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Lord Thomas Boleyn

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" Did you watch your son die?!... What about your daughter?  Will you watch her suffer?  Will you watch her die?  Tell me, Boleyn- was it all worth it?!"

-Charles Brandon to Thomas Boleyn, on the latter's rise and fall from power

Sir Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire and (formerly) Lord of Rochford, is the father of George, Mary and Anne Boleyn and the patriarch of the notorious Boleyn family.  His ruthless, shrewd nature and greed for status helped drive his family into power, but also earned them many enemies.  At the end of the second season he is expelled from the court in permanent disgrace and stripped of all his titles except his Earldom; one of his children has been disinherited, and the other two have been sentenced to death on false charges and beheaded.  He is played by Irish actor Nick Dunning in all episodes of Seasons One and Two.

Season One Edit

In the first episode, Sir Thomas Boleyn is introduced as the Ambassador to France and a shrewd, smooth-talking nobleman
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Ambassador Thomas Boleyn plays chess with King Henry

of little influence and power (though his brother-in-law is Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk).  His ancestral home and residence is Hever Castle.   The Duke of Buckingham, an ally of Norfolk, initially tries to recruit Boleyn in his coup to seize King Henry's crown (based on his own claim to it) because Boleyn is the descendant of a very old (and formerly respected) house which is now ignored, like himself.  However, Boleyn, seeing this as an opportunity to advance his standing with the King and not wanting England to return to civil war, instead betrays Buckingham's plot to Cardinal Wolsey, despite his secret hatred for the Cardinal.  In due course Buckingham is arrested on charges of treason, sentenced to death and beheaded in episode two. 
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Thomas Boleyn tells Anne she must take her sister's place

Boleyn briefly meets with Henry before his summit with King Francis, briefing him on the French King and playing chess with him; knowing of Henry's massive ego, Boleyn deliberately loses the game and portrays Francis as inferior to Henry in almost every way.  On returning to France near  the end of the first episode, Boleyn summons his daughters Mary and Anne.  He informs them they will have the opportunity to meet the King while they are in France and ingratiate themselves; he also informs them, without the slightest hint of subtlety, that they are to use the King's potential attraction to them to help elevate the Boleyn family in the royal court.  This ruthless use of his children as pawns is characteristic of Boleyn throughout the first and second seasons.

When Mary (the elder and more sexually active of the two) fails to keep Henry's interest after a short period of time, Boleyn presses Anne into service at the end of episode 1.02, reasoning she is more intelligent and exotic than her sister.  Henry is immediately intrigued on meeting Anne for the second time in 1.03, and as soon as he encounters Thomas Boleyn he gives him the title of Comptroller of the Royal House and a Knighthood of the Garter (having mostly ignored him before).  In response, Boleyn arranges for Anne to be brought to court as a lady-in-waiting to the Queen.  However, Anne refuses to engage in a sexual relationship with the King; her father is angered, then pleased when he discovers her defiance makes Henry pursue her even harder. 

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The new Lord of Rochford


Boleyn continues to egg his daughter on mechanically, reading the love letters Henry sends her; he is at first unaware that Anne is falling in love with the King as well, and sharply reminds her that she is to use Henry's attraction to her to advance their family and discredit Wolsey.  Boleyn is given the title Lord of Rochford in episode 1.05; he is approached by the Spanish ambassador Mendoza, who hopes to employ Boleyn as a spy for the Holy Roman Empire (similar to the way the French employed Wolsey); Boleyn realizes such an offer is dangerous, but says he will consider it.  When the sweating sickness in episode 1.07 becomes an outbreak, Thomas Boleyn and his son George are horrified (though for different reasons) when Anne catches the disease and almost dies, but she recovers. 
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Boleyn reports to the Duke of Norfolk

Meanwhile, having established himself at court alongside Norfolk, Boleyn and his brother-in-law maneuver to get rid of Cardinal Wolsey.  To this end, they enlist the King's recently-disgraced friend Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk.  Suffolk detests both of them, but hates Wolsey even more and agrees to help them if they can secure his return to court.  They are also aided by Boleyn's associate Thomas Cromwell, a cunning lawyer recently appointed as the King's secretary.  Boleyn now instructs Anne to discredit Wolsey to Henry, since his and Norfolk's direct investigation into Wolsey's affairs anger the king.  Boleyn also expresses his contempt for the Papacy and the Apostles in later episodes of Season 1 to Ambassador Chapuys, though it is unclear if he truly supports the Protestant Reformation (as Anne and Cromwell certainly do) or if he is just sucking up for the King.

