#WednesdayFact – It is a myth that Anne Boleyn changed her name from Bullen to Boleyn to be more sophisticated?

Anne Boleyn's inscription from her Book of HoursI often see comments on social media about how the Boleyns’ surname was originally “Bullen” and that they, or Anne herself, changed it to “Boleyn” to be more sophisticated, to “Frenchify” it.

But that’s just not true?

Anyone who spends time reading primary sources will know that there was no standardised spelling in Tudor times. I’ve even come across “king” written in different ways in the same paragraph: “king”, kinge”, “kyng” etc. It’s quite funny at times.

And the Boleyn family’s surname is no different. There are so very many variations of it in 16th century sources, but “Boleyn” does seem to be the most common.

Read more in my article “Boleyn or Bullen – The Spelling of Boleyn and the Myth that Anne Boleyn Changed It”.

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One thought on “#WednesdayFact – It is a myth that Anne Boleyn changed her name from Bullen to Boleyn to be more sophisticated?”
  1. Anne’s Boleyn genealogy is interesting and she could well have been descended from the Counts of Bolougne, after the Normandy invasion the victors settled in England married and had mistresses, and as a result millions of people today have Norman / French blood in them, many an English person and Americans too can trace their lineage back to the distant past if they have notable ancestors, whilst we can understand Anne having the need to promote her noble lineage, after all she had supplanted a princess of the blood royal, and to many she was unworthy to wear the crown, she could well have had knowledge of her roots which had been handed down through the Boleyn family tree for generations, of course some tales are merely that just tales, but there could well be an element of truth in them that the Boleyn family did originate from the Counts of Boulogne, many a persons name and title came from the area they were born in and did business in, and Boleyn could have derived from Boulogne, Anne had aristocratic lineage on her mothers side being a descendent of Edward 1st and her Howard relations were insufferably haughty and proud, her aunt the Duchess herself was the daughter of the Duke of Buckingham – a Stafford, another notoriously proud family, it would be very much in Anne’s favour if she could prove the Boleyn’s were just as noble, the spelling of her name as mentioned had no bearing on how Anne viewed herself however, as there was indeed no right way of spelling in Tudor times and old documents have proved that, the language for centuries were a mixture of French and English and the old English names after 1066 had De before them in the French version, in the centuries following many dropped the De from their surnames and they became more English, many of Anne’s enemies including Chapyus and her troublesome aunt scoffed at Anne’s proud boast that she was descended from the Norman aristocracy but she could well have been, the quaint little letter she wrote to her father as a child from Savoy where she signs herself Bouillaine ( forgive my spelling errors ), is enchanting and besides one must remember she had lived in France for many years and how she spelt her name there was in that country’s style, when one looks at Bullen and Boleyn the latter does look more attractive and the y gives it a lilt, when one says Bullen it’s just like saying Bull – en, does not sound half as nice, that the family did originate from Norfolk is clear and her ancestor Geoffrey Boleyn was a mercer who made his fortune in London, Anne was Norfolk born but she would have remembered little of that wild county since Sir Thomas moved his family to Hever Castle in Kent, Geoffrey was rising high when he bacame Lord Mayor of London, but his descendant Sir Thomas rose even higher, holding important positions at court, and having a peerage bestowed on him, his daughter out rose them both, becoming Queen, really in terms of lineage Anne was more nobly born then his other queens, except Katherine from Aragon, and her cousin Catherine who herself was a Howard.

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