Study Guide

The Other Boleyn Girl

The Other Boleyn Girl Summary

We begin with Mary Boleyn, who is listening to some drums. We haven't heard of Mary. She must be the other Boleyn girl. Why is she listening to drums? Is she at a Rush concert?

No, she's at an execution.

In 16th-century England, drummers were available for weddings, parties, and beheadings. The man on the chopping block is Mary's uncle, the Duke of Buckinghamshire. Someone should take an axe to that long name.

The Duke of Buckinghamshire is executed for saying the king would die without having a son. It's the truth, but the guy is beheaded, anyway. The lesson: don't insult a manchild's fragile ego, especially if that overgrown baby is wearing a crown. In others words, "There is no room for mistakes at court" (1.12).

The next year, Mary's sister, Anne Boleyn, joins her in the court of Henry VIII. In case that fella's head rolling into a haystack didn't clue you in, Henry has no male heir, and he's mighty sensitive about it. The scheming Boleyn/Howard family plans to have Mary seduce the king and have his royal babies.

To make a long story short—which is why you're here reading a summary, right?—it works. Mary uses her charms and is eventually welcomed into the king's bed. She has a baby, but it's a stupid useless girl. Mary loves her daughter, anyway, and she names her Catherine, in tribute to Katherine, the queen. Yes, the same queen whose husband fathered Mary's baby. That would be like if Angelina Jolie had named her first daughter "Jennifer Aniston Jolie-Pitt."

Thanks, but no thanks.

Mary means well, because she likes and respects the Spanish queen—but not enough to stop doing the horizontal fandango with the queen's husband.

Mary gets pregnant with another kid. Worried that the king will get bored, the family positions Anne to flirt with and entertain the king. You can see where this is going. Mary has Henry's second child, Henry. That's not a typo. Mary has a boy, and she names it after the boy's father, the king.

Squeezing out a kid with a Y-chromosome gets Mary back in the king's favor for a few months. Mary soon misses her children, though, since they're being raised at the family farm in the country. She goes to visit them for a week. Seven days is too much for Henry to bear. When Mary returns, Henry is officially courting her sister, Anne.

Over the course of the next year, Henry's affections bounce back and forth between Mary and Anne. Behind the scenes, Henry is orchestrating a way to divorce Katherine of Aragon, the queen, but until he does, no one knows which woman he will land on. Everyone believes he will choose Anne, and Mary's husband approaches her to resume their marriage.

Remember him? No? We forgot to mention him because he willingly stepped aside to let Mary seduce the king. Why is he fine with this? Because he gets money and land as a reward for being the kingdom's biggest cuckold. Now he wants Mary back.

Mary agrees because she has no other choice, but he's nice enough, even if Mary doesn't love him. She doesn't have to love him, because he soon dies of "the sweat," an illness that sweeps the country. Mary is glad he's dead, if only because she hopes to escape the king's court and live on the farm with her children by herself.

There are a few road bumps on Mary's road to happiness. First, Anne adopts Mary's son, Henry, against Mary's will. Anne doesn't even like the little brat, but she wants to have a son the king can call his own. She's confident the divorce will soon happen, and that Henry will choose her as the next queen. The second bump is a pleasant one: a horseman named William Stafford begins flirting with Mary. Hmm. Maybe being married won't be that bad after all…

In a whirlwind of events, the king declares himself head of the Church of England, exiles Queen Katherine, and makes Anne his new queen. Mary is like, Peace, guys, I'm out, and she flees to the country to secretly marry William Stafford—but she's totally summoned back to the court by Anne, who has Henry's child. Mary does her best Pacino impression: "Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in!."

Anne has a girl, whom she hates because she's a girl. She names the stupid little female Elizabeth. Anne gets busy with Henry to provide him a male heir. She gets pregnant again and has a miscarriage. Desperate for a male heir, Anne looks elsewhere than Henry, who, you know, being the common denominator in all this baby drama, might be the one with the problem. But Anne makes an even bigger mistake by probably having sex with her gay brother, George.

Don't even try to make sense out of that. Anne is queen. She doesn't have to make sense.

The incest is never outright confirmed to Mary, but she definitely suspects it. When Anne gives birth to a hideously malformed child, rumors spread that Anne is a witch. How long before they strap a grizzled old carrot on her face and put her on a scale with a duck?

Not long.

Henry is already moving on, his eyes set on the virginal Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woma—err…Jane Seymour. More rumors spread that Anne has been having affairs with many men, and all of those men happen to be the group of "sodomites" that brother George hangs around with. George and his friends are put to death, and Anne is imprisoned in the Tower of London.

We end with Mary Boleyn listening to some drums. Whoa, déjà vu. Why is she listening to drums? Is she at a Rush concert? No, she's at an execution. The other Boleyn girl—i.e. Anne Boleyn, the queen—is about to be beheaded. This time, things are a little different. Mary has a happy husband and two healthy children. But Mary still thinks the king will spare Anne at the last second.

He doesn't.

The axe falls. The queen is dead. Jane Seymour already has her wedding dress picked out, and the king is ready to move on before Anne's head takes its second bounce.

Mary wonders what the future holds for her family, and we turn to Wikipedia for spoilers.

  • Chapter 1

    Spring 1521

    • The book is about to begin. Drumroll please…
    • "I could hear a roll of muffled drums" (1.1.), says our narrator. Thank you, thank you.
    • But the drumroll isn't to introduce an entertainer. It's to introduce the Duke of Buckinghamshire, who is to be executed.
    • Actually, this could be considered entertainment in the 16th century.
    • What's the Duke's crime? Saying that the king "would likely die without a son to succeed him on the throne" (1.3).
    • In other words, the Duke's crime is speaking the truth.
    • Our narrator, Mary Boleyn, is the Duke's niece, and she expects the king to step in and pardon him before the executioner's axe falls.
    • When her uncle's head bounces into a nearby haystack, Mary realizes she was wrong.
    • Mary's mother tells her she was stupid for thinking her Uncle might be pardoned. "There is no room for mistakes at court" (1.12), she warns her daughter. Make a mistake and heads will roll.
  • Chapter 2

