Anne Boleyn's Royal Badge

Many people talk of the Boleyns as upstarts or commoners but, just like Henry VIII’s other five wives and Henry himself, Anne Boleyn was a descendant of Edward I and had royal blood.

The Howard Family’s Ancestry

Anne Boleyn’s mother was Lady Elizabeth Howard (c.1480 – 1538), daughter of Thomas Howard (1443 – 1524), Earl of Surrey and the 2nd Duke of Norfolk from 1514. Now, the Howard family could trace their roots back to Edward I in the following way:-

  • Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk was son of John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk (1421 – 1485)
  • John Howard was son of Sir Robert Howard (1385 – 1436) and Lady Margaret de Mowbray (1388 – 1459)
  • Margaret was the daughter of Thomas de Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk (of the first creation), (1366 – 1399)
  • Thomas was the son of John de Mowbray, 4th Baron Mowbray (1340 – 1368), and Elizabeth Segrave (d.1375)
  • Elizabeth was the daughter of John de Segrave, 4th Baron Segrave, and Margaret, Duchess of Norfolk (c. 1320 – 1399)
  • Margaret was the eldest daughter of Thomas of Brotherton, 1st Earl of Norfolk (1300 – 1338)
  • Thomas was a son of Edward I (1239 – 1307) and his second wife, Margaret of France (c.1279 – 1318) – phew!

Now you can understand why the Howards felt that they were important people!

But, the research of Olivia Peyton and Robert Mylne from the Anne Boleyn Facebook group has pointed to a connection with Edward I through Anne Boleyn’s father, Thomas Boleyn, too and a link to Eleanor of Aquitaine!

The Butler Family’s Ancestry

Edward I

Anne Boleyn’s father, Thomas Boleyn, was the son of Sir William Boleyn (1451 – 1505) and Lady Margaret Butler (1454 – 1539), daughter of Thomas Butler, the 7th Earl of Ormonde (1426 – 1515). Margaret was the great-great-great-granddaughter of Eleanor de Bohun (1304 – 1363) and James Butler, 1st Earl of Ormonde (c. 1305 – 1338), and here are some details from Olivia and Robert’s research, from Wikipedia I think:-

“Eleanor de Bohun, Countess of Ormonde (17 October 1304 – 7 October 1363) was an English noblewoman born in Knaresborough Castle to Humphrey de Bohun, 4th Earl of Hereford [1276 – 1321/22] and Lady Elizabeth Plantagenet [1282 – 1316] daughter of Edward I, King of England [1239 – 1307] and Eleanor of Castile[1241-1290]. After the deaths of her parents, she was placed in the care of her aunt Mary Plantagenet and brought up at Amesbury Priory alongside various cousins including Joan Gaveston, Isabel of Lancaster and Joan de Monthermer. Edward II gave the priory a generous allowance of 100 marks annually for the upkeep of Eleanor and her younger cousin, Joan Gaveston.

Eleanor [de Bohun] was married twice; first in 1327 to James Butler, 1st Earl of Ormonde, (son of Sir Edmond Butler and Lady Joan FitzGerald) who died in 1337 and secondly, six years later in 1343, to Sir Thomas de Dagworth, Lord Dagworth who was killed in an ambush in Brittany in 1352.”

Wikipedia goes on to say that “By her first marriage, Eleanor was an ancestress of Anne Boleyn, Queen consort of King Henry VIII of England.”

A mural of Eleanor of Aquitaine from the Chapel of Sainte Radegonde

The Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine Connection

But, not only can Anne Boleyn be linked to Edward I, she can also be linked to Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II. Olivia and Robert pointed out that Eleanor of Castile is the connection here, so this got me wading through Wikipedia and family trees. From my research (I know Tudor but not medieval history!), I found that Eleanor of Castile, Edward I’s first wife, was the great- great-granddaughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II of England so that links Anne Boleyn not only to Edward I but also to Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II (Eleanor of Castile’s father was Ferdinand III of Castile, his mother was Berengaria of Castile, her mother was Eleanor of England who was daughter of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine). Amazing!

