Discovering My Ancestry: Part 4 – The Other Boleyn Girl

My ancestry research eventually led me fifteen generations back to Lady Catherine Mary Carey. The name didn’t ring any bells at the time but then I learned the name of her mother, Mary Boleyn. That name seemed familiar but I didn’t know why so I looked her up.

Mary Boleyn

I discovered that Mary Boleyn was the Sister of Queen Anne, the second wife of King Henry VIII, who was beheaded for High Treason. She was charged with adultery, incest and plotting to kill the king. But several years earlier, Anne’s sister Mary Boleyn, was the mistress of King Henry while he was married to Catherine of Aragon.

I had heard of the book and movie called “The Other Boleyn Girl” but never was interested in watching it until I learned that it was about one of my ancestors. I asked my wife if she wanted to watch the movie and she was more than happy to help me by watching a chick flick.

I realized that the movie was probably highly speculative and overly dramatic but it was still somewhat informative and I was interested to learn what life was like for an ancestor of mine at that time. The movie paints Mary as the younger, more reserved sister while Anne was outgoing, cunning and opportunistic. If my memory is correct, It also shows their parents as power hungry people who practically steer their daughters into the king’s bed. From what I have read since, Mary was probably the older daughter and their parents may not have been as bad as portrayed.

While Mary was the king’s mistress, she bore two children, Catherine in 1524 and Henry in 1526. Some historians believe that Catherine, and to a lesser degree Henry, were illegitimate children of King Henry VIII. Some point to the fact that Mary’s husband, William, received land grants from the king that coincided with the birth of Catherine and Henry. Others talk of the resemblance between Henry and Catherine.

King Henry VIII and Catherine Carey Knollys

It was also noted that Queen Elizabeth I, The daughter of Henry and Anne, gave special favors to Catherine and Henry, more than would be expected for mere cousins. It also seems unlikely that Mary would name her first son after the king if it was William’s child.

Whatever the truth is, it complicates my family tree. I have had to stop research on that part of the family because of the uncertainty. It would be helpful if family tree programs could allow people to have two or more branches that are listed as uncertain. I wondered why nobody ever did a DNA test on living ancestors to determine if Henry did indeed father Mary’s children but I learned that none of Henry’s four known children produced children of their own so there are no confirmed living relatives. I suppose DNA tests could be performed on decedents of close relatives of King Henry’s but those findings could be made more difficult by the fact that Mary Boleyn was actually a distant cousin of Henry’s, as we shall see in my next post.

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