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Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings Paperback – September 4, 2012
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“This nuanced, smart, and assertive biography reclaims the life of a Tudor matriarch.”—Publishers Weekly
“Weir has achieved the enviable skill of blending the necessary forensic and analytical tasks of academia with the passionate engagement that avocational history lovers crave.”—Bookreporter
“Top-notch . . . This book further proves that [Weir] is a historian of the highest caliber.”—Washington Independent Review of Books
“Weir matches her usual professional skills in research and interpretation to her customary, felicitous style.”—Booklist
Top Customer Reviews
This book explains, in wonderful detail, the life and times of Henry VIII, his courtiers and his women. The story of Mary Boleyn, who apparently bore a child by Henry, is fascinating. In contrast to recent movie and TV productions, her life is revealed in a truthful, interesting and honest fashion.I most enjoyed the attention to detail and the explanations of what would have been considered normal at the time that these issues occurred. Times have certainly changed! The description of the life of the Boleyn girls while at the French court is an amazing soap opera, full of scandal and intrigue. The English court is much the same.
Her relationship with her more famous sister, Anne, is throughly covered. The probing insight into the character of Henry VIII was quite revelatory. Instead of the horrible monster which has been betrayed, he is shown as having some endearing qualities (while young) and as being no better or worse than many of his contemporaries.
I found myself reading this book far into the night, riveted to the exciting story. This book is a wonderful discovery and I plan on reading more books by the author.
Weir starts out by debunking the rumors, persistent for years, let alone centuries, that Henry was sexually prudish and might even have had an erectile problem. Since marital relations were forbidden when a woman was pregnant, Henry, during all of Katherine of Aragon's pregnancies, had plenty of time and opportunity to find gratification elsewhere. Although not a lecher like his brother king Francis I across the Channel, Henry got around. But Weir debunks the often cited rumor that Henry had syphilis. If he had had the disease he would have been treated with mercury, and since all the medical potions he took are minutely recorded it is exceedingly doubtful that he ever had syphilis. Mary Boleyn's second child, Katherine, was very likely fathered by Henry.Read more ›
Some readers have complained that this latest Alison Weir book is a little dry and too academic. It's true that she doesn't have the admittedly more lyrical writing style of Antonia Fraser, her contemporary in English royalty non-fiction. Ms. Weir usually has a more objective, "just-the-facts" approach to topics, but still with enough interesting details to capture your attention.
The problem with this book is not with Ms. Weir's writing style, but with her subject matter. Since Mary Boleyn did not become Queen of England like her more famous sister Anne, there just is not enough documented historical evidence about her to create a fully rounded word portrait of her. Ms. Weir is often forced to resort to educated speculation to fill in the many gaps about her motivations and her actions, so we never get a clear idea of what sort of person Mary Boleyn really was. However, some of the speculation we do get is very interesting to fans of the Tudor period, such as the fact that Mary's daughter Katherine, the eldest of her two children, just may have been fathered by King Henry.
Read this book only if you're interested in factual details about the Tudor dynasty and want the real story about Mary Boleyn - what little is known of it.
I was NOT disappointed. There is no doubt that writing about Mary Boleyn isn't easy. Very little historical documents (original sources) exist about her. Still, her name has survived for centuries, and myths and half-truths have been built up around her. How to find the truth?
Alison Weir cleverly looks at all the documentation about anyone CLOSE to Mary Boleyn, including her grandparents, parents, famous sister and brother, first husband, second husband, children, and niece Elizabeth I. A lot can be deduced from what IS said versus what ISN'T said. I think she makes a fine argument for Henry Carey not being Henry VIII's son. I also agree with her argument that Katherine Carey was, most likely, his daughter.
I've read reviews that complain about how much this book is about other people. Well, again, Weir is looking for real facts before she goes to the secondary sources. Plus, if you read this book and believe it's all about Anne Boleyn...you've obviously never read a biography of Anne Boleyn. There's really very little here about Anne, given the facts and details history records about her. (See Weir's previous nonfiction works, "The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn" or "The Six Wives of Henry VIII," for example.)
BOTTOM LINE: Anyone looking for a romance novel or historical fiction, this is NOT for you. This is a biography.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It was interesting to compare with other interpretations. Which one is the closest to the truth?Published 25 days ago by pirkko Dyer
This was a well researched book about an important figure from the Tudor dynasty.Published 1 month ago by Cynthia McNally
Having downloaded a sample of this book about Mary Boleyn, I was surprised that half of the sample seemed to be taken up with determining Anne Boleyn's birth year, not Mary's. Read morePublished 2 months ago by mimindurham
The beginning spent way too much time debating the date of her birth. I found myself falling asleep trying to read. I tried very hard but I just couldn't finish this book. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Mitzi Alvar
Alison Weir always does a great job researching the facts. This book is easy to read and discusses the various reasons why Mary Boleyn did the things she has been reported to do. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Kat Nelson
Love reading history and the author Alison Weir is one of my favorites. Didn't know much about Mary an interesting narrative.Published 4 months ago by Claudia