The Boleyns: A Scandalous Family – Find out more about the Boleyns

Posted By on August 18, 2021

Episode 1 of BBC Two’s new three-part series on the Boleyn family – The Boleyns: A Scandalous Family – aired on Friday 13th August, and episodes 2 and 3 have already been released on BBC iPlayer. It is a wonderful series and well worth watching because it introduces a very different Boleyn family.

Gone are the Boleyns of myth, and in their place are the Boleyns of history. It’s very refreshing to see a series willing to put these long-held beliefs to one side and talk to historians who are dedicated to peeling back the layers and getting to the truth about these historical characters.

The series is only three episodes long and I’m sure it will leave viewers wanting to know more about the Boleyns, so I thought I’d write a list of resources on Anne Boleyn and her family. These are just a few resources, I could go on for ever and apologies to those I’ve missed!

Here you go!

Books

These are my top picks and this list certainly isn’t exhaustive.

  • The Boleyns of Hever Castle (MadeGlobal Publishing, 2021) – a new book by Owen Emmerson and Claire Ridgway, which looks at the Boleyn family, who owned Hever Castle for 77 years, and tells their story through their home. See https://getbook.at/boleynhever
  • Among the Wolves of Court: The Untold Story of Thomas and George Boleyn by Lauren Mackay (Bloomsbury Academic, 2020) – A dual biography of Thomas Boleyn and George Boleyn, father and brother of Anne Boleyn. See https://amzn.to/2W1NEy3
  • George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier and Diplomat (MadeGlobal Publishing, 2014) – A biography of George Boleyn, Anne Boleyn’s brother and a very gifted man, by Clare Cherry and Claire Ridgway. See http://getbook.at/george-boleyn
  • My books on Anne Boleyn – The Anne Boleyn Collection, The Anne Boleyn Collection II and The Anne Boleyn Collection III, which are collections of articles on Anne Boleyn and her family, and The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown, which gives a day-by-day account of Anne Boleyn’s dramatic fall in 1536. See http://viewauthor.at/claireridgway
  • My top pick for a biography of Anne Boleyn is The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives (Wiley Blackwell, 2005). This is what I call the Anne Boleyn ‘Bible’. It’s so very comprehensive. See https://amzn.to/2UtY3lR
  • Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford by Julia Fox (Ballantine Books, 2007) – An excellent biography of the much-maligned Jane Boleyn, which helps to dispel the myths that surround her. See https://amzn.to/3gdaSZm
  • Jane Parker: The Downfall Of Two Tudor Queens? By Charlie Fenton (Chronos Books, 2021) – In this book, which is part of the series, Chronos Crime Chronicles, Charlie Fenton challenges the idea that Jane was jealous of her husband, George Boleyn, and sister-in-law, Anne Boleyn, and so helped bring them down. See https://amzn.to/3gdbyhm
  • The Anne Boleyn Papers by Elizabeth Norton (Amberley Publishing, 2013) – A collection of primary sources, including letters, extracts from chronicles and dispatches, about Anne Boleyn. See https://amzn.to/2XDiWMD
  • The Boleyn Women: The Tudor Femmes Fatales Who Changed English History by Elizabeth Norton (Amberley Publishing, 2013) – In this book, historian Elizabeth Norton considers the women of the Boleyn family, beginning with the heiresses Alice Bracton Boleyn, Anne Hoo Boleyn and Margaret Butler Boleyn. See https://amzn.to/3iWuumb
  • In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn by Sarah Morris and Natalie Grueninger (Amberley Publishing, 2015) – This book allows readers to walk in the footsteps of Anne Boleyn by giving details of the places that were part of her story. See https://amzn.to/3maGrXp
  • For Mary Boleyn, there are biographies written by Alison Weir – https://amzn.to/3ge9TrU – and Josephine Wilkinson – https://amzn.to/2W4UHXc – but very little is actually known about her. See our Mary Boleyn Resources for more on her.

