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Trusted Historians?
September 9, 2012
5:59 am
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Olga
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Could you move the papers Anyanka? I can’t remember all of the rules.

Bo do you know how many times I’d seen (regular) people online say they don’t believe Julia Fox? For no good reason, of course. People desperately want a villain, and for some reason Henry and Cromwell aren’t enough. They’ve got to drag Jane into it as well. Why? Because she’s a woman of course. Women make awesome villains Confused
I’m getting a little obsessed with Jane atm so you’ll all have to put up with my continual ranting, sorry Embarassed I’m just reading a margaret Campbell Barnes book where she is mean to her and I keep skimming those parts.

Had anyone questioned Jane;s supposed guilt in this before Julia Fox?

September 9, 2012
6:34 am
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Bill1978
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I think the problem with the view of Jane Boleyn is that since she was ‘guilty’ in the Katharine Howard affair it is easy to just make her the ‘guilty’ one in the Anne Boleyn affair regardless of lack of evidence. I do think the modern soap opera has helped perpetuate the myths of tudr England, cause really let’s face Tudor England is just one big soap opera, so I think some historians get too caught up in the scandals to appeak to ‘bored housewives’ that they forget to actually look at stuff criticlly. I’m surprised it hasn’t been mentioned somewhere that Jane Boleyn poisoned Jane Seymour during the birthing process. Maybe that one will come up if someone decides to do the ‘definitive’ biography on jane Seymour.

September 9, 2012
9:52 am
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Gill
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Also, it’s a fact that many people like to see other people, and especially historical people in the worst possible light, I don’t know why they do, but they do. It’s not just Jane B, look at all the people who think the worst of Anne despite all the evidence, those who want to believe AOC really was ugly and smelly despite all the evidence, etc. I was reading an article about the Amy Dudley affair…they were saying how for years people cited the supposed lack of injuries as evidence of foul play, then they found the inquest report which showed there WERE injuries, but apparently that is evidence of foul play too. For many people, evidence is irrelevant, and they will either discount it or twist it to suit their standing opinion. And sadly some historians do this too (and I’m sure I don’t need to name names.)

September 9, 2012
10:33 am
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Louise
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When I first started writing my George book I portrayed Jane as the Devil incarnate because I took her guilt at face value due to it seeming to be established fact . The lies about her had been told and retold so often, in non-fiction as well as fiction, that they were treated as fact. My book had to be altered dramatically once I undertook my own research and realised there was actually no contemporaneous evidence to establish her involvement other then telling the prosecution of Anne’s comments relating to Henry’s sexual problems.
Despite the excellent work of Fox, which was completely dismissed by Weir, Weir continues to feed the myth, and the sad truth is that people are more inclined to believe her than Fox. To many people Weir is the ‘be all and end all’ of tudor history due to her longlevity and the fact her actual writing is excellent and easy to follow. Why read Ives when Weir is easier to follow and understand?
But Weir goes one step further than other historians by inventing evidence against Jane that never existed, which is not only deceitful, but indicates a total lack of integrity as a historian. John Guy’s review of her book in the Sunday Times was brilliant. Not only that but Weir is anti-Boleyn, particularly Anne and George. She went one step further than merely blaming Jane, she blamed it on George’s behaviour towards her. She theorises, with no evidence whatsoever, that George was probably cruel to Jane and that he probably raped her. Presumably Weir lifted this theory directly from the fictional Tudors.
Of course taking that through to it’s logical conclusion, George was responsible for Anne’s downfall. He abused Jane, resulting in Jane providing evidence against him, which resulted in Anne’s fall. Weir therefore places the downfall of the Boleyns directly at the Boleyns door. Ergo, Henry was completely blameless!Yell

September 9, 2012
1:04 pm
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Bill1978
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I have Weir’s Tower book but appart from glancing through it I haven’t actually read it. What does Weir say about Fox exactly, does she mention Fox by name in her dismissal? I have Fox’s book, once again only flicked and skimmed not read, but it seems like a well researched and written book.

September 9, 2012
1:17 pm
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Boleyn
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Olga said

Could you move the papers Anyanka? I can’t remember all of the rules.

