Pair of magnets picture sisters Mary (c1499-1543) and Anne Boleyn (c1501-1536). Novelist Philippa Gregory portrays Mary as a sweet, romantic girl beleaguered by her mean sister, Anne. Some historians, however, point to French King Francis I labeling her a "Great Whore." Marriage to William Carey didn't prevent her having an affair with King Henry VIII, who was still married to Catherine of Aragon (though many woman might have made the same decision when dealing with a king who could have their head chopped off). When Henry's roving eye turned away from Mary, her sister Anne found the courage (some say she devised the strategy) to deny his sexual overtures until marriage. When Anne failed to produce an heir, however, Henry directed his advisors to engineer her trial for treason and beheading. Mary ultimately inherited what was left of the Boleyn estates.
The girls were children of a diplomat, Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, and Elizabeth Howard. Only one of Anne's children lived, Elizabeth I, who ruled England for 50 years. Mary had two husbands and bore at least three children, resulting in a couple dozen grandchildren.