19 July 1543 – Mary Boleyn dies

Posted By on July 19, 2021

On this day in Tudor history, 19th July 1543, in the reign of King Henry VIII, Mary Boleyn died.

Mary Boleyn is known for being Henry VIII’s mistress at one point, and you can find out a bit more about her in this edition of #TudorHistoryShorts…

Here is my Mary Boleyn playlist:

There are also lots of Mary Boleyn articles here on the Anne Boleyn Files – see https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/category/mary-boleyn/

7 thoughts on “19 July 1543 – Mary Boleyn dies”

  1. Christine says:

    Oh Mary Mary quite contrary where do we start with you? Where do we begin with Mary Boleyn? The third child of Sir Thomas and Lady Elizabeth Boleyn nee Howard, probably was born at Blickling Hall and maybe her younger sister also, her two brothers sadly died as toddlers and so Mary was special – she survived, but the early years of childhood was precarious, and her parents must have hovered anxiously over her as she lay sleeping content and swaddled in her fine oak cot, her mother was of the aristocracy and her father descended from both merchant stock and noble Irish blood, apart from a few portraits of her and a few documents relating to her years in France, her wedding to William Carey companion and cousin to the King of England, their offspring her second marriage to an insignificant courtier and her death, we know little else of her, the myths relating to her are probably way of the mark, she is shown as fair and gentle in complete contrast to her sibling Anne’s fiery nature and dark almost Latino looks, she was much milder in nature and kinder – but she was also immoral she let herself be seduced by both the French and English kings she was controlled by her much more domineering and ambitious family, – the myths go on, how do we know who was the real Mary? We have no written documents of her that disclose her true feelings, only the one she wrote to Cromwell begging with him to plead her cause with the king and queen, when she fell pregnant and duly wed her second husband without their permission, they reveal her belief that she was not highly regarded by both her family and others and there was a barbed attack on her sister when she declared she never had any other who loved her that great, be he richer and more powerful, a reference to the king her brother in law whose marriage to her sister was not a bed of roses, and she knew how fearful Anne was of not yet bearing him a son, so Mary alludes us and possibly this is the reason why many find her so fascinating, the various fiction books written about her all seem so achingly familiar, she was a bit of a flibbertigibbet she was not as erudite as Anne or George the baby of the family, certainly we know both Anne and George were learned cultured and intelligent people, they were both keen on the reformist teachings and were both musical, they spent a lot of time together having a lot in common, Mary did not share their passion for the new religion and possibly was not very musical, she was also unlike Anne no trend setter, she was it appears like any other high born lady unremarkable and of average intelligence. who was taught the necessary skills of the day, how to dance and embroider how to distill herbs and run a great household, she maybe spoke a smattering of French having spent some years there, because she was not as intelligent as Anne or George does not mean she was a dullard, we do not know either what she thought of King Henry was she easily seduced or rather wary of becoming involved with him? Here again the myth tells us Mary joyfully climbed into the kings ornately carved four poster but maybe the truth is she was afraid of saying no to him? I can imagine Henry V111 had many in awe of him, he also had that in him that could be quite terrifying, a young woman at court would be scared of ruining her and her family’s fortunes if she upset the king, we do not know, like the time it lasted was it a full blown affair like with Bessie Blount or merely one night or a few? like her alleged affair with that most infamous libertine King Francois it is shrouded in mystery, we do not know if she ever loved the king or her first husband but she had two children by him and sadly lost him to the sweat, did she grieve him at all it was after all an arranged marriage, there are also myths about the paternity of her children gossip is always hard to put down and many today believe they were the kings or at least one of them, we know her feelings for her second husband Stafford and also she was carrying his baby, but the baby must have died at birth or she suffered a miscarriage as we have no record of its existence, we do not even know where she was laid to rest, only her death the sister of one of England’s most infamous queens it sounds unbelievable, we do not know what she died of either but she was quite young maybe after losing every member of her family she became depressed and willed herself to die, she was fortunate in her husband and children who were much loved by her niece Elizabeth 1st, and her eldest Catherine was especially close to her cousin, maybe Mary caught TB that scourge of the age which had possibly claimed the life of her mother? We will never stop wondering about who the real Mary Boleyn, Cary, Stafford was, but looking at her sweet face in her portrait she comes across as a kind natured woman, who maybe found life at court a little too overwhelming for someone of her disposition, she could well have when young been more pliable, easily led maybe, overawed by kingly power and riches, but her strength of character and lack of shallowness comes through in her second choice of husband, to her it did not matter that he was of no account nor particularly rich, he loved her and she knew unlike her more famous and tragic sister, that was worth more than any crown.