    Spring 1522

    • Mary's older sister, Anne, returns from France, where she was being educated in French ways—making French braids, French bread, French fries, etc.
    • Anne will join Mary as a lady in waiting to the queen, Katherine of Aragon.
    • Anne impresses the queen with her beauty and manners, but she talks about her behind her royal back, calling her old and ugly.
    • As a new member of the court, Anne dines with the king and queen. Her brother, George, is also a member of the court, along with Mary's husband, William Carey.
    • After dinner, it's time for dancing.
    • The king sweeps Mary up into a dance. Meanwhile, Anne watches jealously as Mary and the king dance. She watches them whip. She watches them nae nae.
    • As members of the court, the Boleyns are there to entertain the king and queen and keep them happy.
    • The Boleyns also gossip about the royals all the freaking time, wondering what the royal family will do if Katherine doesn't give Henry a male heir.
    • Henry had an affair with a woman named Bessie Blount, who bore him a son, but the Boleyns can't picture "a bastard on the throne" (2.119).
    • At a costume party, Mary dances with a masked man who flirts with her pretty hardcore. Who is this masked man? The Lone Ranger? Zorro? Deadpool?
    • No, it's Henry VIII, it is.
    • Mary faints when the king takes off his mask and reveals his identity, and the king catches her. Later, they dine. The king sits next to the queen, but he can't take his eyes off Mary.
    • The queen dismisses Mary from the table, saying that since she fainted at the dance, so perhaps she should go to her room and take a nap. #byefelicia
    • Over the next few weeks, the king continues getting his flirt on with Mary.
    • Mary is upset because she knows the queen is not happy to see her husband macking on another woman.
    • But Mary's family encourages her to seduce the king. Perhaps she can be the one to give him a male heir.
    • Mary doesn't want to betray the queen or her husband, but her father and uncle force her to do their bidding. As a woman, Mary has no say in the matter.
    • The more Mary flirts with the king—and he flirts back—the more she starts to fall in love with the royal man.
    • One afternoon, Mary finds herself very close to the king during a jousting event.
    • The king wonders aloud if Mary's playing a game, put up to flirting with him by her family.
    • "It's no game to me" (2.385), she tells him.
    • The king assures Mary nothing bad will happen to her if she becomes his mistress. "You will be my mistress, you will be my little queen" (2.390).
    • Mary is shocked that her seduction is succeeding. She gives the king a scarf as a token to keep with him, and he tucks it into his jousting breastplate.
    • The king jousts against the Duke of Suffolk and knocks the duke clean off his horse.
    • After the joust, the king's squire removes his armor, and Mary's scarf flutters to the ground.
    • "I think this must be yours" (2.459), Katherine says to Mary, disdainfully, returning her little scrap of fabric.
    • Henry is cranky at dinner. He hurts the duke badly, and he wonders what may have happened if he were the one who had been hurt, injured before siring a male heir.
    • The queen tells Henry she is glad he is safe. "As long as you are well and happy, and as long as you come home at the end of it all; why should I complain?" (2.470).
    • Translated by Anne to Mary, this means that Katherine has given permission to Henry to take Mary as his mistress.
    • After dinner, Mary goes on a horseback ride with the king. He asks how her day was, and she expresses she was hurt that he dropped her scarf and did not notice.
    • The king snaps at Mary for nagging him. "You are not my mistress, madam, nor my wife" (2.495).
    • Later, Mary's family is furious with her for ruining their plot to get her into the king's bed.
    • Anne suggests they send Mary away to the family home in Hever, a farming community.
    • So off Mary goes, exiled from court to be a farm girl. It's like the beginning of Stardew Valley.
    • Mary initially misses the hustle and bustle of the court, but she soon grows to love the country. She imagines what life would be like as a country landlord.
    • One night, Mary commiserates with one of the farmers on the land. He reminds her, "You are a Howard and I am a nobody" (2.601).
    • Mary tells the guy she's a Howard woman, which means she could likely end up being a nobody.
    • But Mary might actually like being a nobody. It means fewer paparazzi following her around, that's for sure.
  • Chapter 3

    Summer 1522

    • Mary spends three months as a farm girl in Hever, which is more than enough time for her to craft a scarecrow, gather 300 units of wood, and meet a mysterious wizard.
    • Yet Mary is summoned away from her bucolic paradise by a letter from Anne, which invites her back to court.
    • Mary returns to court and discovers that the king requested her return.
    • When the king first sees Mary, he calls her "my love" (3.51).
    • That night, in their shared bedroom, Anne tells Mary she believes the king will send for her soon.
    • Anne says the trick is to not be a "slut" (3.97) or else the king will only have her once or twice then discard her.
    • "Anyone can attract a man," Anne says. "The trick is to keep him" (3.101).
    • Anne's prediction comes true more quickly than she expected. Henry summons Mary that night.
    • George, Mary's brother, comes to fetch her for the king.
    • Mary washes under her arms and all up in her bathing suit area to be fresh for his majesty.
    • The king is lounging in front of the fire, naked on a bearskin rug.
    • Okay, not really, but he is in a fur robe and probably nothing else, so close enough.
    • The king tells Mary he wants her, but first, he wants her to promise something: that she would love him even if he weren't king.
    • "If you were a nobody and I were a nobody I would love you" (3.155), Mary admits truthfully.
    • He lays her down, unties her bodice, yada yada yada, she is officially the king's mistress.
    • The king sends Mary back to her rooms in the morning, where George and Anne are thrilled the family plan is working out.
    • But that doesn't mean Mary can be a "lazy slut" (3.190), to borrow a phrase from the always gentle, diplomatic Anne Boleyn. Mary needs to be on at all times.
    • Mary has to walk an awkward line of being the king's mistress and the queen's lady in waiting, hanging out with the queen even though she's been schtupping her husband.
    • The winds of favor change, though, when England goes to war with France.
    • Spain is England's ally, thanks to Queen Katherine being the aunt of Charles V, emperor of Spain.
    • Back in the king's good graces, Katherine receives much more attention from the king, and Mary is green with envy.
  • Chapter 4

    Winter 1522

    • It's Christmastime in the court, and on every night of Christmas, Mary gives herself to Henry.
    • Henry takes Mary to a shipyard to show her a half-built warship.
    • Henry has a sketch made of Mary's face, but he won't say why.
    • After Christmas, Anne discovers that a fortuneteller told Henry that Katherine would bear him a son.
    • So Mary won't be seeing Henry for a while.
    • Mary is upset, but Anne is too busy thinking about only herself.
    • Anne has designs on marriage with Percy of Northumberland, who has been flirting with her for a while.
    • Percy's a terrible poet, but Anne loves him anyway.
  • Chapter 5

    Spring 1523

    • The queen is with child. The kingdom rejoices.
    • And by "kingdom," we mean everyone but Mary and the Boleyn family.
    • Henry hasn't sent for his mistress Mary ever since the happy news.
    • Mary is heartbroken, and she considers fleeing to Hever to live as a farmer spinster for the rest of her days.
    • The heartbreak doesn't last long, because it turns out the queen isn't with child—she's going through menopause.
    • The Boleyns want to jump on this opportunity faster than Sally Field in a Boniva commercial. They send Anne to tell the king. She can bear the bad news, and he can turn to Mary for, um, comfort.
    • Anne discreetly tells Henry about Katherine, but in a fit of anger, he calls out Katherine in front of the entire court.
    • Mortified, Katherine retreats alone to her chambers.
    • Mary is conflicted. She wants to be with Henry, but she likes the queen and is upset to see her humiliated publicly.
    • But there is no time for conflict. Anne instructs Mary to wash herself for when Henry summons her.
    • Henry calls for Mary the next night.
    • Soon, the entire court knows Mary as Henry's official mistress. Does it come with a membership card?
    • Even better: remember that half-finished ship? It's finished, and Henry has christened it the Mary Boleyn. Even JFK never got Marilyn Monroe a ship.
    • After the ship is christened, Henry tells Mary, "I wish you were queen for all the days" (5.149).
    • Mary is excited, but the family is not. It means nothing. It's not like Henry can just divorce the queen. Meanwhile, Anne has her own plans.
    • Anne's eyes aren't on the king. They're on another Henry: Henry Percy.
    • Anne's sick of Mary getting all the family's favor, and she wants secure a profitable marriage for herself.
    • Anne cranks her flirt game up to 11, and Percy eventually proposes.
    • George warns Anne that this could be a bad idea. What if Percy's family disowns him for marrying a common trollop like Anne?
    • Anne believes their love will triumph over any adversity.
    • Anne and Percy are wed in a private ceremony, and Anne wastes no time consummating the marriage.
    • "Not even the Percy family will be able to wriggle out of it when Henry and I tell them that we are wedded and bedded" (5.339). If hashtags existed in the 16th century, #weddedandbedded would be trending.
  • Chapter 6

