One historian famously declared that all we know for certain about Mary Boleyn could barely fill up a postcard. Truly, the mysterious “Other Boleyn Girl” will go down in history for her relation to bigger names in Tudor England. She was the sister of Anne Boleyn, the aunt of Elizabeth, and one of only two publicly acknowledged mistresses to Henry VIII. Thanks to historical fiction and interested Tudor fans, the legend of Mary Boleyn has grown to sordid prominence. How exactly did Mary “snare” a king? What scandalous act did she commit to earn her famous exile? Was she really so “promiscuous”? Unlace that bodice to these revealing facts about Mary Boleyn, the infamous “Other Boleyn Girl.”
Mary Boleyn Facts
1. Her Parents Were Power Hungry
Mary Boleyn’s parents, Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, and Lady Elizabeth Howard, were both savvy courtiers who knew a thing or two about social climbing. According to many, Thomas’s ambitions knew no bounds—and he was prepared to sacrifice almost anything to get to the top. It’s no wonder that Mary ended up in the middle of some of the Tudor court’s most shocking scandals.
2. She Was Blue Blooded
There’s a reason why the Boleyns seemed so power-hungry—they’d previously suffered a dramatic fall from grace. No “upstart” to the aristocracy, Mary drew blood from the Dukes of Norfolk on her mother’s side. Her great-grandfather had passed while fighting against Henry Tudor’s forces, on the side of Richard III. When Henry Tudor became King of England, he demoted the men of the Boleyn family to Earls.
3. Her Birth Was Mysterious
Lady Elizabeth Howard was pregnant a number of times throughout her life, but only three of her children survived: Mary, Anne, and George Boleyn. It’s unknown when each of the three children was born, but it’s likely that Mary was the oldest. She was the first to get married, and her grandson ended up inheriting one of her father’s titles—but not without a lot of drama in the interim (more on that later).
4. Her Birthdate Changes Everything
Historians generally believe that Mary Boleyn was born sometime between 1499 and 1508. While knowing the exact date doesn’t seem that imperative, it does end up coloring what later happened to Mary—it’s the difference between starting at affair at 21 and starting an affair at 12. Either way, the results were scandalous.
5. She Wasn’t the Favorite
Most likely raised at Hever Castle at Kent with her siblings, Mary was given the education in literacy and charm that befits the daughter of a career courtier family—but then, her father seemed to turn on her. He sent Anne—not Mary—to complete her education at the esteemed court of Margaret of Austria, a great honor for any courtier’s child. Did Thomas favor Anne over Mary? It wasn’t the last time that the sisters would be pit against each other.
6. They Spared No Expense
Whether or not she was her father’s favorite, Mary Boleyn was groomed to be an exceptional and hard-to-miss member of the Tudor court. Her education was extensive. It included academic subjects like math and history, and recreational activities like archery, riding, and hunting. This was in addition to more “feminine” pursuits of the time like dancing, household management, singing, and games such as cards and chess.
After all, soon enough it would be time to send her out into the world to boost the profile of the Boleyn family—for better or for worse.
7. She’s a Mystery
There are no surviving portraits of either Boleyn sister, and so Mary and Anne sometimes “share” presumed images. For example, a miniature painting by Lucas Horenbout from roughly 1525 was believed to portray Anne Boleyn for years, until one scholar used the age and dress of the model to suggest she was, in fact, Mary.
Regardless of the lack of portraits, there is a popular idea that Mary was the “fairer” of the two Boleyn sisters, promoted by historical fiction such as The Other Boleyn Girl. However, there may have been a reason for all this confusion…
8. The Boleyns Were Judged Harshly by Their Own Friends
The assumption that Mary was the prettier Boleyn sister most likely transpired from a misinterpreted conversation between their father’s chaplain, John Barlow, and an Imperial council member in the 1520s. The council member asked whether the king’s new woman (Anne Boleyn) was “worth leaving his wife for.” Barlow’s reply was cold-blooded.
