Mistresses of Henry VIII

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Portrait of Mary Boleyn, one of Henry's mistresses. She was known to be very beautiful by both the English and French courts.

The Mistresses of Henry VIII included many notable women between 1509 and 1536. They have been the subject of biographies, novels and films.

Confirmed mistresses[edit]

  • Elizabeth or Bessie Blount, mother of his illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, to whom Henry VIII gave the dukedoms of Somerset and Richmond. Fitzroy, which means son of the king was acknowledged by Henry and there was talk in the 1530s that the King, who then had no male heir, would legitimise Fitzroy.[1]
  • Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne Boleyn. It was rumoured that one or both of Mary's children were fathered by the King[2], although no evidence exists to support the argument that either of them was the King's biological child. Mary is often considered to be Henry's favorite mistress.[3]
  • Margaret (Madge) Shelton, first cousin of Anne Boleyn.[4] According to Imperial ambassador Eustace Chapuys, the King had an affair with 'Mistress Shelton' in February 1535, for around six months.[5]

In addition, Henry VIII was involved in a romantic relationship with three of his future wives before he married them. It is unclear if these relationships became sexual before marriage. He was involved with his second wife, Anne Boleyn, from around 1526, around the time he ended his relationship with her sister, Mary; Anne was also, at the time, maid-of-honour to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Anne was referred to by some as "the king's whore" or a "naughty paike [prostitute]".[6] Henry and Anne's daughter, Elizabeth I, was born (7 September 1533) almost eight months on from their marriage (25 January 1533).

From the beginning of 1536, while still married to Anne Boleyn, he was openly courting his wife's second cousin and maid-of-honour, Jane Seymour. In 1540, he began courting Catherine Howard, the maid-of-honour of his fourth spouse, Anne of Cleves. Catherine was a first cousin of Anne and Mary Boleyn.[7] It appears that his lust for mistresses did not abate as he reached middle age. During his marriage to Catherine Parr, his sixth wife, it was speculated that he would divorce her and look for a seventh wife.

Alleged mistresses[edit]


Portrait of Anne Hastings. She is often considered to be one of Henry's mistresses.

Kelly Hart's study The Mistresses of Henry VIII was published in 2009. In 2010, Mary Boleyn: The True Story of Henry VIII's Favourite Mistress by Josephine Wilkinson was published, and in 2012, Alison Weir published Mary Boleyn: The Great and Infamous Whore. In 2013, this was followed by Bessie Blount: Mistress to Henry VIII by Elizabeth Norton.

Portrayals in media[edit]

On Elizabeth Blount

On Mary Boleyn

On Jane Popincourt

  • The Pleasure Palace (Secrets of the Tudor Court) by Kate Emerson

On Mary Shelton

  • Major character in The Lady in the Tower by Jean Plaidy (2003)

On Anne Hastings

On Anne Bassett

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Beverley Murphy, 2004, The bastard prince: Henry VIII’s lost son, 172–174
  2. ^ Ives, Eric William (2004). "The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn", p. 369 (note 75). Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub.
  3. ^ Wilkinson, Josephine (2009). Mary Boleyn: The True Story of Henry VIII's Favourite Mistress. Amberley Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84868-089-0.
  4. ^ Hart, Kelly (June 1, 2009). The Mistresses of Henry VIII (First ed.). The History Press. ISBN 978-0752448350.
  5. ^ Calendar of State Papers, Spanish, V, pt.2, p.126
  6. ^ Farquhar, Michael (2001). A Treasure of Royal Scandals, p.67. Penguin Books, New York. ISBN 0-7394-2025-9.
  7. ^ Hart, Kelly (June 1, 2009). The Mistresses of Henry VIII (First ed.). The History Press. ISBN 978-0752448350.
  8. ^ The Mistresses of Henry VIII, Kelly Hart
  9. ^ The Mistresses of Henry VIII, Kelly Hart
  10. ^ The Mistresses of Henry VIII, Kelly Hart
  11. ^ Young Henry: The Rise of Henry VIII Robert Hutchinson