Did Henry VIII Father Mary Carey’s Children?

Mary BoleynThe question of whether Henry VIII was the father of Mary Boleyn Carey’s first two children, Catherine and Henry Carey, has long been debated, after all, we all know that Mary Boleyn, Anne Boleyn’s sister, was Henry VIII’s mistress for a number of years.

But was Henry VIII the father of Catherine and Henry Carey?

Mary Boleyn’s Birth Date

First, we need to actually establish when Mary Boleyn was actually the King’s mistress and when her children were born.

We do not know Mary Boleyn’s exact date of birth but there are clues to suggest that she was the older sister. Eric Ives points out that Lord Hunsdon, Mary’s grandson, petitioned for the earldom of Ormonde in 1597 on the grounds that his grandmother had been the elder sister. Hunsdon would not have made this claim unless he had been sure that Mary was senior to Anne Boleyn.

Other facts point to Mary being the older sister – Mary was brought back from France to be launched at the English Court, while Anne remained in France, and it was Mary’s marriage that was arranged first and Anne’s marriage potential was not even discussed until after Mary had married William Carey. Ives writes of how Thomas Boleyn wrote in a letter to Cromwell of how his wife, Elizabeth, had provided him with a child on a yearly basis, so we can assume that Mary Boleyn was born around 1499 which would mean that she was around 15 when she went to France and was in her 20s when she married Carey.

But when did Mary Boleyn become Henry VIII’s mistress?

A Royal Mistress

It is thought that Mary was the King’s mistress either in the late 1510s or early 1520s. We know that she was definitely the King’s mistress at one time because Henry VIII confirmed it. Not only did he say candidly, when responding to rumours that he had slept with Elizabeth Howard (Mary and Anne’s mother), “Never with the mother”, but he also applied for a dispensation from the Pope to marry Anne Boleyn because of his previous relationship with her sister and then used this previous relationship to later annul his marriage to Anne.

We know that Elizabeth Blount gave birth to Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, in 1519, and that Mary Boleyn married William Carey in 1520 and this suggests that Mary Boleyn became Henry’s mistress after Bessie Blount had married in 1522 and after she herself had married. Her husband, William Carey, was also given royal grants in 1522, 1523, 1524 and 1525, and possibly 1526, which suggests that he was being rewarded or compensated for the use of his wife. But this still doesn’t tell us whether the Carey children were Henry’s!

Arguments Against the Careys being Henry VIII’s Children

Some historians believe that the Carey children were not Henry VIII’s bastards but actually the offspring of William Carey, Mary’s husband. Eric Ives writes that “Once Mary had begun to cohabit with William Carey, her two children came in quick succession”, suggesting that Henry’s fertility problems had something to do with her not having children earlier and that William Carey must have fathered them.

Historian Antonia Fraser argues that Henry VIII never recognised Henry Carey as his illegitimate son and showed him no favour, yet he acknowledged Henry Fitzroy and bestowed the title of Duke of Richmond on him. Surely this suggests that Henry Carey was not Henry VIII’s son? Actually, it could be argued that Henry had no need to recognise Henry Carey as his son because he already had a potential heir in Henry Fitzroy.

Others argue that Elizabeth I wrote of the Careys as her cousins, not her brother and sister.

There is also no definitive proof that the Carey children were Henry VIII’s. All we have is speculation and rumour, no hard evidence.

Arguments For the Careys being Henry VIII’s Children

Lady thought to be Lady Catherine Knollys

As well as historical novels, like Philippa Gregory’s “The Other Boleyn Girl”, suggesting that the children were indeed fathered by Henry VIII, there are also a couple of recent articles arguing the case.

Henry Fitzhugh, who is descended from Catherine Carey, was inspired by “The Other Boleyn Girl” to dig around into his family’s past to see if he really was descended from King Henry VIII. He has written an excellent article on his findings:-


In this article, he makes the following arguments as to why he believes that the Carey children could have been fathered by Henry VIII:-

  • Henry Carey was said to have resembled Henry VIII.
  • Henry Carey claimed in 1533 that he was “Our Sovereign Lord the King’s son”
  • John Hale, Vicar of Isleworth, wrote in 1535 of how a monk at St Bridget’s Priory Abbey had pointed out “yongge Master Care” as being the King’s bastard son.
  • The fact that Anne Boleyn became Henry Carey’s ward after the death of William Carey – Philippa Gregory reasons that this may have been so that the King had a legitimate heir if she was unable to provide him with a son.
  • William Carey was rewarded with royal grants in 1524 and 1526, which are thought to have been the birth dates of Catherine and Henry Carey. Fitzhugh feels that the King was compensating Carey for the fact that these were not his biological children and for being a cuckold.

    Henry Carey
    Henry Carey
  • Henry VIII’s admittance of his affair with Mary Carey – Henry VIII admitted “affinity” and “consanguinity” with Mary Carey and Fitzhugh points out that this dispensation probably would not have been necessary if no children had resulted from the relationship.
  • Both children were born inside the dates of the affair – It is thought that Henry would have expected Mary to be his alone and not to have any lovers, not even her husband. Some people suggest that Henry Carey may have been born after the affair but Catherine was definitely born in the right timeframe.
  • Elizabeth I had much affection for the Carey children – Henry Carey was knighted by Elizabeth and made Baron Hunsdon. Elizabeth also visited him on his deathbed and gave him the patent and robes of the Earldom of Wiltshire. It is also said that when Elizabeth died, Henry Carey’s son, Robert, received the ring taken from the Queen’s hand. Catherine Carey had attended the Queen, was buried at Royal expense and given a prominent memorial on her death. Could all this suggest that Elizabeth recognised the Careys as more than her cousins?

Another article by Sally Varlow, on the Latin dictionary of Sir Francis Knollys (husband of Catherine Carey), also argues the fact that Catherine Carey could have been Henry VIII’s daughter:-


In this article, Varlow explains how Sir Francis Knollys recorded the birth dates of his 14 children in his Latin dictionary and that his notes regarding his wife’s pregnancies, when linked with other historical evidence (such as portraits of Catherine), suggest that his wife was born between 1523 and 1525, inside the period when Mary was the King’s mistress. A birth date in this period would also confer with Catherine becoming maid-of-honour in 1539 for the coming queen, Anne of Cleves, as most girls chosen for this position were aged 16+.

