William Carey and Mary Boleyn were married February 4, 1520 in Greenwich Palace’s Chapel Royal. The king himself attended the nuptials and gave 6s as a present. Carey had recently been elevated to a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber and been made an Esquire of the Body. His bride was the daughter of the 1st Earl of Wiltshire and Elizabeth Howard. It seemed like a perfect match. However, the bride was rumored to have been despoiled by the King of France himself. Carey must have been an obliging sort to overlook his intended’s reputation.
Perhaps he was chosen for his obliging nature because not long after their wedding, Mary began an affair with King Henry VIII in around 1522. The affair was conducted in secret and with discretion, so there are no concrete date as to when it began or ended. Historians’ best guess is that it lasted for three years. Two children were born- Catherine in 1524 and Henry in 1525. There is great speculation as to whether these children were truly Tudors or Careys. In any case, they carried the Carey name.
Carey’s star rose with the King’s attention to his wife, with honors and land grants coming regularly. In fairness, we cannot say for sure if these were for services rendered, but it is suggestive. As the affair with Mary cooled, the King’s attentions were caught by another Boleyn, her sister Anne. Perhaps Mary had grown tired of her time at court and longed for a quiet life with her understanding husband. Alas, it was not meant to be.
In 1528, an outbreak of the sweating sickness hit London. The sweating sickness was the scourge of the Tudor age. It was said to have come with the invading army of Henry VII and cut a swath of sickness and death through England ever since. Modern medicine has not identified it, but the symptoms are similar to pneumonia and the flu. What is known is that if you got it, you were pretty much dead in twenty four hours. Carey caught the dreaded disease along with many others including his sister in law, Anne Boleyn. Anne survived, but William did not.
This left Mary Boleyn a pretty but poor widow with two young children. Her sister was high in the King’s favor, but who knew how long that would last. Mary made own fortune and remarried a virtual unknown for love. In the end, she outlived her famous sibling by almost ten years.