9. He Caused a Historical Mix-Up
When asked if Anne Boleyn was beautiful, Thomas Boleyn’s chaplain replied “the other lady more beautiful still.” This led people to believe he was referring to Mary, the king’s previous mistress and Anne’s sister, as the “hotter” one—but hey, keeping track of Henry VIII’s lady friends can be difficult. In truth, it was the king’s even earlier mistress, Bessie Blount, who beat Anne in this little beauty contest—not Mary.
The men were talking about Anne in relation to her, not her sister. Either way, they’re being pretty hard on Anne.
10. She Was in for a Wild Ride
While Mary had been passed over as a potential maid-of-honour to Margaret of Austria, she did eventually find a position for herself as maid-of-honour to Henry VIII’s sister when she was about 15 years old. It was a plum role for an ambitious young girl—but she got more than she bargained for. She traveled with a number of other English maids to accompany Mary Tudor to France, where Tudor would wed King Louis XII. When they got there, they were met with a grim surprise.
11. She Didn’t Want to Go Back
Nearly immediately, King Louis XII made moves to send his new wive’s English attendants home—but Mary Boleyn had an ace up her sleeve. Her father had recently been appointed England’s ambassador to France, so she was allowed to stay. However, just a year later, Louis XII passed. Mary Tudor packed her bags to go back to England, but Mary Boleyn decided to stay—and she may have had devious reason to.
12. She Was Up to No Good
Following the passing of Louis XII, his son-in-law Francis I was crowned King of France. Mary Boleyn stayed in France to serve under his queen, Claude—but she was hiding a dark secret from her so-called friend. It was during this time that Mary was said to have begun an illicit affair with King Francis I…and that might not have been the only trouble she was getting into.
13. She Had a Bad Reputation
According to some, Mary Boleyn embarked on a number of affairs with different men during the time she was in Paris. However, history may vindicate her yet—many historians believe that these tales about her exploits were exaggerated, all for a very cruel reason.
14. They Were Hated
While fiction writers have taken Mary’s “lewd” reputation for granted, many historians are starting to doubt its accuracy. For one, the primary purveyors of this “fact” had huge biases against the Boleyn party, and they also believed that her sister Anne had six fingers on each hand, a projecting tooth, and embarked on countless affairs that got her “banished” to France.
Regardless, it’s very likely that her affair with the French king was real. He wasn’t exactly keeping mum about it…
15. He Gave Her Cruel Nicknames
Francis I had been freshly crowned King of France, and probably thought he was pretty hot stuff. It seems like he was hardly one to keep his mouth shut when it came to his private affairs. He is said to have referred to Mary Boleyn as “the English mare” and “my hackney” (a hackney being a type of horse). But that, sadly, wasn’t all. He also called her “una grandissima ribalda, infame sopra tutte” (“a very great [slur against women], the most infamous of all”). Yikes. We’d say “Run girl,” but Mary eventually got out of there all on her own.
16. The Boleyns Took France
After the departure of Mary Tudor and the coronation of Francis I, Mary Boleyn had been alone in Paris, but she was soon joined by her father Thomas and her sister Anne. The trio spent roughly four years there, during which time Mary had her affair with Francis. Eventually, the relationship ended—but it wasn’t the only relationship that was souring.
17. Her Parents Were Brutal
It was around this time that the relationship between Mary Boleyn and her parents Thomas and Elizabeth began to sour. According to one historian, they “developed feelings of dislike” for their eldest child. Ouch. Was it the affair with Francis, or the rumors that spread about her? Either way, pretty harsh. No wonder she turned to others for the love and affection that she was lacking at home.
18. They Opened the Door
Nevertheless, the Boleyns were still ambitious and jockeyed for a position for Mary in the English royal court. Little did they know that they’d be sending her down a dark and twisted road. Upon her return from France, she became a maid-of-honour to Henry VIII’s wife Catherine of Aragon, putting her squarely in the notorious king’s sights.
19. She Met Her Match
At the same time, Mary Boleyn’s parents had been doing their best to find her a suitable match—and soon after they came back from France, they finally settled on one. His name was William Carey, and he was both third cousin and favorite courtier to Henry VIII. Mary and William Carey were married on February 4, 1520—but it wasn’t exactly happily ever after.
