"The Lady Parker" a portrait once thought to be Jane Parker but which is probably Grace Newport, Jane's sister-in-law
"The Lady Parker" a portrait once thought to be Jane Parker but which is probably Grace Newport, Jane's sister-in-law

I thought I’d start my series of articles on the fall of Anne Boleyn by looking at Jane Boleyn (also referred to as Jane Parker and Lady Rochford), wife of George Boleyn and the woman who is known for telling Thomas Cromwell that George and Anne Boleyn had committed incest. But what exactly was her role in Anne Boleyn’s downfall and should she be blamed in this way?

I have already considered Jane Boleyn’s role in the fall of Anne Boleyn in one of my posts on George Boleyn – see George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, Part 2 – so some of the information here is also in that post, but it’s great to have the opportunity to look at Jane’s role and her personality in more detail.

The Jane Boleyn of Fiction

Many people’s opinions of Jane Boleyn are based on novels like “The Other Boleyn Girl” and “The Boleyn Inheritance” or TV shows like “The Tudors”. If we are to base our opinions of Jane Boleyn on those and other fictional portrayals then we would conclude that:-

  • Jane  and George Boleyn’s marriage was unhappy and loveless.
  • Jane was treated badly by her homosexual/bisexual husband and that he even raped her and forced her into “deviant” sexual acts.
  • Jane was jealous of the close relationship between George and Anne Boleyn.
  • Jane hated George (and/or Anne) and was motivated into lying about him and Anne by her hatred and jealousy.
  • Jane was a voyeur, meddler and mad with jealousy.

Who was the Real Jane Boleyn?

In Georgian and Victorian times when sympathies swung towards Anne Boleyn, historians felt that Jane Boleyn had got her come-uppance when she was executed for her involvement in Catherine Howard’s affair with Thomas Culpeper. One historian, C.Coote, wrote:-

“the infamous lady Rochford… justly deserved her fate for the concern which she had in bringing Anne Boleyn, as well as her own husband, to the block.”

Many present day historians also see Jane Boleyn as a nasty piece of work and someone who gave false evidence against George and Anne. Lacey Baldwin Smith, in “Catherine Howard: The Queen Whose Adulteries Made a Fool of Henry VIII”, says of Jane:-

“the lady was a pathological meddler, with most of the instincts of a procuress who achieves a vicarious pleasure from arranging assignations.”

In “The Lady in the Tower”, Alison Weir writes of how Jane Boleyn had “a talent for intrigue” as not only was she involved in Catherine Howard’s affairs in 1541 but she also plotted with Anne Boleyn in 1534 to remove the King’s mistress and replace her with Madge Shelton, Anne’s cousin and a Boleyn sympathiser.

Even Jane’s contemporary George Cavendish had no great opinion of Jane, writing in Jane’s voice:-

“Withouten bridle of honest measure,

Following my lust and filthy pleasure,

Without respect of any wifely truth,

Dreadless of God, from grace also exempt,

Viciously consuming the time of this my youth.”

(George Cavendish in “Metrical Visions”)

George Wyatt, son of poet Sir Thomas Wyatt who had been friends with the Boleyn, said of Jane:-

“wicked wife, accuser of her own husband, even to the seeking of his own blood”

and 17th century historian P Heylin said that Jane had an “inveterate hatred” of Anne Boleyn because her husband enjoyed his sister’s company more than hers and because Anne had superior social skills. It would have been natural for Jane to have felt in Anne’s shadow with Anne being queen and always being the centre of attention with her sex appeal, intelligence and flirtatious nature.

Signature of Jane Rochford (Jane Boleyn)
Signature of Jane Rochford (Jane Boleyn)

However, historian Julia Fox, author of “Jane Boleyn: The Infamous Lady Rochford”, has a very different opinion of Jane Boleyn. Fox writes of Jane’s friendship with Anne and makes the point that there is no evidence that George and Jane’s marriage was not happy and successful. The fact that they were childless and that the marriage was arranged does not necessarily mean that they were unhappy.

Fox also writes of how William Foster, a scholar, wrote warmly of Jane, describing her as the “most special patroness” of his studies. The fact that Anne Boleyn chose her sister-in-law to help her get rid of Henry’s new mistress in 1534 and that she later confided in Jane about Henry’s erratic sexual prowess suggests that the women were close, rather than being enemies or just tolerating each other.

What was Jane’s Role in the Coup Against the Boleyns?

