3 April 1538 – Death of Elizabeth Boleyn, mother of Anne Boleyn

Posted By on April 3, 2015

St Mary's, Lambeth

St Mary’s, Lambeth

On this day in history, 3rd April 1538, Elizabeth Boleyn, Lady Wiltshire, wife of Thomas Boleyn and mother of the late Queen Anne Boleyn, died in a property near Baynard’s Castle, a property that was the home of the Abbot of Reading. Thomas Warley recorded her death in a letter to Lady Lisle in Calais on 7th April 1538:

“My lady of Wiltshire died on Wednesday last beside Baynard’s castle.”1

It is not known what Elizabeth died of, but Warley had written to Lady Lisle in April 1536 regarding Elizabeth suffering from a bad cough:

“Today the countess of Wiltshire asked me when I heard from your Ladyship, and thanked you heartily for the hosen. She is sore diseased with the cough, which grieves her sore.”2

And Anne Boleyn had been concerned about her mother hearing of her arrest in May 1536:

“O, my mother, [thou wilt die with] sorrow.”3

Elizabeth may have been suffering from a cough and cold in 1536, but it may well have been something more serious and a disease which led to her death. It is thought that Elizabeth was born around 1476, making her about sixty-two years of age at her death. She was buried in the Howard aisle of St Mary’s Church, Lambeth, on 7th April 1538. St Mary’s is located next to Lambeth Palace and is now the Garden Museum. You can read more about Elizabeth in my article In Memory of Elizabeth Boleyn, mother of Anne Boleyn.

Whenever I write about Elizabeth Boleyn’s death and burial in 1538 I always receive at least one question about the claim that Elizabeth actually died in 1512 and that Anne Boleyn had a stepmother. This myth, and it is a myth, has its roots in the Victorian history book Lives of the Queens of England by Agnes Strickland. You can read more about this in my article Did Anne Boleyn have a stepmother?

Notes and Sources

  1. Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, xiii. part 1 696
  2. LP x. 669
  3. Ibid., 793

13 thoughts on “3 April 1538 – Death of Elizabeth Boleyn, mother of Anne Boleyn”

  1. Christine says:

    It sounds like Elizabeth suffered from TB you can’t die from a cold but the continous coughing is a sympton of TB or Consumption as it was called in earlier times, the fact that her two children were dead and her family in disgrace probably hastened her death, the awful depression you can suffer from which was unknown back then coupled with a severe illness can bring on death, poor Elizabeth she sounds a kindly gentle woman who was always there for her children, she is described as being very pretty to I hope she’s with Anne now and their both at peace.

    1. Claire says:

      I didn’t mean to imply that she died from a cold, I just meant that the cough she was described as having two years before her death could just have been a cold or virus and not necessarily linked to her death in 1538. Yes, it could well have been TB.

      1. Christine says:

        It’s ok Claire I know you didn’t mean that I think it’s very sad that in those days nothing could be done for them apart from blood letting and giving them awful potions to drink which must have made them feel worse, I know every age had it’s problems but at least we have medical knowledge now so we can more or less cure anything.

  2. Poor, poor woman. I can’t imagine the horror and pain she endured losing both children! Do we know exactly where her grave is in the building?

    1. According to a seventeenth century survey she was interred in the chancel, the place marked with a plaque, “Here lyeth the Lady Elizabeth Howard, sometime Countess of Wiltshire”, although there is no sign of it today.

  3. Mrsfiennes says:

    Would be nice too if there was a portrait of this woman.I would like to know more about her since I have not seen much.

  4. Diane says:

    Did Lady Elizabeth, her husband or Mary Boleyn ever see Princess Elizabeth again after Anne and George’s execution?

    1. Claire says:

      Thomas Boleyn attended Edward VI’s christening so he would have seen Elizabeth at that but there are no recorded meetings between him, his wife or Mary Boleyn and little Elizabeth.

      1. Diane says:

        I wonder how Thomas Boleyn felt seeing the young Elizabeth albeit from a distance – Did she remind him of all his hopes, did he feel frustration that he had no control over her future or did she remind him of his lost daughter and fill him with regret or guilt. I’ve always wondered why Elizabeth Boleyn who seemed to always be there for Anne didn’t extend the same courtesy to Mary Boleyn and why both her parents didn’t at least reach out to their one remaining child after Anne and George’s execution.

        1. Claire says:

          The thing is we don’t know that the Boleyns didn’t reach out to Mary or to little Elizabeth. We don’t have evidence but then we don’t have Mary Boleyn’s personal correspondence, we just have her letter to Cromwell. We know nothing about how these people felt after 1536 and how they got on with each other. For example, there is speculation that because Elizabeth died in London that she had separated from Thomas, but that is speculation and she may well have just been taken ill there. It’s all very frustrating!

  5. Donald Rockhill says:

    Interesting. If the family histories are correct, she was my 12th great-aunt, the half-sister of my 11th great-grandmother, Lady Margaret Brouchier Bryan.

  6. Linda says:

    Hi, I am searching for a book about Elizabeth Boleyn. Does one exist? Thank you for any response.

    1. Claire says:

      No, I’m afraid not. There’s just not enough known about her to write a whole book on her. However, there is Elizabeth Norton’s “The Boleyn Women”.

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