10 Facts about Elizabeth Boleyn, mother of Anne Boleyn

Posted By on February 24, 2021

I just wanted to share this short video I did on Elizabeth Boleyn, Countess of Wiltshire and Ormond, with you. It’s just five minutes long.

Elizabeth Boleyn was, of course, the mother of Queen Anne Boleyn, aunt of Queen Catherine Howard and grandmother of Queen Elizabeth I, but she’s quite a shadowy historical figure, frustratingly so!

Anyway, you can find out 10 facts about her in this video:

2 thoughts on “10 Facts about Elizabeth Boleyn, mother of Anne Boleyn”

  1. Christine says:

    Elizabeth like her two daughters is a fascinating woman, and like her eldest Mary there is little we know about her, which adds to her mystery, as Claire points out the poet Skelton praised her for her beauty declaring she was lusty to look upon, he also praised Jane Seymours mother who was also at court with Elizabeth, saying she also was beautiful, but the term lusty he used for Elizabeth can be taken today as sex appeal, the same sex appeal she must have passed onto her daughter Anne and which had such a devastating effect on King Henry V111, growing up Elizabeth as a daughter of one of England’s premier noble families, must have had an idyllic childhood, servants and fine gowns, and riding her pony in the beautiful Norfolk countryside, and like all daughters of the nobility made her debut at court and went into service at Queen Katherines household, she married the rising star Thomas Boleyn diplomat and courtier who had served both Henry V11 and later his son, children came in abundance, but we know of only five, the last three survived, their two little sons died in infancy and yet there could have been more, many years later Sir Thomas by then a knight of the realm, after his two children’s executions told Cromwell that Elizabeth had given him a child every year, it must have been little comfort to him that he only had one child living then, Mary who was probably still estranged from her family after she had flouted their wishes and married secretly to a lowly gentleman usher, lady Elizabeth was born it is believed c 1480 and so when she died quite possibly of tuberculosis she was around fifty eight years old, she was very close to her youngest daughter Anne and often accompanied her to court and acted as her chaperone, sadly we have no portrait of her so we can only imagine what she looked like, her brother Thomas Howard who became the third Duke of Norfolk had his portrait painted and in it he looks gloomy and morose, he has a large nose the ‘Howard nose’ which his niece Catherine Howard appeared to inherit, though his was much longer, his father also was painted and there is a portrait of Thomas Howard the young Earl of Surrey who was beheaded in a full length portrait, so we can see many of Elizabeth relations in oil but sadly, we do not have her image to gaze upon, her eldest daughter Mary was very attractive as shown in her portrait at Hever, it is possible Mary inherited her looks, we do not know if Elizabeth was dark or fair but many would feel these are trivial thoughts and not important, but it is interesting when discussing historical people to have their portraits to gaze upon, that is why it is such a shame that we have no contemporary pictures of her daughter Anne, as we know Henry V111 had them destroyed after her death, both Elizabeth and Thomas must have been wracked with grief when they lost their remaining two children, Anne and and their brilliant talented son George, it is said grief can hasten a despondent soul and Elizabeth had been suffering with a bad cough when Anne was sent to the Tower, like all children close to their parents, they immediately think of them when something awful happens, Anne’s first thought were for her mother, lamenting she ‘would die of sorrow’, it most likely was consumption as TB was called then, this dreadful wasting disease was finally wiped out in England in the 20th century by the use of vaccines, but it carried of many a wretched soul to their early graves for hundreds of years before medical advancement finally put an end to it, Anne was arrested in 1536 and her mother was poorly then, she died in 1538 so she suffered for two years before giving up her soul to god, Claire mentions that there was talk of discord between the couple because she was at the abbot of Readings place near Baynard castle when she died, but it is mere speculation, she must have been with staying with friends in the castle when her health declined and went to the formers residence for treatment, there are no sources that tell us anything about the marriage of Thomas and his wife so we must assume they were reasonably happy, she gave him three children who survived and Anne and George had brilliant careers at court, Thomas was a most respected diplomat and gave his children a very good education, they were wealthy Elizabeth well connected and so they must have been content, when Elizabeth died pre deceasing her husband she was buried not at Hever but at the Howard’s family crypt at St Mary’s Church Lambeth, this was normal procedure for the Howard women and is not proof of any animosity between the couple, therefore Lady Elizabeth Boleyn ‘nee’ Howard rests amongst her numerous ancestors and relations in London whereas her husband rests in Hever the Boleyn family home with his two infant sons, Thomas and Henry, there are inscriptions of them one on Sir Thomas’s tomb and the other at Penshurst, another family home and not far from Hever Castle, meanwhile Elizabeth’s resting place centuries later was turned into a garden museum, and she is said to lie beneath the cafe, where the crypt is, Elizabeth knew great splendour in her life, happiness and despair, born the pampered daughter of an illustrious family, she became the mother to a queen and the grandmother to the iconic Elizabeth 1st, the tragedy of her later years proves that happiness like life itself does not endure, but her blood runs in the veins of our currant queen, not however through her youngest daughter Anne as she must have thought, but through her eldest Mary, and will continue for many more generations to come,

