Anne Boleyn and Mary Boleyn: Were they close?


In the latest edition of my Questions about Anne Boleyn series of videos on the Anne Boleyn Files and Tudor Society YouTube channel, I consider the question that I’m often asked: “Were Anne and Mary Boleyn close?”

What do we know about the Boleyn sisters’ relationship?

Was it close?

Do the historical sources give us any insight into it?

Find out more about Anne and Mary Boleyn in this talk.

See the videos in my Mary Boleyn playlist for more about her:

I’m often asked whether the Boleyn sisters, Mary and Anne, were close. After all, in novels and movies like The Other Boleyn Girl we see them confiding in each other and helping each other, and then, of course, being jealous of each other. A real up and down relationship.

But what about in real life? What does history tell us about these Boleyn girls?

Well, unfortunately very little.

Although Mary has been the focus of a few novels and biographies, she’s actually a very shadowy figure compared to Anne and George, and her father, Thomas. I’ll give you a link to my Mary Boleyn playlist as I’ve done videos on what we do know about her, but it is frustratingly quite little because she just wasn’t as important as her diplomat brother and father, and her sister who became queen.

And we know even less about her personal relationship with her sister.

So what do we know about these girls.

Well, they were probably very close in age. It’s thought that Mary was born in around 1500 and Anne probably in 1501. They spent their early life together. We know that George and Anne were educated to a high level, and so it seems likely that Mary was too, and that the Boleyn siblings were educated at home by tutors, with their mother, Elizabeth Boleyn overseeing their education.

I’m sure in their free time growing up at Hever Castle in Kent that the Boleyn children played together and probably argued too, just like any other brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, we don’t have any stories of their childhood, no reminiscences from any of them.

In the summer of 1513, Anne left Hever. Her father had managed to get her a place at the court of Margaret of Austria. We don’t know why Anne was chosen, whether she was precocious and Thomas saw something in her that made her ideal for this, but Anne went abroad and Mary appears to have stayed at home. However, fast forward a year and both girls are chosen to accompany Mary Tudor, sister of Henry VIII, to France for her marriage to King Louis XII. They will serve her as maids of honour.

Thomas Boleyn wrote an apologetic letter to Margaret of Austria recalling Anne from her service, and it’s likely that Anne travelled directly to France, probably not arriving there until around the time of Mary Tudor’s coronation on 5th November 1514, whereas Mary Boleyn accompanied Mary Tudor as she set sail from Dover on 2nd October. The sisters were together once more but it was to be shortlived as Louis XII died on 1st January 1515. After secretly marrying Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, who’d been sent to escort her back to England, Mary Tudor returned to England with her entourage in early May 1515, and it appears that Mary Boleyn went with her. Anne, however, was retained by the new Queen of France, King Francis I’s wife, Claude.

Sometime after her return to England, Mary slept with King Henry VIII. We know nothing about the relationship, when it happened, how long it lasted… nothing, only that it happened, and we only know that because in 1527 when Henry VIII wanted to marry Anne Boleyn, he applied for a dispensation to cover the impediment of “affinity arising from illicit intercourse in whatever degree, even the first”, showing that he’d slept with Anne’s mother or sister. We can rule out her mother because when Henry VIII was told of a rumour that he’d slept with Anne’s mother and sister, he replied “Never with the mother”.
We don’t know any more about Mary’s life between 1515 and 1520, when there is a record of her wedding at the Chapel Royal at Greenwich Palace on 4th February 1520. She married William Carey, a member of Henry VIII’s Privy Chamber and an Esquire of the Body. Anne did not attend the wedding, being in France, but the sisters would have seen each other four months later at the Field of Cloth of Gold meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I that June.

Mary was chosen to attend on Queen Catherine of Aragon and as Queen Claude also attended, Anne would have been there as one of her maids of honour. Thomas and Elizabeth Boleyn also attended. Did the sisters have chance to chat and catch up? Sadly, we don’t know, but I hope so.

Mary would have travelled back to England with the English royal party, but it wasn’t too long before the sisters saw each other again. Anne was recalled from France in late 1521 as there were negotiations for her to marry James Butler and she was to join Queen Catherine’s household. We don’t know when Anne arrived back in England, but she was certainly at court by 4th March 1522 when the Shrovetide pageant, The Chateau Vert, took place at Cardinal Wolsey’s property, York Place. We know from the records of this pageant that both Boleyn sisters had parts: Mary playing Kindness and Anne playing Perseverance, with their former mistress Mary Tudor playing Beauty and their future sister-in-law, Jane Parker, playing Constancy.

Although both women were in England now, there still aren’t any hints of a close sisterly relationship. Mary became a mother in around 1524, giving birth to a daughter, Catherine, who was followed by her brother, Henry, in 1526. Anne was at court serving Catherine of Aragon and enjoying a romance with a member of Cardinal Wolsey’s household, Henry Percy, son and heir of the Earl of Northumberland. The romance ended up being broken up by the cardinal and Percy’s father, possibly at the king’s behest, and soon Anne was being wooed by the king himself. By the summer of 1527, he had proposed to Anne and his Great Matter, his quest for an annulment of his first marriage, began.

