Mary’s date of birth is not known, although the majority of historians think that she was older than her sister Anne, and was born around 1499/1500, with Anne following in 1501. The theory that Mary was the eldest is based on a letter from George Carey, 2nd Baron Hunsdon and Mary Boleyn’s grandson, to Lord Burghley in 1597, in which he asks for advice regarding petitioning Elizabeth I about claiming the earldom of Ormonde. This earldom had once been held by his great-grandfather, Thomas Boleyn, and Hunsdon’s claim to it was based on the belief that the title “should have passed to his father and then on to himself by virtue of their descent from Sir Thomas Boleyn’s eldest daughter, Mary.” Baron Hunsdon surely would have known who was the eldest of the Boleyn sisters and, as Josephine Wilkinson explains, if Baron Hunsdon had been mistaken in thinking that his grandmother was the eldest of the Boleyn girls then Elizabeth I, daughter of Anne Boleyn, would have corrected him and claimed the title herself. We can therefore conclude that Mary was Thomas Boleyn's eldest daughter.


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