19 July 1543 – The death of Mary Stafford, also known as Mary Boleyn or Mary Carey

Posted By on July 19, 2018

Before I begin this post properly, I just wanted to say a big thank you to those of you who have commented or sent me messages wondering where I am. I really am very grateful for your concern. I’ve been having problems with my vision, meaning that I have to keep resting my eyes. I’m not able to research or write properly at the moment but I’ll get there! These things are sent to try us, or to make us review our work habits!

Anyway, back to history!

On this day in history, 19th July 1543, Mary Stafford (née Boleyn), wife of William Stafford, died. She was in her early 40s.

Mary was the daughter of Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire and Ormond, and his wife, Elizabeth Howard. She was the granddaughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, and was also the sister of the late Queen Anne Boleyn and George Boleyn, Lord Rochford. At the time of her death, Mary was married to William Stafford, but had previously been married to William Carey, a member of Henry VIII’s Privy Chamber and an Esquire of the Body. She had two children during the course of her first marriage: Catherine, born in around 1524, and Henry, born in 1526. Carey died of sweating sickness in June 1528 and Mary went on to marry Stafford secretly and without her family’s permission in 1534.

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Picture: Portrait of an unknown woman thought by some to be Mary Boleyn, Hever Castle.

24 thoughts on “19 July 1543 – The death of Mary Stafford, also known as Mary Boleyn or Mary Carey”

  1. Globerose says:

    Claire – you really are one Sup-p-er Troup-p-er, what with your eye strain and everything else and I, for one, am so very pleased to hear from you and read what you have taken such great pains to write for us. So, so pleased. Thank you so, so much. Check out your eye-genomics please and just know, one hundred per cent for sure, that the ABF fan base is right behind you. Take your time. We are right here.

  2. Michael Wright says:

    Globerose expresses my feelings far better than I could. As she says we are just fine. We just want you to get better.

  3. Christine says:

    Thank you to you Claire for bringing us this wonderful website and we are all thinking of you, Mary Boleyn the rather shadowy sister of Henrys V111’s infamous queen is as much an enigma as her sister, we have no true likeness of her and her whearabouts are shrouded in mystery for most of her life, we do not know if she ever slept with the King of France but it is highly likely they had a brief fling, we do not know when her affair began or ended with King Henry and what she felt when he courted her sister, only she knows the true paternity of her children and her death is as much a mystery as her life was, maybe overshadowed a little by her two younger more brilliant siblings she nonetheless appears a warm hearted creature who maybe loved too easily, she appears also to have none of the calculating ambitiousness of Anne, and that makes her more feminine, certainly she was described as being the prettier sister and must have revelled in the glittering gaiety of the courts of France and England, where she was born is up for debate but considered to be the elder sibling she was probably born at Blickling and her early years were no doubt passed pleasantly enough in that grand country Manor House, most of which sadly no longer exists having been rebuilt over the years, sent to France with her younger sister we only know there was gossip about her but whose to say her behaviour was worse than any young pretty girl seduced in that heady atmosphere of decadence and immorality? King Henry himself many years later was to comment waspishly on French ways, saying he had had enough of them, a bitter reference to Anne maybe and Francis informed him that Anne had not lived very virtuously whilst at his court, why should Francis say that about Anne unless it were true, her virtue which she had always paraded before him denying him the ultimate favour till they were about to wed, must be maybe one of the reasons he began to turn against her, she had insisted she was pure and then acted like a trollop when they were alone, yet it is Mary who has gone down in history as the infamous whore, as we have seen it was very difficult for a woman to say no to her King, her family could suffer as a result and no other man dared make a play for her knowing he would incur his wrath, she could well have loved him or fancied she did, he was very handsome and the King – all powerful! which would have been part of his attraction, but if she didn’t then she would have been in a very unfavourable position, after Henrys fancy for her fizzled out she was married to William Carey a favoured courtier and who held a very esteemed position, that of esquire of the body to the King, we do not know if she loved Carey but their married life was short, with him dying suddenly of the sweat leaving her widowed with two young children and dependant on her fathers support, that she was in service to Anne from time to time we know and there could well have been some sort of sisterly affection between them but it appears they were never really close, Mary could well have resented her younger sister for snaring the jackpot whilst Mary had got nothing out of her affair with the King, except maybe an already tarnished reputation, like her sister we do not know what she really looked like but we have several portraits of Anne which all show a woman with a narrow face large heavy lidded eyes and dark colouring, since Mary was said to be prettier we can assume she was a more softer version with maybe a more rounded face and shorter nose, her alleged portrait at Hever shows a very attractive woman with more than just a passing resemblance to Anne, she incurred the wrath of her family when she arrived at court declaring she was pregnant and begging for help, Anne the King and her father were furious because her husband was a minor courtier not the grand nobleman worthy of her, banished from court she left with her husband but here is another mystery, her baby vanished and there is no record of its birth or death, just as the Boylen children’s births were not recorded neither was Marys third child, in those days many families as we know did not bother to record such events, but it is a frustration for us many years later as there are missing pieces in the jigsaw, just as Lady Mary Seymour vanished from history so did Mary Staffords last infant, when her father died she became a very rich woman as the accounts show she inherited many properties, but she died not long after, and again we know nothing of the location of her grave, she could well have been laid to rest in the nearby parish church at Rochford as she owned Rochford Hall, middle aged by Tudor standards today she would be very young and she could well have caught an illness for which in those days there was no cure, she did not live dangerously like her younger siblings she not cure incite feelings of great hatred or passion like her tragic sister, out of the pages of history she appears a normal girl of genteel birth who did as her family ordained, and her one rebellion, her elopement with William Stafford shows she was also determined to be happy for herself and she seems more likeable because of it, after the dreadful events of 1536 in seven years all the prominent members of the Boleyn family had gone, leaving only Catherine Cary and her brother Henry, possibly named in honour of Henry V111 and his first queen, they survived their families disgrace and did well at court and were much favoured by their cousin Queen Elizabeth, they both have magnificent tombs in Westminster Abbey, unlike them their mother lies in some quite little country graveyard near Rochford Hall maybe, her last year’s were peaceful she survived the wrath of the King and died in her bed which in the days of King Henry V111 was quite an achievement.