What did Mary think of Anne becoming involved with her former lover? We don’t know. History is silent on it.

The next time the sisters were linked in any way was when Mary was widowed in June 1528. William Carey died of sweating sickness leaving Mary with two young children and in a precarious financial position. The king and Anne helped Mary. Two-year-old Henry Carey was made Anne’s ward. Although this put Anne in control of the revenue from the boy’s holdings, so was beneficial to her, it helped Mary immensely as Anne took charge of the boy, providing for him and organising his education. She gave him the opportunity of being educated by French scholar Nicholas Bourbon with boys like the sons of Henry Norris. The king also helped Mary by intervening with her father, Thomas, on her behalf, prompting him to make provision for her. In December 1528, Henry VIII also assigned Mary an annuity of £100 (£32,000), which had once been paid to her husband.

Following Carey’s death, Anne also wanted to help advance his sister Eleanor in her abbey, but the nun had quite a reputation. She was said to have loose morals and at least two illegitimate children by “two sundry priests”, Carey’s other sister, Anne, was also problematic, and king would not, as he explained to Anne : “for all the gold in the world, clog your conscience nor mine to make her ruler of a house which is of such ungodly demeanour; nor, I trust, you would not that, neither for brother nor sister, I should so distain mine honour or conscience.”

Two years after Carey’s death, in 1530, Anne had to get something from Mary. The king gave Anne 20 pounds “for the redemption of a jewel which my Lady Mary Rochford had”. Was this a jewel that the king had given Mary when they were involved? Perhaps so. And I wonder how Mary felt having to hand it over to Anne. Perhaps it was just a way of giving Mary some financial help.
The next time the records have Mary and Anne coming into contact is in October 1532 when Mary was chosen to accompany the king and Anne on their trip to Calais. Anne had just been made Marquess of Pembroke, and the aim of this trip was to get Francis I’s support for Henry’s relationship with Anne. Again, we have no recorded instances of the two women interacting in any way, we just know that Mary was there.

Mary was not one of Anne’s permanent ladies, but she did serve her on special occasions, such as the Calais trip and then at Anne’s coronation in 1533. Her name also appears on the King’s New Year’s gift lists for 1532 and 1534, so it appears she was at court on those occasions.

Then, finally we have record of interaction between the sisters! In September 1534, Mary turned up at the royal court visibly pregnant and informed her sister, the queen, that she had secretly married a man named William Stafford, a soldier of the Calais garrison. Anne was furious. Not only had Mary, as the queen’s sister, married beneath her, she had also married without her sister’s permission. She should have expected Anne and the king to arrange a suitable marriage match for her, but she had defied them and gone her own way.

Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, reported that Mary was banished from court “in consequence of gross misconduct”, and she also had her allowance from Thomas Boleyn cut off. Mary turned to Thomas Cromwell, writing to him and asking him “to be good to her poor husband and herself”, explaining how she had married for love and saying “ For well I might a had a greater man of birth and a higher, but I ensure you I could never a had one that should a loved me so well nor a more honest man”. She asked Cromwell to intercede with the king for her husband, and with her family for her, and then there’s what I think is a bit of a go at Anne, a bit of a snipe at her, for she writes: “I had rather beg my bread with him than to be the greatest queen in Christendom”. I do love the fact that on the one hand she’s saying that she’d prefer to beg bread with the man she loves than be the greatest queen, but that she’s also asking Cromwell to intercede with the king for her because she needs money! Hmmm…

I wonder if Anne ever saw that letter!

It’s not known where Mary went after that, or what happened to the baby she was carrying, and the only mention we have of her in regards to Anne is the Bishop of Faenza reporting on Anne’s miscarriage of 1536. He believed the pregnancy to have been faked and wrote that Anne “to keep up the deceit, would allow no one to attend on her but her sister.” However, English chroniclers and Chapuys all report Anne miscarrying a male foetus and make no mention of her sister being at court at the time.

Mary doesn’t appear in the records in April and May 1536, at the time of Anne and George’s falls, either. She appears to have been safely away from court, either in the English countryside or perhaps in Calais. We don’t know how much she knew about the events, when she found out, how she felt… nothing. We can assume that she was upset, who wouldn’t be? But how close had she been to Anne? We just don’t know.

So, it doesn’t appear that the girls had a close relationship or that they had much to do with each other at all.

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18 thoughts on “Anne Boleyn and Mary Boleyn: Were they close?”
  1. This was very interesting and filled in a lot of blanks. Thank you.

    Can you recommend a source of information on the descendants of Mary via the Carey surname please?

