Mary Boleyn – What do you want to know?

As you know, I’m doing a masterclass on Mary Boleyn on 12th February as part of my 7-day online event “Anne Boleyn, the Woman who Changed England”, and I really want and need your help, please!

Either watch the video or read the transcript below, and then leave me a comment if you are able.

I’m busy researching for my masterclass, but before I collate my notes and plan my talk, I thought I’d ask for your input, after all, I’m doing it for you!

Mary Boleyn was obviously a key character in Philippa Gregory’s “The Other Boleyn Girl” and “The Last Boleyn” by Karen Harper, and she also appeared in Showtime’s “The Tudors” series and “Wolf Hall”. She’s also been the subject of two full-length biographies, the first by Josephine Wilkinson and then by Alison Weir. She’s a character that seems to grab people and really pique their interest, so I’d like you to help me plan my masterclass.

Please can you share, by leaving comments:

  1. What you think of Mary Boleyn? Who is your Mary Boleyn?
  2. What interests you about Mary?
  3. What myths do you think surround Mary?
  4. And, finally, what questions do you have about Mary that you want answered?

I really want this masterclass to be useful to you, so please do help.

I anticipate the masterclass on 12th February being around 90 minutes with questions, and it will be live, so you’ll get your question answered in real time.

The masterclass is a bonus for ticketholders of “Anne Boleyn, the Woman who Changed England” who sign up before the end of 8th February and you can sign up at

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11 thoughts on “Mary Boleyn – What do you want to know?”
  1. “My Mary Boleyn” was a relatively humble young woman, easily led by those who used her sexually, and prone to act on her emotions rather than using her head, like her sister Anne did, But, ultimately, I think she was probably deserved a better reputation than “The Great wh*re.”

    I have always wondered about the true degree of closeness between Anne and Mary…and were Mary and George anywhere near as close as Anne and George were? I have heard that Mary was the more conventionally attractive of the two sisters. Do you think that was true? She certainly seems to haver been the more humble. I am also curious about her place in the Boleyn family. Her father did not seem to be very supportive of her after her first husband died.

  2. I think she was wise enough or had intuition enough to avoid falling with her sister and brother and strong enough to follow her heart with her second marriage. I honestly don’t think I’ve seen any portrayal of Mary that I recognise as how I perceive her.

    From someone who was probably unable to deny the King of England (whether it was a one night stand or a proper affair) she grew into a determined, strong young woman. I would love to know how this came about.

    The myths are that she was just a ‘loose woman’ who warmed the beds of Kings and she wasn’t as beguiling as her sister.

    I would love to know if there is evidence that Mary kept in contact with her parents after May 1536. Was she forgiven the sin of marrying beneath her?

  3. What you think of Mary Boleyn? Who is your Mary Boleyn?
    -To me Mary was smart, but submissive. She had to obey her superiors to the expected extent due the era and her place in society. But I think she was cunning in how she finally escaped to try and become her own person.

    What interests you about Mary?
    -Her part she played in Tudor history. How she was such a main character for a short amount of time, but her descendants didn’t let her disappear.

    What myths do you think surround Mary?
    -That she was “pimped out” by her family. That she was dull, whorish, and dumb.

    And, finally, what questions do you have about Mary that you want answered?
    -How did she manage to stay away from court for so long?
    -Why did she allow her children to enter the courtly life again later on?
    -What was her response to the death of her siblings?

  4. If she was not born into a system that subjugated women, who would Mary have been. What were her qualities and characteristics? (Whereas her sister, Anne, despite being labeled as a “wh*re”, was a thinker, an academic, and possessed leadership ability). What did Mary possess?

  5. Mary Boleyn has always been an interesting figure for me, primarily because she came from such a famous family and, yet, we don’t know a lot about her, especially her later years. She is definitely overshadowed by her siblings. I have a lot of respect for her doing what she wanted, despite family and social pressure to do otherwise. And, I also feel bad for her that her family disowned her after her second marriage. She must have been a strong woman, just like her sister. So, I guess that “My Mary Boleyn” is a strong woman who followed her heart in a world and time when that was frowned upon for someone of her station.