    Summer 1523

    • Henry declares Mary the "Queen of May" (6.14) and even lets her sit on Katherine's throne.
    • Mary's faux queenship is interrupted when Anne gets terrible news: Cardinal Wolsey has discovered her marriage to Henry Percy, and he is not happy.
    • Wolsey summons Anne for an audience and tells her he disapproves of the marriage.
    • Anne assures Wolsey he can do nothing about it: the marriage has been consummated. She promises to be a good duchess.
    • Wolsey promises to take Anne's wishes into consideration. Yeah, right.
    • A Boleyn family meeting is convened.
    • Anne's uncle promises to have the marriage dissolved, so that Anne's reputation is not ruined.
    • "But I love him" (6.78), Anne says.
    • Anne's uncle does his best Tina Turner impression and is all like, What's love got to do with it? Marriage is a business, and what he says goes.
    • Anne is furious at her uncle and upset that she might lose her "only love" (6.97).
    • The family decides to exile Anne to Hever, as they did with Mary, until the Percy problem is dealt with.
    • When Anne is gone, she receives a letter from Henry Percy, who, like Rick Astley, is never going to give her up.
    • Anne's mother forces Mary to respond as if she is Anne, saying "I have to give you up" (6.124).
    • Mary is upset that she has a hand in breaking her sister's heart.
  • Chapter 7

    Winter 1523

    • In this short chapter, Mary learns she is pregnant with Henry's baby.
    • Henry is pleased, but not entirely.
    • If the baby is born, it will "carry the name of Carey" (6.10), Henry says, unamused by the homophones.
    • Henry desperately wants a legitimate son.
  • Chapter 8

    Spring 1524

    • Mary breaks the news to Anne that Lord Henry will marry Lady Mary Talbot. Anne's marriage is over.
    • In this century, telling somebody this stuff by letter is like telling that person in a text message. Burn.
    • Pretty much everyone is getting married except for Anne.
    • George is to marry Jane Parker, a vile woman he hates, and Anne is allowed to visit from Hever for the wedding.
    • George marries Jane, whom Anne calls "poisonous" (8.10), and the next day, Anne returns to Hever.
    • Mary is envious. She wishes she could be a farm-girl instead of a pretend queen. Overalls are much more comfortable than gowns.
  • Chapter 9

    Summer 1524

    • Mary must go into seclusion for the entire month of June, when she is to give birth.
    • Anne visits, and together they pray that Mary will have a boy.
    • It's a girl.
    • Everyone is angry with Mary, except for Mary herself. She loves her daughter.
    • Weirdly, Mary names the baby Catherine, in honor of the queen, the wife of the man whose baby she just had.
    • Mary has an unexpected visitor: her husband, William Carey. Remember him? Even Mary barely remembers him.
    • Carey tells Mary that if she wants to say he's impotent, and that they never consummated their marriage—so that it may be annulled—he wouldn't be upset with her.
    • Why? Because as the husband of the queen's mistress, Carey would monetarily benefit from that arrangement.
    • The king is like a father, and everyone is his child begging him for a raise in allowance.
    • Because she just had a baby, Mary gets to sit out the court's midsummer travel.
    • Instead, Mary stays with Anne on the farm in Hever.
    • Mary wishes she could live on the farm and raise her daughter by herself, away from the scheming of the court.
    • That is, obviously, never going to happen.
    • The king expects Mary to return in the fall, without her child, who will be raised by a nanny.
  • Chapter 10

    Winter 1524

    • Mary returns to the court. Henry tells her, "My heart ached for you night and day" (10.5). His "heart." Mmhm, sure, dude.
    • Mary wants to resume work right away. And by "work," we mean she wants to get pregnant with another child.
    • Meanwhile, the Boleyns are plotting Mary's takeover of the throne.
    • Mary still feels bad about betraying the queen.
    • Speaking of that, betraying the queen means risking England's alliance with Spain against France.
    • What's more important? The safety of the country, or having your daughter bang the king? The Boleyns have to decide.
  • Chapter 11

    Spring 1525

    • The king receives news: France is surrendering to England and Spain.
    • "God bless the Spanish and the Spanish princess!" (11.11), cheers Henry. The Spanish princess being his wife, this means that Mary is once again tossed aside like a used tissue.
    • Henry expects to become King of France, but Charles V of Spain is taking his sweet time.
    • After much delay, Charles decides to ransom King Francis back to France and restore him to the throne.
    • Henry is livid, and he wonders if Katherine played a role in this plotting. He accuses her of treason.
    • Katherine swears she had no idea that her nephew would behave this way.
    • Just like that, Katherine's out of favor, and Mary is back in the king's bed. That didn't take long; they barely had time to change the sheets.
    • Mary, who is more fertile than Mesopotamia, quickly conceives another child.
    • Mary's family is rewarded, with her father promoted to viscount and her husband awarded a grant of land.
    • William, Mary's husband, speaks to Mary's father and convinces him to allow Mary another summer in Hever with her daughter.
    • George visits to walk in the apple orchards and complain about his worm of a wife, Jane Parker. She's not only nasty, but she's a kinky thing, wanting George to sleep with another woman while she watches. When he refuses, she offers to get him a man. He refuses that too, not because he isn't interested in men, but because he doesn't want his wife watching.
    • George actually is having an affair with a young male singer.
    • Mary is aghast. "Sodomy" is punishable by death. The mere rumor of it could get her brother executed.
    • George assures her that he will be safe. If you believe that, bookmark Snopes.com so you don't fall for anything else.
  • Chapter 12

    Autumn 1525

    • In this short chapter, the Boleyn family has another meeting.
    • The Boleyns believe that if Mary has a son, Henry will find a way to ditch the queen and hitch Mary. From wedded and bedded to ditched and hitched.
    • Mary finally speaks up. "I can't betray her. I cannot take her place" (12.13).
    • Mary's uncle, who would wear a "Cool story, babe. Now go make me a sandwich" hoodie if they had them back then, tells her to sit down and shut up, because men are still in charge. She has no say in her life.
  • Chapter 13

    Spring 1526

    • With Mary heavy with child, she is advised to no longer "play" with the king (13.19). It ain't patty-cake they're playing, either.
    • The Boleyns don't want Henry to stray, so they send Anne to flirt with Henry in Mary's place.
    • Mary is jealous.
    • But Mary can't do anything about it.
    • Mary is soon sequestered in her birthing chamber, and a miracle happens: she has a boy.
  • Chapter 14

    Summer 1526

    • Mary names her bouncing baby boy Henry, after the king, his father.
    • Mary barely has any time with her son before her uncle orders her to flirt up the king.
    • It's quite an act Mary must perform. She is wracked with sorrow, missing her children, and she must pretend to be happy around the king.
    • Even though she is bleeding from a difficult delivery, Mary is ordered to suck it up and dance with the king.
    • Later, Henry brings Mary to his bed.
    • In the middle of the night, Henry wakes up. He wants to talk.
    • Henry whines about how Katherine was never able to have a boy. She did have male children, but they were either not carried to term or died very soon after birth.
    • Henry believes his marriage was cursed.
    • The next morning, Mary tells George that Henry used the c-word to describe his marriage.
    • The Boleyns believe that this means Henry may take steps to dissolve his marriage to Katherine.
    • Mary later requests that she may leave court to visit her children in Hever for one week.
    • Henry reluctantly gives in to her request. He looks at Anne like a child who has been forced by his parent to lend his favorite toy to another child for the afternoon. "I shall find something to do" (14.233).
    • At Hever, Mary is shocked to see how quickly her daughter, Catherine, has grown.
    • The two-year-old girl barely remembers her own mother, which breaks Mary's heart.
    • Mary perseveres, playing with the children and bonding with them over the course of one wonderful week.
    • When Mary returns to court, she learns that Henry couldn't live seven whole days without his mistress. He has begun courting Anne, buying her beautiful gowns to prove it.
    • Mary accuses Anne of never being able to allow Mary to have anything. "You've always wanted anything that was mine" (14.350).
    • While complaining about Anne's scheming to George, Mary wishes that Anne would "die of her ambition" (14.373).
    • Five-hundred year spoiler alert, folks: be careful what you wish for.
  • Chapter 15

