11 things you might not know about George Boleyn

Posted By on January 30, 2021

I fell under George Boleyn’s ‘spell’ when I started working with Clare Cherry on our book, George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier and Diplomat. Clare had told me that George was just as fascinating as his sister, Anne Boleyn, and she was right! His life may have been cut short, but he packed lots into it, and he was a very talented man.

As an Anne Boleyn Files follower, you might well know these 11 facts about George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, but I hope you find this video interesting.

You can find out even more about George with the George Boleyn playlist:

You can find George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier and Diplomat on Amazon (it’s free if you’re in Kindle Unlimited) – click here – or from your usual online book retailer.

I was recently interviewed on George Boleyn by Dr Owen Emmerson of Hever Castle for “Inside Hever Castle” – see https://www.patreon.com/InsideHeverCastle for more details on how to subscribe. I’ve joined and I’m enjoying the content.

7 thoughts on “11 things you might not know about George Boleyn”

  1. Christine says:

    It is a great pity we have no works by George Boleyn Lord Rochford that survived, maybe after his fall from grace and death his poetry was destroyed so no one could ever sing them or make copies of them, just as Annes name was never mentioned a wall of silence must have prevailed over brother and sister, a dreadful waste to destroy such talent, or maybe they just got lost and burnt in a fire, but he was indeed very talented as well as being a good diplomat, obviously he learnt from his father who himself was a fine diplomat, could George also read and write in French also or any other languages, we know Sir Thomas was bilingual, a fact which earned him favour in his position as diplomat for King Henry V111, he was also interested in the new religion and the works by Tyndall and Luther, George is also said to have composed the mournful ballad, ‘ My Lute Be Still’, as he awaited death in the Tower of London, yet it is also attributed to Sir Thomas Wyatt, I agree with Claire about Jane Lady Rochford being quite close to Anne for her to take her into her confidence, another myth about the Boleyn family is Jane’s alleged jealousy of her sister in law, and resentful of her and her husbands closeness, finally according to the myth she betrayed them both, by informing Cromwell or his spies that they indulged in that most unnatural crime – incest, the marriage of George and Jane was arranged like members of the nobility, between their parents, however Sir Thomas had not yet become an Earl but when he did, then George became Lord Rochford and Viscount Rochford, there is no solid proof that they were unhappy together, but it makes a good subject in historical fiction, Anne herself was known as Anne Rochford and I think she did sign a piece of correspondence as Anne Rochford, it is a pity we have no portrait of George who was respected at court and a brother of the queen, Mary Boleyn was painted, maybe several times and Anne, though sadly none survived, and all we have from her time is the cartoon illustration of her in her noble order of the garter dress, and the miniature in the Chequers ring, hope springs eternal that one day a lost painting of Anne will turn up, and how exciting if we also discover one of George, was he dark like Anne? Was he tall and graceful, contemporary reports say that he was handsome and said to have been a womaniser, he probably was there was temptation at court, maybe his charm and attraction lay like his sister, in his fluent tongue and a certain style that no one else could compete with, there were rumours he had fathered a son also called George by an unknown woman, this son grew up to pursue a career in the church, but he is said to have died childless and if he was I deed George’s son, then his line died out and he has no descendants, just like his sister Anne, he had no children with Jane, possibly she had an undiagnosed medical condition, when he was arrested she wrote him a comforting note telling him she would plead his cause with the king, hardly the kind of note written in the hand of a jealous and vengeful wife, she also wore a lot of black as the inventories show when she was in the Tower, having got caught up very unwisely in the frolics of her late husbands cousin, Queen Catherine Howard, if she was the Merry Widow of legend she would have scoffed at the idea of wearing such a sombre colour, she would have chosen to wear bright colours maybe like the yellow satin Anne and King Henry had worn when they heard of the news of Queen Katherines death, George made a very unkind remark when he said it was a pity the Lady Mary did not keep company with her mother, was this carried back to the ear of the king,? Anne was known for being rash and outspoken and in fact when she babbled that she would have Mary poisoned when the king went to France, George admonished her because the king would be angry if he heard of such talk, maybe Anne like George when he made