    Go well and Stay safe. Vickie

  2. Just as I find Mary Boleyn fascinating so i do also find her mother, they are both shadowy figures but at least we know where Elizabeth Boleyn was laid to rest, Mary alludes us for most of her life and we do not even have her final resting place, at court there are many references to her sister Anne’s appearance as well as to her many talents, she could dance elegantly she could sing, she was the mistress of repartee, yet we have nothing which tells us about Mary’s looks or wether she could dance well or sing or play music particularly well, their brother George was described as being very handsome yet we have no portrait of him and so we do not know if he was dark or fair, or a red head, Anne was dark with fine large eyes and an elegant figure, Mary could well have been a brunette to and the said portrait of her at Hever is of a very attractive woman with a fair complexion full red lips and beautiful almond shaped eyes, her hair colouring however is not visible, it seems that Mary was of an average intelligence with no special talent for anything, unlike both her siblings who were both very talented, George being like Anne interested in theology and reform, and could no doubt hold many an audience captive with his mesmerising voice and handsome face, he was also a poet and very close to Ann, Anne could play the lute and the virginals and there is one housed in Hever which was probably used by her, she could also speak French and no doubt embroider as well as she could dance and sing, in fact she was the perfect renaissance lady for what was called one of the finest renaissance courts in Europe, but no one sang of Mary’s praises yet she must have been pretty enough for Henry V111 to notice her, how many times she slept with the king we do not know, had Mary wrote her own memoirs we would know so much more about this elusive lady, did she really sleep with King Francois, it seems that was just a rumour fuelled by the enemies of the Boleyn family, was she in love with King Henry or did she prefer her husband William Carey? Was Catherine her eldest daughter Henry V111’s? Was Henry Carey his, just because your mother slept with one man does not make him your father, and Henry V111 would have acknowledged another son surely, he had lost so many, a lack of sons always needled him, I’m not sure but I may have a link to Henry Carey’s daughter Philadelphia, if that is true than Mary and William Carey would be my grandparents possibly twelfth generations away, so any new information on Mary I will find most interesting, however Eric Ives who we know is one of Claire’s heroes, stated that all we know about Mary can be written on a postcard, sad but true and it seems all we will ever know about her are what we know already, but we do have that fascinating letter written by her to Cromwell, where she spoke of her true feelings and here we have an insight into her heart, it is very sad that she must have lost her baby, possibly she miscarried but she was with her true love, and compared to her siblings most fortunate, George was unwittingly caught up in Anne’s fall and suffered like she did, but Mary enjoyed a peaceful family life with her last husband, however the grief she must have felt when they both died may have hastened her death, we do not know if she was ill, maybe she died in childbirth, so many people died in Tudor times relatively young from an unknown medical condition, her mother died about a year or two after the events of May 1536, unwell at the time of her children’s arrest grief can make the soul unable to go on, that could have happened with Mary, but both her children did very well at court and after her death, her husband Stafford went onto to marry and have children himself, only Mary’s whereabouts are a mystery, she is the only member of the Boleyn family not to have her grave recorded, her elder brother Thomas lies with his father at Hever, so possibly Henry does to, they both died In infancy at least Thomas’s name is inscribed on his fathers tomb, her mother being born a Howard lies with her illustrious relatives in the family crypt at Lambeth, which lies underneath a museum and cafe, both Anne and George the attainted lie in the chapel of the grounds of the Tower, but Mary again has escaped us, it seems inconceivable that this lady a sister to a one time queen consort of England has no known grave, it is not as if her husband William Stafford hated her, had her poisoned and buried her secretly in the woods, all church records state who were born baptised married and died, why not Mary? It could be there was a fire and such records were lost, over the centuries this has happened and therefore evidence is lost, In fact we do not know where she and Stafford chose to marry either, all we know is she arrived at court with a rounded belly declaring she was married, it is possible the baby she was carrying was buried with her uncles she miscarried, so many things we will never know about Mary except for one thing, out of all her siblings she probably was the most happiest.

  3. There was a error in my spelling, I meant it is possible the baby she was carrying was buried with her unless she miscarried, don’t know where uncles came from !

