Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Boleyns' Irish Connection

In honor of Saint Patrick's Day being this week I wanted to write about Anne and her connections to Ireland. Anne herself was not ethnically Irish and it is unlikely that she ever visited the country but she certainly had familial connections to the island. Anne's grandmother Margaret Butler, wife to Sir William Boleyn, was an Irish noblewoman. Margaret was born in Ireland circa 1460 to Thomas Butler the 7th Earl of Ormond and his wife Anne. Thomas Butler was a friend and supporter of Henry VII and had dual seats in the English and Irish governments. He passed away in 1515 and left his estate to his daughters, Anne and Margaret. Sometime in the interim, Margaret had married William Boleyn, the fabulously wealthy son of Geoffrey Boleyn, Lord Mayor of London. Thomas' death gave the Boleyns a claim to the earldom of Ormond, one of the most powerful and wealthy aristocracies in Ireland (located in the productive region of Leinster) Ownership of this hereditary title had been in dispute for quite some time but matrilineal claims to property were not honored in early modern England. In order to solidify their claim, the Boleyns had attempted to marry Anne to Jamie, the Butler heir apparent, in the early 1520s but those negotiations fell through. Uncertainty about the earldom continued until December 8, 1529 when Henry VIII pressured Piers Butler (a distant cousin to the 7th Earl of Ormond) to renounce his claims to the earldom. Henry then recognized the Boleyn family's claim and styled Thomas Boleyn, Anne's father, Earl of Ormond and Whiltshire. The Boleyns would hold an estate in Ireland for nine years; in 1538 Henry revoked Thomas' title and recognized Piers Butler, an Irish lord and relative of the Boleyns, as the Earl of Ormond and the title once again reverted to the Irish aristocracy.

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