    Autumn 1526

    • In this short chapter, the Boleyns worry that Anne will "muddle the picture" (15.29) by seducing Henry.
    • If he is able to divorce the queen, Henry needs to still have his eye on Mary, the mother of his son.
    • The Boleyns send Anne to Hever, where Mary's children are, while Mary is to stay in court, where Anne wants to be. Oh, the bitter irony of it all.
  • Chapter 16

    Winter 1526

    • Henry neglects and ignores Katherine, pretty much ghosting her in front of the entire court.
    • At the end of January, a joust is held.
    • But Henry is too chicken to ride. "What if I die?" (16.36), he says. Mary gets him some cheese to go with his whine, and she reminds him that their son, Henry, "is the very picture" (16.41) of the king.
  • Chapter 17

    Spring 1527

    • With Anne gone for the whole winter, many people wonder where she is. They miss her beauty and her wit at parties.
    • Plus, Henry has an itch that only Anne can scratch, so he brings her back to court.
    • Anne resumes her flirt game with Henry, and it's a lot stronger, as if she took a correspondence course in being a player while at Hever.
    • Anne puts on a tennis tournament, which should be safer than jousting, but Henry manages to injure himself, anyway, breaking his foot during a game. This gives Anne the opportunity to coddle the big overgrown baby.
    • Later, the court has a spring feast, which features the Tudor version of a turducken: "a peacock […] stuffed with a swan which had been stuffed with chicken which had been stuffed with a lark" (17.66).
    • At dinner, George's wife, Jane Parker, tries to stir up drama by asking Mary if she's jealous that she's bedding a man who desires her sister.
    • Instead of throwing champagne in her face and flipping the table, Mary elegantly answers, "No" (17.81).
    • Meanwhile, Cardinal Wolsey creates a hidden court to charge Henry with unlawfully marrying the wife of his dead brother.
    • The Boleyns decide to pretty much shove Anne into Henry's lap, so that he will hopefully make her queen. They doubt he will choose poor Mary.
    • "What shall I be?" (17.115), Mary asks.
    • "You'll be the other Boleyn girl" (17.116), Anne responds. We couldn't have said it better if it had been on the cover of the book.
    • The divorce isn't going to happen overnight, though.
    • Soon, everyone finds out the Charles of Spain has kidnapped the Pope, the only one who might be able to grant a divorce.
    • And who is the guy's aunt? Why, the very woman Henry wants to divorce.
    • Later, Mary is attending to the queen, who tells Mary that Anne "will be in such a difficult position" (17.154) as a result of this news.
    • Mary and the queen, the woman whose husband is the father of Mary's children, share a laugh at Anne's misfortune.
    • The mirth is short-lived, because Henry storms in and accuses Katherine of being in cahoots with her nephew. She sweetly denies it.
    • As the days pass, Mary feels even more like a "whore" (17.173). The king sleeps with her every night, but he spends his days with Anne.
    • One afternoon, Mary hears the queen crying.
    • Mary eavesdrops on the king telling Katherine that their marriage will be annulled, even without the pope's involvement. He blames her for not giving him a son.
    • When he leaves, the queen, on the floor with tears, sees Mary watching her.
    • "Help me, Mary" (17.203), she says.
    • Mary helps her to her feet.
    • The queen says she will not let Henry destroy her. "I am the Queen of England. I am England" (17.212).
    • Katherine vows to survive the summer.
    • After Mary leaves, she is immediately summoned by her uncle to tell him everything Katherine said.
    • Reluctantly, Mary agrees.
    • When she next waits on the queen, Mary is asked by Katherine to deliver a letter.
    • Of course, Mary betrays the queen by telling her uncle that Katherine has a spy who is to deliver a letter to her nephew.
    • As a reward for her treachery, Mary is rewarded with a trip to Hever to see her children.
    • Anne doesn't want Mary to go.
    • "I've played my part," Mary tells her. "And I can go" (17.293).
    • Anne vows that she can do everything on her own. "And then I shall have it all" (17.295).
    • Cue demonic laughter as the scene fades to black.
  • Chapter 18

    Summer 1527

    • Mary is left all by herself at Hever. Old Mammary had a farm, and on this farm she had her kids, so she is feeling just ducky about all this.
    • Anne soon does what she does best: ruins everything. This time, she does it by sending Mary a letter.
    • In the letter, Anne announces she is to be queen of England.
    • Mary gets another surprise: a visit from her husband, William.
    • William has bad news: England is at war with Spain.
    • And the Pope, who is still in Spain, is unlikely to issue Henry an annulment.
    • Maybe Anne jumped the gun with all this queen talk.
    • William believes the Boleyns are kaput with all this going on, and he wants to reclaim Mary as his wife.
    • Mary writes a letter to Anne asking her to rescue her from William.
    • William intercepts the letter and reads it.
    • But Anne anticipated William's actions and sends Mary a letter, anyway, telling her that the king requests her and her husband's presence at court.
    • Mary is saved, but William still wants to be her rightful husband. He kisses Mary, and she wonders if maybe she wouldn't mind being his wife.
  • Chapter 19

    Autumn 1527

    • There's courting at court, as William goes on romantic walks with Mary and attempts to be her actual husband for once.
    • Anne is frustrated because she is basically queen in every way except actually having possession of the crown.
    • Cardinal Wolsey returns from Spain not with an annulment, but with failure.
    • Anne is not pleased. She has the ear of the king, which is dangerous for the disgraced cardinal.
    • Mary believes that Anne is plotting something against Wolsey.
    • Of course she is. If Anne Boleyn is breathing, she's plotting something.
  • Chapter 20

    Winter 1527

    • As Christmas approaches, Mary is merry to be with her actual husband, William, who is quite sweet to her.
    • The merriness doesn't last long; soon Mary is drawn into another vortex of scandal. This time, it's not about Anne for once. It's about her brother, George.
    • George admits he's in love with a man, Francis Weston.
    • Anne forbids George from pursuing his love, because that would put her in danger of snatching the crown.
    • George is furious that Anne can only think about herself.
    • Anne reminds George that he wasn't exactly upset when she had to give up her love, Henry Percy. Touché, George.
  • Chapter 21

    Summer 1528

    • Anne whines about being tired after flirting with the king all day, while Mary gives her side-eye so hard she almost sprains a socket.
    • Mary has no sympathy for Anne, who made the king's bed and now is tired of lying in it.
    • Mary herself, though, is happy to lie in bed with her own, legal husband.
    • No one's happiness lasts long. That's been a pattern in this book.
    • A plague known as "the sweat" breaks out.
    • Mary flees court, along with George, to be at Hever with her children.
    • Anne soon arrives, but she is sick with the sweat. She is quarantined until she recovers.
    • Back at court, William, Mary's husband, gets sick and dies. R.I.P. William, we hardly knew thee.
    • As much as Mary liked rolling around in the sack with William, she is happy to be free of him. She hopes to "escape another husband" (21.71) and be able to live as a "nobody" (21.72) at Hever, with only her children.
    • George reminds Mary that, as the mother of the king's bastard, she will never just be a nobody.
  • Chapter 22