20. He Was Waiting in the Wings
Henry VIII was a guest at Mary’s wedding to William Carey. Being a close friend to Carey, his Majesty even gave the couple a handsome financial gift. The newlyweds were in great favor in the Tudor court, and that favor would only grow—but it would come with a great personal cost.
21. They Were Incredibly Secretive
It’s not known exactly when it began, but one thing is for sure: soon after her marriage to William Carey, Mary Boleyn began an illicit affair with King Henry VIII. How long did it go on? Did she love him? The answers to many of these questions are mysteries—the pair were actually so discreet that very few accounts of the relationship exist. It would come at a great expense to Mary…but at first, it certainly came with its own benefits.
22. He Had No Complaints
While we may not know much about the affair between Mary Boleyn and Henry VIII, it has been speculated that one person who was close to both knew—and kept it a secret for his own dark reasons. That would be William Carey, Mary’s husband and Henry’s friend. He didn’t seem to mind sharing his wife with the king. Carey benefitted from numerous prestigious appointments and manors given to him by Henry during the course of the affair.
23. She Was the Face of Kindness
Shortly after Mary’s sister Anne returned to England, she made her debut at the English court, with both Henry VIII Mary in attendance. It was at a pageant, where ladies played “virtues” and men played “vices.” Mary played “Kindness,” and Anne, the future queen, famously played “Perseverance”—how prophetic of her seven-year wait for the throne.
The king’s wife was not in attendance—and we doubt she would’ve been amused by her husband’s mistress playing kindness. It’s probably a good thing she wasn’t there…
25. He Wore His Heart on His Sleeve
Later that day, a joust took place and Henry VIII participated. The king was infamous for his grand gestures later when he had an affair with Anne Boleyn, but during his relationship with Mary he was tight-lipped—with one exception, on the day of the joust. He wore armor that sported the motto “Elle mon Coeur a navera,” which means “She has wounded my heart.”
Many historians believe that this was a subtle nod to his sweetheart Mary…but in the gossipy Tudor court, any indication of a dark secret could also lead to dark rumors.
26. People Whispered About Her Family
In 1524, Mary Boleyn became pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl that she named Catherine Carey—but soon, dark rumors began to swirl about the young family. Due to the timing of Catherine’s birth, many believe that she may have been fathered by Henry VIII and not William Carey. many even said that Catherine looked like the king.
However, Henry VIII was way more in the “son” game, legitimate or not. He was clearly only interested in male heirs and had already acknowledged an illegitimate son years earlier, so Catherine’s parentage was something of a moot point.
27. They Moved in Different Circles
At this point, both Mary and Anne were firmly entrenched in the Tudor court. One would expect that they were close, but Anne was an unmarried maid-of-honour while Mary held the position of lady-in-waiting…to her husband’s mistress. While Mary was said to be the more beautiful of the pair, it was Anne who had inherited her parents’ ambitious nature—and soon enough, she’d put it to good use.
28. The Affair Ended With Baby #2
In 1525, Mary Boleyn became pregnant again. If her affair with the king had survived the birth of her first child, her second pregnancy was the final nail in the coffin for her affair with Henry VIII. By the time that Mary’s second child, Henry Carey, was born, the king had definitely turned his attentions elsewhere.
29. He Might Not Have Known
During his wife’s affair with Henry VIII, William Carey was on the receiving end of several prestigious land grants and favors. To be perfectly fair, this favor might also be because Carey held the prestigious position of Esquire of the Body to the King and seemed to be very well-liked by his Majesty for their shared talent for jousting and hunting.
30. She Made Interesting Naming Choices
So, did anyone else notice that Mary named her children Henry and Catherine…the names of her alleged lover and his wife? People in the court must have, because once again, there were whispers that Henry Carey was the king’s illegitimate son. However, those rumors dispelled pretty quickly. After all, something way more juicy and scandalous was about to go down…
31. He Played Switcheroo
Their affair might have been over, but what Henry VIII did to Mary Boleyn in 1526 had to sting regardless. It was in this year, shortly after the birth of Mary’s second child, that the king began to publicly pursue her sister Anne. If Mary was affected by this quick turn, she didn’t let it show. She had a position in the court to protect, after all—and she’d need all the help she could get, considering what was in store for her.