  4. Banditwjeen says:

    Hope you are feeling a bit better and thanks for posting this article, especially when you are being so busy and needing your rest and recuperation. Take care.

    Mary was the Boleyn who did it all. She went to France and probably slept with the King, we only have the boasting of the man as evidence, but most certainly she was not the whore he claimed her to be. Mary was the one who married the Kings friend and had children, one of them at least, Catherine Carey, almost certainly belonged to King Henry, with whom she had a relationship on her return from France. Mary Boleyn found herself with a husband who gambled his fortune and ended up in debt. She was a widow at about twenty eight and her children were cared for as a guardian to help her by Anne. After her sister was Queen as an independent woman she came to Court to serve her and enjoy life on the grace of the King. In 1534 Mary came to Court again and was pregnant and announced that she had married without her sister’s permission and Anne banished her and her husband, William Stafford to the country. Mary had to appeal to the King for her jointure and money as a widow and for reconciliation with her father. She moved to the country and when her parents died she fought for her inheritance. She lived with William Stafford in the country. She found peace in death in 1541. Ironically she died a wealthy woman, a status she only enjoyed for a few months.

    RIP Mary Boleyn.

  5. Claire says:

    Aw, you’re all so lovely. I’m finding it really hard, just had a bit of a weep on Tim’s shoulder. Today, I managed to do 20 minutes of work before things got blurry and I had to stop. I went and had a shower but still couldn’t see after that so had to give it a bit longer. My new glasses should arrive at the beginning of next week, I’m trying software on my computer for eye strain and I’ve ordered some special blue light filter glasses to wear over my prescription glasses – something’s got to work, surely!
    I’m just panicking because I’ve got so much work as we go on holiday on 1st August. You just don’t realise how dependant you are on your health until something goes slightly awry.
    Thank you for all your help, support and encouragement. xx

    1. Banditqueen says:

      Don’t worry about posting, Claire, your health comes first, take time out for a bit and just get better as you need to slow down when you are being given tips by your body to allow it to heal. You take care of you and rest. We are fine chatting among ourselves. Just rest and relax and come back when you are better. Computers are a blessing and a curse as they come with a health warning but your health is more important than anything at the moment so please, just take time out and don’t worry about us lot. Cheers.

