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SusannaG - Confessions of a Crazy Cat Lady

Just another GR refugee.  Other than that, I had a stroke in 2004, and read almost anything I can get my hands on, though I have a particular weakness for history, mystery, and historical fiction.

Currently reading

Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition
Paul Watson
Progress: 6 %
I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
Ed Yong
Progress: 40 %
Wizard's First Rule
Terry Goodkind
Progress: 49 %
Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story of Henry VIII's Most Faithful Servant
Tracy Borman
Progress: 14 %
Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life
Helen Czerski
Progress: 20 %
The Hanover Square Affair
Ashley Gardner
Progress: 10 %
Medieval Tastes: Food, Cooking, and the Table (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History)
Beth Archer Brombert, Massimo Montanari
Progress: 10 %
Scars of Independence: America's Violent Birth
Holger Hoock
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Yuval Noah Harari
Progress: 9 %
Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years
John Guy
Progress: 20/512 pages

Mary Boleyn: Mistress of Kings, by Alison Weir

Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings - Alison Weir

Alison Weir has written several biographies of historical women who don't have as much available biographical information about them as we might like - Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella "the She-Wolf" of France, and Elizabeth of York, for example - but she was very daring indeed to try to write a biography of Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's second wife.


Mary is well positioned to be interesting: she was grand-daughter of the most powerful duke in the land (Norfolk), daughter of one of Henry VIII's leading courtiers (Thomas Boleyn), sister of a controversial queen (Anne), mistress of both Francois I of France and Henry VIII of England, wife of a rising star of the court (William Carey, who died young).


But there's a problem.  There just isn't enough information to drown a cat!


We don't know:


Where she was born.

When she was born.

Which was the elder sister, Mary or Anne.

When exactly she was mistress of Francois I, and for how long.

Where she was living for more years than otherwise.  (There are huge gaps in the 1510s and 1530s, in particular.)

For how long she was Henry VIII's mistress, and over what exact span of years.

Whether either or both of her children born in the 1520s were royal bastards. 

If she was "famous as an infamous whore" in her own time.


So partly this book is an "and her time" (out of sheer necessity), and partly just laying out how much we don't know, and questioning how much we can believe of what we think we do know.


There are also two interesting appendices, one about her children, Henry and Katherine Carey, and their children, "the tribe of Dan," as they were known in Elizabeth I's day (under whom they did well - they were the only close relatives the queen had who were of no dynastic threat to her), and her further descendants (which include Winston Churchill, Algernon Swinbourne, and the current queen).  The other is a discussion of the portraits said to be of Mary Boleyn, where the lovely picture insert was very useful (as it contains images of the portraits in question).


I found this an interesting read, and Weir got the most out of very scant materials, even if I didn't always agree with her specific conclusions in attempting to read the tea leaves.