Study Guide

William Stafford in The Other Boleyn Girl

By Philippa Gregory

William Stafford

Born: c. 1500-1512, Died: 5 May 1556
Known for: Being the second husband to his second wife, Mary Boleyn; serving the king; looking good in a saddle (citation needed). (Source)

He's Nobody, Who Are You?

Very rarely does a celebrity marry a nobody. Maybe they'd be happier if they did. Mary is a 16th-century celeb, since everyone knows who the mistress of the king is. At least in her younger years, she craves the hustle and bustle of the court.

All that changes when Mary meets a simple country boy named William Stafford.

When Mary meets William, she is already becoming disillusioned with court life. William gives her the little push she needs to turn her life in a new direction.

Of course, Mary initially denies him her hand in marriage because of her family and her life in the court. "Because I am a Howard and a Boleyn and you are a nobody. […] I can't become a country wife at the snap of your fingers" (34.56, 34.122), she says. Harsh, Mary. Harsh.

But she changes her mind. And her family, predictably flips. "You'll be overlooked now for the rest of your life. […] You'll be a nobody forever" (35.6), George tells her. Mary's response? "There might be some joy in being a nobody" (35.7). Yeah, Mary has learned that being a somebody is more trouble than it's worth. It doesn't bring her happiness.

William brings with him a few bonuses. He doesn't order Mary around the way Henry orders Anne around; in fact, he encourages her independence. "I should like a woman who was free as a bird" (27.41), he says. Nelly Furtado hasn't been born yet, so our dude settles for Mary. To top it all off, he's also a wonderful stepfather to Mary's children.

Mary's relationship with William harkens back to something she told Henry back at the beginning of the book: "If you were a nobody and I were a nobody I would love you" (3.155). Mary means it. Henry, on the other hand, would never stoop to being a nobody, so it's appropriate that Mary finds a man who is the opposite of Henry—a man who is honest and true, even if he is a nobody.

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