Mary Boleyn Controversies

From The Tudors Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Historical controversies about
Mary Boleyn

Click EasyEdit to edit/add this page!
(Don't see the EasyEdit button above? <a href="../#signin" target="_self">Sign in</a> or <a href="../accountnew" target="_self">Sign up</a>.)

Were Mary Boleyn's Children, Henry and Catherine Carey,
really King Henry VIII's illegitimate children?

The case FOR
<a class="external" href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title="An Article by Anthony Hosking in Genealogy Magazine "Mary Boleyn's Carey Children — Offspring of King Henry VIII?" March 1977">An Article by Anthony Hoskins in Genealogy Magazine "</a>Mary Boleyn's Carey Children — Offspring of King Henry VIII?" March 1997

who quotes:
"Morever, Mr. Skydmore dyd show to me yongge Master Care, saying that he was our suffren Lord the Kynge’s son by our suffren Lady the Qwyen’s syster, whom the Qwyen’s grace might not suffer to be yn the Cowrte."
— John Hale, vicar of Isleworth to the Council, 20 April 1535

Kelly Hart in her book "The Mistresses of Henry VIII" (2009) says:

"As Mary became pregnant with her daughter in 1523 or 1524, and her son around June 1525, there seems to be a good chance that both Catherine and Henry Carey were Henry VIII's children. Surviving documents from Henry's reign and from Elizabeth I's have only a couple of hints that the Careys were royal bastards which perhaps indicates that they knew better. Nevertheless the dates seem to match. In 1532 Henry wrote to Charles V when trying to arrange a marriage for Henry Fitzroy, duke of Richmond. In the letter, he referred to Richmond as: 'our only bastard son'. This does not prove that he did not have others, as he was trying to persuade the emperor that Richmond would have a great inheritance - possibly a crown - and that this would not be shared. Henry Carey was just a small child at the time.

Carey was like the sons of many courtiers, named after the reigning king. In this case it may have been because of a more personal relationship between the baby boy and his sovereign. It was easier to recognise children by an unmarried woman than children conceived by double adultery. With Henry Fitzroy, Henry VIII did nothing publicly for the boy until he was six years old, past the age at which a child was in most danger of succumbing to a childhood disease. By the time Henry Carey turned six, it was 1532 - and Henry VIII was battling to marry young Carey's aunt.

At this time, the king was defying the whole of Christendom by seeking an annulment of his first marriage. To have acknowledged the Carey children as his own would have caused widespread embarrassment and a serious weakening of the moral stand he was trying to take. He was seeking to portray himself as an honourable man, and to depict Anne as from a good family - it would not have helped his chances to admit that her sister had borne his children. In fact it would have shown that any marriage to Anne Boleyn was legally dubious."

By examination of Tudor court documentation (primarily those pertaining to annuls and pensions, particularly those bestowed on Mary during the time of both her first & subsequent pregnancies), it is possible that Mary Boleyn's first 2 children were fathered by Henry VIII.

Historically, the last name Fitzroy was given to royal bastards which the King wished to acknowledge, though it was not a requirement. While Mary had both a daughter and son during the time she is historically reported to have been in the English court, and during times which we have documentation of Henry bestowing her with grants of land, fiscal pensions and other gifts (many of which were in the form of Jewelry, and therefor not considered to be a "parting" gift, so to speak), we can only be fairly certain that her son was indeed Henry's child. But when we take a look at the records and the myriad of accounts available, it is entirely likely her daughter was his as well.

As mentioned previously, Mary, like Bessie Blount, provided Henry with what he so desperately needed: a male heir to cement the proof of his virility, and to demonstrate his marriage to Catherine was blasphemous, b/c she had consummated her marriage to his brother.

Henry had no real need to demonstrate his paternity on her daughter~ we can also later defer to the fact that during her reign as Queen, Anne Boleyn, the aunt, took a special interest in both of Mary's children, her son & her daughter, despite being considered somewhat on the outs with her sister Mary by then, for her impromptu marriage to William Stafford.
Mary also believed to have birthed a third child, but it did not survive infancy; this child was never put into question in terms of paternity and the King; further substantiating the argument that the prior two were indeed his, and the third not.
Mary would have been unlikely to have called her husband Carey impotent, having possibly conceived a child with him, and having no interest in making her own life any more difficult.

After her husband's and her reconciliation, they spent years in semi-amicable marriage, before he succumbed to what is believed to have been sweating sickness.

Mary's subsequent marriage, to William Stafford, is thought to have been the bane of her relationship with Anne, and the reason she left court, though there is no sound proof that this were her reason for leaving. It's equally probable that Mary simply had had enough of the court and wished to live a quiet life in the country, with a man whom she most likely loved a great deal, considering he was far beneath the stature that a queen's sister would warrant in marriage.

Mary and Stafford lived in the country, out of the court's eye, for the rest of their lives; Mary being the only one to continue the Boleyn bloodline, aside from Anne's daughter, Elizabeth, who left no heirs herself. While many people today claim to trace their lineage back to Mary Boleyn, the genealogy is murky at best.

~"Rethinking the Henrician Era" by Peter Herman is an excellent resource for both sides of the argument, as his dissertation is based entirely on historical texts, primarily those written during the era and time of Henry; including some by both Spanish and french ambassadors staying in England at the time, and those closest to Henry, including Wolsey and Cromwell, as well as Cranmer. .

