Anne Boleyn’s younger brother, George, was married to Jane Parker for over ten years. However, they never had children of their own. Often in Historical Fiction, one of the reasons why their marriage is viewed as an unhappy one is due to the lack of children produced. However, was it true that the couple never had children? There have been several people linked to George Boleyn, raising the question of whether he may have had an illegitimate heir.
The Boleyn Girls of Clonony
It may be possible that he had an illegitimate son who grew up in Ireland away from the English court. At Clonony Castle, Ireland, the remains of two bodies were found in the early 19th century. It is believed that these were the great granddaughters of George, Elizabeth and Mary Boleyn.
Clonony Castle had originally been given to the Henry VIII by John Og MacCoghlan. The castle was then given to Thomas Boleyn. According to the story, after George’s execution, his illegitimate son was moved to Clonony for safety. Therefore, Elizabeth and Mary were descended from this young boy.
The two girls, however, also met a tragic end. Elizabeth died young and Mary devastated, threw herself from Clonony Castle Tower. They were buried behind the castle and the grave was eventually forgotten about, until it was discovered in the 19th century. They were found under a tomb slab, which had the following inscription:
“Here under leys Elizabeth and Mary Bullyn daughters of Thomas Bullyn son of George Bullyn, the son of George Bullyn Viscount Rochford son of Sir Thomas Bullyn Earle of Ormonde and Wiltshire.”
The tomb slab was discovered by labourers who were gathering stone for building work near the castle, in 1803. They found a cave about hundred yards from the castle. In the cave they found a coffin cut in the Limestone rock, which contained the two bodies. The slab was referred to locally as the monument of “Queen Elizabeth’s cousins”.
At the time of the discovery, the Earl of Rosse, a descendant of Alice, daughter of Sir William Boleyn of Blickling, showed paintings to a journalist of two unknown, young women at Birr Castle. The paintings were marked to indicate that the girls were 18 and 19 years old when they were painted in 1567. The Earl suggested that these two young women in the portrait were Elizabeth and Mary Boleyn and were hence the girls found in the tomb.
However, it is believed that they are actually linked to the Boleyn family via the Clere family. Therefore, it’s possible that the girls were in fact Margaret and Elizabeth Clere, born in 1548 and 1547, daughters of John Clere of Ormesby St. Margaret, Norfolk. He was son of Robert Clere and Alice Boleyn, Anne’s aunt.
George Boleyn, Dean of Lichfield
George Boleyn, who was Dean of Lichfield from 1576 up to his death in 1603, has also been linked to Anne’s brother, George, as his son, either by Jane Parker, or illegitimately. The Dean referred to himself as a kinsman of the Carey and Knollys family, who were both families linked to Mary Boleyn.
In 1597, George Carey, 2nd Baron Hunsdon and Mary Boleyn’s grandson, sent a letter to Lord Burghley asking for advice petitioning Elizabeth I, concerning the earldom of Ormond. This earldom had once been held by his great-grandfather, Thomas Boleyn, so Hunsdon’s claim was that he believed that the title should have been handed down to his father and then, to himself because of their connection to Thomas’ eldest daughter, Mary Boleyn. So, if George Boleyn, Dean of Lichfield, was in fact George Boleyn’s son, wouldn’t it have been the case that he should have petitioned about his claim to the title instead of George Carey? However, this issue was not raised at the time, so adding doubt to whether he was George Boleyn’s son.
In the end, Thomas Boleyn passed on the ancestral claim to the St Leger branch of the family – because his son, George Boleyn, had died without a son. Therefore, if the Dean was George’s son, there’s no doubt that he would have inherited it. Even if the Dean was illegitimate, it would have still been expected that he would have been looked after in some way and recognised by the surviving Boleyn relatives. If George Boleyn did have an illegitimate son, there would have been no reason for him not to recognise him, especially as he had no legitimate heirs with Jane.
Even though it seems unlikely that Jane and George had children of their own, one thing we do definitely know is that in April 1533, Jane and George were granted wardship of twelve year old Edmund Sheffield. This was probably the nearest they experienced to some kind of parenthood.