    Autumn 1528

    • Anne recovers from "the sweat" and wants to drag Mary back to court with her as an ally as she continues her plot for the throne.
    • Mary wishes Anne had stayed sweaty.
    • Back at court, Anne and Mary discover that the family had a meeting without them.
    • The Boleyns suspect that Henry might want to marry Mary, who has been conveniently widowed.
    • Anne is furious that Mary dared return to court to steal her man.
    • Mary reminds Anne that she forced her to return to court with her.
    • Anne starts seducing Henry like she's never seduced before.
    • That's nothing out of the ordinary, but she has an even more nefarious plan: she adopts Mary's son, Henry.
    • Mary is furious, but she's powerless to stop Anne.
    • Some sisters steal each other's clothes or makeup. Anne Boleyn steals children.
  • Chapter 23

    Spring 1529

    • A hearing commences to evaluate evidence for and against the validity of the marriage between Henry and Katherine.
    • It's the O.J. Simpson trial of its day. Everyone is riveted.
    • Queen Katherine makes a public plea to Henry, saying that she has always been his "true wife" (23.8) and that she doesn't understand why he wants to split with her.
    • Mary admires the queen and believes she is speaking out for all women. All women except Anne, that is, whom wants the queen dead.
  • Chapter 24

    Summer 1529

    • Anne the control freak wants Mary at court, but Mary decides to leave, anyway, to go to Hever and see her children. Well, her daughter and the son that Anne officially adopted, that is.
    • Before she leaves, Mary says goodbye to the queen. She apologizes for betraying Katherine to her family.
    • Katherine is like, Honey, please, you're a Boleyn. Katherine knew Mary would betray her, which is why she didn't tell Mary about the real letter she had delivered to Spain. Oh, snap.
    • In Hever, Mary receives news that there is still no news regarding the king's divorce.
    • In this instance, no news is bad news.
    • Anne mails Mary a letter, demanding she return to court in autumn.
    • Mary considers faking the plague to avoid seeing Anne again. Seeing Anne Boleyn is like all Mondays rolled into one.
  • Chapter 25

    Autumn 1529

    • Anne makes true on her threats and has Cardinal Wolsey stripped of his title. This doesn't make Henry any less frustrated, though.
    • Henry wants to consummate his relationship with Anne, even though they still cannot be wed.
    • George and Mary coach Anne on how to sexually satisfy Henry while still remaining a technical virgin. They basically suggest everything except yiffing.
    • Anne's new tricks get her back into the king's favor, and he rewards her and the Boleyns with money and titles.
    • Some call Anne a "whore" (25.43), but she is laughing all the way to the bank.
  • Chapter 26

    Christmas 1529

    • Favor in the court changes faster than the weather.
    • At Christmastime, the queen is back in, and Anne is out.
    • The Boleyns commiserate about their misfortunes, George, Anne, and Mary all grousing together in one big bed.
    • George's wife, Jane Parker, sees them in bed together and thinks they're engaged in some sort of incestuous threesome.
    • George tells Jane that's ridiculous.
    • Anne discovers that the king is keeping her away because he wants Campeggio, the Italian cardinal, to believe that he is "putting the queen aside for the purest of reasons" (26.49)—that is, not because of that hussy Anne Boleyn.
    • Anne's still miffed and jealous, unable to put her emotions aside.
    • Mary, though, is happy to have the queen back, and the queen welcomes her back into the court.
    • The queen reminds Mary that "Anne is only one of a line" (26.66). The king's parade of hussies never ends.
  • Chapter 27

    Summer 1530

    • It's summer, so it's back to Hever for Mary.
    • This trip is different because of the presence of a flirtatious new escort: William Stafford.
    • Mary asks Stafford to dine with her, but he refuses. "A pity that he had such bad manners" (27.16), thinks Mary, which roughly translates to, "How rude!"
    • However, Mary and William continue flirting with each other during the summer.
    • Mary welcomes the distraction, because she is upset that her son, who isn't even legally her son anymore, is growing up.
    • Mary reluctantly cuts her son's curly blond hair, and she's sad that his life is flying by without her in it.
    • On the way back to court at the end of summer, Mary weeps.
    • William Stafford suggests she that Mary is weeping because she lacks independence. If she'd fight for her children and deny her family, she might be happy.
    • "I'd like to ride alone" (27.59), Mary tells him, which roughly translates to, "Check yourself before you wreck yourself."
  • Chapter 28

    Autumn 1530

    • Anne is happy because she got to chill with Henry all summer.
    • But just because Anne Boleyn is happy doesn't mean she still doesn't want certain people dead.
    • Anne wants Wolsey dead. Having him stripped of his title isn't enough for her.
    • Anne connives a plan to have Wolsey arrested.
    • To send a message, the lord sent to arrest Wolsey is Henry Percy, the man whose marriage to Anne Wolsey denied years ago.
    • Wolsey dies on the road while being transported. It's not the intended chain of events, but Anne is satisfied that he is out of the picture for good.
  • Chapter 29

    Christmas 1530

    • 'Tis the season to pretend that you love your wife, so Katherine is back at court.
    • Mary is shocked to see defeat in the queen's eyes. Katherine is tired of pretending to be happy.
    • As the queen's lady in waiting, Mary transports a gift for her: a basket of oranges.
    • Mary accidentally drops the basket and discovers a secret note at the bottom of it.
    • B is for betrayal and for Boleyn, so Mary snatches the note and delivers it to her uncle.
    • Because Mary is an honest traitor, she later tells Katherine she stole the note.
    • The queen icily dismisses Mary. If looks could kill, Mary would be dead.
  • Chapter 30

    Spring 1531

    • In less than two paragraphs, Henry names himself the supreme head of the Church of England.
    • The only person who might speak out against him is Bishop Fisher.
    • Strangely, Bishop Fisher is poisoned a few nights later. And by "strangely," we mean, "Anne totally did it."
    • The queen is worried about being poisoned by Anne, too, so she feeds all her food to her dog first.
    • Soon, Princess Mary, Henry and Katherine's daughter, falls ill, and Mary Boleyn wonders if Anne poisoned her, too.
    • Whatever the cause, Katherine wants to see her daughter, but Henry denies her request.
    • Only when the princess is near death does Henry dismiss Katherine.
    • Mary sees off the queen, and William Stafford, the stable man, approaches Mary. He asks if she ever looks for him.
    • Mary says, "Never" (30.89), but she totally means "all the time."
  • Chapter 31

    Summer 1531

    • Boy, the years fly by, don't they?
    • It's summer, which means Mary is off to Hever.
    • The other Mary, Princess Mary, has returned to court with her mother, Queen Katherine.
    • Katherine and Mary Boleyn bond a bit as mothers before Mary leaves.
    • Everything is great.
    • Not quite. What book did you think you were reading?
    • Before Mary leaves for Hever, the court leaves for their summer trip…without the queen.
    • For the first time in history, the king ditches Katherine without saying goodbye.
    • That is not a good sign.
    • Soon, Katherine receives a letter informing her she is to gather her stuff and leave by the time Henry returns.
    • We saw a case just like this one on Judge Judy.
    • Mary leaves for Hever to get all the court drama out of her mind.
    • She has a wonderful summer, teaching the children to ride ponies with the help of William Stafford, the stable stud.
    • Mary entertains dreams of marrying another William.
    • Mary's dream is cut short by a letter from Anne, who demands her return to court at once.
    • Back and forth goes Mary, like a yo-yo.
  • Chapter 32

    Autumn 1531

    • When court reconvenes in autumn, Mary learns the queen has moved out.
    • But Anne is still not happy. "I'll not be safe until she is dead" (32.6). She might not even be safe then. Everyone hates her.
    • While riding with the king during the summer, villagers yelled and threw things at Anne.
    • One autumn afternoon, Anne has to flee an angry mob.
    • Anne worries that Henry won't marry her, considering how unpopular she is.
    • Anne soldiers on as if she's the queen, anyway, annoying everyone in her path.
  • Chapter 33

