Today is the anniversary of the death of Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire, father of Queen Anne Boleyn. He died at the family home, Hever Castle, in Kent, on 12th March 1539. His servant, Robert Cranwell, informed Thomas Cromwell of Thomas’s death, writing “My good lord and master is dead. He made the end of a good Christian man.”
And a good Christian man he was.
While his daughter, Anne Boleyn, has mostly been rehabilitated, sometimes it has been at the cost of her father. I often read the likes of “She was just a pawn of her family”, “Her father forced her into the king’s bed”, “Thomas Boleyn’s ambition knew no bounds and Anne paid the price” etc. etc. and that certainly is the Thomas Boleyn of fiction and series like “The Tudors”. For me, at least “The Tudors” series makes him intelligent and strong, on top of his ambition, while the Thomas Boleyn of the movie “The Other Boleyn Girl” is a weak man controlled by his wife, Elizabeth, and her brother, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. The three of them pretty much act as pimps for their daughters, Mary and Anne, so that their family can rise at court.
Unfortunately, the mud that has been slung at Thomas Boleyn over the years has stuck. But, I do hope that in the same way you might have questioned some of the myths, stories and assumptions surrounding Anne Boleyn, that you might, just might, have an open mind where her father is concerned.
Thomas Boleyn was a loyal servant of King Henry VII and King Henry VIII, and he was already on the rise and a royal favourite before either of his daughters were linked with the king. He had an amazing career and it was built on hard work, his gifts, his personality and his loyal service. Yes, he was ambitious, as he was expected to be and as was needed for his family. Yes, he did his duty to his monarch, which included dusting himself off after his children’s executions and proving his loyalty to the king. But that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t a broken man after the events of 1536. I can’t imagine how he felt when he retreated to Hever in May 1536 and what he and his wife went through.
So, in honour of this gifted man, I share here some videos and articles, and I’d also recommend Lauren Mackay’s book “Among the Wolves of Court: The Untold Story of Thomas and George Boleyn”.
You can read more on Thomas in these articles:
and in our Thomas Boleyn category.