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Joan Larke

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Title: Joan Larke  
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Subject: Thomas Wolsey
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Joan Larke

Joan Larke
Born c.1490
Yarmouth, Norfolk, England
Died After 1529
Nationality English
Known for Mistress of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey
Spouse(s) George Legh
George Paulet
Children (By Thomas Wolsey):
Thomas Wynter
Dorothy Clancey
(By George Legh):
Thomas Legh
Elizabeth Legh
Mary Legh
Margaret/Ellen Legh
Parents Peter Larke

Joan Larke (c.1490- after 1529), was the mistress of the powerful English statesman and churchman, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, and the mother of his two illegitimate children.

Wolsey's mistress

Joan was born in about 1490 in Yarmouth, Norfolk, the daughter of Peter Larke, variously named a Thetford innkeeper or a gentleman of Huntingdonshire.[1] Her brother Thomas Larke was chaplain to Thomas Wolsey. In about 1509, when Wolsey served as almoner of the new king Henry VIII of England, Joan became his mistress, living with him in Bridewell. She bore him two illegitimate children:

  • Thomas Wynter (b.c.1510), married and sired children.
  • Dorothy Clancey (b. 29 September 1512)

Her son was sent to live with a family in Willesden, and her daughter, Dorothy, was adopted by John Clancey, and later placed in the Shaftesbury Nunnery, where she became a nun. She received a pension from Thomas Cromwell when her religious house was later dissolved.

Sometime after Wolsey's arrest and death in November 1530, Thomas Wynter went to study at the University of Padua, at the King's expense. When he returned to England penniless in about 1535, he was financially assisted by Queen Anne Boleyn, Wolsey's former adversary.[2]

Marriages and children

As Wolsey continued to rise swiftly and prominently in the Church and government, eventually becoming Bishop of Lincoln, Archbishop of York, a cardinal, and Lord Chancellor of England, Joan became an embarrassment to him. In 1519, he arranged her marriage to George Legh, of Adlington Hall, Cheshire, and provided her dowry. Wolsey would later assist the Leghs in a property dispute.[3]

Together Joan and George had four children:

  • Thomas Legh (1527–1599), married Maria Grosvenor, by whom he had one son, Thomas (1547–1601)
  • Elizabeth Legh (1525–1583)
  • Mary Legh
  • Margaret/Ellen Legh

Sometime after Legh's death in 1529, Joan married secondly, George Paulet, brother of William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester.

Joan Larke died on an unknown date.


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