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

Posted By on February 4, 2014

Portrait of an unknown woman, possibly Mary Boleyn

Portrait of an unknown woman, possibly Mary Boleyn

On this day in 1520, Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne Boleyn, married William Carey, an Esquire of the Body and a relative and close friend of Henry VIII, in the Chapel Royal at Greenwich. The King attended the wedding.

Carey was descended from Edward III, and his maternal grandmother was cousin to Henry VIII’s paternal grandmother, Margaret Beaufort. He was a suitable husband for a Boleyn/Howard girl, particularly as he was a member of the King’s Privy Chamber. 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.

In early 1522, Mary began a relationship with the King, a relationship which is still causing controversy today as historians argue over the paternity of her children: Henry and Catherine Carey, the meaning behind the grants which were given to her husband in the 1520s, the King’s real feelings for Mary and even the length of their relationship. It is likely that their affair began sometime around Shrovetide 1522 when the King rode out to the traditional joust with the motto “Elle mon Coeur a navera”, she has wounded my heart, but we don’t know. Mary may have rebuffed the King’s advances at first, but there is no evidence that the King forced himself on her or pursued her relentlessly.

Mary’s husband was rewarded a series of royal grants between 1522 and 1526, and it is all too easy to see these as payments for the use of his wife, but the King was in the habit of rewarding those who served him, and Carey was an up and coming courtier. Mary gave birth to two children in the 1520s: Catherine in 1524 and Henry in 1526. The King did not acknowledge either child as his, and although historians and authors argue over their paternity, it is impossible to say when we don’t even know when Mary was involved with the King or for how long.

Mary was widowed in June 1528 when Carey died of sweating sickness.

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.

(Extract taken from On This Day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway