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Eager reader of history, mystery, classics, biographies, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, and etc. My reviews are mostly positive--I rarely finish or write about books I don't enjoy. My TBR is too high for that.

Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings

Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings - Alison Weir

Mary Boleyn’s story is full of drama, twists of fate and changes in fortune. She was probably the mistress of both Francis I of France and Henry VIII, who was her sister Anne’s future husband, but based on an exhaustive study of the historical record Allison Weir believes Mary may have had very little choice in the matter both times. She was married off to William Carey, a marriage that was arranged by her family and approved by the king, and there is some indication that her daughter with William was actually a never acknowledged child fathered by Henry VIII. Since Mary was apparently coerced into bed and then discarded by two kings, it was heartening to read that later in her life, after William Carey died in an epidemic, Mary made a love match with a simple soldier.


I knew almost nothing about Mary Boleyn or England and France during the time of Henry VIII and this book was a good starting place for filling in that knowledge gap. Weir takes a lot of care to be historically accurate and transparent about the methods she uses to reach her conclusions. For instance, she spent several pages evaluating all of the evidence pertaining to which Boleyn sister was the eldest before finally determining that it was Mary. This repeated thoroughness is a fascinating insight into how a historian works, but it can also be a little tedious at times and I found myself occasionally skimming through some of the text.


Still, there is plenty to spark the imagination here and this would be a great book to read before a trip to England. In several places Weir writes about a building or other structure from the time of Henry VIII that can still be seen today. My favorite of these is a garden that was ancient even in Mary’s time and that she probably played in as a child. It still exists and I’d love to see it.