Lady Margaret Butler

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Lady Margaret Butler
Lady Boleyn
Bornc. 1454
Kilkenny Castle, County Kilkenny, Ireland
Diedc. 1539 (aged 84–85)
Noble familyButler
Spouse(s)Sir William Boleyn
IssueAnne Boleyn
Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire
John Boleyn
Anthony Boleyn
Jane Boleyn
Alice Boleyn
Margaret Boleyn
William Boleyn
James Boleyn
Edward Boleyn
FatherThomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormond
MotherAnne Hankford
Arms of Butler, Earl of Ormond: Gules, three covered cups or[1]

Lady Margaret Butler, Lady Boleyn[2] (c. 1454[3] – 1539) was an Irish noblewoman, the daughter and co-heiress of Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormond. She married Sir William Boleyn and through her eldest son Sir Thomas Boleyn, was the paternal grandmother of Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII of England, and great-grandmother of Anne and Henry's daughter, Elizabeth I of England.


She was born at Kilkenny Castle in County Kilkenny, Ireland, the daughter and co-heiress of Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormond and Anne Hankford. Her paternal grandparents were James Butler, 4th Earl of Ormond and Joan de Beauchamp. Her maternal grandparents were Sir Richard Hankford (c. 1397 – 1431) and Anne de Montagu.

She had two sisters: Anne who married Sir James de St. Leger, by whom she had issue, and Elizabeth. Anne and Margaret claimed to be co-heiresses of their father and the Earldom of Ormond, but their cousin, Piers Butler, who had physical control of the Irish estates and the backing of the Irish Council, claimed to be the heir through the direct male line. In 1520, the King granted her a pardon for the alienation of Fritwell Manor, Oxfordshire.[4] The issue wasn't resolved until 1528, by which time Margaret's position was good, with the influence of her granddaughter, then betrothed to Henry VIII, and Margaret's son, Thomas Boleyn's, status as King's adviser.[5]

In 1465 Margaret married Sir William Boleyn, and in total they had ten children. Her son, the ambitious courtier Sir Thomas Boleyn, became the first Earl of Wiltshire and by his marriage to Elizabeth Howard, the Duke of Norfolk's daughter, was the father of Anne Boleyn, Queen Consort of England. Thus, Margaret was great-grandmother to Queen Elizabeth I of England.

Margaret's role in the rise and fall of the Boleyn clan is unknown, although there has been much speculation and theorizing.[citation needed] From c. 1519 onwards she was declared by inquisition to have suffered periods of insanity making her incapable of managing her own estates.[6]

She was the last of the Boleyns to live in Hever Castle as it was given to Anne of Cleves in 1540 sometime after her death. Margaret's lands were claimed by her only surviving grandchild, Mary Boleyn and her husband William Stafford.[7]


Name Birth Death Notes
Anne Boleyn 18 November 1475 31 October 1479 "aged 3 years, 11 months and 13 days", buried with a monumental brass at Blickling.[8]
Thomas, 1st Earl of Wiltshire and Ormonde c. 1477 12 March 1539 married Lady Elizabeth Howard; had issue, including Queen Anne Boleyn
John 1481 1484  
Anne c. 1483 6 January 1555 married John Shelton; had issue
Anthony 1483 30 September 1493  
Jane c. 1485 unknown married Sir Philip Calthorpe
Alice c. 1487 1538 married Robert Clere
Margaret c. 1489 unknown married John Sackville, Esq.
William c. 1491 18 December 1571  
James c. 1493 5 December 1561 married Elizabeth Wood
Edward c. 1496 unknown married Anne Tempest

Fictional portrayals[edit]

Margaret Butler as Grandmother Boleyn appears in the 2002 Philippa Gregory novel The Other Boleyn Girl. She is portrayed as a critical and insubordinate woman who is shrewd and uncaring toward her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She does seem to inquire about life in the English court. Margaret lived in the Boleyn estate in Hever Castle, and plays a supporting role in the novel.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Debrett's Peerage, 1968, p. 864
  2. ^ As wife of a Knight, she would also be known as Lady Boleyn, like her daughter-in-law was before Thomas Boleyn became Viscount Rochford.
  3. ^[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ p. 38, The Boleyns, David Loades
  5. ^ p. 31, The Boleyns, David Loades
  6. ^ "Appendix VI: The Insanity of Margaret Boleyn (Escheator's Inquisitions, Cambs and Hunts, 30 and 31 Henry VIII)", in W. Rye, 'The Murder of Amy Robsart: a Brief for the Prosecution', The Norfolk Antiquarian Miscellany, III Part I (A.H. Goose and Co., Norwich 1885), pp. 251-339, at pp. 319-20 (Google).
  7. ^ p. 57, The Boleyns, David Loades
  8. ^ J.S. Cotman, D. Turner, S.R. Meyrick, A. Way and N.H. Nicolas, Engravings of Sepulchral Brasses in Norfolk, 2nd Edition (Henry G. Bohn, London 1838), I, p. 23 (Google) and Plate XXXIII (2 pages back).