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Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  5,705 Ratings  ·  438 Reviews

New York Times bestselling author and noted British historian Alison Weir gives us the first full-scale, in-depth biography of Mary Boleyn, sister to Queen Anne as well as mistress to Anne’s husband, Henry VIII—and one of the most misunderstood figures of the Tudor age. Making use of exten
ebook, 400 pages
Published October 4th 2011 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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I think the real problem with biographies of lesser known women in history, is that there just isn't enough known information out there about them to make their biographies interesting. Women's lives just weren't recorded in any detail so there is often no "paper trail" to follow and we just don't know what they thought or even where they were at any given time, so a biography like this one comes pretty much down to speculation from very little hard evidence or the author has to admit that we ju
Maia B.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but biographies normally focus mostly on their subject, no? The vast majority of the pages in the book are given to whoever the author has chosen to write about. The biographee is supposed to emerge as a real person and not only a story by the end, and we are supposed to come away knowing a lot about him/herher.

If those are the standards for biographies, I'd say this book kind of fails. I've read Philippa Gregory's "The Other Boleyn Girl" (but didn't enjoy it much), and
Rating Clarification: 2.5 Stars

I've enjoyed reading Alison Weir's non-fiction books for a long time, but sadly have to say that I think she did her fans a disservice with the publication of this book.

There is just too little known about the life of Mary Boleyn, and although I'm confident Weir did her best with the mountains of reference material culled by and available to her, this book suffered from far too much conjecture, speculation, and educated guesses. In the end, all Weir (and we as read
Rick F.
Jun 05, 2012 Rick F. rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
too too too much facts and names and no narrative- I do not need to read 10 pages about what year Mary might have been born
Anne Boleyn this, Anne Boleyn that. Everyone always focuses on Anne. What about her sister, Mary? Alison Weir’s latest historical effort, contrives to bring some attention to Mary Boleyn.

The book begins with a slow start, as the first chapter focuses on whether Mary or Anne was the eldest sister. Unless you consider this crucial information you just can’t live without or if you have already made up your mind on the statistic; then this chapter isn’t vital to the whole of the book and you can ski
Before you read this book, you need to decide whether you want a romanticized but historically inaccurate interpretation of what Mary Boleyn might have been like, or a serious historical biography that debunks myths and gives "just the facts, ma'am." If you are interested in the latter, then and only then should you dive into this book. I have been reading a lot about the Tudors and was perfectly happy to take a historically-based, no-myths-allowed look at what we know about Mary Boleyn, Anne's ...more
Oct 30, 2012 Kara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tudor-fact

It doesn't grab you by the throat and shake you the way her Lady in the Tower does, but it is very, very thoughtful, leaving the reader pondering possible new angles of the Tudor court and Mary Boleyn.

Also, I have never seen so many question marks in a book *ever*, which probably makes this the most honest history book ever.


Just bought a copy. Review of second-time-round thoughts to come.


For a long time, the British Historians Bathroom had graffiti scrawled on the stalls reading: ‘For
Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII had a love affair that catalyzed a political and religious revolution in England. But years before they married, Henry had an affair--no one knows for how long, or how serious--with Anne's sister Mary. After writing numerous books about Henry VIII and his wives, Weir has set out to delve into the history of Mary Boleyn.

The problem is, there isn't much history to delve into. We have two letters by her, and some information about her travels during young adulthood. But w
Since Philippa Gregory published the populist fictional novel The Other Boleyn Girl in 2002, the book has been turned into a BBC television series and a Hollywood movie, but as interest in Tudor England has experienced an upturn so too has the fog of myth and misconception surrounding the history. The blurb of this latest historical non-fiction claims to "[explode]... the mythology" surrounding Mary Boleyn and "[uncover] the facts", and I must admit I was curious to see what conclusions Weir's r ...more
poorvi cowkur
Jan 21, 2016 poorvi cowkur rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Obscured by the Henry and Anne Boleyn epic love saga, the story of Mary Boleyn has been lost to us,much of historical works relegating her to an insignificant character, popular as Henry's discarded mistress,in her family's sudden rise to fame and the cataclysmic fall that soon followed. Although this can be due to the fact that much of Mary's story is left incomplete in contemporary Tudor archives and only a few of her letters survive, it can be hard to identify, through the prejudiced voices o ...more
Peter Weissman
Jun 30, 2012 Peter Weissman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book because I was asked by the publisher to copyedit it (which I do freelance, for several publishers). More precisely, in this case, to "unanglicize" the English version of Mary Boleyn for the American edition.