Edmund was a distant relation of the King and being granted his wardship was a reward from the King to Jane and George for their loyalty to him. Edmund was the son of Sir Robert Sheffield and his wife, Jane Stanley, who was the daughter of George Stanley, Lord Strange. His father had died in 1531 and Edmund would be the heir to his father’s land in Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire. Not only was this wardship a reward for their loyalty to the King, but it also meant if Jane and George did have a girl, Edmund could be a potential husband for her.
As George’s wife, it would have been Jane’s duty to produce an “heir”. Therefore, for Jane to be married to George for that long and still not have at least one child, this would have been seen as very odd by 16th century standards. Unfortunately, there are no records of miscarriages and we can’t rule out the possibility that either or both Jane and George may have suffered from fertility problems.
Even though there are no records of Jane having miscarriages, this doesn’t mean they didn’t happen. It is possible that Jane maybe did eventually fall pregnant. However, as there are no records of Jane having children with George, if Jane did fall pregnant, unfortunately the children were not carried to full term.
The question on whether George and Jane did have children of their own is definitely still a much debated area. The gaps in what we know so far, have been filled in by Historical Fiction and in most cases, this has not necessarily been a good thing, as it has on its own helped to fuel the idea their marriage was an unhappy one.
It is through my connections to the Tudor world online that I ran into author Adrienne Dillard. Adrienne is a total sweetheart and sent me her book to review after I asked her to write an article about Jane Boleyn for my site. I already had a growing “To Be Read” pile going on but I moved her book closer to the top because I was reading about Katheryn Howard at the time and I thought Jane Boleyn would be a great follow-up book. I wasn’t sure what to expect since this is the first book by Dillard that I’ve read. She has also written Cor Rotto – A Novel of Catherine Carey and Catherine Carey in a Nutshell.
Jane Boleyn, or Jane Parker, Lady Rochford is often portrayed as a villain in novels and TV series such as Showtime’s The Tudors. It is because of those depictions that average people like you and me get our first impressions of Tudor “characters” from. I’ve always believed Jane’s depictions to be unfair and one-sided, she was a very complex woman who became tangled in two major controversies in her lifetime.
The Raven’s Widow – Book Review
Jane Parker never dreamed that her marriage into the Boleyn family would raise her star to such dizzying heights. Before long, she finds herself as trusted servant and confidante to her sister-in-law, Anne Boleyn; King Henry VIII’s second queen. On a gorgeous spring day, that golden era is cut short by the swing of a sword. Jane is unmoored by the tragic death of her husband, George, and her loss sets her on a reckless path that leads to her own imprisonment in the Tower of London. Surrounded by the remnants of her former life, Jane must come to terms with her actions. In the Tower, she will face up to who she really is and how everything went so wrong.
The Raven’s Widow is a brilliantly told story about Jane Parker, wife of George Boleyn, Lord Rochford. The story is told in two timelines, her time with Anne and George and her time with Katheryn Howard.
The story begins with a young Jane who is trying to find her way and control her mouth. It continues with her blossoming into an amazing and loyal woman who suffered way too much loss in her lifetime. One of the things I have always wondered was, why did she and George never have children? Of course not everyone had children, or were able to, but other fictionalized stories about the couple would lead you to believe that their marriage was a sham and George was gay. In this story you cannot help but feel for Jane and George who struggle to get pregnant because of their limited time together due to his loyalty to the King. My heart broke along with her’s through each miscarriage she suffered.
Jane had always noticed that her brother Henry’s friend George Boleyn was attractive but was turned off by all the attention he received from the other ladies. When Jane found out she was to marry George she was not pleased with the decision at all. Their marriage was an arranged one that over time turned into true love. A great love.
Each character in the story came to life while reading it – that’s everyone from Mary Boleyn to Jane’s servant Lucy and even Thomas Cromwell. Anne Boleyn shares a decent amount of the story with Jane and George and is just as fiery and hot-tempered as we all imagine from stories about her. You really can’t blame her either, especially near the end, she became desperate to save herself, her family and her daughter from disaster.
As I was finishing this book I had tears in my eyes – I had become so attached to Jane that I didn’t want her ending to come. Nor did I want this amazingly written book to end.
This book is a real page-turner and you’ll have a difficult time putting it down. Even though I knew where the story was going it left me anxious for what was to come on the following pages.
