As you know, I’m doing daily “on this day in Tudor history” videos for the Anne Boleyn & Tudor Society YouTube channel based on research I did for my book, On This Day in Tudor History. Today, 22nd June, has two Boleyn-related events, so I thought I’d share them with you here.

On this day in 1509, during the celebrations for Henry VIII’s forthcoming joint coronation with Catherine of Aragon, Thomas Boleyn was rewarded for his loyal service to the king’s recently deceased father, King Henry VII, by being made a Knight of the Bath.

Find out more about Thomas Boleyn’s rise at the court of Henry VII, and how he was a royal favourite long before his daughters became involved with Henry VIII in this video:

Also on this day in Tudor history, 22nd June 1528, Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne Boleyn, was widowed when her first husband, William Carey, died during the Sweating Sickness epidemic of 1528. His death had a major impact on Mary’s situation and you can find out more in this video:

And here are the videos I mention:

May 30 – Knights of the Bath for Anne Boleyn’s coronation:

Thomas and Elizabeth Boleyn:

March 12 – The death of Thomas Boleyn, father of Anne Boleyn:

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10 thoughts on “On this day – Thomas Boleyn is rewarded and Mary Boleyn suffers a loss”
  1. Such an honor it would have been to be recognized by the king for your loyal service considering the monarch dealt with so many people.

  2. Yes and these honours he was given and offices he held are proof of his loyalty intelligence and integrity as a courtier and diplomat, these he achieved on his own not through his daughters, he has been badly maligned by historical fiction writers and it’s good at last that the truth is known about Sir Thomas Boleyn, when I first read ‘Murder Most Royal’ when I was a teenager in the seventies, he was depicted as a cold grasping men whose rise to power was through firstly Mary, who was also depicted as a pleasure loving ninny immoral and with no common sense, and secondly because of the kings deep love for her sister Anne, other writers have fared no better down to the much debated Philippa Gregory who I might add, has made a lot of money with her trashy novels about the Boleyn family, Sir Thomas Boleyn instead was a loyal servant of both Henry V11 and Henry V111 and his rise to eminence was through his own remarkable skills as a diplomat being able to speak eloquently in several languages and previously having supported Henry V11 as a soldier in battle, with him during this strange and ancient ceremony were several relations of his, and of course Catherine Parr’s father, the sixth and final queen of King Henry V111, all these men were honoured for services rendered to the crown in the Tower Of London, on another note William Carey Thomas’s son in law sadly died of the sweating sickness, a strange and virulent and much debated illness which even today, scientists and doctor have no idea what it actually was, the sweat attacked the Boleyn family including both Anne her father and brother, amazingly they all survived so maybe there was a much lighter strain of it, it however killed young Carey leaving Mary Boleyn a young widow without financial security and with two young children to support, Carey it appears liked to gamble at the cards like many men did at court, and must have incurred quite a few heavy losses, he could well have racked up some deaths to so poor Mary, grieving for her husband (it was an arranged match) but she could well have fallen in love with him or become very fond of him, had the worry of money as well as having to cope with the burden of the loss of her husband, here Sir Thomas Boleyn comes across as a bit penny pinching, because she must have firstly gone to her father for financial support, and we hear later that she had to plead with the king, but her youngest child Henry was placed in the care of her sister as she could provide better for him, this often happened in families, the child was made a ward of a much richer relation, Anne having financial security through the king was able to provide him with a much better future in terms of wealth position and education, Catherine Mary’s eldest child stayed with her mother, Carey’s death overnight turned Mary’s world upside down but the sweat killed suddenly and yer later, when her sister was queen, she met and fell in love with a William Stafford a member of the minor branch of the powerful Stafford family, we have no portrait of Stafford unlike Mary’s first husband who was a handsome looking man, only important noblemen and women and royalty had their portraits painted, but he must have had a certain charm to make Mary defy her family’s wrath to marry him, worse when she arrived t court to inform her sister she had erstwhile married, she was lo pregnant, to Anne and the king and their father she must have acted little better than a trollop, the queens family had to seek permission to marry and no doubt Stafford was not considered good enough for the sister of the queen, also Anne must have been deeply hurt by her sisters condition for it was imperative that she became pregnant, Mary was banished and we do not know where she went as there are no sources no record that tell us, but she probably went with her husband to his family home, there she lived in obscurity but must have been happy , Anne later relented and sent her a purse of gold coins but their father must still have been displeased with her, as Claire says there is no record of her baby’s birth so she probably miscarried or it could have been born dead, or died soon after the birth, she survived her sister by seven years and all we have are the dates of her demise and not her resting place, but she lies somewhere at peace in some quiet leafy corner of England, her widow went onto to remarry and have children, maybe one day someone will uncover her tomb, recently a picture at Hever has been identified as Mary Boleyn, a great find and looking at her portrait we can see the attractiveness which charmed two kings and several courtiers, her story has caught the interest of many a writer of historical fiction and there has been a biography written about her, she is a vague figure in history and many find her very interesting, part of that interest is due to the fact she was the sister of Anne Boleyn, there are pieces of her life which are not well documented and there is her brief fling with the King of France and then her more famous one with Henry V111, we do not know when it started nor when it ended and gossip has risen about the paternity of her children, Mary left court in disgrace but her children became rising stars during the reign of her niece both doing very well at court and her son has a magnificent tomb in Westminster Abbey, family loyalty was something Elizabeth 1st thought highly of and both honoured and respected her mothers relations.