The case AGAINST

Most well known Tudor Historians do not believe the Carey children are actually Henry's. Here are a few quotes :

Tudor Historian Eric Ives in his book, "The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn" (2005) when discussing Henry's sexual history says:

" The evidence that Henry VIII had sexual problems is, first of all, circumstantial. Between 1509 and 1547 he is known , or can be presumed to have had sexual relations over some months or years with 8 women - that is, his 6 wives and his 2 known mistresses, Elizabeth Blount and Mary Boleyn. Only 4 of the 8 conceived, and we may note that the last time was at New Year 1537, when Henry's partners had a poor record of maternal success. Setting aside Jane Seymour, who died after the birth of her one child, only 3 pregnancies produced a healthy infant, one each for Katherine of Aragon, Elizabeth Blount and Anne Boleyn. There were other pregnancies that ended in miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death. Anne herself had 2 miscarriages -- that is, in two of her three known pregnancies. Katherine, her predecessor, had an even poorer record -- five failures in six, and over a much longer period.

This case history raises the possibility that it was Henry and not his wives who was responsible for silence in the royal nursery. At a distance of some 500 years, deficiencies in fertility or genetic defects can be nothing more than suspicions, and he one thing which seems clear is that venereal disease was not to blame (as is sometimes suggested) . The King's medical history and the record of the medicines he was prescribed show quite clearly that he was never treated for syphilis, unlike, for instance, Francis I, who was heavily infected. The leg ulcer which periodically darkened Henry's life from 1528, and is often assumed to be venereal, has been convincingly argued to be caused by osteomyelitis resulting from falls in the tiltyard.

We have to take into account the health and fertility of the women concerned. There is the evidence about the difficulty of Anne's first pregnancy and the five years delay between her agreement to marry Henry and the commencement of sexual relations in 1532, when she was over thirty, must have lessened her chances of successfully having children. But all the women could not have been bad risks. There is nothing in the history of Katherine of Aragon's sisters to suggest a tendency to impaired childbearing;
Mary Boleyn became pregnant as soon as she left Henry for her husband, William Carey; the same was true of [K] Catherine Parr, when she married Thomas Seymour after the King;s death in 1547."

Regarding the contemporary witness, John Hale who stated that Henry Carey was "the king's son", Eric Ives says:

"Those at court in the forefront of the battle for the papal headship did their best to exploit such plebeian sentiments. When two of the Observant Friars on the run from Greenwich were asked whether Elizabeth had been christened in cold water or in hot water they replied, 'hot water, but it was not hot enough'. When the Blessed Richard Reynolds,'the most learned monk in England', went to the scaffold with the Carthusian Martyrs in May 1535, he took with him John Hale, a Cambridge Fellow and vicar of Isleworth in Middlesex, who was part of a cell which Reynolds had been feeding with gossip about the morals of the Boleyn Family and the falseness of Henry's claim to be supreme head. It was Hale that confessed that Mary Boleyn's son by William Carey had been pointed out to him as the king's son. The group also dabbled in cryptic prophecies that circulated in moments of crisis -- that a queen (Anne) would be burned, that Henry was the curse Mouldwarp prophesied by Merlin, and so forth".

- This seems to indicate that John Hale had an ulterior motive for making his statement. He is also the ONLY contemporary who ever said that Carey was Henry's child.

Lady Antonia Fraser says:

"Despite later rumours to the contrary, none of Mary's children was fathered by King Henry; her daughter Catherine Carey and her son Henry Carey, created Lord Hunsdon by his first cousin Queen Elizabeth, were born in 1524 and 1526 respectively when the affair was over. (We may be sure that Henry Carey would have been acclaimed with the same joy as Henry Fitzroy, if he had been the King's son.)

Alison Weir says:

"In 1524, Mary bore a daughter Katherine and on 4 March 1526, a son, Henry, who is said to have resembled the King in looks, in 1535, John Hale, Vicar of Isleworth, stated that a nun of nearby Syon Abbey had pointed out to him "young Master Carey" and told him that the boy was the King's bastard. Henry however, who had already acknowledged one son and was sensitive about his lack of heirs, would surely have willingly admitted paternity of Henry Carey had the boy been his. The affair was probably over before Mary bore her son in 1526, by which time Henry had fallen fatefully in love with her sister". (King Henry VIII, The King and his Court - 2008)

Derek Wilson in his Brief History of Henry VIII (2009) says:

"The possibility of Henry suffering from some congenital sexual malfunction has often been mooted. ....He got his first wife with child seven or eight times in nine years but, in the five years that Elizabeth Blount was his mistress, she only bore him the one son. The only other adulterous attachment he is known to have formed - to Mary Carey (nee Boleyn) - resulted in no bastards."

David Starkey however, withholds judgment and says :
"In 1525, Mary had a son, Henry Carey. Was her husband the boy's father or was it the King's? In either case, childbed marked the end of her love affair with King Henry, just as it had done for her predecessor."
(Six Wives 2003)

  • Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives (2005)
  • The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser (2002)
  • The Rise & Fall of Anne Boleyn (Retha Warnicke)
  • "The 6 wives of Henry VIII" ,"Henry VIII, King & Court","The Lady in the Tower","Children of Henry VIII" all by Alison Weir
  • The other Tudors: Henry VIII's Mistresses & Bastards by Philippa Jones
  • New worlds, Lost Worlds by Susan Brigden
  • The Tudor Monarchy by John Guy