On this day in history, on the night of 9th February 1542, four days before her execution, Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, was rowed to the Tower of London.

While her mistress, Catherine Howard, was confined at Syon, Jane had been residing at the home of Sir John Russell, Lord Admiral, on the Strand. Jane had initially been taken to the Tower around 14th November 1541, and her possessions were inventoried on 16th November, but Chapuys reported that “on the third day after her imprisonment” she was “seized with a fit of madness (frenesi) by which her brain is affected.” Chapuys goes on to report that due to her madness she was sent to be taken care of by Anne Russell, the Lord Admiral’s wife, and that the king “gets his own physicians to visit her, desiring her recovery that he may afterwards have her executed as an example.”

Although Chapuys reported at the beginning of December 1541 that “now and then she recovers her reason”, the king wanted to make sure that Jane’s mental state would not prevent her being punished. On 11th February 1542, the same day that the bill of attainder against Catherine Howard and Jane Boleyn received royal assent, an act “for due process to be had in high treason in cases of lunacy or madness” also received royal assent in the House of Lords. This meant that “a person becoming insane after the supposed commission of treason, might be tried; or losing his rational faculties after attainder, might be executed”, i.e. even a mad Lady Rochford could be executed for treason.

On 10th February 1542, Catherine Howard was escorted from Syon to the Tower of London – click here to read more.

Notes and Sources

  • Wriothesley, Charles. A chronicle of England during the reigns of the Tudors, from A.D. 1485 to 1559, Volume 1, Printed for the Camden Society 1875-1877, p. 133.
  • Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 6 Part 1, 1538-1542, 209.
  • Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 16, 1540-1541, 1401.
  • Fox, Julia (2007) Jane Boleyn: The Infamous Lady Rochford, Phoenix, p. 365.

Related Post

19 thoughts on “9 February 1542 – Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, is rowed to the Tower of London”
  1. I am currently reading b “Young and Damned and Fair” by Gareth Russell. I am at the point where Jane and Catherine are starting to send notes to each other via messengers. It would have been so obvious that the two of them were involved in some kind of intrigue. Why Jane of all people, who knew first hand the king’s I’ll will towards such things would allow herself to be part of this has always baffled me. At this late stage in Henry’s life it wouldn’t have taken much to set him off and what was going on behind his back was no small thing.

    1. When I asked Julia Fox about why Jane went along with it all, she said something that really made sense to me. She said that it may well have been a case of Jane helping the queen once and then it snowballing from there, in that she was already guilty by helping the once. Also, the one man that Jane could have gone to with this was Cromwell and he was dead. It’s easy to imagine Catherine or Culpeper pointing out to Jane that she was already involved so may as well carry on, and perhaps she felt, also, that she had to do her mistress’s bidding. Her mistress was the queen, she was just one of her ladies. It is so sad and it is little wonder that Jane had a breakdown.

      1. Thank you for that. In for a penny in for a pound makes perfect sense. Even if Jane only helped once the penalty was the same. I hate to reach the end of this book as I know what happens and from what I’ve read so far I really like Catherine.

      2. Hi Claire, from what iv read of Catherines behaviour she could be somewhat haughty and imperious, quite normal for a young woman who suddenly found herself queen, and she still carried on like that even when under arrest, so yes it’s highly likely she blackmailed Jane into helping her, a bit of passive aggressive bullying there I should imagine, Jane was a much older woman and streetwise, she knew the ways of the court so I find it hard to believe she helped Catherine willingly knowing how much was at stake, she couldn’t have been that stupid after losing both her husband and sister in law, so yes that’s a good theory,, she knew she was damned already for helping her just the once and must have lived in fear of them all being discovered, as you said, the fact that she had a breakdown was no doubt due to the constant fear and anxiety she was living under, as for Catherine she appears to have felt no guilt at all and Culpeper was just an arrogant lad who was enjoying a secret (I believe) love affair and like many people think they will never be found out, but as the saying goes, ‘ give a person enough rope and they will eventually hang themselves’ .