Varlow, like Fitzhugh, believes that Henry VIII would not have liked sharing Mary Carey’s favours with even her husband, so if Catherine Carey was born between 1523 and 1525 it is probably safe to assume that she was Henry VIII’s daughter. Varlow also argues against those who say that the Carey children were not royal bastards because the King did not acknowledge them by saying that the King did not have anything to gain by recognizing them. He already had Henry Fitzroy and he obviously hoped to have a legitimate heir to the throne.

Varlow also agrees with Fitzhugh that Queen Elizabeth I treated the Careys as more than cousins. Catherine Carey was Elizabeth’s most senior lady-in-waiting and Elizabeth spent far more on her funeral than those of her other cousins.


Mary BoleynSo little is known really about Mary Boleyn and her relationship with Henry VIII – we don’t even know that much about her sister, Anne Boleyn, and she was Queen! However, many things do point towards Catherine Carey, at least, being Henry VIII’s child.

The research I have done into this question has got me completely fascinated by Mary Boleyn, a person who is often overlooked by Tudor historians and even Anne Boleyn’ biographers. I have pre-ordered “Mary Boleyn: The True Story of Henry VIII’s Mistress” by Josephine Wilkinson which is due out in the UK on June 30th and in the US in July – click the picture to pre-order in the US or click here for UK. I’ll let you know what else I’ve found out about her when I’ve read the book!

P.S. I’m adding to The Anne Boleyn Files all the time – check out “Resources” on the top or left menu bars to see pages on Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn Poems, Anne Boleyn Songs, Anne Boleyn Writing, Anne Boleyn Books and more.

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81 thoughts on “Did Henry VIII Father Mary Carey’s Children?”
    1. He didn’t acknowledge them because he was trying ti get a divorce from catherine of aragon by reason of incest, taking his brothers wife, and if hed done exactly the same thing with Ann boleyn’s sister it would have complicated his divorce or cancelled it. incest meant other things in,those days

  1. Yes, that could well be another reason for Henry not acknowledging them – he didn’t need to help protect Mary’s reputation.

  2. Elizabeth always showed her Boleyn relatives great affection, even though she never spoke of her mother aloud. Maybe she knew the truth but as she always did, kept it to herself. We will never really know the truth, but Henry I’m sure didn’t want to be known as the father of numerous illegitimate children. I don’t think he said anything because everyone could assume they were her husband’s children, so he felt he was in the clear.

    1. You’re probably right, Sabrina. I think Elizabeth must have been curious about her mother and she did have that portrait ring. I think Henry just had no need to recognise the Careys, with him already having an illegitimate son and the fact that William Carey could be seen as their father. No paternity testing then so he was definitely in the clear!

  3. I do find it interesting that historians can’t seem to agree on the birth dates of Anne Boleyn and Mary Boleyn, who was the oldest etc. Warnicke and Ives say completely different things! What do you all think?

    1. 1501 is the general consensus among modern historians. the handwriting sample and the fact that maids of honors were usually at least 12(except for Charles Brandon’s daughter and possibly a few others) should prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. as for the petite comment, anne was about 5’3″ (average) but she could’ve been described as short before she finished growing. in spanish, they call 5 year olds short and 75% of spanish and french is the same. i have an iq of 124(94th or 95th percentile) and my handwriting was so nowhere near that level ’til i was 9. plus, i read that french hadn’t been standardized yet which could explain the grammer of anne’s writing as well as the fact that french was her 2nd language. warnicke also had far-fetched theories (unlike most historians) that George and others were homosexuals even though wikipedia clearly states that that would’ve been included in the persecution and there was no contemporary evidence of this. and anne might’ve been one of hte few who had Rh negative blood, but stress likely caused her to lose her son and one or two miscarriages is not evidence of Rh negative blood. She was stressed out a lot and they loved their wine which could be fatal for fetuses. plus, rh is rare and most sources belive that she was only impregnanted 3x.

      1. Your repl doesn’t really answer the question but seems more like a series of disorganized thoughts and irrelevant information. Perhaps you replied simply to have an opportunity to feign intelligence and make up an IQ and pretend you had something intelligent to bring to the table? Truly smart people can answer a question and stay on point…and don’t feel the need to tell people their IQ. People develop at different rates and having an elder sibling (or two) can greatly increase the speed at which someone can read/write. I know because as the 4th daughter I was reading books cover to cover at 4 yrs old thanks to my 3 intelligent older sisters teaching me constantly. Asa esult I was put into school young to ward off boredom. She could have learned a lot from Mary and even George, if he was older.

  4. i personally think that Mary was the elder child. She was at court before Anne and she was married before Anne. However i also think that Mary was the lesser of the two boleyn girls. Anne was said to have the looks and the brain. While both girls had to listen to their family Anne did things her way, Mary did exactly as she was told, I think she was also fool enought to believe that Henry would forever love her, as it has been said that she was jealous of Anne, when Anne ‘stole’ Henry from her. Mary was also the odd one,while the boleyn chilldren were close, Mary was often left out as Anne and George were indeed very close siblings. but she did have a happier ending than Anne

  5. Excellent post, I enjoyed it! I definitely want to hear about the Mary Boleyn book and I am probably going to have to preorder it, against my better judgement. I am trying to wait for reviews.
    With all the questions of “Who will succeed Elizabeth??” and Elizabeth being so paranoid about the Grey sisters’ offspring for example… Elizabeth would never have outwardly declared them Henry’s children for one simple reason because of the race for the crown it would have created for those families involved. Of course there are other factors and reasons, but I believe that is the primary reason Elizabeth I never vouched for them other than as her cousins.
    Mary Boleyn- Carey-Stafford also seems to have wanted to have shielded her children from the nonsense of the court’s life and ways. She ‘witnessed’ her brother and sister being executed, and understood the peril that being a child of Henry VIII could bring.

    1. I’m waiting for Elizabeth Norton’s book on Jane Seymour to arrive and I should have finished that by the time the Mary Boleyn book comes out. I’ve got a “must read” list as long as my arm!
      No one seems to be able to agree about when the sisters were born – yet another mystery!

