Was Anne Boleyn Henry VIII’s Daughter?

Posted By on November 23, 2011

Elizabeth Boleyn as played by Kristin Scott Thomas

This article has been inspired by the tens of emails I’ve received recently and also comments on Facebook and online about Elizabeth Boleyn’s alleged affair with King Henry VIII and the possibility that Henry actually committed incest by marrying his own daughter, Anne Boleyn.

I’m not sure what exactly has stirred up this recent interest in this myth, and I do believe it is a myth, but I’d like to share my views here. Obviously, nobody knows the real truth of the matter and all I can comment on is the root of this myth, and how accurate it is likely to be, and the likelihood of the myth being truth rather than salacious fiction.

Alison Weir writes about this myth in her recent biography of Mary Boleyn, listing the sources for the story as:-

  • “Friar William Peto, an Observant Friar of Greenwich who had publicly denounced Henry VIII’s determination to wed Anne Boleyn in a sermon preached before the King on Easter Day 1532″ and “who warned Henry afterwards that it was being said that he had meddled with both Anne’s sister and her mother.”1
  • Sir George Throckmorton, who, according to Cardinal Pole, had heard the story from Peto. Throckmorton recalled a conversation he had had with the King about his troubled conscience over marrying his brother’s wife: “I told your Grace I feared if ye did marry Queen Anne your conscience would be more troubled at length, for it is thought ye have meddled both with the mother and the sister. And your Grace said “Never with the mother.” “2
  • Elizabeth Amadas, wife of the royal goldsmith and a woman some believe to have been the King’s mistress at one time. She asserted “that the King had kept both the mother and the daughter” and also alleged that “my lord of Wiltshire was bawd both to his wife and his two daughters.”3
  • Thomas Jackson, a Yorkshire chantry priest, who claimed that Henry VIII had “kept the mother and afterwards the daughter.”4
  • John Hale, Vicar of Isleworth, who said that “the King’s Grace had meddled with the “Queen’s mother.”5
  • The Catholic writers Nicholas Harpsfield, William Rastell and Nicholas Sander – Harpsfield wrote that he “had credibly heard reported that the King knew the mother of Anne Boleyn”, Lord Herbert wrote of Rastell asserting that Anne Boleyn was the fruit of an affair between Henry VIII and Elizabeth Boleyn, and Nicholas Sander gave quite a detailed account of the affair which, according to him, took place while Thomas Boleyn was in France on an embassy.6
  • Adam Blackwood, a lawyer defending the reputation of Mary Queen of Scots in 1587, shortly after her execution7

Alison Weir points out that although there are many sources for this alleged affair between Henry VIII and Elizabeth Boleyn, “the King himself denied it, when he did not deny that he had had an affair with Elizabeth’s daughter Mary”, “all the sources are hostile” and that the claims of Rastell and Sander simply don’t add up as Thomas Boleyn “was not sent as ambassador to France until 1519″. Weir also says that “Henry was probably less than ten years old when Anne was conceived”8 but that obviously depends on what you believe regarding her birthdate; Henry VIII was ten years old in 1501 but he was 16 in 1507.

Let’s examine the sources and see just how credible they may be…

Friar William Peto

In “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn”, Eric Ives writes of how Friar Peto preached a sermon on Easter Sunday 1532 “telling Henry to his face that he would end up like the Old Testament tyrant Ahab (though he left unspoken the implication that Anne Boleyn was Jezebel).”9 Ives does not mention Peto talking to the King afterwards and although I have looked up reports of this day in Letters and Papers and the Spanish Calendar of State Papers all I can find is a report from Chapuys stating that the sermon upset the King and the following:-

“And I hear that the King himself, happening to converse privately with the said friar after the sermon, heard from his lips what was not much to his taste, for the Provincial spoke openly to him about the royal marriage in contemplation, telling him in plain words that if he did not take care he would be in great danger of losing his kingdom, since all his subjects, high and low, were opposed to it.”10

No mention of any scandalous relationships between the King and Elizabeth Boleyn or Mary Boleyn. Even if there were, Peto was head of the Observant Friars and was in agreement with the likes of Warham and More who opposed the King’s proposed annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and saw her as his true wife and Anne Boleyn as Jezebel.

G W Bernard, in his book “The King’s Reformation” writes of how Peto had told the King that “it was said that he had meddled both with Anne Boleyn’s sister, Mary Boleyn, and their mother”11 and he gives Nicholas Harpsfield as a reference. I searched through Harpsfield’s book “A treatise on the pretended divorce between Henry VIII and Catharine of Aragon” and he mentions Peto’s sermon but not what Peto said to the King afterwards, although a few pages on he comments “Yea, I have credibly heard reported that the King knew the mother of the said Anne Bulleyne”12, meaning “knew” in the Biblical sense! It all sounds like gossip to me, a salacious rumour put about to blacken Anne’s name during the time of Henry’s quest for annulment.

Sir George Throckmorton

In Letters and Papers, in the records for 1537, there is a report concerning Sir George Throckmorton and Sir Thomas Dyngley. In it, we read of a conversation between Throckmorton and the King:-

“About six or seven years ago conversed with Sir Thos. Dyngley in the garden at St. John’s about the Parliament matters. Dyngley wondered that the Act of Appeals should pass so lightly, and Throgmorton said it was no wonder as few would displease my lord Privy Seal. Told Sir Thomas he had been sent for by the King after speaking about that Act, and that he saw his Grace’s conscience was troubled about having married his brother’s wife. “And I said to him that I told your Grace I feared if ye did marry Queen Anne your conscience would be more troubled at length, for it is thought ye have meddled both with the mother and the sister. And his Grace said ‘Never with the mother’.”13

In the same report, we hear that Throckmorton gleaned the information regarding Henry VIII and Elizabeth Boleyn from Peto:-

“Explains his conduct since the beginning of the Parliament of 21 Hen. VIII. Just before that Parliament friar Peto, who was in a tower in Lambeth over the gate, sent for him and showed him two sermons that he and another friar had made before the King at Greenwich, and reported a long conversation he had had with the King in the garden after the sermon. He said he had told the King that he could have no other wife while the Princess Dowager lived unless he could prove carnal knowledge between prince Arthur and her; which he said was impossible, as she, who knew best, had received the Sacrament to the contrary, and she was so virtuous that her word deserved more credit than all the other proofs; that prince Arthur’s saying that he had been in the midst of Spain was probably but a light word; and that the King could never marry Queen Anne as it was said he had meddled with the mother and the daughter. He moreover advised Throgmorton if he were in the Parliament house to stick to that matter, as he would save his soul.”

So, Throckmorton is not a separate source for the scandal, he got it from Friar Peto, and G W Bernard14 believes that Throckmorton was just boasting to his friends and that he never spoke these words to the King.

Elizabeth Amadas

In Letters and Papers, in the records for 1533, there is a collection of prophecies spoken by “Mistress Amadas”. The eighth prophecy is:-

“She rejoiced when the Tower was made white, for she said shortly after my lady Anne should be burned, for she is a harlot; that Master Nores was bawd between the King and her ; that the King had kept both the mother and the daughter, and that my lord of Wiltshire was bawd both to his wife and his two daughters.”15

Now, I’m not sure that we can take that very seriously when it’s amongst sixteen rather fanciful prophecies regarding Mouldwarp, dragons, blazing stars and the destruction of the King. Josephine Wilkinson points out that when Mrs Amadas was abandoned by her husband “she began to champion the causes of other discarded wives”16, like Catherine of Aragon, so would have been against Anne Boleyn and the Boleyn family. Wilkinson also believes that Amadas may have had a fling with Henry VIII at some point, so this prophecy may also be a case of sour grapes. Whatever the motive behind her words, we cannot take Amadas’s words a proof of a relationship between Elizabeth Boleyn and the King without also believing her other fanciful words.