  6. Christine says:

    Don’t worry about anything Claire except your eyes they are precious, my eyes are very poor and for years iv had free eye tests as I’m registered partially sighted, iv been to Moorfields because iv got floaters and iv been told my retinas are very weak which can cause loss of sight if I get a sharp blow on the head or fall over suddenly and bang my head, iv bin told to go straight to a&e if my sight goes cloudy like a curtain going across and apparently it can happen any minute, you will come through this and you have a great family to help you and everyone on here sends you all our love and support xx

  7. Michael Wright says:

    Hi Claire. I’ve been wearing bifocals for 20+yrs (I’m 56). Up until 3yrs ago I had no problem then one day I woke up and everything through the bifocals was blurry. I had to use my reading glasses to see Long distance but could see nothing close up. It lasted about three weeks. That was at the beginning of summer as it was getting warm. It happened again at the end of summer as it was cooling off. It has happened every year since then
    What is happening is I am retaining water as it warms and getting rid of it as it cools and my eyes are changing shape. I am still wearing the same prescription I have always had with no problem.

  8. Globerose says:

    Well, just been reading Claire’s post of Feb19, 2013! “One big Boleyn Myth” and paused on one bullet point, which reads:- Henry VIII intervened with Thomas Boleyn on Mary’s behalf, prompting him to make provision for her at the end of June 1528. (Claire adds)> “In December 1528, Henry assigned Mary an annuity of £100 (£32,000) which had once been paid to her husband.
    I wonder if it seems to you, as it seems to me, that there is a question hanging over just who is responsible for Mary’s upkeep, i.e. the state (the king) or Mary’s father, Thomas. Why did Henry have to ‘intervene,’ on Mary’s behalf , with her natural parent? Then six month’s afterwards, Henry awards Mary monies from her husband’s estate. On marriage, the father ‘gives’ his daughter to another man and this other man supports both Mary and their children. Thomas Boleyn therefore, has no further financial liability towards Mary?
    How does this all work? I am a bit lost.

    1. Christine says:

      I read this to in Weirs book on Mary, Sir Thomas it seems was a bit parsimonious when it came to his family, when Mary was sent from court in disgrace for her hasty marriage to William Stafford it was Anne who sent her a bag of gold coins not their father, this isn’t to say he was mean, maybe he thought he was just being careful but it does seem as if he was trying to extricate himself from the financial burden of a recently widowed daughter, daughters of the gentry and the nobility were married of to someone who could benefit their family in the corridors of power and financially to, therefore it must have been a shock when Cary died suddenly of the sweat although once caught many died, I think it was Mary who wrote to Cromwell who then brought it up with the King, poor Mary she had recently buried her husband, had two children to support and her father was haggling about money but Cary had squandered a lot of his money being a gambler, and Thomas was no doubt furious about this wastrel son in law of his, no doubt he felt that Mary was not his responsibility but would he rather see his daughter and grandchildren live in penury? It was not her fault that her husband had been so foolish and I believe it was the same then as it is today, it’s the husbands responsibility to care for his wife and children but of course a sudden death can change everything, Henry may have intervened because of his involvement with Anne as she surely would not wish to see her sister and her sisters family face ruin, and he could have still been quite fond of his sweet undemanding ex mistress who had never given him any trouble, but even so he probably felt his faithful servant needed a nudge in the right direction, Henry was always generous to those who pleased him and if he had fathered Catherine Cary on Mary Boleyn even more reason for him to get involved, her sudden marriage to Stafford was considered an insult as she was the queens sister, and had to have the Kings permission to wed, and her marriage would have been to one much more noble with more power and good connections, in short it would have been a political match designed for the advancement of the Boleyns, but as she wrote to Cromwell ‘ I would rather beg my bread with him than with anyone higher…’ I don’t think Thomas rated his eldest very highly though of course he must have loved her, he was more like Anne who was probably his favourite because she seemed to have the same tenacious ambitious character as himself, and who was not only intelligent but fearless to, although her unguarded tongue must have given him and his wife cause to worry over the years, and of course he was uneasy about her relationship with the King and where it was heading, with Mary he must have despaired as she had slept with the King but had got little to show for it, her first husband had been a gambler who had left her dependant on her father through no fault of her own, this could have unfairly made him resentful towards her her marriage with Cary was arranged anyway, and she had gone against protocol and married a man with little connection and to top it all was pregnant, her increasing belly would only have reminded Anne of her own failure to give the King a son, we can safely assume that both Anne and their father were not very happy with Mary at that moment, it’s not really much different from today when a marriage breaks up or ones partner dies, there is often the worry about money how do we cope we say, that’s were ones family steps in, was Sir Thomas a Scrooge it’s hard to say.

