Spotlight – Mary Boleyn

Name: Mary Boleyn / Mary Carey / Mary Stafford

Title/s: Mistress Boleyn / Lady Carey / Lady Stafford

Birth / Death: c.1499 – 19 July 1543

Spouse: William Carey (c.1500-1528) & William Stafford (c.1500-1556)

Children: Catherine Knollys 1524-1569 / Henry Carey, Baron Hunsdon 1526-1596 / Anne Stafford 1536-? / Edward Stafford 1535-1545

Parents: Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire 1477-1539 & Elizabeth Howard 1480-1538

Siblings: Anne Boleyn Queen of England 1501-1536 / George Boleyn Viscount Rochford 1503-1536 / Thomas Boleyn c.1500-? / Henry Boleyn c.1502-?

Noble Connections: Her sister, Anne, became the Queen of England, making Henry VIII her brother-in-law. Her father was made Earl of Wiltshire and Ormonde. Her uncle was the Duke of Norfolk, and her cousin was the Earl of Surrey. Her daughter married Lord Knollys and her grand-daughter married the Earl of Essex and the Earl of Leicester.

Events of their Lifetime: Accession of Henry VIII 1509 / Marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon 1509 / Field of the Cloth of Gold 1520 / Death of Cardinal Wolsey 1530 / Act in Restraint of Appeals 1532 / Act of Supremacy 1533

Controversy: There has been speculation over whether Mary Boleyn’s Carey children were in fact illegitimate children of Henry VIII, though he never acknowledged either as his own. Her relationship with Henry VIII overlapped with her marriage to first husband William Carey. Her second marriage was also controversial as she married someone beneath her in status.

Works of Fiction:

  • Aileen Armitage, Court Cadenza (1974)
  • Margaret Campbell Barnes, Brief Gaudy Hour (1949)
  • Philippa Gregory, The Other Boleyn Girl (2001)
  • Karen Harper, The Last Boleyn (1983)
  • Norah Lofts, The Concubine (1963)
  • Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies (2012)
  • Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall (2009)
  • Jean Plaidy, The Lady in the Tower (1986)

Portrayals on Screen:

  • Clare Cameron, Henry VIII, 2003, directed by Pete Travis
  • Valerie Gearon, Anne of the Thousand Days, 1969, directed by Charles Jarrott
  • Scarlett Johansson, The Other Boleyn Girl, 2008, directed by Justin Chadwick
  • Natascha McElhone, The Other Boleyn Girl, 2003, directed by Philippa Lowthorpe
  • Charity Wakefield, Wolf Hall, 2015, 3 episodes
  • Perdita Weeks, The Tudors, 2007-2008, 6 episodes

Further Reading:

  • Gairdner, James, ‘Mary and Anne Boleyn’, English Historical Review, 8 (1893)
  • Hutchinson, Robert, House of Treason: the Rise and Fall of a Tudor Dynasty (2009)
  • Licence, Amy, The Six Wives and Many Mistresses of Henry VIII (2015)
  • Loades, David, The Boleyns: the Rise and Fall of a Tudor Family (2012)
  • Norton, Elizabeth, The Boleyn Women: the Tudor Femme Fatales Who Changed English History (2013)
  • Weir, Alison, Mary Boleyn: the Great and Infamous Whore (2011)
  • Wilkinson, Josephine, Mary Boleyn: the True Story of Henry VIII’s Favourite Mistress (2009)


Mary Boleyn
Mary Boleyn

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