In Defence of Thomas Boleyn, Father of Anne Boleyn

Posted By on April 26, 2012

Unknown Man, attributed to Lucas Hornebolte. c. 1525., possibly Thomas Boleyn

I recently read a comment on a Tudor history Facebook page which really struck me and got me thinking, as well as banging my head on my desk.

The writer was of the opinion that Thomas Boleyn did not deserve to be buried in St Peter’s Church, Hever, and that he should have been buried in a field somewhere, in an unmarked grave, because of the “horrible things” he did to Anne and George. I considered these to be incredibly harsh words, but it made me think that perhaps this was the general perception of Thomas Boleyn, father of Mary, Anne and George.

I decided to carry out a bit of an experiment on Facebook and Twitter to see what people thought of Thomas. Obviously, you have to bear in mind that Anne Boleyn Files followers are Tudor history lovers with some knowledge of the Boleyns, but, even so, the general consensus was that Thomas Boleyn was an awful man who forced his daughters into their relationships with the King so that he could rise at court. There were a few comments giving him the benefit of the doubt, but here are some of the comments that summed up the general perception and got “liked” by other Facebook members:-

“Her father?! I dont like him at all. He seemed to only care about his position, his wealth, how much power he had. Did he care that 2 of his childern were killed?! that one was disgraced?! I doubt it.”

“Overly ambitious, Not the best Father for pretty daughters…Yes I know it was the way of court to sell off your daughters to the highest bidder…however I think he took it toooooo far.”

“I think he used his children for family advancement.”

“He was very greedy and wanted power.”

“Used his family to gain power. In the end, it destroyed his family.”

Now, while I believe that everyone is entitled to their opinions, and I’m certainly not criticising the people who wrote these comments, I believe that this kind of opinion has no basis in fact. If Thomas Boleyn was the conniving, manipulative pimp of The Tudors and The Other Boleyn Girl then, yes, he was a horrid man, but I have not found any evidence to back up these depictions of Thomas Boleyn. I feel that the people who hold these views of Thomas Boleyn have been misled by authors, historians and scriptwriters, and it’s time to challenge these perceptions of Thomas Boleyn, just as we challenge the myths surrounding Anne Boleyn.

Thomas Boleyn’s Rise at the English Court

Those of you who have been led to believe that Thomas Boleyn gained his power as a result of pimping his daughters out to the King will be interested to know that Thomas Boleyn was a powerful and wealthy courtier long before Mary’s affair with Henry VIII.