Thomas Jackson, Chantry Priest

In June 1535, William Fayrfax reported to Thomas Cromwell of an indictment against “Sir Thos. Jakson, priest”:-

“Deposition by John Lepar and Brian Banke before Wm. Fayrefax, sheriff, co. York, against Thos. Jackson, chantry priest of Chepax, for saying,—1. That the King lived in adultery [with Anne Boleyn] before his marriage, and still lives so. 2. That he kept the mother and afterwards the daughter, “and now he hath married her whom he kept afore, and her mother also.” “17

I suspect that this priest, a Catholic who was obviously opposed to the King’s marriage to Anne Boleyn, was simply spreading gossip which blackened the royal couple’s names.

John Hale, Vicar of Isleworth

In 1535, John Hale, Vicar of Isleworth was reported as saying “the King’s grace had meddling with the Queen’s mother.”18 Further objections against Hale included that he had “called the King the “Molywarppe” that Merlin prophesied of, that turned all up, and that the King was accursed of God’s own mouth, and that the marriage between the King and Queen was unlawful.”19 The fact that he referred to the King as Mouldwarp suggests to me that he was simply repeating the prophecies of Elizabeth Amadas and in his own account to the council he states that “the fellow of Bristow showed, both to me and others of Syon, the prophecies of Marlyon; for, by my truth, Master Skydmore showed me also the same, with whom I had several conversations concerning the King’s marriage and other behaviours of his bodily lust.” He is simply repeating hearsay. Hale also said “Moreover, Mr. Skydmore dyd show to me yongge Master Care, saying that he was our suffren Lord the Kynge’s son by our suffren Lady the Qwyen’s syster, whom the Qwyen’s grace myght not suffer to be yn the Cowrte”, more hearsay concerning the paternity of Mary Boleyn’s son, Henry Carey.

Harpsfield, Rastell and Sander

When reading the claims of these men regarding Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, we have to take into account who they were.

Nicholas Harpsfield was a Catholic priest who was friends with Thomas More and his family. He wrote a biography of More, dedicating it to his patron, William Roper, More’s son-in-law, and he also wrote “A treatise on the pretended divorce between Henry VIII and Catharine of Aragon”. He was against Henry VIII’s annulment and was a supporter of Catherine of Aragon.

William Rastell was a printer, judge and Catholic who was related to Sir Thomas More. He wrote a now lost “Life” of his uncle and saw Anne Boleyn as a Salome type character20, putting on a special banquet for Henry VIII to persuade him to execute More and Bishop Fisher.

Nicholas Sander was a Catholic recusant writing about Anne Boleyn while he was in exile during her daughter Elizabeth I’s reign. He wrote:-

“ANNE BOLEYN was the daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn’s wife; I say of his wife, because she could not have been the daughter of Sir Thomas, for she was born during his absence of two years in France on the king s affairs. Henry VIII. sent him apparently on an honourable mission in order to conceal his own criminal conduct; but when Thomas Boleyn, on his return at the end of two years, saw that a child had been born in his house, he resolved, eager to punish the sin, to prosecute his wife before the delegates of the archbishop of Canterbury, and obtain a separation from her. His wife
informs the king, who sends the marquis of Dorset with an order to Thomas Boleyn to refrain from prosecuting his wife, to forgive her, and be reconciled to her. Sir Thomas Boleyn saw that he must not provoke the king s wrath, nevertheless he did not yield obedience to his orders before he learned from his wife that it was the king who had tempted her to sin, and that the child Anne was the daughter of no other than Henry VIII.”21

Sander goes on to describe Anne Boleyn as “rather tall of stature, with black hair, and an oval face of a sallow complexion, as if troubled with jaundice. She had a projecting tooth under the upper lip, and on her right hand six fingers. There was a large wen under her chin, and therefore to hide its ugliness she wore a high dress covering her
throat.” He then writes of her being banished to France at the age of fifteen after having sexual relationships with her father’s butler and chaplain.

No other source describes Anne Boleyn in such a way and she was in France serving Queen Claude when she was fifteen so the story about her scandalous behaviour at Hever is pure fiction, how can we then put any store in Sander’s claim that Anne was Henry VIII’s daughter?! Sander was simply blackening the name of Anne Boleyn, the mother of the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I who was the reason for him being in exile.

Adam Blackwood

Adam Blackwood was “a Scot, a Catholic, a lawyer and a poet”22 who wrote “Martyre de la royne d’Escosse” (The martyrdom of the Queen of Scotland) or “The History of Mary Queen of Scots” in 1587, a defence of the Queen’s virtues and an attack on Elizabeth I. He wrote his book shortly after Sander wrote his and he repeated Sander’s story about Anne Boleyn being Henry VIII’s daughter. Blackwood also collected and contributed to a collection of poems known as “de Jezebelis”23 which painted Elizabeth as Jezebel and perpetuated the myth that she was the result of an incestuous relationship between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, father and daughter. Blackwood’s work was simply propaganda defending Mary Queen of Scots’s reputation and slandering the woman he viewed as her murderess.

Other Sources

I found another source for the myth: “The Life and Death of the Renowned John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester” by Thomas Bailey (1655)24, although the real author is said to be Dr Richard Hall, writing in the reign of Elizabeth I. In this book, Bailey writes of Cardinal Wolsey investigating a possible pre-contract between Henry Percy and Anne Boleyn and calling for the Countess of Wiltshire, Elizabeth Boleyn, to see what she had to say about it. Elizabeth Boleyn, according to Bailey, “better liked of the marriage of her daughter with the said Lord Percy, than if the King should marry her” and Wolsey, guessing the reason for this, sent her to the King. Elizabeth Boleyn then, according to Bailey, said to the King:-

“Sir, for the reverence of God, take heed what you do in marrying my daughter; for if you record your conscience well, she is your own daughter as well as mine.”

The King didn’t care and told Elizabeth that he would marry her regardless of who her father was.
Of course, we have to remember that Bailey/Hall was writing a sympathetic account of the life of John Fisher, a man who was executed for refusing to accept Henry VIII as the supreme head of the church and also for his support of Catherine of Aragon. Fisher had advised Catherine during the annulment proceedings and had spoken up in her defence at the Legatine Court.

My Thoughts

It’s difficult to sort truth from fiction, fact from legend, nearly five hundred years on but the only sources we have for the alleged affair between Elizabeth Boleyn and Henry VIII are suspect in my opinion because they

  1. Are Catholic and therefore anti-Boleyn
  2. Have an agenda, a reason why they are attacking Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII or Elizabeth I
  3. Seem to be based on the same rumour stemming from Friar Peto

They are not separate sources all backing each other up and I don’t believe there is any evidence that Elizabeth Boleyn did indeed have an affair with Henry VIII, never mind have a child by him. As Alison Weir states, Thomas Boleyn was not in France when Anne Boleyn was conceived or born. He went to the Low Countries on an embassy in 1512 and to France in 1519. He was in England in 1501 and 1507 and surely would have noticed if his wife had got pregnant by the King. Also, would the paranoid Henry VIII, who worried about his marriage to Catherine of Aragon being contrary to God’s law because she was his brother’s widow, really marry his own daughter? I think not.

I’m sure that if there was any truth in these rumours then they would have been used to stop Henry annulling his marriage to Catherine so that he could marry Anne and surely Chapuys would have gleefully passed such news on to Charles V. I just cannot see the opposition ignoring such ammunition.

Cressida

In her book on Mary Boleyn, Alison Weir ponders whether these rumours spread and were believed “because of Elizabeth Howard’s dubious reputation” and that she “had gained some ill fame for straying from the connubial couch”25. Weir even wonders if “the fact that all her offspring became notorious in one way or another for sexuality might suggest that she herself had set them a poor example by her loose morals and by betraying her marriage vows.”26 Weir supports this theory with the poetry of  John Skelton who compared Elizabeth to the beautiful Cressida, a woman who pledged undying love to Troilus but then betrayed him with Diomedes. Weir writes that by the 14th century, Cressida’s name “had become synonymous with female inconstancy” and that a Tudor audience would “have instantly grasped the double entendre.”27 She does admit that Skelton may simply have been praising Elizabeth’s looks, “but if so, he had chosen a strange and compromising comparison, when there were plenty of others to be drawn.” I don’t believe so. Here are Skelton’s words:-

“To My Lady Elisabethe

To be your remembrancer, Madam, I am bownd:
Lyke to Aryna maydenly of porte,
Of vertew and konyng the wel and parfight grownd,
Whome Dame Nature, as wele I may reporte,
Hath freshely enbewtid withe many a goodely sorte
Of womanly feturis: whos florisshinge tender age
Is lusty to loke on, plesant, demure and sage.