You can check out the family trees on Wikipedia, it will take a while but it’s worth it to see how these people all link together.Here is how I linked them:-

  • Anne Boleyn, daughter of Thomas Boleyn
  • Sir Thomas Boleyn, son of Lady Margaret Butler
  • Lady Margaret Butler, daughter of Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormonde
  • Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormonde, son of James Butler, 4th Earl of Ormonde
  • James Butler, 4th Earl of Ormonde, son of James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormonde
  • James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormonde, son of James Butler, 2nd Earl of Ormonde
  • James Butler, 2nd Earl of Ormonde, son of Eleanor de Bohun
  • Eleanor de Bohun, daughter of Elizabeth Plantagenet
  • Elizabeth Plantagenet, daughter of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile
  • Eleanor of Castile, daughter of Ferdinand III of Castile
  • Ferdinand III of Castile, son of Berengaria of Castile
  • Berengaria of Castile, daughter of Eleanor of England
  • Eleanor of England, daughter of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

In Robert Mylne’s words:-

“I believe she [Anne] had a better “pedigree” than did Henry VIII and when I read that the Boleyns were “commoners” it makes me roll my eyes to heaven.”

Great point, Robert! Let’s look at Henry VIII’s ancestry.

John of Gaunt

Henry VIII’s Ancestry

Henry VIII was a descendant of Edward I through his paternal grandmother, Lady Margaret Beaufort (1443 – 1509).

  • Lady Margaret Beaufort was the daughter of John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset (1403 – 1444)
  • John Beaufort was the son of John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset (1373 – 1410)
  • John Beaufort Senior was the son of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster (1340 – 1399), and his third wife, Katherine Swynford
  • John of Gaunt was the third son of Edward III.
  • Edward III was the son of Edward II
  • Edward II was the son of Edward I, and there you have it!

What is interesting in this ancestry is that the Beaufort line stemmed from John of Gaunt’s illegitimate children, the children who were born to his mistress, Katherine Swynford, before he married her in 1396 and the children were legitimized by royal and papal decrees.This scandal in Henry’s line would have made his claim to the throne questionable of it had not been for the fact that he had another claim:-

  • Henry VIII’s father was Henry VII (1457 – 1509), had united the Houses of York and Lancaster by marrying Elizabeth of York (1466 – 1503)
  • Elizabeth of York was daughter of Edward IV (1442 – 1483) and Elizabeth Woodville (c.1437 – 1492)
  • Edward IV was the son of Richard, 3rd Duke of York (1411 – 1460)
  • Richard was the son of Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge (c.1375 – 1415), and Anne Mortimer (1390 – 1411)
  • Anne’s paternal grandmother, Philippa Plantagenet (1355 – 1382), was the daughter of Lionel of Antwerp (1338 – 1368)
  • Lionel of Antwerp was the second son of Edward III.

Definitely a more legitimate claim, although the Plantagenet Pole family were also descended from Lionel of Antwerp.

Interesting, eh?

Thank you so much to Olivia and Robert for setting me off on this mission, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed researching this and proving that Anne Boleyn had an important and interesting heritage.

Notes and Sources

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47 thoughts on “Anne Boleyn’s Royal Blood”
  1. I love the family trees! Growing up I used to get our old set of encyclopedias out and open to every king and queen, trying to trace who was descended from whom! I also love Eleanor of Aquitaine and her story, wish we could know more about her. Married to the King of France and then the King of England! Very interesting that Anne is her descendant.

  2. Wow Claire ! What a magical Mustery Tour! Something that I love and am always interested in backgrounds – However, drawing up family trees in the old fashioned style ain’t that easy. I remember I once dedicated to wall to Trickey Vicky’s (oops sorry – Queen Victoria’s) descendants to get the whole Eurpoean link and that became so complicted – but was like a jigsaw puzzle. Will have to sit down and really look at this one because one of my heroines is Eleanor of Acquitaine (what a lady!) Also Edward III and his wife Phillipa of Hainault, by having so many children (the heri, the Black prince dying before his time) inadvertedly caused havoc for future generations.

    Medeaivial history is so intriguing!!!!!

