"The Lady Parker" a portrait once thought to be Jane Boleyn (nee 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

Today we have a guest post from author and historian, Julia Fox, who wrote “Jane Boleyn: The Infamous Lady Rochford” and who has just released Sister Queens: Katherine of Aragon and Juana Queen of Castile: Katherine of Aragon and Juana Archduchess of Burgundy.

I was fortunate enough to meet Julia, and her husband John Guy, on our recent Executed Queens Tour and I have to admit to giving her quite a grilling on Jane Boleyn as I too believe that Jane, like her husband and sister-in-law, has been maligned by history and popular fiction. You can read my review of Julia’s book on Jane over at our review site – click here, but here is Julia’s guest article on Jane.

Jane Boleyn: The Infamous Lady Rochford

by Julia Fox

Let me nail my colours to the mast: I believe that when Anne Boleyn knelt before the Calais swordsman on that May morning in 1536 she was entirely innocent of the charges levelled against her. She had committed neither adultery nor incest. And because she was innocent, so was each and every one of the five men accused with her. Their deaths, and hers, were totally unjust. Over the centuries, Anne and her fellow victims have been ably defended. So they should be. Therefore, because like everyone else, I abhor injustice, I am happy to champion the cause of another maligned woman: Anne’s sister-in-law, George’s wife, Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford.

People think they know about Jane and don’t like what they think they know. Who can blame them? Allegedly, she bore false witness against George and Anne, so bringing about their deaths together with those of Norris, Brereton, Weston and Smeaton, and was then handsomely rewarded for her lies. So when she herself was executed for keeping watch while Catherine Howard met Thomas Culpepper, she deserved all she got. Nemesis had caught up with her, the deaths of the innocent were avenged at last. It’s a satisfyingly moral story. But is it true?

I confess that until I started researching Jane’s life, I had always thought it was. So many books said so, they couldn’t all be wrong. Yet, as the poet Thomas Wyatt once pointed out, saying something a thousand times doesn’t make it true if it isn’t. With that in mind, I decided to approach Jane with a fresh eye, put legend to one side, and go back to that most basic of things: the evidence. I determined to root out every reference to Jane that I could find, and that meant going back to the original handwritten sources safeguarded in record offices around the country. It took some doing, for Jane is an elusive quarry, but in the process I was able to place her at the Field of Cloth of Gold for the first time; I found she financed a scholar at King’s College, Cambridge; sensationally, I discovered a document which she signed and which has lain neglected in the archives for almost five hundred years but which enabled me to recreate her marriage settlement, date her wedding and prove that, far from being mad she had finally negotiated a respectable financial settlement for herself long before her involvement in the Catherine Howard scandal. More crucially, I was able to challenge the accusations made about her and to work out how and when it was that she became demonised as the woman who callously brought her own husband and sister-in-law to the scaffold.

The closer I examined the sources, the more myths began to disappear thick and fast. Far from her being chief witness for the prosecution at the Boleyn trials, the Spanish ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, tells us of his surprise that there were no witnesses at the trials at all. He had no reason to lie, every reason to gloat, if Anne’s own sister-in-law had actually spoken out against her. George did say that he was condemned upon the evidence of ‘one woman’ but did not accuse his wife; Chapuys never named her as the betrayer (I know as I’ve read every despatch he sent back to Charles V); she was not named, as some have suggested, in the report of an unknown Portugese gentleman (again, I’ve read what he said and Jane isn’t mentioned, he merely refers to a ‘woman’ whose name he does not give); Thomas Cromwell doesn’t name her either, speaking airily and vaguely about women in Anne’s chamber being unhappy about the queen’s behaviour (and surely he, like Chapuys, would have shouted Jane’s name to the rafters had she been his star informant).