By the end of the season, Boleyn's coalition has successfully destroyed Cardinal Wolsey and assumed a powerful position closest to King Henry himself; he escapes the anger Henry directs at Norfolk and Suffolk for their poor management becuase he is on a diplomatic mission with Cromwell. In the Season finale Boleyn is made Earl of Wiltshire, while his son George takes his former title as Lord of Rochford.  However, his hopes for further power are still riding on Anne, who is now Henry's mistress and soon-to-be-betrothed.

Season Two Edit

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King Henry (left) Earl Thomas Boleyn of Wiltshire (center) and Lord George Boleyn of Rochford (right)

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Thomas Boleyn (center) observes Mr. Roose's execution with his son George (right) and Thomas Cromwell (left)

Boleyn remains extremely powerful in Henry's court- having acquired the title of Lord Privy Seal among others- but his paranoia of losing his newfound power makes him increasingly aggresive towards potential enemies.  He and George observe the battle between Henry and the English clergy; they are delighted when Archbishop Warham finally submits to Henry as head of the Church of England.  However, opposition from Bishop John Fisher continues, leading to Thomas and George arranging for him to be poisoned.  The attempt is botched, and the entire Boleyn family is suspected by the court, though the King refuses to believe they are behind it.  Boleyn's powerful alliance from season one has fragmented after the death of Wolsey; Norfolk is in retirement and Charles Brandon, having nothing but disgust for the Boleyns, is now openly hostile towards him.  Boleyn counters this by spreading rumors that Charles is a supporter of the deposed Queen Catherine of Aragon.  He also helps discredit Brandon to Henry for being late to the King and Anne's marriage, and for failing to catch an assasin at her coronation.

After Anne Boleyn is crowned Queen and gives birth to Boleyn's granddaughter Elizabeth in episode 2.03, the family celebrates their latest- and highest- rise in power.  Thomas Boleyn informs Mary Tudor, Henry's daugher by Catherine, that Catherine's marriage to Henry is null and void, making Mary a bastard.  When Mary retorts that she will recognize no queen except her mother, the Earl maliciously tells her she is forbidden to see her mother or communicate with her.  Thomas Boleyn's ruthlessness is by no means limited to his enemies, however.  When Anne miscarries her second child in episode 2.05 and is still grieving, her father berates her and pressures her to win back Henry's favor for the sake of the Boleyn family.  In the same episode, he cruelly disowns his daughter Mary on learning that she has married a commoner. At the episode's conclusion, he attends Thomas More's execution with an angry expression, knowing More's martyrdom will undermine the Protestant cause that brought the Boleyns to power.  

Boleyn shows a rare moment of sympathy in episode 2.04 when Anne consults him on the fact that Henry has taken a mistress.  After comforting her, Boleyn explains it is traditional for King's to take mistresses when their Queens are pregnant or recovering from childbirth; therefore, Anne should not worry about losing the King as long as she makes sure his mistress is chosen by her- someone who does not come from another ambitious noble family.  In episode 2.07, however, Lady Jane Seymour and her family catch Henry's eye despite Anne's affections. Boleyn also realizes that his associate Thomas Cromwell- who has grown increasingly powerful over the season- is drifting away from their alliance as well, and he berates Anne for quarreling with Cromwell because it is dangerous, implying that she only reached the rank of Queen by following his and Norfolk's instructions.  Stung, Anne retorts that she made the King fall in love with her without his help, then announces she is pregnant by the king again, placating her father. 
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Thomas Boleyn argues with his daughter Anne

In episode 2.08 when Henry is badly injured at a tournament and unconscious for several hours, George muses that it would not necessarily be a bad thing if Henry died: as Thomas Boleyn is now Lord Protector, he would act as de facto king in Henry's absence (with Anne as Queen Regent) until Anne's unborn son or Elizabeth was old enough to reign.  The Earl immediately berates his son for saying such things while the King is still alive, although he too seems to relish this opportunity.  However, when Anne miscarries her child, Boleyn is rightly very fearful of his loss of influence, especially as the King is visibly showering favor on the Seymour family, the Boleyn's newest rivals.  Boleyn browbeats Anne into disparraging the French (as Henry seems to be leaning towards an Imperial alliance) and tries to make ammends with Ambassador Eustace Chapuys, whom he previously insulted.  However, Chapuys disdainfully declines, and Henry ultimately rejects the Imperial alliance, costing the Boleyns their French support because of Anne's remarks.  He and George are increasingly ignored and unfavored by the King, leaving them vulnerable to their many enemies.

