Mary Boleyn Part Two – The King’s Children?
Posted By Claire on August 5, 2010
Mary Boleyn and her first husband, William Carey, had two children. Their first child, Catherine, was born in around 1524 and their second child, Henry, was born in March 1526.
I am often asked whether either or both of the Carey children were actually the King’s illegitimate offspring and it is simply impossible to answer that question because we just don’t know. We have no evidence either way and we don’t know when Mary slept with the King, only that they had a sexual relationship.
Arguments for the Careys being the King’s children
Henry Fitzhugh, who is descended from Catherine Carey, was inspired by Philippa Gregory’s “The Other Boleyn Girl” to dig around into his family’s past. He wrote an article1 on his findings in which he argued that the Carey children were fathered by Henry VIII because:-
- Henry Carey was said to have looked like Henry VIII.
- Henry Carey claimed in 1533, at the age of seven, 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 Henry VIII gave Anne Boleyn the wardship of Henry Carey after the death of William Carey.
- The royal grants which William Carey received in 1524 and 1526 are thought to coincide with the birthdates of Catherine and Henry Carey. Fitzhugh is of the opinion that the King was compensating Carey for the fact that these were not his biological children and that his wife was being used by the King.
- Henry VIII admitted “affinity” and “consanguinity” with Mary Carey when he wanted a dispensation to marry her sister, Anne Boleyn, and Fitzhugh points out that this dispensation probably would not have been necessary if no children had resulted from their union.
- Both children were born during the period when some historians believe Henry VIII’s affair with Mary Boleyn to have taken place – Some believe Henry would have expected Mary to be his alone and not to have any lovers, not even her husband, and although Henry Carey may have been born after the affair ended, he was conceived during the correct time-frame.
- Elizabeth I’s relationship with the Careys – Elizabeth I was very close to Henry and Catherine Carey. Henry Carey was knighted by the Queen and made Baron Hunsdon, and Elizabeth even visited him on his deathbed, giving him the patent and robes of the Earldom of Wiltshire. Catherine Carey was one of Elizabeth’s senior ladies for many years and when she died Elizabeth gave her a lavish funeral and a prominent memorial. Josephine Wilkinson writes that Catherine’s funeral “can only be described as ‘royal’, with a cost of £640 2s 11d”2 and writes that one explanation for this considerable sum being spent on Catherine’s funeral is that the two women were half-sisters.
Robert Carey, Henry Carey’s grandson was with Elizabeth I when she died and it is said that he was the one who received the ring taken from the Queen’s hand.
In an article entitled “Sir Francis Knollys’s Latin dictionary: new evidence for Katherine Carey”3, Sally Varlow argues the fact that Catherine Carey could have been Henry VIII’s daughter. She explains that Sir Francis Knollys recorded the birth dates of his 14 (some say 15) 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 is traditionally believed to have been the King’s mistress. A birth date during that time 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 over 16.
Like Fitzhugh, Varlow believes that Henry VIII would not have liked sharing Mary Carey with another man, even her husband, so if Catherine Carey was born between 1523 and 1525, she believes that she must surely have been the King’s daughter. Varlow also tackles one of the arguments against the Carey children being the King’s, the fact that Henry VIII did not recognise them as his, by saying that the King did not have anything to gain by recognizing them. He already had Henry Fitzroy, the illegitimate son he’d had with Bessie Blount, and he obviously hoped to have a legitimate heir to the throne. Josephine Wilkinson also argues that Henry Carey was born around the time that Henry VIII was becoming involved with Anne Boleyn so it would have caused a scandal if Henry had acknowledged her sister’s child as his own.
Josephine Wilkinson4 points out that a portrait of Catherine Carey painted in 1562 notes that the sitter was aged 38, giving Catherine a birthdate of 1524, and she also points out that although Henry Carey was born after Henry VIII’s affair with Mary is thought to have ended – 4th March 1526 – conception would have taken place around June 1525 when Mary was still the King’s mistress.
Wilkinson gives further circumstantial evidence for the children being the King’s:-
- The Venetian ambassador, Ludovico Falias, wrote in November 1531 that the King had a “natural son born to him of the widow of one of his Peers; a youth of great promise, so much does he resemble his father.”5 This, as Wilkinson points out, could refer to Henry Carey or Henry Fitzroy as both their mothers had been widowed by this time.