  4. History is silent indeed on both the Boleyn siblings feelings for each other, some sisters can be very close, others not so much, finding they may have the same parents but little else in common, with different interests and friends, but when young siblings do play together being the only young members of an older family, and Anne and Mary probably shared a bedroom or nursery at Hever, when they grew older they would have had their own room, and Anne’s room is clearly located in the beautiful castle they lived and grew up in, it is nice to envisage all three playing in the grounds in fine weather, they would not have been allowed out in inclement weather, there is a long gallery at Hever where they would have exercised and played the popular games of the age, possibly blind mans buff and where both sisters would have danced and George no doubt turned his mind to fine prose, no doubt there would have been squabbles amongst all three which their governess would have tried to break up, normal family life in fact, they probably did not see much of their father as he would have been at court on the kings business, and there were the trips he made abroad, George was to grow up and turn into a fine diplomat and Anne made her debut at the English court having spent her defining years in France, she caused a furore when she did, many men were enchanted, and the women maybe intrigued and a tiny bit envious, of this rare and exotic rose who looked and sounded more French then English, the French court had made of her a fine jewel, we do not know but the king may have been involved with Mary at this time, or it could have been just a one night stand, but his liaison with her was to be used many years later,as the reason for the king to declare his marriage to Anne null and void, all we know is they shared a bed together and since then gossip has arisen about the parentage of her two children, the feelings Anne and Mary had for each other were probably a fondness borne out of being of the same blood, and of sharing the same childhood, they possibly liked each other’s company from time to time, they must have had laughs and been merry together, but did Mary’s one time affair with her sisters intended cause the relationship to go sour? We do not know if Mary had been in love with the king, or maybe she slept with him out of fright because of fear of his displeasure if she rejected him, yet Henry V111 was a chivalrous man and was not known for forcing women, he probably found when confronted by him they went weak at the knees, he was a particularly handsome man and what with his height, had a commanding presence, Anne as we all know was not fascinated by him was Mary any different? In the books by Miss Gregory she portrays both sisters as fighting over him, Mary tearfully after having borne his son is rejected for the dazzling Anne, in Anne Of The Thousand Days Mary is shown being heavily pregnant and staying in her room all miserable and depressed, whilst the king arrives at Hever to come courting Anne, Mary does indeed inspire many writers of historical fiction but here we have it, it is all speculation and the truth is probably much much further than what we have read about her and Anne, in novels and on the silver screen, Mary’s feelings towards her first husband William Carey, the king and her sisters relationship with him we know nothing about, we only know the depth of her love for William Stafford her second husband, Carey had a reputation for gambling which must have caused his young wife some dismay, he died suddenly of the sweat leaving her in financial crisis, but she was lucky that both her father and the king helped her out, however her father had to be prompted to do so by Henry V111, Thomas Boleyn himself may have despaired of his son in laws dissolute lifestyle, but so many young male courtiers gambled and drunk and visited brothels to, maybe the king himself did, most of them also had mistresses but we know of none that Carey was involved in, when Mary wed in secret she must have dreaded coming face to face with her family because Stafford apart from his illustrious name, was not a great nobleman but merely a soldier in the kings garrison and a minor member of the House of Stafford, Mary also was expecting again, something which would have done nothing to curb Anne’s mood, knowing full well her temper she must have quaked in her shoes but she was after all, her baby sister queen though she maybe, and therefore she must have hoped for some kindness, but the fall out from that meeting was that she was banished along with Stafford and her allowance was stopped from her father, so for the second time in her life she had financial worry again, it maybe that Stafford’s salary was well enough to keep the both of them there was another baby on the way, and she had the care of little Catherine, Anne later relented and sent her a bag of gold coins which must have raised Mary’s heart a little, no I do not think that either sister were particularly close, Anne after all had more in common with George her clever younger brother, he like her was keen on reform and could sit and debate for hours on the subject, so Mary could well have been excluded from that sibling closeness, we have no source that tells us she was interested in the new religion, the works of Luther and Tyndall, she was therefore like any other lady at court, merely expected to be gracious to dance and sew and embroider, to serve the kings wife and attend to her needs, like many other noble ladies at court, Claire states that Mary being with her second husband, and away from the intrigues of the court might not even have been aware of the dreadful events of May 1536, news did not travel fast in those days without the modern equipment we have today, we hear instantly if there has been a plane crash or a war broken out, the murder of a high official for example, but in Tudor times unless you were at court or knew someone a relation who lived nearby, then you would not know till weeks maybe months later, so it is likely that Mary having no contact with her family knew nothing of the arrest of her siblings their trials and later executions, when she did find out she would have been in great shock, even if she disliked her sister or George the death of a sibling is always very very hard, because they have a link to your childhood and to your parents, it is strange when we know many centuries later, that we have
    so little information about the eldest sister of both George and Anne, and yet her descendants lives are well documented, because many of them are so very well known and respected, from Charles Darwin who wrote his famous ‘ Origin of Species’, in the Victorian age, to famous heads of state in America, George Rockefeller for one, her blood also runs in the veins of many an aristocratic family in England today, including the present queen and her family, and lastly that great man himself, Sir Winston Churchill who against great odds kept this country going in her darkest hour.

  5. Isn’t history brilliant, silent on almost everything, especially if you were a woman? Women were basically writing out of history or kept silent on most things. We don’t really don’t know how Mary or Anne felt about each other but they obviously interacted during important moments and there really doesn’t seem to be ill feelings between them.

    Anne and Mary were together in France so they must have been close then, but how they felt isn’t known. We can assume that Anne heard about the alleged affair between Mary and King Francis and no doubt they talked about that. Anne was given more opportunity than Mary, so was one jealous of the other? Mary achieved the higher rank of being a married woman which would give her rights over her unmarried sister. Anne is called home to marry but it didn’t come off. Was there a problem here? Well we don’t really know. The two women went to Court to serve Queen Katherine of Aragon and there wasn’t any concept here of Anne or Mary becoming Henry’s mistress let alone his wife.

    Anne and Mary are both in the pageant in 1522 and Mary was possibly Henry’s lover briefly afterwards but again we don’t really know anything about that either. Mary probably confided in her sister over this and they probably giggled about it as sisters and girls doand over a number of things. I don’t buy that Anne had her moved away from Henry as in the OBG but that the sisters had a good giggle and that’s it. The next we know is about Anne and her relationship with Henry and that she doesn’t want to be his mistress because he didn’t reward Mary well as an already married woman. Henry may or may not be the father of her children but he never claimed either of them but he had a short affair with Mary most certainly.

    Mary was then again mentioned at the time of her widowhood when William Carey died and left her in somewhat financial distress. Anne was also recorded here as helping her sister and her own reputation suffered because of it. Mary seems to have kept her problems to herself and then it is Thomas Boleyn who is brought into the fray because of Mary and her problems. Henry had to write to Thomas Boleyn and ask him to provide for his oldest daughter. Anne is believed to have said something to Henry and used her influence and probably her compassion for her sister which led to him writing to their father for financial help. Thomas gave Mary an income and he apparently wasn’t aware of his daughters problems but is often the villen of the incident in later mythology. Anne was also made the guardian of little Henry Carey and provided for him. Nobody mentioned who raised Catherine at this point but it is likely she remained with her mother certainly as a small child. I would suggest that during this period that Mary and Anne were pretty much close and that they confided, especially on the growing relationship with Henry and Anne, the annulment and Anne’s concerns over that. Mary isn’t really mentioned much until Anne becomes Queen, although she was in France in 1532.

    Mary joined the Royal household after her sister became Queen and she was mentioned in the sources of the household when Anne received them. However, Mary vanished fairly quickly and only comes back in the Spring of 1534, this time she was heavily pregnant and there is some evidence that Anne herself was pregnant or had just lost a child. We don’t know why Mary actually came to Court at this time because she isn’t given an opportunity before Anne notices that she was with child. I think she then explained that she is married and was then dismissed because she didn’t ask permission to marry. Mary should have asked permission from her sister because Anne was Queen but she didn’t need her father’s permission because she was a widow. That didn’t stop Thomas from having an outburst and Mary was actually financially dependent on her father because she didn’t get her legal money from William Carey because he gambled it all away. Its this reason why he cuts her off and he is ordered again to give money to her and Mary who is banished is forced to write to Cromwell and her family in order to be reconciled to them. Mary really loved her new husband and as far as we know she doesn’t return to Court again.

    Mary, in all honesty, I feel now is really upset by her treatment at her family and although she does feel a bit let down by them, especially Anne. She did show the love of William Stafford in her letters here and she is also caught by the break with her family also. Mary regretted that very deeply. I would argue that after this she is no longer close to Anne and really then she was a long time gaining anything from them in terms of inheritance. We don’t know anything about how Mary felt in May 1536 or afterwards or even at the time of her mother’s death. We only know that Mary inherited the Boleyn heritage afterwards in 1540 and 1541. She was ill at the time and only saw this new wealth for six months before she died and we sadly don’t know where she is buried. These years are the silent years of Mary Boleyn, but hopefully she spent them in the quiet of the country with William and probably she saw much of her children during this period. That to me was how she wanted it.

  6. Yes Mary had to contend with her family’s displeasure and it mingled with her own happiness for her new husband and baby, she must have felt alternate joy and gloom, also when your pregnant you have to deal with the new emotions your hormones produce, she now had to face the worry of not having her allowance, as well as having displeased both the king and queen and the rest of her family, but Elizabeth Boleyn may have been more sympathetic to her daughter, and may have written her a letter telling her to be hopeful as her sister the queen and the king would come round eventually, maybe however Elizabeth herself was angry with her eldest daughter, since becoming Queen Anne had had to learn how to behave like one, and so her family had to adjust as well, great honours would come their way but it also meant they could not marry a lowly man like Mary’s new husband, but I feel Mary possibly did not want to come to court anymore anyway, she was happy with her new life and she knew at least that her husband loved her, ‘a more honest man was there never’ as she wrote to Cromwell, i to think there was a snipe at Anne in the line where she wrote about she could have had a greater man, but she would rather beg her bread with him than be the greatest queen living, she was no doubt fed up with her sisters arrogance, her temper and demands, and she knew how precarious Anne sat on her throne, she was not stupid, she knew she had enemies and her stability all rested on having a baby boy, she must have known also that Henry V111 was seeing Jane Seymour, that he was tiring of Anne, and she could well have felt some sympathy for her, they were sisters after all, having packed her bags and left her gracious apartments at court, she then settled in her carriage and as the horses picked their way over the grassy lanes, she must have felt along with some sadness, great joy as well, she and her husband loved each other, that was all that mattered, they were together, Anne may well wear a crown and George had a brilliant career at court, but Mary was with the man she loved and was going to have his child, she could sigh with happiness.

