On 22nd June 1528, after eight years of marriage, Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne Boleyn, was widowed. Her husband, William Carey, died during the sweating sickness epidemic that hit the royal court that summer.

Her first husband’s death had a major impact on Mary, who was left with two young children: Catherine, aged four, and Henry, aged two.

I explain a bit more about what happened to Mary in today’s “on this day in Tudor history” video.

I’m doing these videos on a daily basis for the Anne Boleyn Files and Tudor Society Channel, so do head on over to the channel to catch up or to have a browse. There is also a playlist on “Questions about Anne Boleyn”. Please do consider subscribing to the channel too as it helps other Tudor history lovers find my videos – click here – thank you!

For more information on Mary Boleyn, you can watch the following videos:

I have also done the following videos on Sweating Sickness:

22nd June was a very busy day during the Tudor period. Here are a few more key events from that day:

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7 thoughts on “22 June – Mary Boleyn’s first husband dies”
  1. When we consider the whole Boleyn family could have been wiped out that long ago summer in 1528 as it was highly contagious and virulent, it was a much feared illness and Anne her father and brother all succumbed, Lady Boleyn was not affected however and the king being frantic about his sweetheart sent his second best Dr. Butts to her, as he explained in his letter,, possibly after she recovered the king called him his first doctor of medicine in the realm, but he was informed during the day his old friend and companion and relative William Cary had fallen sick and later told the sad news he had died that evening, any death of a family member is sad but when you leave a young widow and two infant children more so, I believe Henry mourned him a lot likewise Mary, he appears an amiable person as there are no records that tell us he was disliked by anyone and his portrait is that of a pleasant faced gentleman who was more than happy to wed the kings mistress and he was several grants over a number of years, which has been speculated by some that they rewards for bringing up his two or possibly one bastard children, but many at court had grants bestowed on them and there is no proof Mary’s children were the kings, gossip about her son looking like Henry was merely slanderous gossip aimed at discrediting Anne and he was born several years after his mother’s marriage anyway, the portrait of Henry Carey painted when he was an adult shows he looked like the Boleyn’s so where was the likeness that showed he had Tudor blood? His face is long with high cheekbones the same face shape of his aunt Anne Boleyn, and besides Henry V111 never acknowledged him as his, likewise his sister who looks nothing like him and it could be that Henry choose to keep their parentage a secret as he was intending to marry Marys sister, so he wanted no unsavoury gossip to reach the ears of the pope, he cited Mary as a means of having his marriage annulled years later and even then there were no mention of her children, Weir says that Mary herself may not have known who the father was of her children and we are even more in the dark as we do not know when their affair ended, I should imagine Mary and William both slept together and her son was only two when Cary died, therefore I think that tells us he must have been sired by William, the king was involved with Anne about the time he was conceived and no other woman interested him, he would not ruin their relationship by continuing an affair with Mary, as for Catherine she is more of a mystery and Weir states that there is a strong likeness between her and a portrait of Henry V111, but Cary was a cousin of the kings therefore the resemblance can easily be explained, Cary was a Beaufort descendant and there was a myth amongst earlier writers that he was of low social standing, but he was of a good family and one of Henry’s intimate circle of friends, he loved to gamble which meant he incurred huge losses and that must have been a worry for Mary but all men of the kings court gambled, Harry Percy did and George Boleyn and it seems these young men of the court had many debts during their lifetime, but it was the way of the court, they played cards they would go out carousing till dawn some had mistresses and many probably visited brothels, it was a point Anne Boleyn brought up when she was queen, she forbade any of the men in her household to visit houses of ill repute, the court was a vibrant hedonistic place to live in full of temptation and so Cary was probably no different than young Francis Weston and George Boleyn and others, his death was shocking but people knew it could kill in hours, and it decimated large families, the video is very interesting I have watched it twice and the fear of catching it must have made people at the time a nervous wreck, her son was given over in the care of Mary’s sister and this was a usual thing at the time, she also revived Cary pension which helped her a little bit after some time she had to ask for her father for help, he however was a bit slow in giving Mary financial help and she had to write to Cromwell, after that the king forced Thomas to dip into his pockets but poor Mary must have been feeling very alone, theirs was an arranged marriage but she could have been very fond of him and in fact she was not involved with anyone else till she met William Stafford several years later, Mary’s life is a mystery because we do not know many facts about her and there is the baby she was carrying whom we hear no more of, it must have died or maybe she had a miscarriage, brought on by the stress of her family’s anger maybe, the Sweat as it was called along with other peculiar names suddenly vanished to re surface again over the years and once in the late 17th or 18th c it then completely died out, what it actually was makes for a good debate but I am glad it is not around now, as it sounds particularly nasty the symptoms very painful and uncomfortable, the fact it killed with ease was a huge worry for the population of England at the time and curiously it only targeted English people, although there are odd cases of foreigners being ill, but they shook it of easily there were no fatalities, maybe science will provide us with an answer one day as to what it really was.