- The dates of William Carey’s royal grants – Wilkinson writes that “most of the royal grants awarded to William Carey are concentrated on the dates that coincide with the birth of Mary’s children.” For example, on the 15th June 1524, Carey was made keeper of Wanstead Manor and on the 18th June he and Mary were awarded the grant of several manors in Essex. Then on the 20th February 1526, shortly before Henry Carey’s birth, Carey was granted several manors in Buckinghamshire. William Carey was also retained in Henry VIII’s service following the Eltham purge of January 1526 and Wilkinson writes that “to retain her husband in a post was one way of ensuring financial security and stability for the family as well as providing a means of rewarding Carey for his complaisance.”6
Arguments against the Careys being the King’s children
- Henry VIII’s fertility problems – In “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn”, Eric Ives writes that “It may also be relevant to note the long delay before she became pregnant, something which might be expected of a period when she was taken up with a man of such known low fertility as Henry VIII… Once Mary had begun to cohabit with William Carey, her two children came in quick succession”7. This all depends on when the affair started, how long it lasted and whether Mary was, at one point, sleeping only with the King. This could explain why she did not get pregnant before 1523/4.
Josephine Wilkinson also writes of Henry’s low fertility, saying “of the eight women with whom he had sexual relations, or was presumed to have had, only four managed to conceive and carry their baby successfully.”8 However, Wilkinson also points out that Henry’s problems could have been due to the psychological pressure to produce a male heir, a pressure and anxiety that he may not have felt when with his mistress.
- Henry VIII did not recognise the Careys as his – Some historians, including Antonia Fraser, argue that Henry VIII never recognised Henry Carey as his illegitimate son and did not show him any favour, whereas Bessie Blount’s son was given the surname “Fitzroy”, “son of the King”, and the title Duke of Richmond.
- Elizabeth I wrote of the Careys as her cousins and did not refer to them as brother and sister. Her kindness to them could be simply because they were her cousins and were a link to her mother, Anne Boleyn.
- There is no evidence that the Careys were Henry VIII’s illegitimate offspring and we don’t even know when Henry VIII slept with Mary or how long their relationship lasted.
In “Mary Boleyn”, Josephine Wilkinson examines the many arguments for and against Henry VIII being the father of the Carey children and writes:
“… there is no tangible proof to say that he was their father. However, when circumstantial evidence is taken into account, the chances that Mary’s children were fathered by Henry rather than William Carey greatly increase.”9
She concludes that although the evidence in support of Henry being the Carey children’s father is not conclusive, it does outweigh the arguments and evidence against and so it is highly probable that Henry VIII was the father of Catherine and Henry Carey.
My own personal view is that the Carey children were fathered by William Carey. We have no details of Mary’s relationship with the King. We only know that they had a sexual relationship because of the fact that the King applied for a dispensation from the Pope in 1527 to enable him to marry Anne Boleyn and in this dispensation was listed the impediment of “affinity arising from illicit intercourse in whatever degree, even the first” (there was the impediment of affinity in the first degree due to Henry having slept with Anne’s sister). Mary could well have been just a one night stand when Elizabeth Blount, the King’s former mistress, was pregnant with the King’s son in 1519, they may not have had a long-lasting affair at all. Alternatively, they may have had a longer lasting relationship. We just don’t know.
Catherine Carey, Lady Knollys
Catherine Carey was born around 1524. We do not know anything about her early life but Alison Weir is convinced that stories that the 12 year old Catherine attended her aunt, Anne Boleyn, in the Tower and was present at her execution are false. Catherine crops up in the records in 1540 when, at the age of 16, she becomes a maid-of-honour to Anne of Cleves. In that same year, on the 26th April 1540, Catherine married Francis Knollys, a favourite at Henry VIII’s court and one of the men sent in 1539 to attend Anne of Cleves on her arrival in England.
After the annulment of the Anne of Cleves marriage, Catherine went on to become maid-of-honour to Catherine Howard. Her husband became an MP in 1542, was knighted in 1547 during Edward VI’s reign and became a good friend of the Protestant William Cecil. The Knollys’ Protestant beliefs led to them leaving England in 1553 when the Catholic Mary I came to the throne and living in exile in Germany. In 1558, Catherine and Francis returned to England and Francis became a member of Elizabeth I’s privy council and then Vice-Chamberlain of the Household and Captain of the Halberdiers. Catherine became one of Elizabeth’s ladies of the privy chamber, serving her cousin (or half-sister!) as the Chief Lady of the Bedchamber.
Catherine’s husband continued to rise at court, holding many state office and being one of the men that Elizabeth trusted to take charge of Mary Queen of Scots at Carlisle Castle in 1568. In the 1580s he was a commissioner for the trials of Anthony Babington, Mary Queen of Scots and Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel. During the Spanish Armada, Knollys was placed in charge of the land troops in Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire. Knollys was a devout Protestant.
Sir Francis Knollys and Lady Catherine Knollys had a total of 15 children including:-
- Lettice Knollys (1543 – 1634) – Lettice was married three times: Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex, Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, and then Sir Christopher Blount. After Elizabeth I heard of Lettice’s marriage to Dudley, she nick-named Lettice “the she-wolf”.
- Elizabeth Knollys – Wife of Thomas Leighton, Governor of Guernsey, and the ancestor of Prince William and his girlfriend Kate Middleton – see Prince William, Kate Middleton and Mary Boleyn.