Podcasts

Patreon

The Anne Boleyn Files

This blog has many thousands of articles about Anne Boleyn and her family, and you can find out about different members of her family by using the “Categories” tab in the side menu.

There is also the Anne Boleyn Files and Tudor Society YouTube Channel which has the following playlists, as well as lots of other Tudor history videos:

Other Anne Boleyn blogs include https://onthetudortrail.com/Blog/, https://throughtheeyesofanneboleyn.wordpress.com/, https://queenanneboleyn.com/, and https://anneboleynreflections.wordpress.com/.

There are lots and lots of Anne Boleyn-related Facebook groups and pages too, and the same with Twitter and Instagram – far too many to list here – so do have a browse.

If you run an Anne Boleyn or Boleyn-related blog, podcast, social media page etc. then please do feel free to share it in the comments below.

12 thoughts on “The Boleyns: A Scandalous Family – Find out more about the Boleyns”

  1. Christine says:

    Watched the video on Thomas and Henry Boleyn, I agree with Claire, sadly these two boys must have died as toddlers, I have certainly never heard any court records of a Thomas Boleyn in the service to the Duke of Buckingham or anywhere at Oxford or at court, and as Claire points out, Thomas was quite an important member of court and surely his son would have been noted in court documents, Eric Ives never mentioned Thomas the younger and his research on Anne Boleyn was intensive, when there are no records of a person it often means death, little Mary Seymour was heard of no more neither Mary Boleyn’s child which she had with Stafford her second husband, but Mary could have miscarried, even so Mary Seymour disappears from history as did Thomas the younger Boleyn and his brother Henry, the infant mortality rate was high and both Thomas and Elizabeth Boleyn must have been devastated at losing both sons, but thankfully they had three healthy children who survived, Thomas and Elizabeth were possibly married about the late 1490’s as has been suggested, years later Thomas mentioned to Cromwell after the deaths of his children, that his wife had been very fertile and she had been pregnant every year, we do not know who was the first born among the five siblings but we know Mary was the eldest out of Anne and George, the fact that both Thomas and Henry were buried in Kent proves that their parents resided at Hever otherwise they would certainly have been buried at Norfolk, great video Claire well done, these poor little mites are hardly ever mentioned in the stories about Anne, factual or otherwise, yet they were Queen Anne’s brothers and certainly deserve a place in the annals of Anne Boleyn and her family.

  2. Banditqueen says:

    Isn’t there a memorial in Saint Peter’s Church at Hever to young Thomas and Henry Boleyn who where thought to have died by around 1505?

    There is a small plaque at the foot of the pillar near the main memorial to Sir Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire, our Thomas Boleyn at the main entrance. The small memorial is close to his tomb, which heavily suggests they are his children as burial with a parent would be appropriate. Henry, Duke of Cornwall was buried in the Royal Chapel at Westminster Abbey, close to his Tudor grandparents and with the remains of future generations being intended to lay in the vaults beneath. Had these boys been adults at Court, they would have indeed appeared in Court documents and given that one was probably older than George in future inheritance documents as well. An older son was far more important than the younger sons or daughters and you can guarantee that some information would have existed beyond their names.

    Mary Seymour is an excellent example as the last we hear about her is when she was in the care of Lady Katherine Willoughby, Dowager Duchess of Suffolk, aged around two, who wrote a letter to the Council asking for more money to keep her small ward. She needed clothing and was expensive as a child of very high status, the daughter of a former Queen of England and Katherine hadn’t had her allowance for some time. This is the last formal mention of little Mary and its believed that she died not long afterwards. Its possible that she received her allowance and nothing more was said, but such an important child would be noted at some point in her life. Given how fiery the Duchess was, Katherine would most probably have complained about the lack of new clothes or money or demanded new servants and tutors for her charge. However, there is silence. Apart from a romantic poem which suggests Mary was married in the 1570s, which is dubious and doubted by most historians, there is nothing more said about little daughter of Katherine Parr and Thomas Seymour, her fourth husband. Girls may have been recorded a lot less than boys, but noble kids were kept in luxury and household accounts would at least record the items they had or used.