  2. Banditqueen says:

    There was just as much nonsense claimed back then about Elizabeth Howard Lady Boleyn as there is today. The rumours at Court began when Henry Viii was courting Anne, in order to discredit her. These rumours were probably brought to the attention of the Vatican during 1527 when Henry sought, of all things, a special dispensation to marry an unnamed woman, whose close relative he had slept with. It came to light that Henry was speaking of Anne Boleyn and the woman with whom he illicit sex was Mary, her sister. The rumours came back to haunt Henry when George Throgmorton mentioned them to Henry, definitely a moment of madness surely, but Henry stated that he had slept with Mary, but not the mother i.e Elizabeth. Those rumours may have been laughable at the time and Henry didn’t take Throgmorton too seriously, but they persisted for decades afterwards. They became part of the anti Boleyn folklore, part of their malignant. Nicholas Sander wrote that Henry Viii was Anne’s father, putting the King in Elizabeth Howard’s bed as an adolescent. Given Anne’s accepted dob of 1501_that was impossible, because Henry was a child of ten. Even the dob of 1507 makes him 16, but Henry was living a sheltered life under the thumb of his father. Now today there are these statements on social media and a misunderstanding of Tudor burial rituals which have somehow translated as a breach in the marriage of Elizabeth and Thomas Boleyn. The malignant goes on.

    In 1536 Thomas wrote a letter to Thomas Cromwell in which he spoke of the financial struggle he had in the early years of his marriage, because his wife was very fertile and had several children in the first seven years, at least five of whom we know about. Given that we know that women of this class went into confinement for a few weeks before the birth and 40 days afterwards, we have to assume Elizabeth was, as Thomas wrote, pregnant every year. If that’s the case it’s highly unlikely that Elizabeth would have had any affairs at this time, especially not one with the King or Prince. Thomas was praising his wife as being a supportive, loving, affectionate and loyal partner as well as her fertility and she was praised for her beauty and grace. She had three growing children by 1507, she had lost two boys and their memorial shows their parents cared about them. The first time Elizabeth Boleyn is raised as maybe having had an affair comes after it is public knowledge that Henry Viii wanted to marry Anne Boleyn. The letter of 1536, written after the execution of George Boleyn and his sister, is evidence that their parents didn’t have a breach between them. Elizabeth was ill as well and died two years later. Thomas died only a few months later. We don’t know what killed them but Elizabeth was of concern by her daughter and I am convinced that her death was accelerated with the execution of Anne and George. The modern idea that Thomas and Elizabeth had problems is based solely on the misinterpretation of her choice to be buried in Lambeth rather than Hever with her husband. For one thing Elizabeth died first and in London, it was more likely that people were buried close to the place they had died; secondly Elizabeth was of higher status than Thomas and third Lambeth was the resting place of several Howard females. There is no evidence of any estrangement between Elizabeth and Thomas Boleyn.

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