    2. I agree…I dont think it delegitimizes the Carey’s potential relationship being that of half siblings just because Elizabeth was raised by her Aunt to call them her cousins. Calling them anything other than that would just raise questions and humiliate Mary’s husband, who had to pretend he was their father (well, in reality he WAS the father in every way other than soerm donor). Henry VIII is a fascinating example of a man who outwardly had it all but could never feel truly happy or fulfilled. His constant need to prove that he could get another woman reminds me of a current world leader who only proves that there is always a woman who will put their pride on the shelf for the opportunity to marry someone, no matter how damaged they are, who can provide them with wealth and fame. It is sad that wealthy men all appear to suffer from this empty soul syndrome.

  6. I believe the odds were that they were his Children. I doubt that he would acknowledge the children of a mistress that was married. Bessie Blount was married after her affair with Henry. I think theirs a noticable difference between admitting from a bastard to a married women then admitting to one that is not married.

  7. I’m certain you all have read of the rumor that Henry also bedded the Boleyn girls’ mother. As I understand it, this was merely court rumor with no true basis of fact.

    Am I right in believing that? Or is there actually some obscure proof that Henry did in fact bed Elizabeth Howard Boleyn? I can’t recall any documented first-hand account in the biographical reading I’ve done.

  8. It was rumoured that Henry had bedded Elizabeth Howard and that Anne may even have been his daughter. In Philippa Jones’ “The Other Tudors”, Jones talks of how Lord Herbert of Cherbury’s book, “Life and Raigne of King Henry VIII” 1649 (his spelling not mine!) quotes judge and author William Rastall as saying that the young Henry had an affair with Elizabeth Boleyn when Thomas Boleyn was away in France and that Anne was conceived. Jones points out that this could just about be believable if Anne had been born in 1507 but not if her birth date was 1501 when Henry was 10! Eric Ives thinks that there may have been confusion between the names Elizabeth Boleyn and Elizabeth Blount. When Henry was confronted with the rumour of his involvement with Elizabeth Howard Boleyn and Mary Boleyn, he confirmed his relationship with the “sister” but said “Never the mother”. There is no evidence that a young Henry was involved with Elizabeth Howard, just vicious rumour which probably started as someone mishearing the name.

  9. Thank you for the reprint of the Fitzhugh article.

    Like Henry Fitzhugh, I am a descendant of Lady Katherine Carey Knollys and Sir Francis through their daughter Lady Anne Knollys West via her son Sir Thomas West, Lord De La Warr.

    1. Gerard, I just ran across your post. I too am a descendant of Lady Katherine Carey Knollys and her husband, Sir Francis Knollys, via their son, Sir Richard Knollys and via his son, Richard. Wouldn’t it be amazing…… if one day someone was able to locate positive information about our heritage? My Knolly/Knowles line (Edmond Knowles) didn’t arrive in America until 1699 aboard the Elizabeth and Judith” which was under the command of ship’s master Edward Payne.

      1. Well hello distant cousins! I am also a descendant of the Knollys family via Katherine Carey Knollys’ daughter Anne Knollys West (Lady De La Warr), then through Anne’s daughter Penelope West. I find this whole Mary Boleyn- Henry VIII affair very interesting and it would be awesome to finally have the mystery unraveled. It’s good to know there are a lot of Boleyn descendants running about!

        1. So am I. Gov West was one of my connections. Just found out s few days ago after many hours doing the family tree via Ancestry.com and was knocked out. Not expecting that. Interesting that some of my more recent relatives, a first cousin and a great great great uncle who descend directly as well, had red hair. Any samples of Henry’s dna anywhere? He is my 13th great grandfather if this is true.

          Are you all in America?

          We should have a party!

    2. I was brought to this page after conducting research on my family history as well! I am connected through Lady Katherine Carey Knollys and her husband, Sir Francis Knollys daughter, Lettice Knollys and her daughter Penelope Devereux. I am already connected to Henry VIII as a 1st cousin though Penelope Devereux’s father’s side who go all the way back to the Grey’s and Henry VIIi’s grandmother- Elizabeth Woodville. If he is potentially my 14th great-grandfather as well as a cousin- well that makes for quite an interesting family story!

    3. Hello everyone! I just found out this evening I am also a descendant through Gov. West. I have always been fascinated with Tudor history but this just threw me through a crazy loop! So stumbled across this just soaking up more knowledge. Never would I have imagined being descended from The Other Boleyn Girl. <3

  10. Now I am facinated by the idea that Henry was with Anne’s mother, true food for thought, she was a reputed beauty, and in one of the paintings, I noticed just recently, and before reading this, that Anne’s hair had a definite auburn hue. As for Mary’s children, I had been given to understand from books I read years ago that her first pregnancy was definatly the result of her bedding Henry. I was always under the impression that Anne was not about to end up the same way, with a husband such as Carey, who I believe was Henry’s mmmm, well keeper of the stool so to speak. All of the dates mentioned indicate he was bedding one sister whilst persueing the other, as written in the ‘OTHER BOLEYN GIRL’. All of that is hard to take in. There are many women,even today with our so precise methods of knowing all about pregnancy who do not for sure know who is the true father of a particular child, in fact I know a couple myself, their dads have no idea and the child blends in with the others well enough.It is so possible that Mary Carey herself was not so sure.

  11. Has there ever been any DNA testing on the bones of the Carey’s and the Tudors to determine if indeed there is a genetic relationship. It is my question that in the event of illegitimacy that none of the children from the affairs of Henry VIII with Blount or Mary Boleyn would ever have a claim to the throne under the laws enforced at the time.

  12. It would have been against Elizabeth’s best interest and the Careys if she had acknowledged them as her brother and sister. Since both were older than her and one was a male they could have been used against her. After all Elizabeth herself had been declared illegitimate. The Careys had good reason to be quiet on the matter because they could have had the same fate as Mary Queen of Scotts. So the fact that Elizabeth didn’t acknowledge them means nothing.

  13. I think the French King’s stories about Mary Boleyn were probably greatly exaggerated. He may have taken advantage of her as she was in a strange country and pretty much at his mercy. Possibly he was jealous of Henry is the reason he said she was such a loose woman. Regardless he seemed to be a skunk as Henry did not malign the reputation of his mistresses.