- William Knollys (c1544 – 1632) – The 1st Earl of Banbury.
- Sir Robert Knollys (1547 – 1626) – His offices included Usher of the Mint, Gentleman of the Privy Chamber and Keeper of Sion House.
Catherine served her queen up until her death on the 15th January 1569 at Hampton Court Palace, having been taken ill in late 1568. Elizabeth I gave her good friend a lavish funeral and Catherine was buried in St Edmund’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey. According to wikipedia, her epitaph reads:-
“The Right Honourable Lady Katherine Knollys, chief Lady of the Queen’s Majesty’s Bedchamber, and Wife to Sir Francis Knollys, Knight, Treasurer of Her Highnesses Houshold, departed this Life the Fifteenth of January, 1568*, at Hampton-Court, and was honourably buried in the Floor of this Chapel.
This Lady Knollys, and the Lord Hunsdon her Brother, were the Children of William Caree, Esq; and of the Lady Mary his Wife, one of the Daughters and Heirs to Thomas Bulleyne, Earl of Wiltshire and Ormonde; which Lady Mary was Sister to Anne Queen of England, Wife to K. Henry the Eighth, Father and Mother to Elizabeth Queen of England”10
Catherine is also remembered in the Knollys Chapel of St Nicholas’ Parish Church, Rotherfield Greys in Oxfordshire, where there is a Knollys family tomb with effigies of Sir Francis and Catherine Knollys.
Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon
Henry Carey was born on the 4th March 1526. After the death if his father, Sir William Carey, in 1528, the two year old Henry was put under the wardship of his aunt, Anne Boleyn. Anne ensured that Henry had a good education and he received education at a Cistercian monastery and also under the tutelage of the French poet, Nicholas Bourbon. His ward, Anne Boleyn, was executed in 1536 when Henry was 10 and then his mother died in 1543. Two years after his mother’s death, on the 21st May 1545, Henry married Anne Morgan.
Henry Carey became a Member of Parliament in 1547, was knighted in 1558 and then made 1st Baron Hunsdon in January 1559. On the 31st October 1560, Elizabeth I made him her Master of the Queen’s Hawks and then a Knight of the Garter in April 1561. Other offices held by Henry include Lieutenant General (during the Rising of the North 1569-70), Warden of the East Marches (1571), Keeper of Somerset House (1574), Privy Counsellor (1577), Captain General (1581), Lord Chamberlain of the Household (1585), Lord Chamberlain Lieutenant, Principal Captain and Governor of the Army (Tilbury 1588), Chief Justice in Eyre (1589), High Steward of Ipswich and Doncaster, Chief Justice of the Royal Forces (1591) and High Steward of Oxford (1592). In 1594, Henry Carey became the first patron of William Shakespeare’s company of actors, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men.11
In 1595, Carey’s wife, Anne, was appointed to the office of Keeper of Somerset House, a position once held by her husband, and she was also one of Elizabeth’s Ladies of the Privy Chamber. Anne and Henry had 12 children, including:-
- Sir George Carey (1547 – 1603) – 2nd Baron Hunsdon and Knight of the Garter.
- Sir John Carey (d.1617) – 3rd Baron Hunsdon and a politician.
- Robert Carey (1560 – 1639) – 1st Earl of Monmouth, diplomat and witness to the illness and death of Elizabeth I. It was Robert who rode to give the news of Elizabeth’s death to James I.
- Katherine Carey (c1547 – 1603) – Wife of Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham.
- Philadelphia Carey (c1552 – 1627) – Wife of Thomas Scrope, 10th Baron Scrope of Bolton.
Henry Carey also had a number of illegitimate children, including Valentine Carey (d.1626) who was a clergyman whose offices included Master of Christ’s College, Dean of St Paul’s and Bishop of Exeter.
Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon,died on the 23rd July 1596 at Somerset House. It is said that on his deathbed, Elizaebth I offered to give him the title Earl of Wiltshire, a title once held by his grandfather, Thomas Boleyn, but Henry refused Elizabeth’s offer, saying “Madam, as you did not count me worthy of this honour in life, then I shall account myself not worthy of it in death.”12 Henry was buried at Westminster Abbey on the 12th August 1596 in St John the Baptist’s Chapel. According to the Westminster Abbey website, his tomb is the tallest in the Abbey, measuring 36 feet in height. The Abbey website goes on to say of the tomb:-
“It is made of alabaster and marble with a considerable display of heraldry, which includes the Carey arms – argent, on a bend sable three roses of the field (ie. a silver shield with a black bar diagonally across it from top left to bottom right with three silver roses on it). His crest is a swan and his motto “Comme je trouve” (as I find it). The Latin inscription can be translated as:
“Consecrated for the burial of the Hunsdon family. Here sleeps in the Lord Henry Carey, Baron Hunsdon, one-time Governor of the town of Berwick, Warden of the east marches towards Scotland, Captain of the gentleman-pensioners, Chief Justice of the Forests south of the Trent, Knight of the Order of the Garter, Lord Chamberlain of the Lady Queen Elizabeth, sworn of the Privy Council, and first cousin to the aforesaid Queen. Together with him is buried Anne, his dearest wife, daughter of Thomas Morgan, knight, who bore him many children, of whom there survive George, John, Edmund and Robert, knights, Catherine, Countess of Nottingham, Philadelphia, Baroness Scrope, and Margaret, Lady Hoby. He died 23 July 1596 aged 71. His son, George Carey, Baron Hunsdon, member of the Order of the Garter, Captain-General of the Isle of Wight, Chamberlain of the household to Queen Elizabeth, Privy Councillor, and his wife Anne, placed this monument to the best of fathers and dearest of husbands, in his honour and memory, and being mindful of their own and their family’s mortality.”13
In tomorrow’s post I will continue with Mary Boleyn’s life story.
