How Prince William and Prince Harry descend from Mary Boleyn

Yesterday, on Facebook, I shared the news that Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and his wife, Meghan, are expecting their first child. I shared it saying that “the Boleyn bloodline continues” and I just wanted to write this article to explain this in more detail as I received lots of questions yesterday.

If you’ve been following the Anne Boleyn Files page, you may remember that I wrote an article back in 2015 about how our present queen, Queen Elizabeth II, is descended from Mary Boleyn. You can read that article here. So there is a line of descent from Mary Boleyn to Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Prince Harry (or Henry to call him his proper name!), Duke of Sussex, as they are obviously the queen’s grandsons. Here is the line from Mary Boleyn to Charles, Prince of Wales, the princes’ father:

(Just to clarify how it works, it’s a written bloodline rather than a family tree, as that woukd be very big and complicated, so I only mention the relevant people in the bloodline. Mary Boleyn married William Carey and they had a daughter, Catherine, who then had a daughter Lettice, who had a son Robert, who had a daughter Frances, and so on, all the way to the present day.)

  • Mary Boleyn (d. 1543) m. William Carey
  • Catherine Carey (c.1524-1569) m. Sir Francis Knollys
  • Lettice Knollys (1543-1634) m. Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex
  • Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex (1565-1601) m. Frances Walsingham
  • Frances Devereux (1599-1674) m. William Seymour, Duke of Somerset
  • Jane Seymour (1637-1679) m. Charles Boyle, 3rd Viscount Dungarvan
  • Charles Boyle, 2nd Earl of Burlington (d. 1704) m. Juliana Noel
  • Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington (1695-1753) m. Dorothy Savile
  • Charlotte Elizabeth Boyle (1731-1754) m. William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire
  • Dorothy Cavendish (1750-1794) m. William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland, Prime Minister
  • Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Charles Bentinck (1780-1826) m. Anne Wellesley (Lady Abdy)
  • Reverend Charles Cavendish-Bentinck (1817-1865) m. Carolina Louis Burnaby
  • Cecilia Nina Cavendish-Bentinck (1862-1938) m. Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne
  • Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (1900-2002) m. King George VI
  • Queen Elizabeth II (1926- ) m. Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, now known as Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
  • Charles, Prince of Wales (1948- ) m. Lady Diana Spencer (1961-1997)
  • Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (1982- ) and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex (1984- )

What’s interesting, though, is that Princes William and Harry are also descended from Mary Boleyn through their mother’s Spencer line:

  • Mary Boleyn (d. 1543) m. William Carey
  • Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon (1526-1596) m. Anne Morgan
  • Robert Carey, 1st Earl of Monmouth (c. 1560-1639) m. Elizabeth Trevannion
  • Thomas Carey of Sunninghill Park (d. 1634) m. Margaret Smith
  • Elizabeth Carey, Viscountess Mordaunt (1632-1679) m. John Mordaunt, 1st Viscount Mordaunt
  • Brigadier-General Lewis Mordaunt (d. 1713) m. Mary Collyer
  • Anna Maria Mordaunt (d. 1771) m. Stephen Poyntz
  • Margaret Georgiana Poyntz, Countess Spencer (1737-1814) m. John Spencer, 1st Earl Spencer
  • George Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer (1758-1834) m. Lady Lavinia Bingham
  • Frederick Spencer, 4th Earl Spencer (1798-1857) m. Adelaide Horatia Seymour
  • Charles Spencer, 6th Earl Spencer (1857-1922) m. Hon. Margaret Baring
  • Albert Spencer, 7th Earl Spencer (1892-1975) m. Lady Cynthia Hamilton
  • John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer (1924-1992) m. Frances Roche
  • Diana, Princess of Wales ((1961-1997) m. Charles, Prince of Wales
  • Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (1982- ) and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex (1984- )

Prince William married Catherine Middleton in 2011 and they have three children: Prince George (b. 2013), Princess Charlotte (b. 2015) and Prince Louis (b. 2018). Prince Harry married Meghan Markle in 2018 and they are expecting their first child in Spring 2019. The Boleyn bloodline continues!

Yesterday, I was also asked whether the Tudor bloodline continues and it does. The Tudor dynasty ended with Elizabeth I in 1603 because she died childless, but Henry VIII had two sisters, Margaret and Mary, and their bloodlines continued. For example, our present queen descends from Margaret Tudor.

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41 thoughts on “How Prince William and Prince Harry descend from Mary Boleyn”
  1. I know some believe that Catherine Carey may actually have been fathered by King Henry. How likely is that and if so what does it do to this blood line?

