Greys Court
Greys Court
I’m delighted to welcome author Adrienne Dillard to the Anne Boleyn Files today as part of her book tour for Catherine Carey in a Nutshell, a book all about Mary Boleyn’s fascinating daughter. I do hope you enjoy this article on a property that played home to Catherine and her family.

Giveaway – MadeGlobal Publishing is offering one lucky Anne Boleyn Files followers a paperback copy of Adrienne’s book. Simply leave a comment below saying why you want to know more about Catherine Carey. The giveaway is open internationally and the closing date is midnight Friday 27th November. A comment will be picked at random and the winner notified by email. Good luck!

Over to Adrienne…

Greys Court lies nestled in the lush rolling hills of the Chilterns in the Oxfordshire countryside. This picturesque home spent most of the last nine centuries under private ownership until 1969 when Sir Felix and Lady Brunner gifted the buildings and 280 acres to the National Trust. In 2006, it underwent a major conservation effort and was opened to the public in 2010. Though much of the home has been updated over the years, you can still see the remnants of what Greys Court might have looked like when Sir Francis and Lady Catherine Knollys called it home.

The Domesday Book, an inventory of English lands commissioned by William the Conqueror in 1085, holds the first recorded mention of the site of Rotherfield Greys. The land had a healthy population of 20 households, comprising 12 villagers and 8 smallholders. It was assessed a tax of 5 geld units, which Open Domesday notes was a rather large portion at the time. The Lord of the land in 1086 was Anketil of Graye, which probably accounts for the name Greys Court. The Tenant-in-chief was Earl William, son of Osbern.

Greys Court appears to have stayed in the Grey line for several centuries. Walter de Grey, the Archbishop of York during the reign of King John and his son, Henry III, bought the land from Eve de Grey around 1239 and settled it upon his brother, Robert. A beloved courtier to King John, Walter was present at the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 and was appointed Archbishop in November of that year. The Canons of York preferred the son of one of the King’s greatest enemies so an impassioned plea was sent to Pope Innocent III to confirm the election. When Henry III ascended after King John’s death, Walter played a vital role during his minority and he was named Guardian of England when Henry invaded France in 1242.

By 1346, Greys had changed ownership to John de Grey. John, 2nd Baron Grey de Rotherfield, played an active role in many of the King’s military campaigns, was a founding member of the Order of the Garter and served as Lord Steward of Edward III’s royal household. He greatly expanded Greys Court and received a licence to fortify it. Four of the towers erected and part of the walled enclosure still survive today. The death of John’s son, Robert, left the Barony dormant. His granddaughter, Joan, passed along the lands to John, Lord Lovell.

Greys continued to belong to the Lovells until 1485 when Richard III fell to Henry VII on the bloody fields of Bosworth. Francis Lovell was a devout Yorkist loyalist, having grown up under the wardship of Richard’s brother, Edward IV, and then under their sister, Elizabeth. He had inherited Greys after the death of his grandmother, Alice Deincourt, in 1474. In preparation for Henry Tudor’s invasion, Francis was charged with guarding the south coast to prevent his landing there, but Henry bypassed the heavily fortified coast and landed at Milford Haven instead. Francis made his way to the battle at Bosworth and, though he was initially reported as a casualty, it was discovered that he fled to sanctuary at Colchester. Francis continued to stir rebellion, even after Richard’s defeat, and was a prominent supporter of the pretender, Lambert Simnel. There is no further record of Francis after his daring escape to Scotland following the Battle of Stoke Field in 1487. His lands at Rotherfield Greys were forfeit to the new Tudor King.

Greys Court came into the possession of the Knollys family on 9 July 1514 when Robert Knollys was granted the estate for the annual rent of one red rose at Midsummer by the newly ascended King Henry VIII. Robert had served Henry’s father as an usher of the chamber and had been appointed to wait on Prince Arthur in 1488. Robert continued to be held high in the king’s favour and, after his death in 1521, Greys Court was passed on to his eldest son, Francis Knollys. The grant was secured in a Parliamentary act in 1540, around the time of Francis’ marriage to Catherine Carey, daughter of William Carey and Mary Boleyn.

Sir Francis Knollys
Sir Francis Knollys
Francis made some significant improvements to the site in the hopes that his wife’s royal cousin, Elizabeth I, would visit, but his efforts were never rewarded. The Itinerary of John Leland for the years 1535-1543 give a short description of what the land looked like during the Tudor period. He notes three or four very old towers appearing on the right-hand-side upon his entrance and indicates that they were likely part of an original castle. He also mentioned that the courtyard was encompassed by timber and spaced with brick and that it appeared to have been a more recent addition.