Goodely Creisseyda, fairar than Polycene,
For to envyve Pandarus appetite:
Troylus, I trow, if that he had yow sene,
In yow he wold have set his hole delight:
Of alle your bewte I suffice not to wright,
Bot as I sayde your florisshynge tender age
Is lusty to loke on, plesant, demure and sage.”28

This allegorical poem was written in praise of the ladies of the Countess of Surrey at Sheriff Hutton Castle who made Skelton a garland of silks, golds and pearls in a pageant around 1495. It praised not only Elizabeth Howard, but also the Countess and other ladies such as Jane Hasset, Isabell Pennel, Geretrude Statham and Isbell Knyght (Skelton’s spellings). Although it was not printed until 1523, I can’t see Skelton changing a poem complimenting these ladies to one of satire. I think it should just be taken as praise of Elizabeth’s beauty, without “a sting to its tail”. To read it as evidence of a dubious reputation and infidelity is to read far far too much into it, in my opinion. What do you think?

So, do I believe that the young Henry VIII slept with the older Elizabeth Boleyn (around 11 years his senior)? No, I don’t. Poppycock and piffle, I say. How about you?

Notes and Sources

  1. Mary Boleyn: The Great and Infamous Whore, Alison Weir, p30, UK paperback version
  2. Ibid., p31
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid., p32
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid., p33
  8. Ibid.
  9. The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Eric Ives, p154
  10. Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 4 Part 2: 1531-1533, 934
  11. The King’s Reformation, G W Bernard, p152
  12. A treatise on the pretended divorce between Henry VIII and Catharine of Aragon, Nicholas Harpsfield, p236
  13. LP xii.952
  14. Bernard, p211
  15. LP vi.923
  16. Mary Boleyn, Josephine Wilkinson, p134
  17. LP viii.862
  18. LP viii.565
  19. Ibid., 567
  20. Ives, p47
  21. Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism, Nicholas Sander, p23-25
  22. The Trial of Mary Queen of Scots, Jane Elizabeth Lewis, p120
  23. Mary, Queen of Scots: politics, passion and a kingdom lost, Jenny Wormald, p13
  24. “The Life and Death of the Renowned John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester” by Thomas Bailey (1655)/Dr Richard Hall, p63
  25. Weir, p34
  26. Ibid., p35
  27. Ibid., p34
  28. The Book of the Laurel, John Skelton

Comments on
"Was Anne Boleyn Henry VIII’s Daughter?"

80 Responses to “Was Anne Boleyn Henry VIII’s Daughter?”

  1. Eliza says:

    I don’t believe it of course!! First of all, I think that Anne was born in 1501 and that makes impossible for Henry to be her father. Second, I don’t believe at all that Henry had an affair with Elizabeth.. I tend to think that Henry’s phrase “Never with the mother” is original.
    But even if he did sleep at some point with Elizabeth, he would never marry Anne if he had the minimum suspicion that she was his daughter. That would mean eternal damnation for his soul. So, for me, this rumour is total rubbish.

    [Reply]

    Melissa Reply:

    To play the devil’s advocate to your post, at the point for which we’re referring too, wasn’t Henry already disgusted with the church especially at the end before his second marriage, that he had condemned the church the Pope and its representatives which in and of itself would be blasphemous towards the church, even welcoming excommunication from the church if he didn’t get what he wanted that worry over damnation of his soul would have not given him a second thought since he was already in that position since he had committed heracy against thw church already, what’s one more sin?

    [Reply]

    Zsanine Reply:

    Henry convinced himself that whatever he wanted was also what God wanted. He wouldn’t have seen all of that as sin.

    [Reply]

  2. Catherine says:

    Hey..

    Look, if this whole incest – deal was true, Henry would probably not have been so obsessed with marrying Anne as he was but would instead have put an end to the whole deal (I mean he would probably have asked Elizabeth if Anne was his daughter..?)

    And, wouldn’t Elizabeth have gotten one of those Incest deceases if Anne and Henry where father and daughter?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Troisi Reply:

    I think “not proven” is the more accurate judgement. Henry himself might not have known. The birth dates of the Boleyn children are confused, so they can not be used as proof that Henry was too young or too old to the father of any of the Boleyns. If Henry had an affair with Elizabeth Boleyn, why is Anne and not Mary or George the candidate for a so-called illegitimate child? As for resemblances, she did not resemble Henry but she did resemble Henry VII. I once read that Henry proposed to wed his daughter Mary to the Duke of Richmond–which would have been the marriage of half-siblings. If true, Henry’s attitude to incest can be called into question. His mother once tried to marry Richard III, her uncle. The Tudor so-called horror of incest is not valid especially if the proposition that Henry VII marry Catherine of Aragon, his son’s widow, is true. Or consider this, there were rumors that Henry VII would marry Catherine Howard, widow of the Duke of Richmond, Henry’s son. Henry was religious, but more importantly, he was expedient. Also, could the Boleyns know, but Henry did not? It might explain Anne’s rejection of Henry at the beginning. If the Boleyns had a reputation for looking the other way in matters of incest, contemporaries may have been emboldened to accuse Anne of incest with her brother. And if they thought they did not share a father, maybe Anne and George thought that foisting their child off as the heir to the throne was a viable solution. A male heir was defintely the Boleyns’ saviour. The link between Henry and Anne might not have true, but there was enough laxness on the part of the Tudors and Boleyns on these matters to make contemporaries wonder. Their contemporaries were not so sure about the Boleyn or Tudor probity. Also, if Elizabeth I, rightfully or wrongly, considered herself the product of incest, she would have had a horror of reproducing — which she definitely did.

    [Reply]

    Marie Reply:

    Thank you for your extremely insightful and logical statements. Although I’m quite sceptical than Anne Boleyn was Henry’s daughter, I definitely understand and agree with your assessments. Henry VIIII might have had a fling with Elizabeth Howard, but if – and I say IF – Anne’s birth had been a result of this alleged affair, he might not have been made aware of the actual paternity.

    Please do not assume that our sexual mores were identical with the sexual mores of Tudor times – that would be an example of projecting – which is neither accurate nor logical. In our modern times, we believe incest to be repulsive, but in earlier eras, people might have held a different opinion.

    Don’t offer counter arguments such as “Well, Henry VIII was very religious, therefore, he wouldn’t have had a fling with his wife’s (i.e., Anne Boleyn) mother. Oh, come on – grow up! According to Christian tenets, he violated the 7th Commandment:: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” After all, he committed adultery with Bessie Blount, which resulted in the birth of his illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, the Duke of Richmond. Very hypocritical of Henry VIII – bragging he was the champion of Christian morality – while cheating on his then-wife, Katherine of Aragon!

    People who are in denial when they either insist that all people in the Tudor era were celibate virgins, or that 100% of all married people in that era were always faithful to their spouses need to be more realistic.

    [Reply]

    Shauna Reply:

    I concur.

    Elena Maria Vidal Reply:

    I agree with Marie. While I don’t think Anne was Henry’s daughter, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Henry had an affair with her mother. If she was a beautiful woman, her age would not have deterred the young Henry. After all, Henry II fell for Eleanor of Aquitaine when she was at least a decade older, not to mention Henri II of France and Diane de Poitiers. The fact that we do not even know the exact year of Anne’s birth adds fuel to the fire. She might have indeed been young enough to be his daughter. I’m not saying she was. Still, there is something bizarre about Henry’s obsession with Anne and his willingness to completely destroy her after such a short period of marriage.

    After reading this article I am amazed that there are so many sources which appear to uphold such a scandalous story. The only thing against some of the sources mentioned is that the source was Catholic, as if being Catholic makes someone more prone to lie.

  3. Kim says:

    Salacious rubbish, to be sure! I love the depth of your research: very scholarly.

