Remembering the Real Thomas Boleyn

Mar12,2013 #Thomas Boleyn
Miniature of an Unknown Man by Lucas Horenbout c.1525 – could it be Thomas Boleyn?

My work is all about banishing myths and using primary source evidence to try and get to the truth about the Boleyns and the times they lived in. Anyone who has studied history will know that our perceptions of historical personalities, their reputations, can be far removed from who those people really were. We are affected by fictional portrayals, films and TV series, the differing opinions of historians and authors…

Even if we stick to primary sources, we then have to consider people’s bias and figure out what’s historical fact and what’s propaganda. Historians have to interpret sources and two people can look at the same source and interpret it completely differently – studying and researching history is a real minefield!

One person who has been given a bad historical reputation is Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire and Ormond, father of Anne Boleyn. Here was a man who was highly intelligent, who was a loyal servant to Henry VII and Henry VIII, and whose incredible career and rise to favour started long before the King had laid eyes on either of his daughter.
Is he known for his skill as an ambassador or being the best French speaker at Henry VIII’s court? Is he known for the opportunities he gave Anne Boleyn by securing a place for her at Margaret of Austria’s court?
No. Instead, he has gone down in history as a greedy, manipulative, over-ambitious man who pimped out his daughters to the King in return for wealth and advancement.

I’ve been researching the Boleyns for over four years now and I’ve not found a trace of the manipulative pimp Thomas Boleyn in the records. It is thought that Mary Boleyn caught the King’s eye around 1522, but Thomas Boleyn was already a high-flier at court by then, he had no need to push his daughter into the King’s bed. Here are some of his early career highlights:

  • 1497 – Along with his father, Thomas fought on the King’s side against the rebels of the Cornish Rebellion.
  • 1501 – He was present at the wedding of Prince Arthur and Catherine of Aragon.
  • 1503 – He was chosen by Henry VII to accompany his eldest daughter, Margaret Tudor, to Scotland, to marry James IV.
  • 1509 – When Henry VIII came to the throne Thomas became an Esquire of the Body and was then made a Knight of the Bath at his coronation.
  • Early years of Henry VIII’s reign – Thomas was given various offices including keeper of the exchange at Calais and the foreign exchange in England, joint governor of Norwich Castle with Sir Henry Wyatt, Sheriff of Kent several times and also served on commissions of the peace.
  • 1511 – Thomas was involved in the jousts to celebrate birth of Prince Henry, Duke of Cornwall. He was also a chief mourner and one of the knight bearers at Prince Henry’s funeral on the 27th February.
  • 1512-1513 – He was sent to the court of Margaret of Austria, with John Young and Sir Robert Wingfield, to act as an envoy to her father, Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, to conclude an alliance between England and the Empire against France. Thomas Boleyn became so friendly with Margaret that they had a wager on how long the negotiations would take and he also secured a place for his daughter, Anne, at Margaret’s court. A place in Margaret’s court was highly sought after by royal and noble families in Europe so this showed just how much Margaret respected Thomas.
  • 1514 – Thomas Boleyn secured places for both his daughters in the entourage of Mary Tudor, who was going to France to marry Louis XII.
  • 1516 – He was a canopy bearer at Princess Mary’s christening.
  • 1517 – He was entrusted with looking after Margaret Tudor on her visit to England.
  • 1517 – He acted as Queen Margaret of Scotland’s official carver for the forty days of her visit to England.
  • 1518 – Thomas was a member of the Privy Council by this time and was involved in the negotiations for the Treaty of Universal Peace signed that October.
  • End 1518/beginning of 1519 – Thomas was appointed as the English ambassador to the French court. He served there as Henry VIII’s ambassador and as Cardinal Wolsey’s agent. While in France, Thomas became good friends with the French royal family.
  • 5th June 1519 – Thomas sponsored Francis I’s baby son, Henry, Duke of Orleans, in the name of Henry VIII.
  • 1520 – Returns to England and is appointed Comptroller of the Household.
  • 1520 – Thomas attended the Field of Cloth of Gold, having been chosen as one of 40 select members of government, nobility and the Church who were to ride with the King to his first meeting with Francis I. Thomas’s wife, Elizabeth, was appointed to attend Queen Catherine.
  • May 1521 – Thomas was now the Treasurer of the Household and was also was appointed to the special commissions of oyer and terminer which tried Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. He benefited from Buckingham’s fall, being granted in survivorship the manor, honour and town of Tunbridge, the manors of Brasted and Penshurst, plus the parks of Penshurst, Northleigh, and Northlands, in Kent. He had also recently been granted the manor of Fobbing in Essex and Fritwell in Oxfordshire. His manors now totalled around two dozen.
  • 1521 – Thomas accompanied Cardinal Wolsey to meet Margaret of Austria under the pretence of mediating between France and the Empire, but actually to secure an alliance between England and the Empire.

