COAT OF ARMS: Anne Boleyn vs. the other English Queens

The English Queens of Henry VIII: Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Katherine Howard, and Katherine Parr.

The English Queens of Henry VIII: Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Katherine Howard, and Katherine Parr.


4 English Queens; the royal coats of arms of Queen Anne, Queen Jane, Queen Katherine Howard, and Queen Katherine Parr.

4 English Queens; the royal coats of arms of Queen Anne, Queen Jane, Queen Katherine Howard, and Queen Katherine Parr.

The coat of arms of Queen Anne Boleyn do not include that of her Boleyn ancestors. Anne was a great-granddaughter of a Geoffrey Boleyn, who started his dazzling career as a hatter. He became one of the wealthiest merchants in London, later Lord Mayor. People tend to forget that even if Anne was related to the Dukes of Norfolk and Earls of Ormond, it was only through her mother and paternal grandmother — this did not make her “royal” or “noble” at court. The most important factor of anyone’s genealogy was paternal line. And in such, Anne came from the family of merchants. She avoided her paternal coat of arms and used her mother’s and grandmother’s arms against the hereditary rules. Anne was the only one of Henry’s English wives who avoided her paternal coat of arms. Katherine Parr, Katherine Howard, and Jane Seymour all displayed their paternal coats of arms because that was the rule which Anne contradicted. (from Ecclesiastical biography, ed. Christopher Wordsworth, p. 590.)

“In the arms which she bore as marchioness of Pembroke, her paternal coat of Bullen (being that alluded to in the prophecy, argent a chevron gules between three bulls’ heads couped sable), is wholly omitted. Her arms as marchioness consisted of four quarters, viz., Butler of Ormond; Thomas of Brotherton, earl of Norfolk; Rochford; and Warren and Surrey. As queen she bore the same, with three additional quarters, granted to her as augmentations by Henry, viz. Lancaster, Angouleme, and Guienne; still omitting the coat of Bullen. To Katherine Howard, Jane Seymour, and Katherine Parr, Henry also granted augmentations, but in their several achievements the coats of Howard, Seymour, and Parr formed the second quarter. Anne Bullen’s is the exception.” (Zupanec)

Simplified: Quarterly of six, 1st, 2nd and 3rd quarter, were Augmentations,

  1. 1st; Gules, three lions passant guardant Or, a label Azure, with three fleur-de-lis on each point Or (Duchy of Lancaster),
  2. 2nd; Azure, semé-de-lys Or, a label of three points Gules (Anjou-Naples),
  3. 3rd; Gules, a lion passant guardant Or (Aquitaine/Guyenne).
  4. 4th; Quarterly, I and IV, Or, a chief indented Azure (Butler), II and III, Argent, a lion rampant Sable crowned Gules (Rochford).
  5. 5th; Gules, three lions passant guardant Or, a label of three point Argent (Thomas of Brotherton).
  6. 6th; Chequy Or and Azure (Warenne).
2nd to 4th Duke of Norfolk by European Heraldry.

2nd to 4th Duke of Norfolk by European Heraldry. Look familiar?

Apparently it didn’t matter how remote the ancestors, which are represented on Anne’s coats of arms, were. The Duchy of Lancaster as one of her quarters eluded to perhaps her descent from Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster, son of Prince Edmund, 1st Earl of Lancaster, son of Henry III of England [the 3rd Earl was a 6x great-grandfather via the Howard’s and her great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Beauchamp, Countess of Ormonde]. The Anjou-Naples doesn’t even apply to her ancestry [the House of Anjou-Naples started with Charles I of Naples]; at the very least, Anne only descended from Margaret of France [7x great-grandmother], daughter of Philip III of the House of Capet! As for Aquitaine, the most recent ancestor would have been Eleanor of Aquitaine [10x great-grandmother]. The Butler/Rochford arms are that of her father’s maternal grandfather, the 7th Earl of Ormonde [which went against the law of heraldry]. Something interesting to point out here is her 5th and 6th quarterings which can be found as the 3rd and 4th quarterings of the 2-4th Dukes of Norfolk (her maternal grandfather, the 2nd Duke of Norfolk’s arms). As for Warren and Surrey, the closest ancestress being her 6x great-grandmother, Lady Alice Warenn, Countess of Arundel. So we see that Anne most likely took those two quarterings from the Howard family. All of these coat of arms were part of Katherine Parr’s ancestry, but she was not granted these elaborate arms. In fact, Katherine actually descended from Charles I, King of Naples of the House of Anjou-Naples — as did Jane Seymour.

Arms of Sir Thomas Boleyn and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Howard.

Arms of Sir Thomas Boleyn and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Howard.

Anne’s supporter creature, a bird like creature, is that which apparently descended from the Earls of Ormonde which apparently ended up on the Boleyn arms — the Boleyn arms had been using the bull BEFORE and after Anne.

Coat of arms of Sir Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey and his wife Elizabeth Tilney.

Coat of arms of Sir Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey and his wife Elizabeth Tilney.