Bo do you know how many times I’d seen (regular) people online say they don’t believe Julia Fox? For no good reason, of course. People desperately want a villain, and for some reason Henry and Cromwell aren’t enough. They’ve got to drag Jane into it as well. Why? Because she’s a woman of course. Women make awesome villains Confused
I’m getting a little obsessed with Jane atm so you’ll all have to put up with my continual ranting, sorry Embarassed I’m just reading a margaret Campbell Barnes book where she is mean to her and I keep skimming those parts.

Had anyone questioned Jane;s supposed guilt in this before Julia Fox?

I think Jane was an unwilling victim in all the business with K.H. I’ve not read much about her to be honest, but from what littled I’ve read and gleened I don’t think her death was at all fair, and I rather think she was a scapegoat.
We know so little about Jane, but I don’t think she was as black as history seems to have painted her. She was perhaps the voice of reason, or tried to be when K.H had Culpepper in her rooms, and said “Now look here Kate this isn’t on! You are playing a dangerous and deadly game here!!”, but then equally so she could have been encouraging the whole thing Culpepper. Who knows? Certainly Henry believed or chose to believe Jane was behind the whole sorry affair.

Semper Fidelis, quod sum quod

September 9, 2012
6:15 pm
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Olga
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Well I just started Lady in the Tower. On the very first page she quotes Anne Boleyn. Unfortunately that’s Brereton’s speech from what I remember. Also, she didn’t say it correctly. She then goes on to congratulate herself on “being the first” to write a book on Anne Boleyn’s downfall. She does love congratulating herself. And so far Anne has a double fingernail and four pregnancies. I’m about half a chapter in. Kill me, now.

Louise is John Guy’s review online anywhere? Google is not helping me.

September 9, 2012
7:45 pm
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Louise
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Olga, I Googled ‘John Guy, Sunday Times review, Lady in the Tower, and it came up. It’s from 1st November 2009. Hope that helps.
If you feel grumpy with the book so far, then sorry but it gets worse. But rest assured that I’m here for therapy whenever you need me.Kiss

September 10, 2012
12:05 am
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Olga
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Ugh, it’s not letting me read it, wants me to sign up. Scoundrels.

I may have to take you up on that Louise Laugh But I might keep a running commentary on Goodreads. I don’t think I can sit down and read it straight though. What a silly book.

September 10, 2012
12:53 am
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Gill
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I felt like that about reading her Princes In The Tower. I’m not a Ricardian, but when she had King Richard waving his withered arm about and shrieking hysterically (as I recall, she actually used the word hysterically!) at his council I actually threw the book across the room. I did finish it, but after that it went in the bin, and it was the last Weir book I ever bought. I’m reasonably well read on the era and I know enough to know there is NO contemporary evidence for physical deformity – Weir seems to have taken Shakespeare as a primary source! And how, at a remove of over 500 years, would she know his tone of voice in the council chamber? There was a lot of that in that book – telling the reader exactly what Richard was thinking at any given moment. If anyone is looking for a book on that era, I would heartily recommend NOT wasting your money on that one.

September 10, 2012
2:49 am
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Anyanka
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Boleyn said

Olga said

Could you move the papers Anyanka? I can’t remember all of the rules.

Bo do you know how many times I’d seen (regular) people online say they don’t believe Julia Fox? For no good reason, of course. People desperately want a villain, and for some reason Henry and Cromwell aren’t enough. They’ve got to drag Jane into it as well. Why? Because she’s a woman of course. Women make awesome villains Confused
I’m getting a little obsessed with Jane atm so you’ll all have to put up with my continual ranting, sorry Embarassed I’m just reading a margaret Campbell Barnes book where she is mean to her and I keep skimming those parts.

Had anyone questioned Jane;s supposed guilt in this before Julia Fox?

I think Jane was an unwilling victim in all the business with K.H. I’ve not read much about her to be honest, but from what littled I’ve read and gleened I don’t think her death was at all fair, and I rather think she was a scapegoat.
We know so little about Jane, but I don’t think she was as black as history seems to have painted her. She was perhaps the voice of reason, or tried to be when K.H had Culpepper in her rooms, and said “Now look here Kate this isn’t on! You are playing a dangerous and deadly game here!!”, but then equally so she could have been encouraging the whole thing Culpepper. Who knows? Certainly Henry believed or chose to believe Jane was behind the whole sorry affair.