  2. Banditqueen says:

    Mary Stafford, nee Carey nee Boleyn and her second husband, William Stafford, had just come into great wealth six months before her death. She inherited the wealth left by her parents, Elizabeth and Thomas Boleyn and from her Uncle James as well as from her late brother and sister. It took this long because of the survival of James Boleyn and her grandmother, who was still alive at Hever. Despite their new comfort, Mary was not able to enjoy her new status for long and died on 19th July 1543. She was around 43 years old but had lived a full if unorthodox life.

    Mary was most probably the eldest child of Thomas and Elizabeth Boleyn, born about a year into their marriage, based on information in a letter Thomas wrote to Thomas Cromwell in 1536 and inheritance disputes during the reign of Elizabeth I. She was most likely born in Norfolk in 1500/1 with her sister, Anne born in the following year at the same old Norfolk hall. The rest of the family where most likely born in the grand new property brought by James and Thomas Boleyn in Kent, the luxurious and beautiful Hever Castle around 1504. Three sons followed George, Thomas and Henry, but only George lived to survive childhood. The other two little boys are buried in Saint Peter’s Church, near the family home.

    Anne was the dark haired sister, the star pupil of her tutors, just as George was, but Mary was described as fairer and traditionally as the sister with the better nature and although she may not have been as studious as her siblings, she was certainly charming, friendly and attractive. We know very little about Mary, compared to Anne, but her one letter to Cromwell is emotional and heartfelt and a window into the mind of this often maligned young woman.