Today we take a look at one fan of the Tudor dynasty’s take on the downfall of Anne Boleyn. The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily of the owner of this site. There were no sources included. We post these articles to draw discussion on topics such as the downfall of Anne Boleyn.
Some believe that Henry VIII was solely responsible for the death of his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Was he really, and did he really want her dead?
Long before her actual trial, the Spanish ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, had heard from other European princes that Henry had voiced his desire for an annulment due to the fact that Anne could not bare him a living son, but one must also consider the fact that his eyes had alighted on Jane Seymour. So, even though earlier on he had not considered marrying Jane, this could not be the sole cause of wanting his second wife out-of-the-way since at one point he had expressed an angry attitude towards Chapuys, saying that his master, the Spanish Emperor must acknowledge Anne as the true Queen.
Eustace Chapuys hated Anne, not only because she had replaced Catherine of Aragon, but also because he was a staunch friend of Many Tudor,and his main desire was to see her reinstated to the succession. When Henry no longer loved Anne, the wheels may have started turning in his mind as to how this could advantage Mary, because it is a well-known fact that George Boleyn, the brother of Anne, had thought of planning to get Mary killed. When Anne fell out of favour, she definitely saw Mary as a firm enemy, but there is to written evidence that she ever publicly aired the same views as her brother.
When it was certain that the King wanted to marry Jane Seymour, Chapuys saw a golden opportunity. He was aware that Cromwell, originally a great supporter of Anne, due to their shared zeal regarding the Reformation, had fallen foul of her over the selling off of the monasteries to the nobility instead of using them to make houses for the sick or change them into schools. However, the key reason for Anne wanting Cromwell to go to the block,was the fact that she learned that he had given his rooms at Court to the Seymours, so that the King could see Jane whenever he wanted in the presence of her family, so that no scandal should be attached to her name.
Chapuys was a great politician and saw a chance to make really good friends with Cromwell, who now himself hated Anne. Thus there are now three people who want Anne out-of-the-way, but Chapuys and Cromwell want her dead. Cromwell began to think how this could be arranged. It was now his head or hers. In spite of the King no longer desiring her, she was still Queen in name and could get what she wanted. However, Cromwell persuaded the King to set up a group of the nobility to carry out what was then called Oyer and Terminer, which, in simple terms, meant you could literally carry out an investigation behind someone’s back. Although Anne must have been worried as she was bound to have sensed the underlying tension going through the court, she would not have realised exactly what was going on.
It is common knowledge that Cromwell decided to “get her”on charges of adultery with Norris, Brereton, Weston and Smeaton. He also accused her of incest with her brother George, but managed to bring in plotting the death of her husband which was High Treason. The latter occurred, due to the questioning of one of her Ladies in Waiting who had heard Anne say that she thought Norris visited her apartments so frequently because he was hoping to marry her if the King should die. History books often quote her famous statement that Norris “looked to step into dead men’s shoes “. This statement itself was enough to condemn her .
So was Anne herself responsible in a way for letting a death sentence prevail? The reason I say this is because she was known to be flirtatious, outspoken, frequently to have men in her chambers late at night, especially her brother who was her closest confidant and with whom she shared her deepest secrets. These factors made her a very easy target for Cromwell, even though, since she was always closely surrounded by servants it would have been impossible for her to commit all the crimes linked with her name.
The King was such a proud man, that the thought of his wife committing adultery would have enraged him like an angry bull. However, it must be noted that a King was above the law, so maybe the final blame does lie with Henry. After all he did sign all death warrants, so why didn’t he just say no? Perhaps the rumours among the populace that Anne was in fact a witch, who had seduced him into marriage by witchcraft, stuck in his mind. Maybe he worried that ending this marriage would be as complicated as when he had tried to get a divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Maybe he was worried that the staunchly Catholic Mary would take the throne, thus interfering with his Reformation policy. Perhaps he also feared the thought that any woman, even Anne’s daughter Elizabeth, would not be able to sustain peace in England after his death thus plunging the country into Civil War.
We will never really know, because we can’t ask him why Anne’s actual death was an absolute necessity. We know that her death was quick as Henry ordered death by the sword, not the ax. Also she could have been burned, which was her greatest fear.
It is up to the reader to decide who was really to blame.