  • He was present at Catherine of Aragon’s wedding to Prince Arthur in 1501.
  • In 1503, Thomas escorted Margaret Tudor, Henry VII’s daughter, to Scotland to marry King James IV.
  • He was appointed an esquire of the body before Henry VII’s death and Henry VIII chose to keep him on.
  • Thomas was knighted by Henry VIII in 1509 and his wife, Elizabeth, served as one of the “baronesses” of the Queen’s Chamber at the coronation of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon in 1509.
  • In July 1509 he was appointed Keeper of the Foreign Exchange in Calais and in 1509 and 1510 he served as sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk.
  • In January 1510 Thomas participated in a revel in honour of the Queen and dressed up as one of Robin Hood’s (the King’s) men. On 23rd May he was involved in the knightly combat and jousts, and accepted a challenge from King’s team.
  • In 1511, Thomas was involved in the jousts to celebrate birth of Prince Henry, Duke of Cornwall. He was also a chief mourner and one of the knight bearers at Prince Henry’s funeral on the 27th February.
  • Rewards and grants in 1511 included the keepership of the park of Beskwode, Nottinghamshire; the manors of Borham and Powers in Essex; Busshy in Hertfordshire; Purbright in Surrey and Henden in Kent; and Culverts and Little Waltham in Essex. Also appointed Sheriff of Kent.
  • 1512 – Grants and appointments included being granted, jointly with Henry Wyatt, the office of constable and keeper of the castle and gaol of Norwich, which was also reconfirmed to them in 1515; being granted one half of the custody of the lands, wardship and marriage of John, son and heir of Sir George Hastings; and being reconfirmed and granted in survivorship the manor of Wykmer in Norfolk with his wife Elizabeth.
  • 1512-1513 – Thomas Boleyn was sent to the court of Margaret of Austria, with John Young and Sir Robert Wingfield, to act as an envoy to her father, Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, to conclude an alliance between England and the Empire against France. Thomas Boleyn became so friendly with Margaret that they had a wager on how long the negotiations would take and he also secured a place for his daughter, Anne, at Margaret’s court. A place in Margaret’s court was highly sought after by royal and noble families in Europe so this showed just how much Margaret respected Thomas.
  • 1514 – Grants included the life grant of the lordship of the manors of Saham Tony, Nekton, Panworth Hall, Cressingham, Parva, and the hundreds of Waylond and Grymmeshowe in Norfolk. By this time, as William Dean points out, Thomas Boleyn owned, or had been granted, the controlling interest in around twenty manors and he was the keeper of various other estates, as well as being the Keeper of the Exchange at Calais and the Foreign Exchange in all English ports.
  • 1514 – Thomas Boleyn secured places for both his daughters in the entourage of Mary Tudor, who was going to France to marry Louis XII.
  • 1516 – Thomas Boleyn acted as a canopy bearer at the christening of Princess Mary, daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon.
  • 1517 – He acted as Queen Margaret of Scotland’s official carver for the forty days of her visit to England.
  • 1518 – Thomas was a member of the Privy Council by this time and was involved in the negotiations for the Treaty of Universal Peace signed that October.
  • End 1518/beginning of 1519 – Thomas was appointed as the English ambassador to the French court. He served there as Henry VIII’s ambassador and as Cardinal Wolsey’s agent. While in France, Thomas became good friends with the French royal family.
  • 5th June 1519 – Thomas sponsored Francis I’s baby son, Henry, Duke of Orleans, in the name of Henry VIII.
  • 1520 – Returns to England and is appointed Comptroller of the Household.
  • 1520 – Thomas attended the Field of Cloth of Gold, having been chosen as one of 40 select members of government, nobility and the Church who were to ride with the King to his first meeting with Francis I. Thomas’s wife, Elizabeth, was appointed to attend Queen Catherine.
  • May 1521 – Thomas was now the Treasurer of the Household and was also was appointed to the special commissions of oyer and terminer which tried Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. He benefited from Buckingham’s fall, being granted in survivorship the manor, honour and town of Tunbridge, the manors of Brasted and Penshurst, plus the parks of Penshurst, Northleigh, and Northlands, in Kent. He had also recently been granted the manor of Fobbing in Essex and Fritwell in Oxfordshire. His manors now totalled around two dozen!
  • 1521 – Thomas accompanied Cardinal Wolsey to meet Margaret of Austria under the pretence of mediating between France and the Empire, but actually to secure an alliance between England and the Empire.

Now, I could go on with grant after grant and details of Thomas Boleyn’s diplomatic duties, but I just wanted to cover the period up to 1522, when it is thought that Mary Boleyn caught the King’s eye. If you cast your eye over that list and consider that Thomas Boleyn was Treasurer of the Household by 1522, had over 24 manors and was the man Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey trusted with diplomatic missions, then it really is hard to argue that he owed his rise in status and wealth to acting as a pimp for his daughters. William Dean, who wrote a detailed thesis on Thomas Boleyn, summed it up when he said “One cannot, as some have done, simply attribute Boleyn’s advancement to Henry’s preferment of his daughters up to this point. Granted, a case may be made for this influence later, but Henry had no history of doing generous things for his mistresses, much less their parents. It is more likely that Henry  recognised ability and past service and rewarded Boleyn for it”1 and I agree. Bessie Blount’s family had not benefited from her relationship with the King, so how could Thomas Boleyn have expected to? He was already a powerful man by the time Mary slept with the King, his rise had been rapid and deserved. He was a key courtier, a trusted adviser and a skilled negotiator and diplomat. He worked hard for his rewards.

Thomas the Pimp?

It can also be argued that Thomas Boleyn was actually unhappy about his daughters’ relationships with the King. The fact that the King had to step in and ask him to provide for his daughter Mary after she was widowed suggests that the Boleyns had distanced themselves from Mary after her affair with the King, and there is evidence that he was initially against Henry VIII’s plans to marry Anne:-

“I must add that the said earl of Wiltshire has never declared himself up to this moment; on the contrary, he has hitherto, as the duke of Norfolk has frequently told me, tried to dissuade the King rather than otherwise from the marriage,”2

“Shortly after the Duke [Norfolk] began to excuse himself and say that he had not been either the originator or promoter of this second marriage, but, on the contrary, had always been opposed to it, and tried to dissuade the King therefrom. Had it not been for him and for the father of the Lady, who feigned to be attacked by frenzy to have the better means of opposing it, the marriage would have been secretly contracted a year ago; and for this opposition (the Duke observed) the Lady had been exceedingly indignant with the one and the other.”3

As for him being cunning, manipulative and cruel, the Duke of Norfolk actually described Thomas Boleyn as “very timid” and “not of a warlike disposition”.4 He must have had drive and ambition to be a successful courtier, but the manipulative, cruel and overbearing Thomas Boleyn definitely belongs in the realm of fiction.

