Mary Boleyn – Was She really the Mistress of Francis I?

Francis I pointing out Mary to Henry VIII: "I call Mary my English Mare because I ride her so often".

As many of you know, I led a webinar on Thursday night for members of The Anne Boleyn Fellowship. The webinar, which was the second in my series on “The REAL Boleyns”, consisted of an hour long talk and slideshow on Mary Boleyn, based on my research into her life. I obviously won’t be sharing the content of the webinar here, as it was a members-only event, but I want to address an issue that I keep coming across in my research into the Boleyn family: assumptions and theories being written about as fact.

I wrote a few weeks ago about Galadriel’s words in “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”: “And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth”; well, in the case of the Boleyns it would be more accurate to say “Myth became history”. One example of this is the ‘fact’ that Mary Boleyn had a sexual relationship with Francis I (François I).

I have read many many books on Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Tudor history and when it comes to Mary Boleyn all but one of them has assumed that she slept with the French king, although they point out that she was never his official mistress, a maîtress-en-titre like Françoise de Foix. That Mary was the mistress of two kings is a fact according to the history books.

Now, you know what I’m like – yes, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple have nothing on me, I blame it on reading far too many Agatha Christie’s as a teenager – when something is assumed to be a fact I have to find the primary evidence to prove it. So, whenever I found a sentence saying that Mary slept with Francis I I looked to see if the author or historian cited a reference or primary source so that I could go and check it for myself. Hallelujah, some historians actually did cite their sources! And the three that kept coming up were:-

  1. Rodolfo Pio the Bishop of Faenza’s letter to Prothonotary Ambrogio on the 10th March 1536 (LP x.450):-
    “Francis said also that they are committing more follies than ever in England, and are saying and printing all the ill they can against the Pope and the Church; that “that woman” pretended to have miscarried of a son, not being really with child, and, to keep up the deceit, would allow no one to attend on her but her sister, whom the French king knew here in France ‘per una grandissima ribalda et infame sopre tutte.'” – Here Faenza is claiming that Anne Boleyn did not miscarry a son in January 1536 but that she pretended to be pregnant and was helped by her sister, Mary, who the French king “knew” (in the Biblical way) for “a great prostitute and infamous above all”.
  2. Nicholas Sander’s words in “Rise and Growth of the English Schism” (1585):-
    “Soon afterwards she appeared at the French court where she was called the English Mare, because of her shameless behaviour; and then the royal mule, when she became acquainted with the King of France.”
  3. Lord Herbert of Cherbury in “Life and Raigne of King Henry the Eighth” (1649) who quotes William Rastall, author of a biography of Sir Thomas More (c1557), who wrote of how Anne Boleyn was sent to France where “she behav’d herself so licentiously, that she was vulgarly call’d the Hackney of England, till being adopted to that King’s familiarity, she was termed his Mule.”

These are the only pieces of evidence cited in the history books I read that prove that Mary Boleyn was indeed the mistress of Francis I. Now, in her latest book, “Mary Boleyn: ‘The Great and Infamous wh*re'”, Alison Weir challenges the idea that Mary Boleyn slept around at the French court, but I would like to go one step further and challenge the ‘fact’ that Mary Boleyn even slept with Francis I. I want to question the validity of the above three pieces of evidence for the following reasons:-

