February 7, 2011

Mary Boleyn: The Great and Infamous Whore

I am very excited to post about a new book by one of my favorite authors, Alison Weir. Her newest non-fiction work is a biography on Mary Boleyn, mistress of Henry VIII and sister to Anne Boleyn. It is due out on Oct. 4th in the USA and on Oct. 6th in the UK.


According to the author, “In this book, the first full-scale, in-depth biography of Henry VIII’s famous mistress, Mary Boleyn, the sister of Anne, his second queen, Alison Weir explodes much of the mythology that surrounds Mary Boleyn and uncovers the truth about one of the most misunderstood figures of the Tudor age.
Her extensive, forensic research has facilitated a new portrayal, in which she reveals, for example:
-The probable nature of the relationship between the Boleyn sisters.
-New evidence about the reputation of Mary’s mother, Elizabeth Howard, who was rumoured to have been an early mistress of Henry VIII.
-Why we do not know what Mary looked like.
-The truth about Mary’s much-vaunted notoriety at the French court, and her relations with King Francois I.
-What happened to Mary after she left the French court.
-Mary’s role at the English court.
-Why Mary’s first husband, William Carey, was not an insignificant and complacent nobody, as is often claimed.
-The less-than-romantic truth about how Mary became Henry VIII’s mistress, and when.
-The truth about Mary’s reputation in England, and why Henry’s queen, Katherine of Aragon, did not complain about her being his mistress.
-New evidence that has a strong bearing upon the paternity of Mary’s two Carey children, whom many people believe were fathered by the King.
-Evidence to show that Henry VIII had more than one bastard child.
-When Mary’s affair with Henry VIII probably ended.
-How Mary was treated, and regarded, by her family.
-Where Mary lived after her disastrous second marriage to William Stafford and their banishment from court.
-Why there is barely a mention of Mary at the time of Anne Boleyn’s fall in 1536.
-How Anne’s daughter, the future Elizabeth I, may have been helped to regard her executed mother in a sympathetic light.
-The truth about Mary’s tenure of Rochford Hall, where she is  said to have lived for the last years of her life.
-The truth about Mary’s reputation.
Alison Weir’s site also has an abridged excerpt from the book:
“Mary Boleyn has gone down in history as a ‘great and infamous whore’. She was the mistress of two kings, Francois I of France and Henry VIII of England, and sister to Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII`s second wife. She may secretly have borne Henry a child. It was because of his adultery with Mary that his marriage to Anne was declared invalid. It is not hard to see how this tangled web of covert relationships has given rise to rumours and myths that have been embroidered over the centuries, and particularly in recent years, so that the truth about Mary has become obscured. In all my years of writing women’s histories, I have never tackled a subject who has been so romanticised, mythologised and misrepresented. Everyone knows Henry VIII as the King who married six times. His matrimonial adventures have been a source of enduring fascination for centuries, and the interest shows no sign of abating. Yet comparatively little is known or understood about Henry`s extra-marital adventures, and most people have the wrong idea about the woman who is now the most famous of his mistresses, Mary Boleyn. Was she really a ‘great and infamous whore’ with a notorious reputation? Is it true that Henry VIII was the father of her children? I am often asked these and numerous other questions about Mary, and am constantly being made aware, not only of various misconceptions that are accepted as facts by many, but also of the views of many others who are well-informed on the subject and are wondering why Mary Boleyn is so misrepresented. It is for these reasons – and because I have done a lot of unpublished research on her over four decades – that I have written a biography of Mary. Mary Boleyn represents only one short episode in Henry VIII`s chequered love life; all we can say with certainty is that she was his mistress for a short period while he was married to his first wife, Katherine of Aragon. Mary`s true historical significance – and importance – lies in the implications of her royal affair for her more celebrated sister, Anne Boleyn. My interest in Mary, and my research, goes back to the 1960s, when she was regarded as little more than a footnote to history. Since then, I have written about her briefly in three books, ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’, ‘Henry VIII: King and Court’ and ‘The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn’, while my unpublished research comes from my extensive original version of ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’, completed in 1974. There is no escaping the fact that an air of mystery pervades every aspect of Mary Boleyn`s life. There is so much that we don`t know about her, and only so much we can infer from the scant sources that have survived. She is in the shadow of her famous sister in more than one way. It is the persistence of the mythology surrounding Mary Boleyn that has been the most disconcerting aspect of my research. For much of what we might read about Mary, even in history books, should be treated with caution, based as it is on false assumptions and what might be termed ‘urban myths’. For this reason, this book is not only a biography but also a historiography of Mary Boleyn. What follows is a tale that has never fully been told, a rigorous assessment of what we know – and don’t know – about Mary Boleyn, which hopefully will enrich our understanding of this much–misrepresented lady and her relations with Henry VIII.”
Here’s a link to Alison Weir’s official site for more information.

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