Conclusion

It is impossible to know what Thomas Boleyn was really like as a person or father, but evidence does not support the characterization that we so often see in fiction and on TV. As for him abandoning his children in May 1536, we just don’t know what Thomas did, and he can hardly been blamed for picking himself up, dusting himself off and working his way back into royal favour. That was his job, that’s what a courtier had to do and he still had his wife and mother to think of and provide for. The Tudor court was a dangerous place and Thomas had to move on and survive.

I think of Thomas as an intelligent, charismatic, hardworking Renaissance man. I am in awe of his career and how quickly he rose at Henry VIII’s court and how respected he was by the French royal family, Margaret of Austria, Henry VIII and other courtiers. I think it’s time to stop blaming him for what happened to Anne and George in 1536, when he had no hand in it, and, instead, applaud him for his amazing career and for providing his children, including his daughters, with a top notch education and amazing opportunities that other courtiers’ children just did not get. Bravo, Sir Thomas!

Notes and Sources

  1. Sir Thomas Boleyn: The Courtier Diplomat, 1477-1539, William Hughes Dean, Ph.D., West Virginia University
  2. Span. Cal. iv. ii.1048
  3. Span. Cal. iv. ii.1077
  4. Span. Cal. iv. i.255

The Fall of Anne Boleyn

Remember to check out today’s event on the timeline at www.thefallofanneboleyn.com

Comments on
"In Defence of Thomas Boleyn, Father of Anne Boleyn"

43 Responses to “In Defence of Thomas Boleyn, Father of Anne Boleyn”

  1. Maggyann says:

    I am willing to stand up and say I do not believe Thomas is a monster. I don’t think he had much say in what happened as far as Henry is concerned. I do not think he played the pimp. I think he was destroyed by what did happen dying within a couple of years. Thomas gets a bad press which is undeserved IMO. There is nothing to say he was the type of character he is made out to be. I feel a lot for Thomas.

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  2. Tracey Burdus says:

    Very interesting article, I never realised that Thomas Boleyn was as active in court before the rise of Anne. One thing that interests me is the mention of “keeper of the park of Beskwode, Nottinghamshire” does anyone know if this is what is know known as Bestwood Park?

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  3. Linda Saether says:

    Great article, Claire. He was known to be a well respected diplomat and certainly had to use these skills in his personal life as well. He had difficult choices to make, and in reality, not too many options. There were few career opportunities for him that did not depend on the favor of the king, and as you mentioned, he still had family responsibilities. Thomas and Elizabeth set high standards for all their children, and each in their own way, lived their lives by their own terms and by their own wits. I don’t think they were pimped in any way. Anne was a visionary beyond her times, and Mary, when she wed Stafford, defied all convention and had the guts to follow her heart. Thomas may have actually been an exceptional father to have raised these three, and with that, life after Anne and George must have been a sur-real and hellacious world he had to endure in the name of survival.

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  4. Louise says:

    Great article, Claire.
    Thomas’ career pre Mary and Anne is nearly always overlooked. I think that’s often deliberate because it doesn’t fit in with the picture of the Boleyns which so many authors try so hard to project.

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  5. Anira says:

    Well said, Claire!!

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  6. Cindy says:

    Claire
    I love the timeline of what all Thomas Boleyn did!!!! Been trying to write this one up myself. Thank you!
    Even though he did have accomplishments on his own, I still do not think he was a good father in keeping his children safe, (letting my modern day feelings in here) although a natural one for the times. Something we so often forget, that the time period and happenings/living was SO very different from our time now.

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  7. Esther says:

    Great article! I agree that Thomas “got ahead” on his own merits, and, wasn’t the “pimp-monster” that many believe him to be, but I can’t see him as “Father (or Grandfather) of the Year”, either. Thomas had to be pushed to support Mary and her children — which included his only grandson. I doubt that this is moral disapproval of Mary’s affair with the king, which was long over, since he didn’t do anything during the affair. IIRC, the Duke of Buckingham had his sister sent back to her husband for her affair with Henry (or one of his friends, there is some debate) — which indicates some action was possible, and, since Thomas Boleyn didn’t have royal blood, as Buckingham did, Thomas Boleyn wouldn’t risk Buckingham’s fate.