Whatever our opinion of Jane and her character, did she actually give Cromwell crucial evidence against the Boleyns? Did she lie about Anne and George’s relationship and could she be held accountable for their deaths?

Eric Ives in his biography of Anne Boleyn, “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn”, writes of Jane Boleyn:-

“It was she [Jane] who had told the Crown of Anne’s remarks about Henry’s sexual capacities, and according to de Carles, Rochford said to his judges, “On the evidence of only one woman you are willing to believe this great evil of me, and on the basis of her allegations you are deciding my judgement.” A foreign visitor to London in May 1536 wrote of “that person who more out of envy and jealousy than out of love towards the king did betray this accursed secret and together with it the names of those who had joined in the evil doings of the unchaste queen”. The lost journal of Antony Antony also referred to the role of Lady Rochford and probably included words to the effect that “the wife of Lord Rochford was a particular instrument in the death of Queen Anne.””

Ives continues to back this up with the words of Bishop Burnet, a man who was not alive at the time but who had access to primary sources in the 17th century. Burnet claimed that Jane Boleyn “carried many stories to the king or some about him” and gave evidence “that there was a familiarity between the queen and her brother beyond what so near a relationship could justify.” However, any contemporary primary sources that gave evidence of Jane’s involvement in the fall of Anne Boleyn are now lost and Ives certainly does not hold Jane accountable for Anne’s downfall.

In “The Lady in the Tower”, Alison Weir writes of how Jane Boleyn was Thomas Cromwell’s best informant and that “the evidence against Lord Rochford was said to have been laid soley by his wife of twelve years, Jane Parker.” Weir backs this up with four main sources:-

  1. Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, who, in his biography of Henry VIII in the seventeenth century, wrote of Jane being the “particular instrument” in the falls of both Anne and George Boleyn.
  2. The dispatches of Eustace Chapuys, the Imperial Ambassador.
  3. An anonymous Portuguese account from the 10th June 1536 which refers to “that person who, more out of envy and jealousy than out of love towards the King, did betray this accursed secret, and together with it the names of those who had joined in the evil doings of the unchaste Queen”.
  4. Lancelot de Carles – De Carles reported that “a single woman” gave the most damaging evidence against Anne and George, but de Carles hinted that this woman was Lady Worcester, not Jane Boleyn. Weir and some other historians think that he was confused, as Jane was interrogated at the time.
  5. Jane’s confession at the block on the 13th February 1542 that she had falsely accused her husband of committing adultery with his sister Anne Boleyn.

Alison Weir may be right, Jane Boleyn may have been instrumental in the fall of Anne Boleyn and the execution of George Boleyn. She may well have been jealous and spiteful but is there any evidence that she definitely 100% told lies about them to Cromwell?

Historian John Guy, husband of Julia Fox, is critical of Alison Weir’s sources and her opinions. Regarding Chapuys and the anonymous Portuguese gentleman’s evidence, Guy writes:

“Chapuys, she[Weir] 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.”

Then, regarding Lord Herbert of Cherbury’s words, Guy writes:-

“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.”

Regarding Jane Boleyn’s execution confession, Guy writes that that Jane’s confession is a forgery and the work of Gregorio Leti, a man know for making up stories and inventing sources. Concerning de Carles, John Guy points out that there is no historical evidence to say that this woman was Jane Boleyn and that de Carles may well have been right in thinking that it was Lady Worcester.

As you can see, the world of historical sources is a minefield and I’m not having a dig at Alison Weir in any way as I respect her and love “The Lady in the Tower”, I’m just suggesting that we don’t know the truth about Jane Boleyn and her involvement in Anne Boleyn’s fall. Julia Fox, Jane’s biographer, writes:-

“By the time he got round to interviewing Jane, Cromwell’s dossier was getting thicker…Jane Rochford found herself dragged into a maelstrom of intrigue, innuendo and speculation. For when Cromwell sent for Jane, he already had much of what he needed, not only to bring down Anne and her circle, but to make possible the king’s marriage to Jane Seymour… The questions to Jane would have come thick and fast. There is no word-for-word transcript of what they were, but the record of the trials of both Anne and George give us a plethora of clues. How often did George and Anne meet? Who was present on these occasions? Were they ever totally alone? Did he ever go into her bedchamber? Was she in bed at the time? Was he ever alone with her? How did they behave when they were together? What did they talk about? Did either of them speak about the King?…  Faced with such relentless, incessant questions, which she had no choice but to answer, Jane would have searched her memory for every tiny incident that occurred to her. This was not the moment for bravado and, in any case, the arrests had been so sudden and unexpected that there was no time to separate out what testimony might be damaging, what could be twisted… Jane had not been quick to tell tales, but she had buckled under the pressure of relentless questioning… She had repeated to Cromwell Anne’s indiscretion about Henry’s sexual inadequacies…And it was her weakness under interrogation that gave her future detractors – happy to find a scapegoat to exonerate the king from the heinous charge of callously killing his innocent wife – the ammunition to maintain that it was her evidence that had fooled Henry and destroyed Anne and George. She had repeated Anne’s secret to her own husband, which in itself implies a relaxed rather than a failed union, and she had confessed the same to Cromwell. However, she had done no more than that.”

Perhaps Fox is right, perhaps Jane simply told the truth and her words about Anne and George’s relationship were twisted by Cromwell to give him ammunition against the Boleyns. It would be easy for a scared young woman to repeat Anne’s words and then regret doing so later when she realised how they could be used against the Queen. The fact that Jane sent a message via Kingston, the Constable of the Tower of London, asking how George was and saying that she would “humbly [make] suit unto the King’s highness” for him shows that she was concerned for her husband. George responded by saying that he wanted to “give her thanks” and in a letter wrote “for I think I [may not] come forth till I come to judgement” which Fox takes to mean that he knew that he needed Jane’s aid if anyone were to listen to his case before his trial.

"Jane Boleyn: The Infamous Lady Rochford" by Julia Fox
"Jane Boleyn: The Infamous Lady Rochford" by Julia Fox

Julia Fox also points out that Jon Hussee, in a letter to Honor Lisle, wrote that three women had accused Anne Boleyn of infidelity: “the lady Worcester, Nan Cobham and one maid mo[re]”. Hussee did not name Jane Boleyn, which seems strange if she was such a key witness.


While it seems clear that Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, told Cromwell that Anne had spoken to her of Henry VIII’s sexual problems, a matter that came out in court when George Boleyn was handed a piece of paper detailing this and then unwisely read it out, it is not at all clear that Jane Boleyn accused her husband and her sister-in-law of incest or gave Cromwell any evidence of this whatsoever. It is easy to pin the blame on Jane Boleyn when you see her as the spiteful meddler of fiction and television, but could it be that we are maligning her in the same way that history has maligned Anne Boleyn and her brother George?

It is so easy to judge people and I do like the saying “Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes”. We don’t know what pressure Jane was under when she was interrogated and she may well have been in fear of her life. As I said earlier, Jane may well have spoken first and thought later, she may have gabbled hysterically like Anne did in the Tower. Who knows? Whatever Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, said to Cromwell it would have been most likely twisted and the success of the cases against Anne and George did not hang on Jane’s evidence. As Julia Fox points out, Cromwell had a whole dossier of information before he even spoke to Jane, and Anne and George had already been arrested. The fall of Anne Boleyn and the Boleyn faction was a done deal whatever Jane had to say.

I guess that what I am saying is that I’d like to give Jane Boleyn the benefit of the doubt and I certainly don’t feel that she was responsible for either Anne’s death or for George’s death, that responsibility lies firmly with the person who framed them and let them be executed on false charges, whether you think that was Cromwell or Henry VIII.


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34 thoughts on “Jane Boleyn and the Fall of Anne Boleyn”
  1. My opinion of the downfalll of Anne is that H8 wanted out, used Crowell as he did many times before and didn’t worry about the etails – You used the word “scapegoat” which I think I have mentioned and Anne Rochford was probably one of them. In terms of novels, she was also not given good press in C.J. Sansom’s novel “Sovereign” either so …………. But my question is, that if she was entirely innocent, why did she become Jane Seymour’s , Anne of Cleeves’ and lastly Katherine Howard’s lady in waiting afterwards. The two former could have been a bribe from Cromwell – the latter certainly wasn’t and that is where she also fell at the post.

  2. Hi Jenny,
    Jane was very much on her own after George was executed and was left in quite a tricky financial situation, having lost her husband’s grants. Julia Fox writes that the only thing Jane could do was to “enlist Cromwell’s help in persuading the king to take pity on her” and Cromwell had helped Elizabeth Savage, Brereton’s widow. Her letter worked and Thomas Boleyn was pressurised into helping her and Cromwell eventually found Jane a position at court. I don’t think that Jane’s return to court necessarily means that she was rewarded for helping Cromwell and the King as Elizabeth Savage was helped and she did not provide the crown with any evidence. Jane had shown herself to be a good lady-in-waiting and had not been involved in Anne’s alleged adultery in any way, she was simply a poor widow with two decades of experience at court. I’m not saying that she was innocent and she certainly was some kind of “agent provocateur” when it came to Catehrine Howard’s alleged adultery, but I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt for now.