  3. I’m a genealogical nerd so this was so interesting to me! Looking at Anne’s paternal ancestry, I wonder if there isn’t a link between she and Catherine of Aragon through Eleanor of Castile?

  4. The children by John of Gaunt and Katherine Sywnford were also disbarred from inheriting the throne. While they were legitimised by royal decree, King Richard II refused them the right of succession, although that never detered their desecendents from trying! In all actuality, Henry VIII’s claim to the throne is vicarious, at best. I believe this is why he tried so hard for a son. He feared civil war if he died with a daughter. In fact, people like the Duke of Buckingham and the Poles had better, and stronger, claims to the throne than Henry.

  5. Very true, Candice, it’s a good job that Henry also had a claim through his mother but his position caused him always to be looking over his shoulder and also caused his desperate need for a son.

  6. I haven’t investigated Catherine properly but I know that she was related to Edward I through the line of John of Gaunt and his daughter Catherine of Lancaster who married Henry III of Castile. There probably is a link between her and Anne somewhere.

  7. Silly me, there is a link because Catherine was descended from John of Gaunt, son of Edward III, son of Edward II, son of Edward I, son of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile. Pierre on our AB Files Facebook page commented:-
    “Henry was Eleanor’s [of Aquitaine] descendant too : the mother of the Tudor dynasty, Catherine of Valois, was a descendant of Blanche of Castile, Queen of France and mother of Saint Louis. And Blanche was the daughter of Eleanor of England, Eleanor of Aquitaine’s daughter.
    The Howard’s were Queen Eleanor’s descendants by Margaret of France(her father, King Philipp III was Blanche of Castile’s grandson..), second wife of Edward I and mother of Thomas of Norfolk……Anne Boleyn was twice a descendant of Eleanor of Aquitaine by her two daughters Berengaria and Blanche !”

    Complicated but interesting!

  8. Thanks for that, didnt realise there was another Berengaria, as i was already aware of Queen Berengaria of Navarre. the rather down trodden and neglected wife of Richard the Lionheart.

    By the way Cliare, next time you are in Portsmouth, please let me know so we can meet up!


    Sarah Rooke
    Berengaria Order of Druids

  9. Hi Sarah,
    I forgot that you were in Portsmouth – sorry! I was actually only there for an evening, I was there for Alison Weir’s talk at the Mary Rose museum and then I went for a meal with Alison afterwards. I’ll definitely let you know if I visit Portsmouth again x.

  10. All very interesting! Now I want to write about John of Gaunt and his Katharine Swynford–that might be a great story! Thanks all for this wonderful info.

    1. Have you read “Katherine” by Anya Seton. It’s a quite old but still very readable novel about her life and relationship with John of Gaunt.

  11. Anyone interested in royal genealogy should check out the Genealogics site by Leo Van de Pas. Excellent and well researched site!

  12. This is a great article full of great info!!! I was just looking up about the butlers today because on my phone I have an app for Today in History and according to that James Butler 1st duke of ormonde died today, so I checked his lineage and sure enough he was related to the Boleyns. Very cool stuff. I love family trees. I will most certainly look more into this later once I’m done grading summer school work :-/ Wikipedia is fun to get lost in!!

  13. The Boleyns actually had two line to Edward I. Both are throught the Butlers and both are through children of Humphrey de Bohun and Elizabeth Plantagenet. Humphrey and Elizabeth’s son William m. Elizabeth Badlesmere who’s daughter Elizabeth m. Richard FitzAlan. Their daughter Joan m. James Butler 4th Earl of Ormonde. They also have descent from Henry III and Eleanor of Provence through Richard FitzAlan. His parents were Richard FitzAlan and Eleanor of Lancaster, the great-grandaughter of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence through Edmund Crouchback Plantagenet and Blanche of Artois.

  14. Very interesting and thanks to everyone that did the research on it! I hate when people call the Boleyn’s commoners; they were anything but!

  15. Wonderful to read about all these links! I love making connections between all these people. I hadn’t realised quite how illustrious the Boleyn family tree was! The Eleanor of Aquitaine link is fascinating.