Poor Jane was very much in a “Damned if she did or damned if she didn’t” help KH/TC. She didn’t appear to have any-one who she could talk to. Cromwell was dead, her husband was dead as were her in-laws and I’m not too sure about her own father. Possibly the only person she could have confided in was Cramner and would he listen to her??

It seems hard to understand why Jane volenteraly helping KH knowing how her own sister in law was tried for adultery and beheaded for the same crime. It just doesn’t make sence that she would put herself in a position like that unless JB thought that she could wriggle out by any charges by telling everything she knew if she needed protection against the king’s anger later.

It's always bunnies.

September 10, 2012
3:07 am
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Gill
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I agree. She had nothing to gain and literally everything to lose in helping KH.

September 10, 2012
4:00 am
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Olga
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Lord Morley was alive. Morley gave Henry a translated text of Boccacio a few months after Jane’s execution, where he inserted his own phrase when describing the death of Polyxena

“O, that it was all against good order…that so sweet a maiden should be devoured by the hands of Pyrrhus for to satisfy for another woman’s offence”

This is Julia Fox’s biography. I’ve just purchased a book on Morley which discusses his translations, and there’s a chapter on that partcular book in detail which I’m looking forward to reading. I think Morley makes his feelings on the matter clear.
In the end, I think Jane had two choices, obey her Queen or betray her to the King. Why Jane should feel any loyalty to the King I don’t know. There’s no evidence Catherine and Culpeper slept together. I believe they hadn’t. Jane may have thought she still had a handle on the situation.

September 10, 2012
12:39 pm
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Louise
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Olga, if you have to register to get the John Guy review then I would recommend you do so because it is worth it. He discredits her research regarding Jane and says she was ‘duped’, which I think is polite for ‘deliberating misleading’.
Where is your running commentary on it? I’d be interested to read it.
As an aside, Like you I have reservations at saying that Catherine and Culpepper actually committed adultery. Neither of them admitted to it. They were found guilty of an intention to commit adultery, which was what Culpepper admitted to.
However, Jane Rochford said that she believed they had committed adultery from everything she had seen and heard. That actually makes no sense whatsoever, so I think Jane was probably babbling a lot of nonsense out of terror, and said what she thought her questioners wanted to hear, just as she told her questioners of Anne’s indiscreet comments relating to Henry’s disfunctional best friend.
Jane’s evidence against Catherine was highly damning, just as her evidence of Anne’s comments was highly damaging. Like all the rest of them, Jane was a survivor and did and said anything in her power to try and survive. But when saying what she did in the Catherine Howard tragedy she got it hopelessly wrong.

September 10, 2012
3:29 pm
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Anyanka
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Olga said

Lord Morley was alive. Morley gave Henry a translated text of Boccacio a few months after Jane’s execution, where he inserted his own phrase when describing the death of Polyxena

“O, that it was all against good order…that so sweet a maiden should be devoured by the hands of Pyrrhus for to satisfy for another woman’s offence”

This is Julia Fox’s biography. I’ve just purchased a book on Morley which discusses his translations, and there’s a chapter on that partcular book in detail which I’m looking forward to reading. I think Morley makes his feelings on the matter clear.
In the end, I think Jane had two choices, obey her Queen or betray her to the King. Why Jane should feel any loyalty to the King I don’t know. There’s no evidence Catherine and Culpeper slept together. I believe they hadn’t. Jane may have thought she still had a handle on the situation.

head-desk..should have remembered that I read Fox’s book a few weeks ago…

It's always bunnies.

September 10, 2012
7:37 pm
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Boleyn
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Louise said

Olga, if you have to register to get the John Guy review then I would recommend you do so because it is worth it. He discredits her research regarding Jane and says she was ‘duped’, which I think is polite for ‘deliberating misleading’.
Where is your running commentary on it? I’d be interested to read it.
As an aside, Like you I have reservations at saying that Catherine and Culpepper actually committed adultery. Neither of them admitted to it. They were found guilty of an intention to commit adultery, which was what Culpepper admitted to.
However, Jane Rochford said that she believed they had committed adultery from everything she had seen and heard. That actually makes no sense whatsoever, so I think Jane was probably babbling a lot of nonsense out of terror, and said what she thought her questioners wanted to hear, just as she told her questioners of Anne’s indiscreet comments relating to Henry’s disfunctional best friend.
Jane’s evidence against Catherine was highly damning, just as her evidence of Anne’s comments was highly damaging. Like all the rest of them, Jane was a survivor and did and said anything in her power to try and survive. But when saying what she did in the Catherine Howard tragedy she got it hopelessly wrong.