32. There Was Doom on the Horizon
Anne Boleyn had always been their parents’ favorite, and now Henry VIII was ardently pursuing her. It couldn’t have been easy for Mary Boleyn—but her nightmare was just beginning. In 1528, a mysterious and dangerous illness swept through the Tudor court. The “sweating sickness,” as it was called, soon threw a dark pallor over the Tudor court.
33. The Court Was in Dire Trouble
After the outbreak began, Henry VIII fled his home and dissolved the court, hoping to avoid it altogether. The Boleyns retreated to their home of Hever Castle, but sadly, both Anne Boleyn and William Carey contracted the sickness. Henry VIII sent his personal physician to care for Anne, but the prognosis for Mary’s husband wasn’t so promising.
34. It Was the Beginning of a Terrible Era
Under the care of the king’s doctor, Anne Boleyn recovered from the sweating sickness—but William Carey wasn’t as lucky. He passed on June 22, 1528, at just 28 years old, leaving his wife Mary a widow. The loss was devastating, but the heartache wasn’t over yet.
35. She Was in for a Shock
William Carey had been a successful and wealthy courtier. He had an esteemed position within the Tudor court and had been a favorite of Henry VIII’s. However, despite this, he left behind considerable debts when he passed—and the burden fell to his widow, Mary Boleyn. She was in deep trouble, but the worst was yet to come.
36. She Lost It All
Following the loss of her husband, Mary Boleyn struggled desperately to pay off her widow’s debts. She’d been at the center of the Tudor court, but now, she was utterly destitute. Boleyn even began to pawn her own jewelry—but it still wasn’t enough.
37. He Abandoned Her
When Mary Boleyn’s husband William passed on, her father’s reaction was utterly cold-blooded. Thomas Boleyn offered little financial support to Mary in the wake of her widowhood. It took her sister Anne’s intervention to secure Mary a very handsome widow’s pension of £100 a year.
38. She Lost Her Son
However, there was a dark side to Anne’s pleadings to their father on behalf of Mary. After Carey’s passing, Anne Boleyn took on Mary’s son Henry as a ward and secured his education at a respectable monastery. Whether this was done to exercise power over her helpless sister or simply as an of familial altruism remains unknown. Either way, the relationship between Mary and Anne became more and more fraught in the years that followed.
39. A Helping Hand from Hank
While Mary’s 10-year-old son Henry Carey was being educated at the expense of his aunt Anne, the same old rumors about the boy begin to follow him to the monastery. Some of the monks believed their pupil was, in fact, the illegitimate son of Henry VIII. When the King continued to support Henry financially long after his father’s passing, it added some weight to that theory.
40. He Had a Type
As if having affairs with both Boleyn girls wasn’t enough, Henry VIII continued to have a wandering eye—but it was one that was near-sighted. It’s rumored that Henry may have conducted an affair with another relative of Mary and Anne’s. The alleged other “other” woman was either Mary Shelton or her sister Madge, both cousins to the Boleyn family.
If it seems like Henry isn’t casting a wide net, I’ll add that aristocratic families were very tightly bred, so the dating pool was very shallow.
41. He’d Do Anything for Her
Henry VIII had fallen for Anne Boleyn in 1526, but unlike her sister Mary, she refused his advances. She didn’t want to be his mistress. She wanted to be his queen. Henry scrambled to find a way to get rid of Catherine of Aragon, who was approaching 40 and who had yet to bear him any sons. The ensuing drama was utterly chaotic—and Mary Boleyn would often get caught in the middle throughout it all.
42. He Wanted Out by Any Means Necessary
Henry VIII had been notoriously discreet about his affair with Mary Boleyn. However, when he saw an opportunity to use it to his advantage, he finally spilled the beans. See, long before Henry VIII had been married to Catherine of Aragon, she’d been briefly married to his brother, and when he wanted to leave her for Anne Boleyn, he used this as an excuse to have the marriage annulled. But knowing he’d used this excuse once, he had to cover his bases to protect himself.