All that before either of his daughters became involved with the King.

There is no way of knowing how Thomas felt about his daughters’ relationships with the King. We cannot get inside his head and we don’t have a journal or letters in which he expressed his feelings, but, as I explained in my article In Defence of Thomas Boleyn the evidence actually points to Thomas being unhappy about their relationships. When Mary Boleyn was widowed after William Carey died from sweating sickness, the King had to intervene and ask Thomas to provide for her financially. This suggests that there was not a close relationship between father and daughter at this time. As far as Anne’s relationship with Henry is concerned, Chapuys recorded in February 1533 Thomas Boleyn’s opposition to the marriage:

“I must add that the said earl of Wiltshire has never declared himself up to this moment; on the contrary, he has hitherto, as the duke of Norfolk has frequently told me, tried to dissuade the King rather than otherwise from the marriage.”1

and in May 1533, he recorded Anne’s indignation at the opposition of her father and uncle:

“Shortly after the Duke began to excuse himself and say that he had not been either the originator or promoter of this second marriage, but, on the contrary, had always been opposed to it, and tried to dissuade the King therefrom. Had it not been for him and for the father of the Lady, who feigned to be attacked by frenzy to have the better means of opposing it, the marriage would have been secretly contracted a year ago; and for this opposition (the Duke observed) the Lady had been exceedingly indignant with the one and the other.”2

Whatever Thomas’ feelings about Anne’s marriage, he certainly did not need it to happen for his career to flourish. By this time, he was Lord Privy Seal and the Earl of Wiltshire and Ormond.

As well as being a royal favourite, a trusted adviser and a gifted diplomat, Thomas Boleyn was also a patron of humanism and a reformer. Maria Dowling3 writes of how a humanist scholar, Gerard Phrysius, was in the service of Thomas Boleyn between 1529 and 1533, and he was also the patron of Robert Wakefield, who taught Hebrew at Cambridge, as well as Thomas Cranmer and John Baker. He kept in touch with French reformers like Clément Marot, the French poet, and he supported his godson Thomas Tebold,4 later known as one of Cromwell’s continental agents, in his travels around Europe in 1535 and 1536. Tebold spread the news that Thomas was a patron of the New Learning and New Religion, and reported back to Thomas on the Inquisition in Europe. Three of Tebold’s letters5 to Thomas are still in existence and in one he refers to sending an epistle by Marot, “who has fled from France for the Gospel”. The two men corresponded through Reyner Wolf, a Dutch printer and bookseller who ran a shop in St Paul’s, London. In my research into Wolf, I found out that Wolf travelled annually to the Frankfurt am Main book mart which allowed him to work as an agent for the English government. In 1536 he conveyed a message from the Swiss reformer Heinrich Bullinger to Cranmer and in 1539 he carried messages from Henry VIII to Christopher Mount, an agent in Germany. Some historians have argued that Thomas Boleyn was a conservative Catholic and opposed George and Anne’s religious beliefs, but I cannot see why he would support Tebold and read reformist works if this was the case.

So, today on the anniversary of Thomas Boleyn’s death in 1539 I’d like to banish the mythical Thomas Boleyn and remember him the way his servant Robert Cranwell did, as “a good Christian man”,6 and as a gifted and loyal courtier. RIP Thomas Boleyn, husband, father, ambassador, reformer and earl.


  1. Span. Cal. iv. ii.1048
  2. Span. Cal. iv. ii.1077
  3. Dowling, Maria, Humanism in the Age of Henry VIII
  4. Tebold is listed as godson of Thomas Boleyn in an Index of Kent wills –
  5. LP viii.33, LP iv.6304, LP x.458 12
  6. LP iv. Part 1. 511

Related Post

59 thoughts on “Remembering the Real Thomas Boleyn”
  1. Thank you for the wonderful information, Claire. I always wanted to think he was a better man than has been portrayed, and your information and insight has helped a lot!!!! I love the website. I’ve been a follower for some time now and this is my first post. 🙂 Thank you again for this wonderful website!!!!

