Mary Boleyn family tree

Mary Boleyn family tree

The Boleyn name resonates through the annals of history, conjuring images of palace intrigue and regal ascendancy in Tudor England. Central to this legacy is Mary Boleyn, often overshadowed by her infamous sister, Anne.

My extensive research into the Tudor period and specifically into the intricate genealogy of the Boleyn lineage allows me to shed light on Mary’s role within this illustrious family.

As an expert in historical genealogy, I bring a tapestry of facts that map out not only kinship but also societal influence across generations.

Mary Boleyn’s narrative extends beyond her label as King Henry VIII’s mistress; she is an essential link in a family tree that has branched out through English aristocracy for centuries.

This blog post promises readers a journey through time that illuminates Mary’s personal connections and their lasting impact on both royalty and descendants who continue to capture our imagination today.

Discover how one woman’s life threads into the grand tapestry of England’s past—a story too rich to remain untold. Let us delve into history together.

NameFamily StatusRelation
Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of WiltshireFatherMary Boleyn’s Father
Elizabeth HowardMotherMary Boleyn’s Mother
Mary BoleynDaughterDaughter of Thomas Boleyn and Elizabeth Howard
Anne BoleynSisterSister of Mary Boleyn
William CareySpouseFirst Husband of Mary Boleyn
William StaffordSpouseSecond Husband of Mary Boleyn
Catherine CareyDaughterDaughter of Mary Boleyn and William Carey
Henry Carey, 1st Baron HunsdonSonSon of Mary Boleyn and William Carey

Key Takeaways

  • Mary Boleyn, as the daughter of Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, and Lady Elizabeth Howard, was part of a noble family with strong ties to English royalty. Her royal liaisons and familial connections at the Tudor Court had far-reaching implications on her family’s political standing.
  • The rich tapestry of the Boleyn family tree includes notable figures such as Anne Boleyn, who became Queen of England; George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford; Katherine Carey and Henry Carey, both instrumental in shaping England’s aristocracy.
  • Through her descendants from two marriages — Catherine Carey and Henry Carey — Mary’s lineage continued to play pivotal roles in English history. The impact extended through subsequent generations with significant influence on political alliances and royal relationships during the Tudor era.
  • Despite being overshadowed by her sister Anne’s prominence at times, Mary Boleyn’s life threaded into a grand tapestry that shaped England’s past through love affairs, political intrigue, and familial ambition.

Who Was Mary Boleyn?

Mary Boleyn, the younger sister of Anne Boleyn, was a prominent figure in the Tudor court during the 16th century. As a lady-in-waiting, she gained notoriety for her affairs with King Henry VIII and relationships at the royal court.

Early Life and Royal Affairs

Born into the prominent Boleyn family in 1499, Mary Boleyn spent her early years at Blickling Hall before moving to Hever Castle. She grew up in nobility and was skilled in the ways of court life from a young age.

Her father, Thomas Boleyn, served as the Earl of Wiltshire, while her mother, Lady Elizabeth Howard, was part of the powerful Howard dynasty. This noble birth provided Mary with an education fitting for a lady of high status and entry into royal circles.

Her charm and wit caught the eye of Henry VIII, leading to her becoming his mistress during a period when royal affairs were both common and discreetly acknowledged. Additionally, she captivated King Francis I of France with whom she also had an affair.

As a Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Catherine of Aragon, Mary’s proximity to power amplified both her own standing and that of her family within the Tudor Court—a move that would later pave the way for not just political alliances but also familial ambitions as seen through her sister Anne Boleyn’s future ascendancy.

Role as the Royal Mistress and Sister’s Rise

Mary Boleyn’s entanglement with King Henry VIII altered the power dynamics of the English court, setting a stage that would eventually elevate her sister Anne to queenship. Around 1522, Mary caught the eye of Henry VIII and soon became his mistress, an engagement that lasted several years and may have resulted in children, though their paternity remains debated.

Not long after this affair waned, Anne began her ascendance, capitalizing on her family’s newfound influence to secure a position close to the king.

