Tudor Thomases (Part Two)

In 16th century England, or Tudor court to be exact, there are both male and female names that we hear over and over.

We’ve been fortunate enough to have a guest writer contribute to our page with Tudor Marys and Katherines. Next to those two there should also be Elizabeths, Anne’s and Margarets as well. But today we are looking at the male version of those names. While the name Henry was very popular there was a fan request to look at all the Tudor Thomases. We already did a Part One and you can find it here.

While I know I’m not the first to participate in this subject I’m always willing to accommodate my followers requests.

Since there are so many Tudor Thomases I’ve had to break it down into a couple posts. Hopefully I am able to provide you with information in this post that I have not before. Enjoy!

Thomas Boleyn

Nick Dunning as Thomas Boleyn (Season 2 – episode 10) – Photo: Jonathan Hession/Showtime – Photo ID: tudors_210_0014

Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire, but best known as the father of Anne, George and Mary Boleyn.

Boleyn was born circa 1477 to Sir William Boleyn and Lady Margaret Butler, wealthy Norfolk gentry. His paternal grandfather was a former lord mayor of London and his maternal grandfather was a leading Anglo-Irish aristocrat by the name of Thomas Butler, Earl of Ormond.

Thomas Boleyn married Elizabeth Howard sometime in the 1490s – Elizabeth was the daughter of Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey and sister of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk.

Boleyn escorted Henry VII’s daughter, Margaret Tudor to Scotland for her marriage to King James IV and in 1509 was knighted and named esquire of the body to King Henry VIII.

In 1521, Thomas Boleyn was appointed treasurer of the royal household and in 1523 was elected knight of the Garter. Then in 1525, he was raised to the peerage of Viscount Rochford which some believe coincided with Henry VIII’s affair with Mary Boleyn.

In 1529, when Boleyn’s daughter Anne was in the cross-hairs of Henry VIII he was created Earl of Wiltshire. He reached his pinnacle in 1530 when he was named Lord Privy Seal.

After the birth of his granddaughter, Princess Elizabeth, Thomas Boleyn spent most of his time at court.

Boleyn lost his the earldom of Ormond and the office of Lord Privy Seal after the execution of his children. There is no evidence that Thomas Boleyn tried to communicate with his daughter Anne while she was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Thomas Boleyn died on the 12th of March 1539, almost three years after the execution of two of his children.


Thomas Seymour

As the brother of Queen consort, Jane Seymour, Thomas Seymour had an amazing life and career ahead of him. Unfortunately he allowed greed, ambition and his emotions to end his life prematurely.

Born about 1508, Seymour was one of ten children of John Seymour and Margery Wentworth. His most notable siblings were his sister Jane and brother, Edward who would later become Lord Protector of the Realm for Edward VI.

Thomas Seymour had a way with women – his charisma so great and his looks so good that even Katherine Parr couldn’t help but fall for him. He was described as “…fierce in courage, courtly in fashion, in personage stately, in voice magnificent.”  Yet with all those wonderful attributes he did not marry until he was nearly forty years old.

It was after the death of Katherine Parr that things began to unfold for Thomas Seymour. His persistent wooing of Princess Elizabeth along with his constant influence over King Edward VI led him to his arrest and placement in the Tower.


Thomas Tallis

Born circa 1505, little is known about Tallis’ early years. He is best known as a leading musician and composer at the court of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I.

By the year 1544, Thomas Tallis was working at the Chapel Royal as a singer, composer and organist – he remained in that position until his death in 1585. During his tenure he performed at daily liturgical services and special occasions such as royal coronations and weddings.

Tallis died in November 1585 and was buried in the parish church at St. Alfrege, Greenwich.

John Strype, an English clergyman, historian and biographer a brass plate with an engraving on it in 1720 – it read:

Entered here doth ly a worthy wyght,
Who for long tyme in musick bore the bell:
His name to shew, was THOMAS TALLYS hyght,
In honest virtuous lyff he dyd excell.