    1. I agree, sometimes I think our vision gets blurry, especially when tv shows and movies love to claim historical, or drama- history, it distorts the facts for our viewing pleasure. Which I love watching the shows, but I love to see the contrast between the primary source fact and the historical drama. Always a pleasure Claire another fine read.
      Lady Brooke

  2. What an interesting article Claire! I love the way you research things so logically and then come to your conclusions. Reading this helped me realise the excitement you must feel on discovering material in the primary sources. Long may you continue!

  3. Wow, thank you so much for this article. As you note, fiction often portrays Thomas Boleyn as greedy and manipulative, and this the only portrayal of him I have ever known. I never knew he was already so accomplished! This was very enlightening

  4. Isn’t it impossible to ‘remember’ someone you’ve never met, never will meet and about whom the sources are never objective (if you accept postmodern theory) …?

    1. No, on Remembrance Sunday I remember all those who lost their lives in wars and I didn’t know any of them, it means to commemorate and pay respect to. Sources can be objective, we have plenty of sources giving us information about Thomas and his career that just give us facts.

      1. Also, the image that most people have in their heads of Thomas is based on no evidence whatsoever but, instead, books like The Other Boleyn Girl and the TV series “The Tudors”.

        1. Claire,Great read!I hope that everyone who has seen the Tudor’s aswell as TOBG, can understand that is such unreliable info and thats just made for tv nonsense.They protrayed all the Boleyn’s and pretentious little climbers and they were not that at all,so happy you wrote this wonderfull post.THX Baroness x

        2. Yes, that’s what I thought as well Claire. Isn’t the only known picture or close to picture we have of Thomas, that stone rubbing of the image of his tomb?

        1. David Starkey wrote an article on the Holbein portrait you mention in The Burlington Magazine – “Holbein’s Irish Sitter?” in Number 938 – Volume 123, May 1981 – in which he dismissed the idea that the sitter is Thomas Boleyn because:

          1. The age of the sitter – When the portrait was executed (in the 1530s) Thomas was in his 50s, whereas the sitter appears to be in his 30s.
          2. The appearance of the sitter – Starkey describes the sitter as “a square-faced man of the same Rugby-forward build as the King himself” whereas Thomas Boleyn’s tomb brass shows him to be lean with a long face, similar to that of Elizabeth I.

          He concludes that the sitter is James Butler because he was the right age, he was brought up at the English court and was close to the King, the dress was correct being similar to that of Henry VIII in the 1537 cartoon for the Whitehall mural (the same year as this portrait is thought to be painted) and the height of fashion for that year, and when the portrait had the identification added in the 1550s he would have been referred to as an earl of Ormond.

  5. Thanks for a great article, Claire! I know Thomas was bright and had a gift for languages which his daughter and granddaughter shared. ANd he definitely rose at court by his own skill and abilities. I guess we’ll never know how he felt about the king and his daughters—I do think he was, perhaps, less than happy, knowing the king’s nature.Anyway, thanks!

  6. Too bad it is not known how Thomas felt about the deaths of Anne and George. Confession: I admit I do not really understand Thomas finding his way into the King’s good graces again (or even wanting to), and eventually being received again at Court after his children’s terrible deaths. I know you have written about this, Claire, but it is still difficult for me to reconcile. Maybe it’s because I myself would want to be as far from the King as possible after my children’s executions, and retire to the country….

  7. Well I do think that he had good reasons to oppose that marriage.
    Honestly, I believe that only Anne was extremely positive with this hahaha

    Indeed seems that he didn’t need to push Anne to the king. He was extremely inteligent and had all the necessary conections at the court to keep his status.

    About the realationship between father and daughter I believe that it dind’t exist. But I think that it was a general relantionship at that time and also seems that Thomas was a very busy man. We also have the strong spirit. His daughters in geral were very self-sufficient and as it seems never requested his opinion in nothing about their life.