See also my article Mary Boleyn and Henry VIII.
*In Tudor times, the new calendar year did not start until Lady Day on 25th March so the Tudors would say that Catherine died in 1568, whereas we’d call it 1569.
Notes and Sources
- “My Granny Was A Whore …, or, A Love Story…, or, Our Descent From Henry VIII?”
- Mary Boleyn: The True Story of Henry VIII’s Favourite Mistress, Josephine Wilkinson, p88
- “Sir Francis Knollys’s Latin dictionary: new evidence for Katherine Carey”
- Josephine Wilkinson, p79
- Ibid., p88
- Ibid., p91
- Ives, p17
- Josephine Wilkinson, p80
- Ibid., p87
- Wikipedia page on Catherine Carey
- Wikipedia page on Henry Carey
- Westminster Abbey website
35 thoughts on “Mary Boleyn Part Two – The King’s Children?”
What a brilliant article, Thank You for Sharing with us!
I have always been fascinated my Mary and her Children, but we will never know who the biological father is, something we can all leave to our imagination 🙂
I know that Josephine Wilkinson suggests Mary had a relationship with Henry between 1522 and 1525 but it seems to me this is solely based on the grants made to Mary’s husband during that time. The state papers show how generous Henry was with all his favourites, including the likes of Charles Brandon, Henry Norris, Francis Weston and Francis Bryan, so the grants to Carey may not merely have been made because the King was in a relationship with his wife at the time. The relationship may very well have been during this period and may well have lasted that long, but I’m not sure it can be treated as fact.
Thank you so much for this – I’ve always been fascinated by Mary Boleyn and her children. I’m trying to remember the author of an Anne Boleyn biography I recently read (must look it up – I got it from the local library), but there was a comment in it about how Anne had seen Mary bear a son by the king who was an “idiot” (meaning mentally disabled.) I haven’t read this anywhere else in regards to Henry Carey, and was just wondering if you came across anything that insinuated that in your research.
The comment in the Anne biography was just fleeting, and really had nothing to back it up – I’ll have to look it up and transcribe it for you. I just found that interesting because, again, I had never heard that before.
I’m glad that you all enjoyed the article. Thanks!
I wonder if Mary knew who the father was? If she had only been sleeping with Henry then it would have been obvious but if she had also been sleeping with her husband then it’d be tricky to tell.
Josephine Wilkinson, Fitzhugh and others do use the dates of the grants to argue their case and it is interesting that many of the grants do coincide with the birthdates BUT you’re right, we can’t treat it as fact, Carey was a royal favourite at the time and so would have been given gifts and also perhaps rewarded simply for the use of his wife!
I’d love to know about that biography because they’re completely wrong in their conclusion regarding Henry Carey as there is no evidence of him being an “idiot” and I’m sure that would have been mentioned. If he had been an “idiot” then I don’t see how he could have held the offices that he did.
Again, great article. I think probably one of the children would be Henry’s, maybe both. The timing, the rewards from Henry and the generosity with which Elizabeth treated them (plus some physical resemblances) just make it a good bet for me, anyway. Oh to be able to know…but maybe Mary wasn’t sure. And if Henry didn’t like sharing Mary, even with her husband, I don’t see how he would ever have known what she did or didn’t do.
I just ordered oodles of books and am reading like crazy–What fun!
Great article!! i love reading about this dynasty!. one quick argument. if everyone is so concerned regarding the paternity of Mary’s children, surely with the technology we have today why don’t simply do a DNA test of the remains of the bones to see if they have some element of a result.
This biographer also claims as fact Anne’s so-called deformities (extra finger, moles, warts), so obviously this isn’t the most accurate account. Here is the information:
The book is “Mistress Anne” by Carolly Erickson, copyright 1984.
p. 196 – “But even without any warnings from the spiritual realm, Anne must have worried about the child she carried, and not only about its sex but its health, its survival. So many infants were stillborn, or died soon after birth. Her own mother had lost babies in infancy; her sister Mary had borne Henry a son who was an idiot, and whom Anne “would not suffer to be in the court.”