    1. Claire says:

      The brass cross memorial to Henry Boleyn is on the floor near his father’s tomb at St Peter’s Church, Hever, but Thomas the Younger’s is at Penshurst in the Sidney Chapel. When I spoke to an expert on brass memorials, he confirmed that they did indeed fit with them being children at their death.

      1. Banditqueen says:

        Thank you, Claire. Did one of them die at Penshurst? I would love to know more about them, but if they were just infants I don’t suppose we have much information about these two little lost lives. I am glad they have a memorial, even if the words have been lost over the years. They were obviously loved, even though they were here for a short time.

  3. Christine says:

    Yes I knew there was one child mentioned on Sir Thomas Boleyn’s tomb, but I find it strange why the other is at Penshurst? I wonder who was the elder, I think it’s highly likely it was little Henry as it was customary to name the first born after the reigning monarch, but I could be wrong, it is strange how Weir out of all other historians, believed that Thomas survived till 1520 and was a member of Edward Stafford’s household though.

    1. Claire says:

      We just don’t know. It could well be that Thomas the Younger had joined the Duke of Buckingham’s household, or that the Boleyns were staying at Penshurst while work was done at Hever. There is not one iota of evidence of Thomas the Younger as a young man. Surely, he would have been mentioned in the court records if he had reached that age.

      1. Christine says:

        Yes after all his two sisters Mary and Anne were noted in the Princess Mary’s entourage when she left for France, quite possibly the family were staying at Penshurst whilst they were waiting to move into Hever, I can imagine there must have been some preparation for them before they lived there, possibly Thomas had renovation work carried out, we know his mother Lady Margaret Butler also lived with them at Hever, so it makes sense that the Boleyn’s must have resided at Penshurst for little Thomas to be buried there, I think it’s highly likely he could have been just a baby when he died or maybe a toddler, likewise his younger brother.

  4. Christine says:

    It is very sad that little Lady Mary Seymour died young as her start in life was pitiful indeed, her mother the ex queen consort of Henry V111 died from childbed fever, as it was known then, now we call it puerperal fever, the same which killed Jane Seymour, and her father was later executed for being a traitor to the crown, one would have thought Thomas Seymour would have behaved himself since he now had a child to consider, yes Mary was taken into the household of Catherine Parr’s good friend but she found the upkeep of caring for her a burden, a child of a queen needed very costly clothing, and she no doubt had to find her a governess and a wet nurse and other staff to care for her needs, but Katherine had loved the queen and like her had shared a love for the Protestant faith, she must have tried to make good by her dear friend, but obviously she was affected financially, poor little Mary Seymour, Katherine the Duchess of Suffolk was later to sadly lose her two own precious children to the sweat tragically, on the same day, I also heard that Mary grew up and later married a courtier but it probably is a myth, Wikipedia states her husband but I cannot recall his name, Wikipedia has lots of errors in it, there is a beautiful little poem which is said to be dedicated to Catherine Parr from her daughter, one line reads, ‘ for which pains she bore me’…. I believe Mary did die young as she would certainly have been noted in court documents, she was after all, a very important little girl, just one more victim of infant mortality.