    My reaction is more of a “gut-level” thing; I can’t imagine Henry allowing his need for an heir to drive him to couple with his daughter – his religious training, and his common sense, would deny him that very thought alone. He was smarter than that. ;)

    [Reply]

  4. Anne Barnhill says:

    Great and thorough article, as always. I did not know all these existed, I thought it was just Throckmorton! I think Henry’s response is completely credible “not with the mother”.He admitted knowing Mary but to have also been accused of the mother would have inplicated an incest he was not ever going to consider. He probably didn’t mean to blurt out his answer–he might have said No to both accusations but he did not. I can’t imagine he would have jeapodized his soul either! Plus, Thomas B. said his wife brought him a child every year at the first of their marriage and he was hard-pressed to support them. This indicates he was very much in the picture. And, I do believe Anne’s birthday to be 1501. So, I think its all poppycock, as you say. But I often wonder about Elizabeth Boleyn–I suspect she was very pretty.

    [Reply]

  5. WilesWales says:

    Eliza, Catherine, and Kim, have already put what I think down perfectly. Eliza brings up Anne’s approximated birth date. I’v read 1501-1502 to the maximum of 1506). I agree that it must have been circa 1501-1502 as being right due to her age while in France. I also agree with Claires’ three ponts exactly. Thank you, Claire once again. It seems to me that all who wrote these things had ulterior and one-sided motives. Anne had Thomas More executed and other for things having to do with the Act of Supremacy, and the acknowledgement (sp?) of their marrriage.

    Then we have Henry’ age to consider, as he was born in 1491 (r. 1509-1547). Thus the idea dates, and places as we must remember Henry was not expected to be monarch, but trained for the church), etc. of where when Anne was born, was in France, etc. just don’t add up to me. I am sure that if we gather enough dubious information from detractors, and Elizabeth I did offend people during her reign (but she was the absolute monarch, and as with most governments. absloute monarchs, etc. throughout hisory, not everyone is happy with everything about one thing or another).

    Now, I am speaking to the choir, but it seems to me that this kind of story could be drawn up with papers to make it look and seem that way, but isn’t that what happened to poor Anne and her demise. For a woman having committed treason was burinng at theh stake, Henry not only decided the kinder way to die was decapitation, but ordered an expert swordsman from Calais to do the honors, as it were (it was Mary I who lost Calais in her reign, and is reported to have said when she died they would find Calais in her heart as Calais was the last property owned by the English in Europe). I could go one and on.

    Even Thomas Boleyn, at Anne’s trial was made to acknowledge Anne’s as “issue of his body.” Brava to all of you who have writtne comments, and please forgive me for being so exhaustive in minie. Thank you very much, WilesWales

    [Reply]

  6. Cassie says:

    Oh God, this was kind of alluded to in that new book The Favoured Queen by Carolly Erickson, although it didn’t linger on Anne being Henry’s daughter that much, more the fact that it would cause problems for their marriage because it would be considered incest if Henry had slept with Anne’s mother (kind of like Henry being married to KoA was considered incestous in the bible). Has any one else read this book yet? I think it’s the worst Tudor book I’ve ever read. I thought Philippa Gregory was bad for bastardising historical figures but this is the worst characterisation of Anne B, Henry and Jane Seymour I have ever had the misfortune to read. In fact I think you should write a review telling people not to read it. Seriously, if you had problems with The Other Boleyn Girl you will loathe this book!

    [Reply]

    PHS Reply:

    I agree, Carolly Erickson is shocking! I avoid her books as much as I can.

    [Reply]

  7. Mary Ann Cade says:

    One thought that comes to my mind that makes these allegations about Anne being the daughter of Henry VIII can be traced back to the timeline. If Anne was born in 1501, Henry VIII was only 10 years of age and was more than likely heavily involved in the preparations of Catherine of Aragon coming to England to marry his brother and the heir, Prince Arthur. If Anne was born in 1507, when Henry was 16 years old, this was long after both his mother and his brother had died and he was the only male hope for the continuation of the Tudor Dynasty. There are many accounts I’ve read of how Henry VII kept Prince Henry on a very short leash, some even mentioning that one had to go through King Henry’s chamber to get to the Prince’s quarters to speak to him. I believe that some of Catherine’s letters of that time mention that she had not been in the company of the Prince for some time and many believed that the King was keeping them apart while looking for a bigger and better dynastic marriage for his son. If that is fact, then how would Prince Henry have had the freedom and ability to carry on an affair with Elizabeth Boleyn in a place where court gossip would have reached his father’s ears? If Henry had any sort of affair with her, and I personally do not believe that he did, it would probably have been after he was the King, after 1509, and after his honeymoon period with Catherine of Aragon, either when she was pregnant and could not be with him or when he was angry with her after her father’s betrayal around 1513-1514.

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  8. Madelyn says:

    Henry, in his horror of condemnation by God, would never have allowed this.

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  9. Shoshana says:

    “He wrote his book shortly after Sander wrote his and he repeated Sander’s story about Anne Boleyn being Henry VIII’s father.”

    You did it, Claire! You proved Anne Boelyn was a witch because otherwise how could she be Henry VIII’s father? !

    Seriously, this was a great article and one that will be used often by those of us who research as we read and whowant to know the truth.

    [Reply]

    Claire Reply:

    Ha! Can’t believe I wrote that!! He he! Shows how tired I am! ;)

    [Reply]

  10. Baroness Von Reis says:

    My thoughts on this matter that Anne was the Kings child could very well be, it was common to marry distant relatives. Elizabeth was not a relation to The King, how would he no that he would one day marry The Lady Anne Boleyn his child?Anne was very young when she left the French court and very young when she was put to death. The King love young ladys Queen Catherine to name one of many,women where for pleasure and child bearing. I really think that Anne very well could have been Henrys child. The King looked at the Bolyens as clients that is how one became wealthy and Thomas Bolyen certinly used his family for personal gaine. Claire how many children did King Henry sire?

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    margaret Reply:

    when henry saw someone he liked ,fancied he had them regardless of who they were and the boleyns did everything to accomodate him, they had no choice in the matter .no one will ever know for sure who was related to whom back then so it is possible that there could have been relations going on that should not have been

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  11. Ingrid says:

    God Good!
    After to read all this great article I can only say that the gossip and the imagination are something without limits!
    Nonsense at all! Poor Anne. She is about 500 years died and her memory has no peace.
    I can only laught at all.Completely nonsense!
    Thanks Claire again to clean one more myth!

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  12. Sharon says:

    I doubt any of these rumors are true, but even if Elizabeth Boleyn had an affair with the king, it doesn’t mean that Anne was his daughter. Even if he dallied with both the mother and daughter, it could very well mean that he was with both Elizabeth and Mary. Nothing in those particular passages say that his actions were incest related, only that he had affairs with the mother and daughter. And, even if Anne had been born while Thomas was away, he may have gotten his wife pregnant before he left for his duties. It would explain( if any of this is remotely true) why she gave birth while he was gone.

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  13. Orsolya says:

    I truly believe that had he had an affair with Elizabeth, Katherine of Aragon would have known about it and would have used it against him when he was seeking to dispose of her for Anne.

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  14. Lucy says:

    Thanks :>) Juicy and thoroughly researched, altogether a great read :>)

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  15. Ceri C says:

    I think it’s a load of old rubbish – rumour and propaganda.

    Henry’s words “never with the mother” have the ring of authenticity about them.

    Also, I agree with what Mary Ann Cade said – in 1501, Henry was too young and then later after Arthur’s death, his father kept him very straitly. It just does not compute!

    Good article though – nice to have the sources examined so thoroughly.

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    Jenny Reply:

    you r wrong hunny

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  16. Maria B. says:

    I think the cocept of Anne & Henry being father & daughter is somewhat of a stretch. It does, however, make for good gossip!