    1. It does nothing to the bloodline, beyond ruling out the Carey ancestors, therefore, eliminating Carey as the surname.
      Henry VIII is known to have said, “No, definitely not the mother too”.

      Had it been Henry’s child, it would have been conceived and born out of wedlock, therefore illegitimate and ineligible for the throne.
      There was not much doubt if any that Henry was having sex with Mary Boleyn. I cannot give you odds.

  2. I hope that Catherine Carey is NOT the child of Henry VIII (and I believe that no one knows when Henry had his affair with Mary Boleyn). I rather like to think that Henry VIII’s murderous search for a son ended up losing the throne for his bloodline (and giving the throne to the bloodline of his least favorite sister)

    1. Didn’t Henry VIII in his will, after designating Edward as successor and then Daughters Mary and Elizabeth if none of his children had issue, then designate the children of his younger sister, Mary Tudor, wife of Charles Brandon, Duke if Sussex and Henry’s best friend, as heirs to the throne? But Elizabeth, and her advisors, favored James VI of Scotland as we was a man and great grandson of Margaret Tudor and Mary Tudor’s descendants were all female?

      1. As the older sister, Margaret’s descendants had a better claim. James had a stronger lineage and the descendants of Mary had been mixed up in treason, Lady Jane Grey and the Dudleys. The latter while not descendants, did not have the best background.

  3. So from their father they are descended from Catherine and from their mother Henry Cary, interesting and that is how Royal and noble bloodlines intermingle, Catherine could well have been Henry V111’s daughter and if so his bloodline continues to this day, whilst reading Weirs book on Mary she does give some very good reasons why Catherine could have been his natural daughter, but it’s so interesting to consider if Marys family and Queen Elizabeth herself was aware of her true paternity, it would explain her devotion to Catherine as it appears she esteemed her more than if she was a mere cousin, having lost her mother before she could maybe remember her it’s entirely natural for this enigmatic queen to pour out all her love on a young woman who could well have been her half sister to, her sister Mary mistrusted her and whilst being fond of her when young, as she grew older Elizabeth quite possibly reminded her of Anne Boleyn who had caused her own mother and herself much heartache, Elizabeth was seen also as a focus for rebellion like Jane Grey, and when she herself was Queen she mistrusted her father’s relations, painfully aware that many thought she was a bastard, therefore her mothers relations must have seemed doubly precious, no one spoke her disgraced mothers name there was a wall of silence around her memory and also, there were no paintings of her so I’m not surprised Elizabeth in later years had her portrait and Elizabeth’s also commissioned in the famous chequers ring, Catherine brother Henry was also held in high esteem and they were both honoured with beautiful tombs in Westminster on their deaths, when Catherine died Elizabeth was beside herself with grief, she quite possibly had never met her aunt Mary Boleyn or her grandfather Thomas, as a baby they would no doubt have held her when they visited the court and Elizabeth to, but being so young she would have had no recollection of them, her cousins Catherine and Henry however were there in the flesh and surrounded by her mothers relations, she no doubt felt close to her long lost mother, I’m sure Mary herself was aware of who her daughters father was and her husband would have known too, Weir notices a striking resemblance around the eyes between Henry V111 and Catherine I must admit, I also can see this likeness and she also notices her winged eyebrows and tawny colouring of the Tudors as well as her jowly cheeks that Elizabeth of York also possessed, Henry Cary however had a long thin face like his aunt Anne and Sir.Thomas, I wonder if the royals today ever debate that they could be the descendants of King Henry V111, I do not agree with Esther that she hopes Catherine wasn’t his daughter I rather think it’s great that the old tyrant may still live on, in our present queen and her family, just my opinion.

      1. Yes I’m sure it was the head injuries that darkened his personality, we have to remember when young he was the ‘golden’ prince and very popular.

        1. Yesterday, I was also asked whether the Tudor bloodline continues and it does. The Tudor dynasty ended with Elizabeth I in 1603 because she died childless, but Henry VIII had two sisters, Margaret and Mary, and their bloodlines continued. For example, our present queen descends from Margaret Tudor. What if Mary was given to a French Monsignor to be protected by the church and was adopted into a new family and culture please recheck thru genetics the blood lines

        2. He also was likely Diabetic and would not heal well from injuries, one of which was on his leg and it was infected quite often. Speculation was he had Phlebitis from wearing that garter. I think the effect that diabetes had on his brain might have caused a personality shift. He was never without pain. Having been so athletic and fit it must have been a long slow road to disability.