  9. Globerose says:

    Thanks Christine! Interestingly, BanditQueen wrote (in 2014) that William Carey is one of the unknown people at Henry’s court. Well I seem to have blinked every time he got a mention because I either didn’t know or had forgotten that he was a gambler and died in debt, which goes a little way to explaining Thomas Boleyn’s ‘parsimony’ – I rather empathise with that!
    I had to google William, as you can tell,
    One thing that did strike me is that he was young (1500-1528) was ?20 when he married Mary, quite a responsibility when all he had was potential.

    1. Christine says:

      Your welcome Globerose, Cary was maybe one of many of the profligate young men of the court who spent their leisure time gambling hunting wenching as they called it then, it was a fine life if you were a nobleman at King Henrys court, but then as now money or the lack of it is a problem, Mary must have had many a worrying moment and as Bq mentions, Anne was made guardian of her nephew and neice so that must have eased the pressure somewhat, young Cary didn’t make much of an impact on Tudor court politics as he died before his prime but he could well have been a gentle soul like his wife, certainly he was well connected being a cousin of the King and Henry was fond of him, I feel sad for his children who possibly would not have remembered him, maybe Catherine had a vague recollection of her father but death stalked the corridors of the Tudor world so often the people of that age had grown used to seeing loved ones die frequently, for noblemen and women, if not in their bed by the axe or if they were really unlucky they were dragged on hurdles to Tyburn tree, sickness in the form of the plague outbreaks of malaria, undiagnosed medical conditions for which there was no cure sent people to an early grave, the most dangerous years were from babyhood there were no vaccines for measles mumps whooping cough etc, and Royal babies were as at much risk as the children of the poor, the sweat was greatly feared and along with the almighty it was one of the few things that struck terror into the soul of Henry V111, it was said that people died more from the fear of the sweat than actually catching it, as soon as one person fell ill the royal household would suddenly up and pack and flee to the country, several members of the Boleyn family caught it, along with Sir Thomas and Anne and George, maybe there were milder strains, but amazingly they all survived unlike the unfortunate William Cary, Mary served her sister at court and carried on with her life, she must have taken delight in her children and really I must add, for someone who has been referred to as rather loose with her moral’s, there is no record of any scandalous behaviour attached to her during the years after her widowhood, and then she fell in love and just because the object of her affection was not considered good enough she was banished from court, well I say good for her, she was possibly misused during her time at the French court and then when she became mistress to King Henry, she could not say no to both kings, writers of romantic fiction and some early historians have always gone along with the idea that she was like a 16thc Moll Flanders who romped her way through merrie England, but how do we know she actually enjoyed her liason with both men, she could well have been frightened into sleeping with both men fearing the consequences if she refused, what evidence is there that she took delight in it? Weir suggests Henry V111 could have raped her as there was another encounter whilst out riding one day, he saw a man with his lady, and fancying the woman boldly carried her of with him, with no thought to both their feelings and he no doubt used her for a bit before sending her back to her lover, this behaviour Weir says tells us a lot about the king who was not averse to using force when ever he got the opportunity, after Henry grew tired of Mary she was married off respectably to Cary and we know she had no choice in that, however she probably had some affection for him he was young like her and handsome but like many of the day it was merely a marriage of convenience, she then lived quietly till she met William Stafford, she decided to seize this chance of happiness and risking both the displeasure of her parents and the King and queen she went ahead and married him, in matters of the heart she was luckier than her sister, she knew Anne was not happy and that the King was tiring of her, little is known of George’s marriage but some say there is evidence that it was not happy, the violent deaths of both her siblings would have caused very real grief and losing her parents a few years later would have made her love all the stronger for her husband and children, the baby she was carrying no doubt could have died at birth or not long after, or she could have miscarried births and deaths were not always recorded, we not know the location of her final resting place but her ghost must spend many a happy hour at some of the places she was most happy at, Blickling maybe or at Rochford Hall if it still exists, her shade must walk among the rose gardens at Hever recalling happier times when her family knew such splendour, reading into what we know of both sisters character it is Mary who comes across as the most likeable, Anne inspires fascination in her fans, as Eric Ives put it, she endlessly fascinates but had we actually known her as a person, would any of us say we would actually like her? You can admire a person without actually liking them, she was a formidable woman of high intelligence and courage, but those things in a human are not really important, it is kindness and the ability to put others first that matters, such people inspire love in others, my old auntie said it is more important to be kind than clever and I don’t doubt she is right.

