Charlotte Eagar

Another Boleyn girl

How Kate Middleton may be descended from Henry VIII

Kate Middleton, it has been widely suggested, could one day be Britain’s first middle-class queen: mother a former air hostess, grandfather in the RAF. But her ancestors had starring roles in the great royal drama that was the Tudor dynasty’s century of power. In fact, it turns out that Henry VIII is almost certainly Kate Middleton’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather.

We know that Kate Middleton is directly descended from an Elizabethan tough, Sir Thomas Leighton, and his wife, Elizabeth Knollys. Sir Thomas and his wife were also ancestors of Prince William’s mother, Lady Diana Spencer. But what no one has pointed out is that Elizabeth Knollys, Kate Middleton’s direct ancestor, was not only the great niece of Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, but also almost certainly the illegitimate granddaughter of Henry himself. Before he fell in love with Anne, Henry VIII had a four-year affair with her older sister, Mary, mentioned by contemporary sources including the ambassador of the Holy Roman Empire. During the affair Mary Boleyn bore two children, Catherine (Kate Middleton’s ancestor) in 1524 and Henry in 1526.

So were they Henry VIII’s children? Mary was married to a Tudor courtier called William Carey and the two children were known by this surname. But as Philippa Gregory, author of The Other Boleyn Girl, points out, ‘Catherine was born at the height of Henry’s passion for her mother.’ And as well as being given various manors and money, after Catherine was born, in 1524, Mary Boleyn’s husband, William Carey, was knighted by Henry VIII and his income doubled; Mary’s father, Thomas Boleyn, was created Viscount Rochford in 1525. To mark baby Henry’s birth, in 1526, King Henry VIII gave to William Carey the borough of Buckingham and the manor of East Greenwich.

I made the link between Kate and Henry VIII when researching a film about the Knollys family and an article about the royal wedding.

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