Did Anne Boleyn steal Henry Carey from Mary Boleyn?


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Last week, I did another of my “Questions about Anne Boleyn” videos. It’s a subject I’ve handled before, but it’s one I keep getting questions about!

In Philippa Gregory’s historical novel The Other Boleyn Girl, Anne Boleyn adopts Mary Boleyn’s son, Henry Carey, without Mary’s permission; she steals him.

But is this storyline true? Did Anne Boleyn really steal Henry Carey after his father’s death?

In this latest instalment of my “Questions about Anne Boleyn” series, I explore what really happened to Henry Carey after William Carey died of sweating sickness.

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8 thoughts on “Did Anne Boleyn steal Henry Carey from Mary Boleyn?”
  1. Miss Gregory again leading the guillible reader away from the truth about Anne Boleyn and her family, as the video explains it was the custom for noble families to have a child made a ward to someone else, they supervised their education and took care of them financially, Anne was doing her sister a favour by making him her ward and no doubt Mary was very pleased as she was left in financial difficulty after her husband died, it was to take the burden off her and Anne made sure he was well taken care of, Miss Gregory’s books should be taken with a large pinch of salt as they are really just fiction, there probably was sibling rivalry between Anne and her sister but Mary appears contented on the whole with her lot, she never sought a crown and married for love years later, an action which caused her banishment from the court, but we cannot assume she was jealous of Anne for marrying the King, her old lover, because the truth could well be very different, she could have slept with him out of fear of the consequences if she refused, fear for her family for example, maybe she thought her father would lose one of his important posts if she displeased the King, Gregory’s novels have both sisters vying for the attention of the King, Mary falling hopelessly in love with him and bearing his son, it’s all just fantasy and then there is the old gossip about both her children being Henry V111’s children, we know nothing about when her affair with Henry started, how long it went on for and as Claire explains, it could just have been a one night stand, I find it highly unlikely that Henry V111 with his poor fertility record was able to sire not just one but two children with another woman, and both those children who went on to live relatively long and healthy lives, siring numerous children themselves, when we look at his three children he had with his wives who themselves were quite sickly, Mary suffering from bad periods and migraine which could have been stress related, and finally dying from what could have been cancer, Elizabeth who survived into her seventieth year yet she herself was not completely robust, she too suffered from headaches and had a nervous disposition suffering from outbreaks of hysteria and palpitations of the heart, Edward who died from a long malingering illness at the age of just sixteen, likewise his older illegitimate brother who died from something very similar at seventeen, the Tudor offspring although blessed with academic brains were not blessed with healthy genes and therefore iv have always thought that Henry especially born several years after his mother married must have been Carey’s son, his sister is more of a mystery, being born not long after and she does not resemble her brother in looks, and I have read posts here from people descended from Catherine who believe because of a link with royalty no doubt, that her father must have been Henry V111, one person actually claimed to be related to the old King but there is no proof just speculation and sadly there never will be any, because the queen will never allow her ancestor to be exhumed just to satisfy the morbidly curious, the queen herself is descended from Catherine through her mothers lineage so she herself must have thought wether she has his blood in her veins, but she is content to let him rest in peace, however I do understand the longing for others to know Catherines paternal history, Elizabeth never acknowledged the Carey’s as her half siblings, though they both had grand careers in her court and Catherine she loved close to adoration, they both have magnificent tombs in Westminster and they resemble royal tombs more than those that house the nobility, i feel Elizabeths closeness to Catherine and Henry came out of a special need to have that link to the mother she never knew, she died when she was not quite three, she could have had a vague memory of her mother, maybe she remembered a certain laugh a pair of dark eyes looking lovingly at her, some people do have long memories I can remember our old dog who died when I was about three, I can recall my mother picking me up and putting me in the pram, it’s tempting to believe Elizabeth had some memory of her tragic mother, in fact as she lost her in such a dreadful way I hope she had, and that it brought her comfort in the years ahead.

  2. No, Anne didn’t kidnap her nephew, she was given his wardship as his guardian by the King because she was in a financial position to provide for her sister’s children when Mary was left without support after her husband died. Mary Boleyn was left a widow in 1528 after her husband, William Carey, a friend of King Henry Viii died of the terrible sweating sickness. Apparently William wasn’t sensible with money, he gambled and Mary wasn’t left in a stable financial situation. She hid her plight from her family and Anne told the King who wrote to Thomas Boleyn to ask him to support his daughter.