  10. Banditqueen says:

    From what I vaguely recall Mary’s situation was complicated because of her strained relationship with her father after she remarried in 1533/4 without permission to a man with little status and means, William Stafford and William Carey’s gambling a good deal of their money away. Mary had money she was entitled to as a widow, her jointure, which she took back when the marriage ended or she inherited property and money. She was also entitled to inherit from her family as the sole surviving child and she had difficulty there as well, particularly because most of the original inheritance had been reduced due to the treason charges aimed at Anne and George, so intervention was needed again. It appears that Thomas Boleyn was holding back what Mary needed and he wasn’t too on point in helping his daughter. I assume that what Mary did get from husband no one was inadequate and Thomas should have made her an allowance to help her and his grandchildren and was slow to do do as he practically disinherited her in 1534. Mary found herself in the debt of Cromwell who intervened with her family at that time. Henry as the head of state in 1528 had the power to help when whatever she did get was not enough to provide for her two children. Henry made Thomas face up to his responsibility and Anne was made the guardian of Henry and Catherine Carey, probably because she was mostly in a position to help educate and raise them. She appears to have done a good job and there is no evidence that she kept them from their mother or that Mary didn’t see them and wasn’t grateful for her sister’s aid.

    Mary Boleyn didn’t get the full inheritance she was entitled to from her parents estate until 1541, a few months before her death. As a woman she was the responsibility of her husband, she was his property and her money was his. However, certain money pots came back to her as a widow, her dower lands and rights and she had inherited rights and some earnings were hers to keep. As a widow she was more independent but still under the guardian of her male relative. Her father still had certain authority over her and he should also make certain she had an allowance. If the King was asked to intervene then Thomas must have been less than forthcoming and the money she should have received in 1528 must have been lost or not enough to live on. It seems to be a theme of his relationship with Mary who was far from his ideal daughter. She had to write a penitent letter in 1534 when she married without his leave and he cut off her allowance.

    I don’t think Thomas Boleyn was an unfair father, or cruel, just one who wanted obedience and probably was tight with the purse strings. Her money from her late husband should have been adequate but Mary was left with insufficient support. Thomas may have felt he wasn’t obligated to support Mary, but reluctantly did so once Henry reminded him that he couldn’t leave her destitute either and gave her an allowance.