43. He Revealed Their Secret
The only reason we know for sure that Henry VIII had an affair with Mary Boleyn is because he admitted to it before marrying Anne. He needed a dispensation for the marriage to be accepted, and he had to admit that he’d been with Anne’s sister. With that out of the way, he was free to finally wed Anne—thereby screwing Catherine of Aragon over twice, each time in a different way, with the same rules. Ouch.
44. They Were Under Fire
Anne Boleyn spent seven years biding her time and waiting for Henry VIII to become her husband. Over the years, the women grew closer, and Mary was a frequent companion to her sister—and was there for Anne during some of her darkest days. While Anne was popular at court and the king was known for lavishing her with gifts, she was also detested by those who remained loyal to Catherine of Aragon—and was even once attacked by an angry mob of women.
45. She Was By Her Side
Finally, after Henry VIII received his dispensation to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, he was free to wed Anne Boleyn. Mary Boleyn was one of Anne’s attending ladies-in-waiting at the latter’s coronation on June 1, 1533. If her sister marrying her ex-lover made Mary feel awkward at all, she never showed it.
46. She Clawed Her Way Back
Mary Boleyn was still struggling, but as a new sister-in-law to the King, she began to once again benefit from his good graces—likely at the behest of his new bride Anne. She’d never really reconciled with her parents following her husband’s passing, but at least she had Anne and Henry. Mary was on the list of recipients of gifts from the king in 1532 and 1534—but soon enough, they’d all turn on her.
47. She Gave What She Could
Needlework was a standard part of any noblewoman’s education, and Mary was no exception. In 1533, she made a New Year’s gift of a blackwork collar, crafted by her own hand, that she gave to Henry VIII. Don’t let your mind drift from “collars” to something dirty; this is well after the affair ended. She was likely grateful to have made it back into the inner circle of the Tudor court. Little did she know, her days were numbered.
48. She’d Been Through So Much
Mary Boleyn’s love life had been tumultuous since the beginning—from her early days as the mistress to one king to her later days as…the very-much married mistress to another. She’d known the advantages (and downsides) to making political matches, but in 1534, something completely unexpected happened to Mary Boleyn.
49. She Took a Step Down
In 1534, the widowed Mary Boleyn fell deeply and desperately in love—but there was just one problem.His name was William Stafford, and he was a soldier from the noble Stafford dynasty. However, he was a younger son from a lower branch. On top of the fact that her ultra-ambitious parents would never approve, there was also that little thing where Stafford wasn’t rich or prestigious enough to openly be with a king’s sister-in-law.
Regardless, Mary was determined to be with him—and she’d sacrifice it all to do it.
50. They Ran Off Together
Due to her status—and his lack thereof—Mary Boleyn and William Stafford only saw one option. They eloped in 1534. What should’ve been a glorious and happy day for the couple instead set off a brutal chain reaction that would ruin their life together before it even began. At first, they kept their marriage a secret…but soon enough, the truth came out.
51. They Couldn’t Hide It Any Longer
Shortly after their wedding, Mary Boleyn became pregnant. Hiding a wedding is one thing, but hiding a pregnancy is another—especially when the entire Tudor court was anxiously awaiting one, as the pressure was on Anne Boleyn to conceive a son for the king. When it became clear that Mary Boleyn was pregnant, the consequences were dire.
52. Her Sister Was Furious
The truth was out. Not only had Mary Boleyn secretly married a man beneath her station, she was also pregnant by him. The condemnations were swift and brutal. Anne Boleyn had given Henry VIII a daughter, but not the son he so desired—and her sister’s unexpected pregnancy must have felt like a slap in the face in the midst of her struggles. Queen Anne instantly turned on her sister—but that was just the start.
53. Her Family Saw Red
Mary had never been her parent’s favorite child. In fact, she’d actually been their least favorite. And after her father had stiffed her following the loss of her first husband, the relationship between Mary and the Boleyns had been a bit cold, to say the least. When Mary’s power-hungry parents found out that she had secretly wed a mere soldier, their icy demeanor turned into white-hot rage.
