many years ago, she has resigned herself to a loveless life. And if she can't have love, she sure will have her some power. It's hard not to sympathize with her in this respect, at least.