Some of the Tudor structure still stands today and you can see the well-house complete with a twenty-five foot donkey wheel used during the era to draw up water from the well. The wheel is still in working order and stands as the most completely preserved example of a treadmill.

Francis and Catherine’s son, William, 1st Earl of Banbury, inherited the land upon Francis’ death in 1596. William resided at his home in Caversham Park most often, but he did continue the wholesale remodelling of the estate at Greys. The eastern front of the home was added during this time. In 1643, Greys caught the attention of the Royalist Governor of Reading for its strategic location near the Henley River crossing and two years later it was occupied by a Parliamentarian force during the English Civil War. The soldiers defaced the property and caused damage to the woods.

Greys passed on to William’s nephew, Robert Knollys, and then on to Robert’s son, another Robert. When he died, his sisters, Katherine Holdanby and Lettice Kennedy, divided the manor which was, by then, held in a 1,000 year lease to secure the debts of their father and uncle. Katherine sold her share to Thomas Cheyne in 1682 and the lordship was passed in its entirety to Lettice. She took up residence in the manor after the death of her husband. In 1688, Lettice sold the manor to James Paul of Braywick and his son William, where it was later used as part of his daughter’s dowry in her marriage to William Stapleton in 1724; his family had derived their wealth from sugar plantations in Antigua and Nevis.

William’s son, Thomas, inherited the manor and the title of Lord Le Despenser. He founded the Hellfire Club with his cousin, Francis Dashwood. These clubs were a place where members of high society could participate in rabble rousing activities frowned upon by polite society. He passed Greys Court along to his heir, Francis Jarvis Stapleton, and it continued in the Stapleton family until 1935 when Miles Talbot Stapleton sold it to Valentine and Evelyn Fleming, parents of James Bond author, Ian, after it was advertised for sale in Country Life for £12,000. Mrs. Fleming continued the modernization of the home adding to the billiard room and porch that had been previously added in 1874 by Francis Stapleton.

In 1937, Felix and Elizabeth Brunner purchased Greys Court. Felix was a Liberal Party politician and served as President of the party in 1962. His wife, Elizabeth, was a stage actress who served as Chairman of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes. The Brunners gifted 280 acres and the remaining buildings to the National Trust. As part of the agreement, the Brunners were allowed to reside in the home and Lady Brunner did until her death in 2003.

The National Trust commenced a major conservation project in 2006 and the house was reopened to the public in 2010. For more information on visiting Greys Court, please see the National Trust Website:

catherine_carey_book_tourIt’s not too late catch up with the other four stops on Adrienne’s book tour and to enter their giveaways too:

Catherine Carey in a Nutshell is available as a paperback and on kindle. Click here to find out more about it.

Remember to enter the giveaway by leaving your comment below.

Adrienne Dillard, author of Catherine Carey in a Nutshell and Cor Rotto: A Novel of Catherine Carey, is a graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies with emphasis in History from Montana State University-Northern.

Adrienne has been an eager student of history for most of her life and has completed in-depth research on the American Revolutionary War time period in American History and the history and sinking of the Titanic. Her senior university capstone paper was on the discrepancies in passenger lists on the ill-fated liner and Adrienne was able to work with Philip Hind of Encyclopedia Titanica for much of her research on that subject.



  • Archbold, W.A.J. (1893). “Francis Lovell, Viscount Lovell (1454-1487?)”. Dictionary of National Biography 34: 172–173.
  • Fisher, George (1832). “A Companion and Key to the History of England,” Simpkin and Marshall, London.
    The Gatehouse Record: [accessed 14 October 2015].
  • National Trust:
  • Open Domesday:
  • ‘Rural Parishes: Rotherfield Greys’, in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 16, ed. Simon Townley (Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2011), pp. 266-302 [accessed 15 October 2015].
  • Smith, Lucy Toulmin (ed). The Itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543. Vol 5.
  • Summerson, Henry. ‘Grey, John, first Lord Grey of Rotherfield (1300–1359)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, September 2004; online edn, January 2008. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/11544

Images: Greys Court © Copyright Dennis Jackson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence, Sir Francis Knollys by unknown artist.