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  8. carrie says:

    It isn’t fair to judge anyone in the Tudor era by today’s standards. The King was supreme, he had his way in ALL things including his sex life. People today and especially Americans, who have not studied history do not grasp just how a person was subject to the sovereign.Thomas Boleyn I believe was not an unnatural father for his time. It was quite a misogynous society,women just weren’t valued. I think he loved his children, he just loved his children by 16th century standards, and anyone who studies this era knows there just wasn’t room for alot of emotion.

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    sherri Reply:

    Carrie, I agree a 100% that we can’t judge Thomas Boleyn’s actions and behaviors by today’s standards. As a courtier, especially one that achieved so much you did as the King requested. It was a matter of survival.

    I think that Thomas loved all 3 of his children by 16th century standards and expectations.

    For all we know maybe Thomas tried to warn Anne about marrying the King. He couldn’t stop it or prevent it because it was what the King wanted.

    I think Thomas Boleyn shouldn’t be judged so harshly. Imagine even by today’s standards of watching your children be destroyed and killed. There was nothing he could do. He couldn’t ease their pain and suffering nor prevent them from being killed.
    What Cromwell, the Seymour’s and Henry had put in motion couldn’t be stopped. Even if Thomas could have warned Anne and George, the tide turned very quickly and rapidly against them that he could not have helped them in any way at all. No one expected Anne to fall from grace.

    His emotional state most likely killed him – his children were gone, he would never see his granddaughter, Elizabeth as well as Mary went into hiding with her children.

    All of that aside, I think that Thomas Boleyn did show his love for his children in that he died of a broken heart and I don’t think that anyone can dispute that. He died so suddenly and so soon after George and Anne were executed that that in itself tells the tale of how he felt toward his children.

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    WilesWales Reply:

    First of all, Claire, I don’t know how you sleep and put these superior articles going, The TIMELINE is so wonderful, I can’t believe it. All I can think to add as a commentor, and the fact the Thomas Boleyn was back at court and in the King’s favor in 1539 says a lot!

    Also thank you Carrie, for your comment as all you wrote is very true except that, we from the United States (all this half of the world is American we must remember), and I know you mentione studied history, as I have a BA, and P.h.D. in Early Modern Western European History with and Emphasis in the Reformation as well as an M.A. in Libray and Information Science thrown in between the two. yes the King was supreme, but under Parliament as well (since the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 at Runnymede, and before that English law was built on the Star Chamber after the win in 1066. Yes, the King was supreme (and the break from Rome that led to ones in Parilament is altogether another subject for another time (as we who have studied History at the advanced levels understands that any of these true acts, and such by persons, settings, ideas, etc. can all go out to a web of theories on which dissertations have not even been written yet and more), and Henry did have his way in all things including sex (although Queen Anne, bless her heart held out for a long time). Today even people of Europe do not live under the absolute monarchies that they did then, as we know that even Queen Elizabeth II is a constitutional monarch. – there is a vast difference, but even then (as I mentioned Thomas was back in favor by 1539). I am going to stop here as my comments on Claire’s article are nothing less than fantastic! I will alway believe Queen Anne was innocent as long as I’m around, and she brought to history and much reality today, Queen Elizabeth I, who was the greatest absolute monarch England ever had. Thank you so much! WilesWales

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    Baroness Von Reis Reply:

    Hi AB Friend Wiles,Very excellent reply as always,I to agree that Claire brings to lite,all the facts and they are Fantastic as you say,always look foward to your wonderful replys Wiles and Claire to,as well as , all the other AB friends. Keep them comming. KInd Regards Baroness

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  9. Anne Barnhill says:

    Great article and right on, as far as I am concerned. Do you remember the portrayal of Thomas in Anne of 1000 Days? He was sort of bumbling with regard to his daughters, with the usual fatherly slight embarassment to think of them as objects of desire. He meant well but could not go against the king….we cannot really ‘get’ the idea of the divine right of kings as the idea no longer has currency in our day. But then, the king was next to God and they really believed that. And of course, the kings encouraged that belief. So what could Thomas do? Well, just about what he did. He died in a few short years after his children were executed and I believe the stress of those events really did both him and his wife in. They were both powerless against a king who had his eyes set on a new wife. Henry and Cromwell were quite formidable.