    Spring 1532

    • George reports rumors of Anne flying around the countryside.
    • "She is a witch and has enchanted the king by sorcery" (33.13). Maybe they think Anne is flying around the countryside on her broomstick.
    • Meanwhile, Mary is still being flirtatious with William Stafford.
    • Mary casually mentions William Stafford to her uncle, and he says that Stafford is already betrothed to some country girl.
    • What a cad.
    • That night, George visits Anne and Mary in their room.
    • They do what they do best: gossip.
    • At one point, Mary catches George's wife, Jane Parker, doing what she does best: spying through the keyhole.
    • Mary exposes Jane and dismisses her.
    • Before leaving, George gives Anne a rather steamy kiss.
    • Mary "pretend[s] that it was nothing more than a brotherly kiss" (33.75), but it was pretty intense.
    • The next day, Mary hears a rumor that Henry Percy's wife is trying to divorce him by swearing he was married to Anne.
    • This accusation casts Anne's chastity into question.
    • Henry accuses Anne of not being a virgin.
    • "You! Who sought me out and courted me with another wife still living?" (33.141), Anne shrewdly points out.
    • Anne and Henry rage at each other hard, and then quickly make up. They have to get all that pent-up sexual aggression out somehow.
  • Chapter 34

    Summer 1532

    • Mary returns to Hever, but she declines William Stafford's offer to escort her.
    • Mary is upset with William Stafford for "treating [her] like a fool while all along he was planning to marry someone else" (33.4).
    • Mary has a nice summer in Hever and is startled when William Stafford is the escort sent to bring her back to court. He has no idea why she's mad at him.
    • Mary says it's because William was off buying a house so that he could marry some girl.
    • William says, "You're the girl" (33.48), dummy.
    • William and Mary smooch, and Mary fantasizes about living her dream as a nobody on a farm. Ah, the simple life.
    • Nothing is simple with Anne Boleyn as a sister, though.
    • Back at court, Anne wants Mary to purchase some fancy new gowns.
    • The court will be traveling to Calais, and Anne wants to impress the French.
    • Anne is confident that Henry will soon make her his wife. It's sure taking him long enough.
    • The next morning, in the stable yard, William Stafford tells Mary that he must marry her.
    • Mary worries about the repercussions she'll face from her family, though, and she rides away without answering yes. That's humiliating.
  • Chapter 35

    Autumn 1532

    • Anne is awarded the title of Marquess of Pembroke.
    • You'd think the Boleyn family would be happy, but Mary's uncle is "torn between joy at the wealth and the prestige for his niece and his increasing hatred of her arrogance" (35.1).
    • Arrogant Anne decides she no longer has to wait until marriage to bed the king. She goes to his bed that night.
    • In the morning, Mary learns that Thomas More, the chancellor, will resign his position, giving Henry free reign to rule on his own marriage and, hopefully, marry Anne.
    • Mary rushes off to tell Anne.
    • That evening, George sees Mary flirting with William Stafford. He understands they are in love, but he tells Mary to at least wait to remarry until Anne is queen.
    • Mary might be waiting a while.
    • Anne demands to go to France as queen, not "half a queen" (35.123), but Henry still won't marry her.
    • The court travels by ship to France.
    • On the ship, William, seasick, goes to Mary for comfort.
    • William and Mary end up heavily making out, even though they are not yet married. Gosh, we though Dramamine was the best cure for seasickness.
    • In France, Anne is furious that the French queen, who is a Spanish princess like Katherine, won't meet with her.
    • A lack of invitation won't stop Anne Boleyn.
    • Anne throws a costume party and enters the king's banquet in a mask.
    • King Francis of France is enchanted with Anne's mysterious beauty.
    • When the court returns to England by ship, Mary frets that she won't get to see William anymore. They don't have the same privacy in court that they do on the boat. (Hopefully they'll have fewer rats watching them.)
    • William suggests that he should resign from her uncle's service and go build a farm for them to eventually live on.
    • It will be hard to be separated from William, but Mary agrees.
    • Back at court, George talks to Mary again about her relationship with William.
    • George reminds Mary that, as a Boleyn, and especially a Boleyn girl—you might say the other Boleyn girl—Mary is not in charge of who she may and may not marry.
    • "Heartbreak becomes you" (35.299), says George. That is an excellent name for a shade of lipstick, but it's hardly comforting for Mary in the moment.
  • Chapter 36

    Winter 1532

    • Anne is declared "Queen of Peace" (36.1) during Christmas revels.
    • Soon, the Queen of Peace realizes she might be mother to a prince of peace. That's right: Anne is preggo.
    • This is what it takes to get Henry to finally wed Anne.
    • Henry and Anne are wed in secret, which means we don't get to watch the lavish ceremony on TV as we're accustomed to with British royal weddings. How boring.
  • Chapter 37

    Spring 1533

    • Henry passes a law saying that English disputes can only be judged in English courts.
    • That means Katherine, in exile, cannot protest the annulment and remarriage of her husband.
    • "It was as if she had never been" (37.3), remarks Mary.
    • The ghosting of Queen Katherine is complete.
    • Anne wants a lavish ceremony that will put Katherine's coronation to shame.
    • Wait, we thought we were pretending Katherine never existed?
    • Anne Boleyn, like the most vengeful elephant, never forgets.
    • Anne is finally to be queen.
    • Remember when Mary was to be queen? Remember when she had the king's children? What does Mary have now?
    • Nothing.
    • The man Mary loves, William Stafford, is gone.
    • Mary takes a horse and leaves the castle.
    • Mary searches the countryside for William. Eventually she finds him, and declares her love to him.
    • William carries Mary into the bedroom "and into joy" (37.64), which doesn't involve as much upper body strength. Or maybe it does.
    • Mary wants to leave court and be a farmer's wife, but there's one small problem. No, not the fact that she doesn't know how to grow corn, but the fact that Anne is still in legal control of her son, Henry.
    • William wants Mary to be with her children.
    • William and Mary wed and return to court.
    • The first person Mary visits is her brother, George.
    • When she enters, Mary catches Sir Francis Weston "straightening his doublet" (37.111). You know what they say: if the doublet's askew, something's ado.
    • Mary tells George she'll protect his secret if he protects hers—which is that she's married.
    • Francis agrees to make William an usher to the king so that William may be near Mary at court.
    • William waits on the king by day and worships Mary in his room at night.
    • Meanwhile, Anne gets into an argument with her uncle.
    • Now that Anne is to be queen, she doesn't want her uncle around anymore.
    • Mary warns Anne about burning bridges, but Anne is pretty much walking napalm.
    • One night, William warns Mary about George's reputation as a sodomite.
    • Mary swears she will stand by her brother, no matter what the rumors are.
    • However, Mary agrees to try and get Henry, her son, away from George and his circle of friends. The bad reputation could be damaging to him.
    • After Anne's coronation, Mary warns George to stop seeing Francis Weston. He can't, he says. He's in love with the man.
    • George asks Mary if she could stop seeing her husband, and she says it's not the same thing.
    • "You're not without sin," George tells her. "You're just lucky" (37.319).
    • If this is the Boleyns being lucky, we'd hate to see what life is like for them on a bad day.
  • Chapter 38

