George Boleyn with Clare Cherry

Posted By on May 19, 2017

George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, was executed on 17th May 1536 after being found guilty of high treason. He was charged with committing incest with his sister, Queen Anne Boleyn, and of plotting with her to kill the king.

He is remembered for his part in the bloody events of May 1536, but he was far more than just the brother of Queen Anne Boleyn, he was also a favourite of King Henry VIII, a loyal servant to the king, a diplomat and a gifted poet.

As part of Anne Boleyn Day 2017 and to commemorate the executions of the queen and the five men, Clare Cherry, co-author of George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier and Diplomat talks to us about what we know about the real George Boleyn.

I know just how much research Clare did on George because I worked with her on the book. If you’re interested in reading the book you can find out more at http://getbook.at/george-boleyn. If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning a copy of the George Boleyn book and an Anne Boleyn falcon badge, simply leave a comment on this post before midnight on 24th May saying what you found interesting about this video. One comment will be picked at random and the winner contacted.

31 thoughts on “George Boleyn with Clare Cherry”

  1. Mary Rutherford-Birkey says:

    Thank you Clare,

    I love the emphasis and comments on George as a poet (a remarkable one) instead of on the more salacious aspects we hear about so often. You’ve provided some excellent counter-arguments to the historical fiction of “The Other Boleyn Girl” and recent accounts of his behavior.

  2. Rachel says:

    I’m baffled by the consistent portrayal of George as a villain and/or gay. Shaking my head here and joining with Clare in asking where it all came from. x

  3. Agnes Szabo says:

    I know George loved books and reading like his sister, Anne but I’ve never thought of him as a poet.

  4. Karen says:

    Clare, your thoughts have put George in a more positive light.

  5. Maddie says:

    I’m always so confused about why George is portrayed as such a villain. I liked hearing about him in a more positive light.

  6. Shannon says:

    George need more things written about him.

  7. Jessica says:

    Thank u for letting us see a piece of the real George . this pope man caught up in the horrible game of politics

  8. Jan Kelley says:

    A fascinating talk. I like to hear historians try to revise/rehabilitate the victims of the myth-makers of history. In George’s case it is well overdue. When I wrote about the French Revolution I met with similar myths around Louis XVI, who is so often portrayed as a sexually inadequate simpleton, when he was intelligent and erudite, and a loving husband. These myths made it easier to propagate the gossip portraying Marie Antoinette as an unfaithful wife and good-time girl. I often think these myths serve another purpose, that of assuaging the guilt of succeeding generations about executing people who with hindsight were not guilty of anything worthy of the supreme punishment. And George Boleyn is surely a case in point. Thank you again for a really interesting talk.

    1. Tidus says:

      Jan Kelly
      Excellent post! I totally agree.

  9. annie says:

    I loved Clare’s passionate defense of George being an upright man not deserving the popular culture trashing his character has received.

  10. Dawn 1st says:

    This book was a joy to read, it brought what is known about George into a realistic context. He became a person with a life…having a family, a career, who was an educated man with many talents, who was falsely accused of heinous crimes and suffered the terrible consequences, rather than this depraved entity that had an attachment to the Boleyn family and got his just deserts.

    There isn’t a great deal of George’s life recorded, most know he was Anne’s brother, accused of incest, and was executed. The perfect candidate for the growing of a fictitious ‘baddie’!.
    Fiction is entertaining, and there is certainly nothing wrong with a good tale that includes well know people from history…what is wrong are the writers who proclaim their depiction is a well researched conclusion and a true reflection of this persons character. This is where fiction takes over and becomes reality to so many, and it sticks!! Shame on those who profess knowledge…

  11. Dawn Pinnataro says:

    Very interesting and thank you for a chance to win a copy of this book. George, as also his sister Mary and his wife Jane. has so many unknowns about his life. Very interesting.

  12. Veronica Lynn says:

    I feel so very deeply for George Boleyn and his sisters.
    I believe all three were victimized in great part because of their father’s ambition.
    I feel he advised them to promote himself not protect them.

      1. Veronica Lynn says:

        I watched it.
        Being an ISTJ personality type, my mind does not change about people EASILY.
        However, I promise to take the information from your excellent video and re-examine history armed with that information. 🙂
        You’ve convinced me to give Thomas Boleyn a second chance.

  13. Very interesting thank you. I do believe they where innocent of all crimes.

  14. Stacie says:

    This is amazing. I had no idea that the way he has been portrayed in recent years was false! Now I wish to study him further. Also, I am SHOCKED that Jane might be innocent. I have always thought of her as the villain in all of this!

  15. Teo says:

    I found very remarkable the fact that your interest for George Boleyn started when you read the other boleyn girl because i have to say that this book is one of my favorite in historical fiction era.