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    Baroness Von Reis Reply:

    Anne,Yes I do remember Anne Of The Thousand Days very well ,you make a excellent point , when Anne / George went to court and there father stood before them ,you could see the dismay and pain in his face. A good thing Norlfrolk released him ,as he was father of the acussed. I olny hope the family did not wittness them being slauthered!! Kind Regards Baroness

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  10. Jess Butterworth says:

    Thanks for this very interesting article. I have not really thought too much about Thomas before beyond his caricature on films/ tv, but this has rally made me want to follow up what you have put forward.

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  11. Anna says:

    Well done Claire, you may not be a historian but you have historian’s passion and need for a deeper research. Congratulations for this post.

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  12. bolynbolyn says:

    Don’t judge Thomas too harshly for the way he used Mary and Anne, after all they were only daughters, he had to do something with them. Better to be whores to kings than commoners.

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  13. Brenda says:

    Your article is interesting, but to be honest, it does not really prove your point. Maybe a little more information about him from contemporary sources and a description of his actions during crucial moments -like the death of his kids, etc- would work better, because as it is, you just talk about how he was “not a pimp” and don´t offer much prove of his character. I say this as someone who does not know much about Thomas, so I don´t think he was good nor bad. I ´m just very careful with what I read and believe

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  14. Sue says:

    Good article Claire. Thomas Boleyn did no more or less than any courtier. Ambition was part and parcel of being near the throne and being successful in that milieu. It was a whole different era and women had their place and the women accepted that.

    There was something Ives wrote that shows you what it was like to live at court in those times. He said “the court was a Moloch that sucked in good people, body and soul, and spewed out a noisome plague of parasites – Anne among them – corrupting the community in the process”. It was a rough place.

    Something you didn’t address and that is the fact that Thomas’ wife Elizabeth was not buried in the family church. Some have speculated that they may have fallen out with each other after the deaths of their two children. It does make you wonder.

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    Claire Reply:

    Thanks, Sue. As far as Elizabeth is concerned, she was buried in the Howard Chapel of St Mary’s Lambeth, with quite a few other Howard women, so I wonder if her burial there was more to do with Howard tradition than any kind of separation between her and Thomas, plus she was in London when she died.

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    Jena Wilcox-Gonzalez Reply:

    Hmmm..very interesting. Ok, see now learning about all these facts, makes watching The Tudors a little less interesting…ok, lol, not really, but it is so refreshing to hear a side to this story that is actually true. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in those days..

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  15. Baroness Von Reis says:

    I really think we have to try to understand ,what all were unagainst back in the day,it was servival of the fitess if you did not have the KIngs favor with wealth titles ect: There was not to much you could do to gaine such, titles ,casas,wealth. The commom people were very poor,so with that said I keep an open,on just what kind of a man Thomas Boylen was and what he had to come up against,a pimp no ,perhapes a very good porvider,who would not want to see there child with wealth and titles???So I really think one had to do what was best for ,everyone in the whole of the family.

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  16. Adriane says:

    Great article Claire! Your facts definetly clear his name for many wrongs history has accussed him of. I do however have a question: Did Thomas Boleyn sit in as a member of either Anne or George’s trial??

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    Claire Reply:

    There is no evidence that he was a member of the jury at the trials of Anne and George but he was on the jury for the trials of Norris, Smeaton, Weston and Brereton and those trials obviously prejudiced the trials of Anne and George. I don’t think he had any choice in the matter, poor man.

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    Baroness Von Reis Reply:

    Claire, A very good read as alawys,but what I have seen and read Thomas was on the Jury and as father of the acussed ,he was dismissedand sent away,whereas her uncle the Duke of Norfrolk was high on the court and gave Anne ; her dooomed fait,I however went to read the Transcripts of the trial all mornig,none had a chance so did really mean much of anything,they were all giong to , scaffold innocent or not,they had no chance,As I found this trail was based on presumtion, thats it and thats all!! Whenask to speak to the court and question , Markes,Norfolk said yes, Justice must seem to be so ,and gave Anne leave, to speak to Smeaton, however a long shot for all.

