Mary Boleyn: The True Story of Henry VIIIs Favourite Mistress

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The family came originally from Sall in Norfolk, and early in the l5th century Geoffrey Boleyn, younger son of a tenant farmer, had come up to London to seek his fortune.


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He was admitted to the freedom of the city in the art of mercer, married an aristocratic wife and rose to become Lord Mayor. The Boleyns were now well on their way up the social ladder and William's second son, Thomas, came to court to make his way in the royal service, one of the new men for the new Tudor dynasty. He, too, made a useful marriage - to Lady Elizabeth Howard, daughter of the second Duke of Norfolk - a marriage that brought him three surviving children, George, Mary and Anne.

Quick Facts

Anne Boleyn, c. Suggested birth dates for Anne vary between l and , and although it is most likely that Mary was the elder of the two, there may have been no more than twelve months between them. All we really know for sure is that both girls spent some part of their early years abroad.

By their father was undertaking diplomatic missions to Europe and used his official connections to get the extra advantage of a Continental 'finish' for his daughters. Again information is scanty, but it is known that Anne presently joined Mary at the French court, entering the service of Queen Claude, wife of the new king Francois I. Catherine of Aragon, c. Francois I, himself a notorious womaniser, described her ungallantly as his 'English mare' and another French commentator was later to refer to her in even more outspoken terms.

Mary Boleyn: The True Story of Henry VIII's Mistress

In spite of this, her father apparently experienced no difficulty in finding her a place at the English court, as one of Queen Catherine of Aragon's maids of honour. Henry VIII, c. This must have come as a considerable disappointment to her ambitious family, for while there was little real social stigma attached to having been the King's mistress it undoubtedly affected a girl's matrimonial prospects, and she had a right to expect some royal compensation. As a godly Protestant prince, with all the serious and devout nature of the real Charles, he would have been assured of considerable support in Britain.

But Henry was notoriously stingy towards his extra-marital partners - even Elizabeth Blount, who had given him a bastard son, achieved no more than a respectable marriage - and although William Carey was one of the king's close companions, which might give him useful opportunities for further advancement, he was otherwise of no particular account.

Biography of Mary Boleyn, the Boleyn Survivor

Carey was a younger son without land or fortune, and remained dependent on casual royal bounty in the shape of keeperships, stewardships and the occasional grant of a manor. Thomas Boleyn may well have reflected on how much better these things were managed in France, where the maitresse en titre was a recognised public figure, wielding influence and patronage.

There were two surviving children of the Carey marriage, Catherine, born in l, and Henry, in The rumour that Henry was the king's son appears to have been founded on no more than the recollection of John Hales, vicar of Isleworth, who some ten years after the child was born remarked that a Brigettine monk from Sion had once showed him 'young Master Carey' saying he was the king's bastard. But by the time of young Master Carey's birth, Mary's royal fling was well over and the king was already becoming infatuated with her younger sister.

Anne had returned to England at the end of , but the marriage planned for her with one of her Irish cousins had fallen through and her own unauthorised romance with Henry Percy, the Earl of Northumberland's heir, had been blighted by Cardinal Wolsey, so that in the mids she was still unspoken for. As ambitious as her father, and more strong-willed and intelligent than Mary, though apparently not so good-looking, Anne had no intention of becoming another royal mistress.

The Tragic Life of Catherine Howard

With her sister's example before her, she knew it would lead to nothing more than a second-rate and perhaps unhappy marriage, and she meant to do better than that. William Carey died of the sweating sickness in the summer of , but as far as we know Mary remained at court throughout Anne's determined, skilful, six-year-long campaign to win the greatest prize of all - marriage to the king. One can imagine Mary playing a supportive sisterly role, and perhaps drawing on her own experience to give advice on how best to please the king, without allowing him to proceed to the 'ultimate conjunction'.

By this time Anne was within sight of her goal. In the king finally separated from Queen Catherine, his faithful wife for 20 years, and in October , the battle for his divorce all but won, he and Anne paid a state visit to France. Mary was among the 30 ladies who accompanied them. From her place in the background Mary would have been able to watch her sister's triumph, as Anne, by this time visibly pregnant, was crowned queen in the summer of The Boleyns were now riding high. Thomas Boleyn had been created Earl of Wiltshire, brother George was Viscount Rochford - but there was nothing for Mary and, surprisingly, no attempt seems to have been made to find her another husband.

Mary Boleyn Biography - Facts, Childhood, & Family Life of Mistress of Henry VIII

She was probably still only in her late 20s and, considering her family's present ascendancy, surely a very desirable match; but nothing happened until , when Mary took matters into her own hands by falling in love and making a runaway marriage. Her new husband was one William Stafford, another member of the royal entourage and another younger son without money or land. He believed that a woman can never wear a crown and thus was eager to provide a male heir. But Catherine of Aragon was already barren, with no chance of conceiving another child. That is why Henry turned his back on her, and took mistresses.

Did he really bear resemblance to the king? John Hale, Vicar of Isleworth wrote to the Council in that :. I think that for Elizabeth they were mostly the Boleyns, family of her mother. Henry Carey knew Anne Boleyn when he was a boy, and he certainly had a lot to tell Elizabeth about her mother. Nice article..

click here Elizabeth would have many half sisters and half brothers.. Great article! It was nice reading and wonderful research.

Notes and Sources

Thanks for sharing with us your thoughts. I pretty much agree totally. Thank you for your comment, Bridgett! You must be logged in to post a comment.


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By Sylwia. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2. You can leave a response , or trackback from your own site. Areti says:. March 4, at am. Log in to Reply. Bridgett says:.