The creature looks very much like the creature on the arms of Elizabeth Tilney, Countess of Surrey, NOT the Boleyn’s!

The other English wives were not ashamed of their paternal roots.

Jane Seymour’s descent from Edward III was in fact by her mother; a trickle down from Lionel of Antwerp, yet you do not see any reference to this lineage. Her quarters included some valid claims while others were not. Jane received:

  • Quarterly of six, 1st; an Augmentation, Or, on a pile Gules, between six fleur-de-lis Azure, three lions passant guardant Or. [augmentation granted by King Henry]
  • 2nd; Gules, two wings conjoined in lure Or (Seymour).
  • 3rd; Vair Azure and Argent (Beauchamp). Jane was not descended from the Beauchamp family for at least five generations and the quarter differs from the Beauchamp family; they were most likely put in due to her brother’s elevation, a subsidiary title of Viscount Beauchamp of Hache was created for him on 5 June 1536.
  • 4th; Argent, three demi-lions rampant, Gules (Stiny).
  • 5th; Per bend, Argent and Gules, three roses, bendwise countercharged (MacWilliams). Most likely pertaining to her Williams ancestors, her paternal great-great-grandmother, Isabella Williams, wife of John Seymour.
  • 6th; Argent, on a bend Gules, three leopard’s head Or. Another augmentation that does not relate to her family.

Katherine Howard by right had the option to use her father’s arms. As a son of the 2nd Duke of Norfolk, Lord Edmund Howard, bore the arms of the Dukes. However, several other quarters were granted much like Anne Boleyn.

  • Quarterly of four, 1st and 4th were Augmentations, 1st; Azure, three Fleurs-de-lys, in pale Or, between two flasches Ermine, each charged with a Rose Gules. [augmentation granted by King Henry]
  • 2nd; Gules, three lions passant guardant Or, a label of three point Argent (Thomas of Brotherton). Again, like Anne Boleyn, this was a very distant ancestor, her 6x great-grandfather, who was the son of Edward I and an ancestor of the Dukes of Norfolk.
  • 3rd; Gules, a bend between six cross-crosslets fitchy Argent, for augmentation to be charged on the bend, the Royal Shield of Scotland having a demi-lion only, which is pierced through the mouth with an arrow (Howard).
  • 4th; Azure, two Lions of England, the verge of the escutcheon charged with four half fleurs-de-lys Or. Like Jane Seymour, another augmentation not relating to her family.

Katherine Parr out of all four actually received the correct arms which represented her family and the baronies her father was heir to but never received due to his early death in 1517. The arms allude to those of her family and the titles of her father Sir Thomas Parr.

  • Quarterly of six, 1st; an Augmentation, Argent, on a Pile Gules, between six Roses Gules, three other Roses Argent. [augmentation granted by King Henry]
  • 2nd; Argent, two bars Azure, within a bordure engrailed Sable (Parr).
  • 3rd; Or, three water-bougets Sable (Ross of Kendal).
  • 4th; Vairy, a fesse Gules (Marmion).
  • 5th; Azure, three chevrons interlaced in base, a chief Or (FitzHugh).
  • 6th; Vert, three harts at gaze Or (Green).

3rd quarter Ros of Kendal: The Parr’s received their title, lands, and inheritance of Kendal due to the marriage of her 3x great-grandfather, Sir William of Kendal Parr and Elizabeth de Ros, heiress of Sir John of Kendal and Hon. Katherine Latimer.
4th quarterMarmion: The 3rd Baron FitzHugh married Eleanor Grey, granddaughter and heiress of Avice Marmion, the daughter of the 2nd Baron Marmion; the barony of Marmion thus went into the FitzHugh family.
5th quarterFitzHugh of Ravensworth: the FitzHugh quarter was due to the fact that Katherine’s father, through his mother the Hon. Elizabeth FitzHugh, was in fact in line for the Barony of FitzHugh [baronies could be inherited and passed by females] because it died out and went into abeyance after the death of Parr’s cousin, George, the 7th Baron. The barony is still in abeyance today between the descendants of Thomas Parr’s aunt, Alice Fiennes, and that of his daughter, Anne, Countess of Pembroke.
6th quarter Green of Greens Norton: Katherine’s mother, Maud, was co-heiress with her sister Anne to the Green inheritance being the last children of that line.

Two stall plates of Sir William Parr, Marquess of Northampton.

Two stall plates of Sir William Parr, Marquess of Northampton, 1552 and 1559.

LEFT: Garter stall plate of William Parr, 1st Marquess of Northampton, 1552. The plate was in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, among other Garter plates, but upon the ascension of Queen Mary, Parr was stripped of his titles. His stall plate was taken down and broken apart. Parr had been part of the conspiracy which put Lady Jane Grey on the throne instead of Mary Tudor.

Dv, tres noble, havlt ettre

savissant Prince Gvillmim arovys de Northampton, conte Dessex, Baron de Kendal, Seigr de Marmyon, saint Qvyntyn et dv Parre, Chlr de Lordre de la iarritie re grant chamberleyn dangleterre et capitanie des gentil homines pencion aires de la maison dv roy dre sovereyn seigr et connestable dv chastean de wyndesor; anno dni 1552.

