The Tudor Society

Mary Boleyn Book Tour – Q&A with author Sarah Bryson

Sarah BrysonI'm delighted to be the final stop on Sarah Bryson's book tour for Mary Boleyn: In a Nutshell, a wonderful book which is exactly what it says it is.

Many of you will know Sarah from her blog Anne Boleyn: From Queen to History and also the articles she shares here on the Tudor Society website. Sarah joins us today to answer some questions I fired at her.

Who is Sarah Bryson? Please share with our members a little about yourself.

I’m from Adelaide, Australia; happily married to my soul mate, mother of a beautiful and very cheeky six year old daughter. I love a good cup of coffee and am a little obsessed with cats (I have four of my own!) I work full time with disabled children, and can honestly say that I love my job! I am also passionate about Tudor history and love to read and research anything to do with the period.

When did you first become interested in Mary Boleyn and why?

I first came across Mary when I was reading about the life of Anne Boleyn. There wasn’t a great deal written about her but she stood out to me as quite a courageous figure. Mary defied the norms of the time and dared to chose her own husband and married for love. I think she was quite a passionate woman and loved her family deeply and these are qualities that resonate strongly with me.

I note that you believe that Mary's relationship with Henry VIII lasted for a few years, why do you think that? Do you think it was a loving relationship or simply a sexual one?

I think, from what I have read and researched about Mary Boleyn, that the relationship lasted for a few years, possibly from around 1522 to about 1525. We know that during the Shrovetide joust in 1522 Henry VIII rode out on his horse wearing the motto “elle mon Coeur a navera” which means “she has wounded my heart”. Henry was using this as a sign to communicate his feelings towards Mary Boleyn. He did exactly the same thing in the Shrovetide Joust of 1526 when he rode out wearing the motto “Delcare ie nos” which means “Declare, I declare not”, referring to his feelings for Anne Boleyn. Henry was always an ostentatious man and he certainly let people know his feelings towards Mary and Anne.

William Carey

William Carey

I also think that the relationship lasted a few years as around the time Mary became the King’s mistress her husband William Carey started to receive a number of grants. Now these might have been coincidence but I think it interesting that the grants started around the time that Mary was mistress to the King.
In regards to if it was just a sexual relationship or a loving one I would absolutely argue that it was the latter. Mary and Henry must have had something more than simple sexual gratification for the relationship to last so long. Also even after the affair ended Henry still kept Mary in his thoughts. In the New Year’s celebrations of 1532 Mary gave the King a shirt with a black work collar while he gave her a piece of gilt plate in return. Also after Mary’s husband William died in 1528 of the Sweating Sickness her father Thomas Boleyn refused to support her. Henry VIII stepped in and saw that Thomas stepped up and helped to support his daughter. Clearly Henry wanted the best for Mary and I think that came from a connection during their time together.

Who do you think fathered Mary Boleyn's children?

The million dollar question! I think every other day I change my mind about this. Sometimes I think the evidence points to Henry VIII being the father of Mary’s children, after all we only have reports of surviving children being born during the time of her affair with Henry VIII. Then there are other times I think that Catherine and Henry Carey could be William’s as we simply don’t know all the details, if Mary was pregnant before or after these two children or the circumstances of her marriage. But at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter if Henry VIII or William Carey was the biological father of Mary’s children. William Carey acknowledged the children as his and thus they were legally, by the law and church, his children.

The Mary of history is a rather shadowy figure, but what is the Mary of your imagination like?

The Mary Boleyn that I have come to know was a woman who had a big heart. She deeply loved her family, her husband, and her children. She was a strong woman who dared to defy the expectations of the time and chose her own husband who she loved deeply. I think she loved with all her heart and was genuinely a caring and compassionate woman.

What is your favourite portrayal of Mary in fiction?

Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson

I’d have to say that I like the way that Scarlett Johansson portrayed Mary in The Other Boleyn Girl. I felt that she depicted Mary as a kind hearted, warm young woman who deeply loved her family and only wanted to find happiness in her life.