  8. Wow to think that he was portrayed as a bad man but to be honest one can never be certain for sure unless you dig and dig and find out for sure but that’s good to know the truth or close to it

  9. Great article, as usual Claire. I agree whole heartedly with your first two paragraphs, about how are images of historical people are affected by what we see and read. I am guilty of it myself, but have changed a lot of my views over the years, I think that comes with views on life in general as you mature, but I have to give credit to this site also, you, the others that visit give different perspectives, and it all adds to the view change.

    I have learnt something today also, about the Duke of Norfolk not being in favour of the marriage also. He too seems to be portrayed as a man that would say ‘go for it Girl and damn the cost’, concerning Anne. He may have had different reasons than Anne’s father to be against it, but all the same, I did think he was a self serving man. Maybe he could foresee the pitfalls/bigger picture, if the marriage failed to his family, not just the Boleyns.

    It seems that as more myths are banished about Anne, it becomes harder to get rid of the myths surrounding her family and others around her at the time, such as Cromwell.. I think it’s wanting a scapegoat to blame her rise and fall on, when at the end of the day there was only one person who had overall control, (or lack of control depending how you look at it) and that was the King.

    1. Well said, Dawn1st.

      I also did not know the Duke, Anne’s uncle, opposed the marriage. These two men (the Duke and Anne’s father) knew just how fickle the King could be since they had served him so long. They had witnessed his affair with Bessie Blount, and Mary Boleyn – they knew he could tire easily once he got what he wanted.

      This quote from above “…and for this opposition (the Duke observed) the Lady had been exceedingly indignant with the one and the other…” If Anne originally left court and refused the King’s advances, I wonder at what point she began to want this marriage at all costs too, especially if her father and uncle opposed it? Interesting…

      1. Well I think that everybody’s life is mapped out from birth, from the start, that is what I believe.

        It is interesting! 🙂

  10. I agree that like his children Thomas Boleyn had been a “reformer” too and that he was already advanced. So why would her need further advancement through his own children? Just like Thomas Howard. I think that Anne put as well as placed her own self there for her own advancement. Not to mention as a result it would further advance the family. They would all be classed as “royalty” as a result if a child and heir came along. I understand why from all as well as the Boleyn and Howard perspectives from both sides of the coin. It was all down to “fate and destiny” at the end of the day. Not to mention character as well as personality.

  11. regardless of how well accomplished thomas boleyn was ,i still cannot understand how he ,supposedly,attended the trial of anne and george and then later returned to court,now i know he could have been ordered to ,but still to be so without emotion -less is hard to understand and you would have to be fairly hard to accept thatwhich happened to his children.The normal back then was to make “good”marriages for your children and i believe thats what he did but with a very bad ending .i cant accept that just because he was so well accomplished that this means he was a good decent sort ,he was just very very ambitious but there was a price to pay for this,and theprice was too high ,

    1. I understand as well as agree there with what you are saying. That is true but ambition, having a talent, related to by royalty or married to royalty was the only way anyone could succeed in life and advance as well as be known. Do you think that the “Boleyn’s” would be as known as people knew them back then as well as how they know them today if it were not for the said above? They would have just been known as nothing and no one.

      Like you said I definitely agree that was indeed the price you had to pay as a result win or lose. Take it or leave it.That is the chance you took. It amazes me what some of them would of just done for advancement but that was the times.The price was too high. Not to mention with the way the “King” was he could be your friend one day and your enemy the next.

    2. It is now thought that he was not present at George and Anne’s trials because he is not listed in the Baga de Secretis.
      Him being well-accomplished doesn’t make him good but his rise and favour before either of his daughters were involved with the King shows that he had no need, for his career, to push his daughters into affairs with the King. You see many people online arguing that Thomas only rose at court because of his daughters’ involvement with the King and it’s just not true.

        1. No, his son, Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, was executed just before Henry VIII died but Norfolk was saved by Henry’s death. He was released from prison in Mary I’s reign.

    3. margret,Thomas Boleyn did not attend the trial of Anne or George,he was dismissed,becuase he was father of the acussed.He also as Claire points out, had already had high title’s long before the fall of Queen Anne. THX Baroness x

  12. Very interesting, especially his and Norfolk’s attitude to the marriage. I’m still mopping up my research on Katherine Howard and the Dowager Duchess (which has taken much longer than anticipated and has had to go on the back burner again for a while due to other projects that had to be finished) but the more I find out the less I believe that the Howards seriously pimped Katherine, or that she was part of Catholic cunning plan to get control over Henry. In fact, I think the old Duchess must have been shaking in her shoes when he showed an interest, bearing in mind how much she and her own children had suffered at Henry’s hands already in the 1530’s.