In Ireland, at Clonony Castle, there is a story of two Boleyn girls. No, not the Anne and Mary Boleyn we all know so well but the Irish Elizabeth and Mary Boleyn – possible descendants of George Boleyn, Lord Rochford.
Wait. Did she just say George Boleyn, Lord Rochford? But he didn’t have any children, you say. Indeed, you heard me right. However, there are no records that indicate Jane Boleyn every had children, let alone a child. Is it possible that George Boleyn had an illegitimate son who grew up in Ireland?
I recently watched episode three of Tales of Irish Castles on Netflix. In it, they talked about Clonony Castle and the story of two Boleyn girls who died there. The girls were Elizabeth and Mary Boleyn. In this TV series they called the girls cousins to Anne Boleyn who fled England after the execution of Anne and George and lived out their days in Clonony Castle. Their relationship to Anne Boleyn is currently uncertain and I’m truly surprised that this TV series says that they fled England for Ireland, when in fact they were most likely born in Ireland.
Let’s start off by taking a look at the portraits from Birr Castle that were used of Elizabeth and Mary in the TV series. First off, their clothing in the portraits do not fit the Henrician period as suggested. To me (and I’m not expert on clothing), the two women shown in the two portraits are dressed more in the Elizabethan style of clothing since they are wearing ruffs, or collars. In a book by Claire Ridgway and Clare Cherry called, “George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier & Diplomat” that came out in 2014, they point out that they believe the women portrayed in the portraits are not Mary and Elizabeth Boleyn at all. Which would make sense since I also believe the portraits are from the wrong period.
Supposedly, as told in Ireland, Thomas Boleyn (Mary, Anne & George’s father) was given Clonony Castle by Henry VIII after it was given to the king by John Óg MacCoghlan. In 1536, when Anne and George were executed, George’s apparent illegitimate son was moved to Clonony Castle to be kept safe.
Elizabeth and Mary Boleyn were descended from this illegitimate son. So, the idea that the girls left England for a safe haven in Ireland is out of the question, if this is the case. They would have been born in Ireland, not England.
As the story goes Elizabeth Boleyn died young and Mary was devastated by the loss of her sister. She is said to have committed suicide by throwing herself from the tower. Both girls were buried together near the castle.
Their grave was found in 1803, approximately 300 feet from the castle. The inscription on their stone read:
“HERE UNDER LEYS ELIZABETH AND MARY BULLYN DAUGHTERS OF THOMAS BULLYN SON OF GEORGE BULLYN THE SON OF GEORGE BULLYN VISCOUNT ROCHFORD SON OF SIR THOMAS BULLYN EARLE OF ORMONDE AND WILTSHIRE.”
It has been said that Elizabeth and Mary Boleyn were the granddaughter’s of George Boleyn, Dean of Lichfield — the man who is believed to be the illegitimate son of George Boleyn, Lord Rochford. We do not have a date of birth for the Dean of Lichfield, but we can assume he was born no later than March 1537. I say that because Lord Rochford was executed in May 1536 – if he was conceived (at the very latest) just prior to his father’s execution he would have been born no later than March 1537.
The Dean of Lichfield had also referred to himself as kinsman of the Carey and Knollys families, which as you probably already know are descendants of Mary Boleyn. He also named Mary’s son, Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon as an executor in his will — however, he never once claimed to be the illegitimate son of George Boleyn, Lord Rochford.
In conclusion, after reading George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier & Diplomat, I have to agree with the authors. There is no evidence that points towards Elizabeth and Mary Boleyn of Clonony Castle being descendants of George Boleyn, Lord Rochford. On the other hand, I truly want to believe that George Boleyn did have an illegitimate son who lived on after his downfall and death. It is most likely that the residents of Clonony Castle were indeed Boleyn relatives but not the ones suggested in the TV series.
Even though I don’t believe these women in the portraits are Elizabeth and Mary Boleyn, I can’t help but see a resemblance to other Boleyn relatives, especially Catherine Carey. Here I put their images next to Catherine Carey and Lettice Knollys:
On May 15th, 1536, because Anne Boleyn was supported in that trial, the only thing she could do, was to keep a low profile. She had to face the twenty-six peers who were there on that day to judge her. Among them, her own uncle Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk and Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland to whom Anne Boleyn had supposedly been betrothed.
