7 April 1538 – Elizabeth Boleyn, Countess of Wiltshire and mother of Queen Anne Boleyn, is laid to rest
Posted By Claire on April 7, 2019
I don’t know whether you are following my “on this day in Tudor history” videos on the Anne Boleyn Files YouTube Channel, but today’s video is on the burial of Elizabeth Boleyn (née Howard), Countess of Wiltshire and Ormond, and mother of Queen Anne Boleyn, as it’s the anniversary of her burial at St Mary’s Church, Lambeth.
In my video, I give details on what we know about her death, three days earlier, her burial and her resting place, which is now a Garden Museum. I also talk about her ledger stone at St Mary’s. I also share photos from my visit to the Garden Museum a few years ago.
I hope you enjoy my video.
I mention my video on Thomas and Elizabeth Boleyn, and here it is:
Natalie Grueninger’s article on the ledger stone can be found at http://onthetudortrail.com/Blog/2018/12/03/a-tudor-discovery-the-ledger-stone-of-elizabeth-boleyn/
14 thoughts on “7 April 1538 – Elizabeth Boleyn, Countess of Wiltshire and mother of Queen Anne Boleyn, is laid to rest”
Under those very stones lie the remains of one of Englands noblest families, a family whose two members became tragically, the queens of her most notorious monarch, King Henry V111, a family who wore the dukedom of Norfolk and was Earl Marshall of England, there has been much interest in Lady Elizabeth Howard as she was the mother of Anne Boleyn and we long to know what she looked like, was she like her infamous daughter dark and spirited or was she a gentle soul, fair and missive? she was close to Anne that we know and was her chaperone whilst Henry was courting her daughter, she accompanied her to court and was possibly one of the few witnesses to her wedding, she must have been with her when she was in labour and wept with her over her miscarriages and her last and fatal pregnancy, all the little events are unrecorded, the Christmases they shared and the picnics in the park, the banquets where they laughed and feasted together with Thomas and George, and the King of course, but we can imagine them, like any mother she must have wept when Anne was sent away to Savoy and then with Mary to France, but it was expected and their father had done well by securing them a marvellous position in the train of the Princess Mary, but she must have missed them terribly, she must have been out of her mind with worry when all her family came down with the dreaded sweat, and she must have supervised over the care of all of them, iv often wondered how Elizabeth escaped the disease she was incredibly lucky, however sadly her young son in law Carey did not survive and so her daughter Mary was now a widow with two children to worry about, she had been at court since young in the household of Queen Katherine and her beauty was well recorded, the poet Skelton was an admirer and much later she was also linked to Henry V111, ‘never with the mother’ he sharply retorted, but the Boleyn women were certainly attractive, Mary her eldest daughter was said to have been the mistress of the French King and later she had certainly slept with King Henry, then like his other light of loves she had been cast of but then married to Cary, a cousin of the King and a personable young courtier, Elizabeth must have been happy her eldest was now a respectable married woman and Anne was now in a relationship with Marys ex lover the King himself, what thoughts ran through her mind we will never know, there are no letters that survive of what could tell us was in her heart, but like her husband she could have been deeply troubled, she had known the King from young and knew he was fickle and incredibly dangerous, he could be genial one minute then in a raging fury the next, there were no half measures with Henry V111, whatever their misgivings about their youngest daughters involvement with the King, Thomas and Elizabeth have been happy and very satisfied when they were married, however the easy part was over the hardest was just beginning for Anne as she had to produce the longed for Prince of Wales, as her daughters marriage fell apart Elizabeth could only look on helplessly , she could do nothing when she was arrested and neither Thomas nor she was present at their children’s executions, the cough she had could well have been a bad cold or a bronchial infection, or it may have been the early symptoms of TB – a killer in the early days, if she had TB then that almost certainly would have been the cause of her death but there is another reason too, – a broken heart, research has shown one can die from it and possibly after losing so many children, her dead infants in the early years of her marriage including her last two who she had seen grow up, two brilliant clever individuals she lost the will to live, is it any wonder she would want to be with them instead of on this lonely earth, so she died and her gloomy funeral cortège wound its way along the river to Lambeth Church where she joined her ancestors, she left behind her bereft husband who he himself did not have long to live but he was buried, not alongside his wife but in the little church at Hever which can be seen today, an inscription of his infant son is mentioned on his memorial inscription, their deaths were sad but no death is a good one, for a family to have known such glory then to have it all taken away and to lose two members on the scaffold seems particurlaly cruel, they had one surviving child their daughter Mary who became sole heiress on her father’s death, but sadly did not live long enough herself to enjoy it.