  14. It would seem that to involve themselve in the character assassination of these women would be the best way to control them. Women speak with their hearts. These men did not care or if they did it was not in their political interests to show any loyalty to them. Henry’s only concern was for begatting a male heir and nothing else. I find it supremely satisfying that the one child he did have was a female and ruled over England for 45 years. Karma has its purposes too.

  15. “Antonia Fraser argues that Henry VIII never recognised Henry Carey as his illegitimate son and showed him no favour, yet he acknowledged Henry Fitzroy and bestowed the title of Duke of Richmond on him. Surely this suggests that Henry Carey was not Henry VIII’s son?”

    Rubbish. Henry tried to annull his marriage to Catherine of Aragon on the grounds that she had slept with his brother Arthur- if he acknowledged having had two bastards by Mary Boleyn he couldn’t possibly marry her sister Anne without becoming a hypocrite.

  16. I don’t think that Henry VIII had any reason to recognise Henry Carey as his son because he already had one illegitimate son, so I don’t think that his lack of acknowledgement means that Henry Carey was definitely not his son.

    “Rubbish. Henry tried to annull his marriage to Catherine of Aragon on the grounds that she had slept with his brother Arthur- if he acknowledged having had two bastards by Mary Boleyn he couldn’t possibly marry her sister Anne without becoming a hypocrite.”

    Good point, Will, I hadn’t thought of that reason.

  17. i have a question why i have been so fascinated with the story of the Boleyn family and Henry viii ‘ since the age of three or four ?

  18. To Ruth: When I was growing up, mu family took me to museums and I loved the portraits of the ladies in their beautiful gowns and hats, as well as the portraits of children. I would ask my mom how did they live and if the children played with dolls. I remember seeing a show with Anne Boleyn and I thought she was beautiful and I’ve been interested in her story ever since. The older I get, the more I am impressed with her and what she did and yes, I still think she is beautiful!

  19. I’m going to go against the flow here – I don’t think they were Henry’s children.

    The point about acknowledging Henry Fitzroy goes a long way. It’s not just about having a potential heir (because he wasn’t, being illegimiate). It was about proving, both to Henry himself and to the world at large that he was a virile man capable of fathering sons.

    The time period when the Carey children were born is important. Henry’s argument (and he probably convinced himself, and really believed it) was that his marriage to Catherine of Aragon was son-less because of the sin of marrying his brother’s widow, not for any other reason.

    Part of the elevation of Henry Fitzroy was saying, “Look! I can father sons!”. Any mroe evidence would have been most welcome.

    1. Would that stop the King from proving this again to himself only. I think Mary’s children, first Catherine and then Henry proved to Henry that he could father healthy children. And right after the birth of Henry Carey, along came Anne Boleyn, who Henry found interesting and wanted to bed, but then at some point recognizing that Anne was the sister of the woman who gave him two healthy children, Henry was determined that Anne would be able to do the same, which was part of his obsession with her as well as her determination to hold him off drove his determination to have her.

  20. Actually, it took Henry several years before he even bothered to reconize Henry Fitzroy as his son. By that time, Henry knew that his Queen was not going to give him a son, so he was bascially covering all his bases in desperation. If Catherine had given him a son during those years, than it is highly unlikely that Henry would have bothered to acknowledge the boy, and historians would no doubt today be questioning his paternity too. People forget, Henry did not want illegimate children. He did not want to take a chance that England could have been thrown back into civil war. The War of the Roses was still fresh in the minds of his people.

    Henry slept with numerous women in his lifetime. It is extremely unrealistic to believe that he did not father other illegmate children besides Henry Fitzroy. He did. Just because he failed to acknowledge them does not change the fact that the Carey children and others were no doubt his offspring. Nor is it a strong enough argument to disprove paternity (Antonia Fraser needs to seriously rethink that).

    Why there is such an outcry of denial when it comes to other possible illegmate children for this particular King is beyond me.

    1. Very true.
      Actually, if you include the careys, Henry fathered about 16 children we know of. probably more. but most of them died young.

  21. Of course there is doubt about the Carey children; there was doubt at the time, there is doubt now.

    Henry doesn’t seem to have been a man of great fertility. Nor was the only of his children to marry as an adult.

    I don’t know what you mean about the Wars of the Roses – the problem there was an excess of *legitimate* heirs.

    Henry Fitzroy wasn’t elevated to the titles of Richmond & Somerset until 1525, when he was 6. But from birth he was “Fitzroy”, or “Son of the King”, his Godfather was Cardinal Wolsey – it was pretty obvious at the time, let alone later on.

  22. good posts ppl !! i think they were his children. and the fact about being a hypocrite IS true. it wouldve caused uproar with the people and anne herself if he admitted to fathering annes sisters kids. and anyway he granted anne as ward of the boy basically saying “That is the adoptive son of my wife making him my son as well” also anne probably wasnt his daughter but i have always wondered why her hair was brownish auburn and marys was blonde….

    1. When Henry Carey was born, Henry VIIII was not even interested in Anne. His serious interest began in december of 1527 while Henry Carey was born in early 1526. Not only did Henry VIIII not recognise Henry Carey, he never once refered to Henry as anything other than nephew. Henry VIIII didn’t even make any fleeting comment like; “My new son is growing up so strong, etc”. to his friends about Henry Carey, which Henry surely would have done due to his large ego and trying to prove that it was all KOA fault that he did not have a boy.

      Granting Anne the wardship was just logical. Mary Boleyn was a penniless widow and Anne was in a position to pay for Henry Carey’s needs. Granting someone wardship of a child is different from adopting someone. When granted wardship, you supervise the education and look after them but the parents still has legal ownership of them but if you adopt someone, you have legal ownership of them. Plus Mary Boleyn would have preferred her sister having the wardship to over anyone else and Anne was ready to accept. It was logic and it did not prove that Henry was saying; ” This is the adoptive son of my wife making him my son now”.

