Mary Boleyn the Unknown Sister – From Widowhood to William Stafford by Sarah Bryson

Posted By on March 29, 2012

William Carey

Apologies for my absence over the past few days, but thank you so much to Sarah Bryson from the Anne Boleyn: From Queen to History Page for the seventh part of her series on Mary Boleyn…

On June 22nd 1528 tragedy struck. Mary’s husband William Carey became gravely ill and sometime during that fateful day he died of the sweating sickness. The sweating sickness had first struck in the 15th century and appeared on and off, one of the worst times being in 1528. The symptoms appeared to be something like influenza or pneumonia, with the patient having pains and aches all over the body, headaches, a great thirst and also breaking out in a horrible sweat.

Many people that caught the sweat were dead within twenty four hours. It is unknown where William Carey was buried; Alison Weir suggests that it may have been in a mass grave in which others who had died of the sweat were also buried. This could be plausible considering the fear and worry that existed about catching the sweat during the time. Unfortunately there are no records or details which tell of Mary’s feelings towards the death of her husband. Nonetheless it was a great loss for Mary as she was now a widow with two young children and little means of supporting herself. From this time until 1534 it is difficult to track Mary’s whereabouts and there are very few records as to her activities.

Upon William Carey’s death Mary Boleyn was not only left a widow but she had little means of supporting herself without a husband. In addition to this, Josephine Wilkinson in her book “The True Story of Henry VIII’s Favourite Mistress” states that Mary’s father, Thomas Boleyn, turned his back on his oldest daughter as she was no longer mistress to the King and therefore not a means of advancement for the family. One cannot say for certain what Thomas Boleyn’s feelings were regarding his son-in-law’s death or the feelings towards his newly widowed daughter. Perhaps if Mary had once been the mistress of King Francois I of France Thomas was ashamed of her behaviour and that is why he all but disowned her. Or maybe he was upset that she had been unable to hold the attention of the English King for longer. Maybe he was disappointed that Henry VIII did not recognise either of Mary’s children as his bastards. Maybe he saw little prospects of an advantageous marriage for Mary now that she was in her late twenties. Or maybe he simply put his efforts and attention towards his second daughter Anne who was by now the mistress to Henry VIII. Once again this is all speculation and we do not, and perhaps may never, fully understand the reasons why Thomas Boleyn did not willingly support his newly widowed daughter.

The months following her husband’s death must have been a difficult time for Mary. It would appear that Mary appealed to the King for assistance as Henry VIII wrote a letter to his mistress Anne Boleyn, Mary’s sister. In the letter he states that…

“As touching your sister’s matter, I have caused Walter Welze to write to my Lord [Viscount Rochford] my mind therein, whereby I trust that Eve shall not have power to deceive Adam; for surely, whatsoever is said, it cannot so stand with his honour but that he must needs take her his natural daughter now in her extreme necessity.” (Wilkinson 2010, p. 114).

In addition to this letter Henry VIII also granted the wardship of Mary’s son Henry Carey, to her sister Anne. Although this may seem unusual for a child to be taken away from his mother in today’s age, it was quite common during the Tudor period. It also meant that Mary no longer had the pressure or financial burden to provide for her son. Instead Mary’s sister, who was in a better financial state as the mistress to the King, would be able to provide a suitable education and upbringing for the young Henry Carey. It is unknown what happened to Katherine Carey, oldest daughter of William and Mary. It is very probable that she stayed with her mother during the period following her father’s death.

Frustratingly we do not know where Mary Boleyn lived during the period following her late husband’s death. In her book “Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings” Alison Weir proposes that Mary returned to her home in Hever Castle. This may have been an awkward time for Mary if she only begrudgingly had the support and assistance from her father. The thoughts and feelings of Elizabeth Boleyn, Mary’s mother, regarding her oldest daughter are unknown. We do not know if she accepted her daughter back with loving arms or if she showed the same cold hostility as her husband did to their oldest child. Once again if only one small record had been left then perhaps a whole new understanding of this time may be relieved!

No word is made of Katherine but it is presumed that she stayed to be raised by her mother, quite possibly at Hever Castle. Mary was luckily granted an annuity of £100 on December 10th 1528 by the King which had previously been granted to her husband. This provided Mary with a financial means to support herself and her young daughter.

