The Mistress of Kings
By Alison Weir
Ballantine Books, Hardcover, 9780345521330, 400pp.
Publication Date: October 4, 2011
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 François 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.
Praise for Alison Weir’s The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn
“[Weir] is well equipped to parse the evidence, ferret out the misconceptions and arrive at sturdy hypotheses about what actually befell Anne.”—The New York Times
“Well-researched and compulsively readable . . . Acclaimed novelist and historian Weir continues to successfully mine the Tudor era, once again excavating literary gold.”—Booklist
“It is a testament to Weir’s artfulness and elegance as a writer that The Lady in the Tower remains fresh and suspenseful, even though the reader knows what's coming.”—The Independent (U.K.)
“Compelling stuff, full of political intrigue and packing an emotional wallop.”—The Oregonian
The story of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII, is well-known; but her sister, Mary, has largely been a footnote in history. Alison Weir tells the other Boleyn girl's story in Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings. More at NPR.org
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