Here, she cites the “Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the reign of Henry VIII,” volume 8, pages 214-215.
The only thing I can find there is a letter from John Hale, Vicar of Isleworth, to the Council:
“Moreover, Mr. Skydmore dyd show to me yongge Master Care, saying that he was our suffren Lord the Kynge’s son by our suffren Lady the Qwyen’s syster, whom the Qwyen’s grace myght not suffer to be yn the Cowrte.”
Claire this is a fantastic story I have been fascinated by Mary Boleyn although I did not know very much about her life it is much more clear for me with this information In my opinion the Children would have been Henry’s as women in that time were shown very little respect by the man in powerfull positions and and even now some times
I wonder would Camila’sChildren would be Charles’s children as she was his mistress for a long time so who knows?
Sorry if i have said something offensive I did not mean it.
allora secondo me sia catherine che henry erano figli del re… basta guardare le immagini e si può notare che assomiglia molto a enrico xD
proprio non lo so, ma hai ragione, Henry Carey è stato detto di assomigliare Enrico VIII. Spero che abbia un senso, non posso parlare italiano!
Another fantastic article Claire!
Do you personally think that the Carey siblings where the kings children or like me are quite sure they are not?
I realize that this article is older, but I am just now reading it. I certainly believe that Mary’s children belonged to Henry for sure. Look at the resemblance of Henry Carey and Prince Edward. If Edward had the chance to grow up, I think he would have been very much the looks of Henry Carey. Or even the resemblance of Catherine Carey to Elizabeth I…. it’s amazing if you put their pictures side by side! If I were Mary Boleyn, and I was close enough to King Henry VIII and seen his monsterous ways… I wouldn’t admit to it either. It wasn’t in her best interest to do so. Not to mention, it’s like you said here in your article, the King already had a daughter, and a bastard son, and Mary’s husband could be their father. Why would he bother with it, he wanted Mary’s sister, and his admission would just get in the way!? Those are my thoughts. Mary Boleyn and Bess Blount are two of my favorites 🙂
Very Interesting! I may be a descendent of Catherine Carey. My great grandmother’s grand mother was Sarah Rebecca Knowles of St. John Nova Scotia, she is thought to be a descendent of Sir Francis Knollys the younger, through his son Robert William Knowles; his descendent Henry Knowles came with the Wintrop fleet on the ship Susan and Ellin to America, his descendent also named Henry Knowles left Rhode Island for Nova Scotia and his descendent is Sarah Rebecca Knowles. Sarah married James Stuart Dotten a descendent of the Mayflower passenger Edward Doty. His grandfather also named James Dotten, was a Loyaist during the revolutionary war. He received a land grant from the King in Wallace Bay Nova Scotia at the end of the war. The family emigrated back to the US and were naturalized during the civil war. Thank-you for the info. Very interesting.
Pedantic note on the date: before 1752, the new year in England began on Lady Day (the Annunciation of Mary) March 25, so 1569 had not yet begun when Lady Knollys died.
i wish we could conclusively have the truth about those children who are long dead died many years ago but the history of their mother will remain for eternity because simply whatever her flaws were she will be remembered as being the kings mistress and her sister being the kings wife and of course ELIZABETH I the QUEEN the kings daughter long live THE TUDORS
Henry carey does indeed look like henry the eighth so does catherine carey they R hnery the eighth’s children
Agruments for Catherine and Henry Carey being the King’s child is weak and sketchy at best. And each claim can sort of be disproved.
Henry Carey was said to have looked like Henry VIII.
Well William Carey was related to the King as he had Bueafort blood. This could explain why Henry looked like Henry VIIII. Plus if you look at a portrait of William Carey and compare that to a young one of Henry VIII, you can see some similiarities between the facial structure
Henry Carey claimed in 1533, at the age of seven, that he was “Our Sovereign Lord the King’s son”
Who reported this claim? Did they have anything to gain? Did more than one person report this?, etc. Depending on when in 1533 this comment was made, it could give us a hint of why it was said. If it was before Anne’s reign as Queen, maybe Norfolk put him up to it to remind Henry VIII that the Boleyn family could produce a boy. If it was after the marriage, it might have been to reassure Henry that the Boleyn family would soon have a royal heir in the crib even though Henry Carey wasn’t the Kings but looked sufficiently liked him.
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.
This is based purely on opinion and like i explained before, William Carey being the King’s cousin, the monk might have thought that Henry Carey was actually Henry VIII’s son
The fact that Henry VIII gave Anne Boleyn the wardship of Henry Carey
after the death of William Carey.
This is the weakest of the arguments as it was perfectly logical at that time to give Anne the wardship of Henry. He was Anne’s nephew and Anne being high it the King’s favour could provide great education for Henry as Anne was in position to give.