There seems to be little written about Mary’s life during the period between 1528 and 1534 and certainly there are no records or letters stating Mary’s feelings towards her younger sister Anne. During this six year period Anne Boleyn went from being the mistress of the English King to being created the Marquis of Pembroke on the 1st September 1532. In addition to being granted this title, the appointment also gave Anne lands worth £1000 a year. Then in January 25th 1533 Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn married and within sixth months of their marriage Anne Boleyn was crowned Queen of England. In September of the same year Anne gave birth to a daughter whom was named Elizabeth and who was at the time the only legitimate heir to the English throne. It is unknown how Mary felt about her sister becoming the mistress of Henry VIII, or her feelings towards her sister’s rise and eventual crowning as Queen of England. Alison Weir proposes that Mary may have been jealous of her younger sister Anne having been raised so high by the King. Yet we cannot state this for certain. Mary may have been jealous or she may have simply accepted her position in life and even been happy to see her sister so happy. Certainly to be sister to the Queen of England was an impressive position to have! And maybe, just maybe that sometime during 1533 Mary was finding her own true love!

Mary does appear briefly in November 1530 when records show that Henry VIII gave Anne £20 to retrieve a jewel from her sister. How Mary came about this jewel, and why Henry VIII wanted it back is unknown.

During the New Year’s celebrations of 1532 Mary is reported to have given Henry VIII a gift of a shirt with a blackwork collar. It could very well be that Mary stitched the collar herself as sewing would most likely have been a skill she would have been taught as a child. In return Henry gave Mary a piece of gilt plate. Alison Weir suggests that having received such a fine gift Mary may have been back at court as one of her sister’s attendants. Certainly this could be possible as Anne was rising higher and higher in the King’s affections and by this time was commonly lodged close to him with her own attendance. It would not be unusual at all for Anne to choose her own sister to be one of her ladies in waiting.

We can also place Mary in October 1532. It is known that Mary accompanied her sister Anne and King Henry VIII to France in late 1532 when they went to meet King Francis I. Records state that Mary was one of the ladies participating in a masquerade to entertain the French King in a banquet held on October 27th. In fact during the masquerade Mary followed directly behind her sister Anne, giving her precedence over the other ladies in the dance.

Mary also appears again during her sister Anne’s coronation on June 1st 1533. During the procession Mary rode in the third coach behind Anne with their mother Elizabeth and she wore a dress made of seven yards of scarlet velvet. Records also show that during the coronation ceremony Mary attended her sister wearing a gown of scarlet velvet and an ermine cloak and bonnet. It is also believed that after her sister’s marriage to the King, Mary continued to be a lady in waiting to Anne, now the Queen Consort of England.

For the next year Mary appears to slip into obscurity. Then sometime during 1533 or 1534 she must have left court for a period of time because when she returned in 1534 she was to cause quite a scandal! Upon her return to court Mary informed her sister the Queen that she had married and in addition to this she was also pregnant by that man. With her marriage Mary had done the unthinkable, she had taken a husband without the knowledge or consent of her family. Not only this, but the man that she had chosen for her husband was far beneath her family’s status. The man she had chosen was William Stafford, a soldier in the garrison at Calais and a gentlemen usher to King Henry VIII. William Stafford was also distantly related to Edward Stafford, the third Duke of Buckingham whom had been beheaded for treason in 1521.

To add to the mystery of Mary Boleyn there is little known about William Stafford’s early life. He is believed to have been born in approximately 1512, making him about twelve years younger than Mary. He was reported to have been from Gafton but was most likely born in the village of Cottered. Having an older brother meant that William was not in line to inherit any property or money from his father’s death, in fact he may have had very little to show for his name besides his position as a soldier and a gentlemen usher to the King. He may have been very fit and strong being a soldier at Calais and one can assume he must have had some good looks about him to attract the attention of an older woman.

In 1527 it was reported that William was hired to search various barns and stacks in Berkshire looking for hidden corn stocks. Then in April 1529 William and a friend Richard Andrews, are reported to have purchased the lands and marriage wardship of William Somer. In November of the same year Henry VIII personally appointed William for the position as joint sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire.

Frustratingly we do not know when William and Mary first met. Records state that William was present at the coronation of Anne Boleyn, perhaps as an attendant during the feast, but what exactly his role was is uncertain. It could have been here that William and Mary met as we know that Mary was in attendance to her newly crowned sister. Or perhaps it was earlier in late 1532 when Mary travelled in attendance with her sister and the King to Calais for a meeting with King Francis I. By this time William had become a soldier and took the opportunity to move from England to Calais. It could have been during this time that William and Mary first met. Arthur Plantagenet, Viscount Lisle was the Deputy Governor of Calais and seems to have shown trust in William Stafford as the young man was sent on various missions to England. It could have been during these various trips to England that William and Mary continued their relationship.

