Mary Boleyn by Alison Weir – Book Review

Posted By on October 13, 2011

Mary Boleyn The Mistress of Kings I’ve been holding off writing a review of Alison Weir’s new book, “Mary Boleyn: The Great and Infamous Whore” or “Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings”, because I didn’t want to come across as “bashing” someone who is a respected author and historian, and a lady I really like on a personal level. However, I’ve had so many emails regarding my thoughts on this book that I need to put my thoughts in one place and review this book properly. I hope you find my review informative and balanced.

Firstly, I want to repeat what Eric Ives said to me recently: “What we know about Mary Boleyn can be written on a postcard with rooms to spare” and he is right. Any book about Mary Boleyn is going to be short on facts and high on supposition and theories because we know so little about her, and that’s what we have with this biography, lots of ideas but little that is concrete.

OK, so let’s get on with my thoughts on this book. I have divided them into the good and the bad, the positives and negatives:-

The Good

  • Alison Weir provides a good biography of William Carey, Mary Boleyn’s first husband – Some authors have made the mistake of seeing Carey as a nobody when he was in fact the King’s cousin, a member of the Privy Chamber, an Esquire of the Body and a royal favourite. As Weir points out, “William Carey was fortunate enough to be one of this select group of young men who enjoyed a privileged degree of daily access to – and intimacy with – the King, and therefore great influence and the ability to exercise lucrative patronage.”
  • Weir provides a good biography of Thomas Boleyn, recording his rise in favour and giving examples of the titles, offices and grants he was awarded in his career.
  • Alison Weir also gives an interesting biography of William Stafford, Mary Boleyn’s second husband and the man she married in secret.
  • Interesting thoughts (p80 -87) on what happened to Mary Boleyn when Mary Tudor returned to England – Weir suggests that the French tradition that Anne Boleyn spent some time in Brie could actually be based on Mary Boleyn being sent to live with relatives there after the scandal of her affair with Francis I. Anything is possible really as we have no hard evidence of Mary’s movements at this time. Weir also puts forward the idea that Mary Boleyn and William Stafford lived in Calais and that that explains her absence in the contemporary records.

  • Weir makes the point that Sir John Blount, Bessie Blount’s father, did not benefit from his daughter being the King’s mistress or the mother of his son, and points out that Thomas Boleyn was already a favourite before his daughters became involved with the King. She writes, “Henry VIII was not in the habit of handing out favours simply because a man’s daughter had bedded with him”, so Thomas Boleyn could not have expected to gain from Mary’s affair with the King (p118).
  • Good points made about Mary Boleyn’s unfair reputation as “the great and infamous whore” when she was actually a royal mistress and not promiscuous.
  • Weir questions assumptions about Mary, e.g. the idea that Mary served Catherine of Aragon as one of her permanent ladies, when there is not the evidence to back it up.
  • Weir challenges the idea that Mary was Henry’s true love, pointing out that we do not know when the affair started, when it ended or how the couple felt about each other.
  • She points out that grants made to William Carey between 1522 and 1526 “probably reflected Henry’s regard for a man who served him daily” rather than “rewards for his complacency in regard to his wife’s dalliance with the King”.
  • Weir points out that “rather than being manipulated by her family, Mary Boleyn was manipulated by the King” (p125) and I agree, it was Henry VIII who had the power.
  • Weir writes of how “we know virtually nothing about the manner in which Henry VIII’s affair with Mary Boleyn was conducted, or their feelings for each other” because Henry was discreet and kept the affair in the background. She points out that “apart from the pageant of the Chateau Vert, there is no surviving memorial of Henry and Mary together.” (p131)
  • Weir makes the valid points that Katherine of Aragon mustn’t have known about the affair as otherwise she would have used “the canonical impediment created by Henry’s affair with Mary Boleyn, either in an attempt to block his marriage to Anne, or to discredit his doubts of conscience in regard to their own marriage”.
  • Weir’s assessment of the Boleyn family’s religion. She writes, “although a study of the books owned by Rochford suggests that he came quite near to becoming a Lutheran, Anne and her father died as orthodox Catholics, so it would be more accurate to say that the Boleyns were zealous for the cause of reform within the Catholic Church” – Spot on, I would describe them as evangelical rather than Lutheran.

