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Mary Boleyn was the sister of Anne Boleyn and famous for being the mistress of two kings, Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France. She was born in 1499 and died in 1543. There is some speculation over whether it was Anne or Mary who was the elder sister, despite the fact that Mary is portrayed to be older in the series. Mary Boleyn was often left out by George and Anne Boleyn, who were more ambitious and had little use for their simpleminded sister, although Anne initially treats her with affection. Mary is last seen in season 2 after she is banished from court for marrying William Stafford, a commoner, and Anne and Thomas Boleyn refuse to listen to Mary, who declares that she loves William. Mary was nicknamed "the English mare" by Francis I, who, in the series, stated "Because I ride her so often." She was also nicknamed "the great prostitute" by everyone, partly the reason Anne was reluctant to become Henry's mistress. Mary's affair with Henry is very brief in the series, lasting two days; however, she apparently remained promiscuous and was shown to marry at least twice in Season 2.  She is played by Welsh actress Perdita Weeks.

Season One []

Mary as King Henry's mistress

The Boleyn sisters have spent several years living in Paris as ladies-in-waiting to Queen Claude, as their father Thomas Boleyn is the English ambassador to France.  Mary is pointed out by Francis I during the Anglo-French summit in episode 2, and he brings her to Henry's attention. Francis implies she's his mistress, saying, "I call her my English mare because I ride her so often." Mary is seen again at the Field Cloth of Gold with her sister Anne. Thomas Boleyn had previously instructed his daughters to gain Henry's interest, in the hopes of one his daughters becoming the King's mistress so he can improve his own social standing.  Anne is the more intelligent and stylish of the two, whereas Mary is sexier. Mary is invited to Henry's chambers; she tells Anne the King wants to see her, causing Anne to smile briefly.  When Mary meets the King in his chambers, he asks her to show him what 'French graces' she has learned, and she fellates Henry in response.  Henry later signs a treaty and has a temper tantrum privately, bringing Mary back with him to Whitehall Palace, where they have sex. Mary is about to fellate Henry once again but he tells her to leave. Mary dresses and leaves. She endures disapproval from her father for not keeping Henry's interest, a job Thomas Boleyn re-assigns to Anne. In the end, it turns out being Anne who keeps Henry's interest.  Little did any of the Boleyns know that Anne would marry Henry and become Queen of England. She eventually marries a nobleman called Sir William Carey, and the union produces two children. Although it is not shown in the series, Carey caught the sweating sickness and died.

The Boleyn sisters in France

 Season Two[]

Mary Boleyn is seen several times in Season Two, though never for long periods of time. She first appears at a new summit between Henry and Francis in Paris in episode 2.02, discussing her recent widowhood (which she does not seem to regret, stating her husband, William Carey, was impotent) with Mark Smeaton, and claiming she 'cannot wait to find some French stallion', indicating that she is still sexually uninhibited.  She greets her sister after Anne dances with Francis, with Anne informing her that she intends to consummate her relationship with Henry in Calais.  Despite her own past sexual experience with the King, Mary happily congratulates her sister.

Mary (right) with her sister Anne (left) in episode 2.03

Mary later visits Anne at Whitehall Palace while Anne is pregnant with her daughter Elizabeth in 2.03, and the two celebrate Anne's success in catapulting the Boleyn family into power; Mary is later shown holding Anne's hand when she gives birth.  Mary comforts her when Anne cries on learning she had a daughter and not a son.  In episode 2.04. Mary holds her infant neice Elizabeth at Elizabeth's baptism.  She is later seen at Whitehall at Christmas dancing with her sister (with Anne joking that they must find her a new husband) and Henry watches the two sisters laughing together, perhaps musing on how he has had sexual relationships with both of them.  