  • Rodolfo Pio, Bishop of Faenza, was a papal nuncio at the court of Francis I and was therefore biased against the evangelical Boleyns who had caused Henry VIII to break with Rome. Like the Imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, he does not even attempt to hide his disdain for Anne Boleyn, calling her “that woman” instead of “the Queen”.
  • We do not know that Pio was reporting Francis I’s words accurately and we do not know whether Francis I was exaggerating or lying in an attempt to denigrate the Boleyn name.
  • We know that the first part of Pio’s report is not true so why believe the second part? Pio claims that Anne Boleyn was never pregnant, and was lying, but we know from reports, such as the one by Chapuys where he states that Anne miscarried a “male child which she had not borne 3½ months” and also from Charles Wriothesley’s chronicle, that Anne did miscarry a baby on the 29th January 1536. How can we take Pio’s words seriously then?
  • Nicholas Sander and William Rastall are referring to Anne Boleyn, not Mary – Philippa Jones, in “The Other Mistresses: Henry VIII’s Mistresses and Bastards”, writes “Since these comments are obviously not applicable to Anne [i.e. we know she wasn’t sent to France in disgrace at the age of 15]… it has been assumed that they must apply to Mary when, in truth, they were written to discredit Anne and are largely based on vulgar invention, aimed simply at damaging her reputation.”
  • Both Sander and Rastall were Catholics and therefore biased against the Boleyns – Rastall was writing a sympathetic biography of Sir Thomas More and Sander was a Catholic recusant writing in exile during Elizabeth I’s reign. We can also see that Sander’s words were obviously based on those of Rastall.
  • Sander also wrote that Anne Boleyn had a projecting tooth, six fingers and a wen under her chin, and that she slept with her father’s chaplain and butler before being sent to France in disgrace. We don’t believe that do we, so why would we believe that the “English Mare” comment is true but that it refers to Mary?

It really does amaze me that historians dismiss such ‘evidence’ when it comes to Anne Boleyn but are quite willing to believe it when it comes to Mary? It doesn’t make sense, does it? Talk about double standards!

We also have to ask ourselves if Henry VIII would have chosen to sleep with a woman who had been the mistress of Francis I and who had such a dubious reputation.

I’m not saying that Mary Boleyn definitely did not have a sexual relationship with Francis I, but I’m challenging the widespread assumption that she did. The evidence is scant when it comes to Mary Boleyn, her whereabouts at various times in her life, her character, what she got up to in France etc. so wouldn’t it be better for us to hold our hands up and say “look, there are blanks in her life, we just don’t know what she did” or to make it clear when we are hypothesising, rather than perpetuating myth and legend when we fill in the blanks? So, I’m going out on a limb and saying that I won’t believe that Mary did sleep with Francis I unless I see conclusive evidence of it!

The more I read about the Boleyns, the more I realise just how much they have been maligned. Things have swung in Anne Boleyn’s favour, with people questioning the validity of works such as that of Nicholas Sander, but some are still willing to believe myths when it comes down to Thomas and Elizabeth Boleyn, Mary, George and Jane Boleyn. Don’t believe everything you read, is what I’ve learned, question everything.

Notes and Sources

  • LP x.450
  • “Rise and Growth of the English Schism”, Nicholas Sander (1585), p25
  • “The Life and Raigne of King Henry the Eighth”, the Right Honourable Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury (1649), p258-259
  • LP x.284, Chapuys
  • “The Other Mistresses: Henry VIII’s Mistresses and Bastards”, Philippa Jones, p106
  • Works by David Starkey, David Loades, Alison Weir, Kelly Hart, Marie Louise Bruce, Retha Warnicke, Paul Friedmann, Elizabeth Norton, Josephine Wilkinson, Eric Ives, Antonia Fraser…

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45 thoughts on “Mary Boleyn – Was She really the Mistress of Francis I?”
  1. I think she allowed her heart to rule her head, hence the fact she married for love not money. If she were Francis’ mistress, and after that Henry’s, I can imagine that she had had enough of being used by the men at court, so chose a man who wasn’t controlled by his cod piece. Anyway – Like Starkey said, most promiscuous women are the most loving, so maybe that’s why she was happiest in the end – she found love and ignored the riches.

    1. The thing is, Elliemarianna, that there is no evidence at all that she was promiscuous, she’s a real mystery. One of the things we do know about her, though, was that she married William Stafford for love – the evidence is the letter she wrote to Cromwell – so she was brave enough to go against her family and incur their wrath.

