Elizabeth Wood Boleyn

Elizabeth Wood Boleyn was one of the aunts who was assigned to serve Anne Boleyn while she was imprisoned in the Tower.

Elizabeth Wood was likely born in the 1580s or 1590s. she married James Boleyn, the brother of Anne Boleyn's father, Thomas. Elizabeth and her husband had no children - or if they did, none of them survived infancy.

They lived at Blickling Hall when not at court. Elizabeth's sister, Anne Wood Astley, came to visit her there in 1512, and died after delivering twin babies. A memorial brass depicts Anne Astley holding the twins.

James Boleyn was knighted around 1520, and made a Knight of the Body in 1533, likely at Anne Boleyn's coronation. He served as the chancellor of her household at court, and there's record of Anne making him a substantial loan at one point. James Boleyn appears to have shared his niece's reformist religious beliefs, so the two of them may have been close, but there is no record of it.

Anne and Elizabeth Wood do not appear to have been close, though there is record that Elizabeth received a gift from Honor, Lady Lisle, who was trying to get a position for her daughters at court. Honor may have been hoping Elizabeth Wood could use some influence over her niece.

When Anne Boleyn was arrested, Elizabeth Wood was one of the women chosen to attend her during her imprisonment in the Tower. The women were especially selected as being unsympathetic to the queen. Anne Boleyn complained bitterly about being served by women she had "never loved." The ladies were ordered never to speak to Anne without the presence of Lady Kingston and to report every word that Anne said during her captivity. It seems the council may have been concerned Anne would charm the women into friendship and they might not report everything she said.

Such an instruction does not seem to have been necessary. When Anne worried about the conditions of the captivity of her friends, and whether they had beds to sleep on, Elizabeth Wood retorted that such unseemly interest in matters like men's beds was what had brought Anne to this point. In response, Anne "defied" her unfriendly captors. Royal etiquette forbade anyone from speaking to the queen unless she spoke first. If Anne remained silent, they were constrained to silence as well.

Elizabeth Wood may have attended Anne on the scaffold. Witnesses report the women weeping as though "bereft of souls." Did Elizabeth come to care for her niece during her two weeks in captivity? Because of the weeping, it has been guessed that Henry relented and allowed Anne to have some of her favorite ladies with her at the end, but there is no record of it. The witnesses recorded that Anne thanked the women for their loyal service, so if affection grew, it appears it was mutual.

Elizabeth would have been one of those who helped undress the queen after her beheading and wrap her remains in cerecloth for burial. She may have helped to carry the arrow chest in which Anne was place to the chapel, where it was buried near the altar.

James seems to have suffered no setbacks from his niece's execution other than losing his position as chancellor of the queen's household. He and Elizabeth headed home to Blickling. James still did participate in court activities from time to time, such as going with the Duke of Norfolk to greet Anna von Kleefes when she arrived in England.

After Thomas Boleyn died, James was the heir to the Boleyn estate, but he was not allowed to have the title of Earl of Wiltshire. When Jane Parker was executed along with Katheryn Howard, James was granted ownership of all the possessions Jane had left behind at Blickling. These inheritances made James and Elizabeth Wood wealthy landowners, but they had no children to whom to leave their estate.

We don't know when Elizabeth Wood died, but it appears to be before her husband's death in 1561. Since they had no children, the Boleyn estate was left to their nieces and nephews. Alice Boleyn, wife of Sir John Clere, inherited Blickling Hall. She sold the manor to Sir Henry Hobart after the death of her husband. The house Anne Boleyn knew is gone now, replaced by a manor built during the reign of James I.


  1. James and Elizabeth did indeed have a child who survived: Elizabeth Boleyn (1547-1573) who married George Pullen.

    1. Thank you for the information! I'll have to do some research and update the article. Much obliged!