The Bad and the Ugly

  • Being marketed as the first Mary Boleyn biography – In the introduction, Weir writes “There has been just one admirable but sadly brief, study by Josephine Wilkinson; I understand that Dr Wilson was constrained by a disadvantageous word limit when she had so much more to say, and she has most generously agreed that I can claim that this is the first full biography of Mary.” (p2) – but I find that dishonest and unfair to Josephine Wilkinson.
  • Thomas Boleyn the Younger mistake (p12) “Only four of the children survived infancy: ‘Thomas Bullayne’, whose grave in Penshurst Church, Kent, is marked by a cross and the date 1520…” – Thomas Boleyn the Younger’s tomb is not dated 1520 as I pointed out in an email to Alison Weir, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loGyBqxEIN4 for a video about my research into Thomas Boleyn the Younger and Henry Boleyn.
  • Elizabeth Boleyn, her reputation and marriage – Weir writes that “no fewer than ten people alleged in the 16th century that Elizabeth Howard was Henry VIII’s mistress” and although she says it is unlikely that Elizabeth was Henry’s mistress Weir writes that these “allegations may have been believable because of Elizabeth Howard’s dubious reputation”, using a poem by John Skelton to back up the idea that Elizabeth “had set them [her offspring] a poor example by her loose morals and by betraying her marriage vows.” p35 John Skelton did dedicate a poem “To My Lady Elizabeth Howard”, comparing her to Cressida, the Trojan beauty who betrayed Troilus, but does that mean that Elizabeth Boleyn was a “False Cressida”? (p33)
    Weir later (p182) talks of the unhappy Boleyn household and Elizabeth being “his possibly estranged wife”.
  • Referencing – It is near impossible to figure out what sources Alison Weir is referring to when, in “Notes and References”, she just writes “L&P”, “S.C.” or “Bernard, Anne Boleyn” – no volume number or page number. When you’re already making notes of your sources in your research it can’t be any extra effort for the publisher to print “LP xii.203” rather than “L&P”, surely?
  • Her depiction of Anne Boleyn as having been corrupted in France. This theory is based on a misreading of the primary sources, see yesterday’s post “The Scandalous and Corrupt Anne Boleyn?”.
  • The idea that Henry forced himself on Mary – Weir uses the March 1522 tournament, when Henry rode out with the motto “Elle mon coeur a navera” (she has wounded my heart”, as evidence that Mary had rejected his advances and she believes that the Chateau Vert Pageant was staged to woo her. She writes of Cardinal Pole stating that Henry “violated” Mary and concludes that Mary “had very little say in the matter”. Weir does not go as far as saying that Henry raped Mary but that “he manoeuvred her into a position wherein she dared not refuse, and thus was forced to submit to him”. This could well be the case but I don’t see any evidence, we just don’t know how Mary felt.
  • Jane Boleyn – On p212, Alison Weir writes “the evidence for incest rested chiefly on the testimony of Rochford’s wife”, even though historian John Guy pointed out that the evidence she based this opinion on in “The Lady in the Tower” was suspect and I know, from my research, that there is no real evidence that Jane was the star witness or that she spoke to Cromwell of this.
  • Repetition – In his review of “Mary Boleyn” in “The Sunday Times”, Thomas Penn writes of Weir’s “repetitious caution” and I did find the book rather repetitive and not as flowing as Weir’s previous books.
  • Mary Boleyn’s looks – Although Weir states that “we cannot be sure what Mary looked like” (p53) and later that the Hever portrait of Mary is probably of Frances Brandon instead, she believes that Mary was “more beautiful than Anne” (quoted from the “News” section of her website) because “Thomas Boleyn’s chaplain thought that Mary was by far the more beautiful of the Boleyn sisters” (p53). Now, although Weir gives absolutely no reference for this piece of information, I have found it in a letter in “Letters and Papers”. It describes a conversation between John Barlow, chaplain to Thomas Boleyn and Dean of Westbury, and “M. Loys Helwighen” of the Emperor’s council in Brabant:-
    “The Dean [Barlow] said the King would not insist on this point of free consent, and he confessed that the King frequented the society of a lady of a noble house, whom it was reported the King intended to marry, if he obtained a divorce. Mentioned a report that the King wished to marry this lady to legitimate by subsequent marriage a son whom he had by her; but the Dean said that this son was by another lady, who was already married. Said he had never heard of this, and he thought that the King’s love for another than his wife must be for the mother of his son. Remarked also on the suspicious nature of the King’s intimacy with the lady in question; but the Dean said he had never heard anything of it. Asked him if he knew these two ladies, and whether they were beautiful, worth leaving his wife for. He said he knew them both, and the mother of his son was eloquent, gracious, and beautiful, but the other lady was more beautiful still.” LP v.1114
