4 February 1520 – The Marriage of Mary Boleyn and William Carey

Posted By on February 4, 2015

Portrait of an unknown woman, possibly Mary Boleyn

Portrait of an unknown woman, possibly Mary Boleyn

On Saturday 4 February 1520, Mary Boleyn married William Carey in Greenwich Palace’s Chapel Royal. Henry VIII attended the wedding, making an offering of 6s. 8d., which is recorded in the King’s Book of Payments 1520.

Mary Boleyn was the daughter of Thomas Boleyn, Henry VIII’s ambassador at the French court and a man on the rise, and Elizabeth Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk. William Carey was descended from Edward III, and his maternal grandmother was cousin to Henry VIII’s paternal grandmother, Margaret Beaufort. He was also a member of the King’s Privy Chamber and an Esquire of the Body, so was definitely a suitable husband for Mary. The couple would have lodged at court after their wedding, allowing Carey to continue his duties serving the King. They both attended the Field of Cloth of Gold in June 1520, serving the King and Queen there.

You can read more about Mary Boleyn in my article Mary Boleyn – One Big Boleyn Myth and the series of Mary Boleyn: The Unknown Sister articles by Sarah Bryson. Sarah has just finished work on a book on Mary, Mary Boleyn: In a Nutshell, which will be released in the next couple of months.

Notes and Sources

  • The King’s Book of Payments 1520, LP iii p1539 (The King’s Book of Payments, 1520, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 3, 1519-1523, ed. J S Brewer (London, 1867), p 1539) – This can be read at http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol3/pp1539-1543.
  • Ridgway, Claire (2012) On This Day in Tudor History, MadeGlobal Publishing

5 thoughts on “4 February 1520 – The Marriage of Mary Boleyn and William Carey”

  1. John Field says:

    Never was there a better case of being “married off !”

  2. JudithRex says:

    I don’t really know what to believe about Mary. On the one hand she has been spoken of with great disrespect by the French King, and on the other, she had the courage to marry a second time to a man her family disliked but who brought her great love.

    In the end, I think she was so young when she was seduced by Francis and it ruined her future. Ironically, from such a bad start she ended in the best situation of all her family; loved and safe.

  3. Banditqueen says:

    Mary Boleyn has been done a great disservice by history and the truth is there are a number of unanswered questions about her life. In France we are given the impression that she regularly slept with King Francis, but the evidence is slim and can we trust the claims of a known womanizer? It is possible that Mary had a brief relationship with Francis. We cannot be certain, the records are scant. A brief sexual encounter, however, with the French King does not equal the reputation that she was later given as the great prostitute in the Tudor court. Mary has been wronged in that respect.

    When she came home from France she was married to William Carey, a good sound match and there is nothing to suggest that the couple were unhappy. Henry Viii some time later fell for the more attractive Boleyn sister, bearing a banner at the joust declaring his heart pierced by the dart of love. Historians believe the woman in question to be Mary Boleyn. Officially Mary bore her husband two children, Katherine, 1524, and Henry, 1526, but historian Amy Linacre and others believe that Katherine at least, and perhaps Henry were in fact the children of Henry Viii. Sarah Beth Watkins has written a lovely biography of Katherine, in which she reveals her as his unacknowledged daughter.

    Mary was widowed in 1528 when William died of the plague and she was not well off or in favour and her sister, Anne, the Kings New mistress intervened for her. She was allowed to return home to Hever Castle by this intervention, where she remained for the next five years. Mary’s fortunes changed when that same sister became queen and she joined her household. However, Mary’s unfortunate reputation got in the way of a good match and Mary fell in love with a man called William Stafford, whom she married without Anne’s consent in 1534. Mary was pregnant but was banished from court and her father, Thomas Boleyn threatened to cut her off financially. Although Mary and William retired, she sought the help of Cromwell, the fixer and widows helper, both now and at her father’s death in order to gain lands, dower lands, and monies owed to her and her children. Mary died in July 1543, her children never received the heritage and recognition that they deserved from Henry, but they both led successful lives. Mary alone could inherit anything left of the confiscated Boleyn wealth, the disputes and claims of land and titles went on for years. This was a long term result of the execution of her brother and sister, Anne Boleyn and George, on trumped up charges of treason and incest in May 1533.

    There are disagreements over the birth date for all three Boleyn siblings, even the order is debatable. You can read more in Claire’s fine articles highlighted above. There are gaps in our knowledge of Mary and her whereabouts, but it is clear that she was not the Whore of history and deserves to be rescued from the myths of novels and drama.

  4. Jeri says:

    After seeing ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’, I find Mary so fascinating!

    Is that a picture of Mary? I thought that was said to be of her sister Anne.

    1. BanditQueen says:

      Mary Boleyn was believed to be the prettier of the two sisters and there is a difference of opinion on her pictures. There is only one representation of Anne from her time as Queen; that we can say was done at the time; most of the others being destroyed or believed so; that is a coin with her image on it. We do have copies of the Holbein of Anne, but there is a general consensus that it may not be from her lifetime as Henry is said to have ordered all of the portraits of her destroyed. Now many pictures of her are in exsistance over the country, in Ripon Catherdral for example and at Hever, but are they contemporary? The picture of Mary above is also titled a portrait of young woman and some historians believe it may be Mary but it is not really known. There is another picture, and it is used on most books about her; but I think this is the only portrait of her; and yet even this is disputed. The truth is we really do not know what either of the Boleyn girls truly looked like; but we have something close in the portraits that have been identified.

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