Anne Boleyn Had Royal Blood!

Queen Anne with young Elizabeth I

Anne Boleyn Had Royal Blood!, by Olivia Longueville

Editor’s Note:  Today Olivia Longueville visits to discuss Anne Boleyn’s genealogy. Did England’s most tragic queen have royal blood? Olivia makes a strong case in the affirmative.


Merle Oberon as Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn Had Royal Blood!

by Olivia Lougueville


There is a widespread myth that Anne Boleyn, a second wife of the infamous King Henry VIII of England, was a mere commoner with merchant ancestors.  Indeed, unlike Catherine of Aragon, Henry’s first consort, Anne was not a daughter of the Catholic monarchs (Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile), nor did she have personal connections with powerful European royal houses, for example, the House of Trastámara and Habsburg.  Yet, Anne was a descendant of royals on both paternal and maternal sides – the Boleyn and Howard families.

Anne was the youngest surviving daughter of Lady Elizabeth Boleyn née Howard and Sir Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire and of Ormond (he was elevated to the peerage during Anne and Henry VIII’s long courtship).  Her mother was a daughter of Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, and the 2nd Duke of Norfolk (the title was created for him in 1514).  The Howards, one of the most powerful Catholic families in England, was descended from King Edward I of England known as Edward Longshanks.  Anne’s maternal great-great-grandmother was Lady Margaret Mowbray, wife of Sir Robert Howard, who was descended from Princess Elizabeth of Rhuddlan, the youngest daughter of Edward I and his first wife, Eleanor of Castile.

Henny Potten as Anne Boleyn

Moreover, if we look at Anne’s maternal genealogy, we can discover that the Howard family had Sir Thomas Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk, among their ancestors.  Thomas Mowbray was a descendant of King Edward I and his second wife, Marguerite of France, through their eldest son – Thomas of Brotherton from the House of Plantagenet, also Duke of Norfolk.  Thus, Anne had not only Plantagenet blood, but also Capetian blood because Marguerite of France, the daughter of King Philippe III of France called the Bold (Le Hardi), and his second wife, Marie de Brabant.  Edward I and his second spouse, Marie, had a huge age gap between them, but their marriage was a happy one.  Anne had both Plantagenet and Capetian blood on her maternal side.



Taking into account the above, it becomes clear that Anne Boleyn was related to a rival of Henry VIII – King François I of France.  It is interesting that the flamboyant French monarch, at whose court Anne grew up and became an exotic and intelligent diamond with her sophisticated personality, her stellar education, and her refined manners, was actually distantly related to her.  François I from the House of Valois (the Valois-Orléans-Angoulême line) was a descendant of King Charles V of France called the Wise (Le Sage), and through Charles V, he was descended from Philippe III of France, who was the first common ancestor of Anne and Francois. The House of Valois, including François, was descended from Hugh Capet.  Therefore, Anne and François shared part of the Capetian ancestry tree starting from Philippe III of France and down to Hugh Capet and Charlemagne.  This makes François and Anne very distant cousins.

On her maternal side, Elizabeth Howard, Anne’s mother, also had one interesting ancestress – Joan of Lancaster (a grandmother of Thomas de Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk).  Joan was a granddaughter of Edmund Crouchback and his spouse, Blanche of Artois.  Who were they?  A member of the Plantagenet family, Edmund Crouchback was Earl of Lancaster, Leicester, and Derby as the second surviving son of King Henry III of England and Eleanor of Provence.  Thus, Elizabeth Howard was directly descended from Henry III of England and, hence, Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine, who were his grandparents.  Blanche of Artois was a member of the Capetian House of Artois: after the death of her first husband (Henri I of Navarre), Blanche held regency over the kingdom of Navarre and the county of Champagne, and later she married Edmund.  Blanche was a granddaughter of King Louis VIII of France and a great-granddaughter of King Philippe II of France known as Augustus, also a descendant of Hugh Capet.

Geneviève Bujold as Queen Anne Boleyn

We can continue looking into Anne Boleyn’s genealogy on her maternal side, but let’s not go into too many details.  Now let’s focus on Anne’s paternal side, for one might erroneously say that Thomas Boleyn was a commoner because of his merchant blood.  Anne’s paternal grandfather was Sir Geoffrey Boleyn, a wealthy mercer and Lord Mayor of London, and his wife, Anne Hoo, who was the only child and heiress of Thomas Hoo, Baron Hoo, and Hastings.  The latter was a son of Eleanor de Felton, who was descended from Charlemagne, King and later Emperor of the Franks, his son Louis the Pious, and Louis’ son Lothair I.  So, Thomas Boleyn was a descendant of Charlemagne, just as his wife was!  That is another connection with France and between them!

