Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings

Alison Weir, Author
Alison Weir. Ballantine, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-0-345-52133-0
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Mistress of Henry VIII and his rival Fran├žois I, Mary Boleyn has often been romanticized and misrepresented in histories and in popular novels like Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl, argues historian Weir (The Lady in the Tower) in this fresh take on Anne Boleyn's sister. Weir's rigorous reassessment makes the case (long debated by historians) that Mary was likely the elder sister, based on her grandson's written assertion of this. Mary was never the great, infamous whore described by papal representative Rodolfo Pio; her liaisons with both Fran├žois and Henry "were conducted so discreetly that not a single comment was made about them at the time," and she probably had little choice in becoming their mistress. Mary's first husband, William Carey, was not an insignificant courtier on whom Mary could be palmed off as "soiled goods"; he was the king's cousin and a rising star. Despite rumors that both Mary's children were Henry's, Weir cites evidence that her son was Carey's. After Anne's fall, it is highly unlikely that Mary tried to intercede for her or was even at court at the time. This nuanced, smart, and assertive biography reclaims the life of a Tudor matriarch whose illustrious descendants include Elizabeth II, Churchill, and Princess Diana. 16 pages of color illus. (Oct.)
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