the remark about Mary dying, had been drinking when they both made such stupid remarks, drink does loosen the tongue, and after both brother and sister were in the Tower, Henry had both Mary and Fitzroy bought to him and he sobbed and embraced them, saying they were lucky they had escaped the cursed and venomous whore who had tried to poison them both, Jane did not have it easy, having lost her husband she also had to write to Cromwell begging for financial help after George’s death, imagine having to write for help to the same man who had been responsible for the death of your husband and sister in law, even though the king had signed the death warrants, it was Cromwell who had brought down the Queen of England and her faction, whilst awaiting death in the Tower George was sadly, consumed with worry over his debts something which Kingston relayed to Cromwell, we do not know if he was allowed any visitors, but he like Anne and her other alleged lovers did not see anyone apart from Kingston, Anne, who had her ladies wait on her and his wife, who was appointed to wait on the queen as well, at his trial George had the last laugh when he, knowing of the hypocrisy of the sham of the trial, read out aloud to his peers and all those watching, a highly toxic piece of gossip about the sexual inability of King Henry, he was warned not to speak it aloud, but he did and in doing so condemned himself, but he knew that death was a certainty and in acting such, showed his courage and boldness to shine forth, he was such a good orator so witty and clever that his judges were quite perplexed, he gave a good account of himself it was noted, and there were bets he would be found innocent, but after reading out loud about the kings impotency there would be no going back, a sad and tragic end to a wonderful career, to a brilliant man who must have lit up the court with his witty repartee and wonderful poetry, he was only about thirty when his life was cut short, it was noted he died bravely, he made a long speech about his religious beliefs which sounded more like a sermon, and declared that he had been a victim of vanity, he died with one blow of the axe, unlike his sister he did not have the luxury of the sword, it is said Anne watched her brothers bloody corpse trundle past her window on its way to it’s final resting place, maybe she did not look finding it too harrowing, in two days she would follow him to his grave, maybe one thought that comforted her was that they would be together, George’s name has been vindicated down through the centuries like his sister, the charge of incest has been quashed rightly so by historians, who feel that it was just brought forth to blacken Queen Anne’s name, it could have been Cromwell that evil genius who suggested adding it to Anne’s list of crimes, he declared after the deaths of both George and Anne and the other victims, that he had thought the whole thing up, well he certainly succeeded in bringing down a queen and in doing so, wrecked many people’s lives, a little three year old girl was now motherless, two parents had lost a son and daughter, Jane had lost her husband, Mary Boleyn lost two siblings, after the bloody events of May 1536 Jane lived quietly, but she was in service at court to the new queen and wether she mourned Jane Seymour on her death we do not know, then she served Henry’s fourth queen Anna from Cleves, she saw the flustered fat old monarch screw his head up in rage, when he stood by his German bride at court and she must have sniggered at his distaste, she saw the rise of his fifth queen Catherine Howard and according to fiction and in movies and television, Jane is always shown as Catherine’s friend and confidante and encouraging her to meet with the young handsome Culpeper, here again we see the rise of another myth about Jane, just as she has been linked to the downfall of Anne and George Boleyn, so she is said to have been Catherine’s procuress, a bawd is how Chapyus described her, does no one credit Jane with any common sense? Here was a woman mature no young giddy girl, who had seen two members of her family lose their lives because they had angered the king, as if she would encourage any other queen to deceive him knowing full well what the consequences would be, Jane’s life was not easy, when Catherine fell Jane had a nervous collapse, she must have known that she faced death, she had lived through her husbands death and had mourned him all her life, like him she was to die by the axe and she did not like Catherine, have the luxury of a trial, at least George had had a chance to defend himself and he did it brilliantly, along with Anne, his widow was nursed back to some level of sanity and she was executed on the same day as the queen, she lies also with her husband, the little church of St Peter Ad Vincula is home to many a wretched soul, described as the saddest spot on earth, under its flooring mingled with the dust of centuries, lies the bones of many a brilliant courtier and lady that once walked along the gilded corridors of the palaces of Tudor England, they may be dead long since but their stories are still being written.