    Philip Sergeant, in “The Life of Anne Boleyn”, writes of how this conversation was about “Lady Taileboys”, i.e. Elizabeth Blount, and Anne Boleyn, and I agree with him. It makes much more sense for this conversation to be about the rumours that Henry VIII was going to legitimise Henry Fitzroy, the son of Bessie Blount who Henry had acknowledged as his illegitimate son, than Mary Boleyn and her son, Henry Carey, who Henry had not acknowledged. Also, although Barlow describes “the mother of his son” as “beautiful”, he describes Anne Boleyn as “more beautiful still”.
  • The book cover – I’ve lost track of the amount of emails I’ve had regarding the cover. Yes, it is a re-working of the Corneille de Lyon posthumous portrait of Queen Claude and is not meant to be Mary Boleyn. As Alison Weir points out, there are no authentic portraits of Mary Boleyn – she believes the one at Hever is actually Frances Brandon – so the cover must have posed a bit of a problem!
  • No new evidence or “astonishing” news – I have to agree with reviewer and author Thomas Penn who said “While Alison Weir’s book valiantly attempts to separate speculation from historical truth, Mary’s is not quite the “astonishing” tale that she claims.” Weir makes some excellent points but I didn’t feel that she’d found any new evidence and she certainly did not prove the paternity of Mary’s children (see next point).
  • Paternity of children – I found Weir’s chapter “Hiding Royal Blood” very confusing and the marketing of the book – “The paternity of Mary’s two children can now be established, thanks to new and overlooked evidence. One was almost certainly fathered by Henry VIII” (Weir’s website) and “Weir also presents compelling new evidence that almost conclusively determines the paternity of Mary’s two oldest children” (Amazon blurb) – misleading. Weir concludes that “we can never know for certain the truth of the matter, only that there is a strong possibility that Katherine was the King’s child”, but that is far from establishing the Careys’ paternity or producing “compelling new evidence”. Her case for Katherine being Henry’s daughter rests on a physical resemblance, an annuity granted to her and Philip Sidney referring to Stella (Penelope Devereux, Katherine’s granddaughter) as “rich in the riches of a royal heart” and giving her the royal title of “her Grace”. He also refers to her as “a princess high” and “a queen”. I just don’t find that compelling in the slightest.
    Weir later argues that Ethelreda Malte was probably Henry VIII’s daughter and concludes that “establishing that Ethelreda Malte was in all probability Henry’s daughter, even though he did not acknowledge her, bolsters the case for his having had a bastard daughter whom he also did not acknowledge by Mary Boleyn”. I don’t think it does.
  • Weir’s depiction of Thomas Boleyn – On p46 she writes of how he “lavished little love” on his wife or children and on p119 she writes that “it is quite conceivable that a father who, in time, was to show himself willing to be complicit in the ruin of his children, in order to preserve his own life and position, should be happy to reap the benefits of a daughter’s adultery with the King”. Complicit in his children’s ruin? Where’s the evidence for that?
  • The fictional aspect – On p105, Alison Weir writes “Tragedy struck the Boleyns sometime in 1520, when the eldest son and heir, Thomas Boleyn the younger, died.” That is pure fiction, yet is written as a fact, and it is more probable that he died in childhood. There is absolutely no evidence that he survived until 1520 or that he was the eldest son and heir. Speculation at best.
  • Confusing – On the one hand Weir states that “according to the historical evidence, Mary never incurred notoriety or infamy as a royal mistress” (p68) and that her relationship with Francis I was “brief and covert” but then goes on to write that her family looked down on her because of what happened in France and that Thomas Boleyn may well have sent her “to rusticate at Brie, after compromising her reputation at the French court.” (p84)
  • The may haves, probablies, could haves etc. – E.g. “Mary may not have mourned her husband deeply” but she might have! The idea that “it is possible that Katherine Carey, who was nine when the Princess Elizabeth was born, spent the next six years, until she was summoned to court, in her little cousin’s household”, but she might not have! Also, a sentence that made me chuckle, “”Probably, although evidence is lacking”, well, then it probably didn’t happen!
  • Sweeping statements – “In the late summer [1534], Anne had lost a baby – probably a son – at full term, another crushing disappointment for Henry VIII.” (p195) and then “Anne’s influence was clearly declining”. There is evidence that Anne was pregnant in 1534, between January and July, but no evidence regarding what happened to this baby. There is also no evidence that Anne was losing her influence at this time, as far as I can see. If Henry took a mistress then it would be because Anne was pregnant.
  • The idea that George Boleyn, Dean of Lichfield, was “Rochford’s bastard” because his name was George. He may simply have been a Boleyn relative who was born on St George’s Day and if he was George Boleyn’s son then why was he not supported by Thomas Boleyn? Why did he not inherit the Boleyn estate when Thomas died and why did he not inherit the Ormond ancestral horn? It does not make sense.

