Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Great and Infamous Speculation

Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings by Alison Weir

Summary: 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

Review: A biography that was mostly speculation with a few very sparse facts.

The idea of a book about Mary Boleyn sounds like a great idea. Mary Boleyn is a very interesting historical figure and a book about her is one that Tudor fanatics would probably read. I was certainly interested in reading it. It turns out that very little is actually known about Mary Boleyn and writing a full length book about her is probably a stretch. I think it would have been better for Weir to add a chapter about her in a book that is dealing with Anne Boleyn or her family.

So very little is known about Mary Boleyn. A lot of sources are conflicting. Some sources purposely report malicious gossip or are merely repeating from what they have heard or learned from other people. Weir does a good job of figuring out what is true, what is false, or usually, what is most likely true or false. It is hard for Weir to be certain of anything with so little information. I assume most of her guesses are correct, but I don’t like how certain Weir is after she decides that something must be true or false.


Recommendation: I would only recommend this to those that are looking for any information about Mary Boleyn. 

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