    What tends to be overlooked as well is that these girls’ mutual relations could have flaunted them in front of Henry till the cows came home, but if he didn’t fancy them they were wasting their time.

    To my mind the miniature has a look of the unfinished Holbein in the Royal Collection, although Eric Ives (and I think David Starkey also) saw that as being James Butler and not Boleyn.

  13. Always good to learn more about Thomas Boleyn — he has been almost universally damned, hasn’t he? As much in pro-Anne works as anti-Anne, even early on — of course, in the very early ones, he was being blamed for “encouraging” Anne to pursue the married Henry, thereby making Anne a completely innocent party. His opposition to the marriage of Anne and Henry is curious — perhaps he was afraid of the religious firestorm which was guaranteed to follow. That is, of course, assuming that Norfolk was telling Chapuys the truth; Norfolk was religiously conservative, if I remember correctly, and did not like his niece. He may have exaggerated Thomas Boleyn’s true feelings out of wishful thinking or hoping to encourage Chapuys’ efforts against Anne’s party.

    I will say that his unwillingness to help Mary after she was widowed doesn’t exactly refute the charge of parsimony (or financial common sense, depending on how you look at it). It’s not hard to picture him contemplating all the appointments held by his late son-in-law and wondering just how on earth he had never managed to save anything from that income. As for ambition, of course he was ambitious — anyone with his track record must have been. The hitch comes when people begin to think of ambition as a character flaw in and of itself.

  14. margaret,If we take a really good look at Thomas Boleyn and what transpierd,he was dismissed from the trial of the acussed,as he was their father,with that said Anne’s Uncle, The Duke Of Norforlk, was her mothers brother and sat at high court durring the trial. Even though he new she was innosent of the charges brought before the high court.Know one was going to go against the ,King or you would have ended up put to death.So in trueth you were in a damed if I did, damed if I don’t.I am sure that Thomas Boleyn ,sufferd a great deal as a father,who new he could not save ,Queen Anne nor Goerge,Henry was on a mission get Rid of as many Boleyn’s as he could and that’s what he infact did!Sad but true. Kind Regards Baroness

  15. Thomas Boleyn may have been a wonderful courtier & a loyal person to Henry, but all of that does not fly in the face of the fact that he does not seem to have stood up for either of his children, or for the other highly regarded men that were executed as well. How can you believe all of those things about your own flesh & blood? Plus, he definitely had his hand in arranging things so that Anne would be placed in front of the King. It was all so that HIS daughter might one day be Queen. He was not thinking of her, he was only thinking of himself and how high that would put him. I do not agree that Thomas was a good man. He was an ambitious man. Theres a difference .

    1. No one is saying that he wasn’t an ambitious man, he had to be to get where he did, but ambition does not equal pimp. We don’t know that he never stood up for his children. We know that Weston’s family tried to do something as it was mentioned by a French ambassador but we don’t know the reactions of the other families involved, we just don’t have that evidence. Where’s the evidence for him believing those things about Anne and George?

      He gave his daughter a good education and was able to secure her a place in Mary Tudor’s entourage, which was in France not in England, so had nothing to do with pushing her in front of Henry VIII. She was recalled from France (her service to Queen Claude) to marry James Butler whose family seat was in Ireland, well away from the English court. She did serve Catherine of Aragon but that’s not proof of Thomas fixing things to push her in front of Henry, Mary was involved with the King at the time. There’s no way that Thomas could have known that his daughter would one day be queen, she was a commoner, so there’s no way that that could have been part of his plans.