Totally agree Louise about Jane babbling, she was terrified. It could be that some of her ramblings weren’t just about the K.H/Culpepper situation but were twisted by her accusers to be about them. She could have been rambling about things that she believed happened between George and Anne, after all she allegely lost her marbles so what she was saying could have been about anything real or imagined.
I’d like to think that Jane warned K.H about her light behaviour and how people will talk etc, she had, had first hand experience of that with George and Anne. Let’s face Joan Bulmer was not one able to keep her trap shut about what went on as she all but used blackmail to get a place in K.H’s household.

Semper Fidelis, quod sum quod

September 11, 2012
2:34 pm
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Olga
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I have to read books three times before I remember stuff Anyanka. That was my second read of Jane Boleyn.

It’s a paid subscription Louise, four quid a week with a 12 month contract Frown Probably for us overseas folk. I might email him and ask if there is somewhere else I can read it. He’s got a lot of his material online for free, just not that one unfortunately. I’ll do a commentary on Goodreads, but I’ll start next week, I have something else I want to concentrate on this week. I’ll send you a link so you can come along and comment on how appalling that book is. I just read all the glowing reviews on the back of it and nearly flushed it down the toilet.

I also agree with you about Jane being terrified and babbling Louise. Bo she did have a nervous breakdown, in the Tower. I think Henry got annoyed with that and took her out for a while. Can you imagine what that place represented to her? After all the deaths she had seen.

September 13, 2012
8:21 am
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Claire
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Here is John Guy’s review of The Lady in the Tower:

“The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir

The Sunday Times review by John Guy
Published: 1 November 2009

Nothing is more lethal in politics than a sex scandal. Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second queen, was executed on May 19, 1536 after a sensational trial. The main charge, conspiring to bring about Henry’s death so that she could marry one of her lovers, was spiced up with accusations of adultery with four courtiers and incest with her brother George. After the guilty verdict, Anne’s head was struck off with the single blow of a sword: it fell to the ground with her lips and eyes still moving. One of the trial judges wrote: “And all the evidence was of bawdry and lechery.” Anne had supposedly “allured” her brother with her tongue in his mouth and his in hers.

Everything happened at terrifying speed. Anne was overheard quarrelling with one of the courtiers on April 29 and with Henry the next day. The king made up his mind to ditch her during the May Day jousts, and arrests swiftly followed. The courtiers were tried and condemned on May 12, Anne and George on May 15. According to one account, Anne had had her toy boys lined up at night: “Her brother is by no means last in the queue.” She’d even allegedly said Henry was no good in bed, casting doubt on the legitimacy of their daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth.

Was Anne guilty, and if not, who wanted her dead? Solving the riddle is, for historians, what climbing Everest is to mountaineers – you attempt it because it’s there.

Alison Weir, the popular medieval and Tudor historian and novelist who has tackled some of the knottier ­problems of the period, has taken up the challenge in The Lady in the Tower. The book has two aims. One is to rewrite the story, the other to show her readers how answers that are as definitive as possible can be quarried from sources that aren’t. She’s in a dialogue with the evidence – it’s ­something done all too infrequently – beckoning us to join her behind the scenes of a historian’s world. The flipside is that we also get to see her working methods at close quarters.

Three significant theories exist to explain Anne’s fall. One is that Henry, already lusting after Jane Seymour, was sorely disappointed by Anne’s failure to produce a son. He told his chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, to oust her, and Cromwell obliged. Alternatively, Anne brought disaster on herself through sexual indiscretions or (far more plausibly) by overstepping the conventional limits of courtly banter. The third theory – the one Weir largely believes to be correct – is that Cromwell, after quarrelling with Anne and putting his career in grave jeopardy, decided to stage a coup. He devised the charges based on whatever information was to hand, rigged the trials and later claimed that some of the evidence was “so abominable” it couldn’t be given in court.

