08 September 2010

Mary and Anne Boleyn: As Sisters

The exact sort of relationship experienced between Mary and Anne Boleyn is not easy to determine. Little information exists about the life of the two sisters as children, and their relationship as sisters is even more elusive. As I've mentioned, some historians do not agree on which sister was older, though it is generally believed that Mary was the eldest.

Various depictions of Mary Boleyn seem to paint her as a passing fancy, a quick meaningless fling in the life of King Henry. This was hardly the case, as she was Henry's official mistress for some period of time. During this time, and for the most part had always been so, the Boleyn sisters were not particularly close. They bore little resemblance one to the other physically, and were even less alike in temperament. Mary and Anne wanted different things in life, and would take entirely different paths to their own ends.

Time was passing. Wolsey was still preparing Henry's divorce, Mary still his mistress, and Anne was quietly living at Hever. At this time Mary was likely unaware that her sister would soon eclipse her, would eventually marry King Henry, and that she would ultimately fade into a distant memory, evicted from court by Anne. (Given what must have seemed at the time as a dismal end to such a hopeful beginning, historians now agree that Mary was the luckiest of the Boleyn children.)

Thomas Boleyn was certainly content with then current state of affairs, and could also not have known what laid ahead in the not too distant future. As for what Anne may or may not have been planning during this time, it is impossible to know. What we can know is that Anne was surely thinking, watching, learning. A most shrewd observer, Anne did at some point decide that Mary's seemingly dead-end position in Henry's life would never do for Anne. If she decided to play at all, it was going to be for keeps.

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