Edward Boleyn the Younger: The Lost Cousin of Anne Boleyn

Despite continued academic and popular interest in the Boleyns, a member of their extended family has been absent from scholarship for the past hundred years. This article will examine the available information on this figure to shed light on his overlooked life.

Scholarship on the family emphasizes the four daughters of Sir Edward Boleyn (hereafter ‘Edward Boleyn the Elder’) and Anne Tempest Boleyn – Mary, who married James Brampton, Ursula, who married William Pygge, Amy, or Ann, who first married Edward Whinborough and then Nicholas Shadwell, and Elizabeth, who married Thomas Payne.[i] However, Edward Boleyn the Elder and Anne Tempest Boleyn also had a son named Edward (hereafter ‘Edward Boleyn the Younger’), who has hitherto been absent in recent discussions.

Edward Boleyn the Younger is recorded in the Boleyn genealogy in The visitacion of Norfolk, made and taken by William Hervey, Clarencieux King of Arms, anno 1563.[ii] He also appears in court records of Henry VIII’s reign as the son and heir of his father.[iii] He has not gone completely unnoticed – the nineteenth-century genealogist and author Mark W. Bullen discusses him in The Athenaeum Journal, published in 1886.[iv] However, he is virtually unknown to modern historians. This article expands upon Bullen’s research, citing further primary sources that prove that the son of Sir Edward Boleyn and Anne Tempest Boleyn not only existed but lived into the reign of Edward VI.

The exact date of Edward Boleyn the Elder’s marriage to Anne Tempest Boleyn is unknown, but the earliest possible window is between February 1517 and February 1518, when Anne Tempest Boleyn turned 12.[v] It certainly occurred before June 1520, when she was first recorded as ‘Lady Boleyn’ while in attendance at the Field of Cloth of Gold.[vi]

Edward Boleyn the Elder died on 24 August 1537.[vii] His cause of death may have been the plague, which was rampant in London that month.[viii] Anne Tempest Boleyn had also passed away by June 1538.[ix] Upon his mother’s death, Edward Boleyn the Younger’s wardship was bought by Sir Philip Parys.[x] This gave Parys the revenue from Edward Boleyn the Elder’s lands until his ward came of age, and allowed Parys to marry him off to whomever he chose. In February 1542, Parys received 20 marks from his possession of lands ‘which ninth part belonged to Sir Edw. Boleyn, dec[eased]; during the minority of Edw. Boleyn, s[on] and h[eir] of the said Sir Edward; with the wardship and marriage of the said heir.’[xi]

Parys was the treasurer to Bishop Stephen Gardiner and would become receiver-general of the Court of Augmentations in 1540, and be knighted in 1553.[xii] He was married twice, first to Margaret Bowes, and second to Agnes Eden. He had two sons – Ferdinando, who married Frances Moore, and William, who married Elizabeth Coningsby – and three daughters – Mary, who married Edmund Awdeley, and Elizabeth, who married Thomas Lovell.[xiii] His daughter Agnes, also referred to as Ann, married Edward Boleyn the Younger in February 1542.[xiv] There was a ‘Mistress Parys’ in the household of Princess Mary from at least 1537 to 1544, who was possibly one of Parys’ daughters.[xv] The Parys family were staunch Catholics, and Philip Parys would go on to support Mary I when Jane Grey was declared queen.[xvi]

Parys passed away on 4 March 1558, and his ledger stone is still present in St. Mary’s Church in Linton. It was unfortunately damaged on 5 January 1643 by the iconoclast William Dowsing, who recorded in his journal, ‘At Linton, we took up 8 inscriptions, we beate downe 3 crucifixes, and 80 superstitious pictures, and brake the rayles, and gave order to deface 2 grave-stones, with Pray for our soules.’[xvii] In the 18th century, the antiquary William Cole described the monument and its damage:

“Under the screen as you enter the Chancel is a very noble large black marble w[hi]ch is partly covered by the right hand Pew, so can’t clearly make out all the Inscription w[hi]ch is round it cut in stone. The beginning is erased but suppose it may be thus supplied: Of your charitie pray for the Soules of Phylyp Parys Knyght, (or Esquier, for it has been altered from the one into the other) and Margarett his Wyfe, whyche decessyed the XII day of December, Anno D[omi]ni MOVO LIO and the sayd Phylyp decessyd the forthe day of [March anno Christi 1558] … Towards the top thus much is to be seen in a Label over a place for a Sheild the brass of w[hi]ch is gone: Memor Mortis. At the bottom are these 2 brass sheilds remaining viz : Paris, and the other, Ermine, 3 Long Bows bent, Pale ways in Fess, and a Crescent for difference. Bowes of Durham bears this Coat w[i]th the Long Bows, Gules. At the head of this is a small black marble, w[i]th an Inlet for an Inscription w[hi]ch is torn away.”[xviii]