Hi Bq I sent a post but for some reason it did not go through, yes Lady Elizabeth Boleyn has been slandered because of her daughter Anne and yet there is no evidence that she was anything other than a respectable noblewoman, young noblewomen were brought up with a strong sense of morality and aware of their station in life, as we know the dates simply do not add up regarding her so called affair with the young Prince Henry, I recall a scene from The Tudors where Buckingham’s daughter was found in bed with Brandon, there was no sense of shame no remorse at her father finding her as naked as the day she was born, in fact she was grinning her head off, I thought no way, that is so not real, a Dukes daughter behaving like that, alright we know affairs did happen, Lady Worcester was reprimanded by her brother over her affair and Wyatts wife was quite shameless about her lovers, the English court had a reputation not as bad as France but Chapyus himself remarked on Jane Seymours so called virtue, as she had been at court long enough it would be surprising I’d she were still a virgin, it seems virginity was quite rare, but I just cannot see a well brought up girl being caught romping with her lover and being discovered by her father, to just laugh it of, she got a blow on the side of her face I remember, that was The Tudors so it’s not to be taken seriously
regarding Mary Boleyn and her affair with the King there’s nothing we know, we can merely speculate , was she willing quite possibly, the King was young handsome and really in his prime, and it must be very flattering for a young woman to catch the eye of the most powerful man in the realm, power is a powerful aphrodisiac look at the way young girls scream over the latest boy bands, some of them wouldn’t warrant a second glance if they worked on the bus, but Henry was very handsome and I think possibly as I said before, the young woman he rode of with after snatching her from her lover, was soon overcome with soft words and wine, for one thing she just have been quite overrawed, it is interesting to consider Henry V111’s seduction technique and wether he bragged about them to his friends Charles Brandon for one, no doubt there was banter the kind that all men indulge in, but he was discreet no flaunting in front of his wife like King Francois, in fact she found his court so intolerable with its immorality, she would retire to her own residence where she kept her own little court, with her household and friends, Henry V111 did have his own hunting lodge where he would visit his mistresses and not long after he had married Katherine he was involved with one lady of the court, unfortunatly when Katherine found out she was devastated as she just could not believe her Henry as she called him could do that to her, Henry soon put her in her place however a kng was allowed mistresse’s, but Katherine was genuinely hurt because she adored her husband, but she learnt to accept it as her mother had done, and countless other queens before and since, her position was assured she was his wife and queen, his light o loves meant nothing, Queen Claude endured the same but it must have been very difficult for them, especially if they did genuinely love their husbands, Catherine of Braganza wife of Charles 11 was to know such heartbreak to, and just like her distant namesake was not blessed with sons, but her licentious husband had numerous bastards, one of which to cause much difficulty for James 11 when he ascended the throne.
Hi Christine, yes, indeed, virtue probably was rare, although probably not as rare as Chapuys exaggerated. Henry was almost an Adonis at the start of his reign, right up to his forties. Elizabeth Boleyn, although we don’t have a recognised portrait, was probably very lovely, but that doesn’t mean she had loose morals and slept with the King. Henry was capable of controlling himself and admire women without sleeping with them. He normally only did so when his wife was pregnant. Anne was an exception to that rule because Henry had ceased to sleep with Katherine before he began an affair with Anne Boleyn. King Francis was much more of a womanizer and poor Claude must have practically shut her eyes to his numerous affairs. Katherine was hurt and it must have taken some time to learn to accept his relationships and to turn a blind eye to them because they were devoted to each other. Katherine believed that Henry would never leave her and as his true wife, he would remain her husband always. However, because Henry genuinely needed a son, his search took him elsewhere, in this case to Anne and he believed she would give him a son. Unfortunately, that didn’t turn out to be the case and he found Jane Seymour attractive, of good family and reputation and now she hinted that she was willing to be his wife and also tried to bring some peace in his domestic life. Anne refused to stay quiet over his intermittent affairs because she genuinely thought that because their relationship was a love match Henry would be faithful to her. After all, he had made such pledges before they were married and as far as we know, he kept that promise but he was soon seeing other women in the first year of their marriage. She may have stayed quiet for a time and even arranged his next affair, during her second pregnancy, but she criticised him as he continued and told her that he had raised her up to her royal estate and he could “cast her down again” and later Anne was so disturbed by Henry’s affairs that they had public rows. Jane was of a more gentle nature and Henry didn’t expect any trouble from her. Although Jane challenged his authority with his daughter, Mary and tried to get him to bring her back to Court, plus intervened for the pilgrims in 1536/7, on the whole she didn’t rebuke him and kept her counsel. We don’t know if Henry had any mistresses after 1536, save when he was married to Anne of Cleves and seeing Kathryn Howard, but Jane didn’t complain if he did. It was the duty of wives to suffer affairs in silence and the needs of men during pregnancy was accepted. It was a double standard.