  3. Thank you for researching this particular suggestion, I’m so pleased that you did. Although I have looked at all your excellent sources and reasoning, in my heart Jane is still partly to blame. She was not the only tool, I will give her that, but in my eyes she did something unforgiveable, although I do think that she righted herself in my estmation after I found out that she admitted to lying!
    Thank you for this, it was very interesting. I look forward to reading the other ideas.

  4. I really enjoyed this article Claire! Jane is a shadowy character and although probably not as black as history has painted her she was most certainly no innocent either! Any woman who witnessed the events of May 1536 and then deliberately engaged in the intrigue with Catherine Howard was either extremely foolhardy or inherently bad!

  5. After the fall of the Boleyns, Jane was absent from court for about a year, having to negotiate with Thomas Boleyn and Cromwell for money in order to maintain her household. Despite the fact that her husband was dead, she was still an aristocrat, and thus could serve in the Queen’s household if her services were required. Perhaps Cromwell felt that he owed a debt of gratitude for Jane’s admissions, whether she was fully aware of what she did or not, and that is why she remained on as lady-in-waiting for Queens Jane, Anne, and Catherine till her own execution in 1542.

    According to one eyewitness, a merchant named Ottwell Johnson, despite the fact that she apologized for her many sins, no mention was ever made of George or Anne.

    I find it interesting how after Jane was deemed “insane,” that H8 passed the death by Act of Attainder, making it legal to execute the insane. Henry always seems to get what he wants, doesn’t he?

  6. I think Janes jealousy of Anne & George led to her wanting to help in the boleyns downfall, (she certainly didnt want to go down with them) however I dont think she really believed her husband would die for her ‘stories’ and for that I think she was truly sorry.
    I find it also hard to believe that she could become Catherine Howards go between and think she could get away with it. (especially having watched one queen beheaded for this same accusation) Also pleading insanity in the tower!!
    These things lead me to believe that she was a person who may have been very very stupid or she actually thought she was untouchable (again stupid). This may be a harsh outlook on her as she may have not had it easy, but in hindsight she could have had a very nice life if she’d have just got on with it.

  7. Jane Boleyn is the ideal villain for TV, and that is probably why they made her out to be so evil on THE TUDORS. The fact that she had a hand in the downfall of two queens does not really help the notorious reputation she has in history. Was she truly guilty of intentionally bringing down her husband, Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard? I guess we will never really know for sure!

  8. Another great article Claire. I think Jane should be given the benefit of doubt, considering the known information. I was curious if anything was known about the Parker family and if Jane could have moved back home or if her parents could have helped her after George died.

  9. Thanks for writting all this… I guess im a bit biased…if that is the right word haha..I have such a huge love for Anne that i cant find it in my heart to not think Jane is a bad person for even having a slight part in annes downfall… So theres been a few people write different things… Did she actually apologize on the scaffold for lying about Anne and George?

  10. Hi Lisa,
    Jane’s father was Lord Morley, a man who had been on the jury at the trials of both Anne and George. Julia Fox writes that “With George dead, she [Jane] could call on Lord Morely if necessary but hus reluctance to become involved made him a weak ally.” He was a Catholic sympathiser, had known Bishop John Fisher who had been executed for not signing the oath of succession and as Weir writes “it seems that the Parkers [Jane’s family], like so many who had been of the Queen’s party, had become disaffected and decided to distance themselves from Anne and place their hopes for the future in the Lady Mary.” He probably wanted to distance himself from Jane.

  11. Hi All!
    Couple of questions please.
    How long were George and Jane married? I can imagine family get togethers with Anne, George and Jane, do you think they had them? How do you think they got along?

    Also, why was Jane involved with Catherine Howard and Thomas Culpeppers’ affair? Did it have anything to do with “hoping” Catherine would get pregnant and H8 would think it was his? (another attempt for a “son”).

    Julie B.