The ledger stone of Sir Philip Parys in St. Mary’s Church, Linton

Edward Boleyn the Younger was still underage in June 1538 and married in February 1542. By the time his father’s Inquisitions post mortem were completed on 5 October 1547, he was over the age of 21.[xix] He was no longer Parys’ ward and was able to sue out his livery of seisin.[xx] Given that Edward was underage in June 1538 and of marriageable age in 1542, this would put his birthdate sometime in early 1521. This would mean that he was 16 years old when his father died, 17 when his mother died, 21 when he was married, and 26 in October 1547 when his father’s Inquisitions post mortem were completed.

Part of one of Sir Edward Boleyn’s Inquisitions post mortem (TNA WARD 7/2/121).

Virtually nothing is known about Agnes Parys Boleyn outside of her husband’s name. In Philip Parys’ will, written in 1558, he refers to her as his ‘daughter Bulleyne’, claiming that he promised her 100 marks upon her marriage, ‘and in recompense of all old reckonings between her and me in case my said daughter Bulleyne be not otherwise recompensed by me in my lifetime according to my promise made by me to her and to Jerome Spring’.[xxi] A ‘daughter, wife of […] Bulleyne’ is also mentioned in the genealogy of the Parys family in A Pedigree of the ancient Catholic family of Parys of Linton in the county of Cambridge, written by Everard Green, Somerset Herald-of-Arms.[xxii]

The couple seems to have stayed away from court. Unlike his father, Edward Boleyn the Younger was not knighted, as he is never referred to as ‘Sir’ Edward Boleyn in contemporary records. In 1541, he and Philip Hoby, the English Ambassador to Rome, signed an unknown document.[xxiii] In 1549, he sold his one-ninth of the manor of Ellington to Thomas Devenish, which he had gained as part of his inheritance two years earlier.[xxiv] On 10 August 1551, he presented Anthony Askham with a B.A. in Medicine ‘by virtue of a certain grant of advowson or right of patronage granted for this turn by Henry VIII, late King of England’ to him. He was recorded as ‘Edward Boleyne, Esq., heir of Sir Edw. Boleyne, Kt., deceased’.[xxv] The last known reference to him is as the recipient of a payment of 5s. 4d. on 25 December 1551 out of the expenses of the household of his first cousin once removed, Princess Elizabeth.[xxvi] He may have still been living in 1558, as Philip Parys makes no mention of Agnes Parys Boleyn being widowed.

Despite the constant interest in and study of the Boleyn family, Edward Boleyn the Younger is a figure who has been overlooked by historians for over a century. Sir Edward and Anne Tempest Boleyn had three daughters whose marriages and children are well documented. However, as this research has proven, they also had a son and heir. His disappearance from modern historiography is evidence of how easily people can slip through the cracks of historical records, even as a member of arguably one of the most well-known families of the Tudor period.

Sophie Bacchus-Waterman

Sophie Bacchus-Waterman is the Special Collections Photographer at St. John’s College, Oxford, and an independent scholar. She is a recent graduate of the School of Advanced Study, University of London, where she completed an MA course in the History of the Book. Her dissertation focused on the Psalter of Anne Boleyn, and she has discussed her research at the Taylorian Institution in Oxford for the Medieval Women’s Writing Research Group, and on the podcast Talking Tudors. She is due to speak on the Psalter of Anne Boleyn at the annual Kings and Queens conference in Paris in May 2024. She is currently writing a biography of Elizabeth Boleyn for The History Press.


[i] Secondary sources only mention the couple’s daughters. See Francis Blomefield, An Essay Towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk, vol. III (London: W. Whittingham and R. Baldwin, 1769) p. 627; Elizabeth Norton, The Boleyn Women (Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2014) p. 208; Claire Martin, Heirs of Ambition: The Making of the Boleyns (Gloucestershire: The History Press, 2023) p. 209; Amy’s name is variably given as Ann, see: The visitacion of Norfolk, made and taken by William Hervey, Clarencieux King of Arms, anno 1563, enlarged with another visitacion made by Clarenceux Cook with many other descents, ed. Walter Rye (London: The Publications of the Harleian Society, 1891) p. 53.

