#WednesdayFact – We don’t know when Mary Boleyn was Henry VIII’s mistress

Today is the anniversary of Mary Boleyn’s death in 1543 so I thought I’d focus on her today.

Mary Boleyn is a bit of a mystery lady, the perfect blank canvas for historical novelists, and that’s because we actually know very little about her even though she was the sister of a queen and the mistress of a king. We don’t even know where she was buried in 1543!

Although it’s often said that Mary Boleyn was the king’s mistress in 1522, there’s actually no hard evidence to support that. Historians who date their relationship to 1522 use the Shrovetide celebrations as evidence. At the Shrovetide joust, Henry VIII rode out with the motto “Elle mon Coeur a navera”, or “She has wounded my Heart”, with a picture of a wounded heart embroidered on the trappings of his horse. He was followed by Nicholas Carew who wore a motto in French translating to “in prison I am at liberty, and at liberty I am in prison”, others wore the mottos “my heart is between joy and pain”, “my heart is bound” or “my heart is broken”, and Anthony Browne had embroidered broken gold hearts and the words “sance remedy” (without remedy). The theme was definitely unrequited love, but that doesn’t mean that the king was wooing Mary Boleyn, does it? It could have been another lady or it may have just been a courtly love theme, as was usual for such pageants.

I wish we knew more about Mary Boleyn’s relationship with the king!

Here is a video I made about what we do know about Mary Boleyn:

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