  12. Julia Fox thinks thatw Jane and George’s marriage would have taken place in November 1524 or early 1525 meaning that they were married for around 11 years when George was executed in 1536. I don’t think there is any evidence that Jane and Anne did nto get on, as Anne did enlist Jane’s help in getting rid of a rival (Henry’s new mistress) in 1534 and apparently did speak to her of Henry’s sexual problems, his on/off impotence. As far as Jane and George are concerned, there’s also no evidence that they were unhappy or that George was cruel to his wife. They had no children but this could have been due to fertility problems, rather than an unhappy marriage. I think that Jane, as one of Anne’s ladies and her sister-in-law would have been a part of the Boleyn circle who enjoyed getting together and discussing poetry and religion.

    It seems that Jane was the go-between for Catherine Howard and Thomas Culpeper, carrying notes and messages to Culpeper. Some historians see Jane as a meddler who enjoyed the intrigue of this and who played an “agent provocateur”, whereas Julia Fox sees Jane as someone who was simply obeying her queen and who became a scapegoat, being blamed by Catherine for encouraging her in the affair.

  13. Just the mere fact that King Henry VIII was cheating on ALL his wives gives evidence to his adultery, slander and murder of his teenage wives. When he was tired of one, he moved on to the next. He died a diseased and greedy man with no conscience.

  14. I agree with you Claire. I think panic at the time of George & Anne’s downfall probably led to some of Jane’s statements.

    I could be wrong on this but I thought I read somewhere that there was no actual transcript of Anne or George’s trial. Then I remember reading something in Weir about “the transcript of the trial”.

    Although I found some of Julia Fox’s writing a little ‘romantic’ for me, I found her explanation of how she reached her conclusions (at the end of the book) clear, convincing and I thought she made a good case for giving Jane the benefit of the doubt. I also think Fox seemed not as reliant on secondary sources as Weir (in the Lady in the Tower). I’d have to go back and analyze to see if I remember that correclty though.

    The thing I could never figure out with Jane was how she let herself get into that whole Catharine Howard mess. We humans are complicated creatures I guess. Jane certainly paid for her mistake.

    Anyway, as always, I enjoyed reading your take on things.

  15. You have to go back to 1525 as it was this time of the year that Henry noticed Anne Boleyn and started paying her attention and begun courting her and it was around this time that Anne’s brother George had began a courtship with Jane Parker who was soon to be his wife.Both theese events happened within the same year or within a year apart from eachother maximum.As some sources say that the king’s attentions turned towards Anne in 1526.I think that from the beggining all got on well,they probably did indeed spend time with one another talking aswell as taking strolls together.Everything seemed to have materialised hence that year/day forward.Even when she was queen Anne did in actual truth consult Lady Rochford about a mistress that the king had taken in 1534 and she wanted her to help her get banished from court aswell as give her advice.Also she discussed with her the kings impotence,which again is a statement of truth.I feel that it was Jane parker in particular that she confided in especially when it came to personal things.If she did not or had not trusted her or they had not have got on with one another she would not have told her all this information.So evidence suggests that Anne and Jane were still close as far as 1534.

    Jane may or may not have had a happy marriage to George.You can only guess where there is no answer.As there is not really much information for George or Jane Boleyn that exists.Like numerous other characters from history.I do feel it peculiar though that after eleven years marriage no child had been conceived.It is probable like Claire said that Jane or George or both had problems in the conception department but I felt that it could be due to the fact that George was Bi-sexual or perhaps Homosexual and his marriage to Jane was just a cover up.I am sure if his familly new about this they may have disowned him as a result.Perhaps? If Bi-sexual he may have lent more toward the male side than the female.Their marriage was probably one just built on companionship rather than anything more.

    During the inquisition of 1536 Cromwell did not just fabricate a story to bring down the Boleyn faction he also need to question people who happened to be close to the Queen Anne to make it look plausable and like he was doing his job.Theese people apart from the men in question including her brother he would have put Anne’s ladies to interrogation and questioning.I doubt he would have laid off until he retrieved the information that was needed or the words that he wanted to hear.As Jane had been a lady-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn she would have been on the questioning list undoubtedly.A sample must have taken by all the ladies and anyone else who happened to be close to Anne.Perhaps Jane may have gone to far in what she said and told or perhaps she may have been scared or probably was scared that if she failed to comply,whether words True or untrue she would have done just to get Cromwell of her back and to feel safe and have that sense of security.She would soon follow suit six years later when in 1542 she had been found out to have been complicit in aiding and abetting Catherine in her dalliances with Thomas Culpepper.They do say that what ever you do in life that happens to be bad does come or will come back on you.Either way it is a guessing game.Did she/didn’t she.?
    Like I stated she undoubtedly gave some sought of word during the interrogation period that we can establish for sure but what she said and how far she went in her statement is another matter.Basically like Lady Worcester and Nan Cobham the same applys.Were these three ladies of Annes so scared for there own lives that they were just willing to say anything about her just to save themselves? Or did they just betray their queen because they could of either lived with or without her?
    It makes me wonder what Margerate Shelton and Jane Seymour her other ladies in waiting said of her during that time.There seems to be no record of anyting that they said at all.But undoubtedly they must have been interrogated too.