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  17. Dawn 1st says:

    Thomas Boleyn was no better or worse than any other man working in the complexities of Henry’s court in my opinion, he rode the waves as they all did, benefited greatly when in favour,and suffered the severe consequences when out of favour. This life style had a high risk factor, and the people who became a part of it must have felt these risks were worth taking. With hind-sight I would think most of them would have done it differently, remember Wolseys last words!!
    It seems that all the Boleyns are villified in one way or another, why, who knows, maybe it was because of all the radical changes that occurred around them at the time, and people always need scapegoats, even now-a-days. It is a great shame.

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    Baroness Von Reis Reply:

    Dawn1,I to agee with your comment,well said, you make a very good Scapegoatsvery well said . Kind Regards Baroness

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  18. Mickey says:

    You have to remember the times in which they lived and not judge them by the standards of today. Women had very little standing and were used to the advantage of the male family members. Unless you were a woman of remarkable status, ability and forceful personality, you stood very little chance of notice. Compare Mary to Anne. And even if you did have status, it could easily be ripped away by the male members of your family – Kathrine of Aragon, Anne herself. Thomas Boleyn was making his way through life in a manner consistent with the times, and should not be judged harshly.

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  19. NanBoleyn says:

    Thomas was a man of his time, I do not blame him for the outcome. Anne and George were adults, ‘old’ by the 16th century standardsand accountable for their decisions and actions. In the 1970′s my father still believed that women were not worth educating. My brothers got a University Education, me? primary school, that’s what I merited as a woman. I lived in a Third World Country , in the 80′s I emigrated to the USA in order for me to become what I wanted to be: Independent and educated.
    For Thomas Boleyn to invest in ALL of his children education, regardles of intellect and abilites,to believe that they ALL were worth the expense and effort says a lot to me. To seek places for them in the highest courts of the land and beyond, tells me of the love he had for his children, they were foremost in his mind and he showed them off to everyone, What parent does not believe his children are geniuses? We have inferred that Mary was not the sharpest pencil in the box. But still Thomas gave her the best education he could afford her, he treated them all the same. He knew their intelligence and characters, and by God, he would do what he could to help them advance them in this world. Think of parents nowdays, giving their children the best of everything they can afford, regardless of the returns!. In the end, things slipped out of their control; Thomas knew that Anne was courting danger and tried to stop it ( if it is true that he was against the marriage). But Henry’s will got in the way. There was no way he could save his children, he had to see their fall and mourn their fate. Weep for what it could have been. He died of a broken heart. What parent would not have done so, his hopes dashed, their careful upbringing and brilliant futures ending in such a horrible, hideous, and tragic way; all his efforts for naught? . I think he might have regretted having had such brilliant children. It worked against them. That Thomas worked himself back into favor so soon after their deaths speaks volumes of his worth and Diplomatic accumen for Henry. Such times he had to live under, who feels sorry for him? I do.

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  20. Helen H. says:

    I have believed, just like Anne and all the Boleyns, Thomas was maligned also. There is no way he would not mourn the fact his son and heir was “killed”. What had he gained power and wealth for if not his son. He was a victim of the time and Henry! As Nan Boleyn stated, he must have had great worth and skills to work back into favor, but obviously dying after only a few years, I am sure his spirit was broken by the loss of his children, but self preservation prevails..

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  21. Emma says:

    Another excellent and thought provoking article Claire. It always amazes me that even respected historians buy into such distorted carictures of historical figures even when the evidence is slim, contradictory or non existant. It is great that people are now looking at these people as complex individuals within the context of the society they lived in. When you compare what we know about Thomas Boleyn’s behaviour as regards to Anne marrying Henry with the Seymour brothers towards Jane you see that it was the latter that were pushing their relative towards the throne. Yet whilst Boleyn is vilified the Seymours get far less critcism. (Not that I am villifying them instead they too had their motives which they considered justified for their actions).

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  22. H. Bollyn says:

    Dear Claire,

    Thank you so much for bringing these interesting facts about Sir Thomas Boleyn to your readers. Can you tell us, what is the modern reason, motivation for the on-going defamation of Anne, George and Thomas Boleyn and who do you think is behind it?

    Thank you.

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  23. Julia says:

    I think he has been unfairly villified, when it is really the Duke of Norfolk who is to blame, at least in part, for the death of George, Anne and their cousine Katherine Howard.

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  24. Sharon says:

    Thanks for the great article Claire!
    Blame for Anne’s death sholud be placed where it belongs, at the feet of Henry VIII.

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  25. Thank you for your research Claire! I still find it hard to think or ponder that a parent or close relative could doom their flock to death. Alison Morton.

