Who Was … George Boleyn, 2nd Viscount Rochford?


Name: George Boleyn

Title/s: 2nd Viscount Rochford

Birth: c.1503

Death: 17 May 1536 on Tower Hill, London, England

Burial: Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London, England

Spouse: Jane Parker, Viscountess Rochford c.1505-1542

Children: None

Parents: Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire c.1477-1539 & Elizabeth Howard c.1480-1538

Siblings: Mary Stafford c.1499-1543 / Thomas Boleyn c.1500 / Anne Boleyn c.1501-1536 / Henry Boleyn c.1502

Noble Connections: As the brother of Anne Boleyn, George was brother-in-law to Henry VIII and uncle to Elizabeth I. His father-in-law was Lord Morley, and his sister, Mary, was also a mistress to Henry VIII. His uncle on his mother’s side was Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk.

Controversy: There has been plenty of controversy raised over George Boleyn, but the most controversial is the idea that he had sex with his sister, Anne, and committed incest. Anne and George were both convicted of incest and were executed as a result. There have also been rumours, fuelled largely by TV show ‘The Tudors’, that George was in fact homosexual, but there is no evidence.

Continue reading “Who Was … George Boleyn, 2nd Viscount Rochford?”

Who Was … Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley?


Name: Henry Stuart

Title/s: Lord Darnley / King Consort of Scotland

Birth: 7th December 1545 at Temple Newsam, Yorkshire, England

Death: 10th February 1567 at Kirk O’Field, Edinburgh, Scotland

Burial: 14th February 1567 at Holyrood Abbey, Scotland

Spouse: Mary Queen of Scots 1542-1587, married 1565

Children: James VI of Scotland 1566-1625

Parents: Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox 1516-1571 & Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox 1515-1578

Siblings: Charles Stuart, 1st Earl of Lennox 1557-1576

Noble Connections: Through his mother, Margaret Douglas, Henry Stuart is the grandson of Margaret Tudor and thus the great-grandson of Henry VII of England. His maternal relations aside from the Tudors are the Earls of Angus. His paternal relations are the Earls of Lennox and Atholl.

Controversy: The main controversy over the life of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, is how he died. His body and that of his valet were found in Kirk O’Field, where they had been staying. There was the sound of an explosion early in the morning, later attributed to barrels of gunpowder left in the room underneath Darnley’s. The pair were found in the orchard having fled the scene and Darnley appeared to have been smothered.

Continue reading “Who Was … Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley?”

Who Was … Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon?


Name: Henry Carey

Title/s: 1st Baron Hunsdon

Birth: 4 March 1526

Death: 23 July 1596

Burial: Westminster Abbey, London (England)

Spouse: Anne Morgan c.1529-1607

Children: Catherine Carey, Countess of Nottingham 1547-1602 / George Carey, 2nd Baron Hunsdon 1547-1603 / John Carey, 3rd Baron Hunsdon ?-1617 / Henry Carey / Thomas Carey / William Carey / Thomas Carey / Edmund Carey c.1558-1637 / Robert Carey, 1st Earl of Monmouth 1560-1639 / Margaret Hoby c.1567-1605 / Philadelphia Scrope, Baroness Scrope of Bolton c.1552-1627

Parents: Mary Boleyn c.1499-1543 & William Carey c.1500-1528

Siblings: Catherine Knollys c.1524-1569

Noble Connections: Henry’s mother, Mary Boleyn, was the mistress of Henry VIII. His aunt, Anne Boleyn, became the second wife of Henry VIII, and his cousin, Elizabeth I became queen. His grandfather was Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire and Ormond and his great-uncle was Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk.

Controversy: It has been suggested that Henry Carey and his sister, Catherine, were actually the children of Henry VIII by his mistress, Mary Boleyn. This has never been proven and Henry never acknowledged either of them. It is now generally accepted that Henry was likely the son of William Carey, while Catherine is the one of the siblings more likely to have been the king’s, but we’ll probably never know. For a breakdown of the arguments see my previous blog post here.