Whenever William and Mary did meet their relationship grew to the point where they fell in love and married. Unfortunately William Stafford had little to offer Mary, sister to the Queen of England. He had no royal title, nor lands or vast inheritance. In choosing William for a husband Mary had married beneath her status. Despite being around thirty four years of age, her father may still have made an advantageous marriage for her. Or perhaps her sister could have organised a marriage since as the Queen of England she was now the head of the Boleyn family. In short it was not Mary’s responsibility to find herself a husband, it was her family’s. She had taken no regard to her sister or even the King’s wishes and this caused great anger from Mary’s sister Anne. Not only this, but now the brother-in-law to the King of England was no more than a mere soldier! It may also be that Anne was frustrated and jealous that her sister was pregnant while she had only been able to give the King a daughter and not the son and heir he so longed for. Of course this is just speculation but whatever the exact reason for Anne Boleyn’s anger it vented itself in Mary being banished from court.

On the 19th December 1534 Eustace Chapuys, Ambassador for Charles V wrote to his master stating:-

“The Lady’s sister [Mary] was also banished from Court three months ago, but it was necessary to do so, for besides that she had been found guilty of misconduct, it would not have been becoming to see her at Court enceinte [pregnant].” (Wilkinson 2010, p. 148).

When banished the money situation became very tight for Mary and her husband. Mary’s father Thomas Boleyn had not only disowned Mary but he had also stopped her allowance. It may also be that the £100 annuity that Henry VIII had granted Mary upon her first husband’s death was also stopped. It is not known where William and Mary went after their banishment from court. Alison Weir suggests that the couple went to William’s father’s home in Cottered. Certainly Mary would not have been allowed back to her childhood home at Hever. With money becoming desperate Mary wrote to Thomas Cromwell, right hand man of the King, asking for help:-

“Master secretary,
After my poor recommendations, which is smally to be regarded of me, that I am a poor banished creature, this shall be to desire you to be good to my poor husband and to me. I am sure it is not unknown to you the high displeasure that both he and I have, both of the king’s highness and the queen’s grace, by reason of our marriage without their knowledge, wherein we both do yield ourselves faulty, and do acknowledge that we did not well to be so hasty nor so bold, without their knowledge. But one thing, good master secretary, consider, that he was young, and love overcame reason; and for my part I saw so much honesty in him, that I loved him as well as he did me, and was in bondage, and glad I was to be at liberty: so that, for my part, I saw that all the world did set so little by me, and he so much, that I thought I could take no better way but to make him and to forsake all other ways, and live a poor, honest life with him. And so I do put no doubts but we should, if we might once be so happy to recover the king’s gracious favour and the queen’s. For well I might have had a greater man of birth and a higher, but I assure you I could never have had one that should have loved me so well, nor a more honest man; and besides that, he is both come of an ancient stock, and again as meet (if it was his grace’s pleasure) to do the king service, as any young gentleman in his court.

Therefore, good master secretary, this shall be my suit to you, that, for the love that I well know you do bear to all my blood, though, for my part, I have not deserved it but smally, by reason of my vile conditions, as to put my husband to the king’s grace that he may do his duty as all other gentlemen do. And, good master secretary, sue us to the king’s highness, and beseech his highness, which ever was wont to take pity, to have pity on us: and that it will please his grace of his goodness to speak to the queen’s face for us; for, so far as I can perceive, her grace is so highly displeased with us both that, without the king be so good lord to us as to withdraw his rigour and sue for us, we are never like to recover her grace’s favour: which is too heavy to bear. And seeing there is no remedy, for God’s sake help us; for we have now been a quarter of a year married, I thank God, and too late now to call that again; wherefore it is the more alms to help. But if I were at my liberty and might choose, I ensure you, master secretary, for my little time, I have tried to much honestly to be in him, that I had rather beg my bread with him than to be the greatest queen in Christendom. And I believe verily he is in the same case with me; for I believe verily he would not forsake me to be a king.

Therefore, good master secretary, seeing we are so well together and does intend to live so honest a life, though it be but poor, show part of your goodness to us as well as you do to all the world besides; for I promise you, you have the name to help all them that hath need, and amongst all your suitors I dare be bold to say that you have no matter more to be pitied than ours; and therefore, for God’s sake, be good to us, for in you is all our trust.

