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Elizabeth Boleyn, Countess of Wiltshire (c. 1480 – 3 April 1538), born Lady Elizabeth Howard, was the older of the two daughters of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk and his first wife Elizabeth Tilney, Countess of Surrey (bef1445-1497). Through her marriage, she held the titles of Countess of Wiltshire, Countess of Ormond and Viscountess Rochford. She is noted for being the mother of Anne Boleyn, who became the second wife of King Henry VIII of England. As such, she was also the maternal grandmother of Elizabeth I of England.
Little is known of her but a rough chronology of her life can be pieced together through the narratives, myths, and documents of her contemporaries and chroniclers.
Her family managed to survive the fall of their patron, King Richard III who was killed at Bosworth in 1485 and supplanted by the victor, King Henry VII, when she was about five years old. Elizabeth became a part of the royal court as a young girl.
Lady in Waiting
Throughout this time, Elizabeth was a lady-in-waiting at the royal court; first to Elizabeth of York, and then to Catherine of Aragon. Based on later gossip, Elizabeth Boleyn must have been a highly attractive woman. Rumours circulated when Henry was involved with Anne Boleyn that Elizabeth had once been his mistress, with the suggestion even being made that Anne Boleyn might be the daughter of Henry VIII. However, despite recent attempts by one or two historians to rehabilitate this myth, it was denied by Henry and never mentioned in the dispensation he sought in order to make his union with Anne lawful. Most historians believe it is likely that this rumour began by confusing Elizabeth with Henry's more famous mistress Elizabeth Blount, or from the growing unpopularity of the Boleyn family after 1527.
Family of Thomas and Elizabeth Howard
It was while she was at court, that she wed Thomas Boleyn, an ambitious young courtier, sometime before 1500, probably in 1498. According to Thomas, his wife was pregnant many times in the next few years but only three children lived to adulthood:
- Mary Boleyn (1503-1543) - mistress of Henry VIII of England (c. 1499 - 19 July 1543).
- Anne Boleyn (c1501-1536) - Queen consort of Henry VIII of England (c. 1501 - 19 May 1536) - divorced and executed by the King. Mother of Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603), Queen of England.
- George Boleyn (c1504-1536) - Viscount Rochford (c. April 1504 - 17 May 1536). Also executed by order of Henry VIII, just two days ahead of his sister.
Death and Legacy
Following the execution of her two youngest children, which dashed the families hopes for supremacy in the English nobility, Elizabeth retired to the countryside. She died only two years after her two younger children and her husband died the following year. Elizabeth is buried in the Howard family chapel at St. Mary's Church, Lambeth. The church, decommissioned in 1972, is now the Garden Museum.
|Offspring of Sir Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, KG and Elizabeth Howard (c1480-1538)|
|Mary Boleyn (1503-1543)||1503||19 July 1543|| Henry VIII of England (1491-1547)|
William Carey (c1500-1528)
William Stafford (c1500-1556)
|Anne Boleyn (c1505-1536)||1505||19 May 1536|| Henry VIII of England (1491-1547)|
|George Boleyn (c1504-1536)||April 1504 Blickling Hall, Blickling, Norfolk, England, United Kingdom||17 May 1536 Tower Hill, London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom|| Jane Parker (c1505-1541)|
|Thomas Boleyn (c1506-)|| |
|Henry Boleyn (c1507-)|