Sunday, January 11, 2009

Question from Elizabeth M. - Boleyn-Wyatt family connection

How was Anne Boleyn related to the poet Thomas Wyatt? I have read they were cousins.


Tudorgirl77 said...

yh i have read it to. it's strange isn't it.

Foose said...

The connection might actually be through Wyatt's adulterous wife, Elizabeth Brooke. Her great-grandmother was Catherine Howard, sister of John Howard, the first Howard Duke under Richard III.

Other than this, I can't see any connection genealogically between Wyatt and Anne Boleyn. I believe they were neighbors in Kent and maybe Wyatt's marriage made him "part of the family," to be addressed as cousin. But it's a remote connection. Emphasizing or exaggerating the connection by calling Wyatt "cousin" may have enabled Anne to legitimately include him in a kinship-based court faction.

Lara said...

Wyatt's ODNB entry doesn't mention a blood or marriage connection (although I could swear I've read it somewhere too) but does mention that both families were geographically close and had political connections. Thomas' father Henry Wyatt and Anne's father Thomas jointly held the position of Captain of Norwich Castle, for instance.

But it wouldn't surprise me if there is a connection *somewhere* in their family trees, since I'm sure with enough digging you would find that most of noble and gentry families are related!

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Foose. The word "cousin" did not have the same meaning in the sixteenth century that it does today. It was often used as a term of familiarity, without implying blood relation.
The OED gives as definition number 5 for the noun "cousin": "As a term of intimacy, friendship, or familiarity."

Foose said...

Possibly we can trace the tradition that Wyatt was her cousin to Volume I of Paul Friedmann's Anne Boleyn, which was sort of the Ives of its day and on which most Anne Boleyn studies and fiction of the 20th century were built:

"Of the sisters of Lady Eliza-
beth [Howard, i.e., Lady Boleyn], one married Thomas Bryan, another Sir Henry Wyatt, a third Sir Griffith ap [Rhys] ..." This could be a simple mistake - Elizabeth Boleyn had a sister named Muriel who married Sir Thomas Knyvett; the name could have been misread as Wyatt, perhaps. Elsewhere Friedmann refers to Wyatt as Anne's cousin and Henry Wyatt as Sir Thomas' brother-in-law, so it's easy to see how others picked it up and repeated the error.

kb said...

Foose - this sounds very plausible, combined with the tendency to use the term cousin as phd historian points out could easily have conflated to an actual blood relationship.