Works of Fiction:

  • P.F. Chisholm – ‘A Famine of Horses’ (2016)

Portrayals on Screen:

  • None

Further Reading:

  • Kelly Hart – ‘The Mistresses of Henry VIII’ (2009)
  • Philippa Jones – ‘The Other Tudors: Henry VIII’s Mistresses and Bastards’ (2009)
  • Amy Licence – ‘The Six Wives and Many Mistresses of Henry VIII’ (2014)
  • Alison Weir – ‘Mary Boleyn: The Great and Infamous Whore’ (2011)
  • Josephine Wilkinson – ‘Mary Boleyn: The True Story of Henry VIII’s Favourite Mistress’ (2010)
  • Henry Carey, Baron Hunsdon, by Steven Van Herwijck c.1561-3.
  • Arms of Henry Carey 1st Baron Hunsdon

Who Was … Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey?


Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, was the eldest son of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. He was executed on Tower Hill just days before Henry VIII’s death in 1547 for treason. Surrey was one of the founders of English poetry who, along with Thomas Wyatt, introduced the sonnet into English. He had been raised with Henry VIII’s bastard son by Bessie Blount, Henry Fitzroy, and his sister, Mary, would marry Henry Fitzroy.

Name: Henry Howard

Title/s: Earl of Surrey / Knight of the Garter

Birth: 1517 (exact date unknown) at Hunsdon, Hertfordshire (England)

Death: 19 January 1547 (beheaded on Tower Hill, London for treason)

Burial: Church of St Michael the Archangel, Framlingham, Suffolk (England)

Spouse: Frances de Vere, Countess of Surrey c.1516-1577

Children: Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk c.1535-1572 / Jane Neville, Countess of Westmorland c.1537-1593 / Henry Howard, 1st Earl of Northampton c.1540-1614 / Margaret Scrope, Baroness Scrope of Bolton c.1542-1592 / Catherine Berkeley, Baroness Berkeley 1539-1596

Parents: Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk 1473-1554 & Elizabeth Stafford, Duchess of Norfolk c.1494-1558

Siblings: Catherine Stanley, Countess of Derby ?-1530 / Mary Fitzroy, Duchess of Richmond 1519-1557 / Thomas Howard, 1st Viscount Bindon c.1520-c.1582

Noble Connections: Henry Howard was the eldest son of the Duke of Norfolk and would have been the 4th Duke of Norfolk, but he died before his father. His mother was descended from the Dukes of Buckingham, so he could trace his ancestry to both Edward III and Edward I. His sister, Mary, married the bastard son of Henry VIII, Henry Fitzroy. His cousins, Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, were both married to Henry VIII.

Controversy: Henry Howard was executed for treason just days before Henry VIII’s death. His father only escaped the axeman because of Henry VIII’s death.

Works of Fiction:

  • Darcey Bonnette, Secrets of the Tudor Court (2011)

Portrayals on Screen:

  • David O’Hara, The Tudors, 2010, 9 episodes

Further Reading:

  • Edmond Bapst, Two Gentleman Poets at the Court of Henry VIII: George Boleyn and Henry Howard (2013)
  • Jessie Childs, Henry VIII’s Last Victim: The Life and Times of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (2006)
  • Robert Hutchinson, House of Treason: The Rise and Fall of a Tudor Dynasty (2011)
  • Robert Hutchinson, The Last Days of Henry VIII (2005)
  • Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey 1546
  • Henry Howard Funeral Effigy at Framlingham

Who Was … Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox?


Margaret Douglas was the mother-in-law of Mary Queen of Scots, the mother of Henry, Lord Darnley. She was also the granddaughter of Henry VII, niece to Henry VIII. She was in trouble with Henry VIII twice due to her love affairs with two different members of the Howard family. She was sent to the Tower before being married to the Earl of Lennox to seal a Scottish alliance. Margaret had also been a part of Cardinal Wolsey’s household and that of Princess Mary.

Name: Margaret Douglas / Margaret Stewart

Title/s: Countess of Lennox

Birth: 7 October 1515 at Harbottle Castle, Northumberland, England

Death: 7 March 1578 in Hackney, London, England

Burial: Westminster Abbey, London, England

Spouse: Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox 1516-1571

Children: Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley 1545-1567 / Charles Stuart 1st Earl of Lennox 1557-1576

Parents: Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus 1489-1557 & Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland 1489-1541

Siblings: James V 1512-1542 (half-brother)

Noble Connections: Margaret was the niece of Henry VIII through his mother, Margaret Tudor. This meant that she was also the granddaughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. She was also the mother-in-law of Mary Queen of Scots, as her son, Lord Darnley, married her as her second husband. Margaret had a prominent position at the English court so would have been acquainted with much of the English nobility.

Continue reading “Who Was … Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox?”

Who Was … Lettice Knollys, Countess of Leicester?