Though while editing I'm more involved in the text than the average reader--albeit less than usual on his assignment, which had been edited before and thus called for no "styling" from me--I do actually read the books I edit. (I'm asked about this often.) And as a reader, my
Well, then.
My life is a lie--as is everything I thought I knew about Mary Boleyn. Turns out Jean Plaidy's thoughtful portrait of her as this sweet, vague bed-hopper is just not on--unfortunately, nor is Plaidy's portrayal of Anne as a clever, intuitive person seeking to avoid sexual promiscuity because of what happened to her sister. Shame, because that was my favorite portrayal so far.
But helas...Anne's a bitch.
On the plus side, however, Mary's not a whore. Much. And she actually had a really
This is quality I've come to expect from Alison Weir's royal biographies. Little is known about Mary, and there's much more conjecture than fact, but Weir was able to put together a detailed and reliable account of her life and the (tiny) part she played in Tudor history. I was surprised to see Weir listed Ethelreda Malt among Henry VIII's bastards, but whatever. A not-to-miss for Tudor junkies.
Rebecca Huston
A fairly good look at the life of Mary Boleyn, with some attempt at accuracy. Weir sifts through what is actually known about Mary Boleyn, and works hard to dispell most of the more wild stories. On the other hand, there is so very little that is confirmed fact, that there's a lot of repetition and padding in this. Depending on how much you actually know about the time and history of the Tudors, you might or not like this book. I found it to be fairly readable, but the best part was actually in ...more
Rio (Lynne)
I didn't think I had much interest in this book. After being bored to death, by another book I was reading last night, I scanned the kindle looking for something else and this popped up. I decided to download a free chapter, next thing I knew I wanted to read the whole thing. I pretty much wanted to see if my beliefs about Mary coincided with Alison Weir's.......after all the false information out there about The Boleyns...thank you Ms. Gregory. The author's findings and theories paralleled to m ...more
Oct 22, 2011 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
I had been greatly looking forward to reading this book from the first moment that I heard Alison Weir was writing a book on Mary Boleyn. Mary has always fascinated me, I think she is an extraordinary woman and it seems as though there is so little known about her life. I was eager to start reading Weir’s book in the hopes that I would learn a little more about the mystery that is Mary Boleyn.

Weir states that there is very little evidence at all to suggest that Mary was a “great and infamous who
C.S. Burrough
Aug 08, 2014 C.S. Burrough rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History readers
Like all Weir biographies this delivered and more, for me.

The historically sneered at 'loose' sister of Anne Boleyn, wife of Henry VIII's favourite Gentleman of the Privy chamber, was the daughter of an Earl-envoy and Countess-Lady-in-Waiting to both Queen Elizabeth of York and Catherine of Aragon.

A queen's Maid-of-Honour, Mary was also the esteemed aunt of Elizabeth I. And the dearly beloved mother of two top ranking courtiers (her daughter Lady Knollys became chief Lady of Elizabeth's Bedchamb
Claire M.
Did I need to read yet another Tudor biography? Apparently. I think I have all of Alison Weir's books or damn near all of them. She always does a fine job of marshaling together the facts, and if she doesn't have the humor of Antonia Fraser or the truly biting (delicious) wit of David Starkey, then she makes up for it in a solid presentation that doesn't leave too many questions.

This is largely a book not so much about Mary Boleyn--because it becomes glaringly obvious very early on that you can
Sep 02, 2011 Carol rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
This my first venture into anything about the Tudors. I had a difficult time reading it and will tell you why. I think that the aim of this book is to set the record straight on Mary Boleyn. The author, Alison Weir is an extremely meticulous researcher. This is evidenced by the text of the book, bibliography and Notes and References. She, states that she researched the original sources as much as possible.

Each fact about her family and Mary, herself was gone through with a fine tooth comb. Becau
*Disclosure: I received this as an Advance Uncorrected Proof via Goodreads Firstreads Giveaway*

I have to admit I had my reservations about this book when I started, it seemed to drag on and on about dates of ancestral homes and titles. I know that those are important for context later but they were given so woodenly it felt like a chore to wade through and assimilate that information. The 8 or 9 pages given to the discourse of who was the elder daughter, Mary or Anne was in my opinion too much.
Apr 18, 2012 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have done quite a bit of research on the Tudors and that whole era so this topic was not new to me. I have read many books by Alison Weir and others on the Tudors and the Boleyns. Because I had a decent background into this time period and Mary Boleyn, this book was a little easier for me to understand and digest than newer readers. Alison Weird is a meticulous researcher and that shows in her writing style and the extensive bibliography and notes section.