What five questions would you ask Mary Boleyn?

Who do you think was the father of your children?
What was your relationship with Anne like?
What was the date of your birth?
What were your thoughts/feelings about the deaths of your brother and sister?
Were you happy with your life?

What are you reading now and what's the next book on your to-read list?

I’ve just finished Robert Hutchinson’s book Young Henry The Rise of Henry VIII. I really enjoyed it and would certainly recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about Henry VIII and his younger years. I’m about to start reading Henry VIII Reformer and Tyrant by Derek Wilson. What can I say? I love reading about Tudor history, especially anything to do with the reign of Henry VIII!

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently working on a book about Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. He was Henry VIII’s best friend, came from relative obscurity, committed treason by marrying Henry’s sister Mary without permission, weathered many coups and betrayals at court and not only retained his friendship with the King but was buried with great honour at the King’s expense. He was an amazing and fascinating man and I’m desperate to learn more about him!

If you could travel back in time to the Tudor period, which date/event would you go back to?

There are so many important historical events during this period that would be amazing to go back and witness. Anne Boleyn’s coronation, the birth of Elizabeth I, Anne’s execution… but I think for me I would just chose a simple moment. I’d like to go back in time and just choose an ordinary day with Mary Boleyn in the last years of her life. I’d like to just sit and talk with her, find out all about her life. What did she think about different events? What were her feelings, was she happy? Did she have any regrets? Just to sit and pick her brain would be an amazing experience.

What's your favourite Tudor place and why?

Hever Castle, c. Tim Ridgway

Hever Castle, c. Tim Ridgway

Hever Castle. I had the great honour of going there in November 2009 and it was a magical experience. It was a cool autumn’s day, overcast with a chill in the air, rugging myself up I made the journey from London to Hever Castle. The moment I saw the castle my breath was taken away. There is something beautiful and compelling about the place. To walk the same halls as Mary and Anne Boleyn walked is an incredible feeling, very hard to describe. It’s my dream to go back one day.

What is your all-time favourite history book?

“The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn” by Eric Ives. Ives was an incredible historian and his book on Anne Boleyn’s life detailed and brilliantly researched. If I ever need to know anything about Anne I go to his book!

Apart from Mary Boleyn and Tudor history, what are your other interests or guilty pleasures?

I love to spend time with my family and my friends. I confess I enjoy a good glass of wine and a good meal. If I have some free time (which is rare these days!) I enjoy writing fiction stories and playing silly facebook games… but shh don’t tell anyone!

Do you have a favourite quote, something that is special to you?

"When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground." This quote really resonates with me. I feel that it is really important to learn from our elders, to hear the stories of their lives and to learn from them. I’m passionate about history and unless we talk about the past we will lose so many incredible and historical experiences.

What are your thoughts on Henry VIII? The Boleyn sisters both had relationships with him so what do you think he was like?

I think Henry VIII was a fascinating, compelling man. He had a larger than life personality that drew people to him. In his younger years he was a tall, extremely handsome, enthralling man who people loved to be around. He had a charisma and charm to him and I think it was easy for people to be drawn in by him. I think it was this man that the Boleyn women were attracted to.


To be in with a chance of winning a paperback copy of Mary Boleyn: In a Nutshell all you have to do is leave a comment below saying which date or event you would go back to if you could time travel to the Tudor period. Leave your comment before midnight 24 April. One comment will be picked at random and the winner will be notified shortly after the closing date.

Use this schedule to catch up with Sarah's other stops on her book tour and enter all the giveaways:

Book Details

kindle_cover_smMadeGlobal's History in a Nutshell Series aims to give readers a good grounding in a historical topic in a concise, easily digestible and accessible way.

In Mary Boleyn in a Nutshell, Sarah Bryson discusses the controversies surrounding Mary Boleyn's birth, her alleged relationships with two kings, her portraiture and appearance, and her life and death. Mary survived the brutal events of 1536 and was able to make her own choices, defying the social rules of her times by marrying for love. It is from Mary that the Boleyn bloodline extends to the present day.

