It was wonderful to see my dear friend and co-author, Dr Owen Emmerson (Hever’s historian and assistant curator) and some familiar faces such as Anna Whitelock, Tracy Borman, Elizabeth Goldring and Nicola Tallis, featured in last night’s “Who Do You Think You Are?”, along with my happy place (Hever Castle), and other wonderful places such as Greys Court and Hampton Court Palace.

In the programme, which aired in the UK on BBC One, comedian Josh Widdicombe was having his family tree examined and he had an incredibly interesting one.

Spoiler alert…

He was excited enough to find out that he was descended from Henry Rich, 1st Earl of Holland – Groom of the Stool to King Charles I and a man who ended his life on the scaffold due to being a Royalist in the Second English Civil War – but then things got even more interesting. He found out that he was descended from Lettice Devereux (née Knollys) who, of course, was the daughter of Sir Francis Knollys and Catherine Carey. Catherine, in turn, was the daughter of William Carey and Mary Boleyn, sister of Queen Anne Boleyn. Josh was amazed that he was descended from the Boleyns and, of course, related to Queen Elizabeth I.

Owen then revealed to Josh that he was descended from King Edward I. What a lineage!

You can catch up on the episode if you have access to BBC iPlayer at

Cheeky book plug alert…

If you want to learn more about the Boleyn family and Hever Castle, why not get hold of a copy of The Boleyns of Hever Castle by Owen Emmerson and Claire Ridgway (yes, me!). I hear it’s quite good!

You can find out more at… and it’s available as a paperback and kindle e-book. Owen has also signed some copies for the Hever Castle online shop – see…

If you want to know more about the Boleyn family tree then hear are some articles for you:

Photo nicked from Owen – thanks Owen!

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9 thoughts on “The Boleyns in Who Do You Think You Are?”
  1. Ooops, just realised I have put “hear” instead of “here” lol! I think my painkillers are affecting my ability to write, and it won’t let me edit it!

    1. Are you unwell Claire? Sorry to hear that, there’s a nasty virus where I live and I havnt been well for a week now, getting better though slowly, but surely.

      1. Oh no, I’m sorry that you’ve been unwell, but glad you’re on the mend.
        Yes, I’ve got a rather nasty trapped nerve, which started in August and is showing no signs of going away. They’re finally prescribed something that takes away the majority of the pain, but it does make me drowsy.

        1. They are painful a trapped nerve can cause sciatica as well, Iv had a stiff neck and shoulders due to my cat taking up most of the bed, I’m scrunched up on one side unfortunately, necks ok now but shoulders still a bit stiff, glad you’re getting better though, and if you feel drowsy just have a nap, let Tim and the kids do the cooking and washing up!

  2. I watched the programme last night, very interesting, although I was talking to the TV as I knew who the Knowles and Katherine Carey was, saying tell him about Mary Boleyn, which seemed to take forever. Glad to see so many familiar faces and places of interest. It was lovely seeing Hampton Court and Hever and the tomb of Francis Knowles and Catherine’s in Westminster Abbey. Where else? Ah yes, the romantic and splendid ruins of Kenilworth. That was some party our Robert threw for the Queen, Elizabeth I for nineteen days. He hoped to marry her but that wasn’t ever going to be possible. Dudley found another wife in Lettice Knowles, Countess of Essex after her husband died in Ireland, which infuriated Queen Elizabeth, who called her a she wolf and banished her from Court. Lettice is buried with Robert Dudley in Saint John’s Collegiate Church in the Beauchamp Chapel in Warwick. That’s an even more magnificent tomb. It wasn’t shown on the programme but the one of Catherine in Westminster Abbey was very beautiful and has a wonderful inscription all about her ancestors. Her sixteen children are represented around the base of her tomb. The revelation about her mother being Mary Boleyn was the best and it was a surprise for Josh Widdercombe, especially learning her sister was Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I mother. His face was a real picture of amazement. I am glad that Owen only said some historians think Catherine may have been as the result of Mary’s affair with Henry Viii, not that she was his daughter, which the papers where going on about. We do know that some historians do believe Henry fathered Catherine or Henry Carey but this wasn’t ever verified. Katherine Jones believed Henry was their father and Amy Licence believed it was a possibility. It’s of course correct that nobody gave this any backing as historians should only proceed on what can be established as evidence.

    It was a really interesting episode and great seeing so many historical and important locations. The work which goes into these programmes must be incredibly hard and rewarding and resources must be very good. Enjoyed.

