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The Rape of Anne Boleyn

Having had the better part of five days to think about the film adaptation of The Other Boleyn Girl and the time to read the reviews of other bloggers and movie critics, I feel that there needs to be some discussion about the rape scene.  The more I think about it, the more appalled I become.  I don’t believe it ever happened and portraying such an act is a disservice to those who had no previous knowledge of Tudor History.

In reality, Henry and Anne’s courtship was about 6 years old before they were married and it was only several months beforehand that they were sexually intimate. While I’m certain that there was something about Anne that fueled Henry’s fire, for her to have kept his interest for that long before the relationship was consummated, there had to be something else there for his desire, there was more to their relationship than just sexual attraction.  If his primary goal was to have her, he would not have waited a minute let alone five plus years.  Anne was an intelligent and astute woman.  She knew that the chase is what kept Henry interested.  Still, she knew exactly when the opposite was true.  Anne was many things, but she was not a victim.  She desired the throne of England and she worked and manipulated her way to just that spot.  What she did not take into account was the difficulty in keeping Henry without a male heir.  This was a difficulty she created for herself.  Had she not gone to the lengths to support the separation of England from the Roman Catholic Church she may never have been Queen of England, but she probably would have kept her head.  There is no way to be sure, but I can’t imagine her not being aware of that.  I think that Natalie Portman did an excellent job portraying how quickly Anne Boleyn went from having it all to constantly worrying about losing it all.

So why did the movie choose rape as the vehicle for the consummation of Henry and Anne’s relationship?  The only rational explanation I can come up with is that the film did not deal with the length of their courtship.  It wasn’t just washed over, either.  At the end of the movie when Mary‘s children were frolicking in the fields with Elizabeth, Elizabeth was very close in age to Henry Carey.  Since they eliminated the time and struggle involved with breaking with the Roman Catholic Church, they needed another device to explain Anne’s pregnancy at the time of their marriage and her coronation. This bothers me.  Henry was no saint, but he still deserves honest treatment.

36 Comments

  • At 2008.03.04 19:59, Daphne said:

    I agree with you that it’s the only thing that makes sense. That was the one part of the movie that really annoyed me.

    • At 2008.03.05 12:30, devourerofbooks said:

      Yes, thank you! Of all of the things that evoked a “that’s not right!” response from me during that movie, that scene got by far the most insistent “that’s not right!”. I agree with your reasoning as to why they might have done, that makes sense, if we’re going to assume that they did it for a valid artistic reason and not just for drama.

      You’re right about the age difference between Henry and Elizabeth, too. I was so bothered by the fact that they left out Catherine and let Mary take Elizabeth home with her that I didn’t even notice that.

      • [...] None of the sources I have read show Henry raping Anne the first time they had sex. I know she was pregnant when they were married, but most historical fiction at least shows her deciding that she needs to finally give herself to him in order to keep him satisfied, and give him the final push towards her goal.  For more on why on EARTH they would have Henry rape Anne when it doesn’t seem to have happened, read the Literate Housewife’s thoughts. [...]

        • At 2008.03.05 13:15, Literate Housewife said:

          I think that leaving Catherine out didn’t bother me that much (although I noticed it immediately) because of the differences between the novel and film versions of Gone with the Wind. While Scarlett’s first two children are important within the context of the novel in pointing out that Scarlett wasn’t the most attentive of mothers, they handled it differently in the movie. While Catherine is Mary’s only undisputed child by Henry VIII, the “disappointment” of her being a girl instead of a boy within a short movie would have overshadowed the “horror” for Anne that Elizabeth was a girl. Corners were cut for certain, but I think that it made some sense. I guess girls still get the short end of the stick in Tudor history.

          • At 2008.03.06 18:29, hmks said:

            As I reviewed in my movie review of this film, I didn’t like the portrayal of Henry VIII in the film adaptation of this story. In the movie is is weak of mind and spirit and apparently only ruled by the male parts of his anatomy and not his brain. I do not think this is an accurate portrayal of King Henry VIII. The film does nothing to give him credit for some of the major accomplishments that he was responsible during his reign. I recommend Margaret George’s book on Henry VIII, it’s well-researched and well-written and gives a true and accurate account of his life.

            • At 2008.03.06 18:30, hmks said:

              Sorry about the typos! I should have reviewed my comment a bit closer before pressing the Submit Comment button!! http://www.HeidiTown.com

              • At 2008.03.06 23:18, Literate Housewife said:

                I have read Margaret George’s book and loved it (http://literatehousewife.wordpress.com/2007/12/20/52-the-autobiography-of-henry-viii/). We tend to label people as either 100% good or 100% evil. We’re always some where in between.

                • At 2008.03.09 09:14, b*babbler said:

                  Ooh, I haven’t seen the movie yet, but that would really irritate me. I can understand skipping over some things for brevity and minor changes where necessary, but that’s a pretty significant change to make (consensual sex to rape?!) I’m not sure how I would make it past that part of the film.

                  That said, I’m still likely to watch it when it comes out on video (the toddler keeps me tied to the house these days, sadly).

                  • At 2008.03.09 09:35, Literate Housewife said:

                    b*babbler,

                    Sorry to have given away part of the movie, but I think on a whole you will enjoy it. Natalie Portman really did a good job portraying Anne Boleyn.

                    • At 2008.03.09 20:09, b*babbler said:

                      Eh… No worries. We kinda know how the story ends and all ;)

                      I definitely will see it though. I do like Natalie Portman and hey – a period piece will always pull me in no matter how good or bad it is done.

                      • At 2008.03.14 02:13, NurseCasey said:

                        Hello all,

                        For an even more intriguing and, if possible, a more thought-provoking take on the relationship between Henry and Anne as glorified and twisted by the corrupt minds of Hollywood producers, go to Insightcom.com, and watch the first season of the Showtime series “The Tudors”. I cannot pretend that I believe my conception of the relationship between Anne and the king to be infallibly accurate, having been born a whopping 400 years after the king’s tumultuous reign, but I must admit to entertaining a degree of morbid fascination with the many versions both in print and on television/ the big screen. : )

                        • At 2008.06.14 00:22, KarraGadberry said:

                          While it was a wonderfully done movie, I have to agree with being appalled by the scene in question. As strong as they portrayed Anne Boleyn, to have her fall to such a state, did not set well.

                          Aside from that, I did love the movie, although I didnt feel they explained William Stafford and Mary’s relationship enough and they didnt mention William Carey’s death (at least not that I saw.)

                          Overall, beautifully done movie, but still a bit shaky as far as sticking to character development.

                          • At 2008.06.19 16:58, Heather said:

                            I wasn’t appalled. So much of the movie was historically altered for sake of entertainment purposes that I didn’t take it to heart. I think the scene was put it to show the contrast of his relationship with Mary to that with Anne, and Anne even asks Mary afterwards how he was with her. I wrote a review and gave the film 3/4 stars as I did enjoy, though I also concede the interpretation of Henry VIII being a bit over the top and mindless, to which I don’t believe was Eric Bana’s fault, but more guilt lies in the quill in that respect.

                            But people should realize the film is not historically accurate. It’s a fictional interpreation of real events. Which in the end is why I didn’t take some of those interpretations to heart.

                            • At 2008.06.19 20:07, Literate Housewife said:

                              I see what you are saying, Heather. It did show a great contrast between his relationship with the two Boleyn girls. Like you and KarraGadberry, I did enjoy the movie. I still can’t help wishing that they had taken a different path when they made that distinction between Henry and Mary and Henry and Anne. Now that I’m thinking about it, though, there is a belief that Henry had lost his mind during his lifetime. Perhaps this could be seen as a way of portraying this as well. Something to think about. Great comments! Thanks!

                              Jennifer

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                              • At 2008.07.02 20:27, Amy said:

                                I didn’t like this scene either, and I also didn’t like the film. I thought Natalie Portman was the only good thing about it.

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                                • At 2008.07.03 10:58, Literate Housewife said:

                                  Amy, I’m going to have to rent it and watch it again. Natalie Portman was very good as Anne Boleyn. I’m wondering how I will feel the second time around. When it came out in the theater, I was really concerned about it while eagerly anticipating it at the same time. Now I have no concerns about it whatsoever. It’s a known entity. I don’t know if that makes sense or not, but coming to the experience with experience with it might change my feelings – or at least help me make a final judgment on it.

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                                  • At 2008.07.07 23:07, Emili said:

                                    I did not like the movie vs the book at all. Sorry. It jumped around too much. They also portrayed Anne as being more innocent than the book states in which she was more calculating and mannipulative. She was more stronger than the two girls and she appeared more weak in the film. She was also more heartless in the book, at least the book was consistant. She had a goal and made it happen at all costs.

                                    • At 2008.07.09 21:34, jesshagman said:

                                      I really think that the book is just such a complex story, and of course the *reality* was too, that to try to cram it all into one two-hour movie was a mistake. I don’t even think it was the same story the book told, what with the differences in the Henry Percy story, the failure to do justice to Mary’s relationship with William Stafford, the change in Elizabeth Boleyn’s stance, and leaving out George’s backstory. They dumbed it down and underestimated the audience while failing to do justice to the book at all.

                                      That said, Natalie Portman did seem to portray Anne’s character well, and the costumes were amazing.

                                      • At 2008.07.10 11:34, Literate Housewife said:

                                        Jess, I think your comment hit the nail on the head and is why the movie didn’t appeal to Emili. How can you turn a 600+ page novel into a 2 hour movie? A mini-series could have been and would be absolutely wonderful.

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                                        • At 2008.07.25 20:54, Sam said:

                                          I really enjoyed the book over the movie, no question about it. In the movie, everything seems to happen within a few months of the girls’ arrival at court, when in actuality, it took more than a decade to get to Anne’s execution. The book is very detailed.

                                          I agree with Emili that Anne is more innocent in the movie than in the book. You only get flashes of her master manipulative side (when she visits Mary in childbed, etc.). What happened to the evil Anne we know and love? In the movie, Anne is a weakling. If movie Anne had been her real personality, she wouldn’t have had the courage to snag the king at all.

                                          I personally watch it for the acting of Eric Bana, Natalie Portman, and the actress who plays Catherine of Aragon, to see Jim Sturgess (VERY good-looking in breeches), and for the costumes and settings.

                                          • At 2008.07.28 08:44, Literate Housewife said:

                                            Sam, I just saw Across The Universe last night and Jim Sturgess was great in that movie. I’ll have to re-watch TOBG just to see him again. I didn’t know who he was then. :)

                                            I must prefer my villains to be on the evil side. Anne was a much more compelling character in the novel in that respect.

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                                            • At 2008.08.14 14:23, jen said:

                                              Of course they had to shorten this story for film. But here is something to think about. Rape was not considered rape in those days. There are several accounts that Henry and Anne did not enjoy their married life together. Yet she still was pregnant by him several times. The King could pretty much have sex with whom ever he wished. Taking all this into consideration, every time they had sex it could have been rape. I’m not saying it was, but Anne cared about her status. She didn’t care about Henry. She could have decided to sleep with him to keep him. Also, in the movie it was kind of Queen Katherine’s words that kind of set Henry off. A similar letter from Queen K does exist. Also, I think if we can admit that Anne did have some kind of control over Henry, then we have to admit that he had had about enough of it and decided to take what he wanted.

                                              • At 2008.08.16 14:28, Henrietta said:

                                                I dont understand why you focus on the rape scene of this film above other factors?! So many things made me angry about this film! the point is this film is highly incorrect with what we know about what really happened and it is barely in accordance with the book. Anne went to france as a child, she was younger than mary, there is no evidence of a marriage or betrothal to anyone before henry, there is no evidence that george and anne even considered incest, the sisters were not close at all – anne banished mary from court after she married william and after begging and being denied a chance to return, mary didnt even show at their executions lets alone take charge of Elizabeth -these are just a few of the ridiculous claims this film made. The rape scene is a stupid one, it is doubtful Henry would have committed such an act, especially if he was as angry as the film portrayed, and then gone through with the marriage. The film makes out he hated her as he married her and it is doutbful this would have been true – look how quickly he got rid of Anne of Cleaves.

                                                The film seems to have a tendancy to make up all sorts of random facts and it has saddened me to have seen written or heard people believe them to be true and that many will go on thinking these things. It is a poor portrayal of the book and of history.

                                                • At 2008.08.30 17:55, Jaze said:

                                                  Mary was younger than Anne. She was the 2nd child after Her.And that is true.I really like this movie even though it has parts which i cannot understand. At the age of 14 Mary was already married?! I cannot imagine that ! co’z i’m also a fourteen year old girl too. But i understand that, that is really the life of princessess. It is a good movie for me. And i really admire Anne and Mary Boleyn.

                                                  • At 2013.07.12 09:58, epiphany said:

                                                    Excuse me for the late comment, but that is inaccurate. Mary Boleyn was the elder sister; only in ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ is Mary portrayed as younger. Historic birth records prove Mary was the eldest of the 3 Boleyn siblings of who we commonly hear about – Mary, George, and Anne.

                                                  • At 2008.08.30 17:58, Kim said:

                                                    Just a few questions, Did Anne really love Henry? coz its just that im confused about the movie.But it was great. Natalie Portman really did a good job about it! I love it!
                                                    Kim, I’m not sure if Anne every truly loved Henry. She clearly coveted his love, but ambition was too important for her to worry about lesser emotions like love.

                                                    • At 2008.10.03 12:23, Shannon said:

                                                      I have a new book about Anne Boleyn. Would you like a free copy to review for your blog? Email me at shannon@glassroadpr.com.

                                                      • At 2008.11.19 15:40, Eadaoin said:

                                                        WHO said mary was younger than Anne??? No Way! ive been researching her for years. Mary was the older and supposedly most beautiful of the two but anne was supposed to be witty and striking. And as for whether she was in love with henry? At first no she wasn’t. Her father was furious with Mary when Henry was no longer interested in her so decided Anne would be better. Thomas Boleyn had already gained some titles and didn’t want that to end. I dont think he knew the extent of how far Anne could go. Eventually anne did fall in love with Henry. I presume from all the love letters and excitement it brought her, We also have to remember taht when he first met Anne he was still athletic and rumoured as the most handsome man in England.

                                                        • At 2008.11.29 17:08, jackie said:

                                                          poor poor girl she was so young and was just a victim of circumstance she was so brave at her execution so the history books say.henry just wanted a son and heir he was so deluded to think a woman can just keep geting pregnant and deliver the goods under such pressure she must of been terrified of the out come so sad.i arnt being basic but imagine a young woman having to bed an old ulcerated gluten in the later years of his life in the hope he could father a child i know there was money and power involved but her family had alot to answer for to especially her father.i feel so sad for anne she is buried at the chapel of st peter the avinqular at the tower of london i beleive rest in peace you brave young woman anne excecuted 19th may 1536.

                                                          • At 2008.11.29 17:18, jackie said:

                                                            anne did leave the perfect tudor queen in elizabeth the 1st she made our country great and very prosperous at the time henry wanted her to name elizabeth as bastard she refused .wonder if it would of saved her henry married some other ladys after but was completly obsessed with getting a male heir the history books do hint at the fact he died in such a state he was probably in a state of syphillis which as most people know causes a state of madness to some degree and he must of been vile to put up with let alone sleep with yuk.queen elizabeth the 1st is buried in west minster abbey london right next to mary queen of scots who in life she never met but never the less had beheaded they were first cousins i think thats so sad to politics of the time though i love tudor history i was born in the wrong era ha ha jackie.