54. She Sacrificed Everything
Following her secret marriage, Mary Boleyn’s parents disowned her—but the nightmare didn’t end there. Her actions had flagrantly disregarded the king’s authority over her as a courtier, and he was furious. In the end, Henry VIII had his ex-lover and current sister-in-law Mary Boleyn banished from court. She had lost it all, but her story didn’t end there.
55. She Had No Regrets
From what we can tell, Mary had no misgivings about everything that she’d sacrificed for William Stafford. Even as Mary begged for Thomas Cromwell, the king’s advisor to intercede with Anne and the King on her behalf, she stood by her man and wrote “I had rather beg my bread with him than to be the greatest queen in Christendom. And I believe verily… he would not forsake me to be a king.” Was this a pointed stab at her sister’s choices?
56. She Moved On
Within a year of her secret marriage to William Stafford, Mary Boleyn gave birth to a son named Edward. Soon after, she became pregnant again—this time, with a daughter. She chose to name the girl Anne. It was most likely a heartbreaking gesture to honor her estranged sister. It’s not known if Anne learned of this tribute…as the queen’s life was filled with troubles of her own.
57. Anne Was Losing Favor
If Mary thought she had it rough in exile at her husband’s family home in Staffordshire, her sister Anne was facing an even more brutal situation back in London. Henry VIII had been openly cheating on her with one of her ladies-in-waiting, but things began to look up when she got pregnant in 1535. However, soon after, she miscarried. It was the beginning of the end of Anne Boleyn—and her family wouldn’t escape unscathed.
58. She Was in Trouble…
Henry VIII had, against all odds, had his marriage to Catherine of Aragon annulled. When he decided to leave Anne Boleyn, he didn’t want to take a chance on that same plan not working a second time. On top of that, Anne’s position at court was not exactly favorable. Her former ally Thomas Cromwell had turned on her—and he had a devious and chilling plan up his sleeve.
He conspired to have Anne imprisoned for adultery, incest, and treason…but that wasn’t all.
59. …As Were the Rest of the Boleyns
Mary and Anne’s little brother George Boleyn was detained by the authorities at the same time, implicated in the same charges as his sister. While Anne and George had always been close, most historians agree that the disturbing charges against the siblings had been drummed up as a way to oust the Boleyns from the Tudor court after Anne had failed to deliver a male heir. It was a devastating blow—but another was waiting the younger Boleyns around the corner.
60. They Turned on Their Own Daughter (Again)
The ambitious Boleyn parents had already disowned Mary Boleyn—but what Thomas Boleyn to his daughter Anne was even crueler. The sentence for the charges against Anne and her brother George was execution. As a courtier to Henry VIII, Thomas Boleyn reluctantly agreed to the sentence that was handed down to his two youngest children. It was yet another brutal betrayal from the elder Boleyns…and it was all for nothing. Thomas was stripped of his position and left the court in disgrace. Hope it was worth it!
61. It Had All Been a Huge Mistake
Both of Mary’s younger siblings were found guilty in separate trials. George was brought to the scaffold for his execution on May 17, 1536. In his final address to the crowd that gathered to watch, he gave them a dire warning, saying to “trust not in […] the flatteries of the court.” The Boleyns had done everything in their power to position themselves at the center of the Tudor court—and look where it had gotten them.
62. She Tried to Help Them
Two days later, Mary’s sister Anne was led to the scaffold for her own execution. She addressed the crowd, and didn’t condemn Henry VIII for his betrayal, even going so far to say “God save the king and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never.” Many suspect that her kind words were meant to save her remaining relatives from Henry VIII’s wrath.
63. Her Daughter Followed in Her Footsteps
While Mary Boleyn never came back to court after her exile, her daughter Catherine had an illustrious career as a professional lady-in-waiting to future Tudor queens. While the awkward execution of Anne Boleyn in 1536 might have put a damper on her prospects, Catherine managed to become a maid-of-honour to Henry’s fourth and fifth queens, Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard. She was also a close friend and chief lady of the bedchamber to her maternal cousin, Elizabeth I of England.