And I beseech you, good master secretary, pray my lord my father and my lady to be so good to us, and to let me have their blessings and my husband their good will; and I will never desire more of them. Also, I pray you, desire my lord Norfolk and my lord my brother to be good to us, I dare not write to them, they are so cruel against us; but if, with any pain that I could take with my life, I might win their good wills, I promise you there is no child living would venture more than I. And so I pray you to report by me, and you shall find my writing true, in all points which I may please them in I shall be ready to obey them nearest my husband, whom I am most bound to; to whom I most heartily beseech you to be good unto, which, for my sake, is a poor banished man for an honest and godly cause. And seeing that I have read in old books that some, for as just causes, have by kings and queens been pardoned by the suit of good folks, I trust it shall be out chance, through your good help, to come to the same; as knoweth the (Lord) God, who send you health and heart’s ease. Scribbled by her ill hand, who is your poor, humble suitor, always to command,
Mary Stafford.” (Wilkinson 2010)

Mary’s letter shows us that she was a literate woman who knew how to read and write. But her letter gives us a deeper insight than just this into the type of woman that Mary was and why she decided to defy the rules and marry William Stafford. In her letter Mary humbles herself and acknowledges that her action of marrying William was considered to be wrong. She also recognises that she has brought the King and Queen’s displeasure upon herself and her husband.

Moving on from this Mary also states her case, saying that William was in love with her and she saw such love and honesty in him that she in return fell in love. Her feelings of love continue when she states that she would not wish to marry another even if they were to raise Mary to the greatest queen in Christendom. Instead she would be content to beg for bread as long as it was with her beloved William. She also stresses that William also feels this way about her. She writes that she was in bondage and that by marrying William she found freedom. This could very well refer to the attitude of her family towards her during her widowhood. After the death of her first husband it is clear that Thomas Boleyn did not wish to assist or support his daughter and the tension within the family may have left Mary feeling as though she was not wanted and trapped.

Mary praises her husband and although he is from a low birth and has little to give her he is a good man who loves her deeply. Mary implores Thomas Cromwell for assistance, seeking that he may intervene on her behalf with the King and Queen so that they may take pity upon Mary and her husband. It is also interesting to note that Mary openly acknowledges how angry her sister is with her and that she is deeply upset by this. She writes that all she wishes is for her sister and father’s blessings as well as that of her brother George and her uncle the Duke of Norfolk. It is interesting to note that Mary writes of how cruel her brother and Uncle were towards her. We do not know exactly how they were cruel or what their actions were towards their sister and niece. Yet it is interesting to note that despite their great cruelty Mary still wished for their blessings. This may be because she wished to be back in her sister’s good graces or quite simply she just wished for the love of her family.

The letter also asks for financial assistance, which hints at the fact that Mary’s allowances had been cut off and the couple were struggling financially. Finally Mary ends her passionate letter asking for Thomas Cromwell to fight for her cause and seek help for herself and her husband. The letter is poignantly signed Mary Stafford.

If Thomas Cromwell replied to Mary’s letter the reply no longer exists. There are also no records of Cromwell or the King providing assistance for Mary and her husband. However it is reported that Anne sent Mary some money and a golden cup. This small action may hint at the fact that Anne was not as jealous or angry at her older sister as some may suggest. It is a small gift, but one that certainly must have had some meaning behind it.

Mary’s whereabouts and actions between her banishment from court in 1534 to the fall of her sister and her brother in May 1536 are not recorded. It may be that Mary returned with her husband to Calais where he continued to be a soldier and to serve Viscount Lisle. In 1539 William was appointed as one of the members assigned to welcome Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII’s fourth wife, to Calais. If Mary and William did return to Calais it may have been a place of quiet comfort for Mary, being away from her family and seeking peace in the love of her husband. Whatever happened to the child that Mary was pregnant with is unknown. Perhaps she miscarried; perhaps the child was stillborn or died at a young age, whatever the case Mary was to have no more children with William Stafford.

It does appear that during this time Anne Boleyn continued be the guardian of Mary’s son Henry and provided him with a good education. Anne appointed a tutor for Henry Carey, a man named Nicholas Bourbon who was a French humanist and a poet. He had been granted asylum in England and was known to have evangelical beliefs. Bourbon’s friends were influential men such as Thomas Cromwell, Hugh Latimer and Hans Holbein.

