The Second Anne Boleyn by Elizabeth Norton

Elizabeth Norton
Elizabeth Norton

Following in from her recent article, “The First Anne Boleyn”, historian and author Elizabeth Norton has kindly written this article on Anne Hoo’s daughter, the second Anne Boleyn…

I wrote an article recently on Anne Hoo Boleyn, the first recorded Anne Boleyn. Thanks to Anne Hoo’s importance in the family, her first name became a popular one for her descendants. The second Anne Boleyn was her daughter, the great-aunt of Queen Anne Boleyn.

This Anne was the second of the three daughters of Sir Geoffrey Boleyn and his second wife, Anne Hoo, the daughter of Lord Hoo and Hastings. The family’s eldest daughter, Isabel, was born in 1453 and Anne was probably born a few years later. She also had two brothers, Thomas (born between 1442 and 1445) and William, and a younger sister, Alice. During Anne’s childhood, the family divided their time between London, where Geoffrey’s business interests were based and their home at Blickling Hall in Norfolk, which had been purchased in 1452.

Before his death, Geoffrey Boleyn had turned his attentions to the marriages of his three daughters. Competition for suitable husbands was strong, as a letter written in November 1454 by Thomas Howes, an agent of Sir John Falstolf, shows. Howes wrote to the Norfolk gentleman, John Paston, to say that he had raised the possibility of a marriage between Paston’s daughter and a young ward of Falstolf’s. Matters had moved so far that Howes had ‘enquired after the said child, and no doubt of but he is likely and of great wit, as I hear be reported of sundry persons’. However, Howes also had a warning for Paston that, whilst this promising child would be perfect for a Paston daughter, ‘I am credibly informed, that Geoffrey Boleyn maketh great labour for marriage of the said child to one of his daughters’. Howes assured Paston of his own personal support, declaring that while he wished well to Geoffrey, he wished better to Paston. Perhaps Anne was the daughter considered? If so, the proposed match, as was so often the case in the medieval period, came to nothing. She was still unmarried at the time of her father’s death in 1463 when she was aged younger than ten.

Anne, along with her brothers and sisters, was left well provided for by her father’s Will. As well as extensive sums to charity, Geoffrey ensured that his two sons, Thomas and William, would each receive 300 marks, while his three daughters were each given the substantial sum of 1000 marks – something that made them very eligible indeed. Anne also had hopes of some of her father’s silver, which was to be divided between the five children at the discretion of their mother and uncle. Given her youth, Anne’s bequest was, unsurprisingly, not to be paid directly to her. All the gifts to the children were conditional on them either reaching the age of twenty-five or marrying, a common enough provision where large sums were involved. The funds for the eldest sister, Isabel, were to be held by Geoffrey Randolf, a merchant and friend of Geoffrey Boleyn’s. Two apprentices of Geoffrey’s took on the role of trustee for the younger daughters’ legacies. Significantly, although Anne’s mother was not appointed to act as trustee for any of her children, she was given considerable control over the futures of all her offspring, with Geoffrey requiring that any of his children who wished to marry before the age of 25, must do so only with the consent of their mother and uncle. In the event that they disregarded this provision, then they would lose their rights to their money, a threat that was sufficient to ensure that they all obeyed.

After her father’s death, Anne remained with her mother in Norfolk, spending time both in Norwich and at Blickling. The family was a close one, with the daughters continuing to visit their mother even after their marriages. Anne’s eldest sister, Isabel, married William Cheyne, a gentleman of the Isle of Sheppey. While Cheyne was a younger son, it was a solid match for the mercantile Boleyns, given that his father was the wealthy Sir John Cheyne and his brother would later become a knight of the garter. Isabel bore her husband two sons, Francis and William. She died in 1485, while still only in her early thirties. Isabel’s husband who was a staunch supporter of Henry VII, did well under the first Tudor king, receiving a number of grants after Bosworth. Isabel did not live to see the new royal favour that her husband enjoyed. While her husband was serving as sheriff of Kent in 1485 she went to visit her family at Blickling, where she died suddenly. She was buried in the church there.

While Isabel moved away from home for her marriage, Anne took a local gentleman as her husband. Sir Henry Heydon had been a friend of her father since at least 1452 when it was falsely rumoured that he had asked Geoffrey to purchase Blickling on his behalf. Heydon was an excellent match for Anne and they were married by March 1467 when, as a married woman, she visited Norwich in the company of her mother and unmarried sister, Alice. Heydon enjoyed prominence as the steward of Cecily, Duchess of York, the mother of Edward IV and Richard III. He was also a Norfolk landowner. He owned a house at West Wickham in Kent and was knighted in 1485. He died in 1503, requesting that he be buried in Norwich Cathedral.

Anne’s Will survives and demonstrates something of the wealthy and comfortable life that she led as a widow. She lived to a good age, dying in May 1510 in the second year of Henry VIII’s reign. In her Will which was dated less than six months before her death, she declared that she was in full and whole mind, before requesting that ‘my sinful body to be buried in the chapel of Saint Luke in the Cathedral church of the Holy Trinity of Norwich if I die in Norwich or in Norfolk’. She also left a bequest for the repair of the cathedral, on the condition that she was indeed granted a burial there and that a solemn dirge and requiem mass were said for her soul. Gifts were given to the prior, sub-prior and to each of the monks in order for them to pray for her.

