Sir John Shelton

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Sir John Shelton (1476/7 – 1539), courtier, of Shelton near Norwich, Norfolk, England, was, through his marriage, an uncle of Henry VIII's second wife, Anne Boleyn. Sir John was appointed comptroller of the joint household of the King's daughters, Mary and Elizabeth. Sir John and Lady Shelton (née Anne Boleyn, Sir Thomas Boleyn's sister) were also Governor and Governess to the King's children.


Sir John Shelton was the son of Sir Ralph Shelton (c. January 1431 – 16 July 1497) and Margaret Clere (d. 16 January 1500), daughter of Robert Clere, esquire, of Ormesby, Norfolk, and Elizabeth Uvedale, daughter of Thomas Uvedale, esquire. Sir John had four siblings: Ralph Shelton (died 1538), who married Mary Brome (d. 29 August 1540), Richard Shelton, a priest, Elizabeth Shelton, and Alice Shelton, who married John Heveningham.[1] The family took its name from their Norfolk manor of Shelton, and held lands in East Anglia, including Shelton Hall, for three centuries before Sir John's birth.[2]

Before 1503, he married Anne Boleyn (c. 1483 – 8 January 1556), daughter of Sir William Boleyn of Blickling, Norfolk, and Lady Margaret Butler, daughter of Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormond, and Anne Hankford. Sir John was appointed High Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk in 1504 and 1522, and was a Justice of the Peace for Norfolk. At the coronation of Henry VIII, Sir John was created a Knight of the Bath.[3]

He and his wife rose to prominence when Henry VIII married, as his second wife, Lady Shelton's niece, Anne Boleyn, daughter of Lady Shelton's brother, Sir Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire. After Queen Anne's coronation in 1533, Lady Shelton and her sister, Lady Alice Clere (d. 1 November 1538),[4] were placed in charge of the King's daughter, Mary, at Hatfield Palace.[5] According to Block, this was likely done to pressure Mary to recognise Anne as queen.[6] The enmity and abuse meted out to Mary contributed to everlasting hatred between the Tudor court factions.[7]

By July 1536 Sir John was comptroller of the household established for Mary and Anne Boleyn's daughter, Elizabeth. Sir John and Lady Shelton were given the joint title of Governor and Governess of the Princess Elizabeth, responsible for her upbringing and education, after her mother's execution.[8] In August 1536, the King was reunited with his daughters at Hunsdon House, a month after Queen Anne's beheading. There is no evidence that Shelton was involved with family intrigues or of the King's dissatisfaction.[9] On 22 November 1538 he was granted the site of the former Carrow Abbey just outside Norwich. This property became the family seat.[10]


Shelton died on 21 December 1539[11] at the age of 62, and was buried in the chancel of Shelton church. He was said to have been "a man of great possessions", which he sought to pass on to his heirs contrary to the Statute of Uses. When the stratagem came to light after Shelton's death, the lawyers involved were punished, and an Act of Parliament was passed annulling such "crafty conveyances".[12][13]


Shelton had three sons and seven daughters: Margaret, John, Mary, Ralph, Thomas, Anne, Gabriella, Elizabeth, Amy, and Emma.[14] His son and heir, Sir John Shelton (b. in or before 1503, d. 1558), married Margaret, the daughter of Henry Parker, 10th Baron Morley.[15] His daughter Anne married Edmund Knyvet. Another daughter, Margaret, married Thomas Wodehouse. His daughter, Mary, married firstly, Sir Anthony Heaveningham, and secondly, Philip Appleyard.[16] One of his daughters, thought to be either Margaret or Mary, were said to have been a mistress of King Henry VIII.[17]


In 1528 the Shelton family sat for the court painter Hans Holbein.[18]


  1. ^ Richardson I 2011, p. 391.
  2. ^ G.H. Dashwood, W.E.G.L. Bulwer (eds), The Visitation of Norfolk in the Year 1563 by William Harvey, 2 Vols (Norwich 1878, 1895), II, pp. 342-406 (Google).
  3. ^ Block 2006.
  4. ^ Weir 1991, p. 260; Richardson I 2011, p. 391.
  5. ^ Bindoff 1982, p. 312.
  6. ^ Block 2006; Weir 1991, p. 260.
  7. ^ Weir, p.34
  8. ^ Weir, p.298
  9. ^ Weir, p.302
  10. ^ Block 2006.
  11. ^ Baker 2003, p. 681.
  12. ^ Bindoff 1982, p. 312; Block 2006; Baker 2003, p. 681.
  13. ^ Baker states that the lawyers involved were [Sir] Humphrey Browne, Sir Nicholas Hare, William Coningsby, and Edmund Grey.
  14. ^ G.E.Cokayne, The Complete Peerage
  15. ^ Bindoff 1982, p. 312
  16. ^ Heale 2004
  17. ^ Weir 1991, p. 277.
  18. ^ Porter, Mary Tudor; Wilson, Holbein; Weir, The Lady, p.34


  • Baker, John (2003). The Oxford History of the Laws of England. Vol. VI. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 681. ISBN 9780198258179. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  • Bindoff, S.T. (1982). The House of Commons 1509–1558. Vol. III. London: Secker & Warburg.
  • Block, Joseph S. (2006). "Shelton family (per. 1504–1558), gentry". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/70835. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  • Heale, Elizabeth (2004). "Shelton, Mary (married names Mary Heveningham, Lady Heveningham; Mary Appleyard) (1510x15–1570/71), contributor to manuscript miscellany". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/68085. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  • Ives, E.W. (2004). "Anne (Anne Boleyn) (c.1500–1536), queen of England, second consort of Henry VIII". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/557. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  • Porter, Linda (2007). Mary Tudor: The First Queen. London.
  • Richardson, Douglas (2011). Everingham, Kimball G. (ed.). Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families. Vol. I (2nd ed.). Salt Lake City. ISBN 978-1449966379.
  • Weir, Alison (1991). The Six Wives of Henry VIII. New York: Grove Weidenfeld.
  • Weir, Alison (2009). The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn. London.

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