    1. I believe it was King Henrys thing like he did with Bessie Blount when a mistress got pregnant or he tired of them that he married her off Mary Boleyn was married to William Carey a cousin of his there is no evidence that he continued the affair after she got married I myself think its possible both of them were william careys and in that case prince william and prince harry and this new baby are descended from william carey I think thats really really great

  4. Ha! Always knew Kate Middleton was more Royal than the Queen. Was she any relation to Alice Middleton, second wife of Thomas More. I have read the article on Alice over on the Tudor Society but I can’t remember if there was a relationship to Kate Middleton. She comes from a very old English family and I remember her pedigree being mentioned at the time of the wedding.

    If Mary Boleyn is her ancestor via Catherine Carey it could mean that she had even better blood from Henry Viii and his mother, Elizabeth of York. Henry’s father of course had very little legitimate royal blood. We don’t know if Henry Viii was the father of Catherine Carey but personally I believe she was his daughter and I believe she thought so because her manner was that of a Princess. Elizabeth I unofficially treated Catherine as her more like her full cousin by blood, than her second cousin by marriage (I think that is the right relationship?). The dates of Henry’s relationship with Mary are fuzzy but the circumstantial evidence suggests that Catherine was conceived during an affair between Henry Viii and Mary Boleyn. Interesting, however to have Mary as an ancestor. Perhaps that also explains their amicable disposition.

    1. But I don’t think Kate Middleton is the descendant of Mary Boleyn Bq, in Claire’s earlier post she says her and William are related by their mutual descent from a man called Leighton, a disreputable figure if ever there was one, there was an article in a newspaper a few years ago that Kate was descended from Mary but it was later disproved I think ?

      1. When I looked at the portrait of the Queen as a young woman and of Mary Boleyn on the earlier post I commented that there was an uncanny likeness. The same soft rounded features.

        The Spencer connection of course has a right Royal line as John Churchill was believed to be the illegitimate son of Charles ii and Lady Frances Spencer Stuart. He didn’t acknowledge his potential son in this case because Frances was married but her son, later Duke of Marlborough went on to claim Stuart blood. Ironically he supported King William and ousted King James. The Spencer Churchill family have shaped much of our history. The victory at Blenheim of course ended the dominance of Louis Xiv in Europe and we have Winnie as a relative, our indomitable, if controversial P.M. I know this is a different branch of the family but I reckon that Tudor Stuart blood is still there, simply because of their red hair. True red hair was and still is fairly rare. If it didn’t come directly from a Tudor or Stuart King, then there is a Countess or Duchess with a secret or two.

        Mary and the Queen are linked by more than a small drop of Tudor and Stuart blood, the red hair is a dead give away on their mothers side when it comes to Harry and William. Kate does have spurious noble connections via her mother’s cousin back to an illegitimate daughter of Edward iv and through Thomas Fairfax who has links back to Edward iii. Definitely she is descending from the Lupton scholars from the nineteenth and eighteenth century.

        1. Yes and many people do not realise that the dukedom of Marlborough went to the Churchills eldest daughter who became the first Duchess of Marlborough after her father’s death as her brother the heir had died , the Spencer’s became Spencer Churchill after she married into the Churchill family, thus their descendant Winston’s real name was Spencer Churchill but many know him as merely, Sir Winston Churchill and in fact the Spencer’s have always claimed descent from the ancient Le Despencer family, there is no actual proof of that but names have been slightly altered down the ages so they could be of that lineage, De Briouze who were the great marcher lords of the medieval period became De Brewes and then Brewes as the English altered their names to sound more English than French.

        2. That’s very true, our surnames have changed and English names only turned into surnames from the twelfth century or so based on occupation or place names. For example a barrel maker is called a cooper and families in that trade gained the name Cooper. You might be called Richard of Reesdale or Christine of Fulham or Anne of Shenton or something. The Seymour family were called St. Maur or Saint Maur from the town that they originally came from near Normandy.

          Sarah Churchill was some lass as well and she was very close to Queen Anne, to the extent that malicious gossip resulted. The wealth of the Spencers comes from the ladies as well, as did the brains apparently. I think that Kate would be very relieved not to be related to Sir Thomas Leighton, he sounds like a right toad, a very nasty piece of work, very cruel and called a tyrant by people who knew him. Names are almost as interesting as the people who bare them, they tell us of our origins, our history, genes and even our status in that history. We can find people of the same name in a village for centuries. There is a village called Little Crosby about 20 miles from me and it has stood still in time. It has about 300 people and their families have all lived there for well over 600 years or more. Many are related and it is the only totally Catholic village in England. It is merely five minutes from Crosby which is a major modern extension to Liverpool. Yet, Little Crosby is entirely surrounded by countryside, totally lost in time and a bit weird, many old Medieval and Tudor buildings, a very slow way of life and you think you have time travelled. Several old Lancashire families originated here and dozens of people share the same name. Many even speak with a bit of a lost version of English, like something from Roanoke. I must pay it a visit again one day, probably in the Spring.