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  26. Mary Heneghan says:

    A quick question Claire! Did Thomas Boleyn inherit the title of Earl of Ormond?

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    Claire Reply:

    He was awarded the title in 1529 Thomas after the Butlers surrendered the title in return for the disputed Ormonde lands on a long lease. Piers Butler had styled himself the Earl of Ormonde after the death of Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormonde, and Thomas Boleyn’s grandfather, but the title was argued over by Piers, the St Leger and Boleyn families. See http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/8901/anne-boleyns-irish-roots-lady-margaret-butler-and-the-butlers-of-kilkenny-castle/ for more information.

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    Mary Heneghan Reply:

    Sorry Claire I have only just seen your reply. Thank you for the information. Just think how different Anne’s life would have been had she married James Butler. She could have lived her life out at the lovely Kilkenny Castle and become “more Irish than the Irish themselves”.

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  27. kelpiemare says:

    That Thomas Boleyn was a firm and valued courtier is beyond question. That he married a Howard, one of England’s foremost families, is a pointer to his regard.

    He knew Henry VIII’s character, as did his wife, Elizabeth. Now, to say he DIDN’T foster hopes for further advancement in royal circles because he was already well-regarded is a trifle naive. Mary fell at the first hurdle, sharing her time and body with Henry, and not getting much reward in return….other than a son, that is. So to Anne.
    Her holding Henry at arms length for so long, I believe, was, in part, due to coaching from her court-aware parents…..and uncle. Thomas knew how Henry would cease the hunt once he caught and claimed Anne’s prize, so why not educate her on delaying the inevitable for as long as possible, getting as much as possible out of the situation as was possible? After all, AFTER the event, Anne would be soiled goods, so who would marry her? Better to accrue wealth and enjoy a comfortable life.

    But whose idea was it to marry Henry? Did Anne succumb to his charms? Was it bloody-minded detetmination to rub every courtiers’ nose in her success? No-one knows. And no-one is totally objective in weighing motives and actions of those involved, only mourn the deaths of so many people because of a king’s Desire and a powerful family’s machinations.

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  28. Miranda says:

    Dear Claire,

    Hi my name is Miranda Lynn Reed. I have my own opinion to express about sir Thomas Boleyn! I think Sir Thomas Boleyn was a good man. I think he tried to save his children but new if he tried he would of probably lost his own life in the process of trying to save his children from being killed. I think henry and Sir Thomas Cromwell ploted against the Boleyn’s! I don’t think the Seymour had anything to do with Queen Anne Boleyn’s and Sir Gorege Boleyn’s downfall! Queen Anne Boleyn and Sir Gorege Boletn caused their own downfall.I think If Queen Anne hadn’t argued with Sir Thomas Cromwell and hadn’t threatened to behead him I think Queen Anne Boleyn would of lived a little longer I think Queen Anne Boleyn hadn’t had any man/men in her bed chambers and just had her ladyi in waiting in her chambers she would of live a longer live. I hope i am making sense here. let me know i am not making sense. And also let me know if i am making sense here as well.

    Sincerely,

    Miranda Lynn Reed

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  29. devi says:

    Great article Claire!
    Finally, an enlightenment to the character. before reading this I was always curious of what kind of person Thomas Boleyn was. I mean, how could a bright successful ambassador pimped his own daughters while he himself gained all the achievement by his own right, by his own intelligence. Within his position at that time, surely he would have foreseen and wise in directing his children’s future, knowing the king’s nature. Seeing how he provided the best education to his children, I think it shows that he loved his children unconditionally. and wanted them to advance in a more respected way. And anyway, it was H8&Cromwell’s doing that led to Anne’s downfall.

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  30. Mary the Quene says:

    Regardless of his ability to compartmentalize the outcome of the trials of his children, and later, his daughter-in-law, Thomas Boleyn’s lot in life could not have been easy, emotionally.

    His only surviving son was executed.
    His daughter, while ‘only’ a female, was clearly engaging, attractive, beguiling – and executed.
    His son’s wife, later, was executed.
    His wife’s niece was executed at the same time.

    His heart must’ve been broken.
    Such a price to pay for his family’s ambitious actions!

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  31. Debra says:

    Wonderful article Claire. Thank you for all the hard work to bring us this information. Has made me see this man in a different light.

