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
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.”
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.
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.
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
- Anne Boleyn Facebook Group run by Olivia Peyton and Robert Mylne, particularly the discussion thread Anne Boleyn and the Aquitaine Connection
- Wikipedia – I used numerous pages on the Howards and Butlers and there is a great family tree for Eleanor of Castile at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleanor_of_castile showing how she was descended from Eleanor of England. You can then click on Eleanor of England and find out about her.