On May 16th, 1536, Sir William Kingston, her Guardian in the Tower of London said to Thomas Cromwell that “yet to this day at dinner, the Queen said she would go to a nunnery and is in hope of life”. The date of the letter is problematical as on May 15th, Thomas Howard enunciated the verdict to Anne Boleyn: ” that you shall be burnt here within the Tower of London on the Green, else to have your head smitten off, as the king’s pleasure shall be further known” If Anne Boleyn was as malevolent as she was described, she would have surely fought to remain Queen of England. Why didn’t she stand up for herself ? The fact that she accepted the situation did not mean that she was guilty but proved on the contrary that since the king was not on her side anymore, there was no reason for going over what could be decided about her fate. And since the king must have known about what happened during the trial and everything that she declared when being a prisoner in the Tower of London, did he need to put her on the scaffold ? In fact, as being the Supreme Head of the Church of England, he could have surely be content with only getting an annulment like he did with his first wife, Katherine of Aragon.
Actually, Anne Boleyn herself admitted that she was not blue-blooded when at the end of her trial since “she was degraded from all of her titles – countess, marchioness and princess – which she said she gave up willingly to the king who had conferred them”. She submitted herself to the king’s decision and by doing so, emphasized the fact that only the king had the power to ennoble someone as well as to deprive them. And if we take a close look at those reports, Anne Boleyn did not either rebel when she was taken to the Tower, nor did she when she was declared guilty of everything she was accused of. On June 2nd, 1536 a report of the trial said “in the end, the judges said she must resign her crown to their hands, which she did at once without resistance”.
Along with Anne Boleyn, the defendants were her brother George Boleyn, titled Lord Rochford, Mark Smeaton, a musician, Francis Weston, Steward of the King’s Chamber, William Brereton, Steward of the King’s Privy Chamber and Henry Norris, Groom of the Stool. William Brereton was thrown in prison on April 27th, 1536 whereas George Boleyn and Mark Smeaton were imprisoned on April 30th, 1536. A joust organized on May 1st, 1536 marked the obvious reason why Anne Boleyn was not faithful to King Henry VIII as the king along with his advisers had to find a reason why they should imprison them. In fact, Henry Norris picked up Anne Boleyn’s handkerchief as would have done a lover during a tournament to claim that the lady was his in front of everyone. Was it an act of arrogance on the part of Henry Norris to assert that Anne Boleyn and him were involved in a love affair knowing that the tournament would be attended by a large audience and by the king himself? Or was it a way for Henry Norris to leave Anne Boleyn with no choice but to reveal their commitment to each other? Those hypotheses seem to be far-fetched if one considers that the lady implied was the king’s wife. As a matter of fact, nobody would want to risk their life acting so boldly. Nonetheless, that was enough for the authorities to justify the other men’s imprisonment a few days before as far as Anne Boleyn’s supposed seductive behaviour was concerned. On May 12th, 1536, the men where tried.”Smeaton pleaded guilty of violation and carnal knowledge of the queen. […] Norris, Brereton and Weston pleaded not guilty.” It is interesting that Norris pleaded not guilty since we know that his accusation was based on the fact that he was seen picking up the queen’s handkerchief. In my opinion, that episode did not imply any affair. Actually, like I said above, Norris was also accused of having suggested the king’s death through his reported conversation with Anne Boleyn. It seemed like Norris was largely blamed. He knew that being tried and accused of treason meant that he was doomed to be executed. Was it worth lying? As far as Mark Smeaton was concerned, my theory is that unlike the others, he was not a member of the king’s privy circle. Was he more impressionable as to claim that he did the horrible crime that he is accused of when he did not? On May 18th, 1536, when Anne Boleyn was still in prison and approaching death, she reportedly said that as soon as ”the king [had] a mind to divorce her, he [would] find enough of witnesses.” That suggested that the defendants had to undergo a lot of pressure that would lead them to the needed confession. To that extent, Mark Smeaton might have thought that he had no choice but to say otherwise. Eventually, on May 12th, 1536, ”the jury returned a verdict of guilty and the men had no lands, no goods, or chattels.” Being deprived of all their goods, the king was also depriving their families. That supposed that the family of the defendants were also held responsible for the crime supposedly committed by thosemen. To top it up, a sentence of death was decided. Actually, ”Mr Norris, Weston and Brereton [had been] arraigned and judged to be drawn, hanged and quartered.” On May 16th 1536, their death sentence was commuted. Actually Lord Rochford, Francis Weston and Henry Norris were beheaded. William Brereton and Mark Smeaton were beheaded and quartered.