  16. Jemma Robertson says:

    This has made me want to go and look up about George

  17. Katie says:

    Such a great video. What i found interesting about this video is that so many writers have made George out to be such a horrible person. I didn’t really realize that until watching this. They seem to believe these made up stories with absolutely no truth behind them. I’m glad that Claire Cherry and Clair Ridgway are setting the record straight about George. I personally believe he was a very talented and misunderstood man. I would love to read this book!

  18. Lisa Prince says:

    I think it is great to read more in-depth about people around Anne as that gives me additional perspective on her life and the politics of court life. Thank you!

  19. Joey cavender-flanagan says:

    Thank you for bringing out george out of the closet of mystery and bringing him to the light. He is one of the most least known man in English history. I never thought he was a poet and i wish one day we can read his poetry to see what was in heart and mind.

  20. Banditqueen says:

    I can well imagine George Boleyn as a keen poet. He was a talented person, writer, translated theological works, was a diplomat and scholar. There was a less serious side to him as well and he was sporty and a gambler and joker and he was probably, but the jury is out on this, a ladies man, he was good looking and he was friendly. Yes, George was close to Anne, her confidant, there is no evidence of incest and those who believed or continue to promote that nonsense are potty.

  21. Tina says:

    I suspect George was one of those people who truly enjoyed life and had many talents to make the most of his opportunities.

  22. Jessica says:

    As with others, I knew George wasn’t really the bumbling courtier he is often depicted as, but I never really imagined him as a poet. I can see it, though.

  23. CA says:

    Thank you so much for being George’s champion. He truly needs one. Due to the fashion of the times he’s become a cypher that fiction writers can drag about and make into anything. Yours was the only biography of George that I found. I’m so glad that you and Claire were willing to make a real effort on his behalf.

  24. Charlotte black says:

    You have certainly done George justice here-I never knew he was a poet! He is always portrayed in such a negative light and it is refreshing to hear the other viewpoint. I am now turning over scenarios and accusations in my head considering a different viewpoint.

  25. Kim Young says:

    “The pen is mightier than the sword” Oh how true!

  26. Kelsey says:

    Thanks to you, my eyes have been opened to see beyond George’s portrayal in Hollywood and I’m so happy to learn more about him! I love knowing that he was a poet! It would be so incredible to read his works, it makes me so happy to imagine him writing so many amazing pieces. Thank you for giving George the time and attention he deserves!

  27. Agi says:

    Great video, thanks for it. George must have been more than we think after the movies and series.

  28. Deborah Varney says:

    DNA links now seem to point to George Boleyn having had an illegitimate son, George Boleyn dean of Lichfield. I was fascinated by your book and have been researching this line and also descend from. George dean of Lichfield. I will copy some information on a Tudor blog and hope that Clare Cherry will peruse

    Question from Haven – Children of George and Jane Boleyn
    Did Jane Boleyn have any children with George? I’m reading The Boleyn Inheritance and it says Jane has a son. And I know that it’s only fiction, but in The Other Boleyn Girl, I don’t recall George saying anything about Jane being pregnant.
    Posted by Lara Eakins at 8:56 PM
    12 comments:
    Elizabeth M. said…
    As far as anyone knows, George and Jane Boleyn had no children. There was a George Boleyn, Dean of Lichfield, in Elizabeth’s time, who for a while was thought to have been their son, but it is now more accepted he may have been a cousin of some sort.
    Also, there is no evidence George Boleyn was homosexual, which has been put forth in dramas like The Tudors.
    April 13, 2009 12:31 PM
    Love said…
    George Boleyn and Jane Boleyn had been together 10 years, and they did not have one single child. There was no report of miscarriage, or of Jane ever being pregnant. Maybe Jane couldn’t have kids…than again , Maybe George couldn’t have kids. George Boleyn was known to have been a ladies man (supposedly) yet there has been no report of him having any kids inside, or outside of his marriage to Jane. There is no report of any bastard running around. For a while it was believe that the Dean of Lichfield was George’s bastard son, but if he was it was never acknowledge by George , or the Boleyn family.
    April 15, 2009 12:12 AM
    Jenna said…
    If I remember correctly there was more than one reference to George Boleyn being homosexual. I think that it was a play or a movie about Anne Boleyn. So why does this keep coming up if there is no historical fact?
    April 15, 2009 2:56 PM
    Lucretia said…
    If George and Jane Boleyn had had a son, would he have inherited George’s estate and titles, or would they have remained confiscated by the crown?
    May 08, 2009 9:40 PM
    Anonymous said…
    George’s estates were not confiscated by the crown: Lady Rochford kept them, perhaps as a reward for conspiring to bring down Queen Anne Boleyn.