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  17. Wally says:

    Love reading the different ‘spins’ and ‘takes’ on the Tudors and the Boleyns. To my mind, some are funny, amusing, incredulous, thoughtless, meritous, with tinges of ‘maybe’ and possibilities – not sure to which category ‘mine’ might aspire, but I’ll join the league of .. ah .. well, you decide. lol I truly admire the great diligence and work of some of the above commentators, and it therefore lends itself to a plate full of historical portions. And my appetite, is rarely satisfied when it comes to being fed on the colossal stage of theatrics and the BIG pies of the Tudor Court. But I do wish to say this: I feel that no amount of research will ever put to rest, many of the tormenting suggestions that are put forth in history, however qualitatively the research is categorized and sorted. Henry VIII was as big on the world stage as he was in physique. Because he was, at least on the surface, an open book, ‘globally’ .. (albeit a small globe) .. and idolized, he nevertheless had ‘windows of opportunity’, in his personal life. Everyone does. Here’s my point: Henry COULD WELL HAVE, had a ‘few moments’ with Elizabeth Boleyn. The possibliity was there! And no one can prove OR disprove that! And the ‘time window’ was also real and relevant .. real in the sense that again, Anne COULD HAVE BEEN sired by Henry. No one knows exactly when Anne was born. There simply is NO PROOF! .. only suppostition and conjecture. Some have suggested that Henry VII kept tabs on his son and therefore knew his every move. Really, I ask? Much is written about this Medieval Epoch, but much more has NOT been written; and although it is aggravitating that we will never know the exact truth regarding Henry’s complete ‘doings’ with the Boleyn sisters and their mother, I think we all agree on one thing: that this Tudor Intrigue is appetizingly fascinating!

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  18. Emma says:

    I agree with Wally that we will never know the full truth. However we can use our common sense to rule out the more outlandish theories. The fact is that Henry VIII would never have had relations with, let alone marry a woman if there was any chance she was his daughter. Firstly he was relgiously conservative and would have been disgusted by the idea. Secondly a man who is desperate to sire a healthy, normal son knows that an incestous relationship is not the way to achieve this.

    On this subject can anyone answer a query I have. Does ‘meddled with’ always refer to full sexual intercourse ? Is it possible that, perhaps to avoid pregnancy, Henry and Mary Boleyn did other things rather than penetrative sex ? This would explain why Henry felt able to marry Anne with a clear conscience.

    [Reply]

    Melissa Reply:

    Religiously conservative and would have been disgusted by the act of incest? So I guess his religious conservative nature had an acceptable disgust level that stopped at adultery then, which seemed to suit him just fine whenever it fancied him. Sin is a slippery slope even for the most pious. I believe Henry viewed sinning much like he did women he blew hot and cold on both when it suited his fancy because as King and thus having right of primogenature (sp) he would have only had to answer for his sins to God. And since Henry as the second son would have been well schooled in the church would know, God forgives sin when we ask for it with a humble heart. I believe a good motto for Henry VIII would have been, it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.

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  19. Jillian says:

    The idea that Anne was Henry’s child is ludicrous – he would never have even asked her to be his mistress, let alone married her, if he had any grounds to suspect that she was his daughter.

    It is also very unlikely that he ever had an affair with Elizabeth Boleyn. His denials seem to carry the ring of truth but to me, the main argument against it is that whilst Henry sought a papal dispensation for his relationship with Mary in order to marry Anne, he never did so in respect of Elizabeth.

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  20. Wally Pynn says:

    But it still begs the question, Jillian, “how do we know?” We sometimes lose sight of the fact that Henry did not have a high constitution of good sound and basic morals. Look at his treatment of Katherine, his first wife, his child Mary, and his own ‘right hand men’, etc etc. Henry was a ‘man’ of immensely loose conditioning and in order to gain what he wanted, he was prepared to stop at absolutely nothing! Inside him, festered maggotry of high order – he was a desperate man, insanely obsessed, and if, in his own warped reasoning, he felt he might have something to gain by meddling with Elizabeth B, then he would not have allowed any degree of sanity or morality to affect his delusional ‘modus operandi’. But I say again, we simply do not know. But I think it’s fair to say that he didn’t give two hoots! He was the boss, annointed by God – and even that, was only an outward cover for his decrepid morality.

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    Baroness Von Reis Reply:

    Wally,Great reply,lets not forget that Henry made case against Queen Katherine1, that he married his brothers wife and that was incest reason being God crused him with dead sons. True in the bible it is a sin to marry your brothers wife,he was a very obsessed man,maybe he was not aware that Anne could of been his child?? Long before the bible came about, the Egytians married there blood line,case in point,Cleopatra married her brother, she found out he wanted to rule alone ,when she found him out, he was hunted down and was put to death.So although we will really never be sure,I don’t think he really cared how he got a Royal son. But he sure did like that incest excuse everytime he wanted these poor Queens out of his way.Just my thoughts. Regards Baroness Von Reis

    [Reply]

    margaret Reply:

    i think the only excuse to try and end his marriage with katherine was the bit about marrying his brothers wife being forbidden .he had nothing else to go on and he wouldnt have given a fig anywayabout who he could have been related to he saw ,he wanted,he took end of story

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  21. Patrice says:

    Henry would not have done anything like this, his beliefs wouldn’t let him no matter much he desired an heir

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  22. Emma says:

    I have to disagree very strongly with Wally’s last comment. The main reason that I became interested in discovering more about the Tudor period were the people of the time like Henry who were such intriguing, contradictory, complex characters. Saying that ‘oh, Henry was cruel to his wives & ministers so he must be capable of any evil, stupidity’ just does not make sense. There is very strong evidence that Henry did have a strong faith and was a very intellegent man. If Henry had been the sort of cliched mad villian Wally seems to believe him to be he would have simply had KOA poisoned rather than sending her out of danger of the plague as he did whilst he was seeking an annulment. If he had no real faith he would not have spent so much time seeking an annulment from the Pope. It took nearly seven years before he finally gave up trying to get the Pope to agree his marriage was invalid. Wally says that ‘he would not have allowed any degree of sainity or morality to affect his delusional ‘modus operandi’ but does not explain how exactly commiting incest would have been in any way helpfull in Henry getting what he wanted.

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  23. Jennifer Salazar says:

    This is absolutely ridiculous because if Anne was indeed the daughter of Henry VIII, wouldn’t Anne look something like him (in which she does NOT).

    Also I would like to make a comment about the whole Nicolas Sander issue. I don’t seem to understand how ANYTHING that came out of his mouth was taken seriously nor credible considering the fact that he was about 3 years old when Anne was executed. I personally think he was just a vindictive Catholic that wanted to help blacken the name of Anne and the fact that his record of Anne still exists is absolutely ludicrous to me.

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  24. Emma says:

    I have found with history, especially it seems the Tudor period, that some people decide that one particular person is either totally evil or a saint and then judge everything they do from that viewpoint. Anne seems to get this treatment a lot. On another site someone posted that since Anne became involved with Henry whilst he was still married then she couldn’t possibly have a true religious faith and was just faking it. Sanders seems to have used the same logic. In his eyes Anne was wicked so therefore any gossip he heard that was negative must be true.

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  25. HollyDolly says:

    I just think that those people of the time just had an axe to grind.They resented Anne’s infulence with the king, and the honors and such Henry bestowed on the family.While he did get invovled with Anne’s sister Mary, there is no actual proof he did anything with her mother.

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  26. Anne Elizabeth Nicholas says:

    A wonderful article!!

    [Reply]

  27. Dawn 1st says:

    Maybe Henry did have a dalliance with Elizabeth, flirting, courtly love and all that ,but that doesn’t mean he bedded her, I personally don’t think he did, but we can never know for sure.
    Sounds like another case of court gossip and chinese whispers gotten hold of by the the anti-divorce faction and blown all out of proportion. We have to remember that there were a lot of very worried clergy, politicians and nobles at this time, who’s lives would be turned upside down if this divorce took place, and would do or say what ever it took to prevent it happening, and this was one of the many spins that were used.

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  28. janlack says:

    All I can say is that Elizabeth I was brilliant to be a product of incest. lol And I believe that Henry would go to any lengths to get what he wanted as he did so many times. Once he got something in his head, lie or not, he just justified whatever it was and then came to believe it….be it actually true or false. He could have been told than Anne was his dtr but he didnt want it to be so, so poof….not true. Also if there was any truth to Elizabeth B. having borne him a child (Anne) its quite possible that she kept her mouth shut, afraid of reprisal. he did become quite irrational and a tyrant. but we will never know the truth, now will we?????