      3. Cromwell might have been able to protect Jane if she told him Katherine had asked to meet with Culpepper and acted to end things before they started. It still might have gone hard with Culpepper, who certainly would have been disciplined at least. I wonder what he would have done. He knew Jane well so knew her integrity. It would have made an interesting twist.

  2. Excellent book. So much research into contemporary documents. I have the e-book and there are almost 100 pgs of n

    1. Sorry about that. I wasn’t finished with it and didn’t mean to send it. Anyway it’s an excellent book very well-researched and really gets into her family life and life at court at the time. I highly recommend it to anybody who wants to learn about Henry’s fifth wife.

  3. I think Lady Rochford was a mysterious peson with mysterious motives ? She knew perfectly well that to meddle in such deep waters could be dangerous – so it is very baffling indeed –

  4. I don’t think that once Jane, Lady Rochford got involved she had much choice but to help as Katherine wanted to see Thomas Culpepper again and again. It’s impossible to know whose stupid suggestion seeing a man, not even from her own household, late at night was originally, but after the first meeting, you can either say enough or carry on. Going off on progress presented more opportunities and more excitement for meetings and if Katherine insisted, Jane was far better to accommodate her than to refuse, dangerous as it was. At least Jane could act as a chaperone, try to keep the young Queen from getting into too much hot water. Jane was in a difficult position. Her duty was to a) not suggest, support or encourage these meetings and b) to report such behaviour to the King or Council or an intermediary like Cromwell or Cranmer, the latter as Claire says was gone and her duty was also to the Queen. When you entered royal service, especially in the privy chambers of the King or Queen you swore an oath of allegiance, which included obedience and to be discreet and keep their secrets. Obviously, the latter didn’t count if the Queen committed treason but you can see how even a high ranking servant could feel compromised. It was bad enough observing the coming and going of men late at night but even more dangerous and trouble to actually bring them to the Queen, when they should be in their own bed or looking after the King.

    I feel sorry for Jane and whatever her initial reasons for helping Katherine, there was little choice once she had agreed to help. Now I might also point out that there is no actual evidence that Katherine and Culpepper did anything beyond holding hands, kissing and talking. It didn’t actually make any difference, although both denied adultery and treason, because both were in a pickle and looked guilty. Imagine coming home and finding a note from your neighbour telling you a strange man or woman had visited your wife/husband every night for months when you were away from home. It’s only a wild guess, but you are going to take some convincing that nothing happened. It didn’t help either cause that the alleged lovers confessed that they wanted to go further, given the chance. The blame game followed, Jane was more or less dropped in it as a scapegoat and made to look almost like a madam, procuring lovers for the King’s wife to seduce. I believe the pressure was too much and she snapped and had a complete nervous breakdown.

    This is the sad end to Jane’s precarious life of Royal ups and downs, that she was too ill to stand trial and should not have been executed. Neither woman was given any trial but declared guilty by an Act of Parliament called Attainder which outlined the charges and evidence and then declared the accused guilty. Parliament voted on it, usually confirming the verdict. It had not been that easy with this one as the members of the Council took the Bill back to the King and voiced concerns that they could not condemn the Queen without first questioning her or her defending herself before them. Henry had at first considered their request but didn’t want the embarrassment that Anne Boleyn’s trial had been and the Bill was sent back and passed. The two women were thus condemned and another Bill made it legal to execute a mad person who had been attained. This enabled the execution of Jane, even though she was probably still quite unwell.

    Jane had been nursed in the country and may have expected mercy and to live, but now she was taken to the Tower and both women were doomed. Katherine had also expected mercy because the first enquiries were into allegations about her life before marriage and her affair with Culpepper had only come to light as her former lover Francis Cereham said Thomas Culpepper succeeded him after her marriage. Once it was presumed that Katherine had now committed adultery and may even have plotted with either alleged lover to marry them and thus imagine the King’s death, there was no other sentence than death which Henry would contemplate. The Attainder however, put most of the emphasis on the Queen leading an immoral life and on deception which jeapardized the King’s marriage and succession. In other words, Katherine was a liar and a loose woman and had deliberately hid her alleged past in order to lure the King into marriage and then continued to deceive him after her marriage. Everything was her fault as the woman and if anyone is now thinking “what a crock!,” l agree with you, but this was the sexual double standards of the day. The women had no chance once the two men had been found guilty but by painting Katherine as badly as possible, it made it easier to say she could be guilty of something even worse, even if there was no proof of adultery.

    Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford and Queen Katherine Howard were beheaded and kept their dignity on the morning of February 13th 1542, on the place close to the White Tower and buried in the Church of Saint Peter ad Vincula (Peter in Chains) in the grounds of the Tower, at the site now commemorated for them and Anne and George Boleyn.

    Rest in peace Jane and Katherine.

  5. Jane was referred to as ‘that bawd’ an old fashioned name for a procuress, the 18th and 19thc had bawdy houses and the fact it was in use in Tudor times and before shows it’s quite an ancient turn of phrase, it annoys me when in certain television and movies ‘ The Tudors’ for one and the drama ‘Henry V111 And His Six Wives’ or ‘The Six Wives Of Henry V111’, Jane is constantly being portrayed as a meddling woman who actually takes a delight in the intrigue and in one tells her that Culpeper fancies her and she can arrange for them to meet in secret really? This was a woman who had witnessed at first hand the terrible punishment for deceiving the King, although we know Anne was stitched up the fact is Henry had shown he was capable of murduring a woman, and worse, one who he had loved so blindly and had a child by, what hope would Catherine have, how she has been portrayed on the silver screen for so long is not fair to a woman who no doubt had no option but to do as her silly mistress commanded, for some time I thought she did enjoy the secret furtive meetings but her illness proves the strain she was under and really there is no proof that she liked doing what she did, Henrys decision to have her punished shows he was in no mood to show clemency, she was George Boleyns widow, a member of that immoral sexually deviant family who had disgraced his very name and brought dishonour to his throne and kingdom, well she can join her husband in his grave! As for Catherine she was related by blood to her whose name he never spoke, the Howard’s were no better than the Boleyns, and she shall suffer for making him look a cuckold, how Europe must be laughing at him, how everyone in his own court must be laughing at him! Henrys thoughts must have run on and on and the blood must have pounded in his veins with fury, there was no hope for these two women, the fact that he had a bill passed to make it legal to execute an insane person shows how hell bent he was on revenge.

  6. Katherine Howard’s case reveals a great deal about Anne Boleyn’s downfall six years earlier. According to the indictments drawn up against Anne, she had met with five men (including her brother) on several occasions over a period of three years at a range of royal residences, including Hampton Court, Whitehall and Eltham. They had either had sex or they had met up to plot Henry VIII’s death. And yet, supposedly, no-one noticed. None of Anne’s ladies assisted her with the meetings and no-one apparently noticed that the queen was absent on important occasions, because she was too busy with her husband’s courtiers.

    The indictments drawn against Katherine and Lady Rochford, by contrast, noted only that the queen had met with Culpeper on only a handful of occasions. They did not meet each other every night, as popular legend claims; they met once in April 1541 and they met a couple of times on the northern progress. In total, they probably met with each other less than ten times. To me, that does not suggest a wildly passionate or romantic affair. Anne Boleyn was accused of meeting with male courtiers more regularly than Katherine was; as I have noted, every couple of months between 1533 and 1535.

    The scarcity of their meetings and Katherine’s dismissive behaviour towards Culpeper convinces me that theirs was not a passionate love affair. Culpeper, in my opinion, felt more strongly about Katherine than she did towards him. Lady Rochford may have unwillingly been involved, but she was required to act as a chaperone, for example standing next to Katherine at the top of a flight of stairs. The queen actually got angry with Jane when she started moving away.

    The fact that Katherine’s household was suspicious about the queen, when she had only met with Culpeper a handful of times, to me reveals a great deal about Anne Boleyn’s case. How could Anne have met with five men on a regular basis, at a range of palaces, without anyone noticing? If Katherine could meet with Culpeper five times or so on the northern progress and for tongues to be wagging, it seems impossible that Anne could have engaged in such illicit liaisons over a three year period without anyone noticing or apparently being involved. Not one of Anne’s ladies was imprisoned or charged with assisting her.