    1. Christine says:

      No doubt Lady Elizabeth wanted her daughter to be alright to so she must have urged Thomas to make sure she was financially secure, she would no doubt have worried for her grandchildren as they were both so young, we cannot say Sir Thomas was the unscrupulous cold hearted man he is often shown to be in books and the silver screen, just like Mary is shown to be an immoral empty headed girl so is Sir Thomas painted rather black to, but there is no evidence he was cruel to any of his children and in fact he made sure they all had an excellent education, Annes letter to him written as a young girl whilst in the court of Margaret of Austria is warm and as his children grew up both Anne and George rose high in the King’s favour, George had been to university and had married the daughter of Lord Morley, he undertook several important missions for the King, and was a rising star at court, there is no evidence of any animosity between himself and his father, we know of the occasion when Thomas was not happy with the kings intention to marry Anne which caused friction between himself and the latter, this shows he cared more for her welfare than self advancement, he was probably stern and not given much to sentiment, letting his head rule his heart which he must have learnt early in life, was the only way to survive, maybe he was not demonstrative in his feelings and did not hug and kiss his family very much, that does not mean feeling he never loved or cared about them, early on in his marriage he and his wife had suffered bereavement with the loss of several children so the ones that survived were doubly precious, many myths have arisen about Thomas Boleyn over the years like the stories that surround Henry V111 still, the media is largely to blame when it portrays this most famous family of 16th c England, the truth in fact is very different and we are still learning about these interesting people that lived long ago, to us they are still so very much alive they could leap out of the pages of a history book and no doubt baffle and amuse us with their strange tongue their colourful costumes, their very overpowering presence that I’m sure they possessed, the drama of their lives was so different from ours it’s strange to envisage a world where to us, it appears almost alien yet it did exist and is part of the very fabric of our long history, Jane Rochford is another person who I feel has been misunderstood, being caught up in the tragedy of two Tudor queens her fall was inevitable when it came, now their stories are being researched and their characters analysed so we begin to have a good understanding of these tragic people and the turbulent times they lived in, they are all worthy of a mention from us.

  11. Globerose says:

    Wonder if you agree BQ, that the one time Mary Boleyn Stafford ‘leaps from the pages of a history book’ is in her letter to Thomas Cromwell? It’s given us a timeless quote, “I would rather beg my bread…” and a precious glimpse into the thought process of this shadowy woman.
    The bit that moved me most is her declaration, “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 take him and to forsake all other ways, and live a poor, honest life with him.”
    But as you remind us, the past is another country and they did things differently there.
    And I am sensing another message, poignant and equally timeless, a cry from the heart of Mary Boleyn to the one contact left at Court to whom she could turn and who would lend her his ear, Thomas Cromwell. And the cry is, “FOR GOD’S SAKE HELP US.”
    Her family are ‘so cruel against us’ that she requires Cromwell’s intervention with the King. The young soldier she has wed, 12 years her junior, needs patronage to advance. She may have married for love but you can’t live on it.
    I am – sort of – getting the impression that between 1528, when William Carey died, and six years later when she ‘secretly’ married Stafford in 1534, Mary’s life was on hold, as the King’s Great Matter unfolded, and Mary remained in marriage limbo, as the Court waited to see how events played out and what new advantageous connections could be made.
    Could it be so? But once Anne became queen, the question I’d like to know is why wasn’t Mary married then. Am I missing something obvious here? Something simple like, she had no money? Or, the court wasn’t sure that this Boleyn marriage was legitimate and so it would remain until Anne produced the son and heir that Henry demanded?
    Questions beget question, eh?

  12. Banditqueen says:

    Yes, here we hear the real voice of Mary Boleyn. She has married for love and she would rather be in poverty with her husband than grand and alone. However, she is aware that she must reconcile with her family, which means an apology. It’s an amazing letter and an insight to the Boleyn girl who remains unknown. We think we know Mary Boleyn but in terms of the true historical record we know so little. This is a rare insight in which our heroine speaks. I love that she says love overcame reason, well I think we understand that feeling. Mary finds William Stafford to be honest and he accepted her as he found her, not as her unfortunate reputation said. Poor Mary Boleyn was very much maligned but at Court mud stuck and she would have found it hard to find a husband because of this. William was a plain man and he gave her the secure and plain peaceful life that she wanted. Mary was at Court when Anne came to be Queen but now she found the place tiresome and accepted his proposal. She says he has set her at liberty. However, Mary begged Cromwell to gain for them both the King and Queen’s favour and the relationship with Anne is clearly broken and she speaks of Anne’s indignation. Mary would rather beg bread than be Queen and in fact her pleas went unanswered and she was away from Court now until her mother died in 1539. It appears unclear what happened after this point but she was happy with Stafford and may or may not have had children with him, another mystery.

