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Frances de Vere, Countess of Surrey

August 18, 2014 4 Comments


My 15th great-grandmother was  lady in waiting to Anne Boleyn when she was married at the age of 15. She managed to stay alive during the shaky royal shake downs that caused her husband to be beheaded. To be in court with Henry VIII was a treacherous position. She wrote poetry like her more well educated husband.

Frances de Vere was the daughter of John de Vere, 15th earl of Oxford (1490-March 21,1540) and Elizabeth Trussell (1496-c.1527). She had no fortune, but in April 1532, she married Henry Howard, earl of Surrey (1517-x.January 19,1547). They lived apart until 1535 because of their youth. Alison Weir in Henry VIII: The King and his Court, states that Anne Boleyn arranged the match over the objections of the duchess of Norfolk and that Frances was at court as one of Anne’s ladies from 1533. She was also at court when Catherine Howard was queen, but not, apparently, afterward. Catherine gave her a brooch set with tiny diamonds and rubies. According to one of her grandson’s biographers, Frances, in common with her more famous husband, wrote poetry. Her children were clever and well educated, although Frances did not have charge of their education. They were Jane (1537?-1593), Thomas (March 10, 1538-June 2,1572), Catherine (1539?-April 7,1596), Henry (February 1540-1614), and Margaret (January 1543-March 17,1592). Frances miscarried in 1547, the year her husband was executed for treason. She was ill for some time afterward. Alternatively, Robert Hutchinson in House of Treason states that Frances gave birth to daughter Jane three weeks after Surrey was executed and names Catherine as the eldest daughter. W. A. Sessions in Henry Howard The Poet Earl of Surrey gives the birth order as Thomas (March 12, 1536), Henry (February 25, 1538), Jane, Catherine, and Margaret (1547). By 1553, Frances had married Thomas Steyning of Woodbridge, Suffolk (d. October 20, 1575+), where she owned the manor of East Soham near Framlingham Castle. She was granted nine manors in all by the duke of Norfolk, her father-in-law, after his restoration in 1553. In July 1554, Frances represented Queen Mary at the christening of the French ambassador’s son and in December 1557 she was chief mourner at the funeral of her sister-in-law, Mary Howard. She was also chief mourner for her daughter-in-law, Margaret Audley, on January 17, 1563. Frances had two children by her second husband, Henry and Mary. She died at East Soham. Portrait: sketch by Hans Holbein, 1535.


Frances DeVere (1517 – 1577)
is my 15th great grandmother
Thomas Howard (1536 – 1572)
son of Frances DeVere
Margaret Howard (1561 – 1591)
daughter of Thomas Howard
Lady Ann Dorset (1552 – 1680)
daughter of Margaret Howard
Robert Lewis (1574 – 1645)
son of Lady Ann Dorset
Robert Lewis (1607 – 1644)
son of Robert Lewis
Ann Lewis (1633 – 1686)
daughter of Robert Lewis
Joshua Morse (1669 – 1753)
son of Ann Lewis
Joseph Morse (1692 – 1759)
son of Joshua Morse
Joseph Morse (1721 – 1776)
son of Joseph Morse
Joseph Morse III (1752 – 1835)
son of Joseph Morse
John Henry Morse (1775 – 1864)
son of Joseph Morse III
Abner Morse (1808 – 1838)
son of John Henry Morse
Daniel Rowland Morse (1838 – 1910)
son of Abner Morse
Jason A Morse (1862 – 1932)
son of Daniel Rowland Morse
Ernest Abner Morse (1890 – 1965)
son of Jason A Morse
Richard Arden Morse (1920 – 2004)
son of Ernest Abner Morse
Pamela Morse
I am the daughter of Richard Arden Morse

Frances deVere was from a prestigious family, but one without great wealth. She was one of Anne Boleyn’s ladies-in-waiting and Anne probably arranged the match between Frances and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, whose mother would not have approved the choice of a bride with no dowry otherwise. Because of her young age (they married in 1532, when she was only 15), Frances continued her role as lady-in-waiting before joining her husband at his home – which is why she was at court to be sketched by Holbein in 1535. Frances shared her husband’s love of the arts, and also wrote poetry. She was traumatized by the 1547 execution of her husband, suffering a miscarriage and spending the next few years in delicate health.

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