  2. Banditqueen says:

    George Boleyn like his sister, Anne was a talented young man. He may have been a bit of a lad but he wasn’t the man that recent fiction wants us to believe. There isn’t any evidence for him being a rapist of his wife or anyone else or an active homosexual or of him indeed being a womaniser although the latter is hinted at. George and Anne definitely didn’t commit incest together and they certainly didn’t have a child which Anne then passed off as the King’s. The Other Boleyn Girl is a work of fiction and the imagination of Philippa Gregory who apparently believes this previously disproved theory. Mind you she also thinks Elizabeth Woodville passed a snotty nosed kitchen boy off as her son, Richard of Shrewsbury. One might have been able to pass a high born kid off as Edward V because very few people actually knew what he looked like since he was raised in Ludlow for the last ten years. Richard, however, had been raised in London and was much more easily recognised. Besides how was a kitchen boy meant to pass as a Prince? Yes, we know with some training Lambert Simnel is meant to have pretended to be Edward of Warwick or Edward V but that was only as a boy they could parade around, not as someone who would live as the Prince in the Royal Apartments for some time.

    George was never the diplomat of his father’s expertise or respect because he obviously never got the chance to have Thomas Boleyn’s long career. On his missions to meet important people during his sister’s reign as Queen to be honest he wasn’t taken seriously by diplomatic parties and he was often thrown in the deep end without the experience of rescuing difficult situations. He had to call on the Duke of Norfolk or his father to help him several times. However, he did have some successful projects. Henry sent him to address Convocation which was the Church Parliament and speak on the Supremacy. Here George succeeded but the video above shows him in difficulty with foreign affairs and bringing Ambassadors to Court who would rather wait for their colleagues and who had a difficult agenda regarding an alliance. His age and lack of expertise showed here. He did well on some missions to the Papacy and to the Court of France with Thomas Boleyn who of course was well versed in diplomacy.

    George was an excellent speaker and yes, he did have other languages, certainly French because he made translations of religious works from the French reformers for Anne. George shared a book on chivalry with Thomas Wyatt and he must have had a passing knowledge of Greek and Latin as well. None of this stopped him from having fun and maybe acting the goat around the Court. He was, after all a young man at a lively Royal Court and his company were certainly a rawdy bunch, as was his master, King Henry.

    It’s a great pity that we don’t have any of his poems but some which were attributed to others certainly have survived. We know precious little about the marriage of George and his wife Jane Parker to make any judgements about how happy they were but they apparently were a reasonably normal couple. They didn’t have any children but that proves nothing about their relationship. Julia Fox, the biographer of Jane Boleyn certainly dismissed any suggestion that they had an unhappy marriage. I am not saying they were madly in love, that probably wasn’t the case as ot was an arrangement but that doesn’t preclude affection. Jane had difficulty in obtaining her rights as a widow because George was executed but she never remarried and if she had only black clothes, then, beyond this being a colour of status, it is possible that Jane mourned George for the rest of her life. Jane may have complained about the fact that George was always at Court and Anne shared some unfortunate gossip with Jane about the King’s performance in bed, but that doesn’t mean Jane turned on him and brought an incest charge against her husband. On the contrary her letter of 4th May 1536 says that Jane asked about George in prison and she said she would try to help him. We don’t know if she did or was allowed to but Jane wasn’t listed as the women who testified against George or gave Cromwell any information. Her reputation has suffered unjustly in this area.

    George Boleyn like his sister was a champion of reformation and it is highly unlikely that they would have committed incest because of their knowledge of the Bible and their fear of eternal fire. Incest was viewed with horror and the charges were brought to make out that Anne was capable of anything. George certainly didn’t confess any such thing on the scaffold and there is no evidence to support any sexual deviance other than maybe dalliances with some ladies, but not with the Queen.