Nevertheless, Sir Geoffrey Boleyn, a husband to Anne Hoo, was a mercer and Lord Mayor of London.   This is the reason why you can often hear that the Boleyns were merchants.  But who was really the Boleyn family in addition to being descendants of Charlemagne in the male line?  Did they have other high-born ancestries?  Or is it a myth about Thomas Boleyn’s low birth?



Among Thomas Boleyn’s ancestors, it is more interesting to study his maternal side and Anne’s Irish roots.  His mother (Anne’s paternal grandmother) was Lady Margaret Butler, who was descended from James Butler, 1st Earl of Ormond.  This man was married to Eleanor de Bohun, daughter of Humphrey de Bohun, 4th Earl of Hereford, and his wife, Princess Elizabeth of Rhuddlan, daughter of King Edward I of England and his first wife, Eleanor of Castile.  In other words, Thomas Boleyn had Edward I of England among his maternal ancestors, having been descended from the same woman as his wife was – Elizabeth of Rhuddlan.

Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn

Joan de Beauchamp, who was one of Thomas’s maternal ancestors, had Elizabeth de Bohun among her ancestors, and we know that Eleanor de Bohun was also a descendant of Elizabeth of Rhuddlan.  Finally, Thomas Boleyn’s paternal great-grandmother was Lady Anne Montacute (Montagu), daughter of John Montagu, 3rd Earl of Salisbury and his spouse, Maud Francis.  The 3rd Earl of Salisbury was the son of Sir John de Montagu, 1st Baron Montagu, and Margaret de Monthermer, who was a direct descendant of Princess Joan of Acre – a daughter of Edward I of England and Eleanor of Castile.  So, there is another connection to Edward I.

Eleanor of Castile, a common ancestor of Anne’s parents, was the daughter of Ferdinand III of Castile and his wife, Joan Countess of Ponthieu.  Eleanor, like her husband, was a descendant of Eleanor of Aquitaine and King Henry II of England.  Eleanor of Castile’s mother, Joan of Ponthieu, was a French noblewoman who on her maternal side was descended from Alys, Countess of Vexin – a granddaughter of King Louis VII of France and his second wife, Constance of Castile.  So, we found another Capetian link between Anne’s parents and the royal House of France.  Both Elizabeth and Thomas Boleyn were descended from Hugh Capet at least once.

Given the above, Thomas Boleyn and his wife, Elizabeth Howard, were both descended from Edward I of England several times, as well as from Philippe II of France.  They were rather distantly related.  While most aristocrats were related in one or another way due to intermarriages, there were at least more than 5-6 generations between Anne’s parents.  It would have been much worse if Thomas and Elizabeth were 1st or 2nd cousins, for nobles in all countries often engaged in such marriages.  There was a certain amount of inbreeding in Anne Boleyn’s lineage.

Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn

This genealogical analysis shows that Anne Boleyn and both of her parents had Plantagenet blood coursing through their veins, as well as Capetian genetic heritage.  Moreover, rules of Castile and León, as well as those of Navarre can be found in Anne’s ancestry tree as well.  It is worth mentioning that Eleanor de Bohun was an ancestress of both Anne Boleyn and Catherine Parr, consorts of King Henry VIII.  To me, it is quite amusing that Emperor Charles V and Catherine of Aragon, who were in fact the fiercest opponents of Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn, shared part of the lineage of Castile and León with Anne with their first common ancestor being King Alfonso VII of León and Castile, who ruled in the 12th century.

Aren’t Anne’s ancestors illustrious?  We can see the representatives of such royal dynasties as the House of Plantagenet, the House of Capet, rulers of Navarre (a genetic mixture of French and Spanish royals and nobles), as well as monarchs of Castile and León in Anne’s ancestry tree.  The illustrious Eleanor of Aquitaine, who was a woman-legend in her own time and beyond, was Anne’s ancestress!  Kings Henry II, Henry III, and Edward I of England are in her ancestry tree!  Anne’s French heritage includes such famous rulers as Philippe II of France Augustus and Charles V of France!  Moreover, the great Charlemagne was Anne’s ancestor on both maternal and paternal sides!   Thereby, Anne Boleyn’s blood was not as ‘common’ as many people might think.



About the Author

Olivia Longueville

Olivia has always loved literature and fiction, and she is passionate about historical research, genealogy, and the arts.  She has several degrees in finance & general management from London Business School (LBS) and other universities.  At present, she helps her father run the family business.

During her first trip to France at the age of ten, Olivia had a life-changing epiphany when she visited the magnificent Château de Fontainebleau and toured its library.  This truly transformed her life as she realized her passion for books and writing, foreshadowing her future career as a writer.  In childhood, she began writing stories and poems in different languages.  Loving writing more than anything else in her life, Olivia has resolved to devote her life to creating historical fiction novels.  She has a special interest in the history of France and England.

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