Yes, I remember that totally ridiculous scene with the daughter of the Duke of Buckingham in an uncompromising position with Charles Brandon and she didn’t show any shame or embarrassment, totally naked, and you are probably right she wouldn’t have been in such a ridiculous situation. However, Buckingham’s sister is supposed to have had an affair with King Henry Viii and the Duke was very angry when he found out. It was highly unlikely that a member of the old aristocracy would be involved in affairs, but they did happen, as with Kathryn Howard and remember how shocking that was, so shocking in fact that her relatives covered her past up and presented Kathryn at Court as a virtuous young noble woman. A woman from a good family was meant to be a virgin on her wedding night, end of story. She was meant to remain faithful and virtuous and have a spotless reputation. Elizabeth Howard was from one of the most prestigious families in England. I doubt very much that she would sully her reputation or that of her family in any way. Yes, some high born ladies slept with the King, then they were found a good marriage, but few of them came from the very top end of society.
Hello Christine, I made the mistake of buying the 1st boxed set of ‘The Tudors’ it was laughable, so inaccurate so I didn’t follow up with any more episodes. I loaned it to a cousin of mine and said don’t bother returning it.
Lady Elizabeth Boleyn nee Howard, Countess of Wiltshire, was laid to rest in honour and dignity in her family vault and she was buried with her banners and as a noblewoman of the highest quality. I understand that Elizabeth was ill in April 1536 as her daughter and son were being set up, but I also believe their loss broke her heart and that her health was affected. I don’t know how she couldn’t be, and this accelerated her death. I also believe in turn Thomas Boleyn was affected by his wife’s loss and those of his son and daughter. There is absolutely no evidence of any break between Thomas and Elizabeth Boleyn and it’s a great pity today that those on social media can’t be bothered to pick up a book and read or listen to say the second video below by Claire and learn how things worked in the sixteenth century. Get up and visit a few old Churches and you will soon find many couples from the noble houses were not buried together. Elizabeth was from a higher status family than her husband and a Howard and chose to honour, as did most Howard women that heritage in her resting place. A person was often buried where they died and people married several times so may choose to be buried with a later wife or one which had given them sons. Families claimed the rights to claim the remains of loved ones and wills played a big part in burials. Birth and status were more important than marriage. There are probably just as many old tombs with couples in different locations as there are those with them together. A sudden elevation in status to King or Queen may also be reflected in their burial spot. For example Lord Thomas Stanley is buried with his first wife Eleanor in Ormskirk Parish Church, but his second wife, Lady Margaret Beaufort was of higher status and became the mother of a King, Henry Vii, thus greatly raising her status and her grand tomb is in Westminster Abbey where she lies near her son and daughter in law. She has an effigy in Ormskirk which was unfortunately damaged during the break in by soldiers in the English Civil War during the long siege of nearby Latham Hall. (Ormskirk is in Lancashire about 40 minutes by train from Liverpool) The burial of Elizabeth Boleyn was no reflection on her relationship with her husband and it wasn’t customary for a spouse to attend the funeral of their wife or husband. In fact a woman had female mourners and a man male mourners. It is very sad that people today put all kinds of rubbish out there, making claims which are false as if they are some kind of expert, when they can’t be bothered just to ask a question from experts or read a book or article. Sorry I know I am ranting but we are talking about the reputation of people who were already maligned by the fate of their children and continue to be maligned today by ignorance.
RIP Elizabeth Boleyn with your family, son and two daughters and two lost little boys and your husband Thomas in that place of peace where you cannot be separated again. Amen YNWA
I think it’s a shame that many fine tombs were lost during the reformation, Henry did this country a national disservice when he ordered there desecration of those beautiful abbys and monasteries.