  2. I think she was almost certainly very naive when it came to courtly love, and as such gained a reputation for having many relationships. She was a bit of a flirt and not at all discreet in the way that was expected of a highborn lady. Whether or not she actually had sexual relations with Francis will, I believe, always remain a mystery, but we do have some clues.

    She attended the French court along with her sister, but a few years later, a ship only reports ONE Boleyn girl returning. It is possible that this was a mistake, however, given that Anne was later recorded as returning a few years later with the King’s sister Mary, it was probably Mary who was the “Mistress Bollein” who returned early.

    Rumour has it that this was due to her scandalous behaviour in France – a rumour certainly supported by the fact that she quickly became Henry’s mistress. Personally, I think she may have had a reputation for indiscreet flirting with gentlemen, but probably no more than that. It is, of course, possible that Francis himself made up the jokes about her promiscuity, but I consider that unlikely.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the article. Thanks!

    1. Hi Tiula,
      You’re right in that we just don’t know how long Mary was in France for. She’s recorded as escorting Mary Tudor to France in 1514 and being one of the lucky ones retained after Louis XII dismissed a lot of Mary’s entourage, but we don’t know what happened to her when Mary Tudor returned to England in 1515 with Charles Brandon. David Loades writes of her serving Queen Claude with her sister Anne, others have her joining Catherine of Aragon’s household in England… we just don’t know as there are no records to back these theories up. We know that Francis I ‘tried it on’ with Mary Tudor after Louis’s death so perhaps he also ‘tried it on’ with members of her household but there is not one jot of real, concrete evidence that Mary flirted with him, slept with him or was promiscuous at the French court.

      As far as “the fact that she quickly became Henry’s mistress”, we also don’t know the ins and outs of that relationship, how long she’d been at court etc. Weir points out that Henry riding out with the motto “Elle mon coeur a navera”, “she has wounded my heart”, means that his love was unrequited and that Mary may have rejected him for some time. Although she doesn’t go as far as claiming Mary was raped, Weir does say that she thinks Mary was forced to submit to the King and that she was not a willing mistress.

      What I haven’t seen in the records is any evidence of Mary being a flirt or behaving in a scandalous manner. Her relationship with Henry VIII was very discreet. I think she has been badly maligned.

  3. I’m maybe playing the French passionaria there, but the things Francis said are kind of unlike him… I mean he was known to be gallant and chivalrous toward women, even the one he bedded… He respected his mother, wife and sister, and oncesaid that a Court without women was a garden without flowers…

      1. Is it also possible that this was a smear campaign, not only against the reputation of the Boleyns, but also Francis I himself? He and Henry were rivals, sometimes even at war with one another, and what better way to put one over on a rival and/or enemy than to smear him?

        Mary Boleyn, whatever her true level of chastity, was an easy target – though connected to the Howards, including the Duke of Norfolk, the Boleyns were not very high ranked at the time. And like Anne, Mary might have been flirty, which much more conservative minded officials could have viewed as “loose,” or “promiscuous.” Of course, considering she was part of the evangelical Boleyn family, it would have been nice to twist this flirty reputation, which the conservative types could crow about, “proving” that the Reformer movement was going down a bad path, and that Reform meant the Reformer’s women were becoming harlots, due to lack of guidance from the TRUE Church.

        Then, too, though Francis did protect his sister Marguerite from heresy charges, even though she was writing and publishing VERY controversial works. So making him out to be such a crude, ill mannered cad might have made sense to the conservatives. After all, was Marguerite, (in their minds) actually writing and publishing her works as a cover for Francis’ own evangelical interests, and using her as a cover for his own authorship?

        As Lexy points out, Francis was known to be cultured, well mannered and gallant – the “English Mare” and “mule” comments sound like crude boasting out of the equivalent of a Tudor era locker room. Or it could be that it was something made up to blacken the reputation of Mary and Anne, “putting words in his mouth.” Francis was a rival/sometimes enemy to Henry, what better person to use as an “authority” in this case, of the lack of chastity for Mary and Anne?