    1. Christine says:

      Yes fear of the fire in hell was enough to make people in early times try to behave themselves as much they could, both George and Anne believed firmly in this which is testimony to their innocence, why should two young attractive siblings with plenty of admirers want to sleep with each other when there was plenty of other people around? Further proof of Anne’s innocence is when she swore on the blessed sacrament in front of witnesses, a deeply pious woman would not have dared do such a thing if she was guilty as charged, she knew she faced eternal damnation, Philippa Gregory believes both siblings did sleep together because Anne, despairing of not being able to have a son, and maybe suspecting the king was at fault, encouraged her own brother to violate her, as was written in the indictment against her, she describes Anne as being very ruthless, and she was ruthless enough to pass of her brothers baby as the kings, she was certainly ruthless we know that but not depraved, there are some things that are abhorrent to god and man, incest was one of them and Anne and George were both normal people, and as we know deeply pious and god fearing, they would quite naturally have been repulsed and revolted when they learnt they were charged with incest, god only knew what Thomas and Elizabeth both thought, they must have believed in their children’s innocence, in fact I doubt if any of their contemporaries actually believed they had indulged in incest, many at court knew they were close but those in Anne’s service knew how strictly she run her household, as one courtier later said, her household was run much better than any other queen that followed, she deplored depravity, she knew the loose morals of the young men and she forbade them to visit houses of ill repute, brothels in other words, she was pious deeply religious and had a strict moral code, this must have been instilled in her as a young girl in Marguerite of Savoys household, would such a woman behave like the worst kind of trollope when she became queen, no the same with her brother, yes he probably was a bit of a Jack the lad, but that is perfectly normal in a young attractive man, to think he was a sexual deviant who also could have been bi sexual is going into the realms of fantasy, I did not like the way he was portrayed in The Tudors, he raped his wife and had an affair with Mark Smeaton, all utter rubbish! His name and that of Anne is still being trashed in many works of fiction, especially in the novels by the ever constant Miss.Gregory, she’s entitled to her own beliefs of course and she uses Retha Warnicke as the source of information for her work, something which Miss. Warnicke denies, both Anne and George lost their heads because she was in the way of what the king believed, was the chance for a third successful marriage and the hope of a son, nothing more the charges were rigged and we must not forget the other four souls who also perished, in reality George like his sister was no monster, he was a witty charming and gifted individual.

      1. Christine says:

        Truth is always stranger than fiction, yet many novelists like to add drama to their stories by inventing lurid and salacious details, in the many works of historical fiction I have ever read about Anne, from Jean Plaidy’s The Murder In The Tower, (the first historical novel I ever read, when I was a teenager), to Margaret Campbell Barnes Brief Gaudy Hour, to Norah Lofts The Concubine, which is my favourite, and another novel which I cannot recall the name, but it was about the lives of Lucy Cornwallis Henry V111’s confectioner, entwined with that of Anne Boleyn’s, it was told in a very modern way and was really entertaining, both Anne and Lucy telling their side of the story, none of these authors ever showed Anne Boleyn and George committing incest, it was only Philippa Gregory who actually believes they did, in her novel she has Anne giving birth to a monster baby with a huge oversized head, and tufts of red hair and indistinguishable features, Anne is screaming hysterically to get rid of it, I did not like the film either, where it showed both Anne and Mary competing for attention from the king, Anne was indifferent to him we know that, Mary we know nothing of her feelings and she also has Mary’s first born being a son, not a girl, that also was a gross parody like her novel, of the truth, there are many other novels written about Anne but I don’t read them, I prefer the biographies, which tell the truth, however i won’t be reading the book by Professor Bernard who believes Anne could have committed adultery with Norris and Smeaton, he relies heavily on the testimony of the latter, even though he admits he was possibly tortured, or was submitted to some kind of mental pressure, every historian has a right to their own views of course, but I cannot understand Retha Warnicke’s or Philippa Gregory’s, there was the other claim written by Nicholas Sander, that Anne had acted like an immoral kitchen maid when young with the butler and the family’s chaplain, and her shocked father had her sent to France because of the disgrace she brought on the family, I felt very sad thinking that Queen Elizabeth may have read a copy of his scandalous meanderings on her mother, she had never known her, she had cruelly lost her when her father had her executed, she had grown up in the shadow of the sword and bearing the stigma of bastardy, we know she honoured her mother in many ways yet her silence on the subject of her mother, possibly meant that she wanted her to rest in peace, she had been slandered dreadfully made out to be something she was not, and had lost her life, Elizabeth must have thought silence was the best policy to adopt, then along came Sander a Catholic recusant, and stirs it all up again, we know he was persecuted in England and fled to Ireland, so he had a grudge to bear against Protestantism, he wrote a book about the Anglican Schism, in which he attacked Elizabeth and also adds a few more lurid tales about her mother, who was seen by many good catholics as the cause of the reformation in England, so Anne’s name once again, is tarnished, then several hundred years later, we have novelists like Gregory writing drivel and making money from it as well, alright Anne is not portrayed as a warty hag with six fingers, but seduces her own brother in the hope of getting a child, George of course goes along with the idea albeit somewhat reluctantly, there is a line you just do not go beyond, and had Anne Boleyn been like Morgana le Fey, the evil enchantress in Authorian legend, who seduces her own brother the young King Arthur, and gets a child on him, called Mordred who grew up to be the enemy of his father, then yes Anne Boleyn may well have chosen her own brother in adultery, but she was no evil enchantress, to her enemies she may have been, but to those who had loved her, those who had served her, she was a woman who kept the word of god and instilled it in others, she was a charitable queen who tried to help the poor, she was a mother who had a daughter and who sadly had just lost a son, and whose husband had deserted her.