    1. Christine says:

      I agree she has been maligned quite shockingly, yet the myths about Mary Boleyn endure, regarding her brothers who died in infancy, I always thought they came before her, I imagine Henry was the first born and named after the new king Henry V111 but of course it’s only guesswork, Thomas must have been named after his father, one of them is mentioned on his brass tomb, Weir suggests there could have been other children to, we do not know the date when Thomas and Elizabeth married either but it was a good match for Thomas, one of the rising stars at court, for her family also to agree to their daughter marrying this young man, meant they had respect and faith in him, for he was no aristocrat and although descended from the Earl of Ormond, on the Boleyn side he was descended from merchant stock, his grandfather being Lord Mayor of London, so for the haughty and snobbish Howard’s to allow a member of their family to marry such a man meant they held him in high regard, both Thomas and Elizabeth were fortunate in that they had three healthy children who survived, all appear to have been strong and Anne Thomas noted from an early age, as being particularly bright, she was possibly his favourite if he had favourites, as he recognised a lot of himself in her, Thomas was an intelligent and skilled diplomat and bi lingual, as well as being ambitious like many of the young men who were at the court of the time, his son George also became a diplomat like himself and must have learnt the trade from his father, then there is Mary whose only claim to fame was being Anne Boleyn’s sister and the subject of unsavoury gossip, unremarkable in a remarkable family but more human like and kinder because of it, she appears to have none of her sisters spitefulness and vindictive nature, but Anne’s character became twisted due to thwarted ambition, for Mary life sailed along easily enough she was content in her children, and we can assume Anne felt envy towards her, as she herself bewailed to Henry, ‘I have been waiting long and might have had children, which is the greatest consolation in this world’….there must have been times she envied Mary’s cosy family life, but then Mary lost her handsome young husband to the dreaded sweat, this awful disease was so feared it drove people mad with worry as it could kill within hours, merry at dinner and dead at supper as the saying went, the eye witness accounts reported people dropping like flies in the street, it appeared to have flu like symptoms with aching limbs and a great weakness in the body, the hot temperature that accompanied it and the profuse sweating must have been unbearable, particularly as the victim was advised to stay covered up in bed with thick blankets, it also affected young rich men more than the poor and also more than women, when Cary caught it his family must have been beside themselves with worry, and Mary must have stayed away with her children lest they fall ill and die, we don’t know if Mary ever loved Cary but she must have been saddened at his passing, he was only young and she knew her children would never know their father, Cary would never see them grow up and at the same time, she must have been so anxious for her father brother and sister who also succumbed to the disease, Mary and her mother must have comforted each other during this terrifying time and maybe became closer because of it, Elizabeth Boleyn is a shadowy figure to like her eldest daughter, described as being very pretty and a bit of a flirt in her youth, we have no other information on her save she was the eldest daughter of the Earl of Surrey and served Queen Katherine at court, she also is known really for being the mother of Henry V111’s beheaded queen, she was close to her youngest daughter Anne and was often with her accompanying her to court and outings and whilst the king was courting Anne, she must have been with her during her confinement as she awaited the birth of her baby, and must have been a witness at their secret marriage, Anne loved her mother truly and her first thoughts were of her when she was in the Tower, there is a portrait of Thomas Boleyn plenty of Anne and several of Mary, but none of Elizabeth sadly, or George so we can only imagine what they looked like, the myth of Mary Boleyn which Claire relates to us describes her as taking after her mother a true English rose, certainly in both portraits Mary has delicate colouring and her features do not resemble Anne at all, having a much softer rounder face, Anne who was much darker in colouring had a longer narrower face with high cheekbones, but Mary has large almond shaped brown eyes which resemble those of her sisters, was Elizabeth Boleyn like Mary or Anne, was she fair or dark? The portrait said to be of Sir Thomas Boleyn is now known to be that of his Irish cousin James, and so we only have the brass plaque on his tomb to go by, which is unreliable as brass etchings on tombs are not a good likeness, fascinating to consider also on what George looked like, this ‘ Adonis’ of the Tudor court whom was once written about in prose as a ‘deflower of maidens’, another topic on this fascinating family is the fact they all lie in separate graves, apart from the two tragic younger Boleyn siblings, Sir Thomas lies in the church at Hever the family’s much loved home, his wife rests amongst her Howard relations at Lambeth in the family crypt, and we do not know still, after over four centuries where Mary is buried, Eric Ives who sadly is no longer with us could not understand the fascination with Mary, his love affair was all with Anne her mercurial flighty younger sister, in her lifetime Mary must have suffered because of her sisters reputation especially after her disgrace and that of her brothers, she herself was said to be rather immoral yet there are no records of any illicit affairs whilst she was wed to Cary, and we can safely debunk the rumour that she was sleeping with the king during her marriage, and after Cary died she was not associated with any man in fact, she lived an almost nun like existence, focusing on her children, the rumours about her and the King of France were when she was very young and may just have been gossip, we know she did sleep with Henry V111 as he used that as a reason to annul his marriage to her sister later, so one love affair with your king and a possible love affair or fling with a much older degenerate man in ones youth, does not a fallen woman make, we don’t know of her later married life with William Stafford but she must have been faithful to him, she was content to live quietly away from the court with him and her children, and as they grew up, Catherine and Henry Cary must have had fond memories of an idyllic early life in the country with their gentle mother, and kind husband who was the only man they had ever known as a father.

  3. Banditqueen says:

    This letter written in 1534 to Thomas Cromwell for help with a domestic problem was written against the background of that most human of events, love and pregnancy. Mary had come to Court heavy with child and it emerged that she was married. As a widow Mary was perfectly entitled to do this, but several complications stood in her way. One was her actual status. Mary was legally dependent on her family as they supported her financially and therefore she should have married a man who could support her. William Stafford, the man of her choice, was of lower status and modest means. Mary was in service to her sister Anne who was Queen and her husband in service to the King which meant that they should have asked permission to marry. Anne banished her sister and Thomas Boleyn cut her off. Against this desperate background Mary wrote loving and passionate words asking for help to reconcile with her family. She also showed her devotion to her new husband saying that she would rather beg bread from door to door than live without him. We don’t know what happened to her baby but Thomas did grant her and William an allowance. Mary it appears withdrew from Court and may have followed him to Calais where he was given a military appointment.

