Wolf Hall Explained – Anne’s Family

In episode 3 of Wolf Hall, Cromwell was summoned to a crisis gathering of Anne’s family to deal with Henry Percy’s claim that he and Anne had been contracted to one another (in Tudor England, promises of marriage were seen as binding contracts and would mean that Anne was not free to marry Henry VIII). But who exactly were all the people standing around?

Francis Bryan – responsible for fetching Cromwell to the meeting, he is noticeable for his eye patch. He was a soldier, sailor, diplomat, gambler and heavy drinker fond of hunting and jousting. He had lost his eye in a joust and would eventually be nicknamed “the Vicar of Hell”. He was Anne’s half cousin (via her maternal grandmother – Elizabeth Tilney’s – first marriage to Humphrey Bourchier).

Boleyn family

In the photo above, from left to right:

Thomas Howard, duke of Norfolk – Norfolk has been delivering some of the best put downs to Cromwell. Soldier, diplomat, councillor and one of the leading noblemen in England, Norfolk was Anne’s maternal uncle. Their relationship was frequently strained and he will ultimately turn up investigating her and as the presiding judge at her trial (it is worth noting that he would have had little choice in the latter).

Mary Boleyn – Anne’s elder sister, discussed in last week’s post. At this point she is the widowed Lady Carey, lady in waiting to her sister and probably the past mistress of King Francois of France.

Anne Boleyn

George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford – Anne’s younger brother, he had been a courtier since he was about 10 years old. He was also a diplomat and was known for his pride, wit, poetry and linguist ability. He is often portrayed as bisexual but there is no hard evidence for this. He will play a key part in future episodes.

Thomas Boleyn, earl of Wiltshire and Ormond – Anne’s father, he was the grandson of a wealthy mercer and had established himself as diplomat during Henry VII’s reign. He secured a favourable marriage to Elizabeth Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard, earl of Surrey (d. 1524). He had a claim to the earldoms of Ormond and Wiltshire through his mother and, as Henry VIII fell in love with Anne, her father was rewarded first as  Viscount Rochford and then with the two earldoms.

Jane Boleyn (nee Parker), Lady Rochford – a courtier from her teenage years, Jane was the wife of George Boleyn and a lady in waiting to Anne. She is normally portrayed as having an unhappy and, sometimes, abusive marriage. However, we know little about their relationship. Similarly, we don’t know much about her relationship with Anne or how important her role was in Anne’s downfall (popular depictions often give her a key role) – it will be interesting to see how her character plays out in the next episodes.

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