    1. Culpeper may have liked Catherine more than she did him or it could be he just got a thrill out of meeting with the Queen Of England and was hoping for special favours, he doesn’t seem a very nice person from what iv read about him, his ego could have been dented that’s all, in Annes case yes it’s true not one of her women was charged with helping her, which is very telling and is a strong point in Annes favour, as for a Queen to be able to meet her so called lovers at so many different times and days which she was accused of doing, she would have found it impossible to keep her illicit meetings without the help of some of her ladies, as her daughter Elizabeth 1st remarked many years later to one of her women, how could she ever meet a lover as in every minute of the day she is surrounded with servants, ambassadors, members of her household, etc, they could not suddenly nip behind a tapestry or behind a cubby hole to have a quickie, all Annes enemies needed was a few scapegoats, they had enough with the men, they didn’t need to shed womens blood as well, maybe they shied away from sending innocent women to slaughter, the queen was enough, but a woman’s testimony to her mistresse’s guilt would have made the charges against Anne more plausible, wether they would have got it by a certain degree of bullying or the threat of torture or both would not matter, Catherine was playing a very dangerous game here, but I still find it shocking that Henry had to execute her instead of just divorce or annulment, I think his anger was such that he wasn’t prepared to be reasonable or at least show some clemency, I think Catherine gained a lot of sympathy as she was very young, though youth does not excuse her behaviour, she was possibly still only a teenager, maybe just a few years older than Jane Grey when she died, I think it was his execution of his second wife that really sealed his reputation of a tyrant, and he had both loved Anne and Catherine more than any of the others.

      1. I have to admit it has been some time since I read the confession and disposition of Katherine and Culpepper and the Indictment, so I had a read earlier. The meetings taken together possibly add up to between 15 and 20 meetings, assuming even the later is correct, although it probably exaggerated. There was a few meetings at Greenwich, although the Indictment adds Hampton Court, which is possibly incorrect, over Lent and Easter and then during the progress, every stop of two or more days. All three pieces of evidence add up to meetings in Lincoln, York, Pontefract, Gainsborough and Colyweston. The rest of the time would be virtually impossible as the King kept her busy, the visits kept them busy or Katherine was actually indisposed. In every case Katherine would need as accomplice as she had her own rooms, household, seperate from the King and Culpepper was a member of his household, not hers.

        In other words Jane or another would need to act to pass a message back and forth, act as chaperone and on watch, bring Culpepper to the Queen and arrange meeting places away from prying eyes, including the other women. Jane was the most senior member of Katherine’s household who acted as her Lady. She was senior in years and in experience and also it was probably she who ran the chambers. The others were around the same age or a little older, for the most part. Therefore if Katherine was going to embark on an amorous adventure, Jane was the perfect choice because she could be trusted the most and guard the Queen, if needed to. Everything Katherine did, including her bodily functions demanded that she should not be alone. Creeping about strange castles at night might sound exciting but it was not something a Queen, especially a young one could or would be able to do, certainly unaccompanied. However, if one planned ahead and did some exploration places could be found for a secret meeting, back stairs led up to Royal apartments, they were built into newly constructed apartments for Royal guests to be served by servants without being seen and they connected by private gallarys and locked and guarded doors. A door could be left unlocked and a guard go missing by arrangements and look outs made when all was quiet. There would need to be somewhere and someone to trust and Jane was that person. In one such visit on progress a back stairs meeting was all that was managed, in another the door was left unlocked and a longer visit arranged. This was so long that the unexpected happened. The King decided to visit his wife and sent his Chamberlain to say he was on his way. The Chamberlain could not gain entry, the King came along and Culpepper was unceremoniously rushed out while Katherine got herself composed for the King. The alleged meetings happened in either Jane or Katherine rooms so she had to be there, and Katherine was not always pleased if Jane was too far from her. This would suggest she wasn’t always too comfortable with him but at other times she was. She could also be playful and spiteful so was probably a handful and gave mixed messages. The two exchanged gifts and one letter exists which may or may not be a love letter, it certainly is not passionate or steamy. Just who saw more or got more from the relationship is anyone’s guess, but it is my impression that Katherine liked to play with men and then dismiss them until she wanted them again, pushing them away when bored. In other words she was a noble brat who liked to flirt with the servants for company but didn’t see them as good enough to be in a relationship with her and given her family name and status, she was correct. Katherine was now Queen and all of these gentlemen were her servants, they were not good enough to be a serious equal to her in any long term relationship, regardless of how far she went with them or not. Only one man could have any serious relationship with her, her husband, the King. Katherine could play the lover or long for friends with Culpepper or anyone she chose, but it could never lead to anything and I believe she knew that and made certain he did as well.