      There is no evidence that Mary was blonde, infact she probably had darker colour like Anne

  23. also i recognize Catherine and Anne of Cleves (though i LOVE anne boleyn) the only true legitimate wives of Henry. and Lucky lucky Fitzhugh i would kill to bbe a descendant of some of these infamous amazing figures in our worlds history

  24. If you look at the portrait of Catherine Carey’s daughter Lettice Knollys, she bears a very strong resemblance to Elizabeth I, with her striking (Tudor?) red hair and bone structure. It would not surprise me in the least if it were definitively proved that Elizabeth and her “rival” were related by way of Henry VIII as father and grandfather and through Anne and Mary Boleyn as mother and grandmother, respectively.
    If the elder Carey children’s paternity were Tudor (the dates seem plausible), Lettice Knollys would be 2nd cousin to Elizabeth and the resemblance between the women (although Lettice was prettier) looks to support such an affinity of the same man fathering children through two sisters.

    1. Mary Boleyns Husband, William Carey, was a relative of the King’s and so had the same DNA floating around. So it would make sense if Lettice looks like Elizabeth because they would be sharing a lot of the same DNA.

  25. Further to my last post, I meant to say that Elizabeth and Lettice being confirmed 2nd cousins through the Boleyns, if HenryVIII did father Catherine Carey, that would make them also Aunt and Niece respectively, to a half degree. Recognition of Bessie Blount’s child (and not Mary Boleyn’s) does not disprove the theory. I would agree with the argument that Henry had no need to do so, given the delicacy of his mistress Mary’s status as the married Lady Carey, Henry Fitzroy’s existence and much later on, the LEGITIMATE births of Elizabeth and especially Edward. I don’t believe Anne Boleyn would have countenanced the official recognition and entitlement of the Carey children anyway, as Mary’s delivery of two healthy children (one a boy), was in sharp relief to her own difficulties in delivering Henry the heirs he demanded. Her sister having gone before and given Henry a son, would have needled Anne greatly, one would think. She was also, to the end, fiercely protective of Elizabeth’s interests and inheritance. Other “recognized” children would expose her to potential challengers down the line.

  26. As a direct American decendant of Mary Boleyn this is all very facinating for me. I am a decendant of Lady Catherine’s daughter Anne through her son Col John West who came to Jamestowne VA – then to his granddaughter Matilda West daughter of Anthony then to Mary Cade Wise and on and on – I could be the granddaughter of King Henry VIII – who would be king/queen now if Mary’s children had been acknowledged? I even look like the portraite above of Lady Catherine – similar facial features – oh and I have strawberry red/blond hair – must be a harty gene line. And if it is any indication – the family makes it own history – that has not changed -haha – they will assign you to a parent if they don’t like the one you have or do not want to acknowledge who it really is.

  27. I think they were his children. He didn’t recognise them because..
    a) Mary was married, therefore her children would automatically take her husband’s name.
    b) Catherine was a girl, why would he recognise an illegitamate daughter when he had a legitamate one) and by the time Henry was born he was in love with Anne, why would he recognise a child who was his love interest’s sister’s son?
    c) He had no need to because he already had Henry Fitzroy

    Also Catherine’s date of birth is around 1524, in this year William Carey was given a large gift and Henry named a ship ‘Mary Boleyn’ – he wouldn’t have done that is she was not his mistress.

    Henry applied for a despension from the pope to marry Anne, both to annul his marriage to Katherine and to allow him to marry someone who’se sister (Mary) he had slept with, it is unlikely he would have needed to do so had they not had any children.

    In my opinion it makes sense that Henry began to fall for Anne whilst Mary was out of the picture having Henry (her second child by the king).

    1. Yes but the three points you give can be disproven or given less credibility to

      a) Yes Mary was married but Henry didn’t have to officially recognise the children, he could have just made a fleeting comment about them once in a while but it was like they did not exist to him

      b) Yes again but Henry Carey was born in early 1526 while Henry’s serious interest in Anne began only in december 1527. Nearly two years but yet Henry did not do anything to recognise them.

      c) By recognising Henry Carey, he would stregthen the claim that he could prduce healthy children and push the blame all to someone else.

      Henry was very generous with his gifts and constantly gave his courtiers grants of money. If gifts meant that your wife was being used then he must have pretty much slept with everyone at court! Henry did not name a ship Mary Boleyn, perhaps you mean the Mary Rose?…..

      Henry wanted to wipe the slate clean on this new marriage and make it work and to do that he had to confess everything so that he could be forgiven and the marriage would be successfull. He didn’t want to jeapodize the marraige again and confessing everything so that nothing could be missed is the best way.

      Becuase of the reasons i put forward i do not think that either Catherine or Henry Carey were his children.

      1. Henry did name a warship “Mary Boleyn” after his mistress just as he named a ship “Mary Rose” for his sister, Princess Mary.

        1. Josephine Wilkinson believes that Henry VIII bought the ship off Thomas Boleyn, and it was already named The Mary Boleyn, whereas David Loades ponders if it was just “borrowed” from Thomas Boleyn “for some particular services in Irish waters” in 1523 as it is only mentioned with regards to this in September 1523 and is not mentioned in any inventories of ships belonging to the King:
          ““The NAVY on the sea between Wales and Ireland.”
          Declaration of Sir Ant. Poyntz, Vice-admiral, of expenses from 8 April 14 Hen. VIII. to 23 Sept. 15 Hen. VIII.
          Received from John Jenyns, 1 Mar. 14 Hen. VIII., 2,741l. 3s. 4d.; from Sir Rys ap Thomas, 17 Sept. 15 Hen. VIII., 66l. 13s. 4d.; from Sir John Daunce, 100l. Total, 2,807l. 16s. 8d.
          Paid for the Mynyon: Wages of Sir Anthony Poyntz, 6s. 8d. a day; one master, one pilot, 50 soldiers, 60 mariners, and 10 gunners, at 5s. a month; 19 dedshares, at 5s. a month; one surgeon, at 10s. a month. Rewards to gunners, 6l. 5s. Victualling, 16d. a week each man for the first four months, 18d. for the remainder. Total, 481l. 15s.—The George of Fowey, 120 tons, Geo. Whitwayne, capt., 89 men, tonnage 6l. a month. Total, 357l. 7s.—The Christopher Arundell, 90 tons, Geo. Audeley, capt., 59 men, 250l. 7s.—The Mathew of Bristowe, 160 tons, Robt. Appleyard, capt., 99 men, 404l. 0s. 4d.—The Mary Boleyn, 100 tons, Wm. Symonds, capt., 79 men, 352l. 8s. 6½d.—The Berk of Truluff, 80 tons, Peter Grisley, capt., 59 men, 271l. 13s. 11¾d. The Mawdelen and Michell of Bristowe, and the Mary Galeye, 180 tons, Wm. Throgmorton and Hewe Clerk, capts., 118 men, 494l. 18s. 2d.—The Mawdeleyn of Pole, 120 tons, Robt. Kirk, capt., 79 men, 264l. 9s. 0½d.—The John of Grenewiche, Gabriel Joslyn, capt., 50 men, 160l. 1s. 1½d.” LP iii. 3358

  28. The War of the Roses plays a part in why Henry did some of the things he did.

    The infertility theory does not hold much ground, anymore.

