The Anne Boleyn Experience Days 4 and 5, and the Curious Case of Thomas Boleyn Junior

Posted By on July 24, 2011

I’m so sorry that this post is so late but we stayed up rather late on Thursday night chatting into the night and then Tim and I were travelling on Friday.

On Thursday, we took the group to Hampton Court Palace, the beautiful palace which Henry VIII nabbed off Cardinal Wolsey. We took a tour, complete with audio guides, of the Tudor kitchens while our guide, Siobhan, got changed into her Tudor costume. Goodbye Siobhan, hello Lady Margaret Douglas! Siobhan really did look the part and we thoroughly enjoyed the private guided tour she gave us of the Tudor parts of the palace – the Great Hall, the Watching Chamber, the Haunted Gallery and all the wonderful portraits. We also enjoyed the beautiful and tranquil Chapel Royal.

In the Great Hall, Siobhan pointed out the remaining HA in the woodwork but eagle-eyed Emma, with her rather posh camera (ok, Tim, you might get one for Christmas if you’re very good!), found another on the ceiling – HR and AR. What a find! Those of us who chose Siobhan’s tour (rather than free time) in the afternoon saw the gardens, a game of Royal Tennis, a hidden staircase used by Henry VIII and a Victorian reproduction of Wolsey’s Closet, which is haunted by a little white dog. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to book the ghosts so Jane Seymour, Catherine Howard and the little white dog just did not turn up!

Although much of Henry’s palace, such as his presence chamber, Anne Boleyn’s lodgings etc. no longer exist, we were able to imagine how the palace would have looked in Henry’s reign. Anne Boleyn helped Henry plan the work for the palace so it had Anne’s stamp on it too.

We then headed off back to Hever where we had another wonderful meal followed by a talk by expert Tudor costumer, Bess Chilver, who, this time, bought along her husband Edmund to show us how Tudor noblemen dressed. Before our eyes, Edmund and Maryam (one of our attendees) became a Tudor couple and Bess gave a fascinating talk about the different parts of Tudor clothing and who was allowed to wear what. Thanks so much, Bess and Edmund!

Some of us then stayed up socialising and chatting about our favourite parts of the tour and Friday morning came around all too fast. What was great was that we had time to enjoy the gardens before the coach pick up at 10am and Tim and I kept coming across people strolling round with happy smiles on their faces or rather dream-like looks. We were sad to leave but I think we all felt fulfilled. Hever had worked its magic on us! There were then lots of hugs and thank yous as the coach departed. I’d just like to say at this point that I miss the group already. They were all fantastic and real friendships were made – I love you guys!

After the final farewell (sob!), Tim and I visited the Church of St John the Baptist at Penshurst. Tour attendees, Clare and David, joined us as they were off to Penshurst Place for the day, and both Clare and I have done extensive research into the Boleyn family and were keen to pay our respects to little Thomas Boleyn, brother of Anne Boleyn, just as we had done at St Peter’s in Hever to little Henry Boleyn and Anne’s father, Thomas. Thomas Boleyn Junior lies in the Sidney Chapel in the Church and his resting place is marked by a simple brass cross and an inscription which reads “Thomas Bullayen the son of Sir Thomas Bullayen”. It is a tiny tomb, just like the infant one of Henry Boleyn’s at St Peter’s, and it’s simplicity is in stark contrast to the surrounding Sidney family tombs.

Tomb of infant Thomas Boleyn, St John the Evangelist Church, Penshurst

A couple of people have asked me about this tomb as they have read that Alison Weir is claiming that Thomas Boleyn Junior died in 1520 as an adult and some have even suggested that his tomb is marked 1520. While the church’s information leaflet says that he died in 1520, the tomb is that of an infant – in that it is the typical simple cross and is tiny – and bears no date. Clare even blew up her photos of the tomb to see if a date had been faintly inscribed somewhere and there is no date. Clare also checked Parish records but these only go back to 1558. I will be contacting the church to see if they have any records supporting the 1520 date given in the leaflet but I wonder if it’s a typo. If 1520 is correct then it’s a bit of a conundrum – if Thomas Boleyn died as an adult why isn’t there more mention of him in the records and an infant Boleyn child dying in 1520 just does not fit with Elizabeth Boleyn’s age – she was born around 1480.


Anyway, until it is proved otherwise I stand by my opinion that Thomas Boleyn Junior died in infancy. The tomb is that of a child.

25 thoughts on “The Anne Boleyn Experience Days 4 and 5, and the Curious Case of Thomas Boleyn Junior”

  1. Felicity says:

    Claire, Will we get to see photos of the tour on Flickr again? Glad to hear you all had such a wonderful time! xx

    1. Courtney says:

      WOW! So wish I could have made it…was just talking with my in-laws yesterday about how much we would love to visit these places in England! Working hard to save enough to come along next time! Sounds like it was a blasts and can’t wait to see more photos.

  2. Dawn says:

    A wonderful time had by all, I am so envious (in a nice way). It must be a wrench to leave behind that beautiful castle and all the many good friends you have made. Though you have the comfort of knowing that it won’t be long before you are back soaking in all that historical atmosphere and among the company of friends old and new. Spare a thought, (cue violins), for us poor folks that can’t be there with you all for what ever reason, sitting desparately at our laptops eager for your next post on the tours, ha ha. Honestly though what an experience, and although not there I can live the dream through your eloquent postings. Thank you…..oohh, one day maybe….

  3. Shoshana says:

    SIGH. That says it all.