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    Baroness Von Reis Reply:

    janlack,I have to agree with you and Dawn1 ,with this King anything was possible , even to date there are women who have no idea who the fathers of there offsring are, could very well be. Regards Baroness Von Reis

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  29. Sherry says:

    After reading all the comments, I had this picture come into my mind of Anne sitting somewhere having a good laugh. Probably thinking they are still fighting over me!! lol

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  30. The subject of incest ignites the imagination.

    Forgive me Anne for my imagination! I am wondering though if Anne miscarried her male boys and possibly??? gave birth to her last – a male child, a malformed featus. could this have been a result of recessive genes? Father to daughter.
    Could Henry have not known that he was bedding Elizabeth Howard? Annes Mother.

    Water was replaced by alcohol (for sanitary reasons) Henry tipsy most nights. He had choice of women for his pleasure? Un- beknown to him the future, the Howard- Boleyln connection and indeed a future marriage.
    Elizabeth was often pregnant. The future kings baby hidden amongst Elizabeth’s other pregnancies? Later Anne’s birth date misconstrued so that one could not figure it out. Also;
    What the Prince/king wants from a women at that time, the king gets.
    My imagination does wander.
    Kind regards and I love your research Claire. Alison.

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  31. Scrat says:

    Who knows – Henry was not one to miss a chance with any lady.

    Anne had several miscarriages or premature still births when carrying Henry’s children.

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    BanditQueen Reply:

    If Anne was born in 1501 or 1502 as most people claim Henry was 10 or 11, not yet able to sleep with anyone! If she was born in 1507, he was fifteen or sixteen, he was still under the control of his father and was not given the opportunity to sleep with a commoner. I think people have interesting theories, but sorry, they just make no sense. The dates are wrong and it was just a rumour put about to either block the divorce or to ensure that Anne’s marriage to Henry was ended before her execution, for political reasons. The dates and the circumstances do not add up. Anne was not Henry’s daughter, no matter how many people want her to be. And who is blackening her name now?

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  32. Alma says:

    My humble belief is that Henry the VII was a very religious man and a supersticious man. I honestly think that at one point he really did think that he had married his borther´s wife (wife in all the sense of the matter) and that was the reason of no male heir. So, getting rid of a woman who he married against God´s laws to marry another with whom he would commit incest?…don´t think so!…i think it was more malicious rumour.

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    margaret Reply:

    if henry was supposedly so religious which i dont believe he was why did he have so many people done away with ,he had no morals at all regarding anyone,he slaughtered people left right and center,so i think he was capable of anything and everything bad.also knowing how educated the nobles were back then why did anne just not become his mistress like her sister before her she would haved saved herself instead she waited and made henry half mad with obsession at this stage .she did want the crown on her head and held out till she got it and lost it too

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  33. andrea says:

    i truly believe Henry wouldn’t even think in jeopardize his throne and ultimately, his soul trying to sleep and marry his own daughter… he may have done horrible things, but he was a great king
    besides, if he had all the affairs that he alledgly had, and if we think of the love he showed to his issue, even his first son with bessie blount; then Mary, his pearl; Elizabeth, his jewel and his precious boy, i think is notorius that he wouldn’t choose to persue anne if she was his daughter… even if at some point he would ignore ou discarde his prole, blaiming them for their mothers acts, at some point he showed love for them…

    Besides, even nowadays people tend to spoil Anne’s name and repution. She was a woman ahead of her time, mispleaced in history and in the hearts of people. However, she was a simple girl with a great mind, a girl that turned a great country apart to have the man that she loved (and i belive that she loved Hery much more than the possibilty of being queen, for no woman without love would suport the treatment they gave to her)… She was a girl that grow to be great, and great she was….She was a mother, she was a daughter – albeit deserful of better parentage – she was a loyal sister, a loyal wife, and mostly she was a great queen.

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  34. andrea says:

    If want you blame someone, pelase blame the wench Jane Seymour, for she was a two faced, evil woman withouth a ounce of intelligence or caracther…. for a woman that was sptiful to Anne because she “took” Henry from Katherine, Jane has dome exactly the same thing with Anne!
    The worst, even, is that not only she stole anne’s husband, throne, crown and country, but also she “helped” to kill poor Anne… And she was a horrible stepmother to Elizabeth, who should have felt horrible without her beloved and adoring mother at such little age, trown away, not as a princess but as an illegitimate daughter of the king (so much below her station).
    So please, if people even nowadays want to disgrace someone’s name, i beg…no, i beseach you to do justice to the “honorable” (understand my sarcasm) name of Jane Seymour. Please, honour a woman that was bitch (sorry, sorry …) enough to become engaged in the day of Queen Anne’s death – that only says a lot about someone’s caracter, or lack of it :(

    [Reply]

    Baroness Von Reis Reply:

    Andrea,Excellent reply!! I love people with a open mind,once again Anne was ORDERD to court by the KING,she didnot wreck his marriage with Queen Katherine.I tier of people who blame Anne for the fall of Queen Katherine, it was not Anne’s fault.Your to right about Jane Seymour ,she had her plane well maped out,I am a true beliver what comes around goes around! Kind Regards Baroness Von Reis

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  35. I’m not sure Elizabeth would have been born normal, if her mother slept with
    Henry, , & was, in fact, his own daughter. I find it extremely hard to wrap my mind around it. And there would have been SOMEONE (isn’t there always?) to tell Anne that the King was, indeed , her own father.

    [Reply]

    BanditQueen Reply:

    I have a novel by Philippa Wiat that says that Elizabeth was the daughter of Anne and Sir Thomas Wyatt and he was accused of this by George Boleyn. Interesting take, but not one that is closely accurate. I do not believe Anne was the daughter of Elizabeth Boleyn and Henry VIII as the dates do not add up. Anne is meant to have been born between 1502 ad 1507: making Henry too young and there is no evidence that he had any sexual activity before he came to the throne. It is not likely that he knew Elizabeth well enough before Thomas and her came to court. Anne is not named by any author as the daughter of Henry VIII and it was only rumours, rumours that most people dismissed that came about late in their relationship to try and block the divorce. I agree as well, had Anne been the daughter of Henry VIII her own daughter would have been deformed; there is no evidence that she was anything but healthy. Henry would also never have slept with Anne or Mary had he slept with their mother and risk such a thing. Besides, as already said, the dates accepted for Anne and Mary and even the birth of George all put them as children of Sir Thomas and Lady Elizabeth Boleyn and would have been too early. In any event, if Buckingham wanted to kill Henry for sleeping with his sister in 1510, then Norfolk would have wanted to kill him for sleeping with his sister by the same vein.

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  36. Chrisre says:

    The above comments are all very interesting. Has anyone read ‘The Reformation in England’ by D’ Aubigne? He has some interesting things to say about Anne Boleyn, Thomas More and bishop Fisher. I have found it to be the best and most sane account of what actually occurred during those troubled times.

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  37. Jeanne says:

    Like father, like daughter?

    Young King Henry:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:HenryVIII_1509.jpg

    Young Anne Boleyn:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Anneboleyn2.jpg

    Some folks have already said that they see no resemblence between H8 and AB, but this more youthful and less rotund Henry bears a very compelling likeness with Anne.

    To say that the folks exposing the Henry/E.Boleyn liaison were hostile to the Boleyns and therefore lack any credibility isn’t necessarily true. The Boleyns were certainly not going to procliam this juicy item from the rooftops so it’s possible that very few people knew of it, including the king himself. Secrets are easiest to keep when few are in on it. Something that intrugues me, apart from A. Boleyn’s unusual number of miscarriages and rumors of Elizabeth I’s hermaphroditism which could be selling points for this theory, is the appalling speed in which A. Boleyn fell from grace. It’s possible that Henry became aware of the true relationship with his wife early in 1536, prompting him to not only put a hasty end to his marriage, but to annihilate the offender as well. Isn’t it also odd that the charge of incest was tacked on to AB’s offenses? Why incest? As if Henry, in true narcissistic fashion, wished to remove all suspicion from himself and onto another. It’s a plausible theory….