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An imprisoned Boleyn is rebuked for his cruelty by Charles Brandon, his mortal enemy

In episode 2.09, Boleyn is arrested along with his son, daughter and various other scapegoats in Cromwell's carefully-fabricated accusation of incest against Queen Anne.  Boleyn finally shows the true depths of his cruelty and indifference when he denounces both his children and gives credit to the accuastions, simply to save his own skin. When Charles Brandon comes to visit him, he informs Thomas Boleyn that he is released, but is permanently disgraced and can never return to Henry's court on pain of death. Boleyn is also expelled from all his government positions, and his knighthood revoked.  When Boleyn, showing obvious relief, hesitantly remarks "So- I am to keep my Earldom?"  Brandon, enraged, grabs him and slams him against his cell wall.  He yells into Boleyn's face, asking if his whole rise and fall from power was worth the losses of George (who has been beheaded) and Anne (who is sentenced to beheading as well).  As Thomas Boleyn leaves the Tower of London, he notices Anne watching him from her window; she waves hesitantly at him, but he walks off without acknowledging her.

Despite Thomas Boleyn's cruel nature, it seems he once had a genuinely loving relationship with his children; in "Destiny and Fortune", the night before her execution, Anne has fond recollections of playing with her father and brother as a little girl at Hever Castle.

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Anne's flashback of her happier childhood days with her father

Season FourEdit

Thomas Boleyn does not appear in Season Four, but he is briefly mentioned to have recently died; Ambassador Chapuys, who loathed Boleyn even more than he did Anne, remarks that "the only ones who came to his funeral were the ghosts of his children."

QuotesEdit

  • "Your Grace, no one wants to return to the awful days of civil war. What's done is done- the King is the King." (to the Duke of Buckingham)
  • "His Majesty is tiring of his French alliance; it seems he's also tiring of your sister." (to Anne)
  • "Perhaps you can imagine a way to keep his interest more... prolonged?  I daresay you learned things in France...how to play his passions... There's something deep, and dangerous in you, Anne.  Those eyes of yours are like dark hooks for the soul."
  • (To the Duke of Norfolk) "Forgive me, Your Grace, but we must judge the moment. Such is Wolsey's hold over the King, that whatever the evidence against him, the King won't believe it. But...there will come a time, when the King's trust in his First Minister... will hang in the balance.  And then, Your Grace, we shall drop our truth into the scales.  And the scales... shall fall."
  • Lord Boleyn: "Do you miss the court, Your Grace?  Perhaps you don't...down here, in this green space, you have so much leisure, so many idle pursuits.  And, yet... I have heard it said by some that the King's presence is like the sun- and when you are away from it... there is only eternal night."  Charles Brandon: "You're a clever man, Boleyn.  That's what people say about you, that you are charming and clever. (pause) What does Norfolk want?"  Lord Boleyn: "He wants you to help us destroy Wolsey- and in return, he will persuade the King to forgive you and welcome you back to court."
  • (to Ambassador Chapuys) "What Apostles?!  don't believe Christ had Apostles- not even Saint Peter!  Those men were nothing more than hypocrites and charlatans, pretending to following our Lord and speak in His name- and they built a church upon their lies!"
  • "If you betray us, I will destroy your entire family."
  • "There.  They've surrendered.  The church is broken."
  • "Sweetheart, listen to me: the danger to you and to us is not that the King takes a mistress, but that he takes the wrong one- someone we can't control... make sure she is your  choice, not his."  
  • Lord Boleyn: "Anne, I did not bring you up to have opinions, or  to express them, or  to quarrel with those closest to the Crown!" Anne Boleyn: "But I am closest to the Crown- I am the King's wife." Lord Boleyn (grabbing her arm) "And you should remember how you got there!" Anne Boleyn (wrenching away): "I know how I got there!  And it was not all you!  It was not all you, or Norfolk or George or any other man you want to name!... It was also me."
  • Thomas: "Poor George- are you going soft?" George: "Me?!  No!"  Thomas Boleyn: "I hope not.  You see, George, successful people only recognize fear in others.  Go and talk to your sister again!"
  • (To Anne after she is fallen from Henry's favor)  "We have come so far!  I will not allow us to lose everything now!"
  • "So... I am to keep my Earldom?" (upon learning that he will be spared, but permanently disgraced and his son and daughter will be killed)

GalleryEdit

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