  4. My first post here! I’ve been reading the articles for months though!
    Sometimes I think that we fill in the blanks on people like Mary Boleyn because we want to know more about them, but there simply isn’t enough evidence to know for sure. We have theories that we want to think are true, so we make them true based on what we have. Its possible that Mary was Francis I’s mistress, but I agree that there is reason to doubt it, also. I think its so sad that the entire Boleyn family has been horribly misrepresented for so long! These articles make me think and want to know more and more.

    1. Welcome, Nikki!
      I had always assumed that Mary had definitely been Francis I’s mistress because that’s what it says in the history books but it’s only by checking the sources that I’ve come to doubt this. It’s funny what we assume and take as fact and I’ve definitely learned to question everything now. I think I’m becoming rather cynical!!

  5. I think this is a wonderful article, and particularly relevant at the moment. I have always fudged the issue of Mary and Francis. Although I question her reputation and refer to her ‘alleged’ relationship with Francis due to the fact there is so little evidence to support it, I never really made much of an effort to seriously challenge Mary’s alleged reputation, unlike a certain Mrs C Ridgway who is proving to be a far superior historian than many of those she writes about. Well done, Sherlock! x

    1. As I said to Nikki, I think I’m becoming a bit too cynical now, I’m finding it hard to trust anything I read and that is affecting my enjoyment of books! I feel so strongly about the Boleyn family, not just Anne, so I’m determined to get to the truth, unfortunately, with Mary, the truth means a lot of blanks. If you peel away the so called facts, that are assumptions rather than facts, then you really haven’t got that much!
      He he, Sherlock, Poirot, Miss Marple, Lynley, Scarpetta…., they’ve got nothing on me lol! I always knew that my love of crime novels would have a use some day!

  6. I have long wondered about Mary and Francis. When Francis bragged to Henry at Field of Cloth of Gold, the competition between them was fierce-each wanted to best the other. I have wondered if Francis noticed Henry looking at Mary and, to get one-up, said he’d ‘ridden her like a mule.’ A very crude, insulting comment but, if Mary had actually rejected Francis, a young man m ight just say such a thing as revenge. I mean, they were in their early 20’s. They wrestled, their courtiers jousted, they really wanted to prove their mettle. What better way that to brag one had bedded a beautiful woman? But of course, we know men never do such things! 🙂

    1. Anne, I think this is very true about the temperaments of these rival kings. So much happened at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, that anything is possible. I would be inclined to think, however, that had Francis had his way with Mary at that event, it would not have benefitted the Boleyns well, and I would think Henry’s ego would see this as a sign of disloyalty on the part of Mary and/or her family. Of course, it is possible that the penance for this and payback to Francis might be to have Mary as the English Royal Mistress, but I think that would have hit the history books or gossiping letters of the time.

  7. Claire, you are a model of the type of scepticism all historians should have about traditional assumptions (so often myths without evidence). You remind me–not unsurprisingly–of Eric Ives, another superb skeptic when it comes to previously received knowledge (I’m thinking here of his work on Lady Jane Grey as well as his book on Anne Boleyn).

    I think the simple reason so many people want to believe Mary slept around was because it is juicy and sensational–much more fun than the blank space that most of her life really is as a historical record.

  8. Once again,Claire, you have given us much to contemplate and much to research on our own! I believe we are looking at the next celebrated historian author who will go on to inspire a new generation of history sleuths – much like J.K. Rowling did inspiring children to read.

  9. *Shakes fist* Darn you Claire for doing this to me! I’ve been thinking about your comments regarding Mary’s relationship with Francois I since the webinar. My theory tends to lean towards the idea that Mary did in fact sleep with Francois, but perhaps only once or twice at most. I don’t see why Rodolfo Pio would have to say such a horrible thing about Mary when he’s already insulted Anne so deeply. But then, perhaps it was to add insult to injury – the more insults the merrier perhaps?!

    I’m starting to think that Nicholas Sander and William Rastall, since their comments were made at such later dates, had picked up on the comment by Pio and were referring to that with their flanderous mare statements about Anne. (Sorry again, how do we know these comments were about Anne?)