    [Reply]

    Jeanne Reply:

    Here’s a “family reunion” for your viewing pleasure:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Anne_boleyn.jpg
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Younghenry7.jpg
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lady_Margaret_Beaufort.jpg
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Elizabeth_of_York,_right_facing_portrait.jpg
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Edward4.jpg
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ElizabethWoodville.JPG

    If AB is the daughter of K8, her genes seem to favor the Tudors rather than the Yorks, especially her “great-grandmother”, M. Beaufort. Wow! Sighting resemblences is so completely subjective tho…but is AB’s small, almond shaped eyes, high cheekbones, long, narrow nose, elongated mandible and strong chin just a coincidence? I can’t say yes or no…I’m just gonna sit here and wonder for a little while longer. It’s bedtime, but it’s an emormous task to pull myself away from viewing early Tudor portraiture right now!

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    BanditQueen Reply:

    Sorry to say this but if you really believe that Anne Boleyn is the daughter of Henry VIII then you should do the maths, oh and learn some biological facts about male development. Apart from the fact that Henry was too young; biologically and age wise, Elizabeth Howard was far too old for him, unless the Boleyn factor now want to add being pedophiles to their many crimes! And just when was this affair meant to have taken place? Even though Henry as a young man knew her from time to time as a lady in waiting of Catherine of Aragon, at this stage in his life he was not sexually active, save in marriage. His first affair was not until a few years into his reign and I have not read in any article when he is meant to have slept with Anne Boleyn’s mother. If say it was about 1510 or 1511, then that makes Henry 18/19 and her 31.

    At the time that Anne was born he was between 10 and 15. I think a bit of reality check is needed on this one. First of all a boy in his early teens with a woman in her late 20′s? No I do not think so. And besides, biologically given Henry’s age, it was not possible for him to be Anne Boleyn’s father and portraits are not good markers, especially as most of the contemporary ones of Anne Boleyn were destroyed.

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  38. BanditQueen says:

    First I take offense that it is suggested that sources that say Lady Elizabeth Boleyn and Henry VIII are suspect as they are Catholic and that makes them suspect. Of course they Iwere Catholic as it was suggested long before Henry had his affair with Anne that he had slept with both her mother and her sister. One of the sources actually was Archbishop Cramner, or at least reported by him as it was raised by Henry to annul his marriage to Anne Boleyn. Cramner was no Catholic: he was a heretic.

    Just because a source is Catholic does not make it any more suspect or unbiased than any pro Anne Boleyn was a saint Protestant ones. I know people have a right to say this but they should be careful before blurting out such nonsense as their are 11 million Roman Catholics in this country who are fed up and rightly offended by attacks on our religion by the ignorant. If you have proof that all these sources are Catholic then produce it: unless, then do not state it as a fact just as your personal belief.

    [Reply]

    Claire Reply:

    I didn’t say that they were suspect because they were Catholic, I said that they were Catholic AND anti-Boleyn. I hope that clears that up. The sources are listed in my article http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/was-anne-boleyn-henry-viiis-daughter/, which I refer to in this article, and included the writers Nicholas Harpsfield, William Rastell and Nicholas Sander. I wasn’t blurting out nonsense and I don’t know why you seem to think I’m anti-Catholic.

    [Reply]

    Claire Reply:

    If you read my article http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/was-anne-boleyn-henry-viiis-daughter/, you will see the sources listed there. The story was spread by writers of Catholic propaganda, in an attempt to blacken Anne’s name just as Foxe’s Protestant propaganda set out to praise her and make her appear like a saint/martyr. I don’t see why me saying that the sources were Catholic and anti-Boleyn means that I am attacking Catholics or that I am ignorant. I am writing about a time when the country was divided by religion and Anne Boleyn was blamed for the break with Rome, both in her lifetime and in the reigns of Mary I and Elizabeth I. That’s just the way it was and your faith and my faith have no bearing on that. Catholics saw her as someone who had led Henry VIII off the path of righteousness and Protestants in Elizabeth’s reign saw her as a martyr. That’s that.

    I am not anti-Catholic. If I was, I wouldn’t have chosen to emigrate to a Catholic country and have my children educated in the Catholic faith. I’m not into denominations, I am a Christian plain and simple.

    [Reply]

    John Reply:

    “The story was spread by writers of Catholic propaganda…”

    It is a sin in the Catholic religion to spread propaganda. If a Catholic Friar says Anne was Henry’s daughter I would believe him unless I had some evidence he was a bad Catholic. A Catholic is meant to keep the eighth Commandment which forbids misrepresenting the truth in relations with others.

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  39. BanditQueen says:

    The one woman that Henry is unlikely to have had any affair with is Elizabeth Howard Boleyn. Countess of Wiltshire, for she was born in 1480: that makes her 11 years older than Henry. Apart from his wife, there are not any recorded instances of Henry having a thing for older women. At the time that he is meant to have had these affairs with her, she was constantly with child or breast feeding, if she did this herself, but in any event it was believed that sex too soon after a birth or during pregnancy was not a good idea for mother or baby.

    If Elizabeth Howard died in 1512, then her having an affair with Henry VIII is very unlikely, not impossible but there are not many indications of affairs in his early years as King. He was not the moral degenerate that he was portrayed in the Tudors: that honour goes to King Francis I of France. He was not given to all sorts of affairs and in fact found getting together with women in his early reign very hard thing to do: he was very shy around them. He preferred his wife Catherine above all others at this time, in any event.

    Had Elizabeth died in 1538, I still do not accept that Henry had an affair with her, let alone fathered a child by her. His age has to be taken into consideration. Given that Anne Boleyn was born sometime between 1501 and 1507, it was not possible. Henry was too young in 1501 and it was biologically impossible for him to father a child and in 1507 he was still only barely 15. Not a very likely senario.

    As to the sources, a new book The Daring Truth About Anne Boleyn: Cutting Through the Myths, while dismissing that Henry was Anne’s father claims that if you look at the sources, of which there are many who make such allegations around the affair at least, there is no smoke without fire. In other words there is enough evidence to say that an affair with Elizabeth may have been possible. The author seems to believe many of the myths, and to dispel some rather long held traditions about Anne and her education. Well, enough spoilers, read for yourself, but caution: it is not a book for the pro Anne club.

    [Reply]

    Claire Reply:

    Elizabeth Howard definitely did not die in 1512, that date comes from the “Howard Memorials” of 1834 which lists Elizabeth’s death in 1512 from complications due to childbirth. It appears that the writer confused Elizabeth with her sister, Lady Muriel Howard, who was married to Sir Thomas Knyvett and really did die in childbirth in 1512. We know that Elizabeth did not die then because she is mentioned as acting as a chaperone to Anne when Anne was queen-in-waiting and then we have records of her death and funeral in 1538.

    I don’t believe in the saying “there’s no smoke without a fire”, if we believed that then we’d believe that Elizabeth I was a boy, or that her progresses were covers for her giving birth, or that Anne Boleyn was guilty… Gossip spreads like wildfire and is usually far removed from the truth.

    I can’t remember the chapter in the book you mention but I think it refers to the same sources referred to in Weir’s book and this article, doesn’t it? I don’t agree with Zupanec on many things – see http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/anne-boleyn-margaret-of-austria-and-queen-claude/ for my thoughts on her theories regarding Anne’s early life – but it’s an interesting read.

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  40. Elizabeth says:

    Yo no creo en el mito. Pero aquí nadie esta tomando en cuenta que si Ana hubiera sido hija de Enrique, el rey no se estaria casando con ella a sabiendas de que es su hija. Pero no es muy creíble, de inmediato se ve que son chismes malintencionados. Ademas, tomando en cuenta el aspecto físico de Ana Bolena.
    Por cierto, yo no creo que Ana hubiera nacido en 1501. La fecha 1507 es más creíble. Me van a criticar algunos pero yo he dado mi punto de vista. Ana Bolena tendría unos treinta años al dar a luz a Elizabeth. Si lo que el rey Enrique quería era tener un heredero, habría escogido a una mujer nubil, no creen?
    Y luego, supongamos que se enamoro de ella en 1526. Si decimos que nació en 1501, Ana tendría unos veinticinco años. Es dificil creer que haya permanecido soltera hasta esa edad. Cuando Enrique se enamoro de Jane Seymour, ella tenía mas o menos esa edad, y ya la consideraban una “dejada”. La posición de los Bolena era muy buena, como para que no pudieran casar a su hija.