    Summer 1533

    • Anne is due to be the king's baby mama in August, so she refuses to let Mary go to Hever during the summer.
    • Mary is furious that Anne holds such power over her, and they argue about it.
    • Mary says she wants to go to Hever after the baby is born.
    • "After the baby is born you can go to hell if you like" (38.18), says Anne. Honestly, hell would be an upgrade from Henry's court.
    • On the political front, the pope rules that Henry should be excommunicated from the Church.
    • The court worries that an invasion from Spain may be the next attack against Henry, and advisors plan for conflict.
    • Anne worries that the king will ditch her for causing even more trouble.
    • The only way for Anne to guarantee her safety is for her to pop out a royal baby boy.
    • Anne wants to have the royal christening gown for her baby, but Henry is unable to get it from Katherine.
    • Soon, Anne is secluded in her birthing chamber for the month before the child's birth.
    • Mary is happy to have Anne out of her hair for a while. A nine-month pregnancy doesn't seem long enough.
  • Chapter 39

    Autumn 1533

    • Anne goes into labor. The pain she experiences can only be a fraction of the pain normal people feel by merely dealing with her on a daily basis.
    • The baby is born without a hitch.
    • Okay, there's one small hitch: it's a girl. Might as well put the thing in a sack and drop it off a bridge now.
    • Anne names the baby Elizabeth and arranges for her to be sent away and cared for.
    • Among the baby's caretakers will be Princess Mary, Katherine's daughter.
    • Mary Boleyn finds it especially offensive that Anne is having another princess serve her daughter. But being offensive is what Anne does best.
    • Anne has more news that is offensive to Mary: she is putting Mary's son, Henry, in the care of Sir Francis Weston.
    • Mary is furious and swears to William that she'll kill Anne for putting her son in the care "of those sodomites!" (39.61). Oh, dear.
    • William swears he and Mary will get Henry back somehow. Good luck.
  • Chapter 40

    Winter 1533

    • In this short chapter, Anne discovers she is pregnant again.
    • Anne eats asparagus all the time because she believes it will make her baby a boy.
    • Is the stinky pee worth it?
  • Chapter 41

    Spring 1534

    • With Anne pregnant again, King Henry will be more like King Randy, looking for another woman in court.
    • The family decides to have Madge Shelton, Anne's cousin, stay in the king's good graces.
    • The Boleyns also think it's time for Mary to be married; they don't know about her secret marriage to William.
    • Mary keeps her mouth shut.
    • William swears no man will ever come between him and Mary.
    • Before William and Mary can worry about their future, something terrible happens: Anne experiences bleeding and pains.
    • Anne may be losing the baby.
    • George and Mary know they cannot tell the king, so they go to find a midwife.
    • The midwife brews a potion that should help Anne be rid of the dying baby.
    • Anne drinks the potion and writhes around in pain for a long time.
    • The next day, Mary finds Anne lying in a mass of bloody bedsheets.
    • The unborn fetus is in the blood.
    • Anne and Mary's mother tosses the baby into the fireplace and burns it.
    • Mommy Dearest coaches Anne to tell the king she made a mistake instead of admitting that she had a miscarriage.
    • "A miscarriage is proof of sin" (41.113).
    • Anne worries she may never have a boy. It could be the king's fault, but she will take all the blame.
  • Chapter 42

    Summer 1534

    • Anne may not be able to conceive, but fertile Mary is pregnant with William's child.
    • Mary goes to Anne, the queen, and tells her she is with child and has married William.
    • Anne accuses Mary of being an insult to the family and banishes her from court. As if this were a punishment.
    • There's a catch. There's always a catch.
    • Anne tells Mary she will take away her children to punish her.
    • Banished, Mary tries to focus on the positive—she gets to be with her husband, away from all of Anne's drama.
    • Mary asks George to help her get her children, and he promises to do whatever he can.
    • At Hever, Mary and William live as a happy farmer family, like "Tudor Gothic", which is just like "American Gothic," but with frilled collars.
  • Chapter 43

    Winter 1535

    • Mary receives a letter from George.
    • Anne is beside herself because Henry is taken with one of her lady's maids, Jane Seymour. He spends all his time with her, and we don't mean he's marathoning Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.
    • Mary doesn't care. She has her own baby to give birth to.
    • Not being at court means that Mary isn't cooped up for a whole month before her labor. She gets to do whatever she wants, and she has an easy birth.
    • It's a girl. Mary names her Anne.
    • Unlike the baby's namesake, who felt cursed when she gave birth to a girl, Mary feels #blessed.
  • Chapter 44

    Spring 1535

    • Anne sends Mary a letter, with a bargain.
    • Anne is with child again, and if Mary returns to court to keep her company, Anne will let Mary see her children.
    • Mary agrees to these terms, and off she goes.
    • In Anne's room, Mary learns that Anne has told no one of her pregnancy except Mary and George.
    • Anne wants the pregnancy to be kept secret until she is positive.
    • Mary chats with the king and queen, and Henry wonders why Mary's husband isn't at court.
    • "He was not asked" (44.93), Mary says.
    • Anne, who should play Two-Face in the next Batman movie, says, "Of course he was summoned" (44.94), which was a total lie.
    • But this means that William can join Mary at court, so Mary is pleased.
  • Chapter 45

    Summer 1535

    • Alarmed, William tells Mary that Henry has had Bishop Fisher arrested.
    • Henry is abusing his own laws left and right. He can try anyone for treason that he wants, meaning no one is safe. He is the monster they have created.
    • Henry soon has Bishop Fisher and Sir Thomas More beheaded for claiming that Queen Katherine had legally been his wife.
    • The world now has fewer heads and more danger.
    • With all the death in the air, it's no surprise that Anne feels she has had another miscarriage.
    • Mary and George visit a medicine woman who gives them a tonic that will flush the baby out, whether it's alive or not.
    • Mary can't bear to make the decision herself, so she gives the tonic to Anne, saying it's her choice whether or not to drink it.
    • Anne drinks it.
    • At two that morning, George fetches Mary from her room. Anne has miscarried.
    • Anne lies by the fire with the dead baby by her side.
    • Anne orders George to bury the baby. Guess this one is too big to burn.
    • Mary tells George to get her husband, William, to help him.
    • In the morning, Anne resumes her normal routine as if nothing happened.
    • William is suspicious of Anne's behavior. He tells Mary that everyone is talking about Anne. They believe she is a witch.
    • Regardless of the truth of these rumors, one fact is apparent: if Anne doesn't have a son, she is liable to keep Mary's son as her own.
    • Lucky for Mary, Anne lets her go see her children that summer.
    • Mary is alarmed at how much Catherine and Henry have grown in her absence.
    • The children are excited to meet their new baby sister. They're all one big happy family.
  • Chapter 46

    Autumn 1535

    • Anne says she's with child again. The leaves are falling off the trees, and babies are falling out of the Boleyn girls.
    • The other revelation in this short chapter is that Mary's daughter, Catherine, wants to go to court with her.
    • Mary reluctantly allows it.
  • Chapter 47