The royal grants which William Carey received in 1524 and 1526 are thought to coincide with the birthdates of Catherine and Henry Carey. Fitzhugh is of the opinion that the King was compensating Carey for the fact that these were not his biological children and that his wife was being used by the King.
Henry VIII was very generous with his money and constantly gave out money to lots of his courtiers. If grants were to be taken as a sign that Henry fathered the receivers’ children then half his court would be his! If this was the case then Charles Brandon, Henry Norris, Mark Smeaton, etc must have had children who weren’t there own. Why would the King compensate his own subject? They were his and he could do to them what ever he wanted. Plus Henry didn’t seem to be compensating Bessie Blount’s father, whom he definitely used.
Henry VIII admitted “affinity” and “consanguinity” with Mary Carey when he wanted a dispensation to marry her sister, Anne Boleyn, and Fitzhugh points out that this dispensation probably would not have been necessary if no children had resulted from their union.
Henry probably thought it was better to come clean and to wipe the slate clean and to admit to everything so that his new marriage to Anne Boleyn would be lawful. He had a problem with this in the past, where Catherine of Aragon may have lied about her virginity and he would do everything to make sure nothing could harm his new marriage
Both children were born during the period of Henry VIII’s affair with Mary Boleyn – It is thought that Henry would have expected Mary to be his alone and not to have any lovers, not even her husband, and although Henry Carey may have been born after the affair ended, he was conceived during the correct time-frame.
Except we don’t known when and how long the relationship lasted and the dates that have come up are just guesswork and taken from grants, but we all known how generous Henry was!
Elizabeth I’s relationship with the Careys – Elizabeth I was very close to Henry and Catherine Carey. Henry Carey was knighted by the Queen and made Baron Hunsdon, and Elizabeth even visited him on his deathbed, giving him the patent and robes of the Earldom of Wiltshire. Catherine Carey was one of Elizabeth’s senior ladies for many years and when she died Elizabeth gave her a lavish funeral and a prominent memorial. Josephine Wilkinson writes that Catherine’s funeral “can only be described as ‘royal’, with a cost of £640 2s 11d”2 and writes that one explanation for this considerable sum being spent on Catherine’s funeral is that the two women were half-sisters.
Robert Carey, Henry Carey’s grandson was with Elizabeth I when she died and it is said that he was the one who received the ring taken from the Queen’s hand.
But of course Elizabeth would be close to her mothers’ closest remaining relatives. They were a part of her childhood and probably told Elizabeth about Anne Boleyn, who they would have at least some memory of. As for the costly funeral why would an explanation fro this be that they were half-sisters? This makes no sense, The costly funeral was probably just a sign of respect for her beloved cousin and best friend. If they were Henry’s children, Elizabeth would have stayed cleared of them, not favoured them as they would be a constant reminder that her mother’s marriage to Henry VIII was unlawful because Henry had been intimate with Mary Boleyn.
And why didn’t they king recongnise them? Henry was born in early 1526, a year before Henry become serious about Anne. If Henry was so sure he would have siad something, maybe not officailly recognise them because Mary was married but maybe make a fleeting remark about how his new son was developing well or whatever. And in those arguments with Anne later on during their marriage why didn’t his say something like; “I only married you becuase i thought you would give me a son, after all your sister already gave me one, etc.” just to piss Anne off. But he didn’t so that leads me to believe that the Carey children were not his.
As for why didn’t Mary Boleyn have any more children earlier in the marriage, that could be for a numer of reasons. Maybe William Carey was away alot for the first four years of their marriage. Or maybe becuase Mary had some trouble getting pregnant at first, after all it took Catherine De Medici 10 years to get pregnant. Or maybe they did have children but they died in infancy or it ended in a miscarriage. Same for the last two years of their marriage and also another reason; maybe Mary Boleyn had some serious trouble when pregnant with Henry Carey and William decided or the doctors decided that Mary should not attempt to have children any more.
I realize this is an older article, but I stumbled across it on Pinterest and agree with the last comment that the proof that Mary’s children were fathered by Henry VIII is indeed sketchy. I feel that it is likely that Mary was sleeping with her husband and Henry at the same time, and it is likely that the reason Henry never acknowledged either child is because even Mary was unsure as to their paternity. I also think that it is more likely that, if either child was fathered by Henry VIII, Catherine was born within a more reasonable time frame coinciding with Mary and Henry’s affair. I think that as Henry struggled to prove to the world that he could father a male heir, he would have acknowledged any son that he knew to be born to him, regardless of the child’s legitimacy.
We will never know for sure though. Great article and interesting subject.