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  41. gwyneth says:

    hi, just had a thought. henry carey son of henry and mary Boleyn was brought before the court with the young man probably absolutely terrified forced to say that he was the son of the couple. on his evidence ann was put to death. the charge would have been incest. thus if mary/ann or even their mother was the daughter of henry viii this would have given rise to that charge presumably.

    [Reply]

    Claire Reply:

    Hi Gwyneth,
    What is your source for Henry Carey being brought before the court to say that he was the son of Henry VIII and Mary Boleyn? I have never heard of this before. There is no evidence that Anne was put to death because of Henry Carey, she was charged with committing incest with her brother, George. I don’t understand what you’re saying. Please can you explain, thank you.

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  42. gwyneth says:

    hi, on my web site I am writing about one family who were involved in sir francis walsingham’ s spy network. a man writing from Madrid records this youth Arthur Dudley who alleged that he was the son of Elizabeth 1. the writer could not find any record of the birth. at that time Elizabeth was recovering from smallpox at Hampton court palace so the records give out the information. a jane doe who stated she was the midwife and put to death at Brentford for saying so. Elizabeth put out a proclamation that if any person stated she had a child would also be put to death. there is a great account in the hatfield papers. Arthur Dudley sought refuge at the court of Philip of spain and the last that was heard of him became a Jesuit priest.

    the mission was to have mary queen of scots as queen instead of Elizabeth.

    but, mary tudor did have a priest named Arthur Dudley and she was purported to have had a child by him. Elizabeth granted this priest a prebendary at Worcester.

    Elizabeth was no fool and new full well what was going on.

    no, I don’t think she had had a child. what henry did to his children was out and out cruelty and just think she wanted no more suffering or even to have a member of the family inherit the kingdom of England.

    love gwyneth

    [Reply]

    Claire Reply:

    Hi Gwyneth,
    I’ve written about Arthur Dudley over at The Elizabeth Files – see http://www.elizabethfiles.com/the-arthur-dudley-myth/3298/. Where did you read about Mary Tudor having a priest named Arthur Dudley and rumours that she had a child by him. According to a letter written by William Cecil, Arthur was 27 years old in 1588 and therefore must have been born in 1561. Mary died in 1558, so he couldn’t have been her priest and she couldn’t have had a child by him. Prebendaries of Worcester in Elizabeth I’s reign were William Norfolk, Thomas Herle, William Tovie and Richard Potter in the first stall and Leonard Lingham, Richard Longworth and John Longworth in the second stall; there is no mention of Arthur Dudley.

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  43. maritzal says:

    OMG poor girl let’s let her rest in peace there’s no way she can be he’s daughter OMG seriously its wrong that the people think she could be he’s daughter to think of it its unthinkable omg. Icant even fathom the thought of it but its a lot of. Hersay and big out thoughts wow anyway my regards Maritzal

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  44. maritzal says:

    OMG poor girl let’s let her rest in peace there’s no way she can be he’s daughter OMG seriously its wrong that the people think she could be he’s daughter to think of it its unthinkable omg. Icant even fathom the thought of it but its a lot of. Hersay and big out thoughts wow anyway my regards Maritzal well I hope it gets settled

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  45. Kristin says:

    As Eliza sad before he was to young , we dont know exactly which year was Anne born , but we have original portrait of Anne and Henry while hunting and look at them , he s not that old and she young to be father and daughter , the portrait we see they may have 10 max 15 year between , but not enough to be her father

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  46. Karen says:

    I am just guessing here as to the interest in the topic…Game of Thrones? There is a lot of incest in that series amongst two of the royal families…just a guess…

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  47. David Gontar says:

    What needs to be explained is the complete obsession Henry had with Anne, almost a sense of identity. He was desperate to have a son, and laid the blame on Katherine of Aragon. Why was he so sure that Anne would succeed where Katherine had failed? Because Anne Boleyn was Henry’s daughter, and with Henry as father and his daughter as mother, he would have been on both sides at once, thus in his imagination guaranteeing a male child. Accusing Anne later of incest with her brother is a big clue. There was incest everywhere. Henry’s relation with Anne was incestuous through his intimacy with her sister and her mother — and because she was his daughter. And because Katherine had been married to Arthur, Henry’s brother, the marriage to Katherine was incestuous also. Acknowledging the obvious relationship with Anne’s mother is just another log on the same fire.

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  48. Lauren says:

    Has no1 thought to mention that it could’ve been Henry vii that fathered Anne Boleyn?? After all someone did say she resembled him!!

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  49. Susan says:

    They loved spreading gossip causing problems for Ann she was in a bear pit poor women . For once I actually believe Henry’s denial of this situation !! They are no different from us today tabloid rubbish sparks reactions !!! It’s a debate that will interests people but I think Clair your research is spot on your the expert not me so I go along with all your theory’s thanks for such interesting articles and all your hard work !!!!

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  50. Olliie Smith says:

    I do not buy it at all why because even if there was incest going a ruling King is hardly going to marry a illegitimate daughter some years later. Sure yeah they may or may not have been lax when it came to incest but then again it has been said a number of the ruling classes in Europe where known to keep it in the family because back then the kind of moral compass we have now would be alien to them.

    I also feel that this kind of scandal if it was true would not be something that could have kept the lid on for long having read all the sources it would seem it was either hearsay or gossip that was doing the rounds.

    I also happen to be a direct ancestor of Sir Anthony Denny. Who having been at court would have been likely to have got wind of this he also became chief Gentleman of the Privy Chamber when his predecessor was also named as having an affair with Anne amongst others and if someone was going to know about this kind of thing he would know and I doubt it would have gone unnoticed to him if it had been doing the rounds at court and given there is no record of it being a rumour or truth then I suspect as others have deduced it is a myth of epic proportions that we in the modern age can turn our noses up at in disgust.

    I think it likely with the amount of incest that went on in all courts that stuff like that did happen but I severely doubt a heir to throne never mind a King would be bedding an older woman for his then daughter of that woman to turn up at his court and want to marry her would seem unlikely. It’s all guess work and until something really concrete turns up sounds to me nothing more than the kind of sensationalistic crap you get from the tabloid press!

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  51. Julia Parry-Jones says:

    I don’t honestly see how this could be correct , quite apart fro
    Incest being a religious no no , even back then they realised the dangers for progeny of incestuous relationships , Henry’s main drive was to provide heirs , this meant healthy sons , I cannot see he who was SO obsessed with having healthy sons that he would jeopardise a favourable outcome . Henry was many things , but stupid he was not !

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  52. Melissa says:

    The only real defense, if you can call it that, that I can give for Anne Boleyn is this….incest or not, adultery or not, you rarely ever said no to a king and lived to enjoy life there after to the fullest extent. Either you became the enemy of the crown, the king would be very displeased with you and your family thus you didn’t prosper much or you died for it. I’d like to think that Anne wasn’t the scheming manipulative person she’s always made out to be but perhaps more a victim of circumstances that did the best she could to survive. Women had no real authority during this era and so to do the best she could with the hand she was dealt I think Anne made some bad choices the best she could in order to survive. Is she completely free and clear of any wrong, I think only her maker can truly judge her on that one.

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  53. Ellen says:

    Alison Weir seems willing to believe the worst of everyone! I agree that there is no real evidence for this theory.

    [Reply]

  54. Esther says:

    IIRC, in 1527, Henry requested a papal dispensation to marry Anne, even though he was in the first degree of affinity due to “illicit intercourse” … this would apply equally if Henry had an affair with Mary only, with Elizabeth only, or with both Mary and her mother. However, it would not apply if Anne was Henry’s daughter … and the fact that he was seeking the dispensation at all shows that he wanted papal approval. He didn’t expect to have to wait for six years before he could marry Anne. So, even if Henry did have an affair with Elizabeth, I think that he was well aware that Anne was not his daughter — or else, he would have sought a dispensation.

    [Reply]

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