Mary at Elizabeth's baptism

She then later remarries to William Stafford in episode 2.05. Announcing she is pregnant, her sister Anne and father Thomas sharply question who the father is. Mary tells them it's William Stafford, much to the anger of Thomas Boleyn. Although annoyed that Mary's groom did not seek out Thomas Boleyn to ask for Mary's hand in marriage (though it is unlikely he would have been approved), Boleyn is angrier when he learns of the background of his son-in-law, he is red-blooded (those in the military as opposed to the blue-blooded of the nobility). Atop that, William Stafford is an army lieutenant who owns little land, and he certainly cannot pamper Mary as Henry does with Anne. Mary tries to plead with him, saying she loves William and was lucky to find a husband because of her reputation as Henry's 'Great Prostitute', but her father cuts off her allowance and disowns her, cruelly saying she and her husband can rot in hell.  Mary tearfully turns to her sister for help, but Anne (arguably bitter that she has just miscarried and now Mary looks strong and healthy with her pregnancy) reluctantly banishes Mary from court for not asking her permission to marry William. Mary leaves, crying bitterly.

Mary is rejected by her father and Anne

In reality, despite being very angry with her sister, Anne later took pity on Mary when she admitted her husband had fallen on hard times and sent her money and an expensive chalice in support, although the banishment from court stood. Her banishment ended up being a blessing in disguise, as Henry did not consider Mary worthy of imprisonment and execution as he did with the rest of the Boleyns during their downfall. Mary had several children and remained alive for some seven years after her sister was executed.  She is briefly mentioned in the Season Two finale as Henry's excuse for declaring his marriage to Anne null and void after Anne is condemned to die on false charges. It was implied that she died in Season Four when Ambassador Chapuys mentioned the death of Thomas Boleyn and how his only mourners were "the ghosts of his children"; in actuality Mary had outlived both her parents (although not by that much time) although Chapuys may have simply been referring to George and Anne.

Backstory of the real Mary Boleyn[]

Mary Boleyn was born in 1499 at Bickling Hall in Norfolk to Sir Thomas Boleyn and Elizabeth Howard, she was the eldest of the three surviving Boleyn children, Anne and George. She was educated along her siblings, was taught French, dancing, courtly manners, music, arithmetic, grammar, spelling, horseback riding. In 1514, Mary was selected as one of the English noblewomen to accompany Princess Mary (Henry VIII's youngest sister) to France, to marry King Louis XII of France, she was later joined by her younger sister, Anne, who had been studying in the Netherlands. In France, Mary had a number of admirers, but it is unlikely, that she became involved with all of them, it's believed that she only slept with four men her entire life: King Francis I, King Henry VIII and her husbands, William Carey and William Stafford. In 1515 King Louis XII died, Mary Tudor returned to England, Historian Eric Ives and Josephine Wilkinson think that Mary Boleyn actually returned with Mary Tudor to England, because there's no mention of Mary in the French court's records after 1515, Anne stayed behind. Before Mary Boleyn returned with Mary Tudor, she at some point slept with King Francis I of France. When she returned to England in 1515, it's unknown whether she returned to her parents' home at Hever Castle or entered Katherine of Aragon's household. In 1520 she married Sir William Carey. At some point she slept with King Henry VIII, it's unknown exactly when, most historians described the affair being a short one in 1522, others say it lasted from 1522 to 1525, others say it was a brief one in 1519, before Mary married, possibly when Henry's official mistress, Bessie Blount was pregnant. Her union with Carey produced two children, Katherine and Henry, Carey died in 1528 of sweating sickness. In 1534 she incurred the displeasure of her family by marrying Sir William Stafford, she was banished from court and died in 1543.


Mary Boleyn: The True Story of Henry VIII's Favourite Mistress by Josephine Wilkinson

Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings by Alison Weir

The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives


  • Anne: "When you remember how it was, when we were here before... could you ever have imagined this, Mary?" Mary: "Not for all the world... though, I'm not as clever as you, Anne."
  • Mary: "Anne... how easy do you think it was for me to find a proper husband... when I was called the 'Great Prostitute'?!  Indeed, I think myself lucky to have found William, and to be loved by him."  Anne: (angrily) "You did not ask my permission!"  Mary: (tearfully) "Do I have to ask your permission to fall in love?!"  Thomas Boleyn: (angrily) "YES!  Now, we are royalty!  Everything is different!" (Anne looks indecisive, Mary gives her a pleading look) Mary: "Please...Please? (Anne looks at her, sadly)  Sister-" (she reaches for Anne, but Anne backs away reluctantly) Anne: "No-No. (pause) You and your husband are banished from Court." (Mary catches her breath, courtsies, and leaves crying)