Anne was living in Norwich at the time of her death and had evidently involved herself with the poor of the city, requesting that her executors should give alms to poor householders there, especially those ‘that be dwelling within the parish that I dwell in’. There were gifts to the friars of the city for the good of her soul. She was clearly pious, as can be seen by the religious apparatus listed in her Will. One bequest, for example, involved a gift to Thomas Landons as payment for a primer that she had received from his father. She possessed a number of rosaries, including one made of amber beads.

Like her father, Anne took a great interest in preparations for her own funeral, declaring in her Will that:

‘There be provided xij beadmen [i.e. people to pray for her] of the poorest persons to hold light about mine hearse and each of the to have a black gown of frieze and 5d in money, and each of them to say a dirge and mass at y burying our Lady’s psalter and 5 pater noster 5 avas and a creed’.

Her grave was to be marked with a slab of marble displaying her image and her arms. Anne arranged for an ‘honest and virtuous’ priest to be found who would sing and pray for her at Cambridge while also attending to his learning there. She had already been responsible for funding the studies of one scholar, Master English, and she specifically requested that he be appointed to sing and pray for her after her death, a reasonable request by a patron. She clearly valued education, as her great-niece and namesake, Queen Anne Boleyn, would also later do.

During her lifetime, Anne was wealthy enough to employ her own chaplain, a Sir John Caley, and she also had a household of servants and attendants. These household servants were to receive black gowns from her executors, providing that they attended her funeral. Charitably, Anne ordered that her household be kept in place for three months after her death, a period calculated to give her servants sufficient time to find new employment for themselves although some way below the usual one year’s wages that servants in a royal household could expect.

While Anne Boleyn Heydon’s charitable gifts give an insight into her character, it is the bequests that she was able to make that demonstrate her wealthy lifestyle. As well as living mainly in Norwich, she kept a house in Kent, leaving her household goods there to her eldest son, John. Her daughter, Dorothy Cobham, received:

‘Three goblets of silver and gilt with one cover to the same, a psalter covered with blue velvet, one pair beads of gold, my chain of gold, one seler [i.e. a bed canopy] and tester with the covering of blue damask, iii curtains of blue sarcenet, one cushion of tawny and purple velvet, one pair fustions, vi pair sheets, mine hanging of cloth of arras’.

Her daughter, Bridget Paston, was given rich household furnishings, as well as a featherbed and two of the best sheets. She received two salts of silver and gilt, a silver gilt cover and two pillows. Bridget’s husband, who was favoured by his mother-in-law, received two silver pots. For a third daughter, Anne Dymoke, there was a standing cup with a cover and a cross of gold while her husband received a silver and gilt bowl. A younger son, Henry, gained a silver basin and ewer, as well as two featherbeds and bedding. He also received hangings of yellow and red which had decorated his mother’s own great chamber. An unmarried daughter, Margaret was willed blankets, a tapestry coverlet and fine cushions. Margaret may have had a pious reason for the fact that she remained unmarried as her mother also passed her some of her religious paraphernalia, including two silver chalices and a vestment made of fine cloth of Baudkin, which was a particularly rich fabric interwoven with threads of gold. She received a specific bequest of all other goods ‘that pertaineth to the altar except that is bequest before and after’.

Anne Boleyn Heydon remained on good terms with all her children, also remembering her grandchildren in her Will. A grandson, George Cobham, for example, was to receive two salts of silver and gilt with a cover, to be delivered to him when he reached the age of twenty-one, with his father keeping the items safe for him in the meantime. Anne took steps to provide for George’s upbringing, leaving him an annuity of ten shillings per year for five years to be delivered to his mother. George’s sister, Anne Cobham, received money towards her marriage, which was to be paid to her mother in the meantime, whilst another granddaughter, Frances Gurney, received an annual sum for her living expenses until she married. Frances also received a number of rich bequests and money for her marriage. She was a particular favourite of her grandmother, who bequeathed her all her gowns and furs.

Anne delighted in her family in her old age, spending time with her children and grandchildren. Her Will notes that she acted as godmother to a number of her grandchildren, something that suggests a particular closeness towards them and their parents. Furthermore, she made a gift of twenty shillings to one Elizabeth Thomas, a servant of her daughter, Dorothy Cobham: clearly, mother and daughter were frequently enough in each other’s company for them to be familiar, and even friendly, with each other’s servants.

Anne Boleyn Heydon – the second Anne Boleyn – was a great lady in her own right, presiding over a rich household and proving an important figure in the upbringing of her children. She can never have imagined that the granddaughter of her brother, William, who was given her name, would one day become queen of England.

You can read more about Anne and other members of the family in my book, Boleyn Women, which is due to be published on 28 July 2013. It can be pre-ordered at Amazon UK and The story of the women of the family, particularly those that came before Queen Anne Boleyn, is fascinating, showing the family as they rose from peasant origins to the throne. If you are interested in Anne Boleyn Heydon, the sources used and references are all in Boleyn Women. You can also contact me through my website or my blog:

Boleyn Women

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5 thoughts on “The Second Anne Boleyn by Elizabeth Norton”
  1. Interesting and detailed article. A pity that we don’t have such information/sources available re Queen Anne B. Many thanks

  2. Hello Elizabeth, just to let you know that William Cheyne of the Isle of Sheppey was a younger son but his elder brother Edmund had died, probably in infancy, thereby making him his father’s heir. My article ‘The Minster Yorkist: An Armoured Effigy in the Abbey Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Sexburgha, Minster, Isle of Sheppey, Kent’ gives more information on the Cheyne’s and appeared in the Ricardian in 2011.

  3. Was her granddaughter Frances Gurney, the wife of William Gurney aka Gourney?, they had a daughter Frances 1521-1571, who married Richard Graves the son of John Graves 1513-1616.

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