Boleyn, George (d.1603) (DNB00)

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BOLEYN, GEORGE (d. 1603), dean of Lichfield, was not improbably the son of George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford [q. v.], who is usually reported to have left no male issue. In his will (preserved at Somerset House) he mentions that he was a kinsman of Lord Hunsdon, who was the grandson of Mary, eldest daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn, father of the ill-fated Viscount Rochford. A close study of the State Papers and other records reveals the fact that the family of the Boleyns (or Bullens) suffered constant persecution and spoliation at the hands of Henry VIII, and afterwards of Elizabeth, Viscount Rochford's large estates passed to the crown upon his execution. If we suppose George Boleyn, afterwards dean of Lichfield, to have been a son of Viscount Rochford, it is intelligible that he should have entered Trinity Hall, Cambridge, in the position of a sixar, November 1544. At Cambridge Boleyn was a pupil of John Whitgift, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury. In 1552 he graduated B.A. and in 1560 commenced master of arts. On 3 Aug. 1560 he was installed prebendary of Ulleskelf in the church of York; afterwards he became rector of Kempston in Nottinghamshire, and prebendary of the church of Chichester; on 21 Dec. 1566 he was preferred to a canonry of the church of Canterbury, and in the following year graduated B.D. At the proceedings of the metropolitical visitation of the church of Canterbury in September 1573 various charges were laid against Boleyn. It was alleged that he had threatened to nail the dean to the wall; that he had struck one of the canons, William Eling, a blow on the ear; had attempted to strike another canon Dr. Rush; had struck a canon in the chapter-house, and had thrashed a lawyer. It must be granted that Boleyn was of a hasty temper; indeed he frankdy admitted that he was accustomed to swear when provoked. But he did not long trouble the peace of the resident canons. On the last day of February 1574-6 he was presented by the dean and chapter of Canterbury to the rectory of St. Dionis Backchurch, London; and on 22 Dec 1576 he was installed dean of Lichfield, having taken the degree of D.D., as a member of Trinity College, earlier in the same year. He was made prebendary of Dasset Parva on 16 Nov. 1577, but resigned that post in or about February 1578-9. In 1582 he became involved in a lengthy and serious dispute with John Aylmer, the bishop of his diocese. It appears that the bishop, 'being necessitous on his coming into the diocese, laboured all he could to supply himself from his clergy' (Stype's Whitgift, i. 201, ed. 1822). Boleyn, a man 'prudent and stout,' strenuously resisted the aggressive action of the bishop, finally making his appeal to the lords of the privy council, who appointed the archbishop of Canterbury to institute a visitation. Among the Lansdowne MSS. (39, fol. 22) is preserved a letter (part of which is printed in Strype's 'Annals of the Reformation,' iii. i. 251-2, ed. 1824) from Boleyn to Lord Burghley touching the dispute. The writer speaks of himself as 'no dissembler, but one that would speak the truth, were it good or bad, well or ill' In or about August 1592 Boleyn resigned the rectory of St. Dionis Backchurch, and in 1595, after much opposition, was appointed to the rectory of Bangor. He died in January 1602–3, and was buried in Lichfield Cathedral, where there is a monument to him.

It is stated in Willis's ‘Survey of Cathedrals’ (ii. 825) that ‘Dean Boleyn was kinsman to Queen Elizabeth, who would have made him Bishop of Worcester, but he refused it,' In his will he writes: ‘Her majestie gave me all that ever I have and subjectes gave me nothing.’

Among the Lansdowne MSS. (45, fol. 152) is a letter of Boleyn’s to Lord Burghley, dated 10 June 1589, asking his lordship to use his influence with Dr. Still, master of Trinity College, Cambridge, to procure a scholarship at that college for a poor youth whom Boleyn had educated. In Add. MS. 5937 (fol. 36, verso) is a letter to Boleyn from James Strangeman, the genealogist, preferring a request to be allowed the use of the old books in the cathedral library of Lichfield. Some letters of Boleyn's are preserved among the Lambeth MSS. and the State Papers. There are some curious allusions to Boleyn in the ‘Protestatyon of Martin Marprelate.’ It appears that he had a dog named Spring, and that on one occasion, when he was in the pulpit, ‘hearing his dogg cry, he out with this text: whie how now hoe, can you not lett the dogg alone there? come Springe, come Spring.’ At another time, as he was delivering a sermon, ‘taking himself with a fault he said there I lyed, there I lyed.’ In Manningham’s ‘Diary’ (ed. Camden Society, p. 148) there is another story about Boleyn’s dog.

[Cooper's Athenæ Cantabriginses; Le Neve's Fasti, ed. Hardy, i. 57. 563, 599, iii. 220; Willis’s survey of Cathedrals, i. 172. ii. 825; Antiquities of Lichfield, 5, 57; Strype's Whitgift, i. 201–209, ed. 1822; Strype’s Annals of the Reformation, iii. i, 251–2, 592, iii. ii. 206–8, ed. 1824; Strype’s Life of Parker, ii, 301, ed. 1821; Lansdowne MSS. 39 (fol. 22), 45 (fol. 152); Calendar of State Papers, Dom. ser., 1581–90, pp. 329, 426; Newcourt's Repertorium, i. 330; Dean Boleyn's Will, preserved at Somerset House; Protestatyon of Martin Marprelate.]

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