Sarah Bryson, creator of the popular “Anne Boleyn: From Queen to History” Facebook page, brings together what is known about Mary Boleyn, the shadowy sister of Queen Anne Boleyn."

Kindle File Size: 7407 KB
Print Length: 82 pages
Publisher: MadeGlobal Publishing (Kindle: March 17, 2015, Paperback: March 18, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 8494372114
ISBN-13: 978-8494372117
Available from, Amazon UK and your usual bookstore.

There are 12 comments Go To Comment

  1. S

    Everytime I read a Tudor book I always wish I could go back in time and attend one of their jousts. I think wearing one of their beautiful dresses the women wore would be so neat. Also, to be able to see the goings on and all the important people of the court attending and observing their interactions amongst each other. Just basically people watch. That would be the ultimate!!

  2. T

    I would want to sit with Mary or Anne, more so Mary and get the real story of it all. From the time she was sent to court, to having a King’s baby and being sent away, to how she truly felt about her sister Anna and Henry VIII. So many questions I would have. Thanks for the Q&A. I enjoyed it and I also think Scarlet Johannes played a very good Mary.

  3. T

    I would love to go back to the Holiday/Christmas time celebrations when there were so many people at court and so much going on (politics, affairs, gossip etc.) and be able to observe the King and Anne Boleyn and everyone else at court.

  4. t

    Thank you for this Q and A! Very interesting. I agree with Adelaide (whose name I adore!) that Mary Boleyn and H8 had a relationship that had deep mutual affection at its base. Nothing between a man and a woman goes on for three years unless there is an emotional foundation to it. Men vote with their feet, and if it were only a physical attraction, it’s doubtful H8 would have maintained interest in her for such an extended period of time.
    Mary Boleyn – OMG, what 5 questions WOULDN’T I ask her?!?!? lol!!!
    Thanks again!!

  5. G

    I would want to go back to the Chateau Vert pageant when Anne Boleyn played Perseverance because it was her first recorded appearance at Henry’s court. It was still a time of relative happiness for Henry and Katherine of Aragon (and Anne), and everyone would be having a good time. And so many well-known historical figures attended or were in the pageant, I could see them all.

  6. D

    Great interview! I would choose to go to Thomas Cromwell’s home on the night that Mark Smeaton was questioned there. I would love to know what really happened and getting to see Thomas Cromwell would be the icing on the cake.

  7. J

    I do not have a specific date or event I would go back to, but there are two time frames I would love to visit. The first is while Catherine Of Aragon was still alive and Henry and Anne were married. The second would be after Elizabeth had been queen for several years and had come into her self as a ruler.

  8. K

    I would love nothing more than to go back to when Henry first laid eyes on Anne Boleyn! To see the love between them blossom and also to watch everyone else’s reactions around them! To watch how Mary and Anne’s relationship changed towards each other, as tudour women were very good at concealing feelings in public! Also, to join a feast in the great hall, eating rich food and drinking lots of fine wine! Spectacular! Xxx

  9. D

    I would like to go back to when Henry agreed to marry Anne and the day,when they married or when his brother Arthur married Catherine.It would also be great to take part in a Tudor celebration, a Christmas at court or one of their dances, when Anne danced for Henry, dressed in her costume, when he was still married to Catherine.

  10. E

    I would love to go back to Anne Boleyn’s coronation! It must have been such a lavish event and Anne so happy, carrying her baby and finally being crowned Queen.

  11. A

    I love Scarlett Johansen’s portrayal too Sarah!
    I think I would want to travel back to the Field of Cloth of Gold. The historical descriptions make it sound so amazing!

  12. K

    The event I would like to go back to is Anne’s executed. I would want to be one of her ladies and be there for her. I would try and comfort her, try to take her mind off of the terrible event to come and try to make her smile. I feel so sad to think of Anne being in the tower with ladies that probably did not care for her much. To know what was coming up must have been so scary so I would have liked to have been one truly caring person there for her!

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Mary Boleyn Book Tour – Q&A with author Sarah Bryson