Yes indeed, but one bit of good news from a few months ago was the discovery of the ledger stone in the old Chapel of Saint Mary’s in Lambeth which marks the place where Elizabeth Howard would be in the vault under the floor. I guess there is a crypt below and her coffin or tomb is there somewhere. I believe it can now be seen in the floor. It was a bit damaged but the old inscriptions were still there. At least we have her memorial stone so maybe next stop her human remains.
Elizabeth Boleyn is an under appreciated lady of the Tudor Court. She was very close to her daughter, Anne, she shared apartments with her at Court and acted as her chaperone. Elizabeth was in service to Queen Katherine from the earliest days and probably served Elizabeth of York as well. She was written off with fondness by her husband who talked about her as a faithful and fruitful wife. I was horrified to read recently in an article about of all people our man Sander, that Elizabeth Howard had an affair with James Boleyn, Thomas’s brother and it was he who fathered Anne Boleyn. Woah!!! Didn’t Sander accuse King Henry of being Anne’s father? I really didn’t know what to say! I was flabbergasted. I really don’t get these people, honestly. Even then Henry denied it in any case and her parents treated Anne with favouritism, not as if she belonged to the milkman. Thomas never indicated that his children were not his, it was just slander and rumours from much later. Had this family not been the parents of Anne and George Boleyn would all of these lies have been written? I think not.
Henry was very secret about his affairs, especially his early ones and although there was some talk that Elizabeth had a brief affair with Henry Viii, there is no real evidence to support this. There was more of a case for Thomas Boleyn having sexual partners while Elizabeth was pregnant, but that’s another reason she was unlikely to be having an affair. Elizabeth Boleyn was pregnant more or less every year between 1499 and 1505. If we use the accepted birth dates based on the letter from Thomas to Cromwell in 1537, his testimony shows that she had Mary and Anne between 1500 and 1502 and two sons Henry and Thomas who died in infancy and George was probably born around 1504/5. As sex during pregnancy was thought to be dangerous, she was in confinement for 40 days either side of each birth, she had to recover, just when did she sleep with a man child as Henry was at the time and not even King? There is no evidence for her being unfaithful while serving Katherine of Aragon or of Henry being interested in any affair with her. That doesn’t mean he didn’t think she was attractive or that she was not a lady he paid compliments or court to, just that she wasn’t his mistress or lover. Elizabeth served the Queen well and both she and Thomas spent long years in Royal service before and after Anne and Henry’s relationship.
Elizabeth was on her daughter’s mind before her unfortunate execution and was at Court with Anne. While in the Tower Anne’s main concern was for her mother and how all this would affect her health. I believe Anne got many of her natural talents from her mother and perhaps she was like her in looks and manners. Elizabeth was well educated and I believe passed her intelligence onto her bright and lively daughter. Contrary to popular belief in the sixteenth century it was the mother, not the father who looked for a suitable husband for her children and made the first contacts with the other families, her husband or in the case of Mary, with significant input from the King, following up with the negotiations and arrangements. I believe Elizabeth had a say in her son’s marriage as well as her eldest daughter’s and would have looked for a suitable husband at Court for Anne had not the King come courting. It is lovely to hear Elizabeth Boleyn referred to here in these letters with her full and noble dignity and to imagine her funeral with full honour given to her as a member of one of the most noble Houses in England, the sister of the Duke of Norfolk.
I believe Elizabeth and Thomas did miss and mourn Anne and George, despite the shame that their trial and execution brought upon them. It was the King’s shame but that is what we can say with hindsight. Evidence that they wanted to be left alone to mourn comes in the response from Thomas to Cromwell over money owed to Jane from George as his widow, which is business like but short shrift is evident. Yes, he will see to it, but please leave me alone. He also appears to have fallen out with those involved in Anne’s execution, including the Duke, as a musical rhyme made by one of his household about Thomas was the subject of a complaint to the King, rather than dealing with Norfolk himself. Elizabeth and Thomas had very little choice but to pick up the pieces after a suitable period of mourning and Thomas has to send Cromwell his own garter for his advancement. He was also involved in raising militia at short notice during the northern rebellion in 1536/7. His men were not needed but he had respect in his own county still to be able to raise troops with just a few days notice. Personally I see talk of him marrying Lady Margaret Douglas as a red herring and nothing but talk, rather than evidence of him being back in high favour as clearly nothing came from it. He was to follow Elizabeth to the grave within less than a year. Elizabeth was his backbone and she was supportive of her husband and family, probably the one who persuaded him to be more compassionate when his more difficult child, Mary was in financial hot water. Elizabeth loved her family, but at the end of the day, she was a Howard and was buried with her heritage.
