Quick Question: Where was Mary Boleyn buried?
The short answer to this is that I have not been able to find any record of where Mary Boleyn was buried. In her book ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ Alison Weir states that Mary’s place of burial is unknown. Wilkinson in her book ‘Mary Boleyn The True Story of Henry VIII’s Favourite Mistress’ also does not state where Mary Boleyn was buried.
Mary Boleyn was the oldest daughter of Thomas Boleyn and Elizabeth Howard and older sister of Anne Boleyn, the famous second wife of Henry VIII. While her exact date of birth is unknown it is generally believed by historians that she was born approximately 1499/1500 at Blickling Hall, Norfolk. In 1514 Mary travelled to France to become a lady in waiting to Princess Mary Tudor whom was to marry King Louis XII. Sometime during her stay in France Mary became mistress to Francis I, the new King of France after the death of his father in law. It is unknown how long her relationship with the King lasted.
Upon returning to England Mary Boleyn married Sir William Carey on February 4th 1520, in the Chapel Royal at Greenwich. Sometime after this, most probably during the year 1522 Mary became the mistress to Henry VIII. Now she was the mistress of not one but two Kings! Her relationship with Henry VIII lasted approximately three years and is thought to have ended sometime before 1526. Most probably the relationship fizzled out on its own accord sometime during the end of 1525 when Mary was pregnant with her second child. Mary bore two children, a daughter named Catherine in 1524 and a son named Henry in 1526. Since Mary was sleeping with the King during the period in which her children were conceived, many people believe that there is a strong possibility that both Catherine and Henry or one or the other could be the illegitimate children of Henry VIII.
After the death of her husband on 22ndh June 1528 of the sweating sickness, Mary Boleyn married a man named William Stafford. William was a man far beneath Mary’s station in life with only a small income. The fallout of this marriage was utterly disastrous for Mary as she was banished from court, most probably for two reasons, first marrying without her family’s permission (her sister now being the Queen of England) and for marrying far below her status.
On May 2nd 1536 Anne Boleyn was arrested and taken to the Tower of London, charged with treason, incest and adultery. Her brother George was also arrested and charged with having slept with his sister and for treason against the King. Both were found guilty of their crimes and George was beheaded upon Tower Hill on May 17th and Anne was beheaded on May 19th 1536 on Tower Green. There is no evidence that Mary visited her sister or brother during their imprisonment. There are also no records of her thoughts of feelings on the death of her brother and sister.
From this time onwards Mary lived in relative obscurity with her husband. Catherine Carey, Mary’s daughter became a lady in waiting to Anne of Cleves (Henry VIII’s fourth wife) and married Sir Francis Knollys. William Stafford became a squire of the body and Mary inherited some lands and property from her father after his death including Rochford Hall in Essex. Mary and William were also granted the manors of Southboram and Hendon in Hendon Park and well as some lands in Hever and Bransted, Kent. William Stafford also sold some land to the King. Life may have been a little more financially stable for the couple having several manors and some land and money.
Mary died on either the 19th July 1543 (according to Alison Weir) or 30th July 1543 (according to Josephine Wilkinson) aged approximately forty three. She outlived her more famous sister and brother by seven years. In her latest book “Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings”, Alison Weir suggests that it may be a possibility that Mary was buried at St. Andrew’s Church at Rochford. This church had been built sometime in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century by Mary’s grandfather and it could be a possibility that she was laid to rest in a church related to her family. However the records of the church do not go back as far as the sixteenth century and there have also been extensive renovations done to the church over the centuries. Unfortunately Mary Boleyn’s place of burial may never be known.
I actually feel quite sad that such an incredible woman now rests in an unknown and possibly unmarked grave. Mary Boleyn, although not as famous as her younger sister Anne, deserves recognition for her strength and determination in following her heart – especially in a time when women were meant to do as they were instructed by their husbands or fathers. I can only hope that one day a previously unknown piece of evidence is uncovered and perhaps then the mystery of where Mary Boleyn was buried will finally be answered.
A miniature by Lucus Horenbout – could this be Mary Boleyn?
Hart, K 2009, The Mistresses of Henry VIII, The History Press, Gloucestershire.
Rigeway, 2011, ‘The Anne Boleyn Files’, viewed 17th September 2011, Available from Internet
Weir, A 1991, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Grove Press, New York.
Weir, A, 2011, Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings, Ballantine Books, New York.
Wilkinson, J 2010, Mary Boleyn The True Story of Henry VIII’s Favourite Mistress, Amberly Publishing, Gloucestershire.