The character in Tudor history that most fascinates me, other than Anne Boleyn, is Jane Parker Boleyn, Lady Rochford. She is always painted as a villainess, in nonfiction and fiction accounts, and I am interested in how this concensus was reached.
Jane Parker was contracted to marry George Boleyn, Anne’s brother, when she was very young, in what was almost certainly an arranged alliance. Her family was a supporter of Katherine of Aragon, and Jane is reputed to have been a fervent admirer of the Queen herself, so it seems reasonable that when Henry and Anne began their liaison, this would have been frowned upon by Jane. Add to that George’s continual fawning over his flamboyant sister, to the exclusion of his wife, and I think it is perfectly plausible that Jane would have been jealous of Anne, to say the very least.
Her husband, by every account I have ever read, was loath to make her his wife, disgusted with the idea of physical intimacy with her, dishonored Queen Katherine, who Jane adored, and laughed and made merry with his sister, catering to her every whim, while making fun of (when not ignoring) his lady wife, Jane.
The very least Jane was entitled to was respect from her husband and his family, and again, by every account I have read, she was denied this. Instead she was labeled a shrew, and became the whipping boy for Anne and George and
their followers. I think it is perfectly understandable that she might be driven to vengeance, and would try to exact revenge in the way she apparently chose.
Did Jane lie? I suppose we will never truly know, because we are not able to ask her, and are not able to be there to observe what happened. On the other hand, we will never really know if it is the truth, either. I suppose we could argue that Jane tried to redeem herself by serving Anne’s cousin Katharine Howard, another of Henry’s ill-fated wives. Or we could think that Jane had it in for all the Boleyns and Howards, and in her attempt to take her revenge a second time, she got caught in her own web of deceit, and was herself beheaded. Either way, all of this makes her absolutely fascinating.