On 23rd April 1536, St George’s Day, elections were held to fill a vacancy in the Order of the Garter, England’s highest order of chivalry.

Queen Anne Boleyn’s brother, George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, expected to secure the place, but, unfortunately, the very man who was helping Jane Seymour appeal to King Henry VIII was voted in.

Was the election of Carew a snub to George and the queen?

Find out more in my latest “on this day in Tudor history” video:

You can find out more about Carew, and his rather sticky end, in another talk I did – click here.

If you prefer reading articles to watching videos, you can read all about it here.

Tomorrow, I will be starting my annual countdown to 19th May, the anniversary of Queen Anne Boleyn’s execution.

By the way, if you want to know more about me and my work, I did this Q&A session recently:

I do hope you’re all keeping safe and well. Apologies for not being here very often, I’m juggling book research, writing, video preparation, family time… and keeping my sanity!

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5 thoughts on “23 April 1536 – George Boleyn loses out to Nicholas Carew”
  1. Thanks for such an in-depth article. I loved the full explanations of the voting system of each knight and the chivaldic system which allowed knights and nobles to vote on different levels of status into the Order of the Garter which only has 24 members plus the monarch.

    Firstly Happy Saint George’s Day who isn’t just the patron of England but of Greece, Spain and Portugal, Jerusalem, the country of Georgia, Bavaria, Mesopotamia, Slavia, parts of Germany and many other areas of the world. Many celebrations are held in his honour as a knight, soldier and martyr.

    Sir Nicholas Carew was a close friend of King Henry Viii and a supporter of Princess Mary and the Jane Seymour faction and he coached her. He was an old jousting partner for Henry for many years and he probably should have been voted to the Order many years earlier. However, George Boleyn was in line for the promotion as well as was James V of Scotland and given Anne was Queen one would think her influence was high enough to persuade Henry to accept George as the next candidate but by now she was waning in favour. Henry had the last word and could choose to overrule the knights choice and could have chosen whom he wished, but didn’t use his prerogative. Most historians, as the article points out assume that George Boleyn was deliberately voted out and Carew in his place but it seems that Carew was next in line on a promise made in 1535. Henry promised the Ambassador of Francis I that Carew was next in line, and I have no idea why Francis I cared, save it was courtesy to honour people at Court in either country’s noble Orders such as the Fleece or Garter, so it may have been a matter of courtesy. On the other hand, given his long service, Nicholas Carew should have been honoured years earlier.

    The King could easily have chosen George but he didn’t, which begs the question why? I suspect it was more than just because of a promise a year earlier. I really do think this was a signal that the Boleyn family were falling from grace and, maybe not that George was specifically going to be arrested or anything but the Queen was in jeopardy. Anne was still at the King’s side, her duties continued as usual, the entertainment and public appearances continued, yet something was going on behind the scenes. Henry was definitely up to something, he was using a double bluff and a multitude of deceptions and was in control of the legal set-up which followed. He wanted the world to believe Anne was safe but in reality an investigation was going on regarding rumours concerning the alleged behaviour of Queen Anne and her courtiers. The man behind that investigation was Thomas Cromwell, who would soon convince everyone of Anne’s guilt, her husband included. Henry needed a new wife regardless of how he got rid of Anne, divorce, exile or trial and execution and Carew represented the opposition to the Queen and her family, supporting the faction behind a Queen in waiting, Jane Seymour. By being raised in place of George Boleyn he was signalling the rise of a new faction, a new family, a new Queen. Historians may argue of the significance of such a normally regular move but in reality I believe this was an ominous sign of doom.

  2. I don’t know what George’s temperament was but if he was anything like how I imagine his sister Anne to have been he was probably quite upset but I’m guessing smart enough not to voice it or show it.

