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Elizabeth Howard, Countess of Wiltshire ( c. 1480 – 3 April 1538) was an English noblewoman, noted for being the mother of Anne Boleyn and as such the maternal grandmother of Elizabeth I of England. The eldest daughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk and his first wife Elizabeth Tilney, she married Thomas Boleyn sometime in the later 15th century. Elizabeth became Viscountess Rochford in 1525 , but position later went to her daughter in law Jane, in 1529.

Elizabeth then became Countess of Ormond in 1527 and Countess of Wiltshire in 1529.

Court life[]

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.

The disgraced daughter[]

In the words of historian M.L. Bruce, both Thomas and Elizabeth "developed feelings of dislike" for their daughter Mary.In later years, Mary's romantic involvements would only further strain this relationship. Around 1520, the Boleyns managed to arrange Mary's marriage to William Carey, a respected and popular man at court. It was sometime after the wedding that Mary became mistress to Henry VIII.

The preferred daughter[]

In contrast to Mary, Elizabeth's other daughter, Anne, is thought to have had a close relationship with her mother. Elizabeth had been in charge of her children's early education, including Anne's, and she had taught her to play on various musical instruments, to sing and to dance, as well as embroidery, poetry, good manners, arithmetic, reading, writing and some French. In 1525, Henry VIII fell in love with Anne, and Elizabeth became her protective chaperone. She accompanied Anne to Court, since Anne was attempting to avoid a sexual relationship with the King. Elizabeth travelled with Anne to view York Place after the fall of the Boleyn family's great political opponent, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey – an intrigue which had given Anne her first real taste of political power. She was crowned queen four years later.

Princess Elizabeth[]

Elizabeth remained in her daughter's household throughout her time as queen consort. Tradition has it that Anne's daughter, Elizabeth I, was named after her maternal grandmother. However, it is more likely that she was named after Henry's mother, Elizabeth of York, although the possibility that she was named after both grandmothers cannot be ruled out.

The Schism[]

Elizabeth Boleyn sided with the rest of the family when her eldest daughter, Mary, was banished in 1535 for eloping with a commoner, William Stafford. Mary had initially expected her sister's support (Anne had been Mary's only confidante within the Boleyn family since 1529), but Anne was furious at the breach of etiquette and refused to receive her.

A Scandal and an Execution[]

Only a year later, the family was overtaken by a greater scandal. Elizabeth's younger daughter, Anne, and her only living son, George, were executed on charges of treason, adultery, and incest. Anne's two chief biographers, Eric Ives and Retha Warnicke, both concluded that these charges were fabricated. They also agree that the King wanted to marry Jane Seymour. Beyond this obvious fact, the sequence of events is unclear and historians are divided about whether the key motivation for Anne's downfall was her husband's hatred of her or her political ambitions. Despite the claims of several recent novels, academic historians agree that Anne was innocent and faithful to her husband. Nonetheless, the judges obeyed the King, condemning Anne, George Boleyn and four others to death. Elizabeth's husband Thomas Boleyn and brother Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk provided no help to the condemned. The accused men were beheaded by the axe on 17 May 1536 and Anne was executed by a French swordsman two days later.

Later life and death[]

Elizabeth retired to the countryside. She died on 3 April 1538 (aged 57\58) and her husband died the following year. Elizabeth is buried in the Howard family chapel at St. Mary's Church, Lambeth.


Never appears as a character on the in the show.  The image is from the 2008 The Other Boleyn Girl movie, Elizabeth is played by British actress Kristen Scott Thomas. Unlike in the novel and the other movie, or TV shows, Elizabeth's role is expanded and she is portrayed as a loving considerate mother who loathes how her children are being treated like pawns.