Thursday, January 17, 2008

Question from Margaret - Anne and Mary Boleyn's grandmother

I just finished reading The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory. I know it is fiction, and not that historically accurate but one of the characters caught my eye. Anne and Mary Boleyn's grandmother. Did she really exist? Did she play a major part in Anne's life or was she just a silent witness to Anne's rise and fall? Did she die during Anne's reign or afterward?


Lara said...

I haven't read the book, so I don't know which grandmother the character is supposed to be.

But, from a quick look at royal genealogy sites, it appears that their paternal grandmother, Margaret Butler, died between around 1539. Their maternal grandmother died in 1497, but their grandfather (Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk) re-married, and that stepgrandmother, Agnes Tilney, died in 1545.

Anonymous said...

Both Boleyn girls went to France at a young age as part of the entourage of Mary Tudor, Henry VIII's sister. Both remained in France even after Mary Tudor had returned to England. Anne, in particular, had joined the Brussels household of Margaret of Austria as early as 1513, moving to Mary Tudor's household in France later in the same year. Anne did not return to England until late 1520, by which time she was an adult. I have to wonder how extensive a role any grandmother could have played in her granddaughter's life before 1520 if Anne were on the other side of the Channel. After Anne's return to England and rise to favor at Henry's court, however, her step-grandmother Agnes Tilney Howard may well have played a significant role in her life. Agnes was the first lady of Queen Katherine's household after only the king's sister Mary. Agnes did carry Anne's train as the latter's coronation, and she carried Princess Elizabeth at her christening and acted as a godmother. I have not read Gregory's book (I tend to avoid historical fiction), but I do think it is fair to say that Agnes Tilney was more than "a silent witness" to Anne's rise and fall.

Anonymous said...

I'm unsure which grandmother this is, but Margaret Butler Boleyn lived in Norfolk and was proclaimed mad towards the end of Anne's life. I have never come across a mention of her as a part of Anne's life. Agnes Tilney Howard may well have played a part, as she did in the lives of Catherine Howard and other step-grandchildren. But was she an important part of Anne's life? Appart from those phd historian specifies, I have never seen Agnes mentioned in relation to Anne.

Foose said...

Monica, that is interesting regarding Anne's grandmother being proclaimed mad. Is there any information as to whether she was really mad (you'd think the queen of England would want to keep it quiet) or if it was a property-grabbing maneuver by her son or the government?

Anonymous said...

I have checked, and it is Margaret Butler Boleyn who plays a large part in 'The Other Boleyn Girl'.

My books have failed me on looking into Margaret Butler Boleyn's life further. The Dictionary of National Biography dates her death as in 1539/1540 - outliving her son, Thomas, as well as her grandchildren George and Anne. To have madness in the family certainly would have been considered a slur, particularly on the mental health of the descendants who may have inherited this - including Queen Anne and Princess Elizabeth. However, it was quite common, especially in the Roos family from Lincolnshire, from whom Bessie Blount and therefore the Duke of Richmond were descended, and Katherine Parr's father-in-law.

As to being money-grabbing, Foose - well Thomas Boleyn would have been capable of it. Especially if his mother, who was probably in her mid-seventies or older during Anne's reign, wasn't up to looking after the estates. She may simply have been unable to cope with these responsibilites, or suffered from a condition that affected her memory. In those days, when few were lucky enough to experience old age and the effect it can have on you, she may have been considered 'mad.' Thomas did inherit all her estates when she was declared insane, so if it was for her possessions, he did well. However, as she outlived him, she continued to enjoy the revenues they brought.

Does anyone else have more information on Margaret Butler Boleyn?

Anonymous said...

I've found it! p.247, Julia Fox's Jane Boleyn: 'it was to Mary and her descendants that Thomas wanted to bequeath whatever he could. What that really amounted to was the Ormond lands. They were his to bestow, providing Margaret Boleyn [Anne's grandmother] and his brother, William, agreed...neither should prove troublesome. Thomas had already gained control of his mother's inheritance years earlier, and even then, she had been declared a 'lunatic', interspersing periods of lucidity with bouts of insanity.'

Oraya said...

Most of this is totally fictional. The Margaret Boleyn that played a part in the Queen Anne stage of her life was in fact her Aunt. Margaret Boleyn. Here's a really useful resource that few people seem to know about. A few years ago the finally put state papers online.
Here's the link:

You want the first in the list: Letters & Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII. It makes really interesting reading. You can even read Henry's love letters to Anne Boleyn. Sadly none of hers survive.

Oraya said...

P.S further to previous comment I made, here's a link to how cruel her aunt was.

(You are looking for 10 paragraphs down, each box is a paragraph. The paragraph begins: "This King has lately spent two days at the house where his bastard daughter is")

This was a report Eustace Chapuys (who was the Imperial ambassador to England) sent to Emperor Charles V the nephew of Henry's first wife and queen, Catherine of Aragon. His accounts are the most detailed of all account surrounding Anne Boleyn, Catherine of Aragon, Princess Mary and Henry's Great Matter (as it was called at the time, i.e his Divorce).

Lara said...

test comment, just ignore