Mary Boleyn resources

Today is the anniversary of Mary Boleyn’s marriage to William Carey in the Chapel Royal at Greenwich Palace on 4th February 1520. Their wedding was attended by King Henry VIII and his wife, Queen Catherine of Aragon.

To celebrate Mary’s wedding anniversary, I though I’d share with you some articles and videos on her.

Let’s start with a video on her marriage:

And here’s the Mary Boleyn playlist:

And here are some articles:

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5 thoughts on “Mary Boleyn resources”
  1. The portraits of Mary Boleyn and William Carey both show they were a handsome looking couple,and of the same age, both being born about 1500, on their wedding day which was today the fourth of February 1520, five hundred and one years ago, they must have looked splendid in their wedding finery, such a pity we have no description of the event, Mary’s wedding gown and other details, we know Henry V111 attended and gave them some money and her parents and siblings must have been there to, Carey had several siblings to and one of them Eleanor became Abbess at Wilton Abbey but died young, like her brother, with Mary Boleyn much of her life is a mystery, and we are lucky that we have important events like these recorded, Carey was well connected his mother was Margaret Spencer and his father was of an old Lancastrian family, his maternal grandmother was Eleanor Beaufort, a descendant of John of Gaunt like the king, he had the same grandmother as the king and they were therefore third cousins, and Mary’s maternal relations were the Dukes of Norfolk, so the match must have pleased both families, what was the truth about Mary and Henry V111 though? Had she been his long term mistress like Bessie Blount or just a passing fancy, there was gossip about who fathered her children, had Catherine her daughter been born around autumn /winter of the year 1520, then we can assume maybe that she was Henry V111’s daughter, instead of William Carey’s, but both her children were born four and six years into the marriage, therefore the chances of Catherine at least being his daughter was fairly remote, for Mary’s children to have been fathered by the king meant that she was his mistress whilst being married and somehow I cannot see this, I think she was married of to William Carey after the king was tired of her, yet it is said that her affair with the king began in 1522 sometime and it is Mary whom the king referred to in the motto ‘she has wounded my heart ‘ as he rode in the shrovetide joust, yet Henry V111 and William Carey were blood kin as well as friends, and in the kings own private set he had many grants made to him, which have made many believe were financial rewards for raising the kings child or children, however, many courtiers had grants made to them so this was nothing unusual, Carey also was a favoured courtier and I feel that he would not want to cuckold his friend, where the consequences meant the parentage of Williams children would never be known, Mary and William were probably happily married, we do not know if they were in love but they likely felt an affection for each other, they both served at court they had become by now the parents of two children, her younger sister Anne was the kings mistress, and everything seemed to be going so well for the Boleyn’s their friends and families, then disaster struck, in the shape of the dreaded plague which was known as the sweating sickness, this awful virus which has never been properly identified by scientists, caused extreme discomfort to the victim there run a high fever hence the term ‘sweat’, followed by aches all over the body, a dreadful thirst and possibly delirium, the victims had to retire to bed covered in blankets, all windows were closed and in high summer the heat must have been unbearable, both Anne her father and brother caught the illness, so did others at court, however Anne Sir Thomas and George survived but William Carey did not, this illness appeared in 1485 and seemed to only infect English people though some Frenchman caught it to, but it did not kill them and they recovered easily, it disappeared suddenly after that summer of 1528 but there were several outbreaks after that, and the two young children of Charles Brandon by his third wife caught it and died, and it was no respecter of persons, young and old rich and poor caught it, now it is considered to have been a form of hantavirus, but it remains to this day a mystery, so now Mary was a widow with two young children to support, she was also plagued by financial insecurity, Carey had been a gambler and we do not know if he had an addiction because it was a favoured pastime at court, but Mary was worried enough to write to Cromwell who then relayed her problem to the king, he therefore advised her father to help her out, I feel this was rather sad as Sir Thomas should have given her an allowance in the first place, she had a widows pension but it could not have been enough, however her son Henry became a ward of his aunt Anne, possibly to ease the burden of her sister, many children were made wards of nobles and she provided him with a good education, Nicholas Bourbon was his tutor and he was probably educated in the reformist faith, Anne had around her those evangelicals and she possessed also, a book by William Tyndale l which she expressly wanted those in her household to read, after she became queen, little Catherine was in the care of her mother, Catherine must have had some early memories of her father, she was four when he died and she must have had a vague recollection of him, though maybe not, but young Henry was only two and we can safely say he only had his fathers portrait as a memory, this portrait is in an Irish collection and shows a young man with chestnut hair a strong jaw and a pleasing countenance, Mary herself was considered a beauty, and her portrait which hangs at Hever, and which has now been formally identified as her shows that she was indeed beautiful, round faced without the high cheekbones of her sister, she has a shorter straighter nose than Anne and full red lips, her complexion is fair and she has wide long deep brown eyes, other portraits alleged to be of her show a similar likeness, her first marriage was cut short after only eight years when she lost her husband, and then years later she found happiness in her second, which was a man of her own choosing, we know nothing of this marriage however as like so much of her life, that to is shrouded in mystery.

