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Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  7,898 ratings  ·  528 reviews
Mary Boleyn (c.1500-1543) was no less fascinating than her ill-fated queen consort sister Anne. In fact, her own claims to fame are numerous: She was not only an influential member of King Henry VIII's court circle; she was one of his mistresses and perhaps the mother of two of his children. In addition, the apparently prolific Mary was rumored to have been also a mistress ...more
Hardcover, 364 pages
Published October 4th 2011 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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Average rating 3.81  · 
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 ·  7,898 ratings  ·  528 reviews

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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
Dec 20, 2011 rated it it was ok
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.
Jul 25, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Dec 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book, and came away with a lot. Tudor history is fascinating and one of my favorite topics in general. One thing that struck me though is much of this book was devoted to people who may or may not have played a role in Mary’s life. It was less a biography and more a general history with Mary as a middle. It’s hard to know a lot about Mary because much of the information about her has been lost. The book on a whole is very interesting!
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
Sep 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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
Nov 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: favorites
Very informative, if you are interested in Tudor England. Well written and researched as all of her books are. She presents convincing arguments as to the misconceptions that have persisted over the centuries about "the Other Boleyn Girl".
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
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
poorvi cowkur
Jun 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 15, 2011 rated it it was ok
My problem with this book is that Weir's summation of Mary Bolelyn's life is based on speculation. While Weir provides some interesting tidbits regarding Henry's affair with Mary's sister, Anne, she seemed to get bogged down with inconclusive research. I didn't need to read ten pages about the year Mary may have been born. In Weir's defense, Mary is merely a footnote in history, with little hard core evidence pertaining to her life. In this respect, I think Weir would have been wiser to write a ...more
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
3.5 stars.

I commend Weir for doing a lot with incredibly little information to rely on.

For a further review: .
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5 stars

This book shows the exceptional scholarship of Alison Weir. Her research is both exhaustive and concise. In this detailed biography of Mary Boleyn, the eldest daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn, Ms. Weir leaves no stone unturned.

She talks of Mary’s genealogy and lifestyle. She discusses Mary’s relationship with her more infamous younger sister, Anne, and of the affairs she had with the French King Francois I and the English Henry VIII. She refutes certain writers, such as those with a particu
An underwhelming read from one of my favorite historical nonfiction authors. I give Alison Weir props for trying to get the facts straight about Mary Boleyn's life, especially in light of the rampant myths spread by certain works of poorly written fiction (*cough*The Other Boleyn Girl*cough*). People will probably be drawn to this nonfiction book based on that alone (I know I was). Unfortunately, there's just not much here- and I can now understand why Mary Boleyn has been such an appealing targ ...more
Lora Sutton
Sep 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
It was a little too dry for my taste. There were too many facts thrown at you so it was hard to wade through some of it with all the names and dates. However, if you are at all interested in that period of history it is worth the read . I definitely learned a great deal about Mary and how things were done then.
Apr 01, 2020 marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
This was actually interesting and quite readable. However, it is predicated on the concept that the reader has some knowledge about the makeup of English nobility during the time period covered, and I simply don’t have the requisite knowledge. I was still following the arguments easily, I just felt as if I was missing out on too much of the nuances.
Nov 11, 2018 rated it liked it
A little rambling and full of unnecessary historical detail. While speculation is necessary, given how little is known about Mary, the book wandered in many directions. I really like Alison Weir’s fiction and non-fiction alike, but this was not my favorite.
Nov 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, history, audiobook
Interesting but a lot of speculation. I wonder at historians who choose to write on medieval women when there just isn't the sources, because it tends to be a lot of "they might have", "we can guess", and "they probably".
Mar 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love the Tudor era! I like The authors take on Anne Boleyn. There have been many books about her, this one was thought provoking and a great story. Well written. Highly recommended!
Mădălina Rada
Mar 19, 2020 rated it liked it
Didn't like it as much as the other two books I have read by this author. Maybe it was the fact that not a lot is know about Mary Boleyn and most is speculation. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this book.
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
While I’m normally a huge fan of Alison’s work, this book didn’t do it for me. Instead of researching Mary and providing a historically accurate view of what we know about Mary, the majority of the book is spent writing about how other authors got it wrong. I think if her critiques of others work were removed, one it would have been a better book, but two it would have only taken an eighth of the paper. Having said that, her research was again strong and her arguments for why other writers over ...more
C.S. Burrough
Apr 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Sarah Bryson
Mar 08, 2017 rated it liked it
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
Claire M.
Feb 14, 2012 rated it liked it
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
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

Alison Weir is a British writer of history books for the general public, mostly in the form of biographies about British kings and queens, and of historical fiction. Before becoming an author, Weir worked as a teacher of children with special needs. She received her formal training in history at teacher training

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