  3. Today was also the anniversary of the execution of Saint John Fisher who of course was the patron of Margaret Beaufort and well known to Henry Vii as well as Henry Viii who executed him because he wouldn’t sign up to the marriage between Henry Viii and Anne Boleyn. He was a scholar and canon lawyer expert, true to his principles and he was a friend and defender of Queen Katherine of Aragon. He was martyred for his faith on this date in 1535.

    It would indeed have been an honour for the young Thomas Boleyn and the other knights of the Bath to be admitted into that ancient order. Loyalty was the highest grace a subject could have and show towards his Sovereign and Thomas and James Boleyn had both done that, despite the family originally supporting the House of York. This shows the fluidity of loyalty during this period and the adaptation of higher born families to new Dynasties and overlords. We know that Thomas had risen up quickly under Henry Vii and helped to put down the Cornish Rebels in 1497. He was eventually rewarded with a decent Dynastic marriage with the much older noble family of Howard. The Howards had slipped from the height of recent ennoblement from Duke to Earl of Norfolk because they had remained loyal to King Richard iii, John, the 1st Duke dying at Bosworth. Thomas his son was injured and captured and placed in the Tower for a few years. Having proved his usefulness and loyalty his property had been returned but he was still Early of Surrey. Eventually Thomas Howard allowed a marriage between his daughter, Elizabeth and his retainer Thomas Boleyn and the Boleyn fortunes improved again. Now in the reign of the new King, both families would have fine opportunity to advance and show loyalty. Henry Viii fancied himself as a new Henry V and had ambitions to invade France. In 1513 he invaded part of the South and although he won two towns he didn’t make the impression he had hoped. Meanwhile Surrey was sent North back home because James Iv invaded England and the Scots were defeated at Flodden. Henry rewarded Surrey with the Dukedom of Norfolk.

    Thomas Boleyn also rose through the ranks because of his excellent administration skills, his skills as a diplomat and his language skills. He was sent as an envoy to the Netherlands in 1512 and here made friends with Margaret of Austria and was able to secure a place for his daughter, Anne at her Court. At home he became the Controller of the Kings Household among other things as well as his man in France. Elizabeth provided him with at least five children in six years, three of whom grew up. Anne and Mary also served in France and George may have had a University education. Thomas was high in favour long before Anne and Mary were sent to the service of Katherine of Aragon and even though his family did further benefit from Henry’s infatuation with his daughter, Anne and he was made an Earl. Loyalty was highly praised above everything else because it was to do with being bound to kin and to crown and therefore treason was one of the most heinous crimes you could commit. Few people had any sympathy for those charged with or executed for treason. It’s just that under Henry Viii during the 1530s and 40s it began to mean a lot more, words were treason, his title as Head of the Church led otherwise loyal servants to be charged and executed and even his wife and friends fell foul of new laws originally designed to protect his marriage to Anne.

  4. Mary Boleyn was well married to Sir William Carey, a friend and cousin of the King in 1520 but the dreaded sweating sickness took her husband and security from her in 1528. Unfortunately for Mary she was left in a precarious financial position and was too embarrassed to inform her family. At some point soon afterwards Anne found out and informed the King who wrote to Thomas in order to alert him of the problems and instructed him to give her financial assistance. Thomas Boleyn is often castigated for not doing so immediately, but the original letters indicate that he wasn’t amiss and did so as soon as he was aware of the difficulties his daughter was experiencing. As an adult, it wasn’t her family who were responsible for her. Mary was entitled in law to certain payments from her late husband and as a widow. However, her husband had controlled the money as was the norm before 1872 and hadn’t been careful. So Mary had been left with his mess instead and needed an income. Her two children were young and also needed providing for and educating. No matter if their father was Henry Viii or William Carey, he had a duty to provide for them as well and fell short here too. So the Boleyn family had to chip in.

