The Tudor Society

8 January – Mary Shelton, Anne Boleyn’s cousin and lady

On this day in Tudor history, 8th January 1571, Mary Shelton (married names: Heveningham and Appleyard) was buried at Heveningham Church, Suffolk.

Mary Shelton was Queen Anne Boleyn's cousin and lady-in-waiting, and may also have been King Henry VIII's mistress. She also contributed to the Devonshire Manuscript with the likes of Mary Howard, Lady Margaret Douglas and Lord Thomas Howard.

Find out more about Mary Shelton in today's talk.

Also on this day in history, 8th January 1536, King Henry VIII celebrated news of Catherine of Aragon's death. Find out more in last year's talk:

Also on this day in history:

  • 1499 – Marriage of Louis XII and Anne of Brittany, widow of Charles VIII of France and the Queen Dowager. The couple had two surviving children: Claude, Queen of France, and Renée, Duchess of Ferrara.
  • 1543 – Burial of King James V of Scotland at Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh.
  • 1570 – Death of Henry Clifford, 2nd Earl of Cumberland, at Brougham Castle. He was buried at Holy Trinity Church, Skipton. Clifford's career included serving Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, at Pontefract Castle, being made Knight of the Bath at the coronation of Anne Boleyn, serving as Carver to Henry VIII in 1540, and being appointed to the Council of the Borders and the Council of the North. He was married to Henry VIII's niece, Eleanor Brandon.
  • 1586 – Death of Sir George Seton, 5th Lord Seton, politician, Scottish nobleman and loyal supporter of Mary, Queen of Scots. He was a member of Mary's privy council. Seton was buried in Seton Church, East Lothian.
  • 1594 – Death of Sir Wolstan Dixie, merchant and Lord Mayor of London, in London. He was buried at the parish church of St Michael Bassishaw. Dixie served as Lord Mayor of London in 1585-1586.


On this day in Tudor history, 8th January 1571, Mary Shelton (married names: Heveningham and Appleyard) was buried at Heveningham Church, Suffolk.
Mary is an interesting Tudor lady, for not only was she related to Queen Anne Boleyn, and served her as one of her ladies, she was a contributor to the Devonshire Manuscript, an anthology of courtly love poems written by members of Henry VIII’s court and Queen Anne Boleyn’s inner circle.
Here are some facts about Mary Shelton…
• Mary was the youngest daughter of Sir John Shelton and his wife Anne Boleyn, aunt of Queen Anne Boleyn.
• She was born around 1510-1515
• Her parents were in charge of the joint households of Mary and Elizabeth, daughters of Henry VIII.
• Mary served her cousin, Queen Anne Boleyn, and was reprimanded by the queen for writing “idle poesies” in her prayerbook.
• Mary had a sister, Margaret, and one of them is believed to have been a mistress of King Henry VIII, although it is not clear which one as Mary and Marg, short for Margaret, look very similar in the handwriting of the era.
• Mary Shelton, along with Mary Howard, wife of Henry Fitzroy, Lady Margaret Douglas, and Lord Thomas Howard, Margaret Douglas’s beau, contributed to the Devonshire Manuscript, which was started in the 1530s. The British Library explains that this manuscript started out as a blank notebook owned by Mary Howard, who encourage her friends to compose poems and share famous verses, such as those of Thomas Wyatt, in the book. Mary Shelton contributed an acrostic poem, “Suffering in Sorrow in hope to attain”, which spelled SHELTUN, and was written for Mary by an admirer. Mary noted in the book that her admirer’s love for her was unrequited: “undesired service / require no hire”. She also contributed a poem on female virtue, and a version of a poem which the British Library describes as unusual “because the female subject of the poem has been changed, by altering the pronouns, to a gender-neutral subject.”
• In 1545, in an epitaph written for Sir Thomas Clere, poet and courtier Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, mentioned Mary as Clere’s love, but not long after Clere’s death, Mary became the wife of Sir Anthony Heveningham (pronounced Henningum).
• At the Earl of Surrey’s fall in late 1546, when his former friend, Richard Southwell, accused Surrey of improper heraldry, Southwell also wrote that Lady Heveningham, Mary Shelton, should be examined “for it is thought that many secrets hath passed between them before her marriage and since.
• Mary had five children by Anthony before he died in 1557. In 1558, she married Philip Appleyard.
• Mary’s date of death is not known, but she was buried on this day in 1571.

There are 2 comments Go To Comment

  1. M

    Did she leave court after Anne’s fall, or did she stay on for Jane Seymour?

    1. C - Post Author

      She doesn’t appear in the names of ladies who went on to serve Jane.

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8 January – Mary Shelton, Anne Boleyn’s cousin and lady