The Myth of Catherine Middleton: Mary Boleyn

Originally written by Meg McGath, 30 May 2011

Before their wedding in 2011, there were several articles for the ancestry of Catherine Middleton, now HRH Princess of Wales. This claim—from the DailyMail (complete with a tree!)—is that Middleton is a descendant of Mary Boleyn, sister to Queen Anne, through Boleyn’s granddaughter, Elizabeth Knollys, who’s daughter, Elizabeth Leighton, married Sherrington Talbot (I).

ATTRIBUTED TO REMIGIUS VAN LEEMPUT (D. 1675) Portrait of a Lady called Mary Boleyn, Lady Stafford (c.1499-1543) c. 1630-70
Oil on panel | 39.4 x 31.2 x 0.5 cm (support, canvas/panel/stretcher external) | RCIN 402991
Mary, Queen of Scots’ Bedchamber,
Palace of Holyroodhouse
The portrait is thought to be a 17th century copy of a lost original.

The chart in the Daily Mail article continues with their son, Sherrington (II), who married Jane Lyttleton, who had a daughter, Elizabeth Talbot, who married to Henry Davenport. Up until they claim that Elizabeth and Henry were “parents” to William Davenport who married Elizabeth Marshall—the lineage is correct. It’s only when you look into the identity of William that things kind of fall apart.

Portrait of Elizabeth Knollys, Lady Leighton (b. 15 June 1549, d. circa 1605), maid of honor early in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Married, in 1578, Thomas Leighton, Governor of Jersey (b. 1535 – d. circa 1611)

“Sir Thomas and Elizabeth’s daughter married one Sherrington Talbot, a member of an ancient and respectable family of landowners, but in a couple of generations’ time, things were beginning to look decidedly iffy.

Sherrington and Elizabeth’s granddaughter wed Henry Davenport,”

Probably Jane Lyttelton, Mrs Sharington II Talbot
British (English) School

The idenity of the sitter has been the subject of debate, but she is most probably Jane Lyttleton, who married Sharington II Talbot of Salwarp and Lacock (d.1677). Their son and heir was Sir John Talbot (d.1714), who was instrumental in transforming the fabric of Lacock. The sitter had tradtionally been indentified as Elizabeth Leighton, the first wife of Sharington I Talbot, and the mother of Sharington II. Given that he was born in about 1605, she would clearly have been too old around 1630 to have been the sitter here.

So I said, “let me check this out!” I started with Crofts Peerage‘s (which is currently offline). The Sherrington Talbot listed there, who married Jane Lyttelton, doesn’t mention an Elizabeth Talbot who married a Henry Davenport. The same goes for the book Charles Mosley, editor, Burke’s Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes (Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke’s Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003), volume 1, page 838. But, then I looked in Burke’s Peerage. There is a mention of an Elizabeth Talbot, daughter of a “Sharington Talbot”, but there is NO mother and NO mention of an Elizabeth Talbot who married Henry Davenport and had William Davenport (that went on to marry a Grace Alloway). It states:

“Henry Davenport Esq who m 82 Oct 1665 Elizabeth dau of Sharington Talbot Esq of Lacock co Wilts and d. in July 1698 leaving with other daus who died unmarried, a dau Mary m 1st to the Rev William Hallifax DD who rf in 1720 and 2ndly to the Rev Prideaux Sutton of Itreedon co Worcester and two sons Sharington the elder a major general in the army who rf unm in Ireland 5 July 1719 and Henry Davenport Esq baptized 26 Feb 1677 8 who m 1st Mary Lucy dau of Daniel Charden Esq and had by her a son Sharington of whom presently and two daus Mary Elizabeth m to John Mytton Esq of Halftone and Mary Luce rf unm Mr Davenport m 2ndly Barbara second dau of Sir John Ivory of Ireland by Aline his wife dan of Sir John Talbot of Lacock co Wilts and by her who rf in 174ft left at his decease in 1731 a son William in holy orders DD rector of Bree don who m Mary dau of John Ivory Talbot of Lacock and had issue The only son of the first marriage”.

That was all my research, above.

I then found William Reitwiesner’s page, which did Middleton’s genealogy. They argued that this supposed link to Mary Boleyn is not correct. Reitwiesner’s page states that a correspondent “concludes that insufficient evidence exists to establish such a connection beyond a reasonable doubt.” From their article on Middleton:

“In Hobbs (full citation below), on p. 13, F. M. Lupton cites a pamphlet William Davenport, of Reading, and his descendants, by Rev. James Davenport, which claims that this William Davenport of Reading (number 636, above) was the same person as the William Davenport born at Worfield, Shropshire, on 24 Feb. 1679, a younger son of Henry Davenport of Hollon, Shropshire, by his wife Elizabeth Talbot.

Rev. James Davenport appears to have written several different works on William Davenport of Reading, as a correspondent refers to a publication by Rev. James Davenport, Rector of Harvington in Worcestershire, titled The Davenport Family of Reading and Welford on Avon, and printed in 1923 (long after Hobbs was printed). About the identification of William Davenport of Reading with the William Davenport baptized at Worfield, the correspondent states that the author “concludes that insufficient evidence exists to establish such a connection beyond a reasonable doubt.” This identification has been DISPROVEN.”

I don’t remember if I emailed first or if they updated the page after I questioned the parentage of William Davenport. Anyway…

Email from Reitweisner’s; 29 May 2011:
“Yes we have disproven it, both with the will of Elizabeth Davenport not mentioning a son William, other records showing her son William died in his 20s and with her research showing Kate’s William was likely the son of a Laurence Davenport.”

Since the publication of the Daily Mail’s article, several articles of their own have appeared “confirming” this lineage back to Mary Boleyn for Middleton. Common theme: NO sources! When you type in “Catherine Middleton Mary Boleyn” and search, the first source that pops up now is Sassy Jane Genealogy. They state their source as The Spectator’s “Another Boleyn girl: How Kate Middleton may descend from Henry VIII written by Charlotte Eager, 12 March 2011. Eager doesn’t go past the generation of Elizabeth Knollys and her marriage to Sir Thomas Leighton. Also: No sources! An article even turned up on The Anne Boleyn Files. I left comments (they were called harsh) saying the lineage could be disputed, with sources—however, they were never published or acknowledged as being correct by the TABF. They later updated the article, after yet another person called bs. It now says:

Update: Unfortunately, experts have now disproved this link between Kate and Mary Boleyn, see