Sunday, 7 April 2013

The Shelton Mistress

During Anne Boleyn's pregnancy Henry sought company elsewhere - Henry had two mistresses during his marriage to Anne Boleyn one being Jane Seymour. The other one was one of the Shelton sisters.

The affair itself lasted six months which indicates that it was not a particularly strong attachment. But which of the Shelton sister was it? Margaret or Mary?

Eustace Chapuys confirms that the King did indeed have an affair with a Shelton lady but he leaves us no name to go by. The author Antonia Fraser identifies the mistress as being Margaret Shelton.

Drawing of "the Lady Heevingham" (her
first husband's last name was Heevingham).
This sketch is by Hans Holbein and leaves
us no trace as to her first name
Recent discoveries contradicts Antonia Fraser and claims that Mary Shelton was the mistress of Henry VIII. The confusion is understandable when you consider the sources; during the Tudor time a "g" was written very similar to a "y" which makes the entire difference in this case. Some historians even claim that there was but one Shelton girl - not two; this would mean that Margaret and Mary was the same person.

The Shelton mistress was definitely a lady-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn and they were even cousins. However, their kinship did not mean that they were on the same side since there were parts of the distant Boleyn-family who did not support the new Queen. Anne was - as we all know - very jealous of her husband's mistresses and was infuriated when she found out that the beautiful Mistress Shelton was writing poems about love that seemed to be about Henry.

Mary herself was engaged during her affair with the King but the engagement to Henry Norris was dropped when her father died and left the family in great financial troubles. After the affair Mary was sent to a convent and when she returned she became engaged to Thomas Clere. He passed away before their marriage but left all his lands to his fiancée. She finally married her cousin in 1546 with whom she had five children. Her name reappears during the trial against the Earl of Surrey when it was briefly considered that she could have been an accomplice but the matter was abandoned again. She remarried in 1558 so it is safe to assume that her first husband died before her. She was buried 1571 on January 8 in Suffolk.

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