Anne Boleyn’s rise paralleled a decline in Mary’s prominence at court but did not overshadow her completely. The sisters’ fates were interwoven; as Anne became Queen of England, Mary’s prior relationship with Henry was pushed aside yet remained a crucial thread in the tapestry of Tudor history.

While she never attained royal status herself, Mary’s liaison had undeniably shaped the political landscape that allowed for her sister to become one of the most talked-about queens in British history.

The Boleyn Family Tree

Mary Boleyn’s parents were Sir Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, and Lady Elizabeth Howard. Her siblings included her famous sister Anne Boleyn and brother George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford.

Other notable family members include her maternal grandfather Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, and her paternal grandmother Lady Elizabeth Tilney.

The Parents of Mary Boleyn

Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, and Elizabeth Howard, the Countess of Wiltshire, stand as the proud parents of Mary Boleyn. Their union brought Mary into an influential noble family with strong ties to English royalty.

Thomas held significant court positions and was a key diplomat in King Henry VIII’s reign. His wife Elizabeth descended from the prestigious Howard family, enhancing their children’s position in Tudor society.

Their marriage not only positioned them among England’s elite but also played a crucial role in shaping the political landscape through their offspring. As parents to Anne Boleyn—King Henry VIII’s second queen—and George Boleyn—the Viscount Rochford—they secured a place at the epicenter of power during one of the most tumultuous periods in English history.

The couple’s prominence thrust all three children into pivotal roles that echoed through time long after their own era ended.

Siblings and Close Relatives

The Boleyn family was not short on influential figures and their connections to the English court were significant. Mary Boleyn’s siblings played important roles during one of the most turbulent times in English history.

  • Anne Boleyn: Perhaps the most famous of Mary’s siblings, Anne became the second wife of King Henry VIII and Queen of England. Her marriage to Henry led to England’s break with the Catholic Church and she gave birth to Elizabeth I, one of England’s greatest monarchs. Despite her initial favor, Anne faced a tragic end when she was executed on charges of treason in 1536.
  • George Boleyn: George was Mary’s only brother and held a high position as Viscount Rochford. He was a close aide to King Henry VIII but, like his sister Anne, he fell from grace and was executed alongside her on similar charges.
  • Lady Katherine Carey: Born from Mary Boleyn’s marriage with Sir William Carey, Katherine became Chief Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Elizabeth I. She married Sir Francis Knollys and through her descendants had an enduring impact on England’s aristocracy.
  • Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon: As Mary Boleyn’s son by William Carey, Henry later became a prominent figure at the court of his cousin Queen Elizabeth I. He was awarded titles and estates, reflecting his importance in royal circles.
  • Close Relatives Through Marriage: The union between Mary Boleyn and her husbands connected her lineage to other noble families. Her second husband William Stafford brought ties with the Stafford family while her first husband William Carey linked the Careys with Tudor royalty.
  • Lettice Knollys: As the granddaughter of Mary Boleyn through Katherine Carey, Lettice made her mark on history by marrying Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester—the long-time favorite of Elizabeth I—and Sir Robert Devereux, who would become the infamous Earl of Essex.
  • Notable Descendants: Through marriages and alliances over generations, Mary’s descendants included powerful members of nobility such as Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex who played a significant role in military campaigns during Elizabeth I’s reign.

Notable Boleyn Family Members

Mary Boleyn’s family tree included some notable figures, such as her parents, Thomas Boleyn and Elizabeth Boleyn, Countess of Wiltshire. Alongside her siblings Anne Boleyn and George Boleyn 2nd Viscount Rochford, there were other prominent members in the family tree:

  1. Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire: A respected diplomat and courtier at the English court during the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII.
  2. Elizabeth Boleyn, Countess of Wiltshire: Known for her involvement in court life and activities during the Tudor era.
  3. George Boleyn 2nd Viscount Rochford: Notable for his position as a diplomat and his tragic fate during the reign of Henry VIII.
  4. Sir Geoffrey Boleyn: An influential figure who served as Lord Mayor of London in the late 15th century.
  5. Lady Margaret Butler (Boleyn): Mary’s paternal grandmother and a key figure in her family lineage.
  6. Lady Alice Bracton (Boleyn): Mary’s maternal grandmother, who was part of the noble Bracton family.
  7. Anne Shelton (Boleyn): Mary’s aunt who played a significant role in English court life through her marriages to distinguished men.
  8. James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormond: Mary’s maternal uncle via marriage to Anne Shelton, known for his political influence.