  16. Hello Claire,

    I’ve just read your post and as usual it is excellent in giving all the evidence of Jane’s possible involvement in a very balanced summary. Needless to say I agree that whatever Jane said made no difference whatsoever to the outcome. George and Anne were doomed from the moment of their arrests. I too give Jane the benefit of the doubt.

  17. Apparently, there is a new fiction book coming out about Lady Rochford, called “The Boleyn Wife” I wonder how they are going to paint her…

  18. Hey Claire.
    I enjoyed you’re article and am not sure how I feel of Jane Boleyn. Personally I don’t believe she was entirely guilty, and most likely buckled under the pressure of Cromwell’s interrogation. I watch the Tudors and I have to say that the way they protrayed Geroge and Jane didn’t sit right with me, neither did Greggory’s protrayal of Jane but its true she’s a delcious fictional villian.

    There was a question as to why she would serve Jane, Anne & Catherine after the downfall of her sister-in-law and husband. I think its because it was all she knew, she grew up at court. She served Katherine before she served Anne, and it was the only life she knew. It was in her blood and veigns, and she’d come to accept Court Life as normal and nesscary.

  19. There is some wonderful commentary here about Jane. The research some of you have done is amazing. Though, we should look at Henry again though in light of his injuries. He certainly was concussed during the jousting accident during Anne Boleyn’s time. Till you deal with a head injury, you really don’t know how bad it can be. Some of the stormy rages, the inconsistencies in decision making processes and sometimes a consuming hunger with never feeling full can be symptoms of the damage he may have suffered. We can see that some of his actions seem to reflect those aspects of head injury. Add being a Tudor whose father’s rise to the throne was bloody, and being the divine power in his kingdom and you now have a recipe for disaster and destruction that effected everyone in his path. His demeanor early on was remarked upon as pleasant, after the injury it was noted that he had changed. This isn’t an apology for his actions, but Henry may have been a different King if he hadn’t chosen to joust that day.

    1. Hi Nancy:

      In addition to Henry’s head injuries, I have read that some believe Henry may have also been an untreated Type 2 diabetic. I can tell you from experience (dealing with my husband’s diabetes the past few years) when one’s blood sugar is high, one can fly off the handle for the smallest of reasons and become quite moody and difficult.

      Conversely, when one’s blood sugar bottoms out, one becomes confused and disoriented, sometimes even to the point of drooling until he gets some insulin. My husband has experienced all of the sugar highs and lows of a diabetic and struggles with it every single day.

      I can only imagine what kind of a terror Henry might have been when you combine his personality with the head injury, the injuries to his legs causing the sores, and being an untreated diabetic. I would have wanted to be far away from him and his dangerous mood swings.

  20. Could it be that Jane had not purposely made up lies about her husband and Anne, but that she simply cracked under Cromwell’s interrogating? or said something harmless that Cromwell then exaggerated?

    I think this is possible but the fact that Jane was involved in both Anne Boleyn’s and Catherine Howard’s fall still seems a bit suspicious to me.

    1. Sarah:

      Interesting thought about Cromwell.

      I have always wondered whether Cromwell threatened those close to the investigation (like Jane) could be brought down as well or threatened with torture and imprisonment. He might have broken her with threats of torture and she basically “sang like a canary” to anything he wanted.

  21. I had thought it was George who passed on the info to his wife Jane, about the kings sporadic impotency. It would make more sense that Queen Anne would confide in her brother first and that he repeated it to his wife., rather than Anne Boleyn confiding in a Lady in waiting, sister in law or not.

  22. I don’t know about Jane speaking out at Anne and Georges trial, but i do feel that her Uncle Norfolk was on to Jane to find out more about Katherine Howard he was also the instigator in getting Henry interested in her in the first place.