  2. I know Mary’s father was a bit reluctant to assist his daughter financially in her widowhood but I would think that he would want to help his grandchildren.

    1. Morning Michael from Sunny Warwickshire, the matter of the monetary set up for Thomas Boleyn to his daughter Mary always puts some people, not you, but I have seen some comments on less sophisticated sites and social media about Thomas neglecting his daughter and grandchildren and it’s a myth. Yes, he was definitely slow on the uptake to help Mary whose stupid husband lost her money as well as his own as it became his property and she should have been given some back but obviously that doesn’t happen. Thomas wasn’t obligated to support his adult daughter or grandchildren, that was her obligation but Mary wasn’t in any position to support herself. Lauren Mackay explains that Mary’s situation came to light via Cromwell who informed Anne who informed the King who informed Cromwell who wrote to Thomas about providing for Mary. She speculated some family ill feelings may have prevented Mary from contacting her family directly and a bit of embarrassment I shouldn’t wonder, but perhaps it is splitting hairs a bit as Thomas wasn’t the quickest person on the uptake here. He does appear reluctantly to agree but that may be because these matters took time to arrange. Its like waiting for the government to pay your widows pension when you lose a partner, it is a long and complex and difficult process. Mary was a young widow and had two small children. It must have been very difficult for her to even ask for help. Cromwell was asked to unravel the estate and find if William had left anything for her as he should have done, that was going to take time and now Thomas was obliged to provide financially for his daughter and his grandchildren, Anne stepped in and was given the wardship of Henry Carey and provided for his education and future and after the letter from the King Thomas gave her a pension and allowance. She moved back home for a while. The time delay was only a few weeks, not long for days when everything was done by hand and just simply took time, let alone legal wrangling. There are copies of the indentured settlements in the Mackay biography. A man who took over the care and sponsorship of his nephew for life didn’t neglect his daughter and grandchildren: the series of events have merely become garbled into the usual anti Boleyn social media fest over the years.