    Henry VIII was also descended from Edward III via another of his sons – Edmund of Langley. Richard Earl of Cambridge was the son of Edmund of Langley. As mentioned above, Richard Earl of Cambridge was the father of Richard Duke Of York and grandfather of Edward IV, great-grandfather to Elizabeth of York and hence great-great-grandfather to Henry VIII.

    Basically, I think Edward III was so prolific that most of the nobility of England were descended from him by the reign of Henry VIII! No wonder the Tudors felt insecure.

    One small point, Katherine Swynford was the third wife of John of Gaunt, not the second.

  16. I read about Katherine Swynford in a novel by Anya Seton. She was the third wife of John of Gaunt, not the second. Wife number 2 was the Infanta Constance of Castile. They had three children and one was named Catherine, who was Catherine of Aragon’s grandmother.
    I think I have it right but my cat keeps walking on my computer!

  17. I always thought it was strange that Anne was referred to as a commoner – especially since her uncle was the Duke of Norfolk, and the Howards had royal connections up the wazoo, in fact being one of the most highly ranked families in England.

    I wonder if we have misinterpreted the usage of “commoner” though. Could it be, in Anne’s own time, and in the context of those times, “commoner” might have simply meant she was an Englishwoman, one of Henry’s own citizens? Perhaps she was viewed as a commoner because of this, and any marriage to Anne would not bring in a valuable foreign ally. After all, with the marriage to Katharine of Aragon, Henry had connections not just to Spain, which was a power to be reckoned with, but also the Holy Roman Empire, through her sister’s marriage to the Emperor’s son, Philip. Then, too, Katharine was probably quite familiar with the Regent of the Netherlands, Margaret of Austria, the Holy Roman Emperor’s daughter, who had been married to Katharine’s brother, Juan.

    Katharine had connections to the most powerful people in Europe, while Anne did not – at least not directly. She was thoroughly educated in Margaret of Austria’s court, then in France, and had the admiration and friendship of not only Margaret of Austria, but also King Francis I of France, his sister Marguerite of Alencon/Navarre, and his mother, Louise of Savoy.

    Sadly, I don’t find any reference to anything Francis I – the most powerful of Anne’s friends who was still alive in 1536 – might have had to say about the accusations against Anne’s or her execution. He commented on Kathryn Howard’s “lewd and naughty behavior,” but never a peep, positive or negative, about Anne Boleyn.

  18. Apologies for the silly mistake about Katherine Swynford, I’ll correct that now, I was so lost in family trees I knew I’d make a mistake somewhere!

  19. Alison Weir has also written a very good book on Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt which is very good. She has also written a book on Eleanor of Acquitaine. I was looking up the latter on the website yesterday and if dates are true, Eleanor lived until 82 years old!!! Which was incredible when you think she spent most of her life in the 12th century dying early in the 13th.

  20. Just got back off holiday and seen this post, which is really interesting and helpful. No wonder the King liked those Boleyn’s; they gave him a bit of respectability (ha ha). Thanks Claire.

  21. Dont forget that all Henry’s Six wives were descended from Edward I – his descendants fathered children across Europe – both on the right and wrong side of the blanket !

    Talk about keeping it in the family !

  22. Hi Claire,

    You are so super active that I think you should open up another File – “Strong Women in History” – Some are already mentione on this posting but loads more around!!!


  24. Claire,
    You are my idol. I’ve always wanted to be able to research as well as you . You are Great. When I was young my Mom would try to tell me about all the genealogy in her family ( Woolsey’s) . Ding !No interest , but now I know how the circle is so inportant.
    Keep up the great work.
    Renee Woolsey Smeaton-Burgess
    Ypsilanti,Michigan USA

  25. Thank you, Renee, that’s so sweet of you to say. Research and writing have always been my loves and I spend every day knee deep in books and paperwork, love it! I have never tried tracing my family back, perhaps I should.

  26. I have read hundreds of books on the Tudors – can never get enough. What exciting but dangerous times. Thank you for all the interesting facts about this truly amazing period of our history.

  27. Interesting. I knew Henry & Catherine of Aragon shared a common ancestry. As now I know did he & Anne, which means probably with Katherine Howard, too, as she was Anne’s cousin. How about Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves & Catherine Parr?