RIGHT: Restored Knight of the Garter stall plate of William Parr, 1st Marquess of Northampton and Earl of Essex, 1559. Upon the ascension of Queen Elizabeth I, William Parr was restored to his titles and lands. Elizabeth also honored William’s separation from his adulterous first wife, Lady Anne Bourchier, which Queen Mary had proclaimed was null and void. William was allowed to continue his “common law marriage” with Elisabeth and she was treated as Marchioness of Northampton within the court and elsewhere. ROYAL COLLECTION.

DV tresnoble havlt et trespvissant prince cvillm, marqvys de northampton conte dessex baron de kendall seignevr de marmion saint qvintyn et dv parre chlr dv tresnoble order de la iarritiere fvst estalle 3 10yr de ivne 1559.


  1. Christopher Wordsworth. “Ecclesiastical biography or, Lives of eminent men, connected with the history of religion in England: from the commencement of the Reformation to the Revolution,” 3d edition, London: J.G. & F. Rivington, 1839.
  2. Sylwia S. Zupanec. “The daring truth about Anne Boleyn: cutting through the myth,” 8 November 2012.
  3. David Starkey. “Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII,” Chapter: Catherine Parr, HarperCollins, May 4, 2004.
  4. Thomas Willement. “Regal Heraldry: The Armorial Insignia of the Kings and Queen of England,” London: W. Wilson. 1821.

2 thoughts on “COAT OF ARMS: Anne Boleyn vs. the other English Queens

  1. This is stated in another blog — but I will respond here with it again:
    Anne’s paternal grandmother, Lady Margaret Butler, was not an heiress to the Earldom of Ormonde being a female; therefore Thomas Boleyn [NOT Butler] was not “the Earl’s heirs general.” Earldom’s DID NOT pass through women; a woman could be created a Countess in her own right, but that title would have been created solely for that woman and her male heirs, like the “Marquess of Pembroke.” Perhaps if Lady Margaret had been the only child of the 7th Earl, the title would have passed to her and through her to her husband like the title of the Lady Alice Montcaute, suo jure 5th Countess of Salisbury, but Margaret was not the only child and according to law her male Butler relatives [cousins] would have inherited that title BEFORE her as Piers Butler did. Fyi, the 7th Earl died in 1515.
    Concerning Thomas Boleyn’s claim to the Earldom of Ormonde:
    In 1529, something incredible happened. Most people do not know this or choose not to recognize the rules of the time. This is also NOT stated on Wikipedia and is not common knowledge. Piers Butler was forced to give up the title of Earl of Ormond, bestowed upon him in 1515 by right and the title was given to Thomas Boleyn. Piers received the title of Earl of Ossory instead; the subsidiary title held by the Earls of Ormond. Like I stated before, unless there were no more male heirs of the Butler line and Margaret was the only heiress of her father; and even in that case sometimes the Earldom was not passed on to the female heiress or her relatives at all, i.e., William Parr’s wife, Lady Anne Bourchier did not receive her father’s title of Earl of Essex as Countess when her father died. The title was instead recreated in favor of Sir Thomas Cromwell. It was after Cromwell died and when Henry was trying to gain Katherine Parr’s love that William was created Earl of Essex — a title he had been expecting and had been denied in spite.
    Back to the issue at hand though — why would the King force Piers to give his rightful title up? At that time, Henry VIII was already romantically involved with Anne Boleyn and the answer is clear – Thomas received the Earldom of Ormond due to Anne’s relationship with Henry VIII. That Thomas Boleyn owned the title of Earl of Ormond to his daughter’s influence, is proved by him losing the title after Anne’s execution. In May 1536, the Irish Parliament passed the act that reverted Butler lands and the title of Earl of Ormond to the Crown (Henry wasn’t King of Ireland at this time either). Henry VIII finally granted the Earldom of Ormond to Piers Butler in October 1537, two years before Thomas Boleyn’s death.
    Using another example — Queen Katherine Parr — she had her paternal grandmother’s coat of arms, FitzHugh, because Hon. Elizabeth FitzHugh and her sister Alice (Lady Fiennes) were THE heirs of the Barony of FitzHugh after the male line of the FitzHugh’s COMPLETELY ran out! The same goes for the arms of Marmion through her grandmother’s claim to that barony as well. As well as her mother who was co-heiress to her father and the only descendants left of that lineage of the Green’s. Baronies could be passed through women. The Earldom of Ormond was strictly bestowed upon heirs MALE.

  2. In discussing that Anne Boleyn ignored her father’s arms and instead used her paternal grandmother’s arms “that she had no right to use,” I would respectfully disagree.

    Thomas Boleyn had received his mother’s inheritance of the Earldom of Ormond in 1529, which became his highest title in the peerage, so in 1530 and beyond Anne was perfectly correct in using the arms of Ormond as her paternal arms.

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