4 May 1536 – Lady Rochford’s Message to her Husband
Posted By Claire on May 4, 2014
On 4th May 1536, according to Sir William Kingston, Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, sent a message to her husband George Boleyn, who was imprisoned in the Tower.
Kingston’s reports were badly damaged in the Ashburnam House fire of 1731, and this letter has parts missing, so all we know is that Sir Nicholas Carew and Sir Francis Bryan carried the message and that it was to see how George was and to inform him that Jane “wold humly sut unto the Kynges hy[nes]…for hyr husband.” George’s reponse was to “give her thanks”, although he must have known that any plea to the King would be a waste of time.
Also on this day in 1536, a further two members of the King’s privy chamber were arrested and taken to the Tower of London: Sir Francis Weston and Sir William Brereton. Weston’s arrest was predictable, coming after the Queen’s ramblings about him telling her he loved her, but Anne had not mentioned Brereton and he was not close to her. Brereton’s arrest may have been more to do with his opposition to Thomas Cromwell’s plans for reform in the administration of North Wales, an area in which he held considerable power.
Also on this day in history…
- 1535 – Executions of three Carthusian monks and a Bridgettine monk at Tyburn for rejecting the royal supremacy. Click here to find out more about them.
Notes and Sources
- Cavendish, George (1825) The Life of Cardinal Wolsey, Volume 2, p220
12 thoughts on “4 May 1536 – Lady Rochford’s Message to her Husband”
I guess my studies in this area are not as extensive as I thought, because I had no idea Lady Rochford cared at all for her husband – or was this merely a self-serving, political tactic…?
We don’t know much about her. She’s one of those characters who loom bigger in fiction than in the historical record.
I certainly haven’t studied extensively in this area, but i have the impression that lady Rochford’s relationship with her husband was quite complicated. I feel that she did love him deeply but this wasn’t a simple love but rather unrequited and fraught with jealousy of his closeness to both his sisters, amongst deeper issues and sprinkled with a developing attachment to Lord Howars himself. It has also been suggested that history has depicted Jane as almost psychopathic in her ambition to greatness to deflect some of the blame from the
…men. women especially powerful women are often feared or scapegoated by history. Should we give her the benefit of the doubt ?
Of course we should give her the benefit of the doubt as we really don’t know.
George was asked to silently read something in court – he read it aloud – it referred to his wife being told something negative about Henry. So, somehow Jane Boleyn is implicated in treason for hearing things against Henry, whether she is the source of the story to the prosecutors or just someone to whom something bad was told and others knew about it. (someone had to tell on George and Anne on this), who knows. But she is in the middle of something very key, and either way she is involved and would have a motive to protect herself, if not to defer blame or guilt.
Wonder why George chose to read that aloud ? Was it to implicate his wife ? Was their relationship at that low a level even then ?
Some say he was being cocky by reading it aloud when he was asked not to –
but it could be maybe he didnt understand what it was until he read it aloud – or he didn’t hear them ask..or it was a trick meant to make him say something foul out loud and upset people.
I dont think he meant to implicate her – his later comment about “on the word of one woman you believe such evil of me” (paraphrase) If he thought it was Jane wouldnt he have said “my wife?” But yeah i think she gave evidence of what Anne and her husband were saying, though we don’t know her motives.
Well everyone has a motive, we just do not know what it is or what they are. :/
This is why I love this page u learn something new every day ! Thank u Clair !!
There is no real evidence that Jane Rochford was the source of any of the evidence against her husband. There is an oft repeated story that she came to Anne and complained about the treatment that she received by George; that he neglected her in the bedroom. She remarked that she would have the Queen order her brother to treat her as a proper wife in the same way the King treated Anne. Anne is said to have remarked rather blandly that the King had neither the vigour or the skill to satisfy a woman in bed. George read some remarks that alluded to this: that the King had problems with potency. This must have been terribly embarrassing for Henry to hear this from his wife and her brother; the public were in the hall at the Tower when this was read out: some 2000 people heard it and well you know what the grape vine is like: I am sure that had Twitter been around this would have gone viral.
However, that Jane was the source of either this gossip or that she was the source of the charges of incest is still questioned. Jane is not named as one of the main accusers of the Queen, although as a chief lady in waiting and the wife of a leading courtier who may already have been suspected; it is quite likely that she was questioned about George and the Queen or even volunteered some piece of court gossip. It is not, however case closed on Jane and George and this piece of gossip or if she did give evidence to the commission. But if George did read something out about the King being inpotent; then this would be used to implicate him and perhaps he decided that he was going to be found guilty in any event so he had nothing to lose. He was getting his own back after this ordeal that he and Anne faced. The court and the King could not have been pleased, but then they did give him the piece of paper. Where they hoping he would confess that he knew it to be true and that the Queen was the embarrassing source of this treasonous information. Again foolish talk was costing lives.
The letter to her husband in the Tower, however, as well as what I have read in the new book by Claire and Clare Cherry, plus that of Joanne Fox who wrote a very excellent bio of Jane Rochford, points to a woman who has been painted wrongly by traditional history, drama and fiction. In this message Jane clearly cares for her husband and his health. May-be she hoped to visit him but was afraid to. May-be she had said something as a joke and now regretted those words; but I feel that far from being an unhappy marriage it was one of convention, yes, but one that was affectionate. Jane missed her husband after his execution and was badly done by her family afterwards in that she had to seek the help of Cromwell to get the money that she was owed as a widow and her dower lands and grants. She was granted what she was due and made a full recovery of her fortunes in court being a principle lady to Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves and to the unfortunate Katherine Howard.
There is also no evidence that George mistreated his wife or that he raped her. This in the Tudors is fiction and they had in fact been married since the 1520s. Jane seemed to be an intelligent woman and a compassionate one. While not being in love with George in a romantic sense; she had a successful marriage, sadly the couple did not have children, but that may have helped her career. There is not an aweful lot known about the emotional side of marriage at this time but even though it was a marriage arranged by contract with two houses; there does not appear to be any reason to doubt that love or at least affection grew between the couple. Jane is clearly here a woman who is compassionate and cares about her husband and her relationship with her husband. When she visited Anne perhaps all she wanted was for George to come home and spend more time with her as she missed him. The origin of the story in any case is one that gives rise to doubt that this conversation even took place.
To repeat myself, jane is specifically mentioned as being involved in conversations
About Henry, whether she gave evidence or other people heard it and gave evidence.
If Jane did not immediately report what was said she would too be tainted, so no
Doubt she was questioned. The fact that she was treated well and she returned to court problematic to the “she didn’t do anything” position.