    A widow was normally given access to various sums of money for her support and her rights were enshrined in law and marriage contracts. She had a jointure for example but in this case it was going to be hard to receive due to her husband’s debts. Thomas gave Mary an income and she was helped to gain some of the money that she was entitled to, while Anne provided little Harry Carey with a splendid education and a secure future. It wasn’t unusual to place children in the household of a wealthy relative or the noble households as a ward or to purchase their wardship from the crown, including their marriage.

    In the Other Boleyn Girl when Mary was made a widow Anne took the children from her out of spite and kept Mary from them. Mary later walked into the palace and took Elizabeth home with her after Anne’s execution. The drama is well done as a piece of drama but as a historian I can say it is definitely off the wall with errors. Unlike the Tudors which didn’t set out to be accurate, PG claimed this book and drama to be as it really happened. That’s the danger here, because her work is so popular, especially the Other Boleyn Girl and White Queen, with many of her followers thinking she is writing history. She is often consulted as an expert and comes out with misleading nonsense, but as a person she appears to be perfectly nice and even emphatic with those she speaks about. However, the book put the hard work done to get a more balanced view of Queen Anne out there have been put back years as her books also claimed she slept with her brother in order to get a son and heir, despite this being disproved long ago.

  3. She probably is a very nice person but her books are laughable, and the incest theory she believes Anne indulged in with her brother, to get a child as he was the one man she could trust means that as a woman, she has no regard for her morals and sense of decency, she must also think that George Boleyn was of equally low base morals and that he along with his sister, were not the pious pair they portrayed themselves to be, why on earth does Gregory think that they were guilty of incest? Look at the way Anne held out against the king for so long, what we know of her is that of a woman with a deep sense of self worth and a high regard of ones
    own values, a woman who had enjoyed a privileged education, a woman who was deeply pious would any woman indulge in an act so bestial an act condemned by the bible, an act abhorred by decent men and women down the centuries simply to get a child? The charge of incest had no basis in truth it was merely thrown in as character assassination, Anne’s name had to be blackened so much that she would be portrayed as a sexual out of control depraved figure, it was done to garner sympathy for Henry V111 to make him look like a victim, Anne’s victim there was no evidence that she was guilty of incest whatsoever, however in the ever fertile mind of Miss. Gregory she thinks no smoke without fire and maybe just maybe she did procure her own brother to violate her, as the charges stated, never was a woman so wronged and five hundred years later, her reputation is still up for debate in the spurious works of Miss. Gregory.

    1. Exactly, the destruction of Anne and George’s reputation yet again is there in the centre of her books about them. Eric Ives made it clear how and why those charges against them were false and yet here we have a lady who isn’t a historian changing this without any evidence. It is like they are being tried all over again. Of course Anne didn’t sleep with her brother. You don’t hold a King off for seven years, become the most powerful woman in the country, have the world at your feet only to sleep with your brother and provide a son and heir. Besides the moral consequences, a Queen wasn’t left alone and would need help to achieve this, plus any children would be mentally delayed. You needed the most perfect and competent son and heir possible to succeed, not your brother’s child. Anne and George would not have risked their immortal souls in such a terrible manner on one sin which was unforgivable. I agree with you that the only aim of the incest charge was to totally sully her reputation so as people believed any evil of her. Besides, when did she have time to sleep with at least six men, possibly up to 100,_on several occasions and how did she never get caught? For three years until these accusations, made up by Cromwell and King Henry, were not even the subject of rumours or gossip and she would have needed help to achieve all of her romantic liaisons. Some of the ridiculous charges were set when Anne was pregnant, despite the fact that sex during pregnancy was considered dangerous for the child or during her time in recovery and confinement before her Churching. She was in a room where men could not go, having just had a baby, but felt rather randy and had sex with three different men! What a load of absolute rubbish! Here was the ultimate way to tarnish the name of your wife and have her executed for treason, conspiring to kill the King with one or more of those same alleged lovers. Fiction is one thing, destroying a reputation over and over is unacceptable.