Yes that’s what I think Henry never acknowledged Henry Carey as his son and he would surely have done so as proof of his fertility, Catherine resembled him more and being born first, I’d say she was his natural daughter he arranged the marriage of her mother to William Carey so his daughter would at least be born in wedlock, it’s highly unlikely Henry was his son as he was born after Mary Boleyn was married, and I doubt if the relationship continued after that anyway, Elizabeth was always very fond of her Boleyn relations out of memory to her mother and of course they had no claim to the throne, no one will ever no the truth of the Carey children’s paternity, Alison Weir says there’s a strong possibility that Catherine was Henrys child but it’s something we will never no
I am a 12th great granddaughter of Mary Boleyn with lines extending from both Henry and Catherine. Thank you for sharing.
I too am a direct descendant of Catherine Carey through her daughter Anne Knollys who married who married Thomas West, 2nd Baron De La Warr. The state of Delaware gets it’s name from their son Thomas West, 3rd Lord De La Warr.
I believe I have two paintings of Henry and Carherine Carey done when they were around 5 and 6 years old. I would love to share their images.
I am not honeslty sure if this is the correct forum for the following comment but I may as well try, because this article was so interesting to me for this reason. I have long had a fascination with the Tudor dynasty, since I was around nine years old, but it was only recently that I discovered a (rather old) packet of correspondence between my deceased great uncle and a relation back in England I had not known of. As my uncle had spent his last years lecturing philosophy in Melbourne, Australia, I do not believe he ever met the unearthed cousin, but they seem to have had a lengthy chain of letters, mostly discussing shared ancestry. I gather that I may be missing a few letters here and there, but I learned a great deal about many rather grand ancestors, including Catherine Knollys. I honestly couldn’t be sure how I can trace back to her, but they both seemed to be quite sure they were directly descended (as I therefore would be, as my maternal grandmother was the younger sister of said great uncle). They didn’t really speak much on it, they were really more interested in some other grand ancestors (really to be expected, my uncle was very proud of his lineage and came from rather grand stock). I am only 14 and I am struggling to try to connect the dots my uncle left me, but I really am most pleased with what he has uncovered. When I discovered the packet, he had already been dead quite a few years (he died when I was around six), and so of course by the time I found them most of my other accessible relatives were either dead or senile and I could uncover very little else. It occurred to me to discover more about Catherine Knollys in the hope it may lead me to discover something or someone else. I don’t know from which of her children I am descended, but I believe it to be a daughter. Apart from that I have very little else to narrow it down, but I hope I might eventually. Thank you and good luck with whatever you have come to seek, humbly, Nicolette Elizabeth Margaux Charlotte
I disagree that Henry suffered from low fertility, at least during this period. Katherine was pregnant at least 6 times, then Bessie got pregnant in short order. Henry also got Anne pregnant at least three times in 4 years. Jane took a little longer, it is true, and it may be that Henry had indeed begun to suffer issues by 1536, but in the 1520’s, he may have been fine.
If the portrait is indeed Catherine Carey, the resemblance to Henry is striking. While Henry resembles ELizabeth, that could be cousinly, rather than fraternal resemblance. It would be truly ironic if the only son of Henry’s to survive and have children was Mary Boleyn’s son. The odds do seem to be against it, given the fact both his other sons died of consumption before they hit 18. Maybe he took after the Boleyns. Anyway, unless it is permitted at some point to seek DNA from Henry, we’ll likely never know for sure.
I don’t think he lacked fertility. I think mortality rates were simply not favourable at that time. We now have early detection methods and understand that early miscarriages are common. Further, we understand that the lack of certain supplements can enhance the chances of genetic abnormality and this may have caused Anne’s miscarriage. I also think over the years Henry caused Anne a great deal of stress, which probably aggravated the situation. The biggest mistake Anne made to my mind is that she started to love Henry back. By today’s standards he would be the worst type of domestic abuser. I have a great deal of sympathy for any of the women stuck with him.
It is interesting for those descended from Mary Boleyn to ponder about, it certainly makes great dinner conversation, are they or are they not of the blood royal of Henry V111?, sadly that’s something they will never know because the queen will never allow Henry V111 to be exhumed and have his body prodded about for DNA just to satisfy the curiosity of these people descendants though they might be, it might set a dangerous precedent for other royal tombs to be unearthed and then the status of royalty may well be degraded, does Henry Carey resemble Henry V111?, I cannot see any likeness myself but William Carey was a cousin to the king anyway so a likeness can be explained, as for the king giving Anne Boleyn the ward ship of her young nephew that doesn’t prove he was sired by Henry, relatives were often given the ward ship of their nieces or nephews and Anne was quite capable of giving the boy a good education, that the boy was born after his mothers marriage I feel makes it highly likely that he was Carey’s.
