William and Mary were married on the 28th June 1520 at Greenwich, the King himself attending the wedding. Perhaps the King's eye fell upon the beautiful young woman at her wedding or maybe it was during the 1522 Shrovetide pageant of the Chateau Vert (Green Castle) that Mary, playing the role of Kindness, a damsel in distress needing rescuing, caught the King's attention. Whatever the situation, Mary Boleyn was Henry VIII's mistress from approximately 1522 to around 1525, when the relationship seemed to have run its course. It was during this time that Mary gave birth to two children.
There are many reasons for why is it believed that one or both of Mary's children were fathered by Henry VIII. During the time when Catherine and Henry were conceived, Mary was the mistress of Henry VIII and sleeping with the King. It has been suggested that Henry would not have wished to have shared Mary with her husband, keeping her to himself during the entire period of their relationship.
Also, there were rumours that Henry Carey looked quite a lot like Henry VIII and that Henry VIII gave Mary's husband, William Carey, a series of grants and appointments around the time each child was born in an attempt to keep him happy. It has also been proposed that because Queen Elizabeth was very close to both Catherine and Henry Carey, it must have been because they were in fact half-brother and half-sister rather than just cousins. Queen Elizabeth knighted Henry Carey and also made him Baron Hunsdon. She also visited him on his deathbed, offering him the Earldom of Wiltshire (once owned by his grandfather Thomas Boleyn). For her part, Catherine Carey was one of Queen Elizabeth I's senior ladies and was greatly loved by the Queen. Upon Catherine's death, Elizabeth I paid for a lavish funeral for her.
Unfortunately, it appears that we will never know if Catherine and/or Henry were the children of Henry VIII. According to the law of the time any child born within marriage legally belonged to the husband unless argued otherwise. William Carey never denied the paternity of Catherine or Henry, and Henry VIII never acknowledged either child as his own.
Claire Ridgway has a different view on Mary Boleyn's relationship with Henry VIII and you can read this over at the Anne Boleyn Files - click here.
Sarah Bryson is the author of Mary Boleyn: In a Nutshell. She is a researcher, writer and educator who has a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education with Honours and currently works with children with disabilities. Sarah is passionate about Tudor history and has a deep interest in Mary Boleyn, Anne Boleyn, the reign of Henry VIII and the people of his court. Visiting England in 2009 furthered her passion and when she returned home she started a website, queentohistory.com, and Facebook page about Tudor history. Sarah lives in Australia, enjoys reading, writing, Tudor costume enactment and wishes to return to England one day.
- Hart, Kelly. The Mistresses of Henry VIII. The History Press, Gloucestershire, 2009.
- Jonathan Hughes, ‘Stafford , Mary (c.1499–1543)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2009 http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/70719, accessed 6 June 2015.
- Licence, Amy. The Six Wives & Many Mistresses of Henry VIII, Amberley Publishing, Gloucestershire, 2014.
- Sally Varlow, ‘Knollys , Katherine, Lady Knollys (c.1523–1569)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Oct 2006; online edn, Jan 2009, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/69747, accessed 6 June 2015.
- Wallace T. MacCaffrey, ‘Carey, Henry, first Baron Hunsdon (1526–1596)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Sept 2014 >http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/4649
- Weir, Alison. Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings, Ballantine Books, New York, 2011.
- Wilkinson, Josephine. Mary Boleyn The True Story of Henry VIII’s Favourite Mistress, Amberley Publishing, Gloucestershire, 2010.