Posted By Claire on August 3, 2010
An article in today’s Daily Mail, entitled “Wills and Kate, kissing cousins! How the Royal lovebirds are related thanks to a Tudor tyrant so bloodthirsty he’s been airbrushed from history” announces the “dark and deliciously murky secret”, the royal skeleton in the closet, that not only are Prince William and his girlfriend, Kate Middleton, distantly related (12th cousins once removed), but that they are descended from “a murderous despot whose bloody deeds have been deliberately forgotten by history” – Sir Thomas Leighton.
Sir Thomas Leighton was a soldier and the Governor of Guernsey during the reign of Elizabeth I and, according to the Daily Mail, was “a despot and a dictator” who “brooked no argument and made life hell for those he ruled.” In fact, “so hated was Leighton, that on his death in 1610, the official report on his demise was defaced by angry Guernsey residents. And uniquely for such an important figure in the Elizabethan court – his wife was the Queen’s cousin – no portrait of him survives. All were destroyed or lost.”
The article goes on to give a rundown of Leighton and his “reign of terror”, which began in Guernsey in 1570, and it is interesting that Leighton sailed from Guernsey to England in 1587 to advise Sir Walter Raleigh on a defence strategy to keep England safe from the Spanish Armada and that he was rewarded with a knighthood and the hand of Elizabeth Knollys in marriage, but the Elizabeth Knollys connection is far more interesting to me. The article says of Elizabeth:-
“Elizabeth Knollys had important connections: not only was she a cousin of the Queen, but also a relation of Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII. In her Tudor ruff, she rather resembled an early Kate Middleton, and soon became Sir Thomas Leighton’s most valuable conquest, on or off the battlefield.”
Yes, she was a relative of the Queen and of Anne Boleyn because she was the granddaughter of Mary Boleyn, Henry VIII’s famous mistress and the sister of Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth Knollys was the daughter of Sir Francis Knollys and Catherine Carey, daughter of Mary Boleyn and her first husband, William Carey. Isn’t it more interesting to link Wills and Kate to a royal mistress? I think so, particularly when some people think that Catherine Carey and her brother Henry were actually Henry VIII’s illegitimate children.
Obviously there is no conclusive evidence that Catherine Carey was the King’s daughter, but she was born in 1524, during the time when Mary Boleyn was Henry’s mistress. Henry VIII did not acknowledge either her or her younger brother, Henry, as his children, but then he had no need – Catherine was just a girl (and he had one of those already), he already had an illegitimate son that he had recognised (Henry Fitzroy) and Mary was married to William Carey, a gentleman of the Privy Chamber, and so the child could be passed off as his. We’ll just never know for sure, all we can do is hypothesise.
Anyway, I will be writing more about Mary Boleyn later this week, as part of our series on the Boleyn family, but I just thought that the link to Mary Boleyn was more of a skeleton in the “royal closet” than linking Wills and Kate to an Elizabethan dictator.
Update: Unfortunately, experts have now disproved this link between Kate and Mary Boleyn, see http://www.wargs.com/royal/kate.html
Notes and Sources
- “Wills and Kate, kissing cousins! How the Royal lovebirds are related thanks to a Tudor tyrant so bloodthirsty he’s been airbrushed from history” – Article from The Daily Mail, 3rd August 2010
- Mary Boleyn: The True Story of Henry VIII’s Favourite Mistress by Josephine Wilkinson