  23. Although Jane’s role in the downfall of Anne and George Boleyn is perhaps exaggerated, there does seem to have been something very strange about this Woman; not once but TWICE she was caught up in a sex scandal involving H8 and 2 of his wives. This fact alone is incredible. It is alleged that she went mad in the tower of London whilst awaiting execution, although this is just rumour and not based on fact. However, a person who had been through this sort of scandal once before would surely have to be unbalanced to risk going through it a second time, so perhaps this is an indication that Jane was not entirely stable either emotionally or mentally. There does SEEM to be some evidence that she was extremely nosey and overly occupied with the sex lives of other people; when Henry was married to Anne of cleves, it was to Jane and 2 other ladies-in-waiting that Anne of cleves revealed that Henry had not consummated their marriage. And Anne Boleyn told Jane that Henry was sometimes impotent in the royal bedroom. And Jane certainly had a central role in the affair between Katherine Howard and Thomas Culpepper. It is tempting to wonder if this obsession with other people’s sex lives was because Jane herself was sex-starved! She and George Boleyn had no children, despite 11 or 12 years of marriage; whilst it is true that one or both of them may have been infertile, could it be that for some reason, George Boleyn would not sleep with Jane? Of course this is just speculation, but I do feel that Jane probably DID have some role in the downfall of her husband and his sister; how big or small that role was is anyone’s guess.

  24. Always seems strange that Jane never remarried after George’s death. After Thomas Boleyn settled money on her, she would have been a good and influential catch under the normal rules of the Tudor court.


    I feel she was so tainted by what happened to George and Anne; in that close knit court, gossip must have been rife even then that she was a kind of Tudor Lady Macbeth; if so, it could be why no subsequent suitor ever came forward.

    She is also indicted as ‘that infamous bawd….’ which could be seen as another indicator that her name- and reputation- were forever sullied by those events that, while not recorded on paper, were probably common knowledge in the very close knit, upper echelons of Tudor society.

    In any event, for her to then get involved with Catherine Howard’s extra marital trysts seems, to me, to reveal an inveterate psychotic meddler who, given the opportunity once more to get involved in intrigue and subterfuge at the highest level, simply reverted to form. Possibly, she could not help herself.

    Possibly, she got off on a fatal mixture (for her) of gossip, and just sailing too damned close to the wind. In the light of what happened to her brother and sister in law, Jane had plenty of knowledge of what crossing Henry went.

    Perhaps she was a gambler. Jane had got away with it once, and maybe she believed she would again. But this time, her luck ran out, and there was no father figure such as Thomas Cromwell to vouch for her. Given her previous record, it would have been all too easy for Henry to join the dots to suit himself.

  25. Jane had a sizeable number of detractors. Perhaps she had a difficult personality; perhaps she simply turned difficult because she found herself in difficult circumstances. It seems jaw-dropping to me that the Boleyn family and the Howard family had so many members meet their death at the Tower.

    The Tudors and those around them certainly played hardball.

    (That’s a US phrase; in playing baseball you can use either a ‘hard ball’ – small, compact and really stings if it hits you or ‘soft ball’ – larger and more like a thunk if it hits you.)

    It appears there was a ‘rush to justice’ for the accused, and while I dislike the phrase ‘foregone conclusion’ it fits the circumstances here. For Anne, for George, for Jane, for Katharine – all entered the court with doom already in the air, didn’t they?

    1. Whoops – just read Claire’s post that Jane Boleyn and Catharine Howard didn’t in fact stand for trial. Must remember to view all facts before stating a conclusion!!! Apologies . . . der!

  26. Interesting article Claire, I don’t know what Jane Boleyn true role was in the downfall of Anne Boleyn, but she wasn’t the one that set it in motion, that was Henry VIII.

    Then again, her later intrigues in the Katherine Howard affair, don’t look to good for her reputation.

  27. Hi Claire!
    Do we know how educated Jane was? Was she perhaps not so shrewd in judging situations. Dim, for want of a better word? Just watched Tracey Borman’s new series on the the Trial and Execution of Anne Boleyn, where it is Unequivocally stated “we know Jane and George’s marriage was not a happy one”. No source, not even a comment on why or how we supposedly know that as fact? Just baffling how money can be spent on such a programme, with very prominant people and still be so incredibly shallow. Historians are human, I respect that. I prefer truth based on context of contemporary sources as far as humanly possible. Just not worth it otherwise. We loose respect for them as individuals. Sadly it happens often and is wearying. I also fact check here and still use my brain. It is entertaining, but frustrating as with historical fiction it can be taken for absolute fact. Love the balance you bring to it. I will still read Weir. But start with Eric Ives, then Morris…my Christmas request from the kids…Tudor book collection has started, well it will once I get it unwrapped..