Mary Boleyn’s Personal Life and Marriages

Mary Boleyn was first married to William Carey, a member of the king’s court, with whom she had two children. After Carey’s death, she secretly wed a commoner named William Stafford, causing scandal within the royal circles.

First Marriage to William Carey

Second Marriage to William Stafford

Mary Boleyn’s second marriage, in 1534, was to William Stafford following the passing of her first husband, William Carey. Although this marriage drew disapproval from King Henry VIII due to Stafford’s lower social rank, Mary prioritized her happiness over societal norms.

Consequently, the marriage led to their banishment from the royal court and a period of financial struggle for Mary.

Stafford was a soldier and younger son with limited prospects, but he provided genuine love and affection to Mary. The couple lived a modest life together but endured harsh economic conditions due to their loss of court privileges.

The Children and Descendants of Mary Boleyn

A group portrait of the descendants of Mary Boleyn in historical attire.

Mary Boleyn had two children from her second marriage to William Stafford, a son named Henry and a daughter named Anne. Both of her children went on to have descendants who made significant impacts in their respective fields.

Issue from Her Marriages

Mary Boleyn had two children from her marriages: Catherine Carey and Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon.

  1. Catherine Carey was believed to be the daughter of Mary Boleyn and Henry VIII, although there is some debate about her paternity.
  2. Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, was an influential figure in Elizabeth I’s court and became a trusted advisor to the Queen. He played a significant role in politics and military affairs during his lifetime.
  3. The descendants of Catherine and Henry Carey held prominent positions in the royal court and contributed to the political landscape of England during the Tudor era.
  4. Mary Boleyn’s grandchildren carried on the Boleyn legacy, claiming titles such as the Earldom of Ormond and holding influential positions within the English nobility.
  5. The impact of Mary Boleyn’s children and their descendants on English history continued long after her lifetime, shaping political alliances and royal relationships in subsequent generations.

Notable Descendants and Their Impact

Mary Boleyn’s descendants left a lasting impact on English history. Lettice Knollys, one of her famous descendants, was the mother of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex. Additionally, her lineage includes the influential Spencer family and Henry Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

These notable descendants played significant roles in Tudor politics and culture by leveraging their connections within the English court.

The impact of Mary Boleyn’s descendants extended beyond mere familial ties; they contributed to shaping the political landscape and cultural milieu during the Tudor era.

The Boleyns in Historical Context

Mary Boleyn and her family played a prominent role during the Tudor era, with close ties to the royal court and significant influence on English politics and society.

The Boleyns During the Tudor Era

Mary Boleyn’s family, the Boleyns, played a prominent role during the Tudor era. Her father, Thomas Boleyn, was an influential courtier in King Henry VIII’s reign and held various positions at court.

Mary’s sister Anne became the second wife of King Henry VIII and her brother George served as a diplomat and courtier. The Boleyn family’s association with the king elevated their status and influence within English politics during this period.

Mary’s marriage to William Carey further solidified the family’s position at court. This connection provided opportunities for advancement not only for her but also for her siblings.

Mary Boleyn’s Place in History After Anne’s Execution

Mary Boleyn played a significant role in the royal court even after her sister Anne’s execution. Her family connections, including ties to powerful figures such as the Howard family and influential nobles, ensured her continued presence at court.

Mary’s descendants, including Lettice Knollys and Robert Devereux, further solidified her enduring impact on English nobility. Additionally, her lineage connects her to notable members of the Boleyn family tree, such as John Boleyn I, Nicholas Boleyn, and Sir James Boleyn.

These connections underscore Mary’s lasting influence in historical narratives and English aristocracy.

Furthermore, Mary’s ancestral ties to Edward III and prominent figures like Queen Anne Neville and Lord Chancellor Thomas More through her father’s line position her within broader historical contexts while emphasizing the depth of her legacy.