    Again, Henry VIII slept with many women, and we unfortunately only know a hand full of these women. It is unrealistic to believe that not one of them could have had his child. He was fertile enough to produce one illegitimate child, why not others? Just because he failed to acknowledged them does not disprove that he was the biological father or they never existed.

    As for Wolsey being FitzRoy’s Godfather and the surname FitzRoy, so? How does that prove Henry had no other illegitimate children? You can only be an illegitimate child of Henry VIII if you have Wolsey as your Godfather and a surname of FitzRoy? All that really proves is at some point early on Henry privately acknowledged his “unmarried mistress’s” son because there are no records of FitzRoy’s existence until 1525 when he was publicly acknowledged. It is because of those records six later after his birth that we know anything about FitzRoy at all. Without them it probably would have been pretty easy for historians to believe the infertility theory and debate his paternity too.

    There is a difference between private and public acknowledgement. How do we know that Henry did not privately acknowledge his other illegitimate children? There is evidence that he did for some. In the case of the Careys one piece of evidence is that William Carey definitely did not receive his entire splendor around the times Henry was sleeping with his wife and the birth of the two children (his lasts awards being given February 20, 1526, two weeks before the birth of Mary’s son and May 12, 1526) because Henry found him as attractive as his wife.

    I know that there is doubt. However, that still does not answer my question. Why is there such a need now for some historians and people to disprove the existence of other illegitimate children with this particular King? It is all speculation. Unless someone can go back in time or do a DNA test there is no reason to even declare who is right and who is wrong.

  29. “Henry VIII slept with many women”

    Actually, we don’t know that he did. While there would undoubtedly have been unlimited opportunities for him to do so, with no stigma attached, there are very few women apart from his wives sexually linked to Henry. Given that he lived in a court where privacy was unknown, that’s surely significant.

    As to the argument that he would not have recognised illegitimate children if their mother was married – It was an HONOUR to be the king’s mistress, not a cause of shame.

    1. Mary Boleyn was kind of looked down upon because she had been the kings mistresss by her mother and father not sure how other people at court thought of it

      I think he probably did have illegitimate children but I am not sure if both Marys were the Kings

      King Henry did have affairs Im sure but even in those days ladies used contraception Mary could have used some form when she was with the King and noone knows how long or short the affair was

  30. I do believe that the Careys were Henry’s kids. Plenty of points have been made here. I wanted to add a few more.

    Henry gave William Carey gifts and grants between 1522 and 1526, with the last grant occurring just days after Henry Carey’s birth. The grants occurred around the times when Mary became pregnant and when her kids were born. The grants stopped when Henry started pursuing Anne. Many of the grants were taken away after William Carey died, but were restored to Mary and her new husband after Anne’s execution. Why would Henry restore these grants to the sister of his “treasonous” wife. Remember, her brother was executed and her parents were disgraced.

    Mary’s only children while married to William Carey occurred during her affair with Henry. She didn’t have any kids during her first four years of marriage or the last 2-1/2 years. But then, she quickly became pregnant with William Stafford. It’s possible that either William Carey was infertile, or she had a non-sexual marriage with him.

    Henry Carey was educated where the children of royalty were raised and educated — Hunsdon Hall. Henry Carey was made Baron Hunsdon. Why was he given this title?

    Both of Mary’s children were in the King’s inner circle well after Anne’s execution. In fact, they were treated better than Elizabeth herself. They were at court when Elizabeth was sent from court. Catherine was a maid of honor for Anne of Cleves in 1539. Henry was still in Henry’s household in 1545. No one else in Anne’s family had this favor. In fact, all of Anne’s other relative were treated very badly, especially after the execution of Catherine Howard, who was Anne’s cousin. Why were these two treated so well if they were not Henry’s kids?

    Henry had no reason to acknowledge these kids. During his affair with Mary, he was still trying to have kids with his wife. And, he already had an illegitimate son that he recognized as a backup. Mary’s first child was a girl — he wouldn’t want her to be ruler. By the time little Henry was born, Henry had started pursuing Anne. He was trying to get his marriage to Katherine annulled on the grounds of affinity. Admitting to having had children with his new wife’s sister would have been a problem. Also, while it was acceptable for the king to have affairs with unmarried women, it was not acceptable to have an affair with a married woman — especially the wife of someone from his court. This would have been a problem for the head of a church.

    Keep in mind that the king kept Henry Carey at court during his lifetime. I think that if Henry had not had a male heir, he might have eventually acknowledged him.

    Both Henry and Catherine were given lavish funerals, as if they were royals. They were both interred at Westminster Abbey in opulent tombs. Burial at Westminster Abbey was usually reserved for royals or people of significance. Just being related to the queen wasn’t a good enough reason to be buried there.

