Family Group Sheet
Family Group Sheet
NameThomas BOLEYN 1st Earl of Wiltshire
SpouseLady Elizabeth HOWARD
MotherElizabeth TILNEY (1445-1497)
Notes for Thomas BOLEYN 1st Earl of Wiltshire
Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, 1st Earl of Ormond[2] KG[3] KB (c. 1477 – 12 March 1539) was an English diplomat and politician in the Tudor era. He was born at the family home, Hever Castle, Kent, which had been purchased by his grandfather Geoffrey Boleyn, who was a wealthy mercer. He was buried at St. Peter's parish church in the village of Hever. His parents were Sir William Boleyn (1451 – 10 October 1505) and Lady Margaret Butler (1454–1539). He was the father of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII of England. As such, he was the maternal grandfather of Queen Elizabeth I.

Marriage and issue[edit]

Sometime before 1499, Boleyn married Lady Elizabeth Howard, eldest daughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk and Elizabeth Tilney. They had five children, only three of whom survived childhood: [4]

Mary Boleyn (c.1499 – 19 July 1543); Lady Mary Carey (1520–1528); Lady Stafford (1534–1543)
Thomas Boleyn the younger (c. 1500 - ) (thought to have died young) [4]
Anne Boleyn (c.1501 – 19 May 1536); later Marquess of Pembroke (1532–1536); later Queen Consort of England (1533–1536)
Henry Boleyn (c. 1502/03 - ) (thought to have died young)
George Boleyn (c. 1504 – 17 May 1536); later Viscount Rochford (1529–1536) by courtesy
Diplomatic career[edit]

In 1503, he helped escort Margaret Tudor north for her marriage to James IV of Scotland.[5] He was created a Knight of the Bath at Henry VIII's coronation in 1509.[6]
His appointment as ambassador to the Low Countries brought him into contact with the regent Archduchess Margaret of Austria. Like Thomas, she spoke French and Latin and they got along well enough for her to accept his daughter Anne as a maid of honour.[7]
Through his ability and the connections of his extended family, he became one of the king's leading diplomats. Known appointments and missions included:
1511 and 1517: High Sheriff of Kent
1512: One of a party of three envoys to the Netherlands.
1518–1521 : ambassador to France, where he was involved in arrangements for the "Field of Cloth of Gold" meeting between Henry and the new French King Francis I in 1520.
1521 and 1523 : Envoy to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.
1527: One of a large envoy to France
1529: Envoy to a meeting of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Pope Clement VII, to seek support for the annulment of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. This was followed by another envoy to France.
Titles garnered[edit]

Boleyn was invested as a Knight of the Garter (KG) in 1523.

Boleyn's claim to his other titles derived from his mother, Lady Margaret Butler who was the younger daughter and co-heir of Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormond.[10] Thomas Butler, as an Irish peer, should only have sat in the Irish parliament. However as a personal friend of Henry VII he was summoned to the English parliament in November 1488 as "Thomas Ormond de Rochford, chevaler". At this time, he was already 8th Earl of Carrick and 7th Earl of Ormond.[11] In English law, matrilineal descent is not considered valid for earldoms. This usual prohibition was, in Boleyn's case, outweighed by a more important consideration - he was the father of two pretty daughters. Henry VIII dallied firstly with Boleyn's elder daughter Mary, then his younger daughter, Anne. Boleyn's ambition was so considerable that unsubstantiated rumours had it that he even allowed his own wife to have an affair with the king, but those were created in order to steer the king away from marrying Anne, even suggesting that she was his own daughter.[12]

When it was claimed that Henry had had an affair with both Anne's sister and mother, the king replied to the rumours "Never with the mother."[13]

In 1525, Henry VIII became enamoured of Anne and began pursuing her. Coincidentally, her father was elevated to the peerage as Viscount Rochford on 18 June 1525.[14] The title referred to the "barony" of Rochford supposedly created in 1488 for his grandfather. The title had fallen into abeyance as Ormond had died without any male heir in 1515.
As Henry's infatuation for Anne intensified, so did her father's titles. Henry arranged for the main claimant to the earldom of Ormond, Piers Butler to renounce all his claims to the titles in 1529. Coincidentally, Piers Butler was rewarded for his generosity by being created Earl of Ossory five days later.