    In regards to Henry… that is the trickiest subject of them all. Certainly if Mary attended the Field of the Cloth of Gold, Francis would have said something to Henry if he had seen her about “enjoying her company” – what happens at the French court surley would get out and about. It is hard for me not to think Henry knew. Maybe he wanted to see what all the fuss about Mary was?

    Oh Claire you cannot do this to me! It’s Monday morning and I must go to work but all I want to do is learn more about this! As I said I’ve been thinking about this subject of Francois quite a bit since the webinar and really there is so little proof! It’s frustrating! Darn you Mary Boleyn! 😛

  10. I am glad you are skeptical about such matters, Claire, and that you make such an effort to sift through the evidence and present it to us without ‘juicing up’ the story. All too many people seem eager to believe lurid tales without taking the trouble to verify the facts, and all too many authors cater to this taste for sensationalism, as others here have noted.

    I do think it is a pity we don’t know more for sure about Anne’s sister, and also about their mother, who seems quite a shadowy figure.

  11. Once again, you go on to use logic and contemporary evidence to challenge what had been considered a fact of history for so long! Way to go! One question that has always bothered me was a claim that Phillippa Gregory made while marketing TOBG- did Henry VIII really have a ship in his fleet called, “The Mary Boleyn?” If so, was it something that was purchased from Thomas Boleyn? I haven’t been able to find anything about it.

    1. Thanks, Sheena! The “Mary Boleyn” ship is mentioned in the latest David Loades book, “The Boleyns”:-
      “The ‘Mary Boleyn’ was a vessel of 100 tons, which was deployed in the Irish Sea in September 1523, and appears to have been a royal ship which the King named after his mistress. Unfortunately, no such ship appears in the King’s inventories of the time; the only vessel of 100 tons in service with the navy was the ‘Katherine Pleasaunce’, which had been built in 1518. We are therefore left with the intriguing possibility that Henry renamed a ship originally called after his wife in honour of his mistress! More mundanely it is possible that the ‘Mary Boleyn’ belonged to Sir Thomas, and had been ‘taken up’ for some particular service in Irish waters.” Loades cites LP iii.3358:-
      ” “The NAVY on the sea between Wales and Ireland.”
      Declaration of Sir Ant. Poyntz, Vice-admiral, of expenses from 8 April 14 Hen. VIII. to 23 Sept. 15 Hen. VIII.
      Received from John Jenyns, 1 Mar. 14 Hen. VIII., 2,741l. 3s. 4d.; from Sir Rys ap Thomas, 17 Sept. 15 Hen. VIII., 66l. 13s. 4d.; from Sir John Daunce, 100l. Total, 2,807l. 16s. 8d.
      Paid for the Mynyon: Wages of Sir Anthony Poyntz, 6s. 8d. a day; one master, one pilot, 50 soldiers, 60 mariners, and 10 gunners, at 5s. a month; 19 dedshares, at 5s. a month; one surgeon, at 10s. a month. Rewards to gunners, 6l. 5s. Victualling, 16d. a week each man for the first four months, 18d. for the remainder. Total, 481l. 15s.—The George of Fowey, 120 tons, Geo. Whitwayne, capt., 89 men, tonnage 6l. a month. Total, 357l. 7s.—The Christopher Arundell, 90 tons, Geo. Audeley, capt., 59 men, 250l. 7s.—The Mathew of Bristowe, 160 tons, Robt. Appleyard, capt., 99 men, 404l. 0s. 4d.—The Mary Boleyn, 100 tons, Wm. Symonds, capt., 79 men, 352l. 8s. 6½d.—The Berk of Truluff, 80 tons, Peter Grisley, capt., 59 men, 271l. 13s. 11¾d. The Mawdelen and Michell of Bristowe, and the Mary Galeye, 180 tons, Wm. Throgmorton and Hewe Clerk, capts., 118 men, 494l. 18s. 2d.—The Mawdeleyn of Pole, 120 tons, Robt. Kirk, capt., 79 men, 264l. 9s. 0½d.—The John of Grenewiche, Gabriel Joslyn, capt., 50 men, 160l. 1s. 1½d.”