Agreed Christine, the same was done in Scotland and the grave/tomb of Queen Margaret sister of Henry VIII was lost in the destriuction of the Carthusian Monastery in Perth Scotland where she was buried.
Yes Henry V111 was very discreet about his mistresses unlike his brother King, Francois of France whose court was more like a harem, I think Henry did this more out of respect for his queen he also disliked any coarseness and vulgarity and it was said of him, he was a bit of a prude, but the one incident I do not like about him was when he was out riding and came upon a man with his sweetheart, he took a fancy to the girl and more or less abducted her, to the amazement and intense horror of her lover, Henry using Kings perogative to do what he wanted is here not painted in a very flattering light, he could well have raped her but his later treatment of Anne Boleyn where he never resorted to violence, even with his very strong feelings about her is very different, he possibly just used wine and flattering words to overcome her resistance, the girl could well have thought it an exciting adventure herself and may have submitted to him willingly but we will never know, but this incident shows that Henry V111 never considered the feelings of others very much except his closest and dearest friends, Weir believes he could have raped Mary Boleyn as we know, Kings would not be called to account for their actions, but personally I cannot see that myself he was very chivalric and prided himself on his chivalry, Mary was the daughter of his most valuable and trusted courtier Thomas Boleyn and she was the granddaughter of the Earl of Surrey, I think however that many Kings mistresse’s capitulated to their masters because of a fear of retribution if they were not co operative, of course other Kings mistresse’s have revelled in sleeping with their King, later in the French court of Henri Francois son, one of the little Queen of Scots women had an affair with the King and became pregnant, she boasted of it quite a lot and was sent to I think Orleans, where her son became known as the bastard of Orleans, Henri married to the sinister Catherine Medici was in thrall to his lover the beautiful and worldy wise Diane de Poiters, the portait of Diane shows a very beautiful woman with gentle features and fine eyes and it is easy to see why she was called a beauty, she was the Kings chief mistress, and it was said that Catherine had a spy hole in the Kings chambers where she would watch her husband and his mistress making love, he even gave to Diane the state jewels which rightly belonged to his queen, after his untimely death Catherine had her revenge though and banished Diane from the court and claimed the jewels, it just goes to show how many queens have had to suffer because of their King and husband’s infidelity, Katherine of Aragon herself may or may have not been aware of Henrys V111’s affair with Bessie Blount who was one of her women, but she was horrified when Henry had her son brought to court and bestowed on him the title of Duke of Richmond, that title was one his father had worn and she was utterly incensed by it, there was a more painful personal reason as well, she had yet to give Henry a living prince, now one of her waiting women had achieved that, her daughter Mary she must have feared was being put aside but Henry then sent her of to Wales which mollified her a little, for the heirs to the throne when older had the title conferred on them as prince of princess of the country, however I do believe that if Anne hadn’t come along then Henry would have tried to make young Fitzroy his heir, as he was genuinely concerned about leaving England to a woman, and parliament to, however as for Lady Elizabeth Boleyn having a fling with the young Prince Henry no way, was there no end to the mud slinging, as Weir explains he would have had to be nine years old at the time, and this little boy was then hard at work with his Latin in the schoolroom, or practising sword fights with his brother Arthur, Nicholas Sander was responsible as we know for debasing Annes memory, and quite naturally the rest of the family have had their morals questioned, Mary and both Anne were immoral at the French court and Anne was known as the English mule, (a term which had referred to Mary ), but it was said by one contemporary that hardly any woman left the French court a virgin anyway, but Sander was painting the two sisters to be immorally corrupt and so the mother was also of the same cloth, as Bq says she was a most gracious lady, a member of the noble House of Howard who had served their country well through war and peacetime, her upbringing would have been strict as was normal for a young noblewoman and Thomas Boleyn had landed a real prize when he married her, possibly that caused jealousy at court for the Boleyns were not on the same social scale as many of the older more noble families at court, however I believe they were in love and happy together, iv never heard that about her having an affair with James Boleyn how ludicrous whatever next, comments like that do annoy me, there was never any scandal attached to Elizabeth as BQ says, she served her mistress Queen Katherine well and married respectably, both husband and wife served their King and queen well and like many couples of the day had many children, sadly like many they lost some, we only know of two Thomas and Henry that did not survive but there could have been more, they were blessed with their trio Mary Anne and George and must have been content with their lot, they had the beautiful Hever castle as their home and as yet the black cloud on the horizon was far far way, it would be wonderful if Elizabeths coffin could be discovered as a plaque was found a year or so ago, and to actually see her inscription would be the icing on the cake, it is true that many married couples from years ago were not buried together, many were widowed and married again and an ancestor of mine was married twice, he chose to lie next to his second wife who was of superior lineage than his first, that did not mean he loved his first wife less than his second, and Elizabeth must have been very proud of her own lineage and chose to lie with her family and ancestors in the Howard crypt, every grand family had their own private crypt – resting place, it does not mean she was estranged from her husband, Sir Thomas chose to be interred next to his dead children in the leafy solitude of Hever, a place he must have loved, they may lie apart but that does not mean they are not together in paradise.