Boleyn's claims to the Earldom of Wiltshire also depended upon his Irish relatives. This time, he had to go back to his maternal great-grandfather, James Butler, 5th Earl of Ormond, to establish a claim. While James Butler was indeed the 1st Earl of Wiltshire (of the third creation), on 1 May 1461 he lost his titles, along with his head, when he was executed by the victorious Yorkists. The title was subsequently revived (in fourth and fifth creations) and bestowed on parties unrelated to the Butlers of Ormond. This did not prevent the creation of the Earldom, for the 6th time. On 8 December 1529, Thomas Boleyn, Viscount Rochford, was created Earl of Wiltshire and Earl of Ormond.[10]

Also on 8th December 1529, the Earl of Wiltshire's only surviving son, George, was granted the courtesy title of Viscount Rochford. His title of Viscount, although initially a courtesy title, ceased to be a mere courtesy title sometime before 13 July 1530.[10][15] On 17 May 1536, Lord Rochford was executed for treason, and all his titles were forfeited.[10][16] His widow, Jane, Viscountess Rochford, however, continued to use the title after her husband's death. Lady Rochford was herself attainted for treason and beheaded on Tower Hill on 13 February 1542 with Queen Katherine Howard, the King's fifth wife.[17] [18]

Boleyn was appointed Lord Privy Seal in 1530. In 1532, his daughter Anne was granted a peerage, being created Marquess of Pembroke in her own right, before marrying Henry the following year and becoming queen consort. Boleyn acquiesced in her judicial execution and that of her brother Lord Rochford when Henry discarded her in favour of Jane Seymour. At this point Boleyn was replaced as Lord Privy Seal and left in disgrace until his death a few years later.[19] He suffered a final indignity as the claims of Piers Butler to the Earldom of Ormond were recognized and as he was styled earl of Ormond from 22 January 1538.[19] There were two earls of Ormond in the Kingdom until his death on 12 March 1539.[19]

In popular culture

Thomas Boleyn has been portrayed by Sir Michael Hordern in Anne of the Thousand Days (1969), by Benjamin Whitrow in Henry VIII, and by Jack Shepherd and Mark Rylance in the 2003 and 2008 film versions of The Other Boleyn Girl, respectively. The 2007 Showtime series The Tudors has Nick Dunning in the role depicting him as ambitious, cunning and devious, constantly working to curry favour for his family against everyone else and always willing to "motivate" his daughter, Anne, lest Henry lose interest in her.
Styles and honours[edit]

Sir Thomas Boleyn KG KB (1523–1525)
The Rt. Hon. The Viscount Rochford KG KB (1525–1527)
The Rt. Hon. The Earl of Wiltshire and of Ormond KG KB (8 December 1529[19]–1539)
Note: on 22 February 1538, the earldom of Ormond was restored to Piers Butler, 8th Earl of Ormond.
Notes for Lady Elizabeth HOWARD
Elizabeth Boleyn, Countess of Wiltshire (c. 1480 – 3 April 1538), born Lady Elizabeth Howard, was the older of the two daughters of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk and his first wife Elizabeth Tilney. Through her marriage, she held the titles of Countess of Wiltshire, Countess of Ormond and Viscountess Rochford. She is noted for being the mother of Anne Boleyn, who became the second wife of King Henry VIII of England. As such, she was also the maternal grandmother of Elizabeth I of England.

Marriage and issue[edit]

Little is known of her but a rough chronology of her life can be pieced together through the narratives, myths, and documents of her contemporaries and chroniclers.
Her family managed to survive the fall of their patron, King Richard III who was killed at Bosworth in 1485 and supplanted by the victor, King Henry VII, when she was about five years old. Elizabeth became a part of the royal court as a young girl. It was while she was at court, that she wed Thomas Boleyn, an ambitious young courtier, sometime before 1500, probably in 1498.[1] According to Thomas, his wife was pregnant many times in the next few years but only three children lived to adulthood. The three children were:
Mary Boleyn, mistress of Henry VIII of England (c. 1499 - 19 July 1543).

Anne Boleyn, queen consort of Henry VIII of England (c. 1501 - 19 May 1536 )
George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford (c. April 1504 - 17 May 1536).
As lady-in-waiting for the royal court[edit]

Throughout this time, Elizabeth was a lady-in-waiting at the royal court; first to Elizabeth of York and then to Catherine of Aragon. Based on later gossip, Elizabeth Boleyn must have been a highly attractive woman.[2] Rumours circulated when Henry was involved with Anne Boleyn that Elizabeth had once been his mistress, with the suggestion even being made that Anne Boleyn might be the daughter of Henry VIII.[3] However, despite recent attempts by one or two historians to rehabilitate this myth, it was denied by Henry and never mentioned in the dispensation he sought in order to make his union with Anne lawful. Most historians believe it is likely that this rumour began by confusing Elizabeth with Henry's more famous mistress Elizabeth Blount, or from the growing unpopularity of the Boleyn family after 1527.[4]