A Story Based on Hearsay
When she was in prison, Anne Boleyn supposedly reported a conversation that occurred on April, 30th 1536 between herself and Henry Norris, Henry VIII’s Groom of the Stool to Mistress Coffin, one of the two ladies along with Lady Boleyn, Anne’s cousin, who were appointed to supervise Anne Boleyn, held in the Tower of London. The queen apparently said to Norris “then you would look for dead men’s shoes. If aught come to the king but good. You would look to have me.” To which Norris replied “if I should have any such thought, I would my head were cut off.” This conversation was reported to the king and Henry Norris was arrested. That comment cannot be proved to be true. Actually, that report was considered serious at the time since the king had signed a commission to incriminate Anne Boleyn. In addition to that, Anne Boleyn was already in prison when the conversation came out, and even though not tried yet, she was already regarded as guilty. It was then easy to manipulate Anne Boleyn’s mind and make up new stories in order to corroborate the charges pressed against her. It would give the king another justification to the fact that she was not a good woman and that she had to be tried. What is more, one can note that it is based on hearsay as even though that conversation was said to be told by Anne Boleyn, Mistress Coffin was the one who related it.
Now if we pay attention to the date, namely April 30th, 1536, it is the very same date Henry Norris was sent to prison. If we pay attention to the statement, one wonders why Henry Norris was arrested since in his reported answer, he made it clear that he knew that imagining the king’s death was an act of high treason for which he would surely risk torture and face an execution.
It is clear that even though Anne Boleyn was in prison, which should be enough in order to try her and find her guilty, Henry VIII’s men, especially Thomas Cromwell, looked for more evidence of her guilt. One could wonder why the king did appoint one of Anne Boleyn’s family to attend her while she was in prison. In fact, Lady Boleyn and Anne Boleyn did not get on well. For that matter, one can wonder if all the reported confessions are true but also if it was not biased by the fact that both women did not like each other as Lady Boleyn ”engaged her [cousin] into much discourse and studied to draw confession from her.” Of course, that was the expected strategy and who else could take that despicable duty at heart more that an enemy of Anne Boleyn?
However, one should not take all the rumours for granted. As Eustache Chapuis put it in his letter on January 29th, 1536, “I heard some days ago from various quarters, though I must say none sufficiently reliable” and then saying “though coming from sufficiently authentic quarters” when respectively talking about Anne Boleyn’s reaction to the death of Catherine of Aragon and then about the king’s request for a divorce from Anne. As the report was based on hearsay, it is not obvious whether the facts were accurate. Moreover, it is interesting to note that the envoy asserted that the rumours about the king’s request for a divorce were “sufficiently authentic” since Chapuis never recognized that marriage and was only content to learn the news of a divorce.
The End of Anne Boleyn
In April 1536, the king wanted Anne Boleyn to be recognized as queen of England and more especially as his lawfully wife. Then, why did Henry VIII request a marriage annulment which would be granted by Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer a month later, on May 17th, 1536? That annulment put a definite end to their marriage. What is more, Eustache Chapuis wrote that the day after, ”the Archbishop of Canterbury declared by sentence that the Concubine’s daughter was the bastard of Mr Norris, and not of the king.” That made Elisabeth another bastard, just like her half-sister Mary, Catherine of Aragon’s daughter. As history would prove it, Elisabeth would become queen in 1558. Would she have been restored in the succession if she had been the daughter of a commoner? The real reason for that declaration was to insist on the fact that Anne Boleyn was not a lawful wife and that neither she, nor her descendants should have the privilege to have a role in the royal lineage. In that case, was Anne Boleyn’s death justified? What was the message behind her beheading? After all, the king had put his first wife to exile until her death at Kimbolton Castle on January 7th, 1536. As I said before, Anne Boleyn herself thought that she would go to a nunnery. Unfortunately, according to the Bill of Attainder, she was accused of having committed high treason and had to be sentenced to death. In fact, that Bill was used ”to punish those who had incurred the king’s displeasure”. Again, here one can note that Henry VIII’s wishes had to be fulfilled whether the fact that the subject was guilty or not.