    1. There was someone at court who saw King Henry looking lustily at Anne in 1523 it is possible he was pursuing them both at the same time

      William was King Henrys third cousin and he favoured him because William was good at sport and King Henry was generous to everyone around him at court not just mistresses

      maybe the grants were restored because Mary had criticised Anne in a letter to Cromwell and anyone who criticised Anne was looked upon as a friend or her father who stayed at court even after the fall had something to do with it as two of his heirs were dead he held great store by things like that maybe he wanted his grandkids to have something or maybe Henry liked her who knows or maybe he did it to look benevolent
      noone knows for sure when the affair started or ended there was someone at court who saw King Henry looking at Anne in a lusty way in 1523 it is possible that he was pursuing both of them

      just because he made Henry Carey a ward it doesant mean that he was his son he probably had other wards it was a common practice for wealthy families to farm out their children like that the children were treated well and gained a good education
      just because they had lavish funerals doesant mean anything I think Queen Elizabeth had very few members of her family left it wouldnt surprise me if she did that because she couldnt do that for Anne Boleyn and they did serve her well

    2. Very true.
      Actually, if you include the Careys, Henry fathered about 16 children we know of. probably more. but most of them died young
      Henry was created lord Hunsdon as Hunsdon Hall was where the king and Mary Boleyn met secretly during their affair. What better proof! .

  31. Wow! Looks like I have other family here!! I am the very great granddaughter of Mary Boleyn and I was looking for some info on the historical views as to whether Catherine Carey (my next grandmother on the family tree) might be the daughter of Henry Vlll or William Carey. But, even if she did not descend from Henry, Catherine Carey’s father is from the Spencers (Lady Diana’s lineage).

    1. Descendants of Mary Boleyn, may we get in contact? If it’s alright to list my address here, please contact me at t y a n i t e (at) g m a i l . com Thank you, and I look forward to sharing stories and family trees. I’m in the U.S.

      By the way, I do think DNA tests are inside the realm of possibility. If you followed the story about finding King Richard III and confirming his DNA, then It should be feasible to confirm the parentage of the Carey children.

      Boleyn descendants may want to take a look at the life of Elizabeth Howard. She is very interesting on her own. Branches of the Howards are Dukes of Norfolk (second only in peerage to the royal family) and the Earls of Arundel, which I believe is among the very oldest peerage lines. The wife of Lord Baltimore II was Anne Arundel. The Arundels and Howards were instrumental in the history of Maryland.

      Many Americans may be the descendant of another hidden royal. Please check your family trees. This royal mystery from the Henry VIII era stems from the threat to Henry’s succession posed by Lady Margaret Douglas. Lady Margaret Douglas was the niece of Henry VIII by way of his sister, Margaret Tudor. Lady Douglas would be a threat if she had a legitimate heir. Lady Margaret had an affair with lord Thomas Howard, an Arundel Howard. You may descend from an early colonial man, Matthew Howard. Matthew may have been a direct descendant of Lady Margaret Douglas and may have therefore had some right to the throne. Matthew Howard’s family used the Duke of Norfolk coat of arms on wax seals of Colonial American land records and wills. One theory is that Matthew was escaping persecution from his royal relatives who would kill him for being a threat to their royal succession and for remaining with the Catholic faith.

      Queen Elizabeth I brutally pursued her Howard cousins for remaining Catholic after Henry VIII’s formation of the Anglican Church. In fact, Queen Elizabeth’s cousin Philip Howard died in the Tower of London for remaining Catholic. Near the end, he asked Elizabeth to see his wife and children. Here’s the communication that is said to have taken place (from Wikipedia): Elizabeth replied to Philip’s request, “If he will but once attend the Protestant Service, he shall not only see his wife and children, but be restored to his honors and estates with every mark of my royal favour.” To this, Philip is supposed to have replied, “Tell Her Majesty if my religion be the cause for which I suffer, sorry I am that I have but one life to lose.”

  32. Hi, cousins! I, too, believe Henry and his sister were Henry’s children. One thing no one has mentioned is that he is named HENRY. It is clear that these children were offered both–a life of safety AND afforded the luxuries of court life and other favors. I believe it was in the best interest of everyone involved to keep them wrapped in secrecy, but I also believe they also knew of their actual parentage (and had the understanding that they would be kept safe). How else would one explain the unusual favor the children were shown above all the other Howards after Anne and Catherine Howard were eliminated (and the others pointedly tormented)? Look at Henry’s gigantic memorial, as well as his sister’s. Henry and Elizabeth left very obvious clues–not to mention the admission that Henry was the king’s son (John Hale, Vicar of Isleworth, wrote in 1535 of how a monk at St Bridget’s Priory Abbey had pointed out “yongge Master Care” as being the King’s bastard son). One of our other cousins made a great case for this over here–https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/did-henry-viii-father-mary-careys-children.

    I am a double-descendant of the Crown on both of my parents’ sides. My mother is descended from “The Bruce” (King of Scotland)-the line that begat the House of Stuart/Stewart-while my father is descended from May Boleyn through Mary Carey. There is little reason why we can’t compare DNA with each other. I actually recently did the AncestryDNA test, and would be open to any studies to confirm this. What we know for CERTAIN is that Kate Middleton-who could be the next Queen-IS our cousin, as was Diana. I’d always felt especially close to her (of course, I didn’t know her).

    1. Kevin, the monk who made that remark about Henry Carey being the Kings bastard son was no doubt repeating gossip, he would have had no idea who his father was unless he was a close family member of the Boleyns and/ or Carey’s, besides they were not shown special favour, they were high born and were treated the same as any other high born people, Henry Carey was not given any grand title and made a relatively obscure marriage, he was born several years after his parents marriage and you have to remember that Henry V111 did have problem begatting heirs due to his fertility problems, besides the remark made about his likeness is misplaced, his portrait shows he resembled the Boleyns with their long faces and high cheekbones, where is the likeness stated? Elizabeths fondness for her cousins does not prove it was down to their having the same father, but if he did father one of them it could well have been Catherine as she was the eldest and as the article says, she was born within the time frame, she also does show a likeness to Henry V111 in the eyes and eyebrows, Carey also had several grants made to him after her birth but this again does not prove anything, he was a favoured courtier of the King being related by blood which can also count for Catherine’s resemblance to Henry, apart from all of these the story that Henry V111 fathered Mary Carey’s children is mere conjecture, we will never know the truth which is a pity, his body will never be tested for DNA as the queen will never allow his grave to be disturbed, I think she would rather let it be, i also believe it is wrong to disturb the dead once buried, they should be allowed to rest in peace.

      1. Also the fact that he was named Henry does not mean he was the son of the King, it was common practice for people to name their children after the reigning monarch, especially if they were related to him like William Carey was, Catherine Knollys was probably named after the queen and Elizabeth 1st was named after her paternal grandmother Elizabeth of York and also her maternal grandmother, the ancestry DNA test is a rip off anyway, it can only tell you what part of the world your ancestors lived in, not who they actually were.