    Winter 1536

    • Katherine of Aragon is dead.
    • Anne, who would spit on the woman's grave if she could, is happy.
    • Henry is happy, too, as if he had never loved Katherine, ever.
    • Mary's uncle pulls her aside after the news is delivered. He tells her she is to stay at court for the death party.
    • William tells Mary's uncle that Mary is free to do as she pleases.
    • Mary agrees to stay, but she refuses to dance and insult the dead queen's memory.
    • Anne summons Mary later and tells her she is confident she is with child.
    • "I went on a journey to the very gates of hell to get him" (47.67), Anne tells Mary.
    • Mary does not want to know the details.
    • Anne orders Mary to run and tell George, her brother.
    • Mary thinks that's weird.
    • "I meant the king" (47.78), Anne corrects herself. That's a weird slip, like calling out your mom's name during a hot makeout session.
    • Mary runs to fetch the king and take him to Anne's room.
    • Outside the room, Mary tells George that Anne is with child.
    • A weird look crosses George's face. It's so weird that no emoji can approximate it. It's so weird that Mary wonders if George is the father of Anne's baby.
    • While Anne is with child, she is constantly attended to by George, as if he is her "devoted husband" (47.107).
    • Anne is also attended to by Mary's daughter, Catherine, who is shaping up to be a good lady in waiting.
    • Mary, though, doesn't want her daughter to be waiting to be auctioned off as a bride. She wants her to have a life of her own.
    • Anne receives a surprise visit from her uncle. He informs her that Henry has fallen from his horse. He is gravely hurt and may die.
    • Anne feels like the Vice President of the U.S. about to become president. She must prepare to take control of England if the king is, in fact, dead.
    • Henry, injured, is carried in to a private room.
    • Mary goes to check on Henry. He isn't dead, but he is delirious.
    • Henry asks for Katherine, thinking he is still married to her.
    • Henry recovers, but his fear of death and desire for a male heir is stronger than ever.
    • Henry tells Anne, "You had better have a son in there, madam" (47.251). The unspoken phrase: or else. We're surprised he doesn't mime a guillotine falling.
    • Oh, wait, they don't have guillotines yet.
    • Henry soon turns his attention away from Anne and begins flirting with the virginal, sweet Jane Seymour.
    • Even Mary is fed up with the flirtatious behavior from a countless succession of women in the court.
    • Mary tells Jane, "If you go on flirting with the king with those sickly little smiles, one of us Boleyn girls is going to scratch your eyes out" (47.315). We imagine she went back to her room to sharpen her nails.
    • Anne orders Henry to kick plain Jane out of court.
    • But Henry orders Anne to keep Jane as a lady of waiting. King trumps Queen in cards—and in the royal court.
    • Anne fights publicly with Henry, and the family worries that Anne can't recover from this. She might forever be on his bad side.
    • The only thing that could save Anne is the child she holds.
    • At a dance that night, Anne begins to bleed, and everyone sees it. All hope may be lost, along with the baby.
    • In Anne's room, everyone tries to save the baby.
    • Not only is the baby stillborn, it's also a "monster" (47.395), according to the midwife.
    • Mary describes the baby as "horridly malformed, with a spine flayed open and a huge head, twice as large as the spindly little body" (47.395). It's like Anne gave birth to a stegosaurus.
    • The midwife rushes to tell the king that Anne gave birth to a devil child.
    • Mary attempts to buy the midwife's silence, but no price will keep her mouth shut.
    • Rumors quickly spread about Anne's demon baby.
    • The king does nothing to silence the rumors. He is too busy going on walks with Jane Seymour, who is so angelic she repels demons even when she sneezes.
    • Henry takes the court with him and leaves without bidding Anne goodbye.
    • Remember when that happened to Katherine? It was the beginning of the end for her, and she didn't even have any devil babies.
    • Jane Seymour is clearly the favorite. Secretary Cromwell gives up his rooms at Greenwich so that Mistress Seymour may stay there.
    • Anne is no longer in anyone's favor.
    • Anne follows to Greenwich when she recovers from her miscarriage.
    • But Henry does not want to see Anne, no matter what role she has assumed.
    • Not even Anne's own mother will associate with her.
    • Mary realizes it's just she, George, and Anne on their own.
    • The king throws a winter fair with ice-skating.
    • Anne is graceful on her skates, an ice princess, while Jane Seymour is more like Bambi, sprawling over the place.
    • It's not enough to get Henry's attention, and Mary makes the obvious metaphor that they are "on thin ice" (47.634).
  • Chapter 48

    Spring 1536

    • The ice melts, but Henry is still cold toward Anne.
    • Anne attempts to get help from her uncle, whom she turned against the instant she became queen.
    • Anne's uncle will not forgive her, or help her, unless she assures him that George will get the Order of the Garter in April.
    • The king awards the Order of the Garter to someone else. So Anne is out of luck.
    • The rumors around Anne continue to swell.
    • The latest scandal is that Anne is apparently having affairs with many men.
    • Mary's uncle advises Mary retrieve her son from the tutorship of Henry Norris, William Brereton, Francis Weston, and Thomas Wyatt.
    • William agrees, and he says he will get Henry back.
    • Meanwhile, Anne is sick of all the rumors, and she decides to confront Henry directly.
    • Anne says that her not having a son is not her fault. She has given birth to a princess, who she believes will "be the greatest princess this country has ever had" (48.107).
    • Henry turns his face away and will not address Anne directly.
    • Henry dismisses Anne coldly, and she and Mary return to Anne's room with baby Elizabeth in tow.
    • In Anne's room, she has an unexpected visitor: Mark Smeaton.
    • Smeaton has been interrogated by the king's men. They asked if he had had an affair with Anne. Or with her brother, George. He denied it all, but Anne and George are still worried about the storm brewing in their direction.
    • Soon, it's May Day. Mayday! Mayday! The Boleyn ship is going down.
    • Mary learns that Smeaton has been taken to the Tower of London.
    • Mary can wait no longer. She will take Catherine and leave court for good.
    • Unfortunately, Mary's horse needs shoes. That's like wanting to go on a road trip, but first you need an oil change and new tires.
    • By the time the work is done, George has been arrested and taken to the Tower of London.
    • So has Anne, on charges of adultery and witchcraft.
    • Even when facing certain death, manipulative Anne keeps playing her games. She takes young Catherine with her to the tower as her lady's maid.
    • Mary is livid—and worried for Catherine's safety. But she is assured that Catherine will be fine.
    • Mary is able to visit Catherine at the gates to the Tower of London.
    • Mary asks Catherine to request release from Anne, but Catherine won't abandon her aunt, no matter how crazy she is.
  • Chapter 49

    May 1536

    • Mary learns from Madge Shelton about the scandalous trial.
    • As one of Anne's ladies in waiting, Madge had been questioned about the goings-on in Anne's bedroom. "Who was bedding who, who was promising what? Who was giving gifts?" (49.14).
    • Soon, Henry Norris, Francis Weston, William Brereton, and Mark Smeaton are found guilty of adultery with the queen.
    • This means that George is in grave danger. Mary wants to find a way to save him.
    • William advises against it. Defending George would put Mary's own life in danger.
    • William and Mary compromise, and Mary decides to go to her father and uncle for help.
    • Mary is furious with her father and uncle for not standing by Anne, who is being accused of doing everything they wanted her to do.
    • "Is she to die for being an obedient daughter?" (49.80), Mary asks.
    • Father and uncle deny having anything to do with Anne's behavior. Boy, these men have some severe memory issues.
    • The only good news to come out of this encounter is that the men believe Anne will not be executed. Her fate will be exile.
    • Anne and George are both soon found guilty.
    • George is beheaded with the other men, and Anne is forced to watch it all.
    • The next day, Anne is brought out to be beheaded.
    • As she did at the beginning of the book, which feels like many years ago, Mary believes Henry will step in at the last minute and pardon Anne.
    • Henry doesn't.
    • Anne is beheaded, and Mary is in shock.
    • With her husband and her three children—at least she gets all of them back—Mary leaves the court for her country home.
    • Henry moves quickly.
    • Before Anne's head has even rolled away from her body, Jane Seymour has her wedding clothes ready.
    • The queen is dead. Long live the queen. At least until the king has her killed, too. (Actually, historical spoiler alert: Jane dies on her own, before Henry can get tired of her.)
    • Mary believes that the Boleyn line is finished. In her mind, Elizabeth will "never sit on the throne." (49.161)
    • Boy, is she wrong.
    • The end.