    2. Patricia,Claire is absoluty right thier was nothing Thomas Boleyn could have done,I ask Claire the same Qs about Anne,s uncle, The Duke Of Norfrolk aswell,there was nothing anyone could do to save anyone that they found guilty, weather they were or were not.We know they were innosent ,we know all the charges were nothing but trump up BS,by the King and Thomas Cromwell,there fate was sealed there’s nothing anyone could have done,sadly. Kind Regards Baroness x

  16. This latest information on Thomas Boleyn is simply fascinating.. However, I find that it opens up so many more questions on this man I knew so little about.
    Why did he return to court after Anne’s death?
    Was he influential on the upbringing of Princess Elizabeth?
    Did he try to preserve Anne’s integrity?
    How did he live with the loss of both Anne and George?
    Answers would be most appreciated! Also, thank you Clarie for your wonderful research! You’ve sparked a thirst for knowledge in so many people who use this site! Congratulations on you’re achievements and keep the work coming! Cheers 🙂

  17. Yes, ’tis true Thomas Boleyn was a ‘made man’ long before Henry took an interest in his daughters. But ’tis said that Henry never spared a woman in his lust or a man in his anger. And didn’t he warn Queen Ann herself that as quickly as he raised her, he could bring her down (and did). Henry VIII was not a man to upset; for sure he could, and did, destroy those about him, as quickly as he raised them. So nobody’s position at court was wholly secure. The whole of Europe was in shock and did not agree when Henry executed (before Ann) the Duke of Buckingham, one of the most powerful men in the kingdom, on trumped charges of treason; in fact, London rioted.

    Self preservation is a remarkable thing, and upon the demise of his two children, and the loss of reputation of the third, he still had three grandchildren to think about, so I feel this would have strengthened his all but destroyed will to live, after Ann and Georges deaths.

    Did he approve of Henry mauling his daughters? In his heart, not likely. But let us not forget that Mary Boleyn shamelessly went willingly to Henry’s bed. And although Ann took a lot more persuading, once she got there she was not shy when it came to wielding her own power, which triggered her downfall.

    1. Jed,You make some good points and that was the way Henry worked, if he wanted you out of his way,thats why Queen Anne’s father ,Thomas Boleyn could not help her.Yes they were all trump up charges,but Henry, was on a mission, the getting of a SON, enter Jane Seymour a younger version.However with that said Seymour’s lucky she passed way before, Henry’s son by Seymour died,she would have ended up in the same perdicament as others who angerd this King.I don’t think Queen Anne was pushing her power around ,but she was the Queen,so she did have power but sadly as fast as it came it was gone.I truely think Thomas Boleyn and what was left of the family greived Queen Anne’s death aswell as George death. THX Baroness x

  18. I discovered that thomas boleyn was not at trial of george and anne ,apparently he was excused from attending the event by the duke of norfolk ,but that he was at trial of the other men accused with anne and george ,now as everyone knows once they were found guilty ,there was no hope for the other two ,did he do anything at all for any of them ie even try to get a word to henry about the innocence of them all ,and where was he living while the arrests and imprisonments were happening ? why didnt he go to the tower to see any of them,well maybe he was not permitted to but still you would think that he would have shouted and screamed a bit in their defence and not skulk away and then back in favour a while later at court ,wheres the evidence to show that he even tried to help any of them like for instance westons family ?

    1. We don’t know Thomas’s whereabouts, his feelings, what he did/didn’t do and the only reason we have any knowledge regarding the Westons is because of their closeness to Jean, Sieur de Dinteville. We don’t know what the other families did and obviously many documents are missing, having been destroyed or damaged in the Ashburnam House fire. Any intercession would have been pointless anyway with the way that the legal machinery worked. Everything happened so quickly and who knows when Thomas found out what was going on. I expect that Thomas did what he had to do to protect the rest of his family, as did other families when family members were being tried as traitors. I’m sure the stress of the situation must have affected him and Elizabeth, they died in 1538 and 1539.

      1. unless elizabeth and thomas turned to drugs like alcohol to cope w/their pain and/or stress, henry didn’t play a role in shortening their lives. unless if they killed themselves which is highly unlikely given that he was back in court and in the king’s good graces. back to his career and even considered for marriage to the king’s niece. i assume that mary knew that he opposed the marriage to anne, so she might’ve been a fan. preventing henry’s marriage for a whole year along w/norfolk! there’s no mention of elizabeth doing that as far as i know.

        it sounds weird, but the will to live is a myth according to the oncologist (cancer specialist) david ****. he’s had patients live despite being miserable, lonely, and facing low odds while good patients perish despite their positivity & high odds. patients often hate it when people say, “cheer up!”

