The Tudor Society

4 February – Mary Boleyn gets married

On this day in Tudor history, Saturday 4th February 1520, Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne Boleyn, got married to William Carey in the Chapel Royal at Greenwich Palace, in a service attended by King Henry VIII.

Find out more about Mary Boleyn and William Carey in today's talk.

And here is my Mary Boleyn Playlist

Also on this day in Tudor history, the first English Protestant martyr was burned in the reign of Queen Mary I. His name was John Rogers. Find out more in last year's video:

Also on this day in history:

  • 1495 – Anne of York, daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, married Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey and the future 3rd Duke of Norfolk at Westminster Abbey.
  • 1521 – Death of William Atwater, Bishop of Lincoln, at Wooburn in Buckinghamshire. Atwater also served as Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, Dean of the Chapel Royal and Chancellor of Lincoln. He was buried in the Cathedral church of Lincoln, in the nave.
  • 1523 – Death of Thomas Ruthall, Bishop of Durham, at Durham Place in London. He was buried at Westminster Abbey, in the St John's Chapel.
  • 1541 – Burial of Sir William Brereton, Lord Justice of Ireland, at St Canice's Cathedral, Kilkenny, in the choir.
  • 1593 – Death of Sir Gilbert Gerard, member of Parliament and Judge. He was buried in Ashley Parish Church in Staffordshire. Gerard's offices included Attorney-General and Master of the Rolls. Gerard was involved in trying Elizabeth I's secretary William Davison, in 1587 after he had presented the death warrant of Mary, Queen of Scots before the Queen's council, and also the Earl of Arundel in 1589.


On this day in Tudor history, Saturday 4th February 1520, in the reign of King Henry VIII, Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne Boleyn, got married to William Carey in the Chapel Royal at Greenwich Palace.

We know that the king attended and that he made an offering of “6s. 8d.” at the service, because this is recorded in the 1520 King’s Book of Payments, but we don’t have any further details of the wedding.

The marriage was a good match for both the bride and groom. Mary was the daughter of Thomas Boleyn, Henry VIII’s ambassador at the French court and a man on the rise, and his wife Elizabeth Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk. William Carey was a member of Henry VIII’s Privy Chamber and an Esquire of the Body, and he was descended from Edward III. Carey’s maternal grandmother was also cousin to Henry VIII’s paternal grandmother, Margaret Beaufort. Both families must have been pleased with the match.

The couple would have lodged at court after their wedding, allowing Carey to continue his duties serving the King. They both attended the Field of Cloth of Gold in June 1520, serving the King and his queen consort, Catherine of Aragon, there. The couple went on to have two children: Catherine in around 1524 and Henry in 1526. Although it is often said that Mary’s children were actually fathered by Henry VIII, there is no firm historical evidence for this. All we know for sure is that Henry VIII slept with Mary at some point. Henry VIII may well have slept with Mary before February 1520 and then arranged her marriage with his loyal servant William Carey after he had ‘finished’ with her, rather than sleeping with her as a married woman. We just don’t know, but we know that’s how it worked with Elizabeth Blount. When Henry VIII had finished with her, he arranged a good match for her with Gilbert Tailboys.

William Carey died in June 1528 of sweating sickness and Mary married again in 1534, taking William Stafford as her second husband. Mary died on 19th July 1543.

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4 February – Mary Boleyn gets married