19 July 1543 – Death of Mary Boleyn

Jul19,2012 #Mary Boleyn #Mary Carey
We don’t even know if this portrait is Mary!

There is controversy regarding the death of Anne’s sister, Mary Boleyn, with her biographer Alison Weir dating her death as the 19th July 1543 and her other biographer Josephine Wilkinson choosing the 30th July. Historian David Loades chooses to simply write “July 1543”.

Mary Boleyn’s life is a mystery – the facts are scarce and we’re left to fill in the blanks with theories – and so is her death. Alison Weir cites John Horace Round, the 19th century historian and genealogist, as her source for the 19th July date of death, and he does write in his 1886 The Early Life of Anne Boleyn: A Critical Essay “According to an inquisition taken at Mary’s death (19th July, 1543)…”, so it sounds like he based the date on her inquisition post mortem. We also don’t know where she died, what she died from or where she was laid to rest. It is assumed that she died at Rochford Hall, the Boleyn family property in Essex which she had recently inherited, and that she was buried at St Andrew’s Church, Rochford, but there is no surviving tomb and no records to back up this theory. Just as she eluded us in life, she has eluded us in death.

Trivia: Mary was actually Mary Stafford when she died, having married William Stafford. Her other married name was Carey.

Also on this day in history…

Notes and Sources

  • The Early Life of Anne Boleyn: A Critical Essay, J H Round, published 1886 by E. Stock in London, p38. This is available to read online at Open Library
  • Mary Boleyn: ‘The Great and Infamous wh*re’, Alison Weir
  • Mary Boleyn: The True Story of Henry VIII’s Favourite Mistress, Josephine Wilkinson
  • The Boleyns: The Rise and Fall of a Tudor Family

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11 thoughts on “19 July 1543 – Death of Mary Boleyn”
  1. I think we all live in hope that one day there will be a major discovery about Mary’s life.
    It would be like the Tudor enthusiasts lottery win…
    When ever I look at the portrait of Mary above, it always reminds me of the Mona Liza, with that little enigmatic smile, and a very knowing look. It is like she knows she is a mystery to us, where all the answers are, and it amuses her that we can’t find them. I really do hope that after her ‘eventful’ life, that her last years were happy and settled ones, and that she died surrounded by her family, and didn’t suffer,I think she had too much of that in life.

    1. Thanks for that, Susan, that’s brilliant. It dates the IPM to April 1543 and states her date of death as 19 July 1542, rather than 1543, so that’s odd as she died after Lady’s Day. Am I missing something or being thick?

      1. I didn’t even notice the 1542 date. Maybe the Essex Record Office could check the record?

        1. So that means Weir, Wilkinson and Loades are wrong, as they all date her death to 1543. I’ll contact Essex records office this week and see what I can find. Interesting and thanks for those links, Susan.

        2. Just realised that there is a grant to William Stafford and his wife, Mary, in May 1543 so she was obviously still alive then:

          “Wm. Stafford and Mary his wife, kinswoman and heir of lady Marg. Bolleyn, widow, dec., viz. daughter of Thos. late earl of Wiltshire and Ormund, son of the said Margaret. Livery of lands of the said Thomas and Margaret and of those held by Joan late wife of Sir George Bulleyn lord Rocheford, dec., by way of jointure. Del. Westm., 15 May 35 Hen. VIII.” LP xviii. 623.66 (Grants in May 1543)

  2. I have the above potrait of Mary on a wooden backing, my husband glued it on and with his artistic talents put something on it that makes it look like an oil painting with the paint started to crack from age. I often am asked if it’s “real” and I reply “To me it’s real.”! As I look at it, I see a woman who is basking in survival when those around her did not. I imagine, along with mourning her sister and brother, Mary felt a great deal of relief and gratitude that she had not been caught up in those final days of madness. I can see her living out her life, away from court and raising her family prehaps sad at her losses but also rejoicing in escaping the court. At least I hope her life was happy after she left court.

  3. Mary, always seemed recluce,even when Anne was still alive, I really think she loved, Henry so deeply ,perhapes she died of a broken heart, love sicks. It has been found that there truely is dying from a broken heart. They found that the left side of the heart was grey not pink, that of a healty heart,I do hope she lived as best she could and just watch her children and be as happy as she could .What I find is how she made herself so within.Maybe out of sight out of mind ,we seem to know so little,what did she sucome to??Anyone know??What became of her children?? THX Ladies. Baroness

  4. It is a shame we don’t know where she is buried I thought she would be laid to rest with her second husband, she comes across as a very normal girl who didn’t care about riches but chose to be with her true love, there’s a dig in her letter to Cromwell aimed at Anne if you consider what she said, ‘ Though I could have had a greater man yet I could not have chosen one who loved me better’, this was obviously a reference to her sisters volatile and not very happy marriage, it’s a shame she didn’t live longer but then people rich and poor didn’t in those days due to lack of medical knowledge, maybe she was depressed she was happy with Stafford and they must have had a peaceful maybe idyllic life in the country away from court but she probably never got over her siblings deaths and that could have hastened her own demise.

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