He serv’d long tyme in chappel with grete prayse
Fower sovereygnes reygnes (a thing not often seen);
I meane Kyng Henry and Prynce Edward’s dayes,
Quene Mary, and Elizabeth oure Quene.

He mary’d was, though children he had none,
And lyv’d in love full thre and thirty yeres
Wyth loyal spowse, whose name yclypt was JONE,
Who here entomb’d him company now beares.

As he dyd lyve, so also did he dy,
In myld and quyet sort (O happy man!)
To God ful oft for mercy did he cry,
Wherefore he lyves, let deth do what he can.

*There is no contemporary portrait of Thomas Tallis

Thomas Nashe

Born in November of 1567 in Lowestoft, England, Thomas Nashe was the second son of a minister, William Nashe and his wife, Margaret.

Nashe is best known as a controversial and satirical writer. Many of his pamphlets were implicated in what is now known as the Harvey-Nashe controversy.

In the early 1590s, Nashe produced an erotic poem called, The Choice of Valentines. This poem begins with a sonnet to “Lord S”. It has been suggested that The Choice of Valentines was written possibly for the private circle of Lord Strange). To check it out for yourself, click here.

“Most of the details of his life and death are unknown or mysterious at best, but from his extant texts and what little is known of his life, he appears to have been a remarkable and audacious character.”

The details surrounding Nashe’s death are uncertain. He died in 1601, aged 34, and various causes ranging from the plague to food poisoning to a stroke have been suggested. – Luminarium

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The Downside of Marrying for Love: Mary Boleyn


When Mary Boleyn returned to court married and pregnant the King and Queen were none too pleased. Mary had not asked permission to remarry which was a huge faux pas for someone who was the sister of the Queen. It did not matter that Mary had met the love of her life; She had just ruined a potential political match for the king and another ally for the Boleyn family.

Sir William Carey – 1st Husband

In 1528, Mary’s first husband, William Carey died from the sweating sickness — it was six long years later (1534) that she secretly wed William Stafford, twelve years her junior. When she returned with the announcement, her sister, Anne Boleyn was beside herself with anger. She had just recently delivered a stillborn child which most definitely had an influence on her reaction. Anne and Henry banished Mary and her husband from court. In addition, her father, Thomas Boleyn, disowned her and stopped her allowance. She had been receiving £100 annuity from Henry VIII after the death of her first husband, William Carey. Her new husband was but a soldier with no great income, so things became very difficult for them. So much so Mary wrote a letter to Cromwell asking for help and explaining her situation.

Mary Stafford to Thomas Cromwell:

Master secretary, after my poor recommendations, which is smally to be regarded of me, that I am a poor banished creature – This shall be to desire you to be good to my poor husband and to me. I am sure it is not unknown to you the high displeasure that both he and I have, both of the king’s highness and the queen’s grace, by reason of our marriage without their knowledge, wherein we both do yield ourselves faulty, and do acknowledge that we did not well to be so hasty nor so bold, without their knowledge. But one thing, good master secretary, consider, that he was young, and love overcame reason; and for my part I saw so much honesty in him, that I loved him as well as he did me, and was in bondage, and glad I was to be at liberty: so that, for my part, I saw that all the world did set so little by me, and he so much, that I thought I could take no better way but to take him and to forsake all other ways, and live a poor, honest life with him. And so I do put no doubts but we should, if we might once be so happy to recover the king’s gracious favour and the queen’s. For well I might have had a great man of birth and a higher, but I assure you I could never have had one that should have loved me so well, nor a more honest man; and besides that, he is both come of an ancient stock, and again as meet (if it was his grace’s pleasure) to do the king service, as any young gentleman in his court.

