The Other Boleyn Girl is an historical novel by British author Philippa Gregory. It is loosely based on the life of 16th Century Aristocrat Mary Boleyn, the sister of Anne Boleyn, but beyond that little of her is known. Gregory's novel is inspired by the life of Mary and begins by depicting the annulment of the marriage between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, one of the most significant events in monarchical history, and an illustration of the urgency of the need for a male heir. The majority of the history in this account is distorted and critics were greatly troubled by the volume of the inaccuracies.
As the sister of Anne, Mary is often mentioned in biographies about her sister but never in much detail; she is said to have been the mistress of two kings, including Henry VIII, and is also believed to have been prettier and more gentle in temperament. However many other facts in the novel are disputed, including incest between Anne and Geirge Boleyn, Mary's sexual experience - portrayed as a demure inexperienced girl in the novel but in reality having a reputation for promiscuity before ever meeting King Henry - as well as the motivations of Anne Boleyn, portrayed by Gregory as a schemer who is vindictive, vain and unstable, a picture of her wholly unsupported by contemporary accounts.
Despite critical reviews, the novel was phenomenally successful and went on to be made into a film starring Jodhi May and Natascha McElhone. Gregory continued to enjoy great success in this genre following this novel with a sequel called The King's Fool, set during the reign of Henry VIII's daughter Queen Mary.