    1. I too watched it and I thought Catherine’s tomb was magnificent, I had never seen it before and it really is splendid, like a royal tomb also her children kneeling beside I thought was beautiful, I would have liked to see Henry Carys tomb also because I may have a link back to him, and I was thinking of Claire when Owen came in, it was a very interesting programme because for us anyway, it was mostly about the Boleyn’s, i to was glad Owen mentioned the possibility of Catherine’s father being the kings because, as an historian he knows there is no definite proof, I know Alison Weir says she could have been his daughter but it’s up to the individual what they choose to believe based on several theories, it really does make the mind boggle and I wonder what people thought at the time, maybe Mary herself did not know whom her daughters father was, imagine the frustration! But here we have it, there’s only a real possibility of Henry V111 being her father if their affair ended about nine months before Catherine was born, and we have no knowledge of how long it lasted or wether it had just been a few nights or one night even, Mary was married of to William Cary the kings cousin and companion and for Henry her second child to have been his son, meant that they were sleeping together during her marriage, personally I can’t see that, would Henry have wished to cuckold his friend and own blood kin, where doubts would have arisen over the parentage of any children born ? But was Mary Boleyn married to Cary because she was carrying Henry’s child and he wanted to make sure she was provided for, neither did he want any speculation about another bastard born which make his Queen upset, and this is very important, Catherine was just a girl and not an all important son, if Mary Boleyn had given birth to another little Fitzroy then surely that child’s parentage would have been proclaimed by the king himself, just like his other base born son, but Catherine was a girl and so her parentage would be kept a secret the king had no need to acknowledge a bastard daughter, it was some time after he became involved with Anne, as for Henry Cary had he been the kings then he surely would have had honours showered on him, for he was a son, but the king was silent about both Mary Boleyn’s children, I can see why there is speculation over Catherine’s parentage but not her younger brothers, he was born several years into his mother’s marriage there is no doubt in my mind he was Carys offspring, I think there is a very valid argument for him being the son of Cary, he to has a magnificent tomb, when they showed the family tree going back to Lord Rich, I knew there was the Boleyn connection because one of Lettice’s daughters married into the Rich family, Penelope or Dorothy I think, Lettice was said to have been the best looking woman at court auburn haired like the queen seductive and a bit of a minx, Plaidy’s historical novel about the eternal triangle called ‘ My Enemy The Queen’ is great reading, so if any on here has not read it I heartily recommend they do, it is told in Lettice’s own words and you come to feel very sorry for her, she endured years of banishment from the queen who kept her husband with her at court out of jealous spite, for daring to marry her favourite and she did live a very long life, dying at the age of ninety four, she did live a most eventful life and had long outlived the queen and the Earl of Leicester, as indeed most of her contemporaries.

      1. I saw Catherine’s tomb back many years ago, along with all the others in Westminster Abbey and they are really magnificent, although I do feel the Protestant tombs are even more elaborate and self glorified than the older Medieval ones. I think its a touching addition to have family members as weepers kneeling around the tomb of the parents. 15 children I recall now they said, with a 16th possibly didn’t live very long. If you look closely there is a lot of detail in tombs. You can even see embroidery and the hairstyle of the person and their badges and collars etc. That inscription is very informative about who Lady Catherine was. Its a whole family tree practically. I love the scrolls of the family trees. Very simple but distinctive.

        Saw Dudley and Lettice tomb in Warwick 2019. Some really fancy tombs in Ludlow as well. The Sidney tombs are my favourite. Henry Sidney was the brother of Philip Sydney and he was the first permanent head of the Council of the Marches. This was to quell some of the trouble the Marcher Lords caused. His daughter, Ambrosia was eleven when she died and she has her tomb with her parents in the Chancel of the Church. Its a moving tomb because it has a lament for Ambrosia on it. There must have been an abundance of colourful marble because they are all made from volcanic stone or coloured marble.

        Robert Dudley and Lettice had a young son but he died between the ages of three and nine. I think some sources said three but a memorial plaque at Warwick says he was nine. The tomb looks too big for a three year old child. Maybe he was something in the middle and people forget about his true age. It happened a lot it seems.

        The most obscure memorial in Warwick is a tiny plaque on the floor by the Dudley tomb to Sir William Parr, the brother of Katharine Parr who wanted his unfaithful wife burnt alive for adultery. He was taken ill at Warwick in the 1550s and died from plaque while there. He was placed in a very simple grave. There is just a tiny plaque on the floor and you could easily miss it. I guess he was merely placed in a shroud and buried in a hurry because of infection. The plaque is black and gold and looks lost in the middle of all of those grand tombs.

        The best tomb I have ever seen is the high spiral encased tomb of Richard 13th Earl of Warwick, father in law to the Kingmaker. It was placed in the centre of the Beauchamp Chapel built for him. Its gold and brass and his body has this unusual cage of gold over it. Its very high and around him are members of the family as weepers, the King maker included. You need a ladder in order to see it properly.

  3. Sorry you are still unwell, Claire, pain killers are great but they do make you do weird things. Mine put me to sleep. I can’t concentrate if I take more than two. It’s a painful thing a trapped nerve and takes time to heal. Hope you get better soon.

    You, too, Christine, hope you get over this virus and back in action soon. I wasn’t too good over the weekend thanks to the high jinks of Scottish Power. Earlier this morning, around 2 a.m I had a really bad reflux and it took a lot out of me so it was a rest and recovery day today. Feeling much better and hopefully going to the Albert Dock for some retail therapy.

    Take care both of you and get better soon.

    1. Thanks Lynn Marie, I may go into work Friday, been off for over a week, I have missed the place and having a laugh with the customers, most of them anyway, that acid reflux is nasty I always keep Rennie’s with me if I have a sudden attack, laying of junk food helps and alcohol, I hope you have a nice shopping spree.

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