  33. My husband is a direct descendant of Mary Boleyn and her daughter, Catherine Carey. I’d sure like to know if Catherine’s birth father was William Carey or King Henry VIII. I agree that DNA testing would be helpful. I did come across the Spencer name in my research last night and wondered if Princess Diana might be a cousin. Genealogy research is fascinating!!

  34. I guess noone will ever know who the childrens father is but if both were the Kings why was one only Henry made the ward of Anne and being a ward is not an indication that Henry was acknowledging he was the father they probably had other wards and it was a custom at that time for wealthy families to do that with young children. They got the best of care and education and Mary was in poverty because William had died leaving her penniless

    I think both could possibly be Williams I have looked at the portrait of Catherine Carey when shes pregnant and (if its really her) and she has a big mouth like William Carey and she doesant have a hooked nose like Henry she has a broad face but so did William

    She also had winged brows but so did Anne Boleyn so it was in the Boleyn dna too and I think Katherines nose looks like Williams.

    Noone makes mention that the Howards who the Boleyns are related too, had red hair Elizabeth Howard had red hair and she was Marys and Annes mother, also the fact King Henry and William are third cousins they might share some dna and King Henry was known for giving people he liked gifts and he did favour William

  35. if Queen Elizabeth thought for one second that they were closer than cousins she would have put them in a prison somewhere so they couldnt marry she was a bit mean with her heirs maybe the reason she was kind to them was because she knew them and they were all she had of the Boleyn family. I like to think that if one of them was the Kings and the other was Williams then further down the the line their descendants would have married each other and it would be kind of .fitting

  36. just because someone says they are Henrys son it doesant mean they are they could be wrong quite a few people have claimed to be King Henrys sons and arent I bet there were illegitimate offspring of the king but King Henry was a prude and would have hidden it also maybe they believed someone who told fibs that John Hale wasnt big on telling the truth also its possible that even Mary didnt know who the dad was

  37. I’ve always been told by my family “carey’s” that I’m related to henry and Catherine carey!

  38. Sometimes someone should look at family portraits. Lettice Knollys bears a striking resemblance to Elizabeth I.

    1. But that doesn’t mean that her mother was Henry VIII’s daughter. Elizabeth and Lettice were related anyway because Lettice’s maternal grandmother was Mary Boleyn, sister of Elizabeth’s mother Anne Boleyn.

  39. Hi İ also believe my family to desend from Mary Boylen, via West and Dandridge family İ have become facinated by Lady Catherine Carey Knollys. There is a website called Famous Kin. İf you look up Anne Boylen you can see the impressive list of the decendents of Catherine Carey Knollys . such as Darwin, Frank Lloyd Wright, John D Rockerfeller Martha Dandridge Washington the list is quite impressive . She had many children.

    Last year İ visted Westminister Abbey , Henry Carey has one of the most impressive monuments outside of the Royal burial chambers, the highest monument in Westminister. İ believe Catherine had a plaque there and is burried with her husband elsewhere.

    After visiting there it made me wonder if they we the decendants of Henry the eighth.

  40. I would love to hear more about all of this because my family are descendants of Mary Boylen from what my records are saying. I have been researching it ever since my mother showed me about our ancestors.

  41. I think he definitely fathered Catherine. She is the double of him, he didn’t like girls so never acknowledged her for that reason I assume. I don’t think Henry was his son however I find it extremely unlikely. Just because he is named Henry doesn’t hint at him being Henry VIIIs child more likely named after Henry VIII out of respect and because he was the king at the time also being married eventually to his Aunt Anne. Catherine yeah it’s extremely believable, Henry NO very unlikely and likely a mere legend!

  42. I, too, am a descendant of Mary through Henry Carey – my grandmother on my mother’s side was Evelyn Carey. I had documents tracing back to the my 1700s here in the U.S. for the Carey family but just learned yesterday of it’s ancestral possibility to Henry VIII. I’ve not yet found a source for the book but will keep looking!

    1. Finally! I am also a descendant of Henry Carey through his 3rd son, John, so we may be distant cousins.

      For those talking about Henry’s grand tomb, it had nothing to do with his possible lineage except that they were cousins. It was more his very close relationship to Elizabeth. He was her Lord Chamberlain and an Admiral in her Navy. He put down a Catholic rebellion for her. She granted him many titles. He was also a patron of one William Shakespeare. Henry’s tomb results from Elizabeth’s affection for him and his considerable service to the country.

  43. they should open tomb again and test DNA and find the questions. I think the son may be looks like Henry because his face was not circle his face was long like Henry but the daughter is looks like the father William Carey.

  44. I am a descendant of Mary Boleyn->Catherine Carey->Thomas West->John West-> Rebecca West….etc

    I have done both 23andme and AncestryDNA- if any of the other relatives would like to check DNA it would be interesting to find out the results. Wish we could find out for sure the paternity of Catherine and Henry- it may be possible with DNA! Especially any male descendants of Henry Carey.

    lauriej88 on AncestryDNA

    1. Glad to see you brought up the DNA testing now available. I did the FamilyTree DNA test to the 111 level but cannot make out heads or tails on what the result means. Strong Southern NJ family documentation for Wests but unable to go back further than Father, Grandfather (Isaac Thackara West), GGrandfather (Elijah), GGGrandfather (Thomas), GGGGrandfather (Job), GGGGGrandfather (Thomas), GGGGGGrandfather (Richard – 1759). From there speculation to Francis West in Duxbury, MA … The Wests at Jamestown. Knollys, etc.

  45. I wonder if the looks of Lettice Knollys have ever factored into this reasoning? I mean Lettice Knollys is literally the spitting image of Elizabeth I. I suppose it could be the Boleyn genes, but it I feel as though she definitely had the specific Tudor looks and especially the red hair!

  46. A little DNA testing would solve all of this. We could test Henry VIII, Catherine and Henry Carey’s DNA. And compare them. We know where they are buried. I wish the Royal Family would agree to this. I may be descended from Mary Boleyn. And I’d like to know. I’m an American by the way.

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