    Mary was a widow between 1528 and 1534 possibly because she found no suitor or as a widow used her right to remain unwed until she found a man of her own choice. She certainly didn’t appear to care that Anne was Queen and she was bound to ask her sister’s permission to marry as the sister of a Queen and a member of her household. Mary didn’t think of William as below her as her father did but Thomas was a typical strict father of his day and saw Mary as a disobedient minx who had defied him and put the snooty family name to shame. Mary wanted to make amends but if she can’t, well she is content to remain with the husband she has chosen and loves. Mary is the one Boleyn to actually find happiness.

  13. Globerose says:

    Ah well dear me BQ, I entirely missed her ‘reputation’ ! And you also mention Mary’s being a widow and having ‘a right to remain unwed’ about which I didn’t know. Very interesting and thanks for this. Much appreciated.

  14. Banditqueen says:

    Mary may have slept with two Kings, but she was not the whore that the Court presumably heard and the poor woman was concerned about her reputation, which tells me she was far more virtuous than myth suggests. The man at fault was Francis I who made many boasts of his sleeping with Mary and ruined her reputation. She may have slept with him a couple of times when she was between fifteen and eighteen but she wasn’t his ” mule” as the King of France claimed. Of course some men like to boast of conquest even when they make none. I went on an 18 to 30 holiday and even though I didn’t partake, one young man told the group I had practically foisted myself on him. He got caught in a lie, however, as I had already confided that he tried it on and I threw him out. I was partying with the girls at the time he claimed go have seduced me, so it was his reputation which was battered not mine. But this was how Mary Boleyn and probably Anne got poor reputations even though Anne may not have slept with anyone but Henry Viii.

    Henry Viii was far more discrete when he had a mistress, usually if Katherine was pregnant which is why we know very little about them. We don’t know how long Mary was his mistress or exactly when either but we have clues. Henry rode out in the Shrove Tuesday in 1522 with a Motto on his shield declaring a new love at the joust and the two children she had appeared to coincide with grants from the King. Historians are divided as Henry never acknowledged his children because she was married in 1520 to William Carey and in 1526 he noted Anne as a potential mistress. In fact we only know that Mary was his mistress because she was cited in his case to Rome and only then as an unnamed woman he had a relationship with related to Anne. Mary was confirmed as his mistress in his reverse suit to annul his marriage to Anne and make Elizabeth illegitimate. Mary may have been his lover for a while or a very short time but we just don’t know. However discrete Henry was somehow Mary’s reputation suffered, which was why she took the one step she could to protect herself after being a widow for several years, she accepted a proposal of marriage.

    A widow could remain unmarried or remarry but they could also be very vulnerable, especially if they had difficulty obtaining their rights to their portions and dower lands or money which went back to them if their husband died and they had little to provide for them. It’s thought that Mary Boleyn was left vulnerable because William Carey was careless with money and gambled so her provision fell back on her family. A widow was just as vulnerable if she was wealthy as powerful male neighbours or other relatives may prey on them. A widow would have more rights but she still found it hard and Mary was obviously fed up with the Court, the swirl of life around Anne and the annulment. She just wanted life away from it all, with her home, children and if that meant a husband with only a small independent income, then that was what she now chose. Mary and William did alright but they did struggle, not even getting her inheritance for almost two years. For me, this tells me Mary was resilient and she was a woman who wasn’t easily told what go do. We often see Anne as the independent woman who got herself a crown and who broke the mould while Mary followed the traditional Tudor wife path. However, perhaps we should see Mary as also challenging expectations by marrying for love and not because family honour said she needed a great alliance.

  15. Globerose says:

    Thanks BQ for filling in my gaps. I am sure this is generally useful to others who, like me, lack your depth of historical knowledge.

    1. Banditqueen says:

      Thanks Globerose, Christine and Michael, just trying to work out a mystery lady. I am glad someone reads my musings.

  16. Michael Wright says:

    I haven’t said a word because I have been so much enjoying this conversation.

  17. Globerose says:

    Me too, Michael …. feel blessed!

  18. Michael Wright says:

    I do. I thought I knew a lot about Mary Boleyn and her circumstances but wow, I really knew so little.

  19. Becky Christopher says:

    Thank you. This was illuminating.

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