    After the death of her siblings and her parents, Mary did inherit a great deal of money and land. Unfortunately she only received most of it in 1543, dying on 19th July, without really enjoying it. We don’t know where Mary was when she died or where she was buried. Her husband remarried and had children but there’s no clue as to the burial place of Mary, his first love.

    As I said in my first post, half of which vanished into cyber black holes, Mary was badly maligned. She was painted as a whore for what was probably nothing more than a brief teenage affair with the King of France, to whom she might not have felt she could say no and an even more mysterious affair with Henry Viii. She was named as he annulled his marriage to Anne, shortly before her sister was executed on trumped up charges of treason, adultery and incest. She was used by Henry to clear the way to marry Anne in his petition to the Pope. She may or may not have been the mother of two children by Henry Viii. Her first husband was chosen by the King and her family, he was a cousin to King Henry and of high status. However, William Carey died from sweating sickness in 1528 and left her in deep financial crisis. Anne had to ask the King to write to her father and ask him to help Mary. Thomas did so, but has been criticised for not doing so sooner but he probably didn’t know as Carey would have been expected to leave his widow financially secure and her jointure and other monies handed over on his death. Mary was able to live reasonably well but Anne was given guardianship of her son Henry and provided him with an excellent education. Mary has been wrongly called a whore for the same offence that others did without any shame, sharing the bed of Kings. This is a great shame and in fact she should be admired for loving where her heart lay and living life her own way.

  4. Christine says:

    One hundred percent agree, as she died not long after she inherited her family’s wealth it must have gone to her son, daughters only inherited if they were the only child, so young Henry Cary must have been a very wealthy young man indeed.

  5. Banditqueen says:

    Thomas Boleyn was a most remarkable man and may get his due soon when the Boleyns A Scandalous Family, a three part documentary drama on the BBC arrives on 13th August at 9p.m. The historians are different, the approach is to get rid of the myths without the drama being lost. I am looking forward to it, but forgive me if I remain sceptical as documentary series have promised as much before. With three new historians we should get the truth at last.

    Thomas as you said, Christine, was a learned man, a patron and correspondent of Erasmus, his friend and he looked after a nephew who was in need for most of his life, was in Royal service to both Tudor Kings for over four decades. His father and grandfather served both Yorkist and Tudor Kings, transitioning seemingly from one Dynasty to the next, not unlike the Neville family and the Poles, Howards and so on. He was invaluable to Henry as an Ambassador, he was multi linguistic, probably a natural linguist and Anne didn’t get her own French etc out of thin air. Mary must have had the same abilities as her siblings because she shared the same genes but not the same personality. She was obviously bright enough to be chosen as a Lady to Princess Mary and to stay on in France for a few years. That in itself meant she had the usual talents at least for the daughter of a Knight and middle gentry, dancing, reading and writing, so she was literate, Latin, because she went to Mass, every child knew their catechism and the prayers of the Mass, some kind of musical training was introduced, regardless of talent, so was singing, how to behave and be a Lady, so walking with a book on her head might be the equivalent of some sort of Tudor training in grace and bearing, manners and so on. Needlework was part of female education and how to run a large household certainly was. A dull woman certainly wouldn’t make a good Tudor housewife. A Tudor housewife, regardless of status, learned a number of practical things, including cooking and home management. The Boleyn family where living in the countryside so a number of skills and activities related to that was also expected. Mary would be expected to ride well for example. In addition her parents were forward thinking by sending both daughters abroad as young teens to the most sophisticated Court in Europe and both Anne and Mary received the same advanced education, but Anne stayed two more years and absorbed everything until she presented as one of the better educated ladies of her age.