One person, though, does. George Wyatt, the grandson of the poet, accuses her in the eulogy of Anne which he wrote, according to Professor David Loades, late in Elizabeth’s reign or perhaps as late as 1605. But where are Wyatt’s sources? He said that his information came from a lady (unnamed) who had attended Anne both before and after she became queen, and a second lady (whom he says was of noble birth but is again unnamed) who was Anne’s contemporary, knew those involved and from whom he was himself descended. The former was identified in the nineteenth century – although upon what evidence we are not told – by Samuel Weller Singer as Anne Gainsford, who married the courtier George Zouche. If she is indeed Wyatt’s informant, she was dead before he was even born: in George Zouche’s will made in 1548, he mentions Ellen not Anne as ‘now’ his ‘well-beloved wife’, and Ellen would be his second wife. Therefore, George Wyatt, who was born in 1553, could never have spoken to Gainsford. Any information from her, assuming that there was any, must have come from Wyatt family traditions, and family stories are notoriously unreliable. As for the mysterious second lady, she would have been in well into her dotage or more likely dead by the time Wyatt was writing. So perhaps she too exists only in family stories. Historians deal in facts not guesswork. Wyatt’s accusation against Jane is both dubious and uncorroborated, a point confirmed when he goes on to contradict himself by saying that George was only condemned ‘upon some point of a statute’.

Just as intriguing is while Jane was to be castigated for her part in Queen Catherine’s downfall no one, in her lifetime, ever says she was responsible for Anne’s, other than by repeating to George incidentally what the queen had once told her about Henry’s occasional erectile dysfunction. And, significantly, two contemporaries, John Husee and Justice Spelman (who was on the bench at Anne’s trial) named two different women entirely. John Husee felt information had come from the Countess of Worcester; Spelman said it came from Lady Wingfield. One man, or both, clearly had it muddled, but neither mentioned Jane.

So how did she became the Wicked Witch of the West? When did accusations surface? What emerged from my research is that it started with John Foxe. In the 1576 edition of his Acts and Monuments (not, interestingly, in the 1563 version) he included a marginal annotation to his account of Catherine Howard’s execution in which he said, ‘it is reported of some that this Lady Rochford forged a false letter against her husband and Queen Anne her sister, by which they were both cast away’. Yet, before taking Foxe at face value, we need to think when and why he was writing: it’s an old cliché that history is written by the winners and by the time he was penning his work, Elizabeth, clearly a winner and a Protestant, was on the throne. Naturally, she must have come from spotless stock, so her mother must have been innocent and her father duped. Because she had proved herself a ‘bawd’ through her actions over Catherine Howard, Jane was a perfect scapegoat. From Foxe onwards (and remember that Wyatt was writing some twenty years later) she was fair game, appearing as the villain of the piece in the works of authors such as Lord Herbert of Cherbury in 1649, Peter Heylin in 1660, Gilbert Burnet in 1679. By the time we get to the eighteenth century, she’d become ‘scandalous’, ‘infamous’, ‘wicked’, and countless so-called scaffold confessions suddenly appear – in fact, of course, the only authentic eyewitness to her execution, Ottwell Johnson, who tells us what she said before the axe fell, says nothing whatever about a ‘confession’ concerning Anne and George.

In any case, she had no motive for bringing them down. There is no evidence of jealousy, as later writers suggest; that George was homosexual remains a decidedly unproven theory; the recent notion that he abused Jane would be laughed out of any half-decent courtroom as it rests upon no evidence whatsoever; the theory that Jane was Catholic, so was antagonistic to the attacks on the Church, were it true, would merely have placed her in exactly the same position as her father and so many others, all of whom understood the value of silence; and, moreover, she would have known that by speaking out against Anne and George she would not only place herself in danger for misprision of treason, she would make herself penniless since the property of a convicted traitor, from the largest estate to the meanest cooking pot, became the property of the king. Far from being rewarded, as some historians say, she had to beg for her most basic and rightful jointure money to be paid: it took her time to work her way back into the royal court, her financial security did not come until Thomas Boleyn granted her a decent settlement and he did that not because he was pressed by the king or by Cromwell, but because he suited him to settle his family’s affairs before he died.

Quite why and how Anne fell remains a matter of fascinating conjecture. But of one thing I am convinced: it was not because of Jane Boleyn. She too was framed.

