Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Marys All Over the Place. Today's Mary: Boleyn

Thought to be Elizabeth Howard Boleyn
Mary Boleyn, child of Thomas Boleyn and Elizabeth (Howard) Boleyn, presented her fair and lovely face to the world in either 1499 or 1500 unless of course it was 1508-1509.
Isn't She Lovely? Mary Boleyn 
The date confusion is down to the fact that none of the Boleyn children, Mary, Anne, George or the other two baby boys who died very young had their births recorded.
Is that because of the necessary and prevailing attitudes that life was rigged against infants?
Many infants never saw their first birthdays.
It may have been that families hedged their bets against becoming too attached to a new bundle of joy by taking it one day at a time until the kidlet reached adult age.

Thomas Boleyn reportedly described his wife as having given him a child a year for the first five years of their  marriage.
That would place Mary, if she were eldest, in the 1499-1500 camp.
Some historians believe Anne to be the eldest daughter; I merely put it out there in case that's a road you follow.
For the sake of this post, and because my belief is that Mary was the elder of the two Boleyn girls (it's a fairly safe bet that George Boleyn was the youngest of the three) let's say 1500 was her birth year. It's such a nice, round figure. 

Like all children of the ambition-fueled court society at the time, Mary was scrutinized for assets that would stand the best chance of advancing the family name.
Mary's assets seem to have been fair good looks, kindness, and a willful streak that came outta the clear blue in her adult life that knocked everyone for a loop.

Since Thomas Boleyn had served as an ambassador to France 1519-1520 and as ambassador to the Low Countries prior to that, he had opportunity to reach out to royalty who might be interested in taking on one, or both, of his daughters as ladies in service to a queen.
Mary went with Mary Tudor, the unwilling bride-to-be of the heirless Louis XII of France, to serve her in France.
Mary Tudor, a gorgeous young thing, was understandably upset that her brother, Henry VIII, sent her to marry the unpretty and elderly king.
Maybe she exacted her revenge in the bedroom?
Reports from the time noted that the king couldn't keep up with Mary's vigorous efforts to give him a son, and died three months later.

From 1515-1520, Mary Boleyn stuck around France to serve Queen Claude, the incoming king's (Francis I) wife.
Queen Claude - seriously, she looked like this and her husband Francis I STILL had a mistress?!
Something about serving the wives seems to have caused many ladies-in-waiting to tumble into bed with the husbands. 
Mary Boleyn was no exception.
Francis I famously called her his 'English mare' as he rode her so often.
I prefer to think he meant it affectionately and not viciously.
Regardless, in no time at all, Mary Boleyn found herself called back from France and sent to serve Catherine of Aragon, the pious and ladylike (though with the heart of a warrior) wife of Henry VIII.


Again, in no time at all, Mary Boleyn was serving the wife while doing the husband.
From roughly 1521 - 1526 Mary Boleyn was mistress to Henry VIII.
She was also a married lady; in 1520 she married William Carey.

In that time period, Mary had a daughter, Catherine Carey, and a son, Henry Carey. 
It was likely that a 'gentleman's agreement' meant William Carey wouldn't sleep with his wife while the king was conducting his own affair with her, so you tell me who's the baby-daddy of those children?

In 1528, in one of the outbreaks of the 'English sweat' or sweating sickness, poor William Carey died of the disease.
Mary stuck around court long enough to see herself replaced by her sister Anne as the king's favorite mistress.
Mary Boleyn would have certainly witnessed the many jealousies and double-dealings of the court - including those thrown her way by blood relations.

In the end, Mary Boleyn pulled the pin on her career at court and imploded.
Image result for pull the pin
Well, otherwise someone's gonna get run over by Henry VIII's treacherous courtiers! 
She married a man, William Stafford, who was 'beneath' her own social standing.
Doing so meant banishment from court.
There's that streak of willfulness that, like lightning out of a blue sky, stunned and angered both Henry VIII and his then-queen, sis Anne Boleyn.
"Why you marry beneath you? AAARRRRRGGGGHHHHH!" 

The fact that Mary Boleyn went ahead with the marriage tells me she'd had it up to here with court shenanigans and banishment was actually her ultimate goal.

Mary and William Stafford and the two little Carey(Tudor?) children lived happily, if a little short of cash, together, and Mary died in her own bed in 1543.
Now who's the smart one?