    Mary seems to have been more interested in having a good time, yet she stood out enough for two Kings to notice her, so she must have had something about her. Studious or not, Mary may have been shy or quiet, just charming and easy going, probably friendly and easy to get on with. Perhaps one felt they could confide in her and maybe she was emphatic and so easy to be with. Perhaps she wasn’t a chattering monkey like the others and was trust worthy. Anne by contrast was brash and full of life and owned the room when she walked in. Anne had a natural wit and curiosity and was confident in everything she did, even dancing, was accomplished and she was opinionated. Mary was considered to be kind and generous and gentle. We know very little about her to be honest. We only know that she was the brief lover of two Kings because one, Henry, used her to annul his first and second marriages. There’s one thing you can say about Henry, he kept his mistresses discreet, at least from Katharine.

    Mary, married at 20 to William Carey, a relative to the King, she had two children by him, Catherine and Henry, although some people think the King was the father of at least one child and that grants paid to William prove that. However, Henry never acknowledged either of Mary’s children as his own and grants could be for good service, rather than fatherhood. Payments would also have been paid to the mother, again for good service, rather than the father. Richard iii made payments to three women, one of whom people speculate was the mother of his two illegitimate children. Both of her children grew up well, thanks to the help of her sister, Anne, with Henry having a first class education and rising to be a peer of the Realm and a wealthy man and Catherine a lady for the Court under Henry Viii and for Queen Elizabeth I. She married an MP named Francis Knowels and together they had at least sixteen children. She was buried at the cost of her cousin Elizabeth in Westminster Abbey. While Anne had no direct descendents other than Elizabeth, who had no confirmed children, Mary Boleyn had thousands of descendents to this very day, including the Queen.