Tracing the Boleyn Lineage

Tracing the Boleyn lineage involves thorough research and analysis of genealogical records, as well as exploring historical resources to uncover connections and descendants of Mary Boleyn.

Searching for Mary Boleyn’s Living Descendants

Mary Boleyn’s living descendants include members of the Spencer family and the 2nd Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Tracing her lineage has revealed connections to these modern-day families, providing a glimpse into the ongoing impact of Mary Boleyn’s legacy.

Historical records and genealogical resources have been instrumental in uncovering and confirming these living descendants, shedding light on their connection to Mary Boleyn and her lasting influence.

With references available on Mary Boleyn and her family, including photos, original documents, family history, relatives with specific dates, locations, full names—and further reading materials—the search for Mary Boleyn’s living descendants continues to be an intriguing journey through time.

Genealogical Records and Resources

Genealogical Records and Resources

  1. Historical Photographs: Several original photographs from different eras provide visual documentation of key members of the Boleyn family.
  2. Birth and Death Certificates: Official records offer precise information about the dates and places of birth and death for individuals connected to Mary Boleyn.
  3. Marriage Records: These documents detail the unions contracted by various members of the Boleyn family throughout history.
  4. Census Records: Census data provides valuable insight into the household composition and living arrangements of Boleyn family members across different time periods.
  5. Immigration Documents: Recordings of immigration details shed light on any movement or relocation undertaken by the Boleyn descendants.

Frequently Asked Questions About Mary Boleyn

What were the notable achievements and contributions of Mary Boleyn’s descendants?

Common Queries About Her Life and Family

Mary Boleyn’s life and family have sparked many common queries among history enthusiasts. One frequent question revolves around her relationship with King Henry VIII, which has led to speculation about the paternity of her children.

Another regular query concerns the impact of Mary’s lineage on later historical events, specifically regarding her descendants’ influence within royal circles and broader Tudor-era politics.

Additionally, readers often seek information about the significance of Mary’s siblings, Anne and George Boleyn, in relation to their roles in the English court and their contributions to the Boleyn family legacy.

Some individuals also express curiosity about Mary’s personal relationships beyond her marriages, including friendships or alliances that may have affected her position in society at that time.

Furthermore, there is interest in how Mary navigated life after her sister Anne’s execution and whether this event had a lasting impact on her immediate family members or subsequent generations.


Tracing the Boleyn family tree offers a captivating journey into history. Mary’s legacy lives on through her descendants, who have left an indelible mark. Exploring genealogical records provides an illuminating glimpse into the enduring impact of this influential lineage.

The quest to uncover living descendants keeps the spirit of the Boleyns alive across generations.


1. Who was Mary Boleyn?

Mary Boleyn was the sister of Anne Boleyn—the Marchioness of Pembroke—and a lady in waiting to Queen Catherine, King Henry VIII’s first wife. She belonged to the royal family circle during the time of The Tudors.

2. Did Mary have any famous relatives?

Yes, she did! Mary’s relatives included her sister Anne Boleyn, who became the second wife of Henry VIII, and her brother George Boleyn. Her cousin Catherine Howard later became Henry VIII’s fifth wife.

3. What is known about Mary’s children?

Mary had two children: Catherine Carey and Henry Carey (Lord Hunsdon). Alison Weir suggests that some people believed they might be King Henry VIII’s illegitimate children because Mary was one of his mistresses.

4. Whom did Mary Boleyn marry?

Mary married twice; first to William Carey, a gentleman of the Privy Chamber to King Henry VIII., and after he passed away from sweating sickness, she married Sir William Stafford in secret.

5. How does Elizabeth Blount fit into this family tree?

Elizabeth Blount was another mistress of King Henry VIII and mother to his acknowledged son, Henry Fitzroy—making her part of this extended network though not directly related to Mary by blood or marriage.

6. Are there any books or movies about Mary’s life?

Yes, you can find stories about her in historical novels like “The Other Boleyn Girl” by Philippa Gregory and TV shows like “The Tudors.” There are also biographies such as those written by Alison Weir detailing the lives within Wolf Hall during Anne Of A Thousand Days.