Mary Shelton, Royal Mistress

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Mary de Shelton (Shelton)

Birthdate: (52)
Birthplace: Shelton, Norfolk, England
Death: circa 1570 (44-60)
Heveningham, Suffolk, England
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Sir John Shelton, Kt. and Anne Shelton
Wife of Sir Arthur Heveningham and Phillip Appleyard
Sister of Sir John Shelton, 22nd Lord Shelton; Sir Ralph de Shelton, of Depeham; Elizabeth de Shelton; Anne Coote; Gabriella Shelton and 4 others

Managed by: Douglas John Nimmo
Last Updated:

About Mary Shelton, Royal Mistress

Margaret (Madge) Shelton and Mary Shelton (died 1560) were two sisters in Tudor England, one of whom may have been a mistress of Henry VIII of England.

Mary was a maid-of-honour and poet. She was the daughter of Sir John Shelton and Anne Boleyn (1475 – 1555), herself a daughter of William Boleyn and Margaret Butler. Her mother's brother was Thomas Boleyn, father of the queen Anne Boleyn; therefore, she and Anne were first cousins. Her brother was John Shelton. Mary Shelton was a teenage maid-of-honour to her first cousin Anne Boleyn.

It is believed that one of the Shelton sisters had an affair with King Henry for around six months, beginning in February 1535, according to Eustace Chapuys, the Imperial ambassador.

It has traditionally been believed that this was Margaret, but recent research has led to the claim that it was Mary who was Henry's mistress and who was rumoured to become his fourth wife. Supposedly, this confusion arose from the label "Marg Shelton", where the y looked like a g - a common confusion in sixteenth-century writing. Some historians argue that Margaret and Mary were the same person and not two separate sisters


Mary was part of a social group including the poets Thomas Clere, Lord Surrey, and Sir Thomas Wyatt, with all of whom she was romantically linked. Her two closest friends were Margaret Douglas, niece of Henry VIII, and Mary Howard, daughter-in-law of Henry VIII. Shelton was the main editor and a main contributor of the famous Devonshire MS, where members of their circles wrote poems they enjoyed or had composed.

Mary's poetry did not impress Anne Boleyn, who chided her for writing "idle poesies" in her prayer book.

She married her cousin, Sir Anthony Heveningham of Ketteringham c. 1546 and had five children including Sir Arthur Heveningham. After the death of Sir Anthony Heveningham in 1557, Mary married Philip Appleyard, Esq.

Shelton is the one of the main subjects of The Mistresses of Henry VIII by Kelly Hart, Rethinking the Henrician Era: Essays on Early Tudor Texts and Contexts by Paul G. Remley and historical fiction such as The Lady in the Tower by Jean Plaidy.

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Mary Shelton, Royal Mistress's Timeline

Shelton, Norfolk, England
Age 52
Heveningham, Suffolk, England
January 8, 1571
Age 52