    Mary would eventually move home to Hever for a time, but now Thomas ensured she had a good independent income. Anne was in a far better position to become the guardian of Henry Carey who was only two or three years old and she took over his education and his care. She didn’t kidnap him as in the Other Boleyn Girl. His education evidently paid off as he had an excellent future. Catherine Carey would become a lady in waiting and have an excellent future at Court, sixteen children and a huge tomb as Mrs Francis Knowles. Mary was to go on to do her own thing, marrying the gentle but lower status William Stafford with whom she was evidently happy. However, there was a down side to this reckless decision. As a dependent of her family, she was regarded as under their rule again. She was also the sister of the new Queen Consort. The family status was raised beyond anyone one could imagine and that brought certain responsibility and expectations on behaviour and permission to marry. As the sister of a member of the new Royal family, the lady to Queen Anne, Mary should have had her permission to wed. As her father’s ward in effect she also needed his approval. Mary didn’t bother to ask for either. Instead she waltzed into Court heavily pregnant and didn’t seem to understand the problem with informing Anne and her father that she was married to a man of lower status and means without their blessing. It was only after they banished her in 1534 and Thomas cut off her allowance that Mary realized the trouble she was in. Sensible as she was off the hurt her actions had caused Mary immediately wrote a very penitent letter to her father, asking his forgiveness and favour, telling him of her love for William Stafford and that she would rather beg bread from door to door than live without him. We don’t know what happened to her unborn child, they may have been stillborn, miscarried or died soon afterwards or just the record has been lost. I like a happy ending so I am going to be generous here and give her one. Mary and William did struggle although she received a pension. However, they found some happiness and quietness. In 1536 Mary lost her sister, Anne and brother George and within less than three years her parents. However, it took more than two years to get her inheritance and Mary only enjoyed any real comfort for six months before her own death in 1543. I would like to think their child lived and gave her many joys and comfortable times.

    1. She was probably relieved to get way from the court with all its plots and petty jealousies and the temper outbursts of her sister, it is a pity she died quite young before being able to enjoy her inheritance, but after her parents died she must have been quite depressed having already lost her two younger siblings, she had the love of her husband William Stafford to hold onto and her two children, if only we knew where she was buried, she could have died in childbirth, as Bq and I both commented we know nothing about the child she was carrying when she first appeared at court, I should imagine she was buried with her dead infant as it must obviously have died, there being no record of it, we do not know what she died either of she fades into obscurity again like she did throughout her life, I loved the letter she wrote to Cromwell where she wrote she could have had a greater man and also where Bq mentions she would rather beg her bread with him, also the rather sad remark she made with the words ‘I saw all the world set so little by me and he so much‘.., this tells us that Mary perhaps was not considered with much regard by her family, though they loved her but maybe she was not as intelligent as George and Anne, and perhaps her affairs with both the king of France and England left a sour note with both parents, the way she was cast of by Henry V111 quite possibly was the reason or one of the reasons Anne was reluctant to get involved with him, also Sir Thomas Boleyn and his wife could have had quite high moral standards, Thomas especially was not happy with Anne’s involvement with the king, so we can assume he must have felt the same way about Mary, maybe they considered their eldest child rather stupid and immoral? To me and I think many she comes across as a warm hearted girl very human and much more likeable than her termagant of a sister, I do hope one day her last resting place is discovered it would be a great find, and would fit one of the puzzles about Mary Boleyn we long to know.

      1. Here’s something to think about:all of the billions of people who ever lived who died without leaving really any kind of legacy and who’s names we will never know and each has a story to tell. We really know very little. It’s amazing connections can be made as many of those unknown are the inspiration or influencers of those we do. Just a thought exercise.

        1. Yes, it would be wonderful to find the resting place of Mary Boleyn and hopefully recover the coffin and remains of Elizabeth Boleyn in Lambeth.

  5. Mary was so maligned by those around her and by a reputation given her by her first lover, the King of France. I say first lover with caution as we again don’t know when she was, for how long and other than his boasting, indeed if she was. I believe the affair was very short and Mary quite young. We only know that she slept with Henry because he petitioned to end his marriage to Katherine. The affair was so secret, nobody knew of it. I don’t accept that he forced her but his experience and presence, his charismatic personality probably charmed her into his bed. Henry asked Rome to grant him two very extraordinary dispensations in 1527, one to allow him to marry the sister of someone unnamed he had slept with and one to allow the possibility of having two wives. His relationship with Anne would be incestuous because he had slept with her sister. Historians think he had an affair with Mary around Shrovetide 1522 because of the tournament with the wounded heart banners, but that’s just how people dressed at tournaments. If the affair was any time it was prior to her marriage in 1520 or in 1523/4 making Henry her daughter’s father. It’s really impossible to say. However, I think also it was brief and I don’t see why Henry as other Kings had done wouldn’t claim all of his illegitimate children, if he had more than one.

    Mary also comes over to me as the quieter of the two sisters, the kinder, the one who was more accepting and the one who didn’t have the same ambitions. In her letter she comes across as a young woman who has been told all her life she isn’t good enough because of her reputation and she accepted William because he accepted her for whom she was. She loved him and he was as good to her as he could be, which was more than her first husband probably was. Yes, she probably did feel glad to be away from Court, especially with all the attention now on Anne and the King. She would have been about 41 to 43 when she died if we accept a DOB of 1500 to 1502/3 which was sadly an average age in Tudor times, but certainly young by ours and she didn’t have long enough to enjoy any real comfort. We don’t know where she is buried, although surely what family she did made sure she didn’t lay in a paupers grave? I hope not, but the thought just occurred to me. Of course graves and tombs have been lost as churches were lost over the years, but one would hope she was buried at Hever. I don’t know where her husband was buried but I believe he did remarry. Lets hope Mary Boleyn is found one day. Like her family she is in Heaven and therefore her tomb is only for us to pray tribute.

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