    1. I would think that she was well-educated as her father was a renowned scholar and translator.
      It’s a shame that Tracy’s serious has gone with that view of Jane, and I believe a bad view of Thomas Boleyn too. Julia Fox worked so hard to rehabilitate Jane and challenge the misconceptions, which are based on fictional or dubious sources.
      I’d highly recommend Julia’s book.

      1. Yes, I thought the three part series was very well done, its just that the out of date view of Jane Rochford being the source of the incest charge and that she and George had an unhappy marriage, diminished it a little. Historians are so used to this point of view that they still repeat it without any examination or challenges. In fact it was Elizabeth Browne and Nan Cobbam and an unknown young unmarried woman who are named from contemporary sources. The statement that Thomas Boleyn was on her jury is also incorrect as he was excused, but he was originally listed and then removed. He did sit on one of the Commissions of Oyer and Terminer Juries and with the other four men. However, I can understand why she thought Mark Smeaton was tortured because he wasn’t exempt from torture and its not just the Spanish Chronicle that states it, it’s the remarks of George Constantine, the servant of Sir Henry Norris, who believed it possible because it was what he had heard. It may have been an assumption or hearsay but as we don’t know either way, its open to interpretation. Besides these few things, the documentary was brilliant, atmospheric, emotional, the use of the many sources to recreate the three days and time line very well done. Its not fair to say why was money spent on it. Why is money spent on any history on TV? There are mistakes made by the historians in them all the time. It shouldn’t happen, yes, but if they believe it to be correct, then we have to put up with it. An entire documentary with what two minutes of possible errors in should not be dismissed when 178 minutes was extremely well done and factual.

        If anyone asks, I will definitely recommend Julia Fox book on Jane Boleyn. By the way I don’t believe she was entirely innocent. I don’t believe she bore false witness or anything or betrayed her husband but I do believe she was the source of the information about Henry being bad in bed, which was confided to her by Anne. She would have been pressurised into anything she said and with Cromwell and his bully boys at her, it wasn’t her fault. The same with Elizabeth Browne. Her brother and Cromwell pressurised her into the testimony that she gave, not that we know anything that was said or written down. Cromwell was into everything, he was desperate to prove his case, the King wanted Anne out of the way. He even used the words of a dead woman, Lady Wingfield, from two years earlier. Nobody knows what she said either. The majority of stuff brought before the Courts was gossip and invention. We cannot blame frightened women or a young man threatened with torture or maybe even tortured for anything they said and the treatment of their reputations is ridiculous. Jane cannot be condemned for anything here or later when she foolishly helped Kathryn Howard. In that case I think she had very little choice.

  28. There’s a connection not mentioned here, between the two executed queens and Jane Rochester’s involvement in their downfall: they were both nieces of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk and therefore related to Jane by marriage. I think Phillipa Gregory gets a lot wrong but her theory of Jane essentially acting under his orders and serving as his spy makes sense. As wife and sister in law to individuals accused of treason it’s easy to see why she’d think her head could end up on the block as well and the only way she could save herself would be to distance herself would be to distance herself from both of them by providing information. And I don’t think any of us know what we would do if we were faced with testifying against family or losing our heads. And interrogators can be very good at manipulation, For all we know they convinced her that George was unfaithful to her and had put her and perhaps her Parker relatives in danger, or that things would go better for Anne and George if she cooperated. In these supposedly free United States I was accused by a police officer of something I didn’t do when I was 10 years old, and he said he had pictures of me doing it, and I almost confessed even tho I knew I was innocent. That was after about 5 or 10 minutes of questions in the comfort of my own home. So it’s hard for me to blame Jane for anything she might have said under Cromwell’s questioning knowing the wrath of the king could come down on her. As for the help she allegedly gave Katherine Howard, I think the theory that it was a plot to get Katherine knocked up so she didn’t lose her head for failing to give Henry a son…or to keep the Howards in power by putting one of their own on the throne. I don’t think she was a saint but was she worse than Anne who threatened to have Princess Mary executed, or Jane Seymour who married the king before Anne was cold, or Elizabeth Browne for spreading the incest rumor, or a dozen other schemers in the Tudor court? People seem to like Thomas Culpepper better than Jane Rochester, and he raped a woman and murdered her husband, and got off because Henry VIII had a mancrush on him. History is always harder on women who lie, commit crimes or engage in strategic manipulation to get ahead or preserve their lives and families than it is on men who do the same. When men do it, they’re being smart and savvy and doing what has to be done; when women do it they are considered virtually satanic.

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