  7. I must correct two errors.
    Of course as in the video Anne was pregnant in 1534 until at least July 1534 and Mary came to Court in September. July is the last mention of her having a goodly belly and in the Black Book of the Garter as Queen Philippa, as the theory goes, if it is Anne, she looks very pregnant and she must have felt a son would follow. Mary came and her emotions must have been raw to see her sister very pregnant after she herself had lost her child.

    I mentioned that Mary didn’t get her inheritance until 1541 but it was 1543, but again she had only a short time to enjoy it before she herself died. Frustratingly we have no idea where Mary is buried and several places are often nominated as her last resting place.

    Yes, Mary’s words in her letter to Cromwell are very telling and I believe that a rift between Anne and Mary opened up, but we have no idea if it was ever healed. Mary seems to have been occasionally at Court in the years following her siblings death and when her husband was appointed as part of the garrison in Calais where he spent a lot of his time as a soldier, it is possible that Mary went with him. In 1539 William was one of those who gave an official welcome to Anne of Cleves and 15 years old Catherine Carey became a Maid to the new Queen. Mary may have gone with him, but again here history is silent.

    1. I’m just wondering if Mary was in Calais when she died, if William was there, she could have been afflicted with a sudden illness, she would not have travelled to be with William from her family residence if she was unwell, and William would not have expected her to quite likely, it is so very frustrating that we do not know where she was in residence, she did become a very rich woman when she inherited her fathers property and her grandmothers, but sadly, she did not live long enough to enjoy her new found riches.

  8. Hi Christine, despite the fact that Mary didn’t enjoy the family estate, she did gain a number of properties before this time and a large annuity and incomes from various sources of inheritance. She only inherited Rochford Hall a few days before her death. I am inclined to think she died in England because of the Inquisition Post Mortum into her death and property. This was in Brentwood in Essex, whereas there is no reason for a similar post Mortum not to have been done in Calais had she died there as well as it was in English hands with its own administration. Its very frustrating that we haven’t got a clue as we know when she died. Mary Boleyn died on 19th July 1543 according to the information above and owned several properties jointly with William and in her own right. Her heir was Henry Carey. I don’t believe she was buried at Hever but with either of her two husbands, most probably William Stafford. Somebody must have known where she was buried as she was of sufficient status and wealth to have a vault or tomb. Nobody was cremated during the Tudor era because the body had to be entire in order to rise on the Day of Judgment. Only if she was poor or died of the plague or something would she have been buried simply and in a shroud. Calais can’t be ruled out but I really think Mary had returned home. The odd thing is that Mary was probably born in Norfolk so Sale, long connected with the early Boleyn family or even with other Boleyn women in Norwich Cathedral are two possible places. Her mother was buried with her Howard relatives in Lambeth and the leger stone confirmed that Elizabeth Howard was buried in Saint Mary’s at some point even if we can’t find her tomb now. Thomas Boleyn was buried in a Knightly tomb at Hever and we know that Anne and George are in the Tower of London.

    William Stafford served in Scotland after the death of his wife and married again, this time to Dorothy Stafford, the daughter of Ursula Pole and Henry Stafford Lord Hastings. They had several children and he died in Geneva in the 1550s. So he certainly did alright for himself.

  9. Yes there is a little church in Salle where Mary’s grandparents are buried, there was a legend that endured for many years that Annes body under cover of darkness, was whisked away to Salle and there is a plain black tablet where she was said to have been laid to rest, ‘god provided for her corpse blessed sacrament’ as the legend says, however no such legends have arisen over Mary, I have often pondered maybe she was buried with Carey the father of her children, but she would be inscribed on his tomb surely, and although she may lie with Stafford I feel he would have left instructions to be laid to rest with his second wife, or maybe they all lie together ? but we just do not know, she was an important lady so there should be a record of her burial place, it is like little Mary Seymour, the daughter of a queen yet we know nothing of her last resting place either, it is so very very frustrating because these were prominent people.

  10. According to Wikipedia which is not a very reliable source of information, it says that Mary may have had two children with Stafford, the eldest called Edward born and died between 1535 – 1545, and Anne born around 1536 and possibly named in honour of Mary’s sister, Carey her first husbands grave is unknown to, yet he was an eminent courtier of the king and had he lived, would have become Henry V111’s brother in law, so disappointing to historians scholars and those of us who are interested in Tudor history, Carey could have been buried in the Carey family’s crypt (I’m assuming they had one), he was only twenty eight when he died and something else I found out about him, which I find most interesting, he was a keen art collector and introduced the miniaturist Lucas Horenboult to England.