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44 thoughts on “Jane Boleyn: The Infamous Lady Rochford – Guest Post”
  1. So sad how it all ended. But I can’t read enough of The Tudor era its so interesting and very sad also,

  2. Great post, a most interesting case. The psychology of hindsight in combination with later writers are a terrible obstacle for arriving at “the truth”; not least regarding Tudor times!

  3. First, thank you for a fascinating article. I have read your book with great interest and found it nicely written and informative. But I still have my doubts about Jane’s innocence. What reason could Foxe have had to malign Jane? There seems to be no point–defaming her really does nothing to exonerate Anne, if that was his purpose. Isn’t it possible he came across evidence that has now disappeared, maybe word of mouth? I know this is not the most reliable stuff. But George Wyatt’s great aunt, Margaret, was supposed to have escorted Anne to the scaffold. Could she be the woman who gave him this info? At any rate, great research–what a cool detective story!

    1. I agree with Anne. I think that Jane made a deal so that she wouldn’t lose everything and did what they asked. How else can you explain her not losing everything when her husband lost his head?

      1. Ummm she didn’t lose anything , incorrect she was left with nothing and had to plead with her father in law and beg assistance from her family friend, Cromwell. She definitely wouldn’t have had any marriage offers so her only choice would have been the nun’s life or a position at court. She lived at court almost her entire life, she had experience in serving a Queen, and she needed income to live on, so her doing anything else other then serving at court would have been more damning.

  4. Interesting article. It occurred to me that Cromwell and his allies might have over-emphasized Jane’s participation to make George Boleyn look worse. It seems to me that any information that could be twisted against him would be given much more weight if that information came from George’s wife.

  5. Am so pleased that Anne has so many supporters. I used to think I was the only one! This is a great site – thanks for all the hard work and fascinating articles

  6. Julia great article and thanks Claire having her make an appearance on this site. I have the book The Infamous Lady Rochford and it is next in line on my reading list. I too have read the many misconceptions about Lady Rochford and I personally don’t think she was involved in the fall of Anne and George Boleyn but someone used as a scapegoat. Thank you Julia for your work on trying to clear the name of one of history’s most infamous ladies!!

  7. What a truly amazing article. . . really gets one thinking. This has really piqued my interest in Jane, which until this point has been very little. As I did with Queen Anne, I am going to read everything I can get my hands on about this woman. I think I had decided that she was a villian, but I am having my doubts! Are there any other books out there that I need to read?

    Thank you Julia and Claire!!!!

  8. Very interesting article. I will have to add your book to the list of books that I want to read this summer.

  9. After reading Julia Fox’s biography of Jane Boleyn, a woman I held partly responsible for Anne’s downfall, I realized that Jane may also be victim to untruths propagated so long after her death, just like Anne. Thank you, Julia, for exploring this topic. Too many innocents or at least not-guilties, suffered at Henry’s hands!

    1. My views are very close to yours, Heather. I sometimes have my doubts about Jane, but more and more think she was just as much a victim as her husband.

  10. I know i’m taking a break from tudor history for the sake of my own sanity, but I saw this article and felt the need to comment and to defend this book against various comments and reviews I’ve read about it.
    I think the book is seen as suffering because it is padded out with a picture of the period in general. I actually liked the detail, which I had never read before, and let’s face it, if this book was strictly limited to what we know about Jane then it would have been about ten pages long.
    What the book got across is that there is no evidence to suggest that George and Jane had an unhappy marriage. Maybe they did, but the point is there’s no evidence. The supposition that it was unhappy comes either from fiction or from the ‘fact’ that Jane gave evidence of the alleged incest. This brings me back to Julia Fox, because the sole purpose of the book was to reavaluate that assumption. In it’s primary purpose I think the book succeeds on every level due to excellent research.
    I don’t always agree with everything in it, which is fine, but no one can suggest the book isn’t entirely factual. Jane did give evidence. She told Cromwell that Anne had told her of Henry’s occasional sexual disfunction, and such evidence was highly damaging because as soon as that allegation came to Henry’s ears Anne was dead, irrespective of her supposed guilt. Be that as it may, I personally think the knowledge that she did give evidence and the fact her name was mentioned in court became twisted over time like ‘chinese whispers’.
    I loved Fox’s research and her destruction of the myths surrounding Jane. I also admire Fox’s courage in having the guts to take the project on in the first place when it must have seemed like a monumental uphill struggle.

  11. Another book I must get and read! I have often wondered if Jane Boelyn was framed; the evidence against her seemed so weak. Granted she did testify against Queen Anne; but in the atmosphere of the court, what choices did she have? Speak up in defence of her husband and sister in law and risk imprisonment and execution too? The times were such it would be easy to condemn anyone with the most filmsy of accusations; I imagine Jane lived in terror of being accused of aiding and abetting Queen Anne’s alleged affairs. Again, we can only hope there is more evidence hiding somewhere in an archive or even a secret drawer in a chest in some historic manor house or castle. Sure wish someone would invent time travel!!!

    1. Your point makes me consider that Jane wouldn’t have willingly helped Kathryn Howard and Thomas Culpeper. People have asked before, “What was she thinking?!?”; that after witnessing Anne and George’s downfall (and suffering herself in the process, as was pointed out), she should be the last to get involved, one would think!

      I don’t think she was willingly involved with KH. I think she was threatened by loss of her position or perhaps even her jointure, if such a thing were possible. Her position in the court was tenuous and had been taken from her before.

      I’m less certain as to who would have threatened her. Kathryn? It seems out of character. She seems to have been both sweet-natured and unused to conniving. Culpeper? Perhaps. Maybe he threatened to tell some tale to either the king or queen. He was one of Henry’s favorites, who had been pardoned for rape and murder by the king, who seems to have passed it off as youthful hijinks. Would he have threatened to go to Henry with a lie about Jane unless she helped him see the queen? The sheer arrogance of that sounds very like my mental image of Culpeper.

      Kathryn’s uncle, Norfolk? For her to do what? It seems unlikely that Norfolk had foreknowledge of his niece’s relationship with Culpeper, however enticing the notion that Norfolk, Kathryn, and Culpeper were all involved in a plot to pass off Culpeper’s bastard as the royal heir. (Although, had such a thing succeeded, I’d have to give poor odds on Prince Edward surviving for long afterward.)

      My money would be on Culpeper, if such a thing had happened. And for her to be dragged down with them anyway, might have been the thing that caused her mental breakdown in the tower. I agree, if only we had a time machine!

      1. I’m going to just shoot out a reply to both here…
        Shoshana: Jane didn’t testify against Anne… nobody did. That’s part of the reason that it’s so crazy to think that Jane had anything to do with it!
        Carolyn: Kathryn would have been the one I would have bet to threaten her… she stood up to Mary pretty well, and Mary was the Kings daughter. A widow just making her way back into the world would have been a good target, especially if she desperately needed someone to help her cover up the affair.

  12. I thought that Julia Fox’s book was excellent. I groan now every time I read a novel (or worse, nonfiction) where Jane is depicted as a hysterical, pathologically jealous shrew.

    I have been trying to buy Ms. Fox’s latest book, but Book Depository says that it is unavailable. If Ms Fox reads this or Claire’s in contact with her, maybe she could let us know what the situation is with that?

  13. Thank you Julia for the article.
    Thank you Claire for having Julia as a guest.
    Thank you Louise for referring this book to me.

  14. I have to admit that I have very little knowledge of Jane Boleyn, but what you have just written has convinced me that she should be pitied rather than scolded… It’s so sad that an innocent woman is remembered for terrible things she didn’t do. 🙁

  15. Over the ages, women have been demonized when a philandering cad moves on to his next victim. Both men and women took the side of the man regardless of his immoral actions and labeled the woman a nagging shrew deserving of whatever mistreatment that befell her. Henry VIII was the King of England, suffering from psychological highs and lows which make me think he was bipolar. People were afraid of his quick temper and walked on pins and needles around him. Along with an over eating disorder, I believe he had an attraction to children/teenagers forever looking for a new, younger model. At the time it was fashionable for men to be shameless pedophiles. Regardless of his perversions, this did not hide the fact that he was an adulterer, slanderer and a murderer. Today when there is a divorce, even if a man strikes a woman, under educated men and oddly women, will take the side of the man in question and ostracize the significant other and their offspring. They might even take part in slandering the innocent party, the woman. They will see the man socially who uses women like a public restroom, and not the women and children the man has dogged. I assume that this happens because socially retarded habits are hard to break and/or that this will prevent them from suffering from the same mudslinging that destroys reputations.

