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About Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire
Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire
Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, 1st Earl of Ormond KG 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.
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:
- 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) 
- 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
In 1503, he helped escort Margaret Tudor north for her marriage to James IV of Scotland. He was created a Knight of the Bath at Henry VIII's coronation in 1509.
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.
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: 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.
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. Thomas Butler, as an Irish peer, should only have sat in the Parliament of Ireland. 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. 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. 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."
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. 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.
Also on 8 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. On 17 May 1536, Lord Rochford was executed for treason, and all his titles were forfeited. 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.
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. 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. There were two earls of Ormond in the Kingdom until his death on 12 March 1539.
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
- 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 1529–1539)
Note: on 22 February 1538, the earldom of Ormond was restored to Piers Butler, 8th Earl of Ormond.
- Sir Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire & Ormond, Viscount Rochford, Sheriff of Kent1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11
- M, #15340, b. circa 1477, d. 12 March 1539
- Father Sir William Boleyn12,13,14 b. c 1451, d. 10 Oct 1505
- Mother Margaret Butler12,13,14 b. c 1454, d. c 20 Mar 1540
- Sir Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire & Ormond, Viscount Rochford, Sheriff of Kent was born circa 1477 at of Hever, Kent, England; Also held property in Blicking, Norfolk and Offley St. Ledgers, Hertfordshire.2,8 He married Elizabeth Howard, daughter of Sir Thomas Howard, Earl Marshal of England, 2nd Duke Norfolk, Sheriff of Norfolk & Suffolk, Lord High Treasurer and Elizabeth Tilney, circa 1499; They had 3 sons (Henry; Thomas; & Sir George, Lord Rochford) and 2 daughters (Anne, wife of King Henry VIII, & Mary, wife of William Carey, Esq., & of Sir William Stafford).2,15,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11 Sir Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire & Ormond, Viscount Rochford, Sheriff of Kent died on 12 March 1539 at Hever, Kent, England; Age 61. Buried at Hever, Kent.2,3,8
- Family Elizabeth Howard b. c 1480, d. 3 Apr 1538
- Mary Boleyn+2,16,3,5,7,8,9 b. c 1500, d. 19 Jul 1543
- Sir George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, Constable of Kenilworth Castle & Dover Castle3,8 b. c 1502, d. 17 May 1536
- Anne Boleyn+2,17,3,6,8,11 b. 1507, d. 19 May 1536
- 1.[S4095] Unknown author, Ancestral Roots of 60 Colonists, p. 27; Plantagenet Ancestry of 17th Century Colonists, by David Faris, p. 47; Burke's Peerage, 1938, p. 1909.
- 2.[S5] Douglas Richardson, Plantagenet Ancestry, p. 180.
- 3.[S16] Douglas Richardson, Magna Carta Ancestry, 2nd Edition, Vol. I, p. 386.
- 4.[S16] Douglas Richardson, Magna Carta Ancestry, 2nd Edition, Vol. II, p. 416.
- 5.[S16] Douglas Richardson, Magna Carta Ancestry, 2nd Edition, Vol. IV, p. 63-65.
- 6.[S16] Douglas Richardson, Magna Carta Ancestry, 2nd Edition, Vol. IV, p. 230-232.
- 7.[S6] Douglas Richardson, Plantagenet Ancestry: 2nd Edition, Vol. I, p. 482-484.
- 8.[S4] Douglas Richardson, Royal Ancestry, Vol. II, p. 56.
- 9.[S4] Douglas Richardson, Royal Ancestry, Vol. II, p. 104-106.
- 10.[S4] Douglas Richardson, Royal Ancestry, Vol. III, p. 338.
- 11.[S4] Douglas Richardson, Royal Ancestry, Vol. V, p. 210-212.
- 12.[S5] Douglas Richardson, Plantagenet Ancestry, p. 179-180.
- 13.[S16] Douglas Richardson, Magna Carta Ancestry, 2nd Edition, Vol. I, p. 385.
- 14.[S4] Douglas Richardson, Royal Ancestry, Vol. II, p. 55.
- 15.[S5] Douglas Richardson, Plantagenet Ancestry, p. 236-237.
- 16.[S5] Douglas Richardson, Plantagenet Ancestry, p. 186-187.
- 17.[S5] Douglas Richardson, Plantagenet Ancestry, p. 728-730.
- From: http://our-royal-titled-noble-and-commoner-ancestors.com/p511.htm#i15340
- Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire
- M, #102741, b. circa 1477, d. 13 March 1538/39
- Last Edited=31 Jan 2013
- 'Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire was born circa 1477. He was the son of Sir William Boleyn and Margaret Butler.2 He married Lady Elizabeth Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk and Elizabeth Tylney. He died on 13 March 1538/39.3
- 'He gained the title of 1st Earl of Ormond [Ireland] in 1527.4 He gained the title of 1st Earl of Wiltshire [England] in 1529.
- Children of Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire and Lady Elizabeth Howard
- 1.George Rochford Boleyn, Lord Rochford d. 17 May 1536
- 2.Mary Boleyn+3 d. 19 Jul 1543
- 3.Anne Boleyn, Marchioness of Pembroke+5 b. c 1501, d. 19 May 1536
- 1.[S3409] Caroline Maubois, "re: Penancoet Family," e-mail message to Darryl Roger Lundy, 2 December 2008. Hereinafter cited as "re: Penancoet Family."
