12 Facts about Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford
Posted By Claire on March 6, 2021
Most Tudor history lovers know that Jane Boleyn (née Parker), Lady Rochford, was the wife of George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, the sister-in-law of Queen Anne Boleyn and that she was executed with Catherine Howard in February 1542, but in this talk, I share 12 lesser-known facts about Jane…
More videos about Jane Boleyn…
Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford by Julia Fox
George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier and Diplomat by Clare Cherry and Claire Ridgway
Jane Parker: The Downfall Of Two Tudor Queens? by Charlie Fenton
5 thoughts on “12 Facts about Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford”
When you think that some modern historians still babble this nonsense about Jane Boleyn Lady Rochford, its ridiculous because its not based on any evidence. It really is time to exhonorate her as not having anything to do with the trial or death of her husband, George Boleyn.
Lady Jane Viscountess Rochford has certainly had her character torn apart, for her alleged involvement in bringing down her husband and his sister the queen, but as we have seen there are no grounds for any such allegations, and they seem to have arisen purely out of confusion, I must add recently I have purchased from Amazon the BBC drama The Six Wives Of Henry V111 starring Keith Mitchell, this series which aired in the seventies was really the hey day of the BBC costume dramas, and the last time I watched it, must have been in the early eighties, Annette Crosbie was Katherine of Aragon and she was marvellous, she resembled more the true queen than any other actress who has played her since, short with luxurious golden/ auburn hair and with a fake but very lifelike Spanish accent, Annette was regal dignified and more than a match for Henry V111, it showed her arrival in England and Henry V11 greeting her with young Arthur, it showed the love and respect that Henry had for her their wedding, and the grief they endured over the death of their first born son, it also showed the cruelty and indifference Henry V111 showed towards her because of her refusal to accept the annulment and her lonely death, then it was Dorothy Tutins turn as Anne Boleyn, Tutin was a very fine actress to and she had all of Anne’s spirit her tempestuous nature, above all it showed the passion between her and the king and there of course was Lady Rochford, Jane was portrayed as a po faced sow tittle tattling to Cromwell and I thought oh here we go again! It showed the company dancing at court and Jane scurrying of to drip poison in Cromwells ear about the indiscretions of the queen, and the series seemed to suggest it was all her fault the Queen lost her head and her husband to, the myth she had a toxic marriage and hated and envied Anne Boleyn is another slur on her character and really, this one woman is to be pitied because she has no chance today to defend herself, yet still the myths endure and yet the truth as always, must be very different, Jane was born in Norfolk possibly around 1505 so Wikipedia states, she was born the daughter of country gentry and through her mother was a distant cousin of the king, she was at court with the Boleyn siblings as she was noted as being in France during the field of the cloth of gold, she was educated like all well born girls and also took part in the Chateau Vert pageant along with Anne and Mary Boleyn, it is said only the most attractive girls were chosen to take part in these pageants so Jane must have been quite a pretty girl, which puts to ground the tale that she was rather plain and thus envied Anne with a bitter rivalry, we do not know if Jane was happy with George but they were both at court, George was training to be a diplomat and he was part of a dazzling circle which included Anne and Sir Thomas Wyatt, they wrote music they danced and sang, they discussed theology and reform something which Anne was interested in and soon the king was taking part in such discussions with her, George especially was interested in reform and although we do not know if Jane was, she must have been part of the same circle and there are no records of any animosity towards her and Anne, in fact we know they colluded together when Anne was queen, in ridding the court of the kings latest mistress, Anne also shared a confidence with her about Henry’s lack of sexual prowess, which again shows instead of animosity between the two women, a bond of affection, when George was on trial for his life he was handed a paper on which was written down something which he was never to speak, in contempt of the court he spoke out loud and in doing so forfeited his life, he knew however he was already condemned and this action was no doubt to show the judges the whole court, and the king himself, what contempt he held for them all, and what travesty of justice this so called trial was, he also spoke of the judges believing the accusation of an unknown woman on hearsay only, he said they were prepared to believe the worse of him, and this lady was taken to be his wife Jane, there were several women of Anne’s household who were said to have given evidence against her, Nan Cobham who Ives said was probably the first accuser against the queen, there was also Lady Wingfield and Lady Worcester both friends of the queen, yet Jane alone appears to have been tarnished with blackening Anne and George’s name so badly and also, with accusing them of incest, that she is often been portrayed so in books in films and television, there are no records of Anne arguing and falling out with Jane or Jane with George unlike, the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk whose marriage was the talk of the court, the Duchess always ready to blame her husband for something, she declared he sat on her once possibly to quieten her, and she hated him because his mistress a mere laundry woman, was in Anne’s household, yet there are no stories of the Rochford’s so called unhappy marriage, he could have had mistresses he was said to have been a bit of a womaniser, but this was the norm at court and unless she was very much in love with him, it could not have bothered Jane very much, they must have been content and got along amiably enough they were rich had property, good positions at court, including Beaulieu which much later, became famous for its vintage car museum, in fact Jane’s regard for George can be seen in the comforting note she wrote him after his arrest, when she said she would plead with the king, she probably did but we have no such account, and the fact that she wore black for the rest of her life shows in what esteem she held him, Jane like Anne and George and those others who were beheaded on the 17th of May 1536 were merely players caught up in the glittering but dangerous court politics of the day, she survived the downfall of the Boleyn’s, but she was to tread the same path as those when Henry V111 exacted a terrible revenge against her, because she participated in the follies of his witless fifth queen, Henry V111s decision to pass a new law allowing the insane to be executed, was really just another blot on his reign, it showed a complete lack of mercy and utter vindictiveness towards her and his young queen, who was around thirty years his junior and also master Francis Dereham who suffered the most terrible death of all, merely because he had known carnal knowledge of her in misspent youth.
Yes, this happened a lot with Jane Boleyn in drama and its been going on for longer than you would guess. In fact in the Private Life of Henry Viii Lady Rochford is shown linking up with the Duke of Norfolk to spy on and find a way to ensure the marriage with Kathryn Howard is fruitful and successful. The scenario is that Henry’s sex life with her is a disaster and Henry is obviously impotent. Norfolk has Jane reporting this to him and threatens her that he will ensure she falls as well if she betrayed them or refused. So Jane more or less agrees and helps the lovers to come and visit Kathryn and she then foolishly reports to Norfolk who actually sets a trap. In another drama Wolfe Hall she is a gossip and spy and reports this time to Cromwell every time Anne looks at another man. Jane is shown as a tittle tattle and she really enjoyed that role in Wolfe Hall, being devious, jealous and evil. Then of course in the Tudors Jane is shown as the neglected wife, abused by George Boleyn, who rapes her on their wedding night. This leads to her hatred of him, to complaints about him and the final act of revenge when she’s called before Cromwell to give him information on her husband and the Queen. In the Tudors her face lights up and she clearly takes pleasure in telling Cromwell something we are not entirely party to and Anne and George are arrested afterwards. You could go on, drama after drama. Considering its absolute nonsense, we wonder how she became this figure of such wicked character.
If the only evidence is a fake confession by Leto some centuries later, how is it nobody has challenged it? Historians have no trouble in dismissing Father Sander but do not even ask was Leto a fraud. Yet there is no evidence at all to support this vicious lie and a woman remains maligned simply because it looks good on screen.
Yes it’s extraordinary the way Jane is always shown thus, Julia Fox’s biography of her is a fair portrayal of her life and really, it is long overdue, I have watched in the series now Henry’s four queens, and I particularly enjoyed Jane Seymour, it started with Jane lying on her deathbed in her darkened bedchamber, candles were lit and Cranmer was there giving her the last rites, and she could see a sea of faces blurred and sympathetic, it was very sombre, we saw Jane going back in her mind to the past to when she was a single girl living with her parents in Wolf Hall, the king arriving and her courtship by him, her service at court and Lady Rochford was giving her advice, it showed the moment when the king presented her with the locket, the one which Anne spitefully ripped from her neck, her pleading with the king about the closure off the monasteries and her advancing pregnancy, and really I must add, Keith Mitchell is a scream as the much married monarch, he seems also to uncannily look like him, with the same light gingery blonde hair and the long nose with a bump in it, small mouth and as the series progresses and he gets ever fatter, he seems to get more comical, he has a strange high pitched voice he stumps about and regularly thumps Cromwell in the chest, he is also portrayed as a rather merry monarch with moments of bonhomie, but of course ruthless when crossed, I could not help but laugh at him, and I wondered was Henry V111 ever like that? Certainly his subjects went in awe of him, and I can imagine when he lost his temper he could be quite terrifying but all three of his wives, Katherine and Anne defied him, and Jane dared speak up for the monasteries and also for the Lady Mary, this goes to show Jane wasn’t such a sap as is often thought, his daughter Mary 1st was said to have a rather low gruff voice and she was so small and tiny, she must have sounded rather incongruous when she spoke, what if Henry V111 had a high pitched voice that sounded almost feminine, a person of his size and stature you would imagine would have a loud bellowing voice, but of course size does not mean a thing, (I can detect a few sniggers here), then I watched her successor Anna from Cleve’s, and Anna was shown as quite willing to be Henry’s wife, it showed Cromwell and I cannot recall the actor who played him, but he too did resemble the man in Holbein’s painting, rather large with a round face tiny eyes with a narrowed suspicious look, not a very friendly countenance, but possibly when he was engaged in some joviality, after a tankard or two of wine he was amiable enough, it showed Anne discussing with Holbein when he was drawing her, how she has heard how handsome the king is, and you could really see the distaste in her face when he visited her after her arrival in England, it showed the charade Henry played on her but it was not accurate, in fact Anna was shown as playing a much more prominent role than she actually did, she suggested to the king they could divorce on grounds of non consummation and how she could be known as his beloved sister, in fact the grim task of untangling the king from Anna fell to Cromwell who had negotiated the marriage for the king in the first place, and as we know poor Anna bewailed the loss of the English crown all her life, the next part is of course, the unfortunate Catherine Howard played by a very young Angela Pleasance, this of course will show Jane at her meddling best, and as we know all very unfair, but it seems that there always has to be a villain at the heart of every drama, and Jane is certainly shown as participating in not only Anne Boleyn’s sorry fate, but Catherine Howard’s to, this website has long vindicated Anne and George and her five alleged lovers, of the dreadful crimes they were charged with, and for which they died for, so it is only right that Lady Jane Rochford should also be vindicated of character assassination.
Yes, I think the series actually tried to see things through the eyes of the wives and was sensitive to them as whole people and not just the colourful bits from the least reliable sources. The series of the Six Wives is actually reasonably accurate and it is so well done with fantastic actors. The portrait of Jane Seymour and Anne Boleyn as well as Katherine of Aragon is very strong. Kathryn Howard in the film is very young but when she is questioned by Cranmer the transformation is remarkable. She was somewhat in a spin, the mix of fear and deceit is palatable and I actually felt sorry for Cranmer.
The thing about Julia Fox’s biography is that its now quite dated, if excellent and not very well known outside of the history community. A new biography is probably needed to add to the scholarship. Julia Fox is excellent for the notes, they are really helpful. Maybe an update is needed but even then most people would just do as they pleased with the character of Lady Jane Boleyn and that is sad.