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59 thoughts on “Catherine Carey book tour – Rotherfield Greys and a book giveaway!”
  1. As an avid Tudor history buff who considers Anne Boleyn the ultimate Queen. I would love to know more about Catherine Carey and her life esp in regards to her Mother.


  3. I look forward to reading about Catherine and the possibly she was Henry’s daughter.
    I know he may not have claim them but I think the Carey’s may be his.
    Why didn’t he claim them…When they were born he didn’t need to he had a daughter and a bastard son.
    Love the whole Tudor community the friendliness, stories and competitions are always fun.

  4. Hi! I’m an avid reader abd absolute fan of the Tudor era… I follow your files and I just love it! I’d love to read about Catherine Carey, Mary’s daughter! I really hope I get chisen!! Great work!! Keep at it! Thanks!

  5. Would love to read this I’ve read Cor Rotto and found that very a interesting reading, love learning anything about this time in history

  6. I have had a healthy fascination with all things Tudor since my first visit to Hampton court on a school outing. Initially, Henry and his wives but as I’ve grown older, I’ve had an ever increasing yearning for more knowledge of Mary Boleyn and her family. It would be such a thrill to receive the book.

  7. I love anything to do with the tutor times, having loved correct rotto would love to know more have visited grays court and found it so fab would live to win copy of next book

  8. I love anything to do with the tutor times, having loved correct rotto would love to know more have visited grays court and found it so fab would live to win copy of next book

  9. I want to find out about Catherine Carey because she is an ancestor of mine. I am especially intrigued by the possibility that she could be the daughter of Henry VIII! This would mean that all her descendants (including me and my 2 daughters) are descended from Henry. It makes the Tudor era especially fascinating to me, knowing that these people are ancestors.

  10. Fascinating article. I’d love to learn more about Catherine Carey and her life. I know she was on of Elizabeth I’s favorites and brother to Henry. Possible daughter of Henry VIII????

  11. As an avid Tudor fan, I am extremely interested in the Boleyn family, and specifically understanding more about Mary Boleyn and her family. The mystery surrounding the sister of Anne Boleyn has always been intriguing to me.

  12. I have translated into Spanish a novel about her and it is a fascinating person, living so humbly next to such important people. So, yes, I’d love to know more about her!!!

  13. I am fascinated by the Tudors and Anne Boleyn especially.
    I would like to know more about Catherine esp as she may be Henry’s daughter.

  14. Thanks for the article. Grey’s Court sounds like it might be worth a visit. And I’d really like to know why Elizabeth I never visited her first cousin Catherine Carey. She seems to have been close to quite a few of her other relatives on the Boleyn/Howard side of her family.

  15. I’ve been avid fan on Mary Carey and her life. Why didn’t Elizabeth 1, not visit her mothers family. I’ve read several books and couldn’t find no conflict with her. She and William did have a normal marriage till Henry arrived on the scene she was a very compassinate woman having a sister as ambitious as Anne. She took everything in stride. When the trial and execution was nye her daughter Catherine was chosen to serve her aunt. Mary was distrought but proud. She later married William Stafford and there wasn’t much after that she wanted to enjoy country life and raise her children.

  16. While an American, I have a long line of ancestors from the UK. My daughter also married a lovely man from Henley-on-Thames. That got me involved in the history of England, where we discovered a link between my husband and Mary Boleyn. It has been fascinating following and learning about the entire history. As a side note, I am 83 years old, but I still have my Princess Elisabeth Doll which “Santa” brought me in 1936 or 37. Please keep writing, your work is so very readable and very researched.

  17. I’ve been obsessed with British history since I was a young teen. Just can’t get enough. I’ve only been to Britain once but am planning another trip, making a list of historically significant places to see. I’d LOVE to have a copy of this book. 🙂

  18. I really would love to read this book, I am obsessed with all things Tudor and in this time! I haven’t read much about Catherine and would love too. She is deffiently a interesting character sometimes over shadowed by the other huge women around this time in history. I live in Australia and would Love to win

  19. I like reading history. Do not like reading books purporting to be history but which introduce historical errors masquerading as fact. Books set in a historical period but which do not claim to be history are O. K.,
    This book looks to be an accurate portrayal of the people and their histories.

  20. I just finished reading “The Last Boleyn” by Karen Harper. It is mostly about Mary. I would love to read about her daughter Catherine Carey!!!!!
    Good luck to everyone!!

