Moonday’s Heroic Hunk: Henry VIII Tudor: the Mary Boleyn years

Young Henry

 

King Henry VIII Tudor during the Mary Boleyn years is Moonday’s Heroic Hunk in History. Born in 1491 in Greenwich Palace, Henry inherited the English throne in 1509 and married his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon. Their happy marriage fell prey to Henry’s wandering eye (as well as other parts of his anatomy, I would imagine) and her inability to produce a male heir. In 1519 Henry had proven his ability to reproduce when he had fathered a son (Henry Fitzroy) by his first public mistress, Elizabeth “Bessie” Blount. Even though his relationship with Queen Katherine remained cordial, Henry was considering divorce based on verses in Leviticus which stated marriage to a brother’s widow was forbidden and such unions would be childless. 

Eric Bana as Henry in The Other Boleyn Girl

 

Soon after her son’s birth, Bessie lost her position with Henry whose eye had turned to Mary Boleyn, the daughter of a minor nobleman who lived in Hever Castle and Elizabeth Howard, the daughter of the Duke of Norfolk. Both she and sister Anne served in the French court but dates and other facts are foggy. Mary acquired quite the reputation while in France. One of her numerous lovers was King Francis I who called her his “English mare” and said she was “a great prostitute and infamous above all other.” 

Mary Boleyn

 

On her return to London in 1519, her father secured Mary a place in Queen Katherine’s service where she soon became King Henry’s mistress. When the King tired of her in 1521, she was married off to William Carey, a knight of the King’s Privy Chamber. Or not—perhaps the affair continued much longer and Henry fathered her two children. The historical accounts vary but Anne was made the children’s guardian. (Obviously, “The Other Boleyn” movie with Eric Bana, Scarlett Johansson, and Natalie Portman strayed far from the true story but it was still a great movie.) 

The Other Boleyn

 

When William died a few years, Mary entered into an inappropriate but happy marriage with Thomas Stafford which angered her family. In a letter to Thomas Cromwell seeking his intercession with her family, Mary 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.” Since the couple was not forgiven, they were not at court when the hammer (or axe), actually on Anne and the rest of her family. Since both of her siblings were deceased, Mary inherited her family’s assets. She died in 1543. Her children and grandchildren were prominent and cherished cousins of Queen Elizabeth. Next week, Henry and Anne. RitaVF

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4 Responses

  1. But I can forgive a lot of inaccuracy for someone who looks like Bana did in OBG!

    As a Tudor history buff, I’m glad to see pop culture getting away from the Fat King Hal as played by Charles Laughton and presenting Henry as he was in his youth — hot royal stud muffin!
    Another great post, as always!

  2. Still say I’d climb the walls like a cat with her claws out if forced into activities of the Royal court! Don’t envy these people at all. Nope. Not a bit.

    Sympathy has a hard time coming too, until I remember it was duty for country with the majority of these women. Political pawns, they had to be tough in their own right. It was probably the only way they stayed sane.

    But the romance writer in me wonders; did Henry’s women find their involvement with him worth it? It must have been good while relationships lasted for so many to have become involved with him outside marriage. (Or maybe they needed a meal ticket?) Sigh. Will probably never know.

    Wonderful, thought-provoking post, Rita.

  3. I believe Henry took better care of the mistresses than the wives (well, duh, right?)- But it seems he did try to make arrangements for the mistresses to live all right once he tired of them. And the best thing is that they did get to live! LOL!

    And yea, loved that movie, too.

  4. Fascinating – as usual.

    Allison

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