  12. Mary, what an enigma she is, it is such a shame little fact is known of her.
    I guess we will never know for sure if she was the French Kings mistress, certainly every book I have read always deems her to have been, true or not
    Anyway it seems that Henry and Francis took great pleasure in getting one over on each other , maybe Francis made the comment about Mary to wind Henry up, if he said it at all.
    Too be honest I don’t think Henry would mind that Mary was Francis lover first, with his huge ego, being the ‘best’ at all things, I am sure when it came to pillow talk with Mary and she answered his question with great honesty, 🙂 ‘Oh yer babe you were soooo much better than him’, it would have suited him just fine, lol….:()

    Talking about Marys though, Claire, remember the nursey rhyme,’Mary, Mary, quite contrary’, just as a piece of trivia, google it and look at the meanings put forward for it, many are to do with Tudor history, thought it might interest you and others.

  13. I’m wondering if there might be anything in the French court documents that might shed some light on Mary while at the French court…?

  14. Heya! I have always read your blog and love the fact that you challenge the norm in search of the truth. I agree with you about mary- it is very circumstantial evidence to say the least. I always questioned it personally because Mary proved that she had no difficulty having children- nor did Francis for that matter. if they were together in that way, then based on their fertility, chances are he would have fathered a child with her, and as far as we know, he didn’t. Very interesting topic! Keep up the good work!

  15. Anne was very put her fist down that she would not be used as the Kings wh*re,like her sister was used.The King was not use to hearing No,Mary gave to the King what the King whats he shall have enter Anne .Mary who?

  16. Another thing I just thought of: Francis, like Henry IV and Louis XIV was known to shower his mistresses with presents, and not onlysmall presents, rich jewels, castles, titles… Even when he broke with them, they left with a”little” someting. Are there records of such things offered to Mary?

  17. I haven’t read much about Mary Boleyn so I am not sure if to believe that she did sleep with Francis I or not. If she did sleep with Francis maybe she wasn’t looked on as his official mistress because maybe he didn’t love her enough as he did the other lady who he made his official mistress I mean that could be a possibility couldn’t it? Or perhaps she wasn’t in France long enough? But one thing I am sure of is that I know that she did sleep with Henry VIII and perhaps had his children.

  18. First, Claire, I’m THRILLED you are writing a book–I know it will be wonderful and filled with facts well-researched and a fresh, new view of the subject!! Bravo!
    Ashley, I am interested in this idea of Mary’s having kids. If she’d been Francis’ lover, wouldn’t a child have been a likely outcome? Once she married, she did give birth (and I think at least one child, Katherine, was very probably Henry’s) but there is no record of her having any kids in France, so I put the whole Francis deal as mostly male brag and the slander of those who hated Anne and the changes she brought to England–they blamed her rather then Henry, for those changes to the church. I guess only Mary will know for sure, though…so we are left wondering! Oh, I’m still so excited about Claire’s book!!!

  19. I am glad you are challenging this belief about Mary. I was wondering why everyone was so sure that she had an affair with Francis. Must wonder what the evidence is to support that. Keep up your inner Agatha Christie. I am so impressed that you are challenging assumptions that have been made for a long time. Time to find some proof or lacking any, then lose the belief that Mary had an affair with Francis as a fact, not a guess based on no good primary sources.

  20. oops, I meant to say that without any evidence then Mary’s affair is an educated guess at best but not a historical fact

  21. I think the most compelling information about Mary Boleyn is the sheer lack of contemporary discussion about her in either France w/Francois or England w/Henry. Whatever she was doing, with whomever, it caused no stir at the time–and later, well, it could be anything. So I tend to agree with Weir. (see blog post at thehistorylady.wordpress for my comments on Weir’s book)

    But–I am not sure I buy that the Boleyns were misunderstood. I do buy that they were upwardly mobile Reformers whose power threatened other up-and-comers. And much as I love Anne Boleyn’s story, she is a study in how things fall apart.