Scandals involving her daughters[edit]

In 1519, Elizabeth's daughters, Anne and Mary, were living in the French royal court as Ladies-in-waiting to the French Queen consort Claude. According to the papal nuncio in France fifteen years later, the French King Francis I had referred to Mary as, "my English mare"; and later in his life described her as "a great whore, the most infamous of all".[5]
In the words of historian M.L. Bruce, both Thomas and Elizabeth "developed feelings of dislike" for their daughter Mary.[5] In later years, Mary's romantic involvements would only further strain this relationship. Around 1520, the Boleyns managed to arrange Mary's marriage to Sir William Carey, a respected and popular man at court. It was sometime after the wedding that Mary became mistress to Henry VIII (the exact dates as to when the affair started and ended are unknown), although she never held the title of "official royal mistress," as the post did not exist in England. It has long been rumoured that one or both of Mary Boleyn's children were fathered by Henry and not Carey. Some historians, such as Alison Weir, now question whether Henry Carey was fathered by the King.[6] Few of Henry's mistresses were ever publicly honoured, except Elizabeth Blount, who was mentioned in Parliament and whose son, Henry Fitzroy was created Duke of Richmond and Somerset in an elaborate public ceremony in 1525.[7] Henry's relationship with Mary was so discreet that within ten years, some observers were wondering if it had ever taken place.[8]

In contrast to Mary, Elizabeth's other daughter, Anne, is thought to have had a close relationship with her mother. Elizabeth had been in charge of her children's early education including Anne's and she had taught her music and religion, as well as arithmetic, embroidery, the family genealogy, good manners, household management, reading, and writing.[9] In 1525, Henry VIII fell in love with Anne, and Elizabeth became her protective chaperone. She accompanied Anne to Court, since Anne was attempting to avoid a sexual relationship with the King.[10] Elizabeth travelled with Anne to view York Place after the fall of the Boleyn family's great political opponent, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey — an intrigue which had given Anne her first real taste of political power. She was crowned queen four years later.

Elizabeth remained in her daughter's household throughout her time as queen consort. Tradition has it that Anne's daughter, Elizabeth I was named after her maternal grandmother. However, it is more likely that she was named after Henry's mother, Elizabeth of York, although we cannot rule out the possibility that she was named after both grandmothers.

Elizabeth Boleyn sided with the rest of the family when her eldest daughter, Mary, was banished in 1535 for eloping with a commoner, William Stafford. Mary had initially expected her sister's support (Anne had been Mary's only confidante within the Boleyn family since 1529),[11] but Anne was furious at the breach of etiquette and refused to receive her.[12]

Only a year later, the family was overtaken by a greater scandal. Elizabeth's younger daughter, Anne, and her only living son, George, were executed on charges of treason, adultery and incest. Anne's two chief biographers, Eric Ives and Retha Warnicke, both concluded that these charges were fabricated.[13] They also agree that the King wanted to marry Jane Seymour. Beyond this obvious fact, the sequence of events is unclear and historians are divided about whether the key motivation for Anne's downfall was her husband's hatred of her or her political ambitions.[14] Despite the claims of several recent novels, academic historians agree that Anne was innocent and faithful to her husband. Nonetheless, the judges obeyed the King, condemning Anne, George Boleyn and four others to death. Elizabeth's husband, Thomas Boleyn and brother Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk provided no help to the condemned. The accused men were beheaded by the axe on 17 May 1536 and Anne was executed by a French swordsman two days later.

Following the annihilation of the family's ambitions, Elizabeth retired to the countryside. She died only two years after her two younger children and her husband died the following year. Elizabeth is buried in the Howard family chapel at St. Mary's Church, Lambeth. The church, decommissioned in 1972, is now the Garden Museum.

Titles from birth to death[edit]

Lady Elizabeth held a number of titles throughout her life, as the daughter of a Duke, then as the wife of a knight, viscount, and earl, respectively. Her titles through marriage chart the Boleyn family's rise to power.

c. 1480-1498: Lady Elizabeth Howard
1498-1523: Lady Elizabeth Boleyn
1523-1525: Lady Boleyn
1525-1527: The Right Honourable The Viscountess Rochford
1527-8 December 1529: The Right Honourable The Countess of Ormond
8 December 1529-3 April 1538: The Right Honourable The Countess of Wiltshire and Ormond
Last Modified 20 Apr 2014Created 28 Jan 2018 using Reunion for Macintosh