Hi Christine, I am only on for a few minutes as I am going for a walk, but yes, the park incident was shown on the Tudors, and you just think typical Tudors but it was actually a real incident. We know because there was a complaint from her husband who I believe was actually one of his park rangers or wardens as he would be called. Henry was hunting and came upon them walking. After making some conversations he asked the name of his sweetheart. Henry then took her hand, as you do and took her with him back to his hunting lodge. Now off course we don’t know if she consented, was overwhelmed by who she was with, or if he raped her or wooed her with wine and swestmeats but it certainly didn’t put him in a good light. The warden made a formal complaint, very brave, but it also shows Henry wasn’t yet above the law and his subjects still had recourse to it. Henry was rather embarrassed apparently and settled out of court. I can’t remember the full outcome but I think he said she consented and paid him compensation. King’s privilege is right! I doubt Henry raped Mary Boleyn or any other of his mistresses but who is going to say no to Henry and to be honest, why would they want to unless they valued their virtue, which according to Eustace Chapuys was very few but then, how would he know? I think Mary consented and was flattered and hopefully she benefited as well. The problem is, we don’t know anything about her relationship with Henry only that he cited her in his annulment twice. With respect to Miss Weir, there isn’t any evidence to go on so I think that claim will have to remain speculation. I think women could say no, it wasn’t part of the etiquette of how men and women operated between themselves and rape was punished. She wasn’t placed in his bed but I doubt she was forced there either. Henry knew how to be charming and woo a woman. I don’t see any reason why she wouldn’t consent. Henry was a handsome man and powerful and all right he was the King, but Anne said no! That made him want her more and that lead to love and passionate desire which she returned. Yes, he probably could have any woman he wanted, but that wasn’t how he usually did things. Not only was he discreet but he actually wasn’t that promiscuous either. He was a man who actually respected women, certainly in the first half of his reign and he was careful to keep his affairs from Katherine of Aragon. He lost that at some point as he doesn’t appear to have been so discreet when married to Anne Boleyn. His treatment of her during their courtship was in some aspects reflective in their marriage which was strong for two years, despite heated rows, but his respect for her went into decline and we know that he ceased to care anything about her and was brutal in the end. After that his treatment of women was light and darkness, he could be charming and woo them, then turn on them if betrayed. He was publicly respectful to Anne of Cleves while bad mouthing her behind her back. Once free from her, however, his treatment of her was only to be admired. He treated Kathryn Howard like a goddess until faced with her alleged betrayal and even then he didn’t mistreat her while an enquiry was held, he only became murderous for a moment and then burst into tears because he thought she was perfect. His final decision was cruel and to be certain, Henry was unique in this, but he had transformed over time. He was very good to Katherine Parr and somewhat conflicted when after three years of marriage he thought she was a heretic and was preaching to him. He signed an arrest warrant but then he forgave her as she was given an opportunity to plead her case. He remained good to her until he died although he didn’t trust her with the Regency of his son, which is to be expected under English practice and custom. His behaviour in his second part of his reign is totally unpredictable and that is reflected in his relationship with his latter wives. A bit like some football teams, you didn’t know which Henry would turn up on the day. However, apart from this incident in the park, which appears to be a one off, I don’t think there was any evidence of him raping women. He didn’t need to.
Elizabeth Boleyn was much loved by Anne and she wrote to Lady Wingfield, her dear friend about her love for her mother. I do hope what rumours there may have been did not reach Anne about her mother and the King. She would have been shocked and devastated. As you say, Christine, Henry was nine years old in 1500 when she would have conceived Anne and that is impossible. Even if she was born in 1507, then he was just about fifteen, but under his father’s thumb and that is impossible. He would not have married Anne knowing he could be her father, his moral compass simply would not have let him. Incest was viewed with horror. He had his marriage to Katherine of Aragon annulled as he became aware he may be committing incest and Anne and George were accused of incest to make everything else stick. There was no way Henry would deliberately commit incest, not a second time to be certain. These rumours come from third parties and anti Boleyn sources. There were rumours but no real evidence that Elizabeth Boleyn was ever the mistress of Henry Viii, especially as a young man.
Yes Henry V111 was many things but he definatly was not perverted, I would love a portait of Elizabeth to be found one day, it would be interesting to look upon the face of this woman who was so important to Anne and the grandmother of Elizabeth 1st, to see the features that she could have passed onto her daughter, both Henry and Anne adored their mothers, Henry lost his at a very young age, and their daughter was said to have been named after both of them, to Anne her mother was her best friend and she did indeed mention the love she bore her in a letter to her friend, and she first thought of her when she was taken to the Tower, she knew Elizabeth would be beside herself with grief, and quite naturally her concern was for her, it must have been very hard for those families who were torn apart by executions, to know they could do nothing but plead with their King, how they managed to get along I will never know, it is hardly surprising that both of Annes parents did not survive for much longer after her and Georges death, nor did her old love Henry Percy but then he had been suffering from an illness prior to Annes fall, however he may have loved her all his life his marriage was wretched and maybe the horror of her trial quickened his demise.
It’s hard to envisage the horror that Elizabeth Boleyn endured under tyrant Henry VIII. Not only her but thousands of others, blue-bloods and commoners alike.
John Skelton left a memorable for us dedicated to Elizabeth Boleyn who is described as wise and worthy and it celebrated her beauty. It was published in 1523_and called “The Garland of Laurel” but it was composed in around 1494/5, when Elizabeth was fifteen at her family home in Sheriff Hutton, the former Yorkist home, where the Woodville family had been for a time and were Elizabeth had been under the patronage of Elizabeth of York. Amy Licence explains that the poem followed the same structure of those of Chaucer and is a dream sequence, with the narrator walking through the woods. In this Skelton is led into the presence of the mother of Elizabeth Howard, the Countess of Surrey and answers the Queen of Fame and her ladies and compares the young Elizabeth to Chaucer’s heroine, Criseyde for her beauty, although she was actually a false lover, but that was not how Skelton saw her. He then compared her to Irene, daughter of Crantanus, for wisdom and faithful love.
This is a fitting tribute to her I think.
“To my Lady ELIZABETH HOWARD,
To be your remembrance, madam, I am bound,
Like to Aryna, maidenly of port,
Of virtue and conning the well and perfect ground;
Whom dame Nature, as well I may report,
Hath freshly enbeautied with many a goodly sort,
Of womanly features, whose flourishing tender age
Is lusty to look on, pleasant, demure and sage.
Good Creisseid, fairer than Polexene,
For to envive Pandarus’ appetite;
Troilus, I trow, if that he had you seen,
In you he would have set his whole delight:
Of all your beauty I suffice not to write;
But, as I said, your flourishing tender age
Is lusty to look on, pleasant, demure, and sage.
This was of course the young and very lovely Elizabeth and Thomas seems to have been granted her as his wife as a reward for faithful service, or rather the proof of his faithful service to the Tudor King Henry Vii in helping to put down the Cornish Rebellion just outside London at Blackheath in 1497 and as a client of Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, who should have been the Second Duke of Norfolk but was demoted to his own Earldom as his father died for King Richard iii in 1485, Thomas Boleyn was suspected of old loyalties and had to prove himself. That he did as did his brothers and Elizabeth was considered a good match for him, possibly as a reward for his services. However, Thomas obviously found a good foundation for his marriage and affection as the couple had several children. We know of at least five all born before 1505, including Anne, Mary and George and as her jointure was settled by 1501, it has been agreed by most historians that the marriage took place in 1498/9 and she had her first child within a year of their marriage.