    2. sorry sweetie but there isnt any real evidence i think catherine carey looks like william carey he was actually a cousin of king henry they did share some dna and elizabeth and catherine carey were first cousins and the howards who the boleyns were related too had red hair too in my opinion henry carey looked like a howard unless we dna test descendants there isnt any way to tell

    1. Thanks for the link, very helpful. Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves, especially the latter were the best connected of all of the six Queens and Katherine of Aragon, the oldest family connection. One way or another they were all connected to Edward iii, his sons or to Edward I. Anne’s own Howard line is connected of course to the Mowbray Dukes of Norfolk via Edward I. Ironically, when Henry married he often married a woman more Royal than him or at least whose family were descended from the old families. Henry had better blood thanks to his mother via the superior claim of the House of York, but his father came from the dodgy and illegitimate line of the Beaufort family. Yes, his own grandparents were legally married, both legitimate, but his great grandparents and their parents were from the illegitimate line. John of Gaunt was the father of four Beaufort sons, plus one daughter Joan, the eldest of whom Henry Tudor descended from. He married their mother, Katherine Le Rote and the Pope later declared them legitimate. His granddaughter, Margaret was the mother of Henry Vii via another marriage of spurious nature, which means his father may or may not have been legitimate. The marriage of his paternal grandparents Catherine de Valois and her steward Owen Tudor at the time was spurious. Historically it is accepted but at the time it broke the law and Owen was jailed. Catherine was forbidden from marriage without the consent of the Council as her legitimate son, Henry Vi was just a child. Then we have other questions on the legitimacy of Owen’s eldest son, Edmund, the future father of Henry Vii, because it has been claimed that Catherine de Valois had an ongoing relationship with Edmund Beaufort, so he was her son’s father. It has been dismissed by most people but two historians believe it to be true. There is also the problem with the legitimacy of Elizabeth of York, herself. Our Henry’s mother was actually legally illegitimate when his father stole the throne after Bosworth in 1485. Her uncle, King Richard iii had been given good reasons to believe the marriage of his late brother, King Edward iv and Elizabeth Woodville was not legal because Edward had been previously married or promised to another lady. This lady was the late, very noble, Eleanor Talbot. A relationship of this nature at the same time as his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville made the second one invalid. As a consequence, Richard iii had an investigation, he was satisfied with the evidence and his brothers marriage to EW was declared null and void by Dr Shea and Bishop Shillington, not by Richard himself. A King does not have that power, only the Church and Parliament. His Parliament went on to confirm that case. Richard was made King by consent and the three Estates of the Realm because he was the next legitimate heir. The obvious consequences were that the children, all of the children, of Edward iv, were declared illegitimate, because it was decided that Edward and his wife knew they were not lawfully married and so good faith did not apply. Whether this is true or not is unlikely to be resolved after 500 years of Tudor propaganda, time and even contemporary uncertainties. This declaration included Elizabeth of York, our Henry’s mother. Henry Tudor made capital on this and decided to marry her after a deal was brokered by his mother, Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Wydeville. He made this vow in Vennes Cathedral and he had the situation reversed on his taking of the crown in 1485. He ordered the Titular Regis destroyed and repealed, although he only read the first 14_lines in Parliament, thus hiding the full story behind the Act, had all copies destroyed, but one remained at Crowland Abbey, thus reversing the status of his wife and her sisters. ( Ironically it also reversed the status of her missing brothers who had to remain missing, presumed dead for the new King to be secure). So the legitimacy of our Henry and the security of his claim were always in the background. Alliances with those from the old families or foreign Princesses of the ancient legitimate Plantagenet lines were another way to secure his throne as was the production of sons. We always think of Henry chosing a lady for a love match but could their pedigree have also played a part in his mind? Of course I am speculating here, but it does make sense. Most of the families he joined with also had male members so it is also possible that this was a factor. Katherine of Aragon, however, didn’t come from a male rich family, although grandsons had been born via Joanna and Maria. Only two, Charles V and his brother, thrived. Henry formed a deep attachment to five of his wives, save one, Anne of Cleves, who was actually a good match for him.

  5. Lets not forget that it was also one of Mary Boleyn’s decendents that gave the name to the American state of Delaware as well. Our ‘enry may have chopped Anne and George heads off thinking that would be the end of the Boleyn’s but he forget that Mary Boleyn had 2 possibly 3 children who carried the Boleyn bloodline throughout the world.