Her uncle, Thomas Howard, third Duke of Norfolk, announced her sentence, which would be either being burned or beheaded according to the king’s will. As she had been stripped of all of her titles, she was not to be considered a noble and yet the king decided to have her beheaded. Actually, ”beheading was confined to those of noble births” and ”was less dishonourable”. By signing the Royal Commission that would prove her unfaithful, the king had already dishonoured her. This is not intelligible as Anne Boleyn had been convicted of high treason and should not have been spared. Did all of a sudden, the king feel any regret? Why show mercy? What is more, Anne Boleyn was a woman and burning was the capital punishment for women accused of treason. Was it another strategy of the king to show his subjects that he could act like God on Earth? Or did he want to bypass the old prophecy of Merlin that claimed that around that time, there would be a queen who would be burned at the stake? It was Anne Boleyn herself who mentioned it to the king before their marriage. This is a far-fetched hypothesis but again, the king’s ultimate desire was to be considered as the Supreme Head of his country. As a matter of fact, he wished that his subjects saw that he was in control of any action. By doing so, Henry VIII might have wanted Anne Boleyn to see that the prophecy had nothing to do with her death.
I live in France and french is my mother tongue. I am in love with the History of England ! Whenever I go there, visiting castles is my top priority ! My favourite period is the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Renaissance. So it came as no surprise that when I had to decide the dissertation topic for my Master’s Degree, the English monarchy was my first choice. And so I talked about the ennoblement of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII’s race for supremacy. I am very curious and always have to make some researches when I learn about a new historical event! I have found it to be very enriching to do so because it always leads to another fact. This is the magic of history I guess!
Anne Boleyn creates strong reactions when her name is brought into conversation. Whether you believe she “deserved what she got” or you believe she was a “victim” of Henry VIII, it all comes down to the fact that she was a woman. A woman in 16th century England was generally at the mercy of her father’s ambitions. Whether Anne Boleyn acted on her own fruition, or was at her father’s bidding, I’m not sure we’ll ever know for sure. What we do know are the major events of her life.
Upon creating this timeline for Anne Boleyn I didn’t believe I’d have much to put into it. It wasn’t until I started to dig deeper into her life that I started realizing there were more events than at first thought.
I’ve included the combined Kent and Middlesex Indictments as well, you will see them noted as (Alleged Offenses). Included in these are links to the Anne Boleyn Files webpage where I gathered the information. If you click on the date it will bring you to the page.
I’m certain I’ve missed some events. If you notice a major event that I’ve missed please let me know.
Anne Boleyn was born at Blickling, Norfolk, to Thomas Boleyn and his wife, Elizabeth Howard.
Anne is appointed a maid-of-honour at the court of Margaret, archduchess of Austria. Anne later leaves to serve Mary, queen of France, wife of Louis XII (and Henry VIII’s sister).
January 1 – King Louis XII of France died. Anne remained at the court of the new French queen, Claude for almost 7 years.
Anne’s sister, Mary Boleyn wed her first husband William Carey.
Anne is recalled to England by her father, Thomas Boleyn. At this time Anne’s sister, Mary is the King’s mistress.
Anne had returned to England to marry her cousin, James Butler. The marriage proposal was agreed upon by their fathers to settle the claim of the family Earldom of Ormond. The proposal was eventually dropped.
March 1 – Anne made her first (recorded) appearance at Henry VIII’s court while playing the part of Perseverance in a Shrove Tuesday pageant at York Palace in London.
Anne was secretly betrothed to Henry Percy
January – Cardinal Wolsey broke the betrothal of Anne and Henry Percy. Anne was sent back home to Hever Castle, and Percy was married to Lady Mary Talbot, to whom he had been betrothed since adolescence.
Anne’s sister Mary Boleyn gives birth to a daughter, Catherine Carey, thought to be the illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII.
Historian David Starkey dates the start of Henry’s feelings for Anne to Christmas and New Year 1524/1525, shortly after he had stopped sharing a bed with Katherine of Aragon.
Anne’s brother George Boleyn weds Jane Parker.