So, would I recommend this book?

Yes and no.

If you’re like me then you buy any Tudor history book, because you’re hungry to know more about the era and its people, and then you use it as a resource and check the facts and theories for yourself. It is a great starting point but it is not the definitive guide to Mary Boleyn. Read it and then research Mary and the Boleyns for yourself, don’t take it at face value. It really is tricky to discern the facts from the theories unless you’re already “au fait” with Mary and the Boleyn family.

“Mary Boleyn” is out now in the US – click here and also in the UK – click here

Note: My page numbers are based on the UK paperback version published by Jonathan Cape.

Thomas Penn’s review of “Mary Boleyn” was published in The Sunday Times on 2nd October and can be read online by Sunday Times subscribers.

29 thoughts on “Mary Boleyn by Alison Weir – Book Review”

  1. Anne Barnhill says:

    Thank you, Claire, for a fair-minded review that gives the pluses and minuses to the book. I have enjoyed Weir’s work for years and will get this book at some point but I agree that often, historians jump to conclusions without all the facts–well, it’s impossible to get “all ” the facts anyway. I also want to say how very much I’ve enjoyed the first fellowship magazine, especially the article about how to do research. You have been informative and very helpful in that piece. Oh, I love the puzzle too but didn’t know all the answers and there wasn’t an answer in there! What fun, though I was disappointed in myself that I had to look up some of the answers!! 🙂
    I love the way you think!

  2. Melanie says:

    At the risk of offending Weir’s many fans, I’m becoming tired and mildly suspicious of both her and Gregory’s prolific outpourings. Gregory is already a “brand,” and Weir is becoming one. I don’t think someone as obscure–in the sense that little concrete detail is known about her–as Mary Boleyn should be the subject of a full-scale biography, unless the writer has discovered a number of new facts and developed some genuine conclusions about her and the significance of her life and her place in history. “Mary Boleyn” sounds more like a magazine article padded into book length.

    1. Silverwhistle says:

      Agreed. (And add to that Michael Hicks’ overpadded and sensationalist ‘Anne Neville’ book). What angers me most about Weir and Gregory is that neither is a historian, but they present themselves as such: Weir has a BEd, and Gregory’s doctorate is on 18C English literature. They have a cavalier attitude towards historical method. Gregory writes bodice-rippers, and yet claims to be a ‘historian’ on TV. There are good academic writers in history departments all over the country, but they don’t get anything like the attention,

  3. Emma Parr says:

    Thank you for the balanced review.

  4. Adrienne Dillard says:

    I just finished reading this book. I think what I found most interesting were the ending chapters on Henry Carey and Cathrine Knollys, it really confirmed for me some things that I already believed, but had not had time to research. As far as information on Mary, it was all guesswork as far as I am concerned. Although, I do absolutely agree with her conclusion about Catherine being Henry’s child (as we have previously discussed, LOL). I think it was a good read as long as you read it with an open mind. In a way, it kind of played devil’s advocate for students of history because it did get us to one, see a different interpretation and two to go back to our books to follow up on what she said.

  5. Jo Vagos says:

    Your in-depth study of the Boleyns never ceases to amaze me, Claire! This is an incredibly fair and subjective review, and I appreciate the time it must’ve taken you to make all these notes.
    It’s probably been said before, but have you thought of publishing your OWN book(s) on the Boleyns? I am convinced you must know more about them than half the authors being published right now. I know *I* would definitely buy your works!