Therefore, good master secretary, this shall be my suit to you, that, for the love that I well know you do bear to all my blood, though, for my part, I have not deserved it but smally, by reason of my vile conditions, as to put my husband to the king’s grace that he may do his duty as all other gentlemen do. And, good master secretary, sue for us to the king’s highness, and beseech his highness which ever was wont to take pity, to have pity on us: and that it will lease his grace of his goodness to speak to the queen’s grace for us; for, so far as I can perceive, her grace is so highly displeased with us both that without the king be so good lord to us as to withdraw his rigour and sue for us we are never like to recover her grace’s favour: which is too heavy to bear. And seeing there is no remedy, for God’s sake help us – for we have now been a quarter of a year married, I thank God, and too late now to call that again; wherefore it is the more alms to help. But if I were at my liberty and might choose, I ensure you, master secretary, for my little time, I have tried to much honestly to be in him, that I had rather beg my bread with him than to be the greatest queen in Christendom – And I believe verily he is in the same case with me; for I believe verily he would not forsake me to be a king.

Reported image of Mary Boleyn
Reported image of Mary Boleyn

Therefore, good master secretary, seeing we are so well together and does intend to live so honest a life, though it be poor, show part of your goodness to us as well as you do to all the world besides; for I promise you, you have the name to help all them that hath need, and amongst all your suitors I dare be bold to say that you have no matter more to be pitied than ours; and therefore, for God’s sake, be good to us, for in you is all our trust.

And I beseech you, good master secretary, pray my lord my father and my lady to be so good to us, and to let me have their blessings and my husband their good will and I will never desire more of them. Also, I pray you, desire my lord Norfolk and my lord brother to be good to us, I dare not write to them, they are so cruel against us; but if, with any pain that I could take with my life, I might win their good wills, I promise you there is no child living would venture more than I. And so I pray to you report by me, and you shall find my writing true and in all points which I may please them in I shall be ready to obey them nearest my husband, whom I am most bound to; to whom I most heartily beseech you to be good unto, which, for my sake, is a poor banished man for an honest and godly cause. And being that I have read in old books that some, for as just causes, have by kings and queens been pardoned by the suit of good folks, I trust it shall be out chance, through your good help, to come to the same; as knoweth the (Lord) God, who send you health and heart’s ease. Scribbled with her ill hand, who is your poor, humble suitor, always to command,

Mary Stafford.

The thing I take most from this letter was how poorly she was treated by her family for marrying without permission and the love that was shared between Mary and William. The part of the letter that stands out the most, to me, and shows the love they shared is:  ”I had rather beg my bread with him than to be the greatest queen in Christendom – And I believe verily he is in the same case with me; for I believe verily he would not forsake me to be a king.” She was not willing to give up her husband even to become queen, nor would William want to give her up to be king.

creativity is Intelligence having fun (1)


Bryson, Sarah; Mary Boleyn: In a Nutshell

Cherry, Clare & Ridgway, Claire; George Boelyn: Tudor Poet & Diplomat

Evans, Victoria Sylvia; Ladies-in-Waiting: Women Who Served at the Tudor Court

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The Boleyn Girls of Clonony Castle: Elizabeth and Mary


Boleyn Girls:

portraits at colnony castle
Image credit: Tales of Irish Castles / Netflix

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?

Clonony Castle

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.

mary boleyn colnony
Alleged Mary Boleyn; Image credit: Tales of Irish Castles / Netflix

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:


elizabeth boleyn colnony castle
Alleged Elizabeth Boleyn; Image credit: Tales of Irish Castles / Netflix

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:

Clockwise: Catherine Carey, Elizabeth, Mary, Lettice Knollys
Clockwise: Catherine Carey, Elizabeth, Mary, Lettice Knollys

Lost Boleyn Brothers?

Mary Boleyn
Mary Boleyn
Anne Boleyn
Anne Boleyn

I watched this video awhile ago and knew nothing about there being more Boleyn children. There is so much we do not know about Anne, Mary and George – including the order in which they were born. Many believe that George was indeed the youngest, but who is oldest, Anne or Mary? If Anne is older it would be strange that Mary got married before her older sister. So many mysteries surround this family, including two more brothers we never knew about!

Were you aware there was possibly a Thomas and Henry Boleyn, too? What do YOU think? I’d love to start a conversation in the comments about it.

Preview image courtesy of The Anne Boleyn Files