    2. Claire,I have just another point to make at some trail’s back in the day,if the jury found a person or person’s not guilty,they would Kill the people that were on the pannel,so there to you had to be very carefull ,it really was a lose/lose situation.Thomas Boleyn or anyone was going to save the accused. THX Baroness x

    1. Totally agree TudorRose…
      What was seen to be the norm then, is completely exasperating and unacceptable now, as we know a monarchs anger had no bounderies then. We have to remember this when we judge people like Thomas Boleyn.
      The shadow of the axe curbed many a tonge in defence of others then, even when it came to protecting your own family, as we don’t have that threat hanging over us, (well most of us lucky ones), we can defend our own to what lengths possible with reasoned acceptance by others, unlike then when retaliation of the Monarch was swift and fatal.

  19. I enjoy reading your research into these colorful characters and times–and am a little envious as well, knowing you are given the privilege of examining so many amazing, historical documents. I can only imagine what it must feel like to see these records written in the original author’s hand(s)! To my point: Why do you think the King decided to make not just one, but two Boleyn siblings pay with their blood after their father, Thomas, had given so many wonderful years of service? It seem incredibly malicious and I cannot believe Henry, deep down, believed the incestuous accusation to be true. Did the King simply sacrifice the siblings to make Anne’s crimes seem so horrific that no one would dare question his punishment? Was Anne’s sister-in-law that believable? Why did Henry not try to save Thomas’ son and heir? That his queen would die was forgone. But to destroy her brother as well seems to border on gleeful, wanton destruction. Any thoughts?

    1. Hi HollyBerry,

      I believe that deep down Henry didn’t believe in any of the charges Anne was accused of, but it suited him to go along with them to get the outcome that he wanted, which was to take another wife, no matter how extreme or unbelievable they were.
      So, I suppose, because Anne was accused and charged of incest with George, it would seem nonsensical legally, that her co-accused, George would be ‘let off’ with it, heart breaking isn’t it.

      It didn’t count for anything the good service you put in for the King, look at his previous hard working courtiers that were sent to the block after decades of hard work for him, he was the cruellest of masters if you failed him at this stage of his reign, no remorse and no forgiveness..

      As for Jane, the sister-in-law, there is no real evidence to prove that she had a hand in any of this. Claire has done some great blogs on her, have a look, I am sure you will enjoy them.

      1. Dawn 1st,I must be inagreement with you,of croase Henry new that none of those poor soul’s were guilty,but as you say, Henry V111 did things that suited him,know matter how high the price was,even the killing of Queen’s,longtime friends know one was going to stand in his way,or tell him No! I wonder if anyone wanted get get close to the King,or stay at bay? Regards Baroness

  20. HollBerry,Very good reply,I think the King really did’ent care who he rid himself of,aslong as he rid himself of Anne.Also Henry new that the acussed were not guilty of any of the crimes,they all made up bt Cromwell and the King. THX Broness x

  21. Now I don’t think he was a pimp but for me there is not enough contemporary evidence to make a decision about T. Boleyn’s morals or weather or not he was a good man/ father. All I can see is that he was a an ambitious man who was very intelligent. The facts listed above show me that he was a very sufficient diplomat, but they show very little of his personal life. We simply don’t know exactly what kind of man he was. That is my opinion and I’m sticking to it.

    1. But I don’t judge his morals or talk about him being a good man or a good father, I simply challenge the way he had been perceived by fiction, TV and some historians.

    2. I agree that there isn’t a great deal of contempory evidence to evaluate the morality of the majority of the personalities from five-hundred years ago. We can’t say for definite whether Thomas was a good and moral man, but likewise there’s not enough evidene to say that he was immoral or bad.
      The problem is that many authors, particularly of fiction, try to fill in the gaps, not by producing evidence, but by summising. They portray Thomas a certain way because it makes for a more interesting story, and suddenly he becomes a monster, despite there being no evidence to suggest that he was.

  22. When TOBG was playing in theatres, I was interested enough to buy a ticket – but a scene where Anne and Mary’s mother “harumphs” about their father pimping them out made me laugh out loud.

    1. Mary,
      I had no idea that TOBG had become a play, I bet there were a few times you wanted to LOL 🙂 . It must have been a ‘strangely interesting’ play to watch!!

  23. Not a play – I saw the movie with Scarlett Johannsen (Mary Bolyen) and Natalie Portman (Anne Boleyn) also Kristen Scott-Thompson as their mother. The costumes and jewelry and hairstyles were a feast for the eyes. That made it well worth the ticket price! I have to warn myself to not be a historical snob sometimes, and to remember that the viewing public doesn’t always want historical accuracy, they just want a good story and there’s no crime in that.

