7 April 1538 – Lady Wiltshire, mother of Anne Boleyn, is buried

Apr7,2017 #Elizabeth Boleyn

On this day in history, 7th April 1538, Elizabeth Boleyn, Countess of Wiltshire and Ormond and mother of the late Queen Anne Boleyn, was laid to rest at St Mary’s Church, Lambeth, in the chancel. She had died four days earlier at the Abbot of Reading’s home near Baynard’s Castle in London.

In a letter to Lady Lisle, John Hussey recorded Elizabeth Boleyn’s funeral procession:

“My lady Wiltshire was buried at Lamehithe on the 7th. My lord Comptroller was chief mourner of the men and lady Dawbny of the women. She was conveyed from a house beside Baynard’s Castle by barge to Lambeth with torches burning and four baneys (banners?) set out of all quarters of the barge, which was covered with black and a white cross. At her burial was the King of Heralds, a herald, and a pursuivant.”1

The “lord Comptroller” and “lady Dawbny” who acted as chief mourners were Sir John Russell and Katherine Howard, Lady Daubenay, Elizabeth Boleyn’s half-sister.

Elizabeth’s resting place was once marked by a brass plate inscribed “Here lyeth the Lady Elizabeth Howard, some time Countess of Wiltshire” but that no longer exists.2

St Mary’s Church, Lambeth, was saved from demolition in the 1970s by the Garden Museum which had been set up to preserve the tomb of John Trescant (c.1570-1638), the famous botanist and gardener who was buried at the church. The Howard Chapel of the church is now the museum’s cafe, but all the tombs of the Howard family, Elizabeth’s relatives, have been preserved under the cafe’s wooden floor so they’re all safe.

Here is a slideshow of photos I took at Lambeth in May 2013 showing the exterior of Lambeth Palace (the red brick building) and the exterior and interior of the Garden Museum (formerly St Mary’s Church), where Elizabeth is buried.

[slideshow id=580 w=450 h=300]

Notes and Sources

  1. Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, XIII Part 1, 717.
  2. Nichols, J (1786) History of the Parish of Lambeth.

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7 thoughts on “7 April 1538 – Lady Wiltshire, mother of Anne Boleyn, is buried”
  1. I wonder how Sir Thomas felt, he had lost three members of his family in just two years, now there was only Mary, and he had been estranged from her for several years, I hope her death bought them closer together and healed the rift between them, the photos look beautiful Claire, can you tell me if the dead have their plaques inscribed on the floor or on the walls as I think it’d be a shame if their names are not recorded anyway for the public to see.?

  2. Rest in peace Elizabeth Howard Boleyn. I like the photos, Claire, thanks for sharing those. Would the church not have a remembrance book or scroll with the burial names recorded, even if there are no plaques? I am certain her burial is recorded somewhere in the records and at least you know they are preserved in the crypt below. I was wondering the other day on the post about her death if she died as a result of health problems caused by the loss of Anne and George in such terrible circumstances. The Boleyns lost their home, their heirs, their position, their reputation, many goods and lands, their other daughter was estranged from them and Anne and George had been humiliated, executed and branded as being traitors and incestuous. They were innocent, but that didn’t stop them from being condemned, wrongly with all the consequences that brought. You also lost your lands and homes and goods to the crown, which meant upheaval. Imagine the stress of all that. It could have taken a toll on her heart, made her generally ill, triggering some terminal illness, we just don’t know, but given the catastrophic loss above, it’s a real possibility. It’s bad enough losing two of your children in their prime from illness, but to have two healthy family members snatched through judicial murder, especially if they are innocent of the horrible things they were accused of…..no, no, no, no…I can’t imagine the shock, pain, fear, disruption….total despair. Poor Elizabeth and poor Thomas Boleyn as well, to lose a wife and two of three children in such a short spell and his beloved home, Hever, possibly affected his own health. It’s not just a coincidence that he died a year later. The Boleyn family really did go to dizzy heights and then fell down to relative poverty and total tragic endings. RIP Elizabeth, Thomas, George, Anne, Mary Boleyn and Jane Boleyn and the two little Boleyn boys who died so young. Amen.

  3. Elizabeth had been unwell at the time of Annes arrest and was said to have had a cough which was troubling her, in the tower Anne expressed concern over her mothers health and a long continuous cough is often the symptom of something more sinister, so yes she quite possibly had TB but the dreadful tragedy which hit the Boleyns would no doubt have just made her give up and long for death, we cannot imagine what her and Thomas went through especially after having enjoyed real power and such happiness for many years, their own daughter crowned and anointed! Must have seemed like a surreal dream to them but it was no fairytale wedding and no happy ever after as the reality was Anne had put herself in another queens shoes and there was enormous pressure on her to have a healthy son, something which you have no choice over, the enormous stress she was under would have affected her family and they would have wept with her over her miscarriages and their fear and distress over her somewhat shaky position when it became obvious Henry was paying court to Jane Seymour, as mistress Anne had had the upper hand but as queen she had actually put herself in the Kings power, something which she rebelled against as it wasn’t in her nature to play the obedient wife, I can imagine both Elizabeth and Thomas pleading with their erring daughter to hold her tongue and not berate His Majesty so much, but like many daughters she possibly did not heed them, we can sympathise with both Elizabeth and Thomas Boleyn for the dreadful things that befell them that fatal May in 1536 four hundred and eighty one years ago, between them they had buried many children and must have gone to their graves broken but the legacy of their daughter lives on and that of their granddaughter Elizabeth 1st, hailed by many as England’s greatest queen.

  4. I wonder why she was buried in Lambeth instead of the church by Hever castle? A year later Thomas Boleyn died and was buried by Hever. Wasn’t it the tradition to but husband and wife together? I also thought it was interesting that Thomas Boleyn was not present for his wife’s funeral. Thoughts?

    1. Lambeth has a Howard Aisle, a chapel that was used for the burial of Howard women, and Elizabeth was a Howard. It’s impossible to know whether she always planned on being buried there with her Howard family or whether she originally planned on being buried at Hever but with her dying in London it was deemed more practical to bury her at Lambeth. A man and his wife were often buried together, but in this case there is the fact that Howard women were often buried at Lambeth. Perhaps Elizabeth just wanted to follow tradition.

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