  2. So we know approximately when Mary may have been born and where but not for certain.
    We know who her family was, whom she married, her children, that Mary was widowed and that her father had to help her financially. We know that Mary had a love match in 1533/4 with William Stafford and came to Court pregnant in September 1534 and was banished and disinherited. We know Cromwell had to sort it out and she spent some time in the service of Anne before retiring to the country. We know Mary was married first to William Carey in 1520 after serving in France. She may or may not have had a short relationship with King Francis I in France, the man who sullied her reputation and that she had a fling with King Henry Viii, but we don’t know when. We know that Mary had two children by her first husband and was left destitute by him. We also know that her sister, Anne was granted the guardianship of her nephew, Henry Carey and paid for his education. We know that Mary vanished very much from view after 1534 and we know very little about her life, except that she inherited the Boleyn fortune shortly before her death in 1543 as well as several properties. Unfortunately we don’t know where Mary is buried but we do know her children led successful lives and lived to be good ages. Catherine Carey had many children.

    Sorry for the repetition but I just wanted to see how much we can right about Mary Boleyn and it isn’t very much really. Just how Alison Weir git a tome out of a few facts is beyond me. Of course there are documents that support these facts and a few details we can pad them out with but really, its more something you might put in a short article for History Today than a tome…

    There are a few letters of course, the letter from Mary to Thomas Cromwell asking him to reconcile her to his family but also expressed her love for William. Mary would rather have begged her bread from door to door than been without him and she had the a somewhat mocking go at Anne. Mary would rather be happy than the greatest Queen in the world. Ouch, talk about a sideswipe, Mary might as well have hit her sister around the face. She was, however, repentant as well because she was dependent on the goodwill of the Queen and her family for financial support. There is another letter in which Thomas Boleyn was urged to support Mary in her widowhood and of course there are public and private expenses and official accounts.

    We do know a few other things concerning Mary. We know that she came to Court circa 1522 to serve the Queen, Katherine of Aragon with Anne and that she played Kindness at the Pagaent in 1522 with Anne as Perseverance. I wonder if this indicates anything about the personality of the two sisters. We also know that Mary was referred to obliquely in a Warrant written by Henry Viii to His Holiness, Pope Clement Vii, asking for permission to marry a lady whose sister he had already slept with. The Pope was informed that it was Anne Boleyn of whom people spoke and others spoke of Mary as the King’s mistress first. Henry admitted loving Mary to Throckmorton but not as rumours would have us believe, their mother. This is the only reason we know of Henry’s relationship with Mary at all and some historians believe the Joust of Shrovetide 1522 to refer to Mary when Henry wore the device on his arms and banners of the broken heart and She Have Wounded My Heart. The thing is the entire team wore the same device and this was a typical thing at Tournaments so we really cannot say this dates the time of Mary’s relationship with King Henry.