  6. Christine says:

    Why people think Henry V111 was the father to Mary Boleyn’s children puzzles me, if it was an affair of long duration I could understand but it was possibly very brief, his affair with Bessie Blount lasted about three years and he was said to be much in love with her, yet she was married off when she fell pregnant, the king however did declare her son was his and he was showered with honours, much to Queen Katherines chagrin, yet he never acknowledged any other children as his and his affair with Mary Boleyn is a mystery, all we know is she was married to the kings cousin and good friend William Cary and had two children, and if she only slept with Henry V111 very briefly then it is more than likely her children were Cary’s, yet of course we know it only takes once for a girl to fall pregnant, if Catherine the eldest child was his daughter then it would explain why, being a girl her paternity remained a secret, why should Henry V111 wish to acknowledge another daughter as his, it was sons who were important, yet Henry her brother was born four years into his mother’s marriage, if he was the kings surely he would be acknowledged as his, but the king was then pursuing his aunt and maybe he did not wish to anger Anne by publicly claiming her nephew as his? Also it would not look good to show himself as immoral when he was trying to obtain the divorce from his queen, maybe Anne knew both her niece and nephew were the kings or at least Catherine and that would explain her reluctance to get involved with him? But we will never know because we have no documentation that tells us when Mary became involved with the king and he never acknowledged her children as his, I feel it is more than likely both children were Cary’s and any so called likeness to the king can be explained by blood kin, Cary of course being related to him by having Beaufort blood, there is of course the case of Ethelreda Malt the daughter of a laundry woman who worked in the palace, there were rumours she was the kings, and the fact she was with the young Elizabeth in the Tower during her confinement there speaks volumes, the daughter of a laundress keeping company with a one time princess, she was said to have been her companion unless of course she was there in a menial capacity, she neither was acknowledged as Henry V111’s daughter but she could have been, I find Ethelreda fascinating and sadly we have no likeness of her to speculate on, no description of her and there is the case of John Perot, a man who claimed to be the kings son, and so like him was he many believed it, yet he was never acknowledged by the king, and by all accounts Perot was a fine handsome figure of a man, surely the king would be proud to call him his own? If Mary’s children or at least Catherine was Henry’s then maybe her/ theirs paternity was kept secret for consideration of Anne’s feelings, as she would not want gossip and sniggering about her sisters bastards when it was known she was the kings acknowledged mistress, also as said before, it might help to hamper the ‘Kings Great Matter’ as it was called, I heard Richard 111 may have been the father of a daughter named Katherine but she was not acknowledged as his, when we consider so many kings had bastards down the centuries, Charles 11 had plenty and the late Diana Princess of Wales was descended from a bastard daughter of James 11, as well as being descended from Henry Cary, Henry 1st had about thirty and yet had only one legitimate son who tragically drowned in what is known as the white ship disaster, his only other legitimate child Matilda caused chaos in the kingdom when she tried to rule briefly, it was her example that made women look unfit to rule, but I am digressing from the topic of Catherine and Henry Cary, by law any children born in marriage was considered the property of their father their paternity undisputed, therefore it would have served the king no purpose to acknowledge them as his, also he was close to William Cary, who should he wish to make him a cuckold? We know however it was the way of the world, kings had the right in their kingdom to do as they pleased with their subjects, and any courtier could do nought but smile if the king wished to bed his wife, Henry Cary when older declared allegedly he was the kings son, and his descendant today has tried to put forward an argument that he was, this descendant whose name I cannot recall, has been discussed on here and he probably has his own website or blog, also he claims Henry was said to possess a likeness to the king, I cannot see any likeness myself, for looking at portraits of Henry Cary his face was long with high cheekbones and he was dark of colouring, Henry V111 who’s image is famous was very fair with an almost heart shaped face when young, his hair was golden red, he had piecing blue eyes and high winged eyebrows, he was very muscular with a thick solid neck, described as having a face that befits a pretty woman, he must have seemed to many to resemble the angels that adorned the stained glass windows in the chapels of worship, Henry Cary was possibly named after the king as was the custom, and the grants his parents received do not tell us anything merely that it was customary of the king to award grants to his favourites, such actions do not prove the paternity of Henry or his elder sister, and the fact both siblings were favoured by Queen Elizabeth can be seen as just a very real fondness for her two cousins, she was known to favour her maternal relations more than her paternal ones, the troublesome Grey sisters she kept a close eye on, their legitimate status threatened her own security, yet her mother’s relations were much loved, and I feel this could be merely because they were a link to the mother she had tragically lost when a child, Catherine she loved intensely, and her and Henry have magnificent tombs in Westminster Abby, gossip however does endure and today people and historians do speculate if Mary Boleyn’s two children were Henry V111’s, as Bq says, they both have many descendants today some in America, and some in Britain, including the queen, who descends from Catherine Cary, so just maybe Henry V111’s bloodline does continue to this day but I find it highly unlikely, given his poor fertility record and the ill health of his two legitimate daughters, who both died childless, Elizabeth by choice however, yet her health was not great either, both Edward V1 and Henry Fitzroy were healthy children that both succumbed to a wasting disease which however, had nothing to do with their genetic history, many died from diseases because there were no antibiotics in those days, medicine was crude so we can assume that had they not fallen ill of TB or whatever it was that killed them, they could have gone on to father children themselves, Anne Boleyn only had one healthy child and the other two she miscarried which could have been stress, as I said in another post, but Mary had no problem carrying her children full term, she must have miscarried her third child by Stafford however because we hear no more about the poor little mite, or it could have died young, it is certainly fascinating discussing Henry V111’s children, legitimate and illegitimate and those who could have been his, and their medical history, I think Ethelreda went onto marry but had no children herself and Perot vanishes from history, Bessie Blount had a daughter after she had given birth to Henry Fitzroy and some have speculated she was also the kings, but that would have meant the king was still sleeping with Bessie after her marriage to Gilbert Tallboys, she had several children with him as well, Bessie it seems was a healthy fertile lass, it seems Henry V111 was just unlucky with his choice of brides apart from Jane Seymour, but had she lived she could well have miscarried or died in childbirth, it was a very dangerous condition for women and if the mother and the child survived it was down to sheer luck, meanwhile regarding the paternity of Mary Boleyn’s children there is no proof they were the kings and never will be, just gossip based on several grants the king made to William Cary, Alison Weir believes she can see a likeness in Catherine to Henry V111, certainly her face was round like the kings and her hair was auburn but William could have had the same colouring and Mary Boleyn had a soft round face to, there is not much to go on, but if Henry V111 was at least Catherine’s father then his dynasty continues to this day, his name has died out but his bloodline continues a fascinating thought, but sadly we will never know.

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