In unmasking Cromwell, Weir agrees with Eric Ives, Anne’s most recent biographer, but the two historians tell the story differently. Weir more often cites the earliest literary account of Anne’s fall: a long and colourful poem by Lancelot de Carles, especially important for its account of Anne’s defiant speech at her trial. Ives thinks the poem often peddles moonshine, but, while ­sometimes sceptical herself, Weir believes that a separate poem by another Frenchman, an “eyewitness” at Anne’s trial, one Crispin de Miherve, corroborates de Carles and adds extra details. Unfortunately, “Crispin” is a phantom. A French scholar proved in 1844 that the text Weir is using had been doctored, and in 1927 it was shown by comparing all the genuine manuscripts that the two poems are identical and by de Carles. Weir has been duped.

Weir’s most arresting conclusion is that Cromwell’s best informant was George’s own wife, Jane. De Carles reports that “a single woman” supplied the most damaging ­material and hints at Lady Worcester, but Weir thinks he got confused. Now it’s true that Jane was among several women interrogated, but no direct record of what took place survives. Weir suggests that Jane perhaps denounced her husband because he might have been ­homosexual and maybe sexually abused her. It’s pure speculation, but Weir produces what we’re led to believe are killer facts to help us guess the informant’s identity. I must declare my interest. I’m married to a historian who’s had a crack at this problem. But it’s all up for grabs because nothing has yet been proved. We desperately need new facts.

Step forward Eustace Chapuys, the ­Spanish ambassador at Henry’s court, and a visiting Portuguese gentleman. Weir says these two men provide the primary evidence of Jane’s testimony. Chapuys, she says, tells us that Jane had divulged the “accursed secret” in a letter. The Portuguese gentleman, she says, also identified Jane. ­Knowing sensational discoveries when I see them, I went to check for myself. Chapuys said no such thing. Only the Portuguese gentleman mentions an “accursed secret”, and he merely talks of “that person” who disclosed it: he doesn’t name anyone.

Confirmation of Weir’s line would appear to come when she claims that Jane, who was herself executed after Catherine Howard’s fall in 1542, confessed on the scaffold to falsely accusing her husband, George. But the speech Weir quotes is a forgery, the much later work of Gregorio Leti who (says historian Patrick Collinson after investigating many such stories) “invented some of his sources and made things up”. And when you check Weir’s reference (a daunting task in itself since her source citations are usually incomplete) it refers to quite a different version of Jane’s speech: utterly genuine, written by an eyewitness to her death and saying nothing of the kind.

Weir makes much of the fact that Lord Herbert of Cherbury wrote in his Life and Reign of King Henry VIII in 1649 that “the wife of Lord Rochford [ie Jane] was a particular instrument in the death of Queen Anne”. She thinks he was quoting from a lost chronicle of Henry’s reign and cites the notes left by a late-17th-century don who’d been mugging up on Anne’s fall. But Weir is mistaken, although I had to go to Oxford to be sure. Like all good historians, the don cites his sources, so we know that he’d been reading a dozen or so works, among which were the now lost chronicle and Herbert’s own book. His note about Jane is taken from the latter – it even comes complete with the page number.

Looking at the bigger picture, one also has to question why Weir devotes so much space to a blow-by-blow account of the events of a few months, but rarely pauses to reflect on the values and expectations of the society that allowed it all to happen. Understanding the setting for the drama is fundamental: rumour and gossip often played a key part in events at Henry’s court. The backstairs of his palaces were hotbeds of intrigue and dissimulation. Power was focused around those who had the king’s ear: those who could best play that game were the ones who could gain the most power. But by their very nature, rumour and gossip will hardly ever be true. What kind of society is that? Weir’s book is certainly encyclopedic, but has she conquered Everest? I think not.”

Debunking the myths about Anne Boleyn

September 13, 2012
8:26 am
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Claire
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Like Louise, I’ve done a substantial amount of research into George and Jane, and I completely agree with John’s review of Alison Weir’s book and Julia Fox’s views on Jane. There is nothing to suggest that George and Jane had a bad relationship or that Jane betrayed the Boleyns. It really annoys me that people fight for Anne and the myths that surround her, yet some of those same people are happy to just accept that George and Jane were like their characters from “The Tudors”. As for Thomas, well, that’s another story!

Debunking the myths about Anne Boleyn

September 13, 2012
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Olga
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Thank you so much Claire, I appreciate you posting it for meSmile I encounter a lot of negative feeling towards Jane in people I know who like Tudor fiction and unfortunately I think people revel in it.

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