  5. Christine says:

    Had to say I enjoyed the second programme very much as well as the first, it’s getting really exciting now, it showed the elevation of power of the Boleyn’s when Thomas was made Earl of Wiltshire, and George Viscount Rochford, it also centred on the horrifying days of the dreaded ‘sweat’ and showed Mary Boleyn waking up and finding her husband dead in bed beside her, his face grey with sightless eyes and a dry parched mouth, had that happened it would have been horrifying for her, it killed so swiftly Mary may not have known he had the illness, as they could have retired to bed with William feeling perfectly well, only for his body to succumb to the disease whilst asleep and thus gave up his soul to god, it also showed Anne lying feverish in bed and in the next bedchamber her father was also battling to survive, had Anne died then English history would have been so different, no reformation – no Elizabeth 1st, we saw the gradual decline of Cardinal Wolsey as he fell out of favour with Anne, whom quite possibly had never really forgave him for splitting her and Henry Percy up, Sir Thomas had always found him favourable and in a way had been his mentor over the years, but Anne was now hell bent on being queen, and we can see her character gradually changing from sweet and cheerful, as she was once described to a ruthless termagant, cannot wait for the third and final programme in this factual drama, when the world of the Boleyn family comes crashing down tragically around them and Anne became known to history as the beheaded wife of Henry V111, and the first queen ever in English history to be executed.

  6. Christine says:

    I really enjoyed this series and am sad it’s now come to an end, it did dispel a lot of the myths about the Boleyn family and we was able to learn so much more about them to, it was interesting the topic about what part Anne played in Wolseys fall, I loved seeing the sad rough carving of Anne’s falcon in the walls of one cell, obviously it was done by one of the men it could well have been her brother, we don’t know where he was housed but the carving is a good clue if we believe it was by him, there it is to this day, a poignant reminder of the tragic fall of one of England’s most fascinating families, the only thing I was a bit disappointed about was his wife Jane was not shown in the series, I would have liked to have seen her played by an actress, she did after all share in George’s triumph’s and sorrow’s, but it was a lovely series and we got to see some beautiful places as well, we know also the costumes were true to life, unlike the Tudors which Alison Weir criticised for there inaccuracy, it was great seeing Claire’s name in the credits also, well done Claire!

    1. Banditqueen says:

      I loved this series and the historians did a fantastic job. I did think Anne’s reign aka part three could have been split into two parts or a longer episode. However, it was so moving with the Falcon badge and the connection to George. Seeing the men and women through their own eyes was wonderful. I was wondering the same thing about Jane Boleyn. It was great not to have the poor woman blamed for Anne and George’s downfall and top marks for that. But did we forget that George was married to her? Even Steve noticed that she was missing and he is usually clueless. He even remembered her name which is progress. He has also been told any questions, ask the historians, rather than me. It’s like 20 questions every time he sees a hist doc drama at in our house and because he cannot remember anything you tell him these days it’s the same 20 questions. He’s the same on holiday, he thinks I am an encyclopedia. I can’t even stop at a tomb to read who it is without him assuming I already know. Yes, I know everything, that’s why I am reading the guide book lol. The best was looking at the tomb of some famous person, can’t recall who and reading the side and he asked where they really in there? I was tired and hot and replied I haven’t got a clue, why don’t you lift the lid and have a look lol. You can imagine his face. They were actually there, rather than in the vault underneath. They were also known to be well preserved. Not that you could lift the lid but still.

      Yes, this has been the best and most important Boleyn documentary for ever. Can we have the same cast do a three part on Mary I and Edward vi please? I loved the three part on Jane Grey that was excellent. The wives have been done to death but the others need more exposure. Has anyone seen Katharine Williams on the Stuarts? Set in Gwydir Castle its fabulous. I have kept it and watch it often.

      Yes, excellent job and really enjoyed.

  7. Christine says:

    I would like to see one done on Henry’s other tragic queen, the young and equally fascinating Catherine Howard, since the Howard’s were linked by blood to Anne and George it would be interesting to see an account of Catherine’s short but colourful life, the Duke of Norfolk who featured in the Boleyn’s story was also involved in his other niece’s trials and tribulations, he was blamed later for withholding information regarding her past life, but in reality he knew nothing of Catherine’s free and easy lifestyle whilst in the care of her grandmother, neither of her trysts with Culpeper the latter of course which we know was a closely guarded secret, and when he discovered he must have felt as horrified and aghast as the king, he was responsible for bringing her to court and this after all, was the second time the reputation of family member was brought into disrepute.

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