Lady Mary Boleyn
The Lady Mary Boleyn (c. 1501 - July 19, 1543) was granddaughter to Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, daughter to Elizabeth Howard and leading diplomat Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, sister to George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford and Anne Boleyn.
Mary is not as well known as her (probably younger) sister, Anne. (The year of Mary's birth is uncertain but almost certainly lies between 1499 and 1504, whereas Anne's is probably 1507.) Mary was the mistress of two kings, Francis I of France and then Henry VIII of England. She was married twice to members of Henry's court and bore children who were in the court of her niece Elizabeth I of England.
Mary's early life was punctuated by becoming Maid of Honour to Mary Tudor, new Queen consort of Louis XII of France. While many of the Queen's English maids were ordered to leave France, Mary Boleyn was permitted to remain, probably because of her father's connections as the new English ambassador. When Mary Tudor left France after Louis' death on January 1, 1515, Mary Boleyn stayed in the court of the new king and queen, Francis I and Claude de Valois. Eventually, Mary became Francis's mistress, the king calling her "my English mare" in his later years especially since Mary subsequently embarked on numerous affairs provoking a great scandal. Her sister Anne and her father joined her in France, both of them apparently mortified by Mary's actions. She was sent home in disgrace either in 1519 or 1520.
Shortly after going back to England, Mary married William Carey, a courtier. Henry VIII was a guest at the couple's wedding, and Mary soon became the king's lover. Popular legend states that Mary bore Henry two illegitimate children, but this seems unlikely. In fact, it appears that both of Mary's children were from her husband, William. Mary's sister was called back to England in 1522, and it is uncertain how much effect either sister had on the rising fortunes of their father, who was created a Viscount in 1525. But, by 1523/1524, Mary's affair with Henry was finished. That Christmas, Henry fell victim to the charms of the brilliant, bewitching and cultured Anne Boleyn. By 1527, he had proposed marriage. A year later, when Mary's husband died during an outbreak of the plague, her callous father and former royal lover both showed no intention of helping Mary in her financial plight. It was only the intercession of Anne that Mary's life improved somewhat. Mary was promised a hefty annual pension and Anne arranged for Mary's son to be educated at a respectable Cistercian monastery.
When Anne went to Calais with Henry VIII in 1532, Mary was one of Anne's companions. Anne was crowned Queen on June 1, 1533. In 1534, Mary secretly married Sir William Stafford, an usher of no rank and small income. When this was discovered in 1536, her family disowned her for marrying beneath her station, and the couple was banished from the Court. Because of this, Mary survived the trials that resulted in the execution of Anne and her brother George on charges of treason (they were falsely accused of incest) and lived out the rest of her days in anonymity with her husband. She died on 19 July 1543.
- Catherine Carey (c. 1524 - 1568). She was married to Sir Francis Knollys , Knight of the Garter since 1593.
- Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon (March 4, 1525/1526 - July 23, 1596).
However both children have been suggested as illegitimates of Henry VIII of England.
Depictions in Fiction
Mary is the subject of The Other Boleyn Girl (2002), an award-winning but wildly-inaccurate and overly-sympathetic novel by Philippa Gregory. The most accurate presentation of her comes from Wendy J. Dunn's novel Dear Heart, How Like You This? based on the life of the poet Sir Thomas Wyatt.
"The Other Boleyn Girl" was made into a BBC television drama in January, 2003, starring Natascha McElhone as Mary, Jodhi May as Anne Boleyn, Jared Harris as Henry VIII and Steven MacIntosh as George Boleyn.
Mary also appeared in the 1969 movie "Anne of the Thousand Days", where she is presented as pregnant, dejected and bitter. She was played in that movie by Valerie Gearon, opposite Genevieve Bujold as Anne Boleyn, Richard Burton as Henry VIII and William Squire as Thomas Boleyn.
Her character also briefly appeared in the 2003 drama "Henry VIII" although it was a non-speaking part. The drama was dominated by Ray Winstone as Henry VIII, Helena Bonham Carter as Anne Boleyn and Assumpta Serna as Katherine of Aragon.
Mary's character also features in the novels "The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn" by Robin Maxwell, "I, Elizabeth" by Rosalind Miles, "The Lady in the Tower" by Jean Plaidy and "Anne Boleyn" by Evelyn Anthony.
Her character is also mentioned in the movie "Henry VIII and His Six Wives" with Keith Michell as Henry VIII and Charlotte Rampling as Anne Boleyn; and in the six-part BBC television series "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" with Keith Michell again playing the king, Annette Crosbie as Katherine of Aragon and Dame Dorothy Tutin as Anne Boleyn.