  4. This is the point Weir raises in her biography about Annes last days, she says after Elizabeths birth when one of the charges stipulates Anne slept with one of her lovers, she was no doubt still bleeding and going through what was known as the period of being churched, a time when thanks were given for the woman and childs safe delivery, it was a deeply spiritual time and Anne would have followed the ritual as it was the order of the day, here again we have an example of her deeply pious nature, also we have to look at the men involved her so called lovers, they also were aware of the solemn rital of being churched, it’s highly unlikely that they would feel like having sex with a woman who was no doubt still suffering from the after effects of childbirth, I should imagine they would feel repulsed at the very idea, sex during pregnancy as you say was considered harmful to the baby, one of the charges were that she was pregnant on one occasion, why on earth should she risk the life of her unborn child to indulge in illicit sex, her very future her position depended on the safe delivery of a son, the ridiculousness of the charges denounce there very credibility, nothing added up and by tarnishing the reputation of his second queen, Henry V111 only succeeded in ruining his own, as for Miss. Gregory I wish she would give writing historical novels a miss and maybe take up a new hobby, maybe she could try writing children’s novels where fantasy is expected and not deplored.

    1. I completely agree. Her novel about Katherine of Aragon as a young Princess who married Prince Arthur has been adapted, into a series called The Spanish Princess. The book wasn’t that bad, but the adaptation sounds awful. This young girl, barely a woman, only fifteen years old not only comes to England to make the historic arranged marriage, but when Arthur dies plots to stay here and to have the crown of England at any cost. She apparently plots to first of all marry her father in law and then to manipulate Prince Henry to fall in love with her. What a complete load of rubbish! Prince Henry married Katherine because he was in love with her and wanted to marry her. Henry and Katherine were devoted to her and she certainly wanted to be his Queen, but she wasn’t in a position to plot anything. What a load of nonsense!

      Every culture in the past and many today had ceremony or ritual around birth and the woman returning to public duties. They were both thanksgiving and purification rituals, mostly connected to contact with bodily fluids as well as thanks for the mother for a safe delivery. Jewish and Muslim faiths have similar customs. Churching was still on the service books of the C of E the last time I looked but it hasn’t been used for several years. The tradition changed slightly when it was adopted by the Anglican Church but during the early years of the Reformation in the reign of Edward vi it was outlawed. When Mary I restored the Catholic Faith women actually queued up as they hadn’t been Churched. It wasn’t regarded as something patriarchal by women but something beautiful and a rite of passage from their confinement back into the public realm. It was about blessings and thanksgiving and it was a ritual with deep spiritual meaning and it was a deeply respected custom. The men around Anne were religious people and they understood the importance of a woman going back into the world to do her public duties and her status after she had recently given birth. The status of a new mother in her chambers, her laying in, her not receiving male visitors, the ban on sexual activity, all of this was respected by men, they didn’t invade her privacy at this time. I cannot imagine Anne felt very much like sexual contact of any kind and a mother needed rest after the labours of childbirth, without the aid of pain medication. She was also devout and her brother was as well, even if his moral behaviour may not have reflected that of his sister in his personal life. That doesn’t mean that he didn’t have a moral compass in religious matters and the prohibition for relatives to sleep together was from the Hebrew Bible which they both respected and praised. It was the one moral prohibition which put their mortal souls in danger and that was a risk no Christian would take. George and Anne Boleyn knew how horrifying it was for a brother and sister to sleep together. There was no way either of them would sleep with their own siblings.

      George Bernard claimed Anne was guilty of some of the charges against her, Sir Henry Norris and for some ridiculous reason, Mark Smeaton, a commoner, a musician whom she had rewarded with many gifts as was normal but with whom she had merely spoken a few words, being the two suspects. However even he stated that if you were going to sleep with someone in order to beget a child, the last person you would sleep with would be your own brother. Besides the religious and moral consequences, it was hardly practical if you wanted a healthy child. Even then people understood that the children of such a union ran the risk of physical or mental disability. They may not have understood the genetics but observation taught them this was so. The Church forbade this for good reasons and people obeyed because they were aware of the consequences, in this life and the next. Today incest is a crime; I am certain it was in the sixteenth century as well, at least it was a serious sin.