        When you read more closely into the case of Katherine Howard yes, I would possibly agree her relationship with Culpepper probably wasn’t a passionate one, although I do believe it contained a great deal of affection. She missed him when she couldn’t see him and couldn’t stop seeing him when the chance arose. It was risky and dangerous and a head rush. It was daring and forbidden. That made it exciting. Was it consummated? I have to admit I would have said yes, based on my gut feeling at one point, but I am not so certain these days. Certainly there was no evidence but there was definitely another witness to the midnight adventures. Margaret Morton noticed Katherine was not in bed and tried to find out and gave testimony later on against them, but she only witnessed noises and comings and goings. Neither Jane or anyone else witnessed sexual contact and given that Jane was not too far away, doubt remained that any took place. Jane admitted that she believed given the time the two were together and as she had fallen asleep or was outside a couple of times, it was possible that the two had committed adultery. She never said that it was certain or she saw them. Jane was also, unfortunately a convenient scapegoat, with the two culprits blaming her and Culpepper the Queen and Jane. Jane had to do as she was bid, by her own rather mixed up testimony and this is true, she had to at least act as a chaperone, if Katherine was going to meet Culpepper.

        The point about Anne Boleyn that Colin makes is interesting and one that certainly is confirmed by the evidence around Jane and her support of Katherine’s adventures. Even leaving aside the mere impossibility of any man coming near here during some of the first charges against her because she had recently given birth and was virtually imprisoned in her confinement chambers until 40 days after the birth, with even the King kept out, that nobody helped her to have secret meetings or thought anything odd was going on proves she was innocent. If Anne’s Ladies were questioned and they probably were, say about her brother, who did visit, when Anne was going a little crazy to comfort and calm her, they didn’t think anything as he was her brother. Noone appears to have confirmed hearing strange sexual noices or noted the other four men with the Queen and all Lady Worcester is meant to have said was about gossip. She was hardly a reliable witness and her testimony amounts to very little, despite being the subject of an entire book by Professor George Bernard. Two of the men, Francis Weston and Brereton were not even arrested until afterwards when Anne started to waffle about talking to them three years ago. Henry Norris was arrested on the strength of off the cuff ridiculous remarks made in a crowded room. As,for poor Mark Smeaton, he confessed after spending a 24 hours with Thomas Cromwell that probably would have led to me confessing to adultery with Anne. The point is nobody reported being involved in bringing these five men to Anne or to seeing them or thinking something was up if they did visit, despite her being accused of rampant sexual affairs and plots to kill Henry on numerous occasions over her three years as Queen. The men were often in other places, so Anne would have had to be disguised, snuck out and taken to them. The King and Queen always had totally separate lodgings so if the man was not residential on her Side or had automatic access to her apartment, or was sent by the King on business, he had to be escorted to her. This might require more than one Lady to help her. That nobody was accused or arrested or even volunteered information about doing this when Anne Boleyn was wrongly accused, is even more proof of her total innocence. Jane was scapegoated but had been the main person to help Katherine, although there must have been others who helped but were less culpable. A Queen simply cannot just slip out without help and an escort, no matter her reason for going somewhere. It just isn’t possible. However, just because Katherine did have help and late meetip, this doesn’t prove a passionate love affair or adultery and it is definitely a must that Culpepper expected more from this relationship and may even have been disappointed it hadn’t gone further. Both parties denied physical contact beyond an odd kiss, but mentioned a wish to go further, thus creating the idea of presumption in the minds of their interrogators.

