On this day in 1521, Mary Boleyn married William Carey, a courtier and favorite of Henry VIII. Carey was both a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber and Esquire of the Body to the King.
Mary had what can best be described as a checkered past. She received a similar education to her sister Anne Boleyn, though arguably it “took” better with Anne. Mary did secure a place in 1514 as maid-of-honor to the King’s sister, Mary Tudor, who was to marry King Louis XII of France. She remained there even after her mistress left (Louis died within months), winning a place in the court of King Francis I and his wife Queen Claude. While there, she gained a terrible reputation. History accuses her of taking many lovers, some say Francis himself (who is said to have referred to her as his “English mare” and “a great ribald, infamous above all”). Nevertheless, when Mary returned to England in 1519 she became one of Queen Catherine of Aragon’s maids of honor. She also found a husband in William Carey, a man from a wealthy family, though only the second son.
The real question is when Mary embarked on her affair with Henry VIII. Most historians agree that it probably began some time in 1521, but how long it lasted becomes an issue given that Mary went on to have two children: a daughter Catherine in 1524, then a son Henry in 1526. While there were rumors that one or both of these children had been fathered by the King, most historians believe that this was not the case because Henry never publicly acknowledged the boy as he had his bastard son by Bessie Blount, Henry FitzRoy. Of course, Henry waited for several years to acknowledge FitzRoy – and he didn’t have years in this case given that by 1527 he had fallen in love with Mary’s sister Anne. Not exactly any incentive to claim Mary’s child as his own!
So many “alternative history” stories can be developed around this – it is a fascinating possibility….
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