Weir notes in her biography on Mary Boleyn that whilst Henry Fitzroy, (his son by Bessie Blount) was given a dukedom and a high born wife Henry Carey married a relatively obscure woman from the country, the daughter of a knight and had no royal titles bestowed upon him at all, further proof that he was not the Kings son, for had he been sired by Henry surely he would have wanted to honour him the way he did Fitzroy? Court gossip in Henry’s day was just that – gossip based on the fact that Mary had once shared his bed, I really cannot see any proof in Fitzhugh’s claim that Henry Carey was the son of Henry V111, also as has been mentioned by several poster’s here, Henry V111 suffered from low fertility therefore I find it extremely unlikely that he was able to sire two healthy children like Catherine and Henry Carey, when you consider his three children by his wives were not robust, there is more argument for Carey being their father however, Catherine could have been the king’s as she was born not long after her mother was wed to Carey and Carey had certain grants made to him, but it’s all just speculation and there will never be proof whose children they actually were, it just go’s to show that gossip then as now can be very powerful.
1/2 siblings share 1 parent while 3/4 siblings share a parent and the other parents are siblings. 5/8 siblings = the same thing except the parents are half siblings.
Does no one realize only those of Royal Blood were allowed to wear ermine. The sleeves on the so called portrait of Mary Boleyn are of ermine. Here’s the rub… she was never considered of high rank or royalty so that portrait cannot possibly be Mary. Thru out the years everyone keeps labeling it as her portrait. I can’t understand why. She was not even remotely considered worthy enough to be called a person of royal blood. I wish we could figure out who this portrait might really be. It drives me mad that all this time we are mislead. Anyone have any ideas of who this could be other than Mary. Remember it was very important protocol for only people of royal blood to wear ermine. Just study the history of the rules set up during these times to know this is in no way Mary. Maybe it was Frances Brandon because she was. Royal.
I’ll repeat the reply I left on your last comment about this as you must have missed it:
Actually, that’s not true. Although Alison Weir noted that the sitter was unlikely to be Mary Boleyn because it was a “fur reserved exclusively for royalty and peers of the realm” it is not actually true and there are other portraits of noblewomen, such as Lady Vaux, wearing it. As Susan Higginbotham notes in a comment on her blog post on the subject at http://www.susanhigginbotham.com/blog/posts/mary-boleyn-or-frances-brandon/ that “the sumptuary legislation from Edward IV’s 1463 Parliament reads, “And also to ordain and decree that no esquire or gentleman, or anyone else below the degree of knight, or their wives, except the sons of lords and their wives, the daughters of lords, esquires for your body and their wives, shall use or wear, from the said feast [of the Purification of Our Lady next], any velvet, satin brocade, or any cloth of silk simulating them, or any bands made to imitate velvet or satin brocade, or any fur of ermine, on pain of forfeiting 10 marks to your said highness for every offence. . . . Provided always that the steward, chamberlain, treasurer and controller of your honourable household, and the carvers and knights for your body, and their wives, may use and wear furs of sable and ermine.”” So if that law still applied, which it appears to have done, then as a wife of an esquire of the body Mary would have been entitled to have worn ermine. Then there’s her family’s status, her father being Viscount Rochford at the time.
her mother Elizabeth was descended from John of England and Henry the III and many other high nobles- William cary was descended from The beauforts- and John of Gent–
of marys mother –Elizabeth was born c. 1480 into the wealthy and influential Howard family, as the eldest of the two daughters of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk and his first wife Elizabeth Tilney. Her paternal grandfather, John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk, had been created Duke of Norfolk in 1483 following the death of John de Mowbray, 4th Duke of Norfolk, with no legitimate male heirs. Through her paternal great-grandfather, Sir Robert Howard of Tendring, Elizabeth was a descendant of Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall, the second son of King John. Through her maternal great-grandmother, she was descendant of both Thomas of Brotherton, 1st Earl of Norfolk, a younger son of Edward I and Margaret of France, and Edmund Crouchback, Henry III.
Elizabeth was born c. 1480 into the wealthy and influential Howard family, as the eldest of the two daughters of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk and his first wife Elizabeth Tilney. Her paternal grandfather, John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk, had been created Duke of Norfolk in 1483 following the death of John de Mowbray, 4th Duke of Norfolk, with no legitimate male heirs. Through her paternal great-grandfather, Sir Robert Howard of Tendring, Elizabeth was a descendant of Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall, the second son of King John. Through her maternal great-grandmother, she was descendant of both Thomas of Brotherton, 1st Earl of Norfolk, a younger son of Edward I and Margaret of France, and Edmund Crouchback, Henry III.
I’m a direct descendant of both Catherine and Henry Carey, so my descent from Henry VIII is far from certain, but I believe it to be so… the circumstantial evidence even from Tudor times is just too great and the evidence against it is too easily explained. Most of my Royal ancestors were Plantagenets… all 4 of my grandparents were descendants of Edward III through at least 4 of his sons: John of Gaunt, Edmund of Langley, Lionel of Antwerp, and Thomas of Woodstock… but Mary Carey’s children are my only possible lines to the Royal House of Tudor.
This is great!