    2. Thank you for framing this in the perspective of Anne Boleyn’s downfall. I’d never considered those particular points. History is a multi-layered pursuit, to be excavated by those teased by the possibilities and facts. You’re a historian who nicely blends current critical thinking with understanding the contemporary sources that exist. Excellent.

  7. Catherine does appear to have been a consummate flirt, I think she found her duties as queen rather stifling for one as young as she was, and having a much older husband who was also often ill and infirm would not have helped matters, like any young woman she craved the company of people her own age, this is understandable, she more than likely found the meetings with Culpeper exciting and something to look forward to after a dull day full of meetings with the ambassadors, listening to Henry complaining about his leg, sitting stitching with her ladies for several hours etc, a bit like today after a dull day at work you long to go to the pub and have a gossip with a friend or two, however the bill of attainder was unfair, it meant that Catherine even though she had been interrogated for many days, was condemned without a fair trial and Jane to, it seems Henry devised this so the embarassement of a trial was spared him and he did not want his second wife’s name bought up again, it must have stirred up painful memories no doubt due to guilt perhaps, the time when Henry decided to visit his wife and she was with Culpeper shows how things although meticously thought out can sometimes go wrong, it must have been absolute pandemonium with Catherine stamping about trying to push Culpeper out through the door, reminds me of scenes in a Carry On film, and Culpeper maybe in a state of undress pulling up his stockings and smoothing his untidy hair, Catherine likewise, Lady Rochford hissing through the keyhole and trying to act calm and normal as the King appeared, heavens! I could never have agreed to be implicit in that, Jane must as has mentioned, been ordered to by her foolish mistress.

  8. Jane Rochford was a widow with many years of service and experience as a chief Lady to Royal and Noble Princesses and had served Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves and now Kathryn Howard. She was the senior Lady who served young Kathryn, much older and more experienced and she was probably trustworthy. Kathryn gained her confidence and her sympathy and she may have seen something of her own lonliness, which she felt when George Boleyn worked long into the night on the King’s business. Jane had even come to Court because she felt that her husband spent too long away from her and asked Anne to get him to show her more loving attention.

    Kathryn was left to her own devices during Lent 1541 and during periods when Henry had trouble with his leg. She doesn’t appear to have had good coping skills and was restless, seeking male companionship. She had been shown attention by Thomas Culpeper and now she wanted to see him again. She could only do so with help and she only trusted Lady Rochford. Jane, once she had reluctantly been manipulated by Kathryn into helping her, really had no choice but to carry on as she had to obey her as Queen. What both women did was incredibly unwise and dangerous and now they were to pay the price for their choices.

    The blame game that followed during the interrogations which went on over several days had obviously taken their toll on Jane as she had lost her reason and had a breakdown. She was nursed back to health by Lady Anne and Lord John Russell. The King should have spared her from the death penalty as she was insane but he ordered a new bill to allow people charged with treason to die regardless. Poor Jane was brought to the Tower and she must have wondered what was happening. The frightened woman had to prepare herself for death.

    The next day a hysterical Queen Kathryn was hustled into the boat by the Duke of Suffolk, rowed down the River from Syon House and had to see the heads of her alleged lovers still up there, to the Tower to join Lady Rochford and told to prepare to die. Both Ladies had been found guilty by reason of an Act of Attainder a few days earlier in Parliament. Kathryn was offered a hearing but refused and the Act took two readings to pass. She was accused of living a base and scandalous life and intending to return to that life by her employment of Francis Dereham and others from her past. There was no evidence to support this. Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford was found guilty of procurement of the men for the Queen and hiding her alleged adultery and treason, called misprison. Unusually, she was to die as her joint conspirator.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *