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Mary Boleyn: 'The Great and Infamous Whore' Hardcover – 6 Oct 2011

3.7 out of 5 stars 80 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape; 1st Edition edition (6 Oct. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224089765
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224089760
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.3 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 307,799 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

The research is exhaustive... It would be hard to imagine a more thorough examination of any comparable historical issue... [Weir] is to be congratulated on her impartiality and sound judgement (BBC History Magazine)

This is vintage Weir: a thrilling episode of history superbly related and treated with penetrating analysis and a great dollop of common sense (Jessie Childs Literary Review)

Weir is particularly good at piecing together historical mysteries, and this penetrating portrait of a much-misunderstood woman set against the riveting background of the Tudor court is a real eye opener (Good Book Guide)

Weir...knows her sources well. She writes in an engaging way and adopts an even-handed approach (Irish Times)

Alison Weir's book valiantly attempts to separate speculation from historical truth (Sunday Times)

Book Description

The first full-scale biography of Mary Boleyn, one of the most misunderstood figures of the Tudor age.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 13 Nov. 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
There are many myths about Mary Boleyn, often from sources such as popular novels or films. In this excellent book, Alison Weir attempts to put the record straight about Mary's life. As other reviewers have already noted, there are parts of Mary's history where little is known, but the author has completed the task with admirable thoroughness and this is a very readable and enjoyable account.

The problems with recounting Mary's life begin early on - records do not show whether Mary was the eldest sibling or not. However, Alison Weir gives us all the evidence and suggests that probably Mary was older than Anne and George. Sent to France, Mary Boleyn succumbed to the temptations of the Court, led by the notorious Dauphin - later Francois I. "Rarely did any maid or wife leave that court chaste," wrote a contemporary. So, did Mary really have such a bad reputation, or did she actually spurn advances? Again, we are taken through all the possible scenarios. However, Anne was always seen as more intelligent and charming than Mary. While Anne remained at the French court, Mary seemed to drop from sight, out of favour.

The book continues with Mary's marriage to Willian Carey and the possibility of Mary's becoming Henry VIII's mistress. Mary had two children during her marriage to Carey - Katherine and Henry. Were either, or both, Henry's children? Again, Alison Weir looks at all the evidence with great thoroughness. A lot of what was said about Mary could have been malicious gossip about Anne Boleyn's family and there is no way of really knowing how long the affair between Mary and Henry lasted. One thing was sure, though, and that was that Anne did not intend to risk becoming just another discarded royal mistress. However, this book is not about Anne Boleyn.
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Format: Hardcover
I have been rather critical of Alison Weir in the past, mostly for accepting sources at face value and not challenging all facts however I was literally enthralled with this book and couldn't put it down.
Whilst it is essentially very readable, it is also in my opinion, along with the Lady in the Tower, the most academic work she has published.

Weir's trawling of all the facts with detective-like precision was excellent, especially given the scant information we have on Mary Boleyn and investigated all alternative lines of enquiry to arrive at her many lucid conclusions.
For instance, Weir introduced an interesting hypothesis to account for Mary's absence from documented contemporary sources between her removal from the Court of France and her marriage to William Carey, suggesting that she was sent to "rusticate" for past misdemeanours.
Another highly interesting and detailed section related to Weir's discussion of the possible paternity of Mary's two eldest children, and Weir also presented a lively debate concerning the date of births of Mary and Anne.
Indeed in respect of the latter, I found that Weir's discussion complemented earlier debates such as those presented by Ives to arrive at a very persuasive conclusion that Mary and Anne were indeed born between 1498 - 1501, with an additional piece of information dating to contemporary sources claiming that as the Boleyn family had uprooted to Hever by 1505, and as "Anne was decreed at Bickling", neither could have been born after 1504/5.

The only criticisms I can make of this book, which is the reason I did not award 5 stars, is that there are some slight contradictions and causes for confusion in some parts of this book.
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Format: Hardcover
As interest in Tudor England has experienced an upturn so too has the fog of myth and misconception surrounding the history. The blurb of this latest historical non-fiction claims to "explode... the mythology" surrounding Mary Boleyn and "uncover the facts", and I must admit I was curious to see what conclusions Weir's research had made.

Reading Weir's introduction, I agreed with a lot of the sentiments she expressed and admired her goal of redressing the misconceptions and attempting to find the facts. However, I didn't agree with all of Weir's conclusions, and there were also what appeared to be one or two genuine factual blips during the course of the text. But I also found it easy to read; flowing style, clear, understandable - in contrast to some of Weir's other non-fiction works which in the past I have found at times to be a bit of a dry read. And whilst I didn't agree with some of Weir's conclusions, she definitely addressed the misconceptions, and brought to light some misplaced information. Credit to Weir for taking on an undoubtedly difficult subject and trying to cut through the shroud of myth to produce this biography of Mary Boleyn.
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Format: Hardcover
The book was sadly very disappointing because for me it just failed to teach me much bout Mary Boleyn with the book being filled with too much detail about things and people which seem extremely irrelevant to the biography making it hard to be entertained by the book at all. Also many things in the book are repeated many times which made me wonder whether Weir really had enough evidence about her life to warrant a biography of Mary Boleyn especially when she dosent reach many conclusions herself throughout the book but constantly faulting other authors conclusions again making it harder to find out more about Mary in this book. A key example of something that annoyed me throughout this book is how Weir would go into too much detail about something and then say that it wasnt true or didnt happen which made me wonder why it was in there at all although it was good when she dismissed popular views of Mary Boleyn as that is more justifiable to be in the book.

Despite this I think that the first two sections of the biography were very interesting and started the book extremely well but the book went downhill in the next section called "Into the realm of France" and continued to go downhill with the section "A very great whore" which seemed extremely over written and boring because of that. In the next few sections the book gradually improved and the sections named "Hiding Royal Blood" and "The sister of your former concubine" stood out in the book in my opinion. Sadly the book again failed to impress me with the next section but ended well with the 11th and 12th sections.
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