- 2.[S16] Jirí Louda and Michael MacLagan, Lines of Succession: Heraldry of the Royal Families of Europe, 2nd edition (London, U.K.: Little, Brown and Company, 1999), table 10. Hereinafter cited as Lines of Succession.
- 3.[S6] G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume VI, page 627. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Peerage.
- 4.[S11] Alison Weir, Britain's Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy (London, U.K.: The Bodley Head, 1999), page 152. Hereinafter cited as Britain's Royal Families.
- 5.[S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume II, page 145.
- From: http://www.thepeerage.com/p10275.htm#i102741
- Thomas BOLEYN (1° E. Wiltshire)
- Born: ABT 1470/1477
- Died: 12 Mar 1538/ 13 Mar 1539, Hever, Kent, England
- Buried: Hever, Kent, England
- Notes: See his Biography.
- Father: William BOLEYN (Sir)
- Mother: Margaret BUTLER
- Married: Elizabeth HOWARD (C. Wiltshire) BEF 1506
- 1. Mary BOLEYN
- 2. George BOLEYN (2° V. Rochford)
- 3. Anne BOLEYN (M. Pembroke/Queen of England)
- From: http://www.tudorplace.com.ar/BOLEYN.htm#Thomas BOLEYN (1° E. Wiltshire)
- Thomas Boleyn, or Bullen, was one of four children. He was the eldest - born when his mother was only twelve years old. He fought for Henry VII against Cornish rebels (who were protesting against heavy taxation) when he was 20.
- Thomas' marriage to Elizabeth Howard, daughter of the 2nd Duke of Norfolk (at that point the Earl of Surrey), was a brilliant match for him. Indeed, had the Howards not been under a cloud since they fought for Richard III at Bosworth, he might well have been considered unworthy of her rank. As the Howards were gradually rehabilitated, Thomas Boleyn's status rose with theirs.
- Thomas was knighted in 1509, at the coronation of Henry VIII. He was an excellent jouster, and took part in the joust celebrating the birth of Prince Henry in 1511 (the son of Catalina de Aragon and Henry VIII; sadly, he died soon afterwards). He was also a joint constable of Norwich Castle and Sheriff of Kent in 1512. As it happened, however, Thomas had a talent for languages - making him useful for diplomacy.
- Sir Thomas was useful; Erasmus considered him outstandingly learned. He was somewhat mean, but that was quite good in a diplomat, according to Fraser: "given the unorthodox way in which Ambassadors were financed". He was hard-working and industrious. Sir Thomas' first mission was to Margaret of Austria, regent of the Netherlands for Carlos V, to deal with the planned invasion of France. It was on this visit that it was arranged for Anne Boleyn, Sir Thomas' daughter, to spend some time at Brussel, in the Netherlands as one of Margaret's demoiselles d'honneur. Sir Thomas was also the English Ambassador in France from 1519 to 1520. Anne would have been there also. He, therefore, was involved in the arrangement of the Field of the Cloth of Gold and was present there himself. He also went on to meet Carlos V at Gravelines with Henry VIII. This talent for languages and diplomancy may have been a family trait, handed on by Sir Thomas' great-uncle, the 6th Earl of Ormonde. He also spoke fluent Latin.
- Sir Thomas' elder (probably) daughter, Mary, was married off to Sir William Carey, a man with courtly connections, and one who might have become more important had he not died so suddenly in 1528. Anne presented more of a difficulty; the negotiations for her marriage to James Butler fell through, and her own romance with Henry Percy, heir to the Earl of Northumberland, led her into trouble.Of course, Sir Thomas benefited from his younger daughter's rise. While his title of Viscount Rochford predated Henry's romance with Anne, in 1529 he was made Earl of Wiltshire, and recieved the Earldom of Ormonde. He was also sent on several missions to try to ease the annulment along its path with Carlos V, François I and Clement VII (the Pope). Along with the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, and Anne Boleyn herself, he was one of Henry's major advisers.
- Wiltshire did not try to help his daughter and son when they fell, however. On the contrary, he took care to denounce the alleged crimes committed by all accused. He even tried Brereton, Norreys, Smeaton and Weston for adultery with Anne, and found them guilty - although he was spared the task of condemning his own children. In all fairness, however, he could not have prevented their conviction.
- After Anne's execution, Wiltshire had to give up his office of Lord Privy Seal, and retired to Hever. He died in 1539, a year after the death of his wife, and is buried in Hever Church.
- From: http://www.tudorplace.com.ar/Bios/ThomasBoleyn(1E.Wiltshire).htm
Citations / Sources:
[S3409] Caroline Maubois, "re: Penancoet Family," e-mail message to Darryl Roger Lundy, 2 December 2008. Hereinafter cited as "re: Penancoet Family."
[S16] Jirí Louda and Michael MacLagan, Lines of Succession: Heraldry of the Royal Families of Europe, 2nd edition (London, U.K.: Little, Brown and Company, 1999), table 10. Hereinafter cited as Lines of Succession.
[S6] G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume VI, page 627. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Peerage.
[S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume II, page 145.
[S11] Alison Weir, Britain's Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy (London, U.K.: The Bodley Head, 1999), page 152. Hereinafter cited as Britain's Royal Families.
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