  11. Mary Seymour is very interesting because a poem spoke of her being married and having a life. We don’t know how reliable this is but it’s a possibility nonetheless.
    The only thing we know for certain is that Mary was born to Katherine Parr and Tom Seymour, her fourth husband in 1548 and Katherine died soon afterwards. After the arrest of Tom Seymour the infant was given into the care of Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk, her friend and the person with the morality and the means to raise a child of such high status. The crown gave the Duchess an allowance but it obviously wasn’t enough as the last thing we hear about Mary is a letter to the Council asking for money. Mary by now was two. Nothing else about this little girl is recorded. Now yes people then, especially children could easily fall out of the historical records but Mary was a ward of the crown. That means records of payments to Katherine W would be written down by the Government or Privy Purse. The last record was when she was two and the payments probably stopped then as well. This would be the case of Mary died or moved to another household or back into the state control. There isn’t anything recorded after this point to indicate any move. Sadly that leaves only one conclusion. Katherine W wrote a number of letters so you can be certain she would have made further mention of Mary Seymour had she lived on. Without more evidence we can only conclude that she died aged two or three years old.

    The poem is still intriguing as it celebrated her possible marriage and a long life. It would be delightful if more evidence turned up but we don’t even know if she lived or died. For someone of status it’s very odd that no tombstone has been found or record of her death and burial. We just have no ides. Even the two missing sons of Thomas and Elizabeth Boleyn have a small memorial in the Church at Hever. History is a frustrating mystery, so much hidden and uncertain.

  12. The Duchess was worried and resented having the responsibility of caring for Lady Mary Seymour, that much is evident in the letters she wrote, and very wealthy she maybe, but the cost of caring for a queens daughter must have been enormous, I should imagine the poor little mite had died suddenly since the allowance was stopped, surely there would be records had she been moved into the care of another, she was after all the daughter of a one time Queen consort of England, and there were no claims made on her fathers estate either, but there were rumours she did live on and marry, Agnes Strickland stated that Katherine Willoughby arranged for her to marry Sir Edward Bushel who was a member of Queen Anne Of Denmark’s household, this was done before she fled England during the marian persecutions, another story relates how she went to Ireland and married there, one historian thinks she lived up to the age of ten, and he uses the evidence of a poem which he found relating to Mary Seymour, in this sad epithet the subject laments the loss of her mother in childbirth, of whom she was responsible and declares ‘for what pains my mother bore me’, I think the sad truth is, she died in infancy, she was by now an orphan, having lost her mother and her father being executed for treason some time after, it is said she may lie in the Duchess’s Lincolnshire estate, I feel it is more than likely Catherine Parr’s tomb was opened and her daughter lies with her, but sadly all we have are these tales and rumours, another important personage lost to us.

  13. Yes, there are a number of odd stories about Mary Seymour, the marriage to Edward Bushel is not impossible but at the time it was said to have been arranged in 1555 the child would have been six. The reference to him being in the household of Anne of Denmark at the time of their marriage cannot be correct because James vi didn’t marry Anne until 1589, when she was 14. Now while he did serve Anne, such a marriage would have been very late for people of this status. Mary would have been 41 at least and Edward in his fifties. One can only assume that Alice Strickland was referring to his future appointment and not his status when any assumption of marriage took place. However, with a lot of Ms Strickland and her history it cannot be verified or was later.

    Mary arrived at Grimsthorpe with a whole staff of servants and a great number of golden items but her allowance was not kept up as it should have been. Much of her inheritance had been sold off before it was returned to her when her father’s Attainder was lifted from her when she was more than a year old. Mary had lived at Syon House with her Uncle Edward Seymour for a time and yet she wasn’t sent to Lady Suffolk with the allowance she had a right too. In fact one historian described her as destitute but that is possibly an exaggeration. Katherine W wrote to William Cecil to complain about the imposition of a child who needed such a high level of care without proper provision. A warrant was issued for six months but it wasn’t renewed giving Linda Porter and others the confidence that little Mary didn’t live much longer. Yes there are odd references, not to her directly but to “the late Queens daughter” at the time Mary would have been ten. This has been famously dismissed but should it be? Certainly st Sudley Castle is a set of baby clothes which experts say belonged to Mary and a lock of her hair. There isn’t anything to connect with Mary Seymour at Grimsthorpe although this is where her burial place is meant to be. Nothing viable marks any grave but then alterations and damage over the centuries could easily cover or lose a tiny coffin or memorial. Then again Katherine Parr’s tomb vanished for almost 200 years after the destruction of Sudley in the English Civil War. It was then recovered and the unfortunate opening resulted in her bones degradation and now very little remains. We do have relics and her hair as well. Her beautiful pink marble tomb that looks white in the sunshine is very serine in its attitude of prayer and peace. The truth of little Mary Seymour may have passed us by only to reveal her afresh one day.