  6. Jillian says:

    Like you, I find the ‘evidence’ that Katherine was Henry’s child very thin.

    Her brother Lord Hunsdon was said to resemble the King, but it is very unlikely that he was Henry’s son. Without a portrait of William Carey, we cannot say for certain what he looked like, but it is entirely possible that he was of a similar physical type to Henry and perhaps even bore a familial resemblance to him, which would explain why his children looked rather like the King.

    I don’t know what evidence Ms. Weir advances in support of her theory that Ethelreda Malte was Henry’s daughter, but unless it is very convincing I would be sceptical of that claim as well. There does not seem to be any reason why Henry would not have acknowledged both girls if they were his daughters, as he did with Henry Fitzroy. This was the convention of the time, and other rulers acknowledged their illegitimate daughters and used them to form aliances – Charles V and his daughter Margaret Duchess of Parma being one example.

  7. Anne's Fan says:

    Excellent and fair review, as always, Claire. I have been struggling to get through Wier’s “The Lady In the Tower”. Because of so many, I feel , inaccurate and presumptuous and inaccurate statements about Anne, I will not finish it or buy her new book because for these very reasons. If anyone wants to truly gain good and accurate information about Anne – stick with Eric Ives!

  8. Anyanka says:

    At least there wasn’t a beheaded figure on the front.

  9. Cindy says:

    Great article!
    I agree with it. I would like to make some other comments
    Most of the books written today about the tudors or rather Anne Boleyn and her family are mostly speculation. Just like birth dates. We may never know the true age or the true order of when Anne and her siblings were born.
    Was Henry infatuated with Anne because she was young and a breath of fresh air from France, or was he looking more towards the future and having sons. I have read that Henry fell for more older/mature women. To me it does not ring completely true.

    Was a woman of that era able to say no to the king? I don’t think so. In that time period men ruled. Women had little, to no say in their lives or future. So in my honest opinion I believe that Mary even though willing to go through with being a mistress may not have really wanted to do so. Was she raped? Probably not, but could she have said no and still be in the king’s good graces or even her father’s? With Thomas Boleyn wanting to be more than he was, would he not accept the fact that if the king wanted his daughter and be accepting of it? Especially if she could promote his status?
    This also brings to mind the Magna Carter signed during King John’s time about the king not being able to use his barons, etc wives and daughters as he wished. Would the Magna Carter still have been enforced and if it could have been why was it not if the Lords/Fathers not wished for their daughters to become mistresses?

    Has anyone read “The Mistresses of Henry VIII” by Kelly Hart?

    1. WilesWales says:

      Great points and observations by both Melanie and Cindy! I also can’t thank Claire enough for her very intensive, consistent, and painstaking work! Claire, you’re devotion to the Boleyns never ceases to amaze me.

      I agree that Weir is becoming a non-fiction writer and that while writing it really is no problem to put the right bibliogrpahic notation with the right source as nothihng reallly that big of a thing, etc. .Gregory, but with Gregory lastest book and making herself into an historian like her two co-authors is sickening and laughable at the same time.

      The ties to the Magna Carta are especially interesting in that this is true.

      All in all, Weir as non-fiction, and now Gregory as non-fiction are getting the finest reputatations as becoming nothing more than fake. They take Tudor history, and then make it into trash! I find this reprehensible, and repugnant.

      But, as I wrote in another reply about Gregory’s new book, money talks, and the people are so very gullible, as these two writer’s’ write in the formula of an Danielle Steel novel, and the public likes that.

      But we know, dont’ we?! Thank you very much! WilesWales

    2. Dawn says:

      Yes Cindy, I have, its o.k., it is like all books on history, the author uses what information they have, sumises when there is none, and writes accordingly. I read it, enjoyed it, probably full of inaccuracies, but hey, is there such a thing as a 100% factual book on history that far back… recorded history, from those times probably contained some errors as historical writtings do now, there are things we will never know, so anything is possible. I keep an open mind.