  4. Dawn says:

    Claire, on these wonderful trips that you organise and go on, do all the ladies and gents that attend have tudor costumes to wear, and do you were them every evening or on one special one. I have looked at the previous trips photos and saw some of the lovely dresses they had on. Are they their own or are the borrowed. I have always wanted to make a gown, and when this seemingly, never ending decorating of our new home comes to an end, I am going to have a go, something to while away long winter days. I’m not bad on the old sewing machine having made wedding dresses in the past. I was wondering if you or the ladies on this site could recommend any patterns, or books to guide me.

    1. Bess Chilver says:


      If you wanted to MAKE a period dress, then I would recommend starting with The Tudor Tailor ( You buy the book direct from Ninya at the website and also patterns for the dresses/men’s wear.

      I tend to make my own patterns but thats the way I’ve learnt to make costume for the past 18 or so years but I can heartily recommend Ninya’s patterns.

      All the best

      Bess Chilver

      1. Dawn says:

        Many thanks for your help Bess, I will certainly have a good look at the site you mentioned. I am not clever enough to make my own patterns, but I am good at following them and making any ajustments if necessary. Looks like you had a great time at Hever. Thank you once again for taking the time to answer my question.

        1. Bess Chilver says:

          You’re very welcome.

          Feel free to contact me in you want any virtual handholding with making a frock. Claire can you pass my email on to you.

          All the best


  5. Maybe they got the date mixed up – could it be 1502?

    1. Claire says:

      That’s what I wondered, Impish, but someone told me that Alison Weir is claiming the 1520 date in her new book on Mary Boleyn and claiming that the tomb is marked 1520, which it certainly isn’t. Very odd.

      1. Claire says:

        I’ve been thinking about this some more and when I zoom in on the brass cross there is a screw visible and so I’m wondering if the cross is a Victorian replacement for an older tomb marking. Hmm…

        1. Louise says:

          Metal screws were used in England as early as the fifteenth century, so it’s still possible that the cross there now is the original.
          If it is a Victorian copy then they seem to have used the original spelling of the original words, so why not use the date as well? If the date wasn’t on the original either then we’re back to square one. All very odd.

  6. Sheena says:

    I went on the Executed Queens tour where my husband and 6 of us dressed up at dinner for one of the nights. Some of us make our own costumes, and others purchased them from the site. Kris makes beautiful dresses and hoods, and Daniela amazing jewelry- and all of the items here on theanneboleynfiles give those finishing touches needed to complete the costumes. My favorite pattern book would be “The Tudor Tailor.” Simplicity also makes Tudor costume patters for both men and women. Hope that helps! =)

    1. Dawn says:

      Hi Sheena, thanks for your feed back, can’t wait to swop the paint brush for a sewing machine and needle, 🙂

  7. Julie B says:

    Hey Claire,
    Please post your pictures of the trip on Flickr! Love to see them!

    Julie B.

    1. Claire says:

      I will, Julie, as soon as I get home. We’re using hotels’ internet at the moment and it’s not ideal for big jobs like that.

      1. Julie B. says:

        Thanks Claire!!!

  8. Anne Barnhill says:

    Again, sounds lovely! I’m saving my pennies!

  9. Esther Sorkin says:

    Sounds like all had a wonderful time.

  10. Lisa Johnson says:

    Dear, Dear Claire,

    I am so envious of your passionate endeavors and live vicariously through you. I am unable to get back to work because of a bad car accident I had in December and I can’t tell you how many times I have visited your site and it has soooo helped me pass the time. I can only do Facebook so often (drives me crazy.) I truly adore Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I and read your works over and over. Thank you, thank you, thank you and blessings to you! You have saved me!! I hope to meet you one day and do one of the wonderful tours.

    1. Claire says:

      Hi Lisa,
      Thank you so much for your very kind and heartfelt words, I feel so blessed to be able to spend every day working on this site and researching Anne Boleyn and also to know that I am helping others. I’m so sorry about your car accident but so heart-warmed to know that I am playing a small part in your recovery. Take care of yourself and blessings to you, I hope to meet you too one day xxx

  11. Emily says:

    I am new to the site but think it is absolutely fabulous…truly a labor of love! I have enjoyed reading the posts about your trip & would love to see more pictures. I hope you will continue to coordinate these awesome tours for many years to come… and hopefully one day I can save up enough to make it across the pond! God bless you!

  12. ERITudor says:

    Thank you for sharing your lovely trip and fascinating experiences! I will live vicariously through your travel blogs until I get back to England myself!
    Also, thank you for shedding light on the details of little Thomas Boleyn’s tomb.
    Do you have any photo’s of the Sidney family tombs? I would love to see them, as they are a special interest of mine.
    The museum where I work has pieces from the Pembroke Armory-The Herberts having direct ties to the illustrious Sidney’s!
    Happy Travels!

  13. Janet says:

    My daugher and I love the history of Henry VIII and his six wives. In October 2008 we went to London and stayed at Hampton Court Palace for 4 days and 4 nights at Fish Court. It was an experience of a lifetime. We loved every minute of it. In the evenings we had the whole palace to ourselves, just us and the security personnel. We went for evening walks and during the day we visited the whole palace. We are fortunate enough to return our visit this September with a few friends to stay at the Palace. Anyone can visit and stay at the palace by booking through The Landmark Trust and the monies go towards the restoration of the Palace. I’ll write you back after our visit.

  14. Brenda says:

    Sounds like the trip was wonderful – jealous of you all!

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