    1. I read the report published at the time when her coffin was opened for the second time, and it was dreadful the wanton destruction and immoral way her remains were subjected to, here was once a queen, and a queen of King Henry V111 to, a queen who in her lifetime had managed to escape the executioners axe, a woman who had lived in a state of anxiety whilst married to the most infamous king in our island’s history, a queen who had lived in the shadow of that kings former wives, to be treated thus, when her coffin was first opened, it was found she was in a wonderful state of preservation, her skin found to be white and moist, her features on her skull clearly visible and of great beauty, her eyes well preserved, her hair which was described as a glorious yellow and she was also described as being of perfect proportions, then the second time she was found it was by some ill mannered oafs who clearly had little respect for the mortal remains of a fellow human being, they could well have been drinking, and decided it was good sport to destroy the poor corpse, the report stated her body was taken out of its coffin and thrown irreverently on a rubbish heap, for all to see, her arms were pulled of and her hair also her teeth, her head was also cut of and then they proceeded to stab the poor corpse with an iron bar or some such instrument, there she was left, in life she was treated with the dignity as Queen of England she deserved, these men would have reverently bowed before her, she would have been gracious to them, but no such dignity was given to this poor corpse several hundred years after she was laid to rest, she was unique in that she was given a burial in English in her own religious beliefs and that she is the first English queen to lie on private land, her tomb now is very beautiful and is deserving of this woman who in life was said to be gracious kind and patient, as a baby a prophecy declared her future consisted of crowns not needles, no doubt she would be proud of her beautiful marble tomb which is in the chapel of Sudeley Castle, after the vandalism of her previous one, and she must be reunited with that charming likeable but so reckless last husband of hers, and their little baby daughter, maybe they all walk arm in arm together through the quite serene fields of Sudeley Castle.

  14. In the eighteenth century, Mr Lucus of course alongside some ladies found the lost coffin of the remarkable Queen and her body was very well preserved. Here a cut of her beautiful blonde hair was taken and placed in the family collection. The body was examined and carefully reburied but would be dug up and her coffin opened several times. By 1817 there was only her bones left as her coffin was not sealed again or her body mummified as it was naturally when it was first laid to rest. There was the much debated report of the ruffians who disrespected her remains but how much damage they did and how much was deterioration is unknown. By the time Katherine was laid to rest in 1817 in the Chandos vault, her bones were in a poor state. It was under strict control that her bones were finally translated to her current tomb after George Gilbert Scott rebuilt the Chapel in the 1870s and 1880s. The effigy on the new tomb was based on a romantic painting from the eighteenth century of Katherine reclining on a royal bed in imperial dress. You can see that the marble was originally pinkish in colour when the sun lights it up. The current family, the Nash family, have collected the relics in the museum galleries on the upper floors, from their much travelled grandmother and it is lovely to see so many personal items of former residents and the current family. Katherine of course was that rarest of things, a published author and the beautiful copy of Prayers and Meditations with KP on the front and her Lamentations of a Sinner are there for us to enjoy. The collection includes tapestries and clothing made by various residents of the Castle, there are letters from Katherine to Tom Seymour and from Princess Elizabeth, a work of translation by Princess Mary, busts of young Henry Viii, a bust of Richard iii made by John Ashdown Hill, a bust by Lady Eleanor Talbot by the late author, the ring of Charles I and of course the usual mix of paintings and drawings. My favourite is the film of the family badger who was the family pet for several years called Archie.

    On our last visit it was very weird because they were getting ready for a family birthday and engagement and the owners were turning some of the historic bedrooms into guest rooms. Some of the younger members of the family arrived while we were there and it was very odd as they were of course all hugging and greeting each other and the son and daughter got very excited and were hugging the paying guests as well. The cafe closed early that afternoon as the reception room was needed but the lady of the house saw us looking disappointed as I was really desperate for a cuppa, told us to sit down, went into the kitchen herself and emerged with a pot of tea and a plate of cakes on the house. We thanked her of course. The outside cafe was still serving until 6p.m anyway so we still had a coffee before we went. Having gotten in for half price anyway as they do a disabled person and carer and have excellent facilities, my review could not praise them more. As a Ricardian I also get a discount in any case because Sudley of course belonged to one Richard Duke of Gloucester and it’s his magnificent Banqueting Hall and Residential Palace which suffered during the English Civil War. Sudeley made the mistake of being hosts to Charles I during that tumultuous nightmare.

  15. Bet that was nice, free tea and cakes! Having visited Sudeley on a coach trip many years ago, I cannot recall much about it, but I remember strolling in the grounds it was autumn and there was a mist in the air, it was very lovely in its solitude, I did not know at the time it was the resting place of Queen Catherine Parr although I knew of the castles connections to her, having read as a teenager the Tudor novels by Jean Plaidy, if I get the chance I will go there again and I should get in a bit cheaper now I’m a senior citizen, always helps when you can save a bit of money, sadly this dreadful pandemic has made it impossible to enjoy the pleasures we once took for granted, still no posts from Michael, I think about him a lot when I go on the website I just hope he’s not ill, I don’t believe he’s just got bored as I think he would tell us he’s going otherwise, I know that’s what I would do.

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