Mary Boleyn became a widow on June 22th 1528 with the death of her husband William Carey. She appears from time to time over the next six years, appearing at court attending upon her sister the future Queen Consort of England. Then in 1534 Mary did the unthinkable, she defied her family and the expectations of the time and married for love. Mary’s passionate and powerful letter written to Cromwell after her banishment clearly shows her deep and strong feelings towards her new husband William Stafford, and in return the mutual feelings that William had for his wife. Although so little is known about Mary’s life this one letter is perhaps the most powerful and valuable piece of evidence to truly show the type of woman that Mary was. Clearly she was a woman whom was brave and strong enough to defy the rules of the time. She appears to have believed so strongly in love that she took the greatest risk and followed her heart, marrying not for status or power or for the advancement of her family, but simply for true love.

You can read Sarah’s other articles by clicking on these links:-

Sources

  • Castelli, J, ‘Sir William Stafford of Grafton’, viewed 25th November 2011, Available from internet http://www.tudorplace.com.ar/Bios/WilliamStafford1.htm.
  • Erickson, C 1984, Mistress Anne, St. Martin’s Press, New York.
  • Jones, P 2009, The Other Tudors Henry VIII’s Mistresses and Bastards, Metro Books, New York.
  • Ives, E 2009, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford.
  • Ridgway, Claire 2010, ‘Sweating Sickness’, viewed 25th November 2011, Available from internet http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/6214/sweating-sickness/.
  • Ridley, J 2002, A Brief History of The Tudor Age, Constable & Robison Ltd., London.
  • Weir, A 2011, Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings, Ballantine Books, New York.
  • Wilkinson, J 2010, Mary Boleyn The True Story of Henry VIII’s Favourite Mistress, Amberley Publishing, Gloucestershire.

Comments on
"Mary Boleyn the Unknown Sister – From Widowhood to William Stafford by Sarah Bryson"

22 Responses to “Mary Boleyn the Unknown Sister – From Widowhood to William Stafford by Sarah Bryson”

  1. Sway says:

    It was a pleasure, as always, to read about Mary, even if we do know so little about her.
    I think she was a lot like Anne, they shared the same traits, like courage, strength and passion. They both fought for what they wanted, they both loved and lived boldly. The only difference was Anne loved a king and Mary – a commoner. However, I cannot but think how similar their passion and courage was. They were both ahead of their time, they wanted to shape their own fates and be free.

    [Reply]

    Baroness Von Reis Reply:

    Hello Sawy,I agree that the sisters were much alike,Anne however seemed to be much stronger as a women, when it came to the King,this Queen was not going take any guff from him. Shemade that very clear,were as Mary seemed to be more laxed not as tempermet as Anne was. Baroness Von Reis

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  2. Anne Barnhill says:

    Thanks for such an in-depth article. I really love that letter Mary wrote—she is humble and proud at the same time, which is an interesting insight into her character. I agree with Sway, maybe these sisters were more alike than I had realized. Thanks!

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  3. Baroness Von Reis says:

    As always another outstanding read,thanks for all the info Claireas I new so liitle on Mary Boleyn,olny that she seemed to faid out of the History books after Anne was sent to the Kings court,maybe thats what they wanted her to do. Out of sight out of mind?? Just my thoughts. Baroness Von Reis

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  4. WilesWales says:

    What a refreshing article, not only with it’s cotent in such a very nicely, but with the facts as know put so succinctly well!

    Firstly, I agree wth Sway and Anne Barnhil, but with a little more to add. First Mary was at the court of Francois I of France before she was secured in Henry VIII’s courst after her return from France, and this was done rather quickly, and most probably with her father’s influence at the time. It is also not long after that that she became the mistress of Henry VIII himself. It is also very telling that her first son was names Henry, but he had become the second bastard from a different woman, Bessie Blount, whose son, the first bastard of which we know, was given the title of Duke of Richmond. So, perhaps it might have been a little obvious if Henry had given him a royal title as well, especially when this was so far from both the marriage to Anne, and that the “Great Divorce,” from Katharine of Aragon.

    She might have lived at Hever Castle, and under the disapproval of her father, but her mother, Ellzabeth, like a lot of mothers, usuallly have specail feelings for thier first born child. Even so, 100 pounds (evne though it might have been granted to her husband, Carey, back then was in today’s U.S. dolllar no small amount, it being an annuity brings interests once a year on the principal. This is at least, how we know it was annual amount, even if back then the interest part might not have been the same.