Alison Weir rightfully argues that th
Nov 13, 2013 L'aura rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bios
The book is fine, however it's still based on nothing. There's too little known about Mary, and the main theme of this biography is, everything you thought you knew about her may be corrupted, may be not true, indeed it generally is not. Because it's a bunch of assumption, theories, even blatant fantasy. She was blonde to someone, brunette to others, and then she had a terrible reputation, she was jealous of her sister, she bore children to the king, she was here or there... None of this is docu ...more
Sep 19, 2011 Jaylia3 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mary Boleyn’s story is full of drama, twists of fate and changes in fortune. She was probably the mistress of both Francis I of France and Henry VIII, who was her sister Anne’s future husband, but based on an exhaustive study of the historical record Allison Weir believes Mary may have had very little choice in the matter both times. She was married off to William Carey, a marriage that was arranged by her family and approved by the king, and there is some indication that her daughter with Willi ...more
Sep 22, 2011 Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, vine, fiction, tudor
Weir’s comprehensive portrait of Mary Boleyn effectively dismisses recent misconceptions made about her in books like The Other Boleyn Girl. She was not just the notorious whore sister of Anne Boleyn, jumping into bed with kings, as Weir’s meticulous research proves. Mary’s prominent place in court was due to her father’s ambition, first as an attendant to Mary Tudor in France, then in the extravagant courts of Francois I and Henry VIII. Yes, she was the mistress to two kings, but she also fulfi ...more
Having read less about the Tudor period than many other people who are interested in that time, I was really looking forward to reading the non-fictionalized story of Mary Boleyn. This book did tell me her story, but not always in the way that I was hoping.

There are lots of facts, a huge amount of information, but for my tastes, there was too much explaining why other researchers' and authors' conclusions were wrong. Much of that detail would have been, in my opinion, better put in footnotes or
Having read Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl (and enjoying it somewhat, while finding many faults with it), I appreciated Alison Weir's biography of Mary Boleyn for its attempts to recuperate Mary through historical fact. However, although Weir claims in the introduction that there are many misconceptions and misrepresentations about Mary Boleyn that Weir intends to set straight, Weir's biography is riddled with mere suppositions, and she merely interprets, in a different way, the same f ...more
Steven Peterson
Apr 13, 2014 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A nice biography--especially with so little information about its subject:

his is a well written book. It focuses on the life of Mary Boleyn--Queen Anne Boleyn's sister. The author, Alison Weir has a major challenge, though: There simply is not a great deal of information on the subject of this biography. And what there is is often contradictory, sketchy, political polemic of the time. . . .

The subtitle, "The Mistress of Kings," refers to alleged liaisons with French king Francois I and English k
Oct 14, 2011 Jennifer rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
The U.K. edition of this book was subtitled "The Great and Infamous Whore", so it's understandable that you might pick this up expecting salacious details and scandals. If so, you'll be disappointed (and may I direct you to Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl - trust me, you'll like it).

Alison Weir is an enjoyable writer, and her work is meticulously researched. The problem here is that there just isn't much verifiable information on the subject. Mary Boleyn is best known for her affair
Mary (BookHounds)
Nov 13, 2011 Mary (BookHounds) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, 2011, amazon-vine
Alison Weir is probably my favorite non fiction historical author since she can make the drollest facts read like fiction. She really brings to life the true story about Mary Boleyn based on excruciating details she unearths from snippets of letters, official royal documents and details that were overlooked by other biographers. Weir claims that Mary was probably not the "whore" history has portrayed her to be, but a victim of circumstance and was forced into a brief relationship with the King o ...more
Alison Weir does it again. She has to dig deep into the historical record and ferret out a life that isn't well represented and is basically all rumour and hateration. Mary Boleyn only has two surviving letters, but we don't know anything about her besides the nicknames that history gave her. "A great and infamous whore." Reading any historical fiction on the subject of Henry VIII is nearly always inaccurate to some degree.

Now, to construct her portrait of Mary Boleyn, Weir definitely had to do
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  • Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford
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  • The Sisters of Henry VIII: The Tumultuous Lives of Margaret of Scotland and Mary of France
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

Alison Weir (born 1951) is a British writer of history books for the general public, mostly in the form of biographies about British kings and queens. She currently lives in Surrey, England, with her two children.

Before becoming an author, Weir worked as a teacher of children with special needs. She received her
More about Alison Weir...

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