The Tudor Roses

The Tudor Roses

The Rose Blog

George Boleyn and Falconry


We are very happy to have a guest blog today from Clare Cherry and Claire Ridgway telling us about George Boleyn and Falconry. As you know us Roses love falconry so enough of us talking lets hand it over to them!

We know from the primary sources that George was particularly adept at archery, bowls and shovelboard, winning large sums of money from the King on numerous occasions. He was also very much the sportsman, enjoying tennis and jousting. But his particular delight appears to have been
hunting with either dogs or hawks.


Falconry was a particularly expensive form of entertainment in the sixteenth century and was enjoyed almost exclusively by the nobility. The sport involved the capturing of quarry using trained birds of prey.


On 17 October 1533, George wrote to Lord Lisle, who had been appointed Lord Deputy of Calais in March of that year. He began his letter with the formal courtesies of the age, “My very good Lord, as heartily as I can I commend me unto your Lordship”, and goes on to request safe passage for his servant to enable him to purchase various hawks for his master:


“This my letter shall be to desire you to be good lord unto this bearer my servant, William Atkins, insuring him your favour to pass in Flanders with such small baggage as he shall bring with him: which when he hath sold it at the most, with the same money buy for me certain hawks; praying your lordship also that at his return from thence that he may have passage with the first that shall come over.”


Lord Lisle received a number of similar letters, mainly from wealthy people of importance, promising to do similar favours for him at another time. George Boleyn’s letter therefore ends, “and if there be any pleasure or service that I may do for you in these parts, I pray you write unto me and I shall not fail to do you any pleasure that in me is.”


The nobility would hire professionals to train the birds for them, or spend large sums on already-trained birds, often purchased from abroad, rather than training them themselves. It was not unusual for gentlemen either to travel themselves or to send their servants abroad in order to purchase the best birds. Such purchases were an important show of wealth and respectability; when your brother-in-law was the King of England, such a show was essential, a matter of keeping up appearances as well as of the enjoyment of the sport, an important symbol of respect and friendship between nobles.


George’s determination to flaunt his wealth and social position resulted in him writing to the Searchers of Dover and Calais two months after his letter to Lisle. On 11 December he wrote again in pursuit of the best hawks, calling the searchers, his “well beloved friends”:


“I desire and heartily pray you to permit and suffer my servant this bearer to pass by you into the parts of beyond the sea with the sum of twenty marks in gold or silver or under the coin of this Realm of England or of any outward parts, to make provision for me in the said parts of beyond the sea of certain hawks. And I shall see you discharged in this behalf and besides that do unto you the pleasure that lieth in me...”


Notes from Claire


I can understand George's love of falconry. In 2011 I was given the chance to take part in a falconry experience at Bosworth Battlefield and I loved it. The awe I felt as I saw Splat the Harris Hawk glide from a roof onto my arm was incredible. I'd love to do falconry properly and go hunting with a hawk.


Thank you for that great blog and we hope to see you again soon

We are lucky today as we have a copy of the book to give away and it is simple all you got to do is tell us what bird did the Boleyn's have on their family crest?

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