    1. George was probably furious, anyone being in the inner circle of the King, serving in the Privy Chamber and Council and apparently trusted by the King, who was his brother in law would be disappointed at being overlooked, especially as the person who won was from the old guard. George ‘s personality is difficult to pin down because there is so much mythology about what he was like, but he had in recent years proven himself to be reasonable in matters of discretion because he had warned Anne to be careful over careless talk about ordering the deaths of Mary and Katherine if she was left as Regent in 1534. According to Chapuys he had been called to her apartments to calm her down and Anne was expressing fears over not being able to conceive while they lived and George and her father cautioned her to be more careful. George could be a bit of a joker, had a temper, could even be highly strung but he could also show incredible common sense, intelligence and remarkable genius. He had followed much of his father’s career as a diplomat, although Thomas took the lead as the senior member of those missions. An interesting factor was that Thomas Boleyn himself voted against his own son but one must also remember that the King had a lot of influence over these votes and people may well have voted as Henry wished. It’s easy to see more into this event than might have been happening in the light of Anne’s fall with hindsight but I really do see this as a warning shot and that everything was about to change.

      1. As we get closer to what this blog is all about I highly recommend to everyone who reads this Claire’s series on YouTube from last year chronicling day to day in real-time Anne and those accused with her in her downfall. You will feel just how fast it was. Quite unsettling to experience the story this way.

  3. Many of Anne’s enemies including Chapyus liked to play on the fact that Carew was chosen because Anne was losing her hold on the king, yet there was really nothing personal in it at all, the king did not want to renege on his promise he had made to King Francois the year before, yet it must have pleased the Seymour faction as it was like a snub to the Boleyn’s, it must have left George feeling bitterly disappointed and maybe Anne was afraid because the king at one time would have done anything for her, we do not know but she may have pleaded with her husband to honour her brother, but she probably knew about the promise he had made to Francois anyway, however we all know Anne liked things to go her own way and she could have been rather hurt as she knew her enemies would be gloating, I think also she must have started to feel doom closing in around her, Sir Nicholas Carew is said to have coached Jane Seymour on how to behave to the king but how do we know this? I find it strange that Sir Thomas Boleyn did not vote for his son either, but he tried to get his daughters marriage stopped as well, proof that he was not the overly power hungry courtier he is often portrayed to be, interested only in self awareness, I have seen several members of the current royal family dressed in the outfit of the noble order of the garter, they wear a hat with plumes and a long cloak, a very old ceremony and custom, i know what you mean about George Boleyn Michael, if he was like his sister he may have cursed the king and those who voted for him in the privacy of his apartments, he could be rather unkind to, when Katherine of Aragon died he mentioned it was a pity the Lady Mary did not keep company with her mother, he was much more discreet than his sister however, as he did admonish Anne after she unwisely said she would poison Mary when the king went abroad, I to believe that an investigation was going on at this time, it was not something that suddenly imploded, even though that’s how it looked at the time, I believe Cromwell was pondering with the king and his ministers how to rid himself of Anne since January after she sadly miscarried, David Starkey believes Cromwell used Anne’s famous sexual allure as the tool to bring her down, I think he has a point there, a divorce would be too long and could get messy and on what grounds could he divorce her? An annulment would mean also trying to find the grounds for such, and she would be alive still hovering in the background a ghost queen, like Katherine stirring up trouble and there was also Elizabeth his child but a daughter, he wanted a clean break which meant his new queen would be sure of her status and parliament and not only his kingdom but Europe, and for her heirs to be the legal ones, to achieve that his queen had to die, and Elizabeth had to lose her role as heiress apparent, Cromwells legal brain was ticking over as the bleak winter months went by and the cold winds turned into spring, for a queen to commit adultery was not treason, but if she could be charged with other more horrendous crimes then he could make a case against her which meant death was the only alternative, by sending his spies round the queens circle he was able to obtain snippets of gossip which related after, appear inflammatory, the Countess of Worcester Elizabeth Browne unwittingly gave Cromwell the ammunition he needed, and then Anne herself recklessly had a conversation with Sir Henry Norris, which completely overstepped the boundaries of courtly love, it seems shocking to us but in just three weeks the queen and five men would all be dead, her faction completely destroyed and in little than two weeks later, a new queen would be at court. none other than her ex lady in waiting Jane Seymour.

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