Mary BoleynI was so excited to receive a copy of Amberley Publishing’s “Mary Boleyn: The True Story of Henry VIII’s Favourite Mistress” by Josephine Wilkinson that I sat and read it in a day – ignoring work, the family and the housework!

I’ve always wanted to know more about Anne Boleyn’s sister, and Henry’s mistress, and this book has definitely helped me with that mission.

The First Biography of Mary Boleyn

Described as the publisher as “The real story of the `Other Boleyn Girl´”, this book is the very first biography of Mary Boleyn and paints a detailed picture of this woman who is almost as shrouded in mystery as her sister, Anne Boleyn.

Josephine Wilkinson’s biography catalogues Mary Boleyn’s life from her birth at Blickling Hall, through her time as a “sex object” at the French Court and her years as Henry’s mistress, to her eventual fall from favour when Anne stole the limelight. The book also looks into what happened to Mary once she had been discarded by Henry, who her children were fathered by, her eventual second marriage to William Stafford, her return to court and the fall of the Boleyns, right through to her death in 1543.

There are also 16 pages of beautiful illustrations including portraits, photographs of places and drawings.

Henry’s Favourite Mistress

What really struck me, as I read the biography, was the depth of Mary Boleyn’s relationship with Henry. According to Wilkinson, and she provides plenty of evidence, Henry VIII and Mary fell in love and it was a relationship that lasted from 1522-1525, making it longer than many of  Henry’s marriages and much longer than any of his other affairs.

It was also a relationship that may well have produced two children, Katherine and Henry Carey (Wilkinson provides evidence to argue that these two children could well have been the King’s), and, unlike his previous affairs, Henry did not discard Mary when she became pregnant, but carried on seeing her throughout her first pregnancy and resumed the affair again after her confinement.

Wilkinson really brought it home to me that there was a true affection between these two people, shown later by Henry stepping in to help Mary after the death of her husband William Carey, and I can only imagine how hurt Mary must have been to be replaced in the King’s affections by her own sister. Mary had accepted her “lot” as the King’s mistress and yet here was her sister not even content to be the King’s “mâitresse en titre”, the King’s official and only mistress, but aiming to be Queen.

Josephine Wilkinson ends her book with these words:

“Just two weeks before her death Mary’s former lover, King Henry, had married his sixth wife, Katherine Parr, but he was never again to find the peace and the love he had shared with Mary.”

Well Researched

Another thing I love about this biography is that it is obvious that Wilkinson values accuracy and truth over myth and rumour. Any opinions put forward are backed up by evidence and all sources are listed as “Notes” and in a “Bibliography”. I hate maybes and assumptions, and this book is not guilty of them.

Josephine Wilkinson

Amberley Publishing say that the author, Josephine Wilkinson, “received a First from the University of Newcastle where she also read for her PhD. She is currently a scholar-in-residence at St Deiniol’s Library, Britain’s only residential library founded by the great Victorian statesman, William Gladstone. She is the author of “Richard III: The Young King to Be”, also published by Amberley. She lives in York”.

I also notice that Wilkinson is writing “The Early Loves of Anne Boleyn” which is sure to be enlightening for us Anne Boleyn fans.

Josephine Wilkinson’s “Mary Boleyn: The True Story of Henry VIII’s Favourite Mistress” is available as a hardback from Amazon US, Amazon UK or from your local bookstore.

Cover on Amazon
Cover on Amazon

P.S. The cover on my copy of the Mary Boleyn book (see photo at top of post) is the same cover shown on the Amberley Publishing site, but is different from that shown on the Amazon site so don’t get confused!

The cover is very similar to the Kelly Hart book’s cover as they are both from the only surviving portrait of Mary Boleyn. The cover shown on both Amazon sites is shown here on the right – totally different but the same book!

Whatever the cover, there are beautiful illustrations inside the book, including the famous Mary Boleyn portrait.

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18 thoughts on “New Book Published on Mary Boleyn”
  1. Awesome! I have SO many books on the Boleyn’s (fiction and non) and I get so excited when a new one comes out!!! Thanks for the awesome review Claire!

    1. Hi Madeline,
      It’s a great book and it’s so good to finally read a book that is focused on Mary Boleyn. I have learned so much about her from it.
      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Hi Claire,
    Love the website 🙂 Thanks for your review of this book. Do you know if it is available in the US ? I would love to read it !

  3. Hi Laura,
    Yes, you can order it through Amazon US, click here for a direct link – availability is 2-4 weeks because it’s just about to be published but you can preorder it so that you get it straight away.

  4. Hi Claire,

    I´m so excited to read it! Do you know how can I get Mary Boleyn´s biography in Spain?
    Amazon could send me this book from UK?

    I love your review!

    Best regards

  5. Hi Caroline,
    Amazon UK send me books in Spain all the time (I’m addicted to books!). The postal charge is ok and you can pay in Euros too. They send via airmail and I always get books within a week, usually 3-4 days. The link for the book is -just click on that and it will take you directly to the book, it’s in stock and is £13.29 plus delivery (it’s hardback). Obviously that will be an English language copy.

  6. I am looking forward to reading this book. I have already order it, so I should have it in a couple of weeks. I’m glad you like the book,and wrote a review. I not familar with Wilkinson’s work,and I was hesitant. But now that I know it recieve good reviews, I will be on the look out for her next book.

  7. Thank you for this review. The King really liked these Boleyn ladies, didn’t he? Did Mary resemble Anne in character / appearance? In any case, while Anne achieved much higher status, Mary was certainly more fortunate in the end…

    1. Hi Matterhorn,

      I think the King actually liked all ladies!! Anne is described as dark with dark eyes and a sallow complexion whereas Mary’s portrait shows her to be more of an English Rose with fair hair and a “peaches and cream” complexion. I think they were very different in appearance and outlook. Mary seems to have been a fun loving girl who took every opportunity that life threw her way, including men(!), without thinking of the consequences, whereas Anne thought carefully about everything. I think Anne had more “breeding” and education because she spent time at the Hapsburg Court with the Regent Margaret of Austria.
      Yes, Anne achieved higher status but this was at a high cost, whereas Mary was able to settle down with a man she loved and have a relatively normal life.

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