    1. Very interesting, but it wasn’t the intention of Henry Viii to wipe out the Boleyn family. It was to set aside or get rid of Anne Boleyn. It was Cromwell who provided the details and his investigations which named the victims. The arrest of George is particularly controversial because it is the most shocking. It was bad enough that Mark Smeaton confessed under interrogation (possibly torture, although 24_hours of questioning would not need physical torture) to three accounts of adultery, but then others were named, Henry Norris included. It is not known how or who named George, but it wasn’t his wife as in myth. There has been some recent suggestion that the incest charge was added as an act of revenge. Why? Because Anne had accused Charles Brandon of incest with his daughter before she became Queen. Suffolk had become her enemy and would sit as one of her Judges, so recently some people believe the charge of incest was his suggestion. However, it is more likely that the true aim was to paint Anne as capable of everything and anything; she had to be seen as capable of the most lewd and evil acts possible in order to achieve a shattering attack on her reputation as well as her life. However this controversial part of the case against Anne came about, Henry approved of the arrest of his brother in law and did nothing to change his fate. Henry was in charge of the whole thing, even if Cromwell gathered and put together the details. It wasn’t an attempt to wipe out the Boleyn family, though, but to condemn a Queen. If Henry wanted to wipe them out, he could have done so. He didn’t move against Thomas Boleyn who simply lost titles and prestige but who was back at Court in 1537 attending the Baptism of Prince Edward and he took part in putting down the Pilgrimage of Grace. Henry even ordered Masses for his soul when he died in 1539. He didn’t move against Elizabeth or any other family members. Henry even ensured that Thomas provided for Mary and her family and Cromwell helped her to attain her inheritance. I don’t think Henry forgot about the children of Mary Boleyn, but provided for them. Interesting, though that one should found Deleware. Mary’s progeny had powerful genes and were numerous.

    2. I am related to the acestor that the state for which the state of Delaware is named. I live in Virginia and I am related throught Lord De La Warr’s brother Frances.

  6. I love this! Mary Boleyn is my 14th great grandmother. I love genealogy. Maybe England will let me move back to my heritage? 😉

    1. So if Mary Boleyn is your 14th Great Grandmother, that must make you cousins or something to William and Harry? More interesting than mine, Presidents George HW, and George W Bush are my 11th and 12th Cousins.

  7. Well let me also join the family! I descended from Mary Boleyn. She is my 16x great grandmother. I find all this so interesting. 68% of my DNA is from Great Britton even though Mary’s descendant, my ancestor came to the US in the 1600’s.

  8. I said in another post on here that Mary Boleyn is my great grandmother and Princess Diana and William and Harry are my cousins. , Dee and Stacy we must be cousins too. Ann Carey is my great grandmother who is Mary’s (I think) granddaughter because Henry Cary is my great grandfather on my mother’s side. Wow ! What a family tree. And Robert Cary is Diana’s, William’s and Harry’s great grandfather. And Wilson Churchill Spenser is my cousin.
    There is a lot of royals in my family what a way to find out who you really are when you start researching your family tree.

    1. I am sad that my Father passed before we knew the truth about our family tree. Catherine Carey is my 14th Great Grandmother, through her daughter, Lettice Knollys.

    1. Not unusual in royal dynasties. Research Tutankhamun’s familial line or the Hapsburgs in medieval and the early modern era.

    2. I don’t think you can call it inbreeding when the link is from 500 years ago, if that’s the case then we’re all inbred as our family trees will be similar. The population of England at the time was fairly small.

  9. It is very interesting since I have always wondered about Mary’s children and am glad to know her bloodline continues to this day and through Prince William and Harry’s children ( I like to think he was named for Henry VIII, if he was then I’m glad he is like Henry BEFORE his jousting accident since that’s when some believe his moods and behaviors shifted ).
    This is my favorite period in English history and I am grateful to learn that, through Mary Boleyns bloodline, the late Queen Anne lives on. Thank you ❤️

  10. I have record, showing Catherine Carey got the job as Queen Anne’s serving girl in 1535 at the age 12,because she was the Queen’s niece- the daughter of Sir William Carey and Anne’s sister of Mary Boleyn. That means Catherine ” Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, descends from a little girl who not only watched the beheading of the Queen Anne Boleyn, but who also may have been King Henry VIII’s secret love child…
    P.S. William Carey is in my family tree.,I also have Adan De Carye 24th great- grandfather 1170- 1261 married Anne Trevett.

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