Lettice Knollys was the wife of two great nobles – Walter Devereux, Earl of Essex, and Elizabeth I’s favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. It is also possible that she was an illegitimate granddaughter of Henry VIII through her grandmother, Mary Boleyn’s, affair with Henry, possibly resulting in her mother, Catherine Carey. Lettice lived in the reigns of six different monarchs – Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I.

Name: Lettice Knollys (at birth) / Lettice Devereux (married name) / Lettice Dudley (married name)

Title/s: Viscountess Hereford /Countess of Essex /Countess of Leicester

Birth: 8 November 1543 at Rotherfield Greys, Oxfordshire, England

Death: 25 December 1634 at Drayton Bassett, Staffordshire, England

Burial: Beauchamp Chapel of the Collegiate Church of St Mary, Warwick, England

Spouse: Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex 1541-1576 / Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester 1532-1588 / Sir Christopher Blount c.1555 – 1601

Children: (by Walter Devereux) Penelope Blount, Countess of Devonshire c.1563-1607 / Dorothy Percy, Countess of Northumberland c.1564-1619 / Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex 1565-1601 / Walter Devereux 1569-1591 / (by Robert Dudley) Robert Dudley, Baron Denbigh 1579-1584

Parents: Sir Francis Knollys c.1511-1596 & Catherine Carey c.1524-1569

Siblings: Sir Henry Knollys c.1541-1582 / Mary Stalker 1542-1593 / William Knollys, 1st Earl of Banbury c.1544-1632 / Edward Knollys 1546-1580 / Sir Robert Knollys 1547-1626 / Elizabeth Leighton 1549-c.1605 / Richard Knollys 1552-1596 / Sir Thomas Knollys c.1558-c.1596 / Sir Francis Knollys c.1552-1643 / Anne West, Baroness de la Warr 1555-1608 / Katherine Fitzgerald, Baroness Offaley c.1560-1632 / Dudley Knollys 1562-1562

Noble Connections: Lettice was the grand-daughter of Mary Boleyn through her daughter, Catherine Carey, and thus the great-niece of Anne Boleyn, second wife to Henry VIII. Lettice’s mother was a favourite of Elizabeth I and Lettice herself married Elizabeth’s favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, as her second husband, having first been married to Walter Devereux, Earl of Essex.

Continue reading “Who Was … Lettice Knollys, Countess of Leicester?”

Who Was … Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford?


Jane Parker, Lady Rochford, was the wife of George Boleyn and sister-in-law to Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. She is said to have been the source of the incest charge against Anne and George, as well as being involved in the fall of Katherine Howard. She allegedly went mad while in the Tower of London awaiting execution in 1542. She had served 5 of Henry VIII’s wives – Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard.

Name: Jane Parker / Jane Boleyn

Title/s: Lady Rochford / Viscountess Rochford

Birth: c.1505

Death: 13 February 1542 at the Tower of London

Burial: Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London

Spouse: George Boleyn, Lord Rochford c.1503-1536

Children: None

Parents: George Parker, Lord Morley (c.1476-1556) & Alice St John (c.1484-1552)

Siblings: Henry Parker (c.1513-1553) & Margaret Shelton (?-1558)

Noble Connections: Through her marriage to George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, Jane was the sister-in-law to Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. This also made her aunt to the future Elizabeth I. Jane spent a lot of time around Henry VIII’s court and was familiar with the likes of Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset and Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. She also served in the households of Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard.

Continue reading “Who Was … Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford?”

Who Was … Thomas Wyatt, Tudor Poet?


Thomas Wyatt was a Tudor poet at the court of Henry VIII. It was rumoured that he was once the lover of Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. He was arrested in May 1536 at the same time as Anne but wasn’t charged and later released. Wyatt’s poetry included ‘Whoso List to Hunt’, ‘Sometime I Fled the Fire’ and ‘Circa Regna Tonat’. The latter was written while Wyatt was in the Tower and translates as “about the throne the thunder rolls”.

Name: Thomas Wyatt 

Title/s: Knight (Sir) 

Birth: c. 1503 at Allington Castle, Kent, England 

Death: 11 October 1542 at Clifton Maybank House, Dorset, England 

Buried: Sherborne Abbey, Dorset, England 

Spouse: Elizabeth Brooke 1503-1560 

Children: Thomas Wyatt the Younger 1521-1554 

Parents: Sir Henry Wyatt 1460-1537 & Anne Skinner ?-? 

