The true story behind Mary & George, the latest period drama packed with sex and scheming.

What is the true story that inspired Mary & George?

Who was Mary Villiers?

Warning: You’re entering spoiler territory here. Proceed at your own risk.

Mary’s story isn’t the most popular one in British history, but it is one of the most scandalous. Born around 1570, Mary’s father was Anthony Beaumont (he was related to the fourth Earl of Buchan, just in case that’s of interest) and Mary was married three times.

Her first husband was Sir George (yup, another George), who was a sheep farmer and knight. When he died, he left behind his wife and four children. 

With no money or means to boost her family’s name, Mary singled out her son George for his good looks and charm. She’s believed to have scrimped and saved to send him away for a top-notch French education and when he returned, she pushed him into royal court so he could rub shoulders with the country’s powerful elite.

Thanks to Mary’s guidance, the family’s name was pulled from obscurity. They gained wealth, power and influence. That is, until tragedy struck.

Who was George Villiers?

George was Mary’s second son, and was born in 1592. He was 14 years old when his father died and he was sent off to French court, where he became well-educated — and a force to be reckoned with when he returned to England. 

George eventually gained the attention of King James VI and I, and was then appointed to the lofty position of Royal Cup-bearer (AKA someone who poured the royal drinks, but given the constant risk of plotting during this era, you had to be pretty well-trusted to have this job). Their relationship was close and, according to historian David M Bergeron, he was “[King] James’ last and greatest lover”.