  24. Enjoying your writing on this families history. My birth name is Kimberly Carey and my Grandfather was named William Carey. My mother had paperwork showing the family tree/history but it needs so much filled in. It says that a William Carey was married to Ann’s sister. but thats all we have so far, what can you tell me about this William Carey if anything, where was he from? How long were they married? What did he do for a living, or did he have title of sorts? I have so much to investigate about our family. It would be neat to be able to link all of my research up to what you have found.
    Thank You.
    Kimberly Carey Taylor.

  25. Thanks for this excellent article. Yes Thomas Boleyn was ambitious, his life was in royal and noble service and all families in such services had to maintain a certain status and a way of life to uphold in the Court that they were employed. His family rising up the social ladder depended on the patronage of others and his own ambitions for his family. It was a status run society and although the Tudors raised up people with talent rather than of noble birth, you still had to bring yourself to their attention. Had Thomas Boleyn not had ambitions he would have remained an obscure knight and we wouldn’t be talking about his daughter, the remarkable Anne Boleyn. Thomas was multi talented and this was passed on to his three children, who went on to serve in court and particularly to Anne and George. Both his daughters were at the Court in France and Anne remained for several years under Queen Claude. This was a time of clever women, but they couldn’t get anywhere without a talented and ambitious father. Ambition is not a dirty word, although it is wrongly frowned on today. It is like money, it is how we use it and misuse it, which makes it bad. Yes, there are things he did which paint him in a poor light, such as bringing down Cardinal Wolsey. If truth be told, the Cardinal would have at the very least have been retired anyway as he had failed to give Henry what he wanted. Norfolk and Suffolk were also to blame as was Anne and others who may not be named, but Henry was ultimately the cause. It is also not true that Thomas Boleyn was a pimp for his daughter. He may have enabled Anne and Mary to be noticed, even encouraged them, but they were not literally put into the King’s bed by their father. Nor did he use money to buy poison for Bishop Fisher, or force Anne into her role. Henry noticed Anne and ran after her. Thomas allowed his daughter to go home and take time out away from the attention of the King. He couldn’t say no when Henry decided to visit and court Anne. That would be political suicide. It was a great honour to have the King stay with you. It cost a fortune, many people were bankrupted by the cost, but for the Boleyn family it paid off as Henry gave them promotions and property and the entire family served at his court. Henry and Anne fell in love for many reasons, including her intellectual capacity and wit. It wasn’t because of plain ambition. Of course Thomas and Elizabeth benefited as did everyone. There is also evidence that he was cautious about the possibility of Anne becoming Queen. In the end, Anne rose but her triumph was tragically short. Thomas and Elizabeth Boleyn had to witness two adult children tried and brutally executed for made up nonsense because the King had wife number three on speed dial. It devastated and broke them as they lost their children, homes and Elizabeth died not long afterwards. Thomas, briefly found the courage and common sense to return to royal service, in order to survive and get some dignity for himself and his remaining daughter and his wife. However, he lost Elizabeth in 1538 and he died in 1539. Henry honoured his long years of service and had several masses said.

    If we are to condemn the ambition of Thomas Boleyn, then the Seymour brothers are just as bad. Jane Seymour was already serving the Queen and had served Catherine of Aragon for several years when Henry noticed her. When it became clear that Henry and Anne were having trouble after she lost her baby son in 1536, they were forming a faction to promote first the Princess Mary and also Jane. At first it looked as if Jane would be a new mistress, but she didn’t want that. They then cooperated with Thomas Cromwell to raise and train Jane as a rival for Anne, a possible new Queen. Jane was supervised by Sir Nicholas Carew on how to behave and attract the King. She saw herself as a peacemaker and to help bring England back to a more Catholic condition as well as befriending Mary. The Seymour fy were another country family who ended up at the centre of Court life and power. They would later make themselves the ones to surround Jane’s son and Henry’s heir, Prince Edward. It is evident also that they took control of the Council and pushed others better qualified by blood to help rule behind the future King, including the Earl of Surrey and Edward seized the Protectorate which was not Henry’s intention. If that is not ambition, then I really don’t know what is.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *