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Father of a Queen: Thomas Boleyn

Two miles from Edenbridge in Kent  lies the small but attractive castle of Hever. Originally built in 1270, it was taken over 1462 by Geoffrey Bullen (or Boleyn) younger brother of Thomas Boleyn , Master of Gonville Hall, a constituent college of Cambridge. Geoffrey had a son called William and he in turn fathered Thomas Boleyn, who was probably born at Hever.

Thomas inherited the castle in 1505 and lived there with his wife, Elizabeth Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard Duke of Norfolk and his wife, Elizabeth Tilney (making her the granddaughter of John Howard who fought for Richard III at Bosworth.) At  Hever,  Thomas and Elizabeth had five children, two daughters, Mary and Anne, and three sons, Thomas, Henry and George, although two sons died young, and the last was eventually executed by Henry VIII.

Thomas is sometimes seen a ruthless social climber willing to do anything to further his ambitions through his daughters (and so he might have been), but he was also quite a notable person before  his daughter Anne became involved with Henry VIII. He had escorted Mary Tudor to her wedding to James IV of Scotland and was created a Knight of the Bath at Henry VIII’s Coronation, long before Anne and Henry’s relationship. He also became Sheriff of Kent twice and served as an occasional foreign ambassador. He was made Lord Privy Seal during Henry’s marriage to Anne, but upon her fall and execution, this position was stripped from him, and he died in disgrace in 1538.

He was buried in St Peter’s church in Hever, in a Purbeck marble chest tomb which has upon it one of the finest Tudor era brasses in  existence. On the brass, still bright and unworn, Thomas wears his Garter robes and regalia, and a falcon, crest of the Boleyn family, is carved above his right shoulder. Near his tomb is the grave of one of his sons, Henry, who died in infancy—a humble brass cross on the floor marks the spot. Both lie in the Boleyn chantry, near an unusual feature for any church—a fireplace—which was added in sometime during the Tudor period.

(The church also contains another beautiful medieval brass well worth viewing, that of Margaret Cheyne, who died in 1419. It shows great detail of Margaret’s dress and headgear, and two winged angels hover at her shoulders.)

It is worth noting that the  pleasant old inn across the road from St Peters, now called The Henry VIII, was originally called The Bull, a play on the name Bullen/Boleyn. Later, local folklore says, it was changed to ‘The Bull and the Butcher’ in reference to Henry’s execution of Anne.

An interesting view on Thomas Boleyn, whose character has been increasing damned in fiction and TV/Film: https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/in-defence-of-thomas-boleyn-father-of-anne-boleyn/

thomas

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