[ii] The visitacion of Norfolk, p. 53.

[iii] Letters and Papers, foreign and domestic, Henry VIII vol. XVII (London: HMSO, 1900) ed. James Gairdner and R.H. Brodie, 137. Grants In February 1542 (59).

[iv] Mark W. Bullen, ‘The Boleyn Family’, The Athenaeum, 8 May 1886, p. 616.

[v] Norton, The Boleyn Women, p. 84-5.

[vi] The Rutland Papers. Original documents illustrative of the courts and times of Henry VII. and Henry VIII. Selected from the private archives of His Grace the Duke of Rutland, ed. William Jerdan (London: The Camden Society, 1842) p. 37.

[vii] TNA E 150/580/29; TNA WARD 7/2/121.

[viii] L&P, vol. XII, 487, 593, 595.

[ix] L&P, vol. XIII, 32.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] L&P, vol. XVII, 137. Grants In February 1542 (59).

[xii] Adrienne B. Rosen, Susan M. Keeling and C.A.F. Meekings. ‘Parishes: Linton’ in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely, Volume 6, ed. A.P.M. Wright (London: Victoria County History, 1978), p. 80-105, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/cambs/vol6/pp80-105, [Accessed January 27 2024].

[xiii] Miscellanea genealogica et heraldica, vol. II, fifth series, ed. A.W. Hughes Clarke (London: Mitchell Hughes and Clark, 1916-7), p. 124. Ferdinando Parys would go on to be a famous recusant, see: Lambeth Palace, MS 3470, f. 159, Two Missionaries Under Elizabeth, ed. John Morris(London: Burns and Oates, 1891) p. 365; Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of London, second series, vol. XXIII (London: Horace Hart, 1909) p. 261; Acts of the Privy Council of England. New Series, vol. X (London: HMSO, 1895) p. 312; For Elizabeth Parys Lovell’s will, see TNA PROB 11/86/136.

[xiv] Edward Boleyn the Younger’s wife’s name has variably been recorded as Ann or Agnes, which were used interchangeably in the early modern period. See: Bullen, ‘The Boleyn Family’, p. 616.

[xv] Privy purse expenses of the Princess Mary, daughter of King Henry the Eighth, afterwards Queen Mary, ed. Frederick Madden (London: William Pickering, 1831) p. 28, p. 52, p. 91, p. 99, p. 110, p. 114, p. 137, p. 144.

[xvi] W.M. Palmer, The Antiquities of Linton (Cambridge: The Cambridge Antiquarian Society, 1913) p. 4, https://capturingcambridge.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Linton-Antiquities-1913.pdf.

[xvii] The Journal of William Dowsing: Iconoclasm in East Anglia During the English Civil War, ed. Trevor Cooper (London: Ecclesiological Society [with] Boydell, 2001) p. 210.

[xviii] Monumental inscriptions and coats of arms from Cambridgeshire, ed. W.M. Palmer (Cambridge: Bowes and Bowes, 1932) p. 107. I am grateful to Richard Tonry for directing me towards this quote.

[xix] TNA E 150/580/29; TNA WARD 7/2/121.

[xx] H.E. Bell, An Introduction to the History and Records of the Court of Wards & Liveries (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953) p. 2

[xxi] TNA PROB 11/32/43.

[xxii] Miscellanea genealogica et heraldica, vol. II, fifth series, p. 124.

[xxiii] Catalogues of Items for Sale by Auction by Mr. Evans, 1810-1840 (London: W. Nicol, 1829) p. 20 

[xxiv] G.G. Baker-Creswell and H.H.E. Craster, ‘The Descent of the Manor of Ellington’, Archaelogica Aeliana, vol. 5 (1928) p. 11, https://doi.org/10.5284/1059849; TNA IND 1/17219, f. 154.

[xxv] The Registers of the Church of Methley in the County of York from 1560 to 1812, ed. George Denison Lumb (Leeds: The Thoresby Society, 1903) p. 135.

[xxvi] Household expenses of the Princess Elizabeth during her residence at Hatfield, October 1, 1551, to September 30, 1552, ed. Viscount Strangford (London: Camden Society, 1853) p. 35.



Cite this blog post
courtstudies (2024, April 25). Edward Boleyn the Younger: The Lost Cousin of Anne Boleyn. The Court Observer. Retrieved June 21, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.58079/w9ve

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