  10. Tina Bennett says:

    Thanks Claire for such a balanced review. I’ve had this book on my Amazon wish list for a while, although something kept bugging me — had Ms. Weir suddenly unearthed so much information that it could now be the subject of a biography? I’m not surprised that so much is padding (That’s the thing that kept me wonderng and wondering and hesitating about pre-ordering it), but I’m even more disappointed in the inaccuracies and the “probably” “maybe” “could be “might have” comments. I expected more from someone of Weir’s ilk. I might read the book one day, but it will likely be a borrowed library copy OR a used Amazon Marketplace copy (as long as it’s not more than a couple of bucks!). But one big surprise for this Tudor buff — my mouth dropped when I saw the name Ethelreda Malte. I’ve NEVER heard that name before today, and I’ll be hitting Google to try to find out more — but of course I’m counting on all of you for more details.

    Thanks again Claire.

    1. Claire says:

      I’m not sat at my computer at the mo but I’ve written about Ethelreda on the Elizabeth Files so you could use the search box on there.

      1. Tina Bennett says:

        Claire — just read the article and that was great!

        I’m not sure if Audrey was Henry’s daughter, but he does seem to have made sure she was well taken care of. And I found this on the Alexander Palace site: http://forum.alexanderpalace.org/index.php?topic=4192.0. They seem to get into all aspects of royalty, not just the Romanovs, and if you go about halfway down the page, I thought that the etymology of her given name was interesting and suggests a connection to royalty.

        I’ll just leave it at that though and not try to go off on “probably”, “maybe”, “could be,” “might have” and the infamous “Probably, although evidence is lacking.” LOL But it still made for an interesting story. I’ll just be waiting for the day when it’s turned into a Gregory novel. (NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!) Come on people — can’t you see the wheels turning in her head? LOL

  11. SharonH says:

    Claire, what an excellent review of this much anticipated book! I had been wondering how one could write an entire volume on Mary Boleyn unless quite a bit of new information on her had been discovered. Of course, this has not been the case, but rather a lot of guess work and “maybes” surrounding this intriguing and mysterious mistress.

    I think I will wait until my local library obtains a copy and put the money towards another book on my Wish List.

    Thank you again for your very knowledgeable observations and input.

  12. lisaannejane says:

    A very fair and well done review. While I enjoy reading about Tudor history, ii is not my only interest. I still read about US history, and other things. This book would not really be adding anything to my library, especially as I am not getting a degree in Tudor history. Thanks for your insightful review.

  13. Di says:

    I diwnloaded the free sample if this.book. I am sad to say that I was so completely disgusted with the intro that I will not buy it. She spends most if her time bashing ither books, movies and television series. I find that to be horribly distasteful, immature and disrespectful. Instead if going into scholarly debate as ti why we should read her book, she attempts (very feebly) to undermine and put down others to make her work seem more substantiated and desirable. I’m nit falling for it. I will not waste my money. P.s. apologies on all the typos, learning to use my new nook.

    1. WilesWales says:

      I just read the intro to this book on and now (I wasn’t going to buy it anyway, as it is Weir), will not even order it from the libary. She has reached a new low, first with her sources (I’m not all that angry about “The Other Boleyn Girl, as it is by Gregory), but to blast every other series, and even Gregory’s is in the worst, most nonprofessional thing one can do sell a book. She is just as money hungry as Gregory with her last stint (and the professors, too). “A fool and his money are soon parted.” Other sayings go with this as well.

      I thank you again, Claire for such a well balanced review of the book. Even on the “bad” you were the consummate professional. Now that I’ve gotten this site, I can’t wait to see your other reviews as well. What a great fun from you, and you are the most valuable gift to Tudor history I’ve ever been privileged (sp?) to know. Thank you so much. WilesWales

  14. Conor Byrne says:

    I like Alison Weir as a light read, but I think the problems are that she does make sweeping judgements. Having read ACADEMIC historians such as Ives, Bernard, Carpenter, Elton, Guy etc.. you learn straightaway, immediately, that they are MUCH more cautious in their assertations, for instance, if Ives were to write about Anne’s supposed declining influence he would not rush to say something like by 1534 Anne’s influence was declining, it would be much more developed and cautious.

    I also agree with you Claire in that Weir’s referencing is diabolical. It really is awful. Again, she should look at someone like Ives, or Bernard, who footnotes meticulously.

    I do find SOME of her books good – I loved ‘The Lady in the Tower’ – but again, I think because she is a popular historian, it’s about satisfying the general public by writing lots of accessible books. Writers such as Ives and Bernard, while becoming more ‘available’ to the general public, spend much more time carefully researching, studying and perfecting a work on some aspect of history.