  3. Banditqueen says:

    Yes, that’s another very good point, Anne had the Constable of the Tower, William Kingston, witness her last confession and gave Cranmer leave to tell everyone. There is nothing more binding and sacred than the relationship between priest and penitent, the seal of the confession cannot be broken, not even compelled by a Court. The penitent, can give the priest leave to reveal what was said and Katherine of Aragon had done this as well, concerning her first marriage with Prince Arthur. Anne didn’t say she had nothing to confess, instead as she received the Body and Blood of Christ, she swore specifically that she had never betrayed Henry either with her body or her words or any other way. This was a very holy and important declaration of her innocence and people were disturbed when they heard this. Many accepted it as proof of Anne’s innocence and her soul would really be in trouble if she lied now.

    However, this made no difference and Henry was set on his course of action. There is no sense in the argument that Anne slept with George, Mark, the milkman, Sir Henry Norris or anyone else in order to get pregnant because the King had occasional impotence. Henry wasn’t an idiot. He would know if he hadn’t slept with Anne for a bit but suddenly she was pregnant. The mere idea of siblings sleeping together in Christian Europe would send shivers down the spine. It might be fine in Ancient Egypt but even then there were consequences. The eighteenth Dynasty died out and the two tiny unborn sons of Tutankhamen have spinal deformities. The Church forbade marriage up to eight degrees of affinity and people had to get a dispensation to break the rules. A brother snd sister in law marriage was also frowned upon as in Katherine and Henry and Arthur. It was only allowed because it was Spain and the first marriage wasn’t consummated. Can you imagine the horror of two siblings committing incest. Apart from the issue of sin, even in Tudor times they knew the children would be deformed because they had eyes and history had examples to warn them. For two people who actually took the Word of God seriously this was anathema. However, some historians like a bit of scandal and certainly people may have thought Anne’s record of miscarriage had a reason or that Henry was cursed. Now they saw the truth, the accusations were false and people murmured.

  4. Christine says:

    Yes Henry V111 had to get several dispensations to marry some of his wives, Jane Seymour for one I think they were related in the fifth degree,? In fact all his wives were related to each other being descendants of Edward 1st, Ja e Seymour was closely related to Anne Boleyn, and Catherine Howard, they both shared the same grandmother in Elizabeth Tilney, by different grandfathers, of course this shared blood did not mean they were ever friends and Jane was a supporter of Queen Katherine, and she also supplanted Anne, Katherine of Aragon in fact
    had a more stronger claim to the English throne than Henry V111, being a legitimate descendant of Edward 111 via his son John of Gaunt , by his second wife, Henry descended from John of Gaunt by his mistress who he later married, via the illegitimate Beaufort line, Anna from Cleves was descended also from the Plantagenet king, so we can see why there had to be dispensations, today it is legal to marry our first cousin but it is not really well thought of, and if there is a genetic illness then any children would be considered a no no.

  5. Christine says:

    Iv just had my first covid Pfizer vaccine, had a text through Sunday morning to say I could now book it, had a previous text the week before which said it would be about mid March, so really pleased, the infection rate in my county is low so they are able to vaccinate the sixty’s age group, we had to go in an isolation tent afterwards and wait for five minutes before we were allowed to leave, and we were handed some papers to read and a vaccine card with our details on, this is to prove we have had it, there is a bit of a hoo ha over when we are allowed the second one, we were told twelve weeks but that’s such a long way of, wonder if anyone on here has had the vaccine yet, I’d also like to pay tribute to Sir Tom Moore what a trouper he was, bless him, I think he deserves a statue the way he raised all that money for our NHS.

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