    The myth that I hear the most about is that she was the “Great wh*re”. I’d love to know how that myth came to be, and why something like that was never attached to Anne, especially when the Great Matter was really in full swing. I know that Chapuys called Anne “the Concubine”, but, to my knowledge and recollection (and I could be mistaken), Anne was never accused of being a wh*re to the same degree that Mary had been. So, why was Mary given such a distinction?

    I’d also love to know more about the scandal of her second marriage. How did she meet William Stafford and how was she able to keep her marriage a secret for so long, especially with her sister being Queen of England? What happened to her after she was disowned and banished from court?

    One thing that I have always found interesting is that we don’t know where she is buried. With her children becoming important figures at Elizabeth’s court and all of the descendants that she has, it has always been surprising to me that we have no record of where she was laid to rest. Do we have any evidence to suggest where she might be?

    I hope that this helps and thank you!

  6. 1. I think Mary Boleyn was a likeable character. I think of her being someone who liked fun and sociable activities. She warmed people to her and I believe the sisters had a good relationship. I also see her as a mother figure and feel she felt protective and deeply for her children and see her and her daughter Katherine being close.
    2. I like how she chose love for her second marriage and was proud of following her heart.
    3. The myths surrounding Mary really gloss over the true woman. I do not see her as promiscuous and giddy, nor do I see her as an uneducated stain on the Boleyn family.
    4. I think I’d just like to know anything more about Mary Boleyn. There isn’t a lot out there about her, but I find her letter to Cromwell very intriguing.

  7. Mary Boleyn s supposed to be my 13th great grandmother. The cousin who did the genealogy unfortunately is no longer available. I don’t know what happened to his work. I am descended from Mary’s daughter or granddaughter who had many children so there must be millions of us out here. I am so excited to learn more about Mary.
    When they were young I told my grandchildren the story and that he or she was a prince or princess. One grandson created Anne’s head red paint and all around her neck for a project. His second grade teacher said that was a first for her!
    Thank you for all you do!

  8. What you think of Mary Boleyn? Who is your Mary Boleyn?
    I think she was obsequious and I felt sorry for her. My Mary Boleyn; because she was the eldest daughter (trained to be obedient) was the one all the hopes of her father hinged on.
    What interests you about Mary?
    How she felt toward Anne and how she felt about her life when Anne came on.
    What myths do you think surround Mary?
    I’m not sure.
    And, finally, what questions do you have about Mary that you want answered?
    I want to know if she really wanted to be with Henry or if she really just wanted to please her family.


  9. Q1. I think history has been unkind to Mary. She must have been a strong person to go against tudor social structure to marry William Stafford.
    My only reference is Anne of the Thousand Days, and much as I love the film I don’t believe that the portrayal of Mary was very accurate.
    Q2. Her relationship with Anne & her ability to survive the downfall
    Q3. The extentt of her affair with H8 and the parentage of the Carey children
    Q4. Is there any contemporary proof of her alleged affairs & behaviour at the French Court?
    Why didn’t Mary inherit Hever Castle when Thomas Boleyn died?
    Did he leave anything to Mary in his will?

  10. Mary Boleyn, in my opinion and after reading countless historical dissertations about her, was much more savvy than she is given credit. I do not think she was a true innocent- however, I do feel that she was easily led by family aspirations. I find it difficult to judge her character since our understandings are based in today’s morays and acceptances. I feel much sympathy for her, however, having to watch the absolute downfall of her family. Whether she, Anne, and George were close in terms of sibling relationships would not affect the horror she must have truly felt upon their sentences and ultimate deaths. How could she not have been terrified for her life as well.
    I do not follow the “historical fiction myths” of some of the more famous movies and books about any of the Boleyns- one point being that Mary “kept in touch” with Henry. I would question that based upon my observation in the previous paragraph…would she not have been in fear of her own life and safety. To that end, I question her relationship with her parents.
    What I would love to know is the parentage of her children. Obviously, as a married owman, the children would have been recognized as belonging to her husband as long as he didn’t disavow them: but is that the truth? With so much advancement in terms of DNA analysis (King Richard’s analysis of recent years comes to mind), are there still DNA related beings alive now? And would that show lineage to Mary and her husband or to Henry himself?

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