  15. Emma Kat says:

    Excellent analysis. I still can’t wait to read this book, if only because Mary Boleyn is my home girl. (At least in my twisted fantasy world.) Here’s one thing I thought of that maybe you can clear up: you and Weir both seem to agree that Katherine of Aragon could not have known about Mary’s affair with Henry, or she would have invoked it in her legal case as solid reasoning against him marrying Anne. Could it be possible that she did know but was aware that the degree of affinity was similar to hers and Henry’s, given her marriage to Arthur? In that case, bringing it up would only strengthen the Crown’s case against her, I would think. Or do I have my 16th century canonical law completely ass-backwards? (Entirely possible.)

    1. Esther Sorkin says:

      Didn’t Henry ask the Pope for a dispensation to allow him to marry Anne, despite his relationship with Mary?

  16. Brenda says:

    I agree with Jo Vagos – please please please publish your own material – any potential publisher hovering somewhere who needs a nudge? Congrats on the great article – open minds should always be appreciated & supported. B

  17. Mary Judge says:

    You really should write your own book on the Tudors. You have indepth knowledge on the subject. I enjoy your website and your fb wall. I

  18. Dawn says:

    I think one of the problems with writing a book on the main people of this era is that there has been nothing new of real consequence come to light about them, all the facts, events etc, seem to be known so far. As there is no new material authors seem to be taking what knowledge there is and adding their supposition, twisting and turning the facts, and suggesting that quotes made were meant in a different contex to try and cause some ‘new concept’ and in doing this they could be thought to be misleading people to believe that they have found out something that no one knew about, which perhaps is unacceptable to most when done by the historians.

    I’m afraid I am some one who’s curiosity gets the better of me and I like to read them, ‘the just in case’ factor, but I don’t consider myself as gullible, or foolish to want to buy and read them as someone suggested above.. If all books written about this era were going to be 100% factually right every time, with no input from the writer then there would only need to be one book that lists all the facts and leaves it at that. You would not need to read anything else
    As this is the very best place to learn the true facts its hard not to become over critictal on writers who see facts differently, challenge previous theories, and put forward their own, as an example, probably wrong here, but didn’t David Starkey on his TV series on The Six Wives of Henry VIII, on K of A, challenged that age old theory about her being a virgin on her marriage to Henry, and gave a valid reasons why she may have ‘fibbed’. Don’t be too hard on me folks if I got that wrong… the old grey matter not what it was.

    I haven’t read the intro of the book, as Di has above,but the underminding of other authors books isn’t something you would expect from a renown historian/writer, who wants to be recognised as an interlect, she lets herself down on that score.

  19. Sandee says:

    I am almost done with this book and am confused. At one point Weir refers to Wiltshire considering leaving Mary’s share of his estate to his niece Elizabeth 1….wouldn’t she have been his granddaughter?

  20. Shoshana says:

    Claire, Again a wonderful, well written, and completely fair article – while I have not read the book as yet, from my past experience with reviews you have written about books I have read, I know you truly sweat over what to write to be fair and honest about the author and all things Tudor. I have no problems with your reviews; even the ones I don’t completely agree with because I know you do take the time and put her heart into making them fair and honest.

    As to you writing about the Tudors – I completely agree you should write about the era from any angle you choose. You have done such a remarkable job checking and rechecking facts I am sure it would burst some myths and untruths by stating facts that no one could disagree with and Heavens knows there are enough myths floating around a book that points them and and then gives us the true facts will be welcomed. There are many authors who do this; but I think one from you would be one of the best because of your style of writing. It reads very easily and you make sure you have the sources well documented.

    Also, I think you should write fiction. A book with the facts as they happened but also what you think is a good possibility of what transpired according to known fact. I love “what if” scenarios and I think one from you would be fasinating!

    So forget the husband and kids, throw away the dog and cat, go into a closed room with food supplies and water, and write, write, write! We are waiting not only for your next book, but your next article, review, grocery list, letter to a friend – anything!

  21. Miss Kitty says:

    I am reading the book I think myself that William Carey might very well have resembled the king as they were cousins so could have been the childrens dad we just don’t know I hope they were Williams. I think if they had been the kings he would have known about it and would have given Katherine and Henry more than they got.maybe King Henry gave a gift before Katherins birth because he wanted to look good in front of Anne who he was courting

Please note: Comment moderation is currently enabled so there will be a delay between when you post your comment and when it shows up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.