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  32. Amy says:

    Always great to read your posts, Claire! I’m relatively new to the Anne Boleyn Files, but like so many of us who thirst for ever more information on a time and on events from so long ago, I’m thrilled to see consistently new research, fresh insights and an even handed view!
    Having fallen hard for Anne Boleyn solely on the intrigues (however far fetched and clearly created more to grip a television audience and not to ‘tell it like it was’) of “the Tudors”, I confess I’m most thankful to have had this made-for-tv attempt at both drawing & holding an audience and giving an outline, however flawed in inaccuracies, of the events of those amazing years, people, politics, sex, ambition, etc. Lucky for me and perhaps many others, herein began MY thirst for as much factual information on this same story told of the Tudors and much other surrounding historical facts as well. “The Tudors” created, at least a notion of people and not just names, something that many history books do not or choose not to do. Without context it all falls rather flat. Now though, there will be few books left unopened or posts left unread, for I am hooked! Wow! not the place for all this, sorry!
    I do have much studying to do, of course, and I could be accused of naively viewing Thomas Boleyn as the man who put his children in harms way solely to raise his own level of prestige, power, income and sway within Henry’s court. While Clearly, long before Mary or Anne ever laid in Henry’s bed, Thomas Boleyn’s list of accomplishments was beyond extensive and his favor with both Henry VII & Henry VIII was remarkably close. I wonder then, why did a man whose personal clout stood far and away beyond so many courtiers put his children into this environment at all, unless it was to take ever further steps of favor toward the King and receive even greater position, benefit, wealth and power within court. Who better to know the true cost of a life of in Henry’s court. True, he had not yet seen the harsh removal (which he, it appears, assisted in stepping along, arguably to his own benefit) of a 20+ year sitting Queen, or the ‘kill or be killed’ bent Henry’s own take on execution would become, but surely Thomas Boleyn, so close to the man who would ultimately, ‘personally’ kill his own children had to have recognized the risk of courtly life, along with what only a genuinely intelligent, trained man so close to the crown must have sensed as, at the very least, rolling the dice of one’s neck it was to take that next step toward what he later saw as the kind of favor that could ONLY be achieved through being a member of Henry’s family by marriage. I wonder what the list of gifts & wealth were as Henry courted Anne, likely only to be topped by what a Father-in-Law may receive in properties, titles, and accumulating wealth. It was a fantastic bet he made putting his strikingly exotic, uniquely mannered, precisely educated and relentlessly brave daughter Anne, especially after the ‘failure’ of daughter Mary, ‘in Henry’s sights’ for what can honestly only be seen by this novice as a playing of his own hand, with the gem of a card he had in Anne…all an incredible gambit, right up till the bough broke and his ‘cradle of children’ lost their heads as a result. This privileged courtier, father of 3 whom he so diligently educated, had placed in courts where they would come out multi-lingual, carefully trained in all manner of the arts, particularly performing music & dance, in writing (George was known to be a poet, and Anne, at least it was suggested dabbled, if ever privately ~ since we apparently have no actual poetry to get that deeper window into her person! her thoughts and feelings ~ sadly), and perhaps more importantly the more nuanced skills and manner that made each stand out in their own way! not as the wallflower English men & women in court, whom Henry could generally have without fuss (including Mary, whose skill set suggested she was most highly suited as a sovereign’s Mistress, evidently immediately interesting, yet rather quickly and without fuss ultimately disposable, despite even the fact that she bore Henry a son {or so my research has said} she too went the way of most all of ‘Henry’s cast-off mistresses, or as in the case of Mary, would be known as the “Great Whore” for the rest of her life it seems).
    Was Thomas Boleyn forced to bring his children to court, get positions for them? Could he not have used that same savvy that had him initially place them in other courts to continue the paths of their own lives, loves (perhaps), religion and continued learning. Were they forced by their sovereign to appear and serve? If Henry had never seen Anne, might she have stood a chance, with all her fine graces, manner and exotic appeal, of finding a decent husband and a life of child rearing, and possibly leisure, left to bloom as the remarkable woman she’d become in the French and Hapsburg Courts? Or was she always being groomed to be that championship winning card in fathers’ hand to lay before a king, just in case it meant winning the ultimate prize, Afterall, sincerely, WHAT WAS Thomas Boleyn raising Anne to be?? It seems only reasonable that all that education, special training, etc, was not to give her a special life of leisure and to be, to the English Court, a “Nobody”.
    Again, only a novices view…and a scattered one at that, but perhaps something to consider. And I will continue to read your fantastic posts, Claire!! Thanks much!

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