    As for the “why do people keep saying it if it isn’t true” question, please ask yourself how many other idiotic things people say (and believe). Does that make Bigfoot, the Bermuda Triangle, etc. all “true” simply because people repeat them? They exist on about the same level of evidence as George’s homosexuality. It’s a sensational idea that is enjoying a vogue, like the syphilis theory once did, but there’s no basis in fact for either.
    June 03, 2009 2:01 AM
    Jeff Angus said…
    The idea that George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford had a son is supported by the tombstone found near Clonony Castle, of two sisters, Mary and Elizabeth Bullyn. He is named specifically as their great-grandfather.

    https://archive.org/stream/anecdotesaristo02burkgoog#page/n252/mode/1up/

    https://archive.org/stream/jstor-25497775/25497775#page/n5/mode/1up

    My 10x great-grandmother Anna Bullein (Spouse of Sir Robert Newcomen) is thought by some to be the sister (I think more likely cousin) to the sisters above.

    More info’ on Anna Bullein is at:
    https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/forum/anne-boleyn-forum/anna-bullein-spouse-of-sir-robert-newcomen-4th-baronet-and-kinswoman-of-anne-boleyn/
    January 29, 2014 7:51 PM
    Jeff Angus said…
    To strengthen the case that there may well have been Boleyn progeny living in Ireland, I recently discovered the following reference, speaking of Jane Molyneux nee Usher (1582–1674):

    “…she was a very religious and devout woman, and had been singularly careful in the education of her children, for which purpose she was so happy as to have Mrs. Mary Bullen, (who was also related to Henry the eighth’s Queen, as she happened afterwards to be Lady Paisley,) for some time in her house, at Newland [Lonford, Ireland] for instructing her young children and daughters …”

    So, it seems Mrs Bullen (Bullen, Bullein etc being legitimate variances of Boleyn) was married to a Mr Bullen and either she herself, or more likely her husband, were related to Queen Anne Boleyn. Now Jane Molyneux’s nephew was married to the afore-mentioned Anna Bullein (1606–1650), who was reputedly born in Longford, Ireland. The relationship of nephew to Jane Usher was because she was wife to Daniel Molyneux, whose sister Catherine Molyneux (1570–1621) married Sir Robert Newcomen, 1st Baronet of Mosstown (1570–1629). His son was husband to Sir Robert Newcomen, 4th Baronet (1596–1667), whose wife was Anna Bullein.

    I estimate, based on the ages of some of the Molyneux children that may have been ‘instructed’, Mrs Mary Bullen would have stayed with the Molyneux’s in Newlands, Longford for a period in and around the 1620 – 1630’s. Since Anna Bullein was also born in Longford and married there in 1626, it is quite possible that Mary and Anna knew each other through Mary’s host’s family connections, or perhaps were related. It is even possible that Mary was an Aunt or even a mother to Anna.

    Anna Bullein is also thought to have been closely related (possibly sisters, but more likely first cousins) to the Clonony Castle Boleyn girls, whose grave stone clearly links (if taken to be true) them to George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford, brother to Queen Anne Boleyn.

    Over the last couple of years, I have searched for other possible Boleyn relations who may have fathered the forebears of these Irish women, but I can find none that have born sons whose descendants lived in Ireland, that are near enough to warrant the many references of Anna Bullein as “near relation, blood relative, great-grand neice etc” to Queen Anne and other mention of similar relationship statements to Queen Elizabeth I. Whilst I remain open, George Boleyn is the most likely candidate as their ancestor.

    So, now we see four linked individuals with claims to descent from the Queen Boleyn’s family, living in Ireland and considering the link (gifted by Henry VIII) from Clonony Castle directly to Thomas Boleyn, the Queen’s father, I no longer think the possibility of George fathering a child should be dismissed lightly.
    February 26, 2016 11:00 PM
    Anonymous said…
    There is a a brief reference in Alison Weir’s “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” regarding George Boleyn having a son who was named after him, and who became Dean of Litchfield. That’s all I ever read about it, but it piqued my curiosity.
    March 27, 2016 1:59 PM
    Andrea Turman said…
    My Rochford family lineage through my grandmother Irene Bernadette Rochford Hendrickson has always been intriguing to me. We have always heard that one of our ancestors was Anne Boleyn’s brother, Lord Rochford (George Boleyn 2nd Viscount Rochford). It was never questioned in our family. Perhaps via an illegitimate path, one might assume? Or not? Ambassador Lord Rochford spent a great deal of time in France on behalf of King Henry VIII.

    My great great aunt, Rose Rochford and her husband Molten Kleckner were photographers who documented life on the American Plains in the late 19th century and were inducted into the Osborne (Kansas) County Hall of Fame in 1996 (https://ochf.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/moulton-a-and-rose-rochford-kleckner-1996-inductees/ ).

    A hand-written inscription in our Rochford Family Recipe Book reads:

    From the Osborne, Kansas, newspaper during World War I:
    “…The mother’s* ancestors were among the refugees in the flight of the aristocracy from France during the Wars and were shipwrecked off Ireland and settled there, founding the Rochford family of Meath County, Ireland. She, with her parents, came to Quebec, Canada, after the War of 1812. The family came to Minnesota during the Civil War and changed the spelling of their name in getting citizenship papers.
    *Mother refers to Jessie Vague’s mother who is a sister of Grandfather (John Henry) Rochford’s father.”

    Might Lord Rochford have had a child in France? Just a thought.
    November 10, 2016 2:00 PM
    Deborah Varney said…
    There seems to be DNA evidence out there to suggest that George Boleyn did have a bastard son who was George Boleyn dean of Lichfield . My Bollen s hailed from cattistock Dorset . If you google William of cattistock Bollen you will find someone’s evidence . I have DNA links to several . One being Anna throckmorton Boleyn. These trees point back to George Boleyn viscount Rockford but probably not Jane Parker . He was a notorious womaniser. There is even a Boleyn pedigree out there citing George dean of Lichfield as a bastard son.
    January 04, 2018 6:13 AM
    Jeff Angus said…
    I was intrigued by Deborah Varney’s post above which stated that ‘Anna Thockmorton Bollen’ could be a descendant of George Boleyn Viscount Rochford and wondered if small trace segments of atDNA may have been passed down to some of his descendants, one of which may be my father through his ancestor Anna Bullein (proported great-grand-neice of Queen Elizabeth I) and wife of Robert Newcomen 4th Baronet. In addition to this, I have found a number of other ancestral paths back to Boleyn ancestors in my father’s tree, which I hoped would strengthen or lengthen the DNA segments he may have received.

    I found by searching Gedmatch for all GEDCOM (family tree files) that there were about eighty showing ‘Anna Thockmorton Bollen’ and another ten or so showing ‘Anna Throgmorton Bollen’ as ancestor of people who had tested their atDNA. I eliminated any instances where someone had submitted multiple DNA kits (as this might unduly bias results) and then performed a multiple kit analysis on the remaining nearly 40 kits.

    While the majority did match my father’s kit with segments over 3cM’s, just a dozen matched with segments over 5cM’s and although that dozen did show on a generations matrix to match between 6.2 and 7.7 generations back, the 2D chromosome visualisation did not show any one particular multiple re-occurring segment as one would expect if a common ancestor was indicated.

    Although this was an inconclusive result for my father, one must consider that a common ancestor between his nearest Boleyn ancestor ‘Anna Bullein’ and that of ‘Anna Throckmorton Bollen’ would be a few more generations again, pushing the chances of finding a common ancestor beyond the normal atDNA limit of 5 – 7 generations, despite some strengthening through multiple ancestral paths.

    Nevertheless, I posted my methodology here in hopes that the descendants of ‘Anna Throgmorton Bollen’ may use it to yield improved results among themselves and perhaps identify a common segment indicating their shared common ancestry. I hold out some hope that perhaps too, as more people are tested, a common ‘Boleyn’ segment may yet emerge.

    Lastly, I should mention that there is a ‘Boleyn’ Y-DNA Project at FamilyTreeDNA, so if there are Boleyn (or variant) surnamed male descendants out there with family stories of descent from Queen Anne’s brother, George Boleyn (there seem to be quite a few), I would strongly encourage them to get Y-DNA tested and join the project.
    January 13, 2018 4:58 PM
    M Bullen said…
    I am Michael Bullen. My grandfather left Norfolk around a hundred years ago and never went back, he descended from the Hingham line.

    A number of my cousins and I have had dna tests, we have between us multiple dna matches to Mary Throckmorton Bollen (George II’s desendant) and to William of Cattistock’s desendants.

    We also have single matches to the Litchfield and Buren families. I am trying to get other cousins to have their dna tested.

    All of this seems to lead back to George Boleyn II being our direct ancestor. His link to George Rochford may never be entirely certain, but I would note the following;

    He was at Elizabeth’s court. She obtained positions for him and he called her cousin. If he had no reason to do that I think he would swiftly have been disabused of the notion.

    His executor was Lord Hunsdon, Mary’s son, whom he called kinsman.

    There is also correspondence (you will find it on-line) between him and others concerning Lady Mary Scudamore, whom he called cousin. She was the granddaughter of Jane Parker’s parents.

    The only possible way in which all these people could be cousins would be if he were the son of George and Jane Boleyn.

    He is in Cambridge University’s records as the son of Viscount Rochford, among other evidence.

    As to why his early years were obscure, perhaps having his mother, father, aunt and cousin (Catherine Howard) executed led him to keep a low profile until Henry VIII was out of the way.
    I hope this is of interest and welcome all comments and replies

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