Siblings: Henry Wyatt ?-? / Margaret Lee c.1506-1543 

Noble Connections: Wyatt supposedly had a relationship with Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. Wyatt was arrested along with George Boleyn, Henry Norris, William Brereton, Francis Weston and Mark Smeaton, accused of adultery with Anne but eventually released. Wyatt’s son, also called Thomas Wyatt, led a rebellion against Mary I in 1554 to restore Jane Grey to the throne or put Princess Elizabeth on the throne. 

Continue reading “Who Was … Thomas Wyatt, Tudor Poet?”

Who Was … Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset?


Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, was the brother of Henry VIII’s third wife, Jane Seymour. He was Earl of Hertford under Henry VIII and then became Duke of Somerset on the accession of Edward VI. He was Lord Protector during the beginning of Edward’s minority between 1547 and 1549 and was eventually executed in 1552 for plotting against his successor as Protector – John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland. His role in his own brother’s execution is disputed.

Name: Edward Seymour

Title/s: Viscount Beauchamp of Hache / Earl of Hertford / Duke of Somerset / Lord Protector of England

Birth: c. 1500, probably at Wolf Hall

Death: 22 January 1552, executed on Tower Hill

Buried: Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London

Spouse: Catherine Filliol (m.c.1527) / Anne Stanhope (m.1535)

Children: John Seymour 1527-1552 / Edward Seymour 1529-1593 (by Catherine Filliol) / Edward Seymour Viscount Beauchamp of Hache 1537-1539 / Edward Seymour Earl of Hertford 1539-1621 / Anne Dudley Countess of Warwick 1538-1588 / Henry Seymour 1540-? / Margaret Seymour 1540-? / Jane Seymour 1541-1561 / Catherine Seymour ?-? / Edward Seymour 1548-1574 / Mary Rogers (1552-?) / Elizabeth Seymour 1552-1602 (by Anne Stanhope)

Parents: Sir John Seymour (c.1474-1536) & Margery Wentworth (c.1478-1550)

Siblings: John Seymour ?-1510 / Henry Seymour 1503-1578 / Thomas Baron Seymour c.1508-1549 / John Seymour ?-? / Anthony Seymour ?-1528 / Jane Seymour Queen of England c.1509-1537 / Margery Seymour ?-1528 / Elizabeth Cromwell c.1518-1568 / Dorothy Leventhorpe c.1519-?

Noble Connections: Through his sister, Jane’s, marriage to Henry VIII Edward was the brother-in-law of Henry VIII and uncle to Edward VI. His sister, Elizabeth, also married the son of Thomas Cromwell. His brother, Thomas, would marry Katherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII. Edward would be executed for a supposed coup against the man who would replace his as Lord Protector – John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland.

Continue reading “Who Was … Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset?”

Who Was … William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley?


William Cecil is best known as Secretary of State to Elizabeth I, as well as Lord High Treasurer and Lord Privy Seal. He also served Edward VI as Secretary of State and then moved to look after Princess Elizabeth’s properties before she became Queen. Cecil’s role in the execution of Mary Queen of Scots is also questionable, and he was blamed in part by Elizabeth for it. He was responsible for the building of Burghley House and Theobalds.

Name: William Cecil

Title/s: 1st Baron Cecil of Burghley

Birth: 13 September 1520 in Bourne, Lincolnshire, England

Death: 4 August 1598 at Cecil House, London, England

Buried: St Martin’s Church, Stamford, Lincolnshire, England

Spouse: Mary Cheke ?-1543 & Mildred Cooke 1526-1589

Children: Thomas Cecil, Earl of Exeter 1542-1623 / Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury 1563-1612 / Anne de Vere, Countess of Oxford 1556-1588 / Francisca Cecil / William Cecil 1559 / William Cecil 1561 / Elizabeth Wentworth 1564-1583

Parents: Richard Cecil c.1495-1553 & Jane Heckington ?-1587

Siblings: Agnes White c.1527-? / Margaret Cave 1523-1553 / Elizabeth Wingfield c.1525-1611

Noble Connections: William Cecil was Secretary of State to both Edward VI and Elizabeth I. He was also Elizabeth I’s closest advisor for most of her reign. He also initially supported the reign of Lady Jane Grey in 1553. He is the founder of the Cecil dynasty which has produced 2 prime ministers including the 3rd Marquis of Salisbury.

Continue reading “Who Was … William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley?”
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