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REVIEW: Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings by Alison Weir


Sister to Queen Anne Boleyn, she was seduced by two kings and was an intimate player in one of history’s most gripping dramas. Yet much of what we know about Mary Boleyn has been fostered through garbled gossip, romantic fiction, and the misconceptions repeated by historians. Now, in her latest book, New York Times bestselling author and noted British historian Alison Weir gives us the first ever full-scale, in-depth biography of Henry VIII’s famous mistress, in which Weir explodes much of the mythology that surrounds Mary Boleyn and uncovers the truth about one of the most misunderstood figures of the Tudor age. 

With the same brand of extensive forensic research she brought to her acclaimed book The Lady in the Tower, Weir facilitates here a new portrayal of her subjects, revealing how Mary was treated by her ambitious family and the likely nature of the relationship between the Boleyn sisters. She also posits new evidence regarding the reputation of Mary’s mother, Elizabeth Howard, who was rumored to have been an early mistress of Henry VIII.

Weir unravels the truth about Mary’s much-vaunted notoriety at the French court and her relations with King Fran├žois I. She offers plausible theories as to what happened to Mary during the undocumented years of her life, and shows that, far from marrying an insignificant and complacent nonentity, she made a brilliant match with a young man who was the King’s cousin and a rising star at court.

Weir also explores Mary’s own position and role at the English court, and how she became Henry VIII’s mistress. She tracks the probable course of their affair and investigates Mary’s real reputation. With new and compelling evidence, Weir presents the most conclusive answer to date on the paternity of Mary’s children, long speculated to have been Henry VIII’s progeny.

Alison Weir has drawn fascinating information from the original sources of the period to piece together a life steeped in mystery and misfortune, debunking centuries-old myths and disproving accepted assertions, to give us the truth about Mary Boleyn, the so-called great and infamous whore.

About the Author

Alison Weir is the New York Times bestselling author of many historical biographies, including The Lady in the Tower, Mistress of the Monarchy, Henry VIII, Eleanor of Aquitaine, The Life of Elizabeth I, and The Six Wives of Henry VIII, and of the novels Captive Queen, Innocent Traitor, and The Lady Elizabeth. She lives in Surrey, England, with her husband.


  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (October 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345521331
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345521330


Alison Weir is probably my favorite non fiction historical author since she can make the drollest facts read like fiction.  She really brings to life the true story about Mary Boleyn based on excruciating details she unearths from snippets of letters, official royal documents and details that were overlooked by other biographers.  Weir claims that Mary was probably not the "whore" history has portrayed her to be, but a victim of circumstance and was forced into a brief relationship with the King of France.  Since women are a minor footnote in history during this age, there is not much for Weir to go on, so she recreates Mary's life from know facts of the time and pieces those together with well researched truths. 

This is not a book for the casual reader of history.  The details might overwhelm some, but those who have read Weir's other books and are Tudor fans will adore this one.  I am a big fan of Weir's writing and style and although this is not my absolute favorite of hers, it certainly adds to my fascination of all things Tudor.  Just reading about the lifestyle and times of Mary Boleyn will make you crave even more detail about this period in time.  Although, the fictionalize account of Mary Boleyn is fun to read, the truth is even more alluring. 


  1. Oh, I love it! I can imagine how much fun Alison had researching and writing this piece! <3

    Thanks for the lovely review!


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  2. Most of what I know about Mary Boleyn comes via Philippa Gregory! This looks like a great book!

  3. If you look at the post scripts in Philippa Gregory books, she uses a lot of facts from Alison Weir's books. I am so fascinated with the Tudors it is scary.

  4. I read The Other Boleyn Girl a few years ago and loved it! This book reminds me of her series of stories. Great review!

    Megan @ Storybook Love Affair

  5. I think I'd like this book =D thanks for posting.

  6. Thank you for this interesting review! Tudor's times are very fascinating period of England's history, and I will put this book on my TBR list


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