As a librarian-historian-genealogist, I never thought my work would achieve even a remote "Hollywood connection."
With amazement I find it now does, with the release on Feb. 29 of the film, "The Other Boleyn Girl." My unlikely connection to this film is a circuitous tale.
In March 1997, my article, "Mary Boleyn's Carey Children: Offspring of King Henry VIII?" was published in London in the Genealogists' Magazine.
Two months later, my article and I were the subjects of an article in the London Daily Telegraph, and I was also interviewed on the BBC. Rarely does a published genealogical article make much of an impression in the rarified world of scholarly history, not to mention in the media, leading eventually to contributing information used in a work of "historical fiction," and finally to a film based on that book.
Due to the historical prominence of the principal characters involved and to the deep historical significance of the implications discovered, this case proved to be an exception to that rule. What led to these surprising outcomes was that, from the first, my article engendered a good deal of interest worldwide among academic historians of the Tudor period. The "historical fiction" and film -- unlooked for results indeed -- came later.
It all started simply enough in the course of my own genealogical research. I had long known I was descended from a certain John West, an English settler in Virginia in 1618 who served as governor of Virginia from 1635-37.
John West was a grandson of Catherine (Carey) Knollys, herself the daughter of Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's ill-fated second queen. Mary Boleyn -- a figure noted but largely ignored by historians -- had nonetheless been well documented as being for a time Henry
Mary was married in 1520 to William Carey, a servant of the king's, and had two children, Henry and Catherine Carey. Tudor historians over the generations had assumed the Carey children must have been born after the end of Mary Boleyn's royal affair.
Tellingly, a 1535 reference to "young Master Carey" being Henry VIII's son was known to exist. Because of this, over the years occasional references were made by a few historians to Henry Carey's possibly being the king's son. But, no one had closely examined the matter -- much to my surprise. For some time, therefore, I had kept in mind the need to look at this matter more closely.