  21. Absolutely adore the Tudors and Boleyn. Mary Boleyn has been my favourite as not much is said about her. Would love to win book to continue my ‘history lesson’

  22. Fascinating! Another stop to make on my UK tour when I finally get there, again. The three best years of my life were the three years, age 8-11, I spent in England, playing on the grounds of Orford Castle, (East Anglia, near Ipswich, a great little village to visit, complete with castle you can roam around in, on your own. ) Been back a couple of times for a visit and plan a one month visit in the next couple of years. Will definitely add Grey’s Court to my must see list!

  23. I loved England before learning that most of my ancestors were English.

    I read everything I can get my hands on about the British Royals, especially the Tudors. This is one book I do not have.

  24. I would love to know how Mary Boleyns daughter survived, can’t wait to read Adrienne’s book and learn about her style of writing… I have read almost all other authors on the Tudors and look forward to this one.

  25. I love reading any and all things Tudor-related, but especially about the Boleyns and their prodigy. I hope to win the book giveaway!

  26. I have been fascinated by the Tudors for many years and have quite an extensive library of books related to all of the major ‘players’. I would be delighted to win this book as I have a great curiosity about Mary Boleyn’s children since even the experts are divided on their parentage.

  27. I have had the great pleasure of reading Cor Rotto, a Catherine Carey Novel and loved every word. Ever since, I have wondered about Catherine Carey and her life at court and home. She led a very interesting life in Tudor England. Thanks Adrienne for writing more about her, can’t wait to read it. Thanks

  28. So little has been written about Catherine Cary. This is new vibrant history and hopefully a beginning of more lesser known figures being written about

  29. I am a Tudor enthusiast, having Welsh ancestry myself. Catherine is a fascinating Tudor character. I would love to read more about her, as she has not had much of a profile among the other Tudors.

  30. Its always good to read more in depth about those we tend to forget when we read about the Tudors/Elizabethans. Thanks for a chance to win the book

  31. I admire Catherine Cary for not denying her religion in the days of Mary I. She is my thirteenth great-grandmother, so I feel a special bond with her. I do not believe she was daughter of Henry VIII, though. Having Tudors in my family tree could get me expelled from the Richard III Society! (Just a joke.)

  32. I’d love to win this book as Catherine I do find a really interesting person, apart from the fact that Elizabeth adored her she could also have been Henry V111s child.

  33. I thoroughly enjoyed the “In a Nutshell” e-book about Mary Boleyn, so I’d love to read a similar book about her daughter Catherine! Thanks for the chance to enter!

  34. I think Catherine Carey is someone we don’t hear about a lot.We always want to learn something new about the more obscure historical figures,don’t just save it for the likes of Anne Boleyn or Elizabeth 1.

  35. I’d love to learn more about this fascinating woman! The fact that she was Anne Boleyn’s niece, Mary Boleyn’s daughter and Elizabeth I’s cousin makes her all the more fascinating to me!

  36. English history has always fascinated me and especially the Tudor era. I have been so fortunate to visit England a few times and during each visit I drag my husband through historical sites and churches…Anne and her family history are especially intriguing to me. I would be so pleased to add this book to my ever growing library. So enjoy this website!

  37. I would love to know more about Catherine Carey, since there is controversy about her parentage. Her mother was always my favourite sister. Greys Court looks like a beautiful place to visit.Maybe one day…

  38. I have always fascinated with Tudor history. I am even more fascinated sine I learned that I am a descendant of Sir Francis and Lady Catherine Knollys. I hope to learn all I can about her life and times. Cor Ditto was a fascinating fictional account.

  39. Have been fascinated with Tudors period of history for a while.
    Especially with women of this time,not the famous one only eg.
    Margaret Beaufort, Anne Boleyn etc.
    Will order this book anyway.

  40. I would love to know more about her because she is related to Ann Boleyn and im obsessed with any Link to her also I’m trying to trace the Carey kids family tree

  41. We all make our mark in history, some more than others. I’m a Writer and Artist of historical content and I learn from and appreciate the work of others that would add to my collection, not only on the shelf, but in my mind. Thank you.

  42. I find English history so interesting even tho I live in US. I got this from my mother who was started me off by letting me watch Queen Elizabeth”s cornation on tv as a child. I would love to win this book!

  43. i would love this book, its not often the careys get any light shed on them (tht i know of) so id love to read this 🙂

  44. i would like to read this book because there is a controversy about who fathered her 🙂
    i like to think that she was H8 daughter and that elizabeth I knew about that…

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