    Now, Mary the facts of Katherine Carey, are very suspicious to me, even if we have no evidence and Henry Carey was placed unders Anne’s care before her death, and Mary’s as well. So Mary might have been a very single woman at the time. Now with my agreeing with Sway and AnnBarnhill, was is said about the two sisters had already been stated. Mary knew how to get what she wanted just as much as Anne, and the only difference was that Mary had born a bastard (most likelywith Henry), and that’s why he got the special education and court’s training at that time (Elizabeth I even named Henry’s son to a very high post in her inner cirlce very early in her reign and live just shy (1596) of Elizabeth I herself by nine years). It is also telling about the 20 pounds from Henry in the same year she accompanied Anne and Henry in the third coach behind them, and then being back at court, and then, “During the New Year’s celebrations of 1532 Mary is reported to have given Henry VIII a gift of a shirt with a blackwork collar,” which he reportedly wore. Now I also understand that Mary might have been out of favor with the court over her marriage to William Stafford, but she was in no way an heir (as law at that time, an heir marrying or planning to be married without permission was considered treason [Elizabeth I was to experience that accusation much later on). Nonetheless, Mary was considered to be an old woman at that time (as in 1492 Columbus was 35 and certain people were concernced that Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand would send him out on his excursion), and finding love with a man over a decade younger must have seemed to her like a dream come true. So Mary did, once again, exactly what she wanted to do, and then knew how to eat humble pie by writing Cromwell (of all people, the most powerful man in the land next to Henry, and with whom she had no ill dealings), which I think was no only very smart of her, but very manipulative as well, and most likely got what she wanted again. I hope she was happy with William Stafford, as she never asked for any of this to happen, even if she had not slept with Francois I.

    I also must repeat, and I don’t mean to offend you Sarah at all, but I’ve not read Weir, first because I learned on another site (and it was verified) that she had copied a few of her sources), but in that in another article, Claire stated that she had asked Weir about not meticulously listing her sources and providing a more extensive bibliograpy, and she answered that her publisher would not allow her to do so. It was commented, and I commented that she is well off enough now to have her or her agent look for another publisher that would, and that it was her responsibilty, if she wanted to be known as the writer I can feel in my gut that she probably is. So that is why I haven’t commented much on her.

    I do understand Mary’s need, and admire her originality, after her father had her allowance to be cut off, to know to whom she should write, and even though we don’t know what the outcome of it, we do know that Mary and William were not begging on the streest of Calais. I hope that Mary was content to have love and peace at the end. That’s what really matters. Thank you! WilesWales

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  5. Esther says:

    I agree with most of the comments about Mary (but I don’t think that her Henry was the king’s son). I also can’t help thinking that William Stafford must have been an unusually attractive man. Not only did he win the Queen’s sister, in Mary, but his second wife, Dorothy Pole, also had a claim to the throne (she was descended from Margaret, Countess of Salisbury) and eventually would become Mistress of the Robes to Queen Elizabeth.

    [Reply]

    WilesWales Reply:

    I always love your comments and the knowledge you have with regard to theAnneBoleynfiles. I had no idea in the word, about William Stafford’s (I agree with you wholeheartedly about his looks, but also had no idea about his wife and being Dorothy Pole having claim to the throne. I do know the Boleyns did through descent form Edward I. I would love to know why you don’t think Henry Carey was Henry’s son. I am most interested in the truth. One of the main reasons I alway thought he was Henry’s was his name, and being put under Anne’s care with the best education, etc. But I can also see him not being as he was placed in Anne’s charge, and not specifically Henry VIII’s. It would also further the explanation as to why he never received a royal title either. So I am most open to this question, as it has always been a mystery to me, and really never thought of it from the other side. I also based my thoughts on the Duke of Richmond, as Anne did make durogatory comments about Bessie Blount…Please let me know, as I am very intersted and respect you knowledge! Thank you in advance! WilesWales

    [Reply]

    Esther Reply:

    Hello WilesWales:

    As I have mentioned in another post, I don’t think that Mary Boleyn had children by the king for the following reasons:

    1. Other than Mary Boleyn, every other woman that Henry wanted for a mistress was single at the time, and was betrothed later to either a courtier (in the case of Bessie Blount and Madge Shelton, who was betrothed to Henry Norris before his fall) or to Henry VIII himself (in the cases of Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, and Catherine Howard). So, on this pattern, Mary would have been married off to William Carey after her affair with Henry ended; the affair would not be going on during her marriage.

    2. Henry never, at any time, acknowledge Henry Carey as his son. Since Parliament gave him the power to leave his throne to whoever he liked by will, combined with his council’s statement to Chapuys that, since all of Henry’s children were bastards, they preferred the male (reflected in the dispatches of July 6 and July 8, 1536), he could have done so, especially after Richmond’s death. Henry must not have thought that Carey was his son.

    3. The case for Henry VIII’s paternity isn’t all that strong, IMO. Many boys were named Henry (after the king) and William Carey was a cousin of the king’s … so a resemblance isn’t all that revealing.

    [Reply]

    WilesWales Reply:

    Thank you, and I hadn’t seen this response, or one similar on that post. All of it makes perfect sense to me now! Thank you. It also explains what I posted that Henry must have just clenched his teeth for four months after the Duke of Richmond died nine days after the after the Act of Succession was put in his will, and Jane Seymour’s deliivery of Henry VI! I knew there was some other reason, and I will take this most definitely under advisement, and thank you for making this part very clear to me now, and I will look for your responses in the future! You’ve cleane up a very sticky period for me! Thank you WilesWales

    Dawn 1st Reply:

    You make some very good points there Esther, I can never make my mind up if I think Mary’s son, or daughter were the Kings or not, both sides can give good reasons. But I do have some thoughts about the points you have made, they are all ‘what ifs’ and rumour, there is such a lot that hasn’t been recorded, and some of what is recorded may not always be accurate, anyway here goes I would be interested to know what you think…

    I.M.O. I think his choice in his ladies being single to be more of a coinsidence than a deliberate choice.
    We know for sure that Mary and Bessie were definately his mistresses, but there are many who are rumoured to have been, Anne Stafford wife of Lord Hastings, was meant to have been, maybe, his 1st mistress in 1510,and seems to have caused quite an upset at the time, both her and Henry had only been married a year to their spouses. There are many more in Kelly Harts book ‘Mistresses of Henry VIII’. I think Henry went after what ever lady took his fancy married or not.

    After Bessie had Henry’s son, this had removed any doubts of his ability to father a son, at this time K of A still had a slim chance of having a son, or a future wife, if his thoughts had started to lean that way then, therefore to recognise futher illegitamate sons could prove problematic in the future.

    Even though I am not sure about who was the father of Mary’s first two children, I have always felt that she was married to Carey when she was in the Kings bed, this could be seen as a way to put doubt to who the father could be if a child was born, covering Henry’s back, and protecting any legitamate male heir he did have.

    The fact that Henry never acknowledged Henry Carey may not show only that he knew he wasn’t his son, but, it could suggest that he really didn’t know, and he had managed, at last, to father Edward, so didn’t really need to find out or was bothered. Another thought could be, that although he had the power to legitamise whom he wanted, even if he knew there was a good chance Henry was his son, he may not have wanted the throne to go to a ‘Boleyn’, working on the theory that he held Anne in such contempt, never envisaging it would!! :)

    But as you say about Mary’s son being name Henry, this was the done thing then, 100′s of people named their children after the King and Queen, so if his name was the proof, then the King must have fathered half his kingdom LOL. not for the want of trying though!! As for resemblance well thats all in the eye of the beholder so to speak, everyone sees in a different way, and could never be used as definate proof.

    In the end I don’t think we will ever know, especially concerning Mary, but its great to read other views and interpretation of events.

    Dawn 1st Reply:

    Esther, when I said ‘they are all what ifs and rumours’ I was refering to my opinions, not yours, I wasn’t being rude…

    WilesWales Reply:

    Thank you, Esther so very much for bringing this to my attention with much more detail that on another article and comments you really made me think about this, and I believe you are right. I suppose I needed a refresher course, and you’re right in that all were the children of which we know after Henry VIII’s death that Edward VI was the oly legitimate heir, and in the “Act of Succesion” he did name Bessie Blount’s son, and Henry VIII’s other bastard child of which he did give a royal title, Duke of Richmond. Then you are most certainly correct they would rather have had a mail heir (and Protestant at that, thus Lady Jane Grey, etc). This also answers Sarah’s comment (thank you Sarah for replying as I also agree with your first sentence, but as I plan to write on the next Thomas Boleyn article that Thomas Boleyn was back in favor at court in 1539, so he must not have been all that hated by Henry VIII, and so on)., as I put down your comment below so as to leave nothing out for all concerned. Esther, as I said convinced me of this a while back, and you have me even as much, or more so convinced than in the last one (not that I have lost that in my mind). I hope this also comment also answers Sarah’s comment below. The one thing I would like to mention on that none of his heirs were legitimate at the time of his death, although the Duke of Richmond is in his will as well, as the second maile heir. Also as iin a previous comment on a previous article, I think everyone just clinched their teetth that Jane Seymour would deliveer a son in that four month waiting period. You comment is below, as I couldn’t find it so easily, but will look again, and try to reply that it is under Dawn, and thank you Dawn for staying in the spirit of this. Your comments, like Esther’s are alway great, and I do read them before commenting when I do. Thank you, and please forgive me! WilesWales

    Its also possible that he didn’t acknowledge Henry Carey because he didn’t want anybody other then a legitimate heir to have full claims to the throne. Its also possible that he wasn’t 100 % sure who the father was, and didn’t want people (Boleyns) pushing a false heir onto the throne.

    Emma Reply:

    Its also possible that he didn’t acknowledge Henry Carey because he didn’t want anybody other then a legitimate heir to have full claims to the throne. Its also possible that he wasn’t 100 % sure who the father was, and didn’t want people (Boleyns) pushing a false heir onto the throne.

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    WilesWales Reply:

    Dear Emma, I aplogize and could not be more abashed than at any other time on this since I joined!!! I realize now that I was commenting as the email reads “Sarah Bryson” as the author of the article, and I was commenting to your comment I received, of course as always, comes through by email. I will have to be much more careful. Wow, I am so ashamed! Please, forgive me as it was an oversight in the first degree! Thank you so very much! WilesWales

  6. Michelle Debenham says:

    Hi I love reading all the articles that appear on your website as I am a HUGE Tudors fan, i have recently found out that I am a distant relative of both Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard so it intrigues me even more about this time in English history. Regarding Katherine Carey as far as I am aware, when Henry Carey was made Anne’s ward Katherine was already at court as one of Anne’s lady’s in waiting. She then went on to marry Sir Francis Knollys and gave birth to Lettice Knollys who was the image of Elizabeth I which gives even more evidence that Katherine was not Elizabeth’s cousin but her half sibling and Lettice her niece. Lettice then went on to be one of Elizabeth’s lady in waiting and Elizabeth never forgave her when she in return married Sir Robert Dudley, Elizabeth’s greatest love. I hope this is of some use and I look forward to reading more articles.

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  7. Baroness Von Reis says:

    Great replys Anne Fans,I really do think that Mary son Carey was infact the Kings son as Anne said, I will not end up like my pregnant and foolish sister as Mary, then pushed aside for the King, so he could move on to Anne.I found that most of Henrys bastards were given titles,why would the King do that?? Aswell Elizabeth1 named Carey as sucssor to her crown, why would she do that? It would be like you or I making the child down the street next in line to Elizabeths throne ,so I think it’s safe to say ,Mary had to of had at least a son by the King and Anne new this ,Anne was also wooried that Marys son would be forth in the list and not her child,that his way it was clear that Elizabeth would be forth in the list to suceed,weather she gave birth to a son or daugther.Henry always took good care of his childern out of weddlock titles ect. Baroness Von Reis

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  8. Baroness Von Reis says:

    Great replys from all the Anne fan,however I must agree that Carey was infact issue of the King,as Anne said I will not end up like my pregnant and foolish sister , who at the time was with child,before Anne was orderd to the Kings court.Henry always took care of his bastard childern titles ect.When Mary was pregnant Anne had made sure that her child would be forth in the list not Carey. Also why would the King give these bastard off spring titles??Why did Elizabeth name Carey to susesor to her throne?? Anne was well aware Carey was issue of the Kings body and wanted her child to be, before her sisters child and Bessie Blount son as he, could have taken place over Annes children ,aswell as Marys child by the King. Regards Baroness Von Reis

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  9. Kelly says:

    I thought Mary had 2 children with Stafford?

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    Claire Reply:

    There is only evidence of one pregnancy with Stafford and we don’t know what happened to that pregnancy. Mary had two children by William Carey and then William Stafford had children with his second wife Dorothy.

    [Reply]

    Baroness Von Reis Reply:

    Hello Claire, I have to disagree as to Mary not having a child by the King,Anne was very ,addiment that she ,would not end up like her sister,maybe that is why she demanded that she would not have any more of the Kings bastards. Yes Mary was married,but she was also Henrys misstress . Baroness Von Reis

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  10. Baroness Von Reis says:

    AB Friends, I notice my reply came on the site twice,don’t ask me how I managed that one as I don’t even no??? Barroness Von Reis

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  11. Elle says:

    I know that William Stafford and Mary Boleyn were very much in love, but I was wondering whether William was as in love with Mary as she was with him since the same year Mary died, he married Dorothy Pole. I wonder if there love just faded at the end when she (Mary) was about to die, or if his family forced him to marry Dorothy or if he just fell in love with Dorothy the same way that he fell in love with Mary.

    [Reply]

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