The link between Anne Boleyn and St Thomas Becket

Posted By on June 27, 2013

Martyrdom of St Thomas BecketJust a quick post to alert you to the fact that historian Elizabeth Norton has just published an interesting article on her blog about the link between Anne Boleyn and St Thomas Becket – see Anne Boleyn and St Thomas Becket.

It is not something I have mentioned here on The Anne Boleyn Files, but I mentioned it in a recent webinar I did on Anne Boleyn and the Butlers over at The Anne Boleyn Fellowship:

“Thomas Boleyn [Anne Boleyn’s father] had obviously been close to his grandfather because Thomas Butler left him an important bequest – a white horn of ivory garnished at both ends with gold, covered with gold-barred white silk and with a gold terret ring so that it could be connected to a chain. Family legend had it that it had been in the family since the time of Theobald Walter, in the reign of Henry II, and that the famous martyr, Thomas à Becket had drunk from it. In his will, Thomas Butler gave instructions for it to be passed on to Sir Thomas Boleyn “to keep it for the use of his male issue.” The fact that Butler left it to Thomas Boleyn, rather than the son of his eldest daughter, Anne, shows that the two men must have been close.” (Archaeologia: or Miscellaneous Tracts Relating to Antiquity, III, London, 1775, p20-21)

It is an interesting link and it sounds like a beautiful object.

Mary Boleyn and Queen Elizabeth II ...
Mary Boleyn and Queen Elizabeth II - The Anne Boleyn Files

Do check out Elizabeth Norton’s blog for other excellent articles –

9 thoughts on “The link between Anne Boleyn and St Thomas Becket”

  1. Lauren says:

    This item was looked at in a PhD on Thomas Boleyn several years ago, but it’s nice to see the info out there again.

    1. Claire says:

      Yes, William Dean mentioned it in his 1987 thesis, I think. For those who want to read more about the horn, Thomas Butler’s will can be found in Archaeologia: or Miscellaneous Tracts Relating to Antiquity Volume III p20-21 which is available online at Google books. The horn is described in detail there. It sounds beautiful.

      1. Claire says:

        Another reference for the horn, and the link with Becket, is “A History of the Life of James Duke of Ormonde, Volume 1” by Thomas Carte. It’s also available on Google Books and the reference is on p xliv – see

        1. Leslie says:

          It does sound beautiful. Any record of what happened to the horn after Thomas Boleyn’s death?

        2. Claire says:

          Thomas Butler’s will stated that if Thomas Boleyn had no male issue then it would go to “Sir George St. Leger and his issue male”, so I assume on Thomas Boleyn’s death that it passed to the St. Leger family because George Boleyn died before Thomas Boleyn.

  2. Esther says:

    I agree it sounds beautiful … thanks for the article. Would Henry Carey (Thomas’s grandson by Mary) qualify as “issue male”?

    1. Claire says:

      Perhaps he would if George St Leger didn’t have a son but I think Thomas Butler meant for it to go from father to son.

      1. Hi Claire and Esther,

        Under the terms of the Will, in the event that Thomas Boleyn did not leave male heirs of his own, the seventh Earl asked that the horn be passed to another grandson, Sir George St Leger. In the event that this male line also failed, it was to pass first to any other male heirs of his two daughters, before being bequeathed to the male heirs of his father, the fourth earl, which were represented in the person of Piers Butler, a descendant of the fourth earl’s younger brother: ‘so that it may continue still in my blood hereafter as long as it shall please God’

        Henry Carey therefore wouldn’t qualify, although Wills were not always followed (as a number of chancery cases testify), so who knows where the horn ended up?

        If you want to see the seventh Earl’s original Will, you can download it from the National Archives website ( It’s reference number PROB 11/18. The printed text in Archaeologia is not perfect so, if you are interested in the Will, it is worth looking at the original.

  3. gordon says:

    found this very interesting as im related to Thomas becket through maria welsh becket

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