    The second thing we know is connected and played a sad part in the downfall of Anne. After Anne was condemned Henry wanted a fresh start with his new Queen, Jane Seymour and he didn’t want the succession problems he had with two living wives and two children caused by the mess he had caused by Henry Viii marrying Anne and having Katherine in the background. In order to invalidate his marriage to Anne and declare Elizabeth a bastard, Henry still needed legal grounds because her execution didn’t invalidate his second marriage. However, what legal grounds did he have to declare null and void a marriage enshrined in legislative red tape and oaths of loyalty? Henry had turned the world upside down to marry Anne and the law had been changed saying it was treason to not say that Anne was his only true wife and that their children alone were the only true heirs. Now having set the poor woman up on false charges, condemning her to death for treason and adultery, Henry had the added complication of a female heir to deal with. If both Convocation and Parliament made Elizabeth illegitimate just as they had Mary, Henry and Jane would see no rivals to the throne for their own children. So, although condemned, Anne had to accept her marriage wasn’t valid either. Thomas Cranmer was tasked with this cruel news and with cinfirming the marriage at an end. However, what unholy laws could Henry have cooked up this time? Oh yes, the old favourite, incest. His first choice was that Cromwell force Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland to say that as Anne’s first lover they had been contacted in marriage, even though he had already sworn in 1532 this wasn’t so. Percy in a very outspoken letter told the Minister and King where to go. So Henry had his previous relationship with Mary declared as the reason his marriage was now invalid. How convenient! Really? Well, it could be that no dispensation was granted back in 1527 because Henry’s argument was so preposterous. Henry believed what he wanted and Anne gave her consent and poor Mary was an unwilling and unwitting pawn in the end of her sister’s marriage. Or was she? Well actually two sources say different things but it was most probably the relationship with Mary that was used.

    Mary was then the victim of malicious gossip and later propaganda and as a blank canvas game for just about everything. She has been portrayed sadly either as the Great wh*re because Francis I boasted about her being his mule or as the helpless victim of her nasty sister. Nether is true. Mary might have had a brief relationship with Francis who then exaggerated it and she probably regretted it. On her return to England Henry saw something in her and being discreet about his mistresses we have precious little information about how long it lasted, let alone when it was or him being the father of either of her children. We also know that Henry never acknowledged either Catherine or Henry so it’s impossible to know more about their fling. Mary was also apparently reluctant to sleep with Henry, although there is no evidence that she was forced into bed by him. Whatever the truth of the sex life of Mary Boleyn, she wasn’t the wh*re of history and it’s very unfair to label her in this way. If Mary was a wh*re for briefly sleeping with two powerful Kings, what does that make them, especially Francis who slept with half his Court? Mary was the victim of a misogynistic era, that labelled women as wh*res and men as good old boys for the same activities. Mary was very much in the shadow of Anne, but there isn’t much to suggest that Anne was spiteful to her, although like any sisters they had their problems. Mary was the one who did things her own way and the one wjo ultimately got her own life and her own happiness. Maybe Mary is the one more to be admired because she chose love over duty. I see Mary as the more sensitive of the two sisters, while Anne was the more sophisticated. Anne had the brains, the privilege of education, yet Anne paid the ultimate price for ambition and Queenship and fell foul of the paranoid husband who came to hate and resent her. Mary had a few years of good married life, the blessing of children and the hurt of widowhood. However, in the end, maybe it was Mary who was the real success and who achieved her dreams.

  3. Thank you for another informative video Claire! I am of the school that believes the affair between Mary and the King was brief, and likely around 1519 before her marriage to William Carey, particularly in light of how Henry “paid off” Bessie Blount with money and a good marriage.While I believe Henry had some affection for Mary, it does not appear that he had any great passion for her as he did for Anne, and with so many single young woman at court, I’m sure he could have had his pick once Mary was married. However, I do wonder if Mary was pregnant with the king’s child at the time of her marriage, or if there were concerns that she might be. This may also add weight to Anne’s reluctance to be Henry’s mistress when his wandering eye turned toward her.

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