                                                            • At 2008.12.04 12:51, Nicola said:

                                                              Anne was not a victim? Perhaps not, but I’m surprised you say that with such solidity. Some Historians are still arguing whether Anne actually had no other choice. The king desired her, she could hardly tell him no, not just for her sake but for her family’s, but she also didn’t want to compromise her chastity – she was a deeply religious woman. Not the piety of Catherine, but her own set of beliefs. Since Henry was already considering derailing Catherine, Anne would have known that it were possible for her to ask for marriage, which would have solved the problem nicely. The fact that the reformation had to come about because of it could not have been foreseen by Anne nor Henry. As far as Henry and Anne expected, they thought the divorce would take weeks, not six years as annulments were dealt out frequently by the pope, Henry’s sister herself got one just as Henry was asking for one. Unfortunate circumstances which could not have been predicted (the pope being captured by the Spanish, for one) rendered the long drawn out process of the reformation.

                                                              Regardless of the courtship victimising Anne or not (and I believe not, as you do), her sticky end certainly made her a victim.

                                                              As for the rape scene, I wasn’t surprised – it had been used once before in the BBC drama of Henry VIII starring Ray Winstone as Henry and Helen Bonham Carter as Anne. It caused uproar with historians back then, too.

                                                              • At 2009.01.21 12:24, Mandy said:

                                                                that bothered me also. i feel that the movie did not own up to history in many areas

                                                                • At 2009.06.01 14:20, Meghead. said:

                                                                  if you’re going to make a movie about the book, i think that it should stick to the book’s plot.
                                                                  the movie was stupid.

                                                                  • At 2009.07.16 23:28, Rachel said:

                                                                    I agree the rape scene i disagree with. The Tudors portrays Henry and Anne better. About how he divorced Catherine and how there relationship was full of lust. Natalie Portman did an okay job but Natalie Dormer did a better job she shows how Anne was. Henry wanted to break free from Rome and he wasn’t angered by Anne doing that he did all that just to be with Anne. That way he would be head of the church of England. I don’t think he raped her she loved him and he loved her.
                                                                    But her downfall was because she couldn’t produce a mail heir. And she was becoming angered with Henry’s mistresses while she was with child. Henry got sick of her so he executed her.
                                                                    Anne Boleyn was amazing and i didn’t like how Natalie Portman portrayed her like with all the drama between Mary and Anne that was a little off. I know it is called The Other Boleyn Girl but i was not portrayed like the Tudors. :)

                                                                    • At 2009.08.02 15:29, Lisa Kindervatter said:

                                                                      The movie was mildly entertaining, especially if you like period pieces. I am no historian, but enjoy reading historical biographies–NOT historical novels– and have read many about this time period. From what I’ve read, this movie is only marginally accurate and it does bother me that Hollywood can take such license with real people’s lives, especially when the facts are so available. There is dispute amongst historians about who is older, Anne or Mary, but most seem to agree that Mary was older. Mary, by the way, was not the sweet, innocent thing portrayed in the movie. She had a known reputation for being wildly promiscuous while at the French court, so much so her father sent for her to come home. Then, of course, he gave her to King Henry–go figure. Historins say of Anne that she is characterized as evil by those who supported poor Katherine of Aragon and the Catholics (and there were many), but that their views are tainted. Historians generally characterize her as a pious Protestant (something that is missing from the movie) who may have chosen this path away from Catholicism as the only way to legally marry Henry, although there is some evidence that she was involved with Protestism before her relationship with Henry. She is generally believed to be a mixture of piety and ambition, probably not promiscuous (not being impressed with her sister’s example)but extremely willful and headstrong. That mixture in her personality was not really shown in the movie. Also, Henry’s character in the movie was nothing like the bigger than life, boisterous, charming, highly intellectual and highly athletic, 6 foot 4 “superman” that Henry the Viii certainly was in real life. And I always wonder in these movies why, with so many pictures extant, they can’t try to pick actors that actually look the real characters? Natalie Portman was close, though….

                                                                      • At 2009.09.20 06:48, joe frazier said:

                                                                        My opinion: The rape scene was used to contrast Mary and Anne’s relationship with Henry. And it illustrates how dangerous Anne’s position was.

                                                                        It sounds like the issue is less about the historical inaccuracies and more about the fact that a strong female could be raped as “punishment” for using the only tools she has to get ahead. The feeling is the same as seeing an historical African-American hero lynched or an Irish succumbed to heavy drink.

                                                                        The viewer could fall into a feeling of “Sigh… THEY did it to us again.”

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