    Love this blog.
    Geri, The History Lady

  22. OMG! I have been reading your articles every night this week, and I NEVER get to bed on time…. I love them.

    Always so informative, and it’s nice to be where others share the same passion as I do.

    My thoughts here, if Mary did sleep with Francois …. it was not because she wanted to. Let’s face it, if a King wanted you. I don’t think it would matter much if it were the French King, or the English King. Women were owned by the men in their lives. They were all just pawns in a game of chess. <3 for Mary

    1. There were grants made to her husband that coincide with the birth dates of her children.
      A sovereign reaarding a loyal retainer or compensation for a cuckolded husband?

      1. But it would have been natural for Carey to have received grants from the King at this time as he was a member of the Privy Chamber and Henry VIII was a very generous man. He gave other members, such as Henry Norris, grants too. It was the norm.

  23. Thanks a lot for your very interesting blog about Anne Boleyn and Francis I.

    I have been fond of books about her for long time.

    The latest one I have read is sold on Amazon.

    The ebook is entitled “Anne Boleyn’s Secret Love at the Court of Francis I”. It is translated from French into English by Alice Warwick from a book written in the XIXth century.

    In a few letters written by Anne Boleyn to her convent friend Anne Savage, you will learn about her early life as a maid of honour to Princess Mary Tudor then to Queen Claude. The portrait of young and witty Anne Boleyn is passionate.

    I hope you will enjoy reading about her complete training in music and in the art of conversation at the sumptuous Court of King Francis I.

  24. I don’t think she was Francis mistress more than likely they just had a one night stand, the rest is just gossip and conjecture, she was probably a flirt like her sister and that can give rise to scandal, it must have been very difficult being pursued by a king how can you say no to one? Most women succumbed after all it done much for ones ego, of course Anne did say no and ended up Queen but she was an exception, King Francis seems to me to be a fascinating man, I doubt I could have said no to him, the trouble with the Tudors television programme and Philippa Gregory’s book is that most people see the film and read the book and take them as fact, when there were many inaccuracies they even had Princess Margaret marrying the King Of Portugal instead of the King of Scots and showing her murdering him, when in fact she had never been to Portugal, and after King James died she married twice after remaining in Scotland, I love historical dramas but wish they would stick to the facts as people get a wrong idea if what actually happened.

  25. Find it hard to believe that Henry would, as it were, take Francis’ leavings. Henry and Francis hated each other, cordially, and not so cordially, over the years. Would Henry really have put himself in the position of being laughed at by the entire French Court?

  26. I’m a little confuse because in the article about ”the other boleyn girl” you said that she was indeed Francis I mistress: ”Mary Boleyn the Virgin

    In “The Other Boleyn Girl”, Mary Boleyn is the heroine, the “other Boleyn girl” who is telling her story. The book begins with Mary catching Henry VIII’s eye and her family plotting to make Mary his mistress, and the mother of his bastard, to gain status at court. Mary is worried about sleeping with the King and says to George and Anne, “I don’t know how to do it… You know, William did it once a week or so, and that in the dark, and quickly done, and I never much liked it. I don’t know what it is I am supposed to do.” Mary appears innocent and sexually inexperienced and it is Anne who later promises her father and uncle that she will “coach her well enough to get her into his bed”. “The Other Boleyn Girl” movie opens with Mary just about to marry William Carey and worrying about her wedding night because she is a virgin – not true!

    Fact: Mary had been the mistress of King Francis I of France and gained a reputation for being promiscuous. The reputation may have been unfair and down to gossip, but she was the French King’s mistress and so was not sexually inexperienced when she arrived back at the English court.”