The King’s secretary was sent to the Pope Clement VII to request an annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon.
June – Anne contracted the Sweating Sickness while at Hever Castle. Henry VIII sent his personal physician, William Butts, to care for Anne at Hever – she recovered.
Mary Boleyn’s husband, William Carey died of the Sweating Sickness
October – Cardinal Wolsey was officially stripped of the office of Lord Chancellor, and was required to return the Great Seal.
November 29 – Cardinal Wolsey died.
January 5 – Pope Clement VII wrote to Henry VIII forbidding him to remarry and threatened excommunication if he took matters into his own hands and disobeyed Rome.
Katherine of Aragon is banished from court and her rooms were given to Anne.
Autumn - Anne was dining at a manor house on the river Thames and was almost seized by a crowd of angry women. Anne just managed to escape by boat. (Source: Fraser, Antonia The Wives of Henry VIII New York: Knopf )
October 25 – Anne is introduced by Henry to King Francis I of France.
November 14 – Anne and Henry secretly wed.
January 25 – Henry and Anne marry in “public.”
April 12 – Anne attended Easter Sunday mass “with all the pomp of a Queen, clad in cloth of gold, and loaded with the richest jewels”. It was her first public appearance as Queen and she wanted to make a statement that she was indeed Henry VIII’s rightful wife and Queen.
May – Henry’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon was annulled.
May (a few days later) – Thomas Cranmer declared Henry and Anne’s marriage valid.
December 3 & 8th – Anne “procured” Sir William Brereton “to violate her” at Hampton Court. (Alleged Offense)
Anne’s sister, Mary wed in secret her second husband William Stafford. The secret marriage angered both Henry VIII and Anne because Mary married beneath her station. This resulted in Mary being banished from the royal court.
April 12th – Anne “procured” Mark Smeaton at Westminster (date for Anne procuring Smeaton). (Alleged Offense)
May 8 & 20th – Anne “procured” Sir Francis Weston at Westminster. (Alleged Offense)
June 6 & 20th – Anne “allured” and then slept with Sir Francis Weston at Greenwich. (Alleged Offense)
Anne became pregnant again.
April 26th – Mark Smeaton “violated” Anne at Westminster. (Alleged Offense)
May 13 & 19th – Anne “allured” and then slept with Mark Smeaton at Greenwich. (Alleged Offense)
October 31st – Anne and some of the men plotted the King’s death at Westminster. (Alleged Offense)
November 2 & 5th – Anne “procured” her brother George Boleyn,Lord Rochford, “to violate her” at Westminster. (Alleged Offense)
November 27th – Anne gave gifts to the men at Westminster. (Alleged Offense)
December 22 & 29th – Anne “allured” and then slept with her brother George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, at Eltham Palace. (Alleged Offense)
January 7 – Katherine of Aragon died.
January 8 – Anne plotted the King’s death with Rochford, Norris, Weston and Brereton at Greenwich. (Alleged Offense)
Sometime after the death of Katherine of Aragon it’s possible there was a fire in Anne’s bedchamber. There is no definitive evidence to confirm these claims.
January 24 – Henry VIII has his famous jousting accident.
January 29 – Anne miscarried a male fetus.
April 28 – Henry Norris came to Anne’s household – she asked him why he had not yet married the maid of honour he kept visiting. When Norris shrugged that he preferred to ‘tarry a time’, Anne joked: ‘You look for dead men’s shoes, for if ought came to the king but good, you would look to have me.’ Imagining the death of the king was a treasonous offence, and Norris replied, aghast, that ‘if he should have any such thought, he would [wish] his head were off’.
April 29 – Mark Smeaton taken for questioning.
May 1 – May Day: Henry attended a joust with Anne at Greenwich Palace. When the tournament ended, a message was passed to the king. Henry abruptly rose from his seat and left for Westminster by horse. Leaving Anne behind.
May 2 – Anne was arrested and taken to the Tower of London along with her brother George.
May 15 – Trial of Anne and her brother George where they were found guilty.
May 17 – Cranmer declared the marriage between Henry and Anne was null and void. This sentence meant that it was as if the marriage had never happened. Their daughter Elizabeth automatically became illegitimate with this declaration.
May 19 – Anne was executed on Tower Green inside the walls of the Tower of London.