Odds are good that anyone reading this has heard of Beyoncé’s sister Solange physically attacking Beyoncé’s husband, Jay-Z, in an elevator a few days ago. It has been parodied on Saturday Night Live and the mainstream media has reported on it.
NPR justly pointed out that “This happened — literally — behind closed doors. If the video hadn’t surfaced, the fight would likely have been an issue that the family would deal with, and none of us would have been the wiser. Still, it did surface, many of us watched and, for days now, people have been speculating about what sparked the fight, throwing blame around, making accusations, creating GIFs, cracking jokes and just generally Monday-morning quarterbacking about what they think they see in that elevator.”
Wow. What would it be like to live your life under that level of scrutiny? How would it influence your actions? Worse, what if the historical record was largely based on Hollywood “insider” speculations, sometimes by people that hated your guts, as to why events occurred and what was really happening?
Although most of us can only imagine how it feels, Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and Anne’s sister Mary Boleyn Carey lived it. It turns out that a lot of historical “fact” has been written on the word of sixteenth century gossip hounds.
Belief in scuttlebutt is certainly how Mary Boleyn Carey became known as “Mistress of Kings”. Do you know how scanty the historical “evidence” is for Mary’s relationship King Francois of France? The only evidence of her knocking boots with Frances given by a person alive at the same time as Mary Boleyn Carey was written in Rodolfo Pio the Bishop of Faenza’s letter to Prothonotary Ambrogio on the 10th March 1536 (LP x.450): “Francis said also that they are committing more follies than ever in England, and are saying and printing all the ill they can against the Pope and the Church; that “that woman” pretended to have miscarried of a son, not being really with child, and, to keep up the deceit, would allow no one to attend on her but her sister, whom the French king knew here in France ‘per una grandissima ribalda et infame sopre tutte.’”
Why would anyone assume that a political and religious enemy of Anne Boleyn is telling the gospel truth about anyone in the Boleyn family? Frankly, I would hope historians were more prone to be skeptical without more corroborating evidence. Then again, historians are only human and the lure of the lurid tempts them as much as any of us. Furthermore, no one believes that Anne Boleyn didn’t miscarry in January of 1536. Mary was NOT the only one to attend her. Why, then, is the final part of a sentence full of disproved rumors given so much credence?
Mary was in France from around 1514 to 1519. That was more than twenty years before the letter was written. Francis I became King in 1515, but at no time in the next four years was Mary Boleyn ever listed by a contemporary as one of his mistresses. However, during the height of Anne Boleyn unpopularity and demonization by Team Katherina and the Anti-Protestants, all of a sudden Mary was suddenly the “great slut”. Out of the blue people started claiming that Francis I had called her his “English Mare” because he had “ridden” her so much. Wow. That is some powerful “evidence”, there. Not to mention, having sex with two kings and her husband hardly qualifies Mary as a the harlot to end all harlots.
In sum, Mary Boleyn Carey has become renown as a round-heeled strumpet based on heresy that was more than two decades older than the supposed event and written by people who despised and feared the Boleyn family.
Perhaps the rampant certitude that Mary Boleyn Carey did the bedroom tango with the King of France should be reassessed?