    1. There’s a few years’ gap between those articles and I have changed my mind regarding Mary Boleyn and Francis I, although by challenging that idea I am in the minority as most historians would say that she had been mistress to Francis I or some men at his court. However, I still believe that Mary Boleyn was not innocent on her wedding night as I believe she slept with King Henry VIII before her marriage to William Carey. In the case of Elizabeth Blount, Henry VIII slept with her and then organised a good marriage match for her when he had finished with her, so I believe that he did the same with Mary Boleyn, seeing as William Carey was a relative of his and also served him. It doesn’t fit Henry VIII’s ‘MO’ to sleep with the wife of one of his servants. Just my opinion though and the general opinion of Mary is that she had a reputation in France.

  27. After examining all this evidence, I also feel that Mary (and the Boleyns) were misrepresented. I do NOT believe Mary slept around at the French Court, but was a convenient scapegoat to discredit the Boleyns–and it seems likely that it could’ve been encouraged by a vengefulness to satisfy the Papacy. I mean–look at the TIMING! When I previously thought of Mary, the main thing that sprung to my mind was the “My English MARE” comment…but that sounds like an off-handed comment/jab at Henry centered around, again, destabilizing Henry’s efforts to separate from Rome. I can even envision Francis with the mischievous GLEAM in his eyes as he spake these words on yonder Field.

    On those notes, I also firmly believe that Henry took Mary up as mistress prior to her marriage and fathered her 2 kids. ALSO LOOK at the TIMING. I mean–yeah, Henry gave members of his court lavish gifts, but around the BIRTHS of not one, but TWO kids??? And Elizabeth’s unusual continuing favor shown to THREE generations of Mary’s offspring? PUH-LEAZE!!! The fact that we could go on and on displaying evidence supporting this leads to…COMMON SENSE!

  28. Mary was fourteen at the most when she arrived in France, maybe fifteen, she was an impressionable and lovely, fresh young woman by the standards of the day, a child in our eyes, a vulnerable young girl. Francis I was a man into his twenties and it sounds as if he was well experienced by then with women. When she married in 1520 Mary was no more than nineteen or twenty, depending on her date of birth, perhaps even eighteen. Here she was in a foreign country, hardly speaking the language, serving a young Queen of eighteen (Mary Tudor) and another one, Queen Claude, herself only sixteen at the time of her coronation, in fact serving in her strict and cultured separate Court, and the King of France takes a bit too much notice of her. We have no idea when she is actually supposed to sleep with Francis, how many times, the nature of their probably brief relationship, or for how long, but we do know she wasn’t his mistress. A French King had an official mistress, it was a recognised position, with all of them being recorded. That doesn’t preclude him from others, nor did it stop him having a healthy sex life with his young wife who died of some mysterious illness, allegedly syphilis, but more likely exhaustion from constant childbirth. Mary was more likely Francis brief encounter rather than his actual mistress and the claim he allegedly made to Henry about her being his mule can be taken with a definite pinch of salt.

    Mary was brought home to marry William Carey, a relative and good friend of King Henry Viii in 1520 and there is no evidence about her so called relationship with the English King either. If she did sleep with Henry, he was very discreet about it, the event took place between 1520 and 1522, it was brief and we know absolutely nothing else. This tournament sounds like a typical tournament with the theme of chivalry and love, the teams wore the same clothes and the banners had legends of love or unrequited love, broken hearts or true love. This isn’t evidence that Henry was upset by Mary perhaps refusing him or her breaking his heart, it is totally meaningless. In fact the only woman we can be certain Henry ever really dedicated a tournament to or themes to was the woman he was still married to in 1522, his first wife, Katherine of Aragon. People like to forget that once upon a time, for many years, Henry was absolutely dedicated to Katherine of Aragon, she was his Lady, his true love and he suffered greatly at the shared loss of their children. It was only his desperate desire for a son which turned his head to a potential second Queen and a new passionate love for Anne Boleyn. Had Katherine had healthy sons, both Boleyn girls would have remained unimportant footnotes on the pages of history.

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