64. It’s In The Genes
Through her daughter Catherine Carey, Mary Boleyn was the grandmother of Lettice Knollys, a lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth I who was exiled by the queen for eloping with Her Majesty’s rumored paramour Robert Dudley. The Boleyns always proved that scandal runs in the family…
65. The Survivors Tried to Stick Together
For most of Mary’s life, her father Thomas Boleyn fought with their Irish relatives over the rights to the title of Earl of Ormonde. Decades later, Mary’s niece Elizabeth I would finally grant the title to Mary’s son, Henry Carey. Of course, this was during Carey’s final hours. Using the classically dry Boleyn wit, Carey told his royal cousin, “Madam, as you did not count me worthy of this honor in life, then I shall account myself not worthy of it in death.”
66. They May Have Got a Happily Ever After After All
Following the execution of her siblings, Mary spent nearly a decade with her second husband on their Staffordshire lands. With little income, we don’t know if it was comfortable living. But when it comes to the Tudor era, no news was usually good news—meaning that we can perhaps take the silence on their later life to mean that it was relatively peaceful compared to life in the courts.
67. They Inherited Scandal
Mary’s great-grandson would meet a similar fate to Mary’s more famous sister Anne. Robert Devereux was Mary’s great-grandson by Lettice Knollys (who, like Mary, was disgraced from court for eloping). Devereaux rose to be a young favorite of the now-elderly Elizabeth I. Unfortunately, he overplayed his cousin’s favor and launched a rebellion that ended with his beheading for treason in 1601. Guys, not everything needs to run in the family.
68. She Was the Last of Kin
Mary’s parents had spent most of their lives bent on success, but they each passed on following their own exile from the court just a few short years after Anne and George’s executions, making Mary the last Boleyn standing. In a bleak twist of luck, the execution of Mary’s two siblings for treason had improved her prospects. As her parents’ only surviving child, Mary inherited a sizable chunk of their lands, which helped ease their financial burden… but at what cost?
69. At Least She Made Them Count
She may have been the survivor of the family, but the Boleyns didn’t exactly had a long life expectancy. On July 19, 1543, Mary Boleyn passed on. She was only in her early 40s, but was survived by her four children. There are no records of what happened to her two children by her second husband, but her first two children went on to keep the Boleyn family tree going…
70. We Don’t Know What Happened to Her
Fittingly for a woman whose life is a walking question mark, there is no confirmed place of burial or even place of death for Mary Boleyn. It’s sad, but after all she’d been through, at least— Mary Boleyn ultimately had a happier ending than her two ill-fated siblings.
71. She Saw Success (and Tragedy) Down the Line
Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales, was a descendant of Mary Boleyn—and so is her former mother-in-law, Elizabeth II. Obviously, this means Prince Harry and Prince William are also descended from the famous mistress. Congrats on getting your bloodline into the royal family, Mary!
72. She Begged for Help
Following her scandalous marriage to William Stafford, Mary had been shunned by not just the king but also her father, uncle, and brother. It was only her sister, Queen Anne, who showed some sympathy and sent Mary a golden cup and some money to alleviate her financial problems…but that didn’t exactly mean Mary made her way back to Anne’s good graces.
73. They Never Saw Each Other Again
Although Anne had relented and helped her sister financially, she still refused to see Mary in person. There are no records of Mary visiting her parents or her siblings following Anne’s arrest. There aren’t even any letters between the siblings. It’s most likely that the sisters never saw each other again before Anne’s execution in 1536.
74. They Weren’t the Only Scandalous Ones
Many years before Mary Boleyn’s scandalous affair with King Henry VIII, dark rumors swirled in the Tudor court about her family. Boleyn’s parents were so power-hungry, people whispered that her own mother was having an affair with Henry, too—and that Thomas Boleyn knew. But Henry, as always, had an answer for everything.
75. He Did Kiss and Tell
Just before his marriage to Anne Boleyn, someone actually dared to ask Henry VIII about his preference for Boleyn women. He replied: “Never with the mother.” While he may have let Elizabeth off the hook, with this revelation, he essentially verified his affair with Mary.