What we do know is, however, that the couple may not have been very wealthy, yet Elizabeth was fruitful and Thomas had to work hard to provide for his growing family during those early years. Clearly the couple found rewards at Court because they moved to Hever Castle in Kent and their loyalty was already being appreciated as Thomas was one of six principal gentlemen chosen to escort Princess Margaret to her bride groom in Scotland in 1503. We know they bore these children and their early financial constraints because Thomas was forced to write to Thomas Cromwell in response to his demands about paying Lady Rochford her due after George’s execution, the letter being written in July 1536 when the family were mourning at Hever. He begins by saying yes he will do this for the King’s pleasure and how much she will get and when and how much he remembers the King and hopes for his blessing again, but then talks about when he first married Elizabeth.
“When I married I had only £50 a year to live on for me and my wife as long as my father lived, and yet, she brought me every year a child.”. He thanked Cromwell for his letter but stated he did this for the King’s pleasure as Henry too had written to him and asked him to remember that they cannot always be close to things now they are far from Court and more or less please stop bothering me. It is very clear here that Thomas didn’t really want to be bothered with anything, business or personal and just wanted to comfort his wife and remain with her in their shared grief until his duty required him to resume his services at Court.
Elizabeth didn’t have a long term position at Court but did attend on ceremonial and other occasions. It is assumed that she wanted to remain to oversee the education of her growing family in their formative years. That this poem was published in 1523 suggests to me that John Skelton still held Elizabeth Boleyn in high esteem, found her wise and beautiful, that she had great integrity and was renowned for several good qualities. Her father was now restored to the Duke of Norfolk in 1514 after his victory at Flodden in 1513 and had long proved his good service. Her husband was in service for many years and her brother was high in favour. This was all before Henry Viii had taken up with Anne, although he may have had a relationship with the eldest daughter, Mary before 1522. The family did suffer under the later Tyranny of Henry Viii through the loss of George and Anne in such a violent and shameful manner but they flourished during his benevolent years and were part of Anne’s rise and the early part of his transformation under which the entire family flourished. What lead to his increasingly erratic, angry and cruel behaviour is a matter for debate, possibly many causes with something pushing him over the edge. His accident in January 1536 certainly contributed significantly but he was spiralling towards tyrannical behaviour from about 1532 onwards with the end of a long and bitter annulment, the power he began to gain with the Supremacy and the opposition to all of that. He reacted to that opposition in order to protect his marriage with Anne and their heirs, but this is a consequence of their marriage, not because Anne was pushing him on as is sometimes suggested. This and the fallout from his accidents, pain, neurological problems, power and health problems all contributed to his later Tyranny, under which many suffered. However, before that he was fair minded, congenial, actually fun to be with, energetic, magnanimous, outgoing, a superstar and the Boleyn family bathed in the sun, as did many others, because of their talents and his friendship, both before Anne and Mary attracted him and for the years he loved them.
P.S The story of James Boleyn being the father of Anne Boleyn is suggested by Peter Richard Butcher in his book on the life and work of Nicholas Sander. Because of a regressive gene which appears in their research which may account for her “sixth” finger he was one candidate . However, they argue more strongly for one of her Howard uncles being her real father. He doesn’t state he agrees, but believes there is strong genetics to support this claim. Very weird. As Christine said, I haven’t heard this one before either and I can’t work out his reasoning. Anyway, we cannot give weight to any of these things as they were written many decades later and there is only one logical father for Anne and her siblings, Thomas Boleyn, who praises his wife or maybe he is actually moaning about the cost, but who testified to his fruitful wife Elizabeth, beautiful and wise and virtuous, bringing him a child every year in the first half a dozen years of their marriage, at the very least.
Even though Elizabeth and Thomas were buried apart, they are together in Eternity, with their beautiful, bright and vibrant children. RIP and let Perpetual Light Shine On them all. Amen. YNWA
I have only just watched the video of the talk Claire presented on Thomas and Elizabeth Boleyn. I was absolutely glued to the screen, it was just fascinating to learn some much about them, I had no idea and probably had preconceived ideas that they were schemers in the case of their daughters….but Claire’s research has changed my opinion. Thankyou so much Claire for your talks. I wonder why we are so fascinated with the Tudors?