  3. Thomas Boleyn has suffered over the years for being mean and unscrupulous and pushing his daughters into the kings path, in The Tudors he was shown as actively encouraging Anne to seduce the king, fiction writers do not help either when they portray him as such, but the reality was he was quite uncomfortable with both his daughters involvement with this most fickle of kings, maybe not much with Mary but after she was discarded by him he could well have witnessed tears and she had been left with nothing – no fine palace or treasures to testify she had ever been his mistress, that may not have bothered him of his wife but it showed she was off low morals and she had to be found a suitable husband, with Anne he was very uncomfortable as he must have thought ‘here we go again’ and was she to be discarded just as ruthlessly in the future, there was possibly sniggering at court which he had to endure when he was there on the kings business, Sir Thomas I find an enigma like his whole family, as his early reputation with parsimony greed and ruthless ambition is now actually unfolding to show a clever men of good repute. who was not only a clever ambassador a bilingual but had good common sense as well, he tried to do the best for his family and when his children were young made sure Anne especially had a brilliant education in the most sophisticated court in the world, – that of Margaret of Savoy, when she was pursued by the king he was not happy and possibly his wife was not either, in fact it could have been that her anxiety relayed to her husband and he could have been thinking more of her, he was not happy when Anne got married I think here Thomas was a shrewd judge of character and feared for his daughter, she was angry with his non cooperation but the wedding went ahead and he had no choice but to support her, Mary’s pleas for help after her husband died must have been embarrassing for her but Elizabeth would not have wanted her to be destitute and it’s a bit like families today, if they can they help one another out, Carys death like any death of a husband posed problems for his widow, Mary after her sister married possibly served in her household for some time and her son was Anne’s ward so she had no worries there, her little daughter lived with her, there are rumours she was with Anne during her first miscarriage as Chapuys recorded, ‘she would have none but her sister to wait on her’, thus inferring that she had not been pregnant at all, Cary was chosen by the king to marry his cast off mistress it was the order of the day, Bessie Blount had been married of to a courtier when she fell pregnant, how these men felt having to bring up the kings bastard we can only imagine, but they could not refuse, the life of every man and woman were at the order justice and mercy of the sovereign king of the realm.

  4. Hello, Christina, Thomas Boleyn was very much maligned by programmes like the Tudors, excellent dramatic nonsense, but nonsense, nevertheless. It was a drama about Tudors which showed us everything but Tudors and although entertaining, I wouldn’t recommend it as a replacement for good education on sites like this one. In it we see characters combined and merged with fictitious additional back stories. We see Princess Mary, the King’s sister was combined with Margaret and made Queen of Portugal of all places, Thomas Boleyn and Charles Brandon are pitted against each other, when actually it was Norfolk who was his rival and in the second series Norfolk vanished and was merged with Suffolk. The reputation of Thomas Boleyn suffered greatly as a result of the Tudors, being portrayed as pimping out his daughters practically, just as he was shown in the infamous Other Boleyn Girl, which unfortunately too many people think is factual. Thomas is shown as skilful and our Ambassador in France, yes, but also grasping and pushing Anne literally into the ways of the King. He is shown paying Richard Rouse to poison Bishop John Fisher and although the Boleyn family were whispered as being the ones responsible, the entire thing may even have been an accident but poor Roose was boiled to death all the same. Thomas Boleyn, as you say was a talented man who rose through the ranks from the early Tudor Court, through the various official posts he held, Controller of the King’s Household for one, to the pinnacle of his career as the father of Henry’s Queen.

    He was a special envoy back in 1512 in the Netherlands and then an Ambassador in France. Henry showered rewards on him for his skills and long before he even set eyes on Anne so accusations on social media that he gained everything from the relationship between the King and his daughter is clearly untrue. Did the Boleyn family benefit from Anne’s relationship with Henry, yes, of course, but no more than the Seymour family did.

    Mary Boleyn was left in a very difficult situation when her husband died prematurely before he was thirty, leaving her with a son aged three and a four year old daughter, without the usual provision for a widow and the return of her jointure and so on. Obviously Thomas had to find an allowance to replace that and Cromwell to sort out what he could from the little Carey left behind after he gambled most of it away. Her choice of a second husband was a great shock even if it was a love match, William Stafford being below her in status. She had that right as a widow but she was being supported by her family, which meant she should have sought their permission. In addition to this, Anne was Queen and Mary should have shown due deference by again seeking her permission, which is why she ended up being banished from Court. Mary had to write a begging letter before she was reconciled and in it we learn of her true and tender feelings for Willie. Mary B would rather beg her bread from door to door than live without him. Maybe at the end of the day, out of all of the Boleyn’s she is the only one to steal a little happiness and lead her own life. Even in his treatment of Mary, Thomas was merely acting as any strict and proud Tudor father would when his daughter disobeyed him. We shouldn’t judge him too harshly. If you haven’t seen it I recommend the video Claire did a couple of years ago on the site on Thomas and Elizabeth Boleyn.

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