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Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings
by Alison Weir

Mary Boleyn was reputed to be the mistress of two kings, Henry VIII of England and King Francis I of France. She was the sister of Anne Boleyn, the notorious woman whose seduction of Henry VIII led to the formation of the Church of England. She was the daughter of one of the most powerful men in England, but she threw it all away to marry a commoner. Novels like The Other Boleyn Girl have told her story to new generations, but what do we really know about her? In the latest book by Alison Weir, the life of Mary Boleyn is examined to see if she was truly the “Great and Infamous Whore” of Tudor tales.

Trouble is, Alison Weir doesn't really have a lot of new information to share. One thing I did like was her description of Mary’s first husband, William Carey. In fictional accounts of her he tends to be pushed aside to focus on the romance between Mary and Henry VIII, so this was the first time I really felt like I got a complete picture of who William Carey was. But there’s no unexplored documents about Mary Boleyn revealed for the first time or anything like that. Instead, much of the book seems to be dedicated to debunking myths that have appeared in other texts.

That's fine. I mean, anyone who has read about this period of Tudor history will have heard a lot of different things about Mary and her infamous siblings, and someone needed to go through and sort that out. Trouble is, once you clear away all the rumor and the court gossip...well, you haven't got all that much left to talk about. There's a lot of discussion of “Well, Mary wasn't this--” and “Mary couldn't be like that” but not a lot of talk about what she was. She also uses phrases like “probably,” and “may have” too often, so that the book feels very cautious and uncertain about its main subject.

Weir dedicates a lot of pages to the other people in Mary's life, like her sister Anne and her father Thomas, but individual biographies are sketched very quickly. For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend this book to people unfamiliar with Tudor history, and even then I would hesitate to call this a necessary read because there is so little new material in it.

3 out of 5 stars

To read more about Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Nov. 1st, 2011 05:23 am (UTC)
Thank you for this review, it was certainly fairer than one's I'd seen on Amazon.

I think this is one to borrow from the library rather than buy.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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