      Why would Anne Boleyn risk everything she and Henry had fought so hard to achieve? She was supposed to be a well educated and intelligent woman, not a conspiring, evil, conniving woman whose only ambition was to sit on the throne and run around with a lot of men. Adultery wasn’t a crime but it was shameful and a grievous sin, it put the children of such a marriage in doubt and passing the children of a lover off as heirs to the throne was treason. Anne was aware of this and in any case sleeping her way around the Kings friends was extremely risky and if she was thought to be conspiring with them to harm Henry, then that was treason, punishable with death. One just doesn’t set aside a real Queen, hold off ones lover the King for seven years, just to sleep with half of his Court and risk being burned at the stake, the death penalty for a female traitor. The sentence for her male lovers was hanging, drawing and quartering, the details of which I am sure we have an idea about. Even if Anne did plot everything, why take her brother down with her? No, no, no, the whole idea is ridiculous! The Boleyn family had stepped on too many toes during their rise to power and those enemies used every vile accusations they could possibly imagine to present Henry and Cromwell with the evidence they needed to destroy the Queen and to remove her. The incest charge was intended to shock and sully Anne’s name, in order to make certain she and her brother and alleged lovers were capable of anything.

      Unfortunately, in spite of the efforts of historians like Eric Ives to rehabilitate Anne and prove why the charges were false, Philippa Gregory has done her best to reverse all of that hard work.

  5. Oh dear not another series based on one of her books, this time Katherine of Aragon being portrayed as an ambitious schemer out to get the crown of England, so she plotted to marry her father in law and when he died tried to seduce young King Henry, what a joke I saw that advertised and thought great a new drama series, but now I know it was based on one of Miss. Gregory’s books I think il pass.

    1. For a woman who is supposed to have a lot of empathy with her subjects, that is Medieval women who have had a hard time from historical sources, she has managed to show most of them as conniving and ruthless, which they may have had something of those traits as it went with the territory of ruling and being part of a powerful family, but they were also real women who suffered loss and found strengthened purpose in difficult circumstances. To show a fifteen year old foreign Princess as plotting her way to the throne when she was actually powerless and penniless thanks to her potential father in law, is an insult to one of the most respected and intelligent women in history. Katherine of Aragon may well have been strong and determined and even proud and ruthless, but she was not given to plotting to marry just about anyone in order to become Queen of England. Katherine may have really wanted to marry Henry Viii, but by the time he did come to the throne, he had very little else on his mind than finalising his marriage to Katherine. Much is often made of the protest he made to break off the bethrothal when he was fifteen but he was under his father’s thumb, Henry Vii forced his son to denounce his bride because Katherine was no longer the political prize she had been after the death of her mother, Isabella of Castile and there were outstanding matters concerning the financial side of this royal match which were heavily in dispute. Prince Henry had no choice but to obey his father. It was very clear that immediately after his father died and he himself was now King that Henry and Katherine could not wait to marry each other. Showing Katherine going to any lengths possible to win him round is a complete fabrication. Miss Gregory may have had Elizabeth Woodville down more or less in line with how most historians see her, but even then she showed her as a witch, from a line of witches and with the craft being passed on to her daughter, Elizabeth of York. The fact that Jaquette and EW were actually accused of using magic, doesn’t make it true. EW even has the misfortune to having her alleged craft mentioned in an Act of Parliament because she was believed to have bewitched Edward iv into marrying her. Jaquette, Lady Rivers, ex Duchess of Bedford was held and accused of a variety of linked charges by the rebellious Earl of Warwick, but used her previous, if brief connection to Queen Margaret of Anjou to get herself out of the ensuing trial. PG, however, takes the witchcraft to a whole new level. In the White Queen and White Princess series the women are continually using the craft to make binding spells which result in the death of several historical characters, to cause people to fall in love with them, to control the weather, the comets, the rains, rivers and to literally curse those who have hurt them, that their line will die out for example. In the course of the latter, Elizabeth inadvertently puts a curse on her sons with Henry Tudor. This is because she believes Margaret Beaufort killed her brothers. You can see were some people might have a problem with all of this. And now it’s the turn of Katherine of Aragon as a young woman. I think for once I probably won’t bother either, especially as the adaptation appears to have gone well beyond the book.

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