8 December 1538 – Death of William Coffin, Anne Boleyn’s Master of the Horse

St Mary's Church, Standon
St Mary’s Church, Standon
On this day in history, 8th December 1538, Sir William Coffin, courtier and Master of the Horse to Queens Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour, died at Standon in Hertfordshire. It is thought that he died of the plague because his wife Margaret wrote to Thomas Cromwell saying that Coffin had “died of the great sickness, full of God’s marks all over his body”. He was buried at the parish church in Standon and in his will he left his hawks and best horses to the king.

William Coffin was born by 1492, probably at Porthledge, Devon, and first served King Henry VIII as petty captain in the King’s 1513 French campaign. He joined King Henry VIII’s privy chamber in 1515 and was one of the king’s gentlemen ushers by 1519, serving him at the Field of the Cloth of Gold and his meeting with the emperor at Gravelines in 1520. By 1526, Coffin had become sewer of the chamber and he was Anne Boleyn’s Master of the Horse at her coronation in 1533. He became a knight of the privy chamber in May 1537 and was dubbed on 18th October, following the birth of Prince Edward, the future Edward VI.

His wife, Margaret (née Dymoke, widow of Richard Vernon), was one of the women appointed by Cromwell to serve Anne Boleyn while she was imprisoned in the Tower of London in May 1536. The women were ordered not to speak to Anne unless Lady Kingston, wife of Sir William Kingston, Constable of the Tower of London, was present to remember or record what was said. After Coffin’s death, Margaret went on to marry Sir Richard Manners in 1539 and she died in 1550.

Notes and Sources

Image: St Mary’s Church, Standon, © Copyright John Salmon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

  • Davies, Catharine. “Coffin, Sir William (b. in or before 1492, d. 1538).” Catharine Davies In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed., edited by Lawrence Goldman, January 2008.

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7 thoughts on “8 December 1538 – Death of William Coffin, Anne Boleyn’s Master of the Horse”
  1. Interesting article, having heard his name, my mind immediately thought of Mrs Coffin attending Anne in the Tower. Well now we have an idea about who she was and an informative introduction to her husband. The convention for wills in those days was great, always leave something to the church and the wife as you will answer to God and the missus in the afterlife and to the King to ensure your family’s security in this one.

  2. Today is also 473 birthday of Mary Queen of Scots born at Linlithgow Palace on 8th December 1542. Happy Birthday bonny lass.

  3. Glad to catch you online, Banditqueen. Off subject: Have you hard anyone make a connection between Anne Boleyn and Graves Disease (Hyperthyroidism)? Hope you don’t mind my picking your brains and store of info!

    1. Sorry to interrupt, globerose, but I spotted your comment. While I’ve never heard anyone use the name Graves Disease in relation to Anne, there have been suggestions that she had hyperthyroidism because of her being referred to as “the goggle-eyed wh*re”. Hilary Mantel, in her article “Royal Bodies”, she says “It was said, though not by unbiased observers, that after her marriage she aged rapidly and grew thin. If this is true, and we put it together with reports of a swelling in her throat, and with the description of her by one contemporary as ‘a goggle-eyed wh*re’, then we’re looking, possibly, at a woman with a hyperthyroid condition, a woman of frayed temper who lives on the end of her nerves.” But then the “goggle-eyed wh*re” name does not necessarily mean that Anne had bulging eyes and the wen (goitre) or wart is not mentioned by any valid contemporary report. I think if Anne’s eyes had been unusually bulging and she had a large swelling in her throat that it would have been recorded by more people. It’s hard to say though.

      1. Thanks Claire, it is an interesting speculation though, especially as it appears this disease may also lead to birth defects and increased risk of miscarriage.
        But it is a horrible thought that untreated ill health may have contributed to her downfall. Ah well.

  4. As I read this I was impressed by how much these people could tell us if we could meet them! Of course probably they would be as discreet in death as they were in life, and would probably consider me too low in station to converse with them!

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