    I was thinking if he shared an ancestry with these woman back to Edward I & his wife, Leonore of Castile, perhaps there was a genetic reason that Henry’s sons by his first 2 wives died young, as Edward & Leonore’s sons, except their youngest, Edward II, all died young and were described as frail and sickly. Just a thought . . .

  28. Question: Anne’s Butler ancestry, is that the same Butler family that Edward IV supposedly precontracted marriage to marry a daughter of, before marrying Elizabeth Wydeville?

  29. I do believe Anne had more royal blood then Henry did. Didn’t Henry and his father have alot of his Plantagenet relatives killed because they felt threatened because the relatives had more right to the throne than the Tudors did? Didn’t Anne’s family on both sides descend from Edward I where as the only claim Henry had was threw his mother ? Thanks

  30. King Henry VIII ‘s sister Mary my ancestor,

    BBC has done the tv series The Tudors..i think they should now do a series about the Plantagenet’s.

  31. I have just sent a friend request to the Facebook page and I am hoping to obtain advice on source material that would shed light on the family of Anne’s 1st cousin, Elizabeth Boleyn, wife of Thomas Payne, Lord of Nowers Hall (Nether Hall), Suffolk, whose 1st wife had been Elizabeth, d. of Edward Jermy of Metfield by Mary Spencer. All paths seem to led me to this couple as the potential ancestors of my immigrant of 1664, Thomas Payne (d. 1673) of St. Mary’s, Md., husband of Jane Smallpiece, whose family name is linked by marriage at that time to the Jermy’s and others associated with the Paynes of Suffolk. I am hoping that the attention the Boleyn family has received has turned up some record of this couple!

  32. I am descendant of the Plantagenet line and looking into this it seems to have validity, its something I have pondered knowing out linage for many years, and to be frank I welcome her!

  33. I am a blood royal Tudor 12th great grandson, why do I need to pay for membership in the Tudor Society, I should start my own family society.

    Life Member, Dames and Barons of the Magna Charta Society, Somerset Chapter, 21st great-grandson of Surety William de Mowbray.

    Sir M S. Howard–

  34. Although it appears the Tudors may have had less right to the throne than the Plantagenets. Four of the most fascinating royals in English history are Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I, and her younger half-brother who established the Book of Common Prayer laid a firm foundation for the Church of England during his short life. A foundation that was later solidified by his half-sister Elizabeth I who began the British Empire with her defeat of the Spanish Armada. Absolutely fascinating!

  35. Would anyone know the exact link that binds Thomas butler 7 th Earl of Ormond to piers butler 9th Earl of Ormond? They are cousins I believe and if so I am a decent of Anne Boleyn though piers? I also believe I that would make me a cousin to queen Elizabeth 1. I’m trying to see where they fit in my tree. Thanks for any help!

  36. Thank you for the information. Both my husband and I are descendants of Anne Boleyn’s sister, Mary. Who do you think was the father of her children? Her husband or Henry VIII?

    1. I think it was Henry VIII. This is based on the sense that the children themselves had of actually being Henry’s. I think they thought they were potential heirs, didn’t they?

  37. It’s amazing .. I know I am descendent of one of this people maybe of all.
    .. My family emigrated from Switzerland and Poland in 1870 to New Zealand and I just started to search about my back generation.

  38. Regarding “The Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine Connection”, Eleanor of Aquitaine was Edward I’st great grandmother, so you don’t need to go around through Spain to get to her.

    Edward I, son of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence
    Henry III, son of John and Isabelle of Angouleme
    John, son of Henry II and Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine

    I do like the alternate path through the Earls of Ormond. I’ll have to add this to my tree to see if it changes my relation to Anne Boleyn, who is my 8th cousin, 13x removed (so far…)

  39. I just want to point out, all English/British Monarchs can trace their lineage back to Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, however distant and diluted, through King John‍♀️

    1. I’m sure Richard III was not illegitimate but he kept saying that his brother Edward IV WAS so somebody is trying to get him back by saying that he was the illegitimate one. My bet is on Edward IV being illegitimate.

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