    1. Henry was a tyrant in many way but he was not a paedophile or a pervert. Catherine of Aragon was five years older than him and was 23 when they got married, Anne Boleyn was 25 when Henry fell in love with her, Jane Seymour was around 28 when she married Henry, Anne of Cleves was 24 when she married Henry, Catherine Howard was around 19 when she married Henry and Catherine Parr was around 30/31 when she married Henry, and it has often been noted that Henry actually preferred older women and in a time when it was usual for women to marry in their teens he picked women in their 20s. Elizabeth Blount seems to have been the youngest woman Henry got involved with and she was around 14/15 when their affair started and although this sounds young to us it was marrying age for Tudor women. Henry’s other famous mistress, Mary Boleyn, was in her early 20s when her affair began with Henry. So, Henry was not a paedophile and was not always looking for a younger model. I think the only time he did that was when he got involved with Catherine Howard and her youth and vitality made him feel young again and possibly helped him with his sexual performance problems. Catherine gave him a new lease of life until he learned of her past and her infidelity.

    2. I’d recommend the book 1536: The Year that Changed Henry VIII by Suzanne Lipscomb for an examination of Henry’s change of mind. In a nutshell, she argues that the combination of the failure of his love to Anne, his imjuries–the first mention of his sore leg happens this year, with its intimations of mortality–no son, and the wealth pouring in as the monasteries fall, all combined to make him a little crazy. Yes, Howard gave him a new lease on life, but by then, he’d been an absolute monarch in pain for a very long time by then.

  16. thnks Julia for your great book of Jane Boleyn, She fascinated me for a long time, i have your book in my bookcloset, but still have not read it, i first was into the book of Linda Porter of Mary I (great book also about a maligned queen, who give new perspective and another look on a tudor personality). But i have got so many books i still must read, i have bought your book together with the book of Catherine of Aragon and the lady in the tower, when i was ready reading the lady in the tower, i wanted to start with COA, but i wanted to know more, i am also very interested in her mother, Isabella of Castilie, so i am reading that one to (great and awesome personality, it gives great inside of how monarchie was filled with scandals and intriges, she was not born for the crown, but fought for it! I am still reading in it, it is very thick and i am enjoying it very much, but to get to the point, the next book i will read is that of Jane Boleyn, i always doubted her involvement in the process against Anne, and i could nog imagine that the woman could be so bad as history tells us, most maligned persons are only remembered for what they have been acused of, not for what really happened (what we will never be sure of offcourse!), But a new look on the woman is a well welcomed one, i believe she was used, and innocent, in both trials, but for that i have to read your book first, great that you wrote a book about Juana The Mad, i have read two books about her, her tail is so tragic and interesting! So i am very curious about the book you wrote about her, must find it!

  17. This is a great article! I never knew a lot about Jane Boleyn other than the popular view of her, so this was a real eye opener. Sometimes it’s so hard to think of these people as real, not just storybook characters. I wonder what they’d say if they knew this how History portrayed them and how much we debate their lives.

  18. Just received my copy from e-bay this morning, being as the weather in North east Scotland, were I live has gone back into winter mode it will be early to bed with a hot drink and the book by Julia Fox. Have read the Boleyn Inheritance, ages ago, am I right in saying that in this book Jane had a son to George, and he died as a child, or am I confused with something else I have read, anyway do you think there is any truth in this?

  19. I just have to say that i LOVE Fox’s book. I did a paper for school using it as my primary source. The lack of evidence and the scapegoating is crazy — it always makes me think about who we’re framing to look bad today, and who will be the “Jane Boleyn” of our generation….

    And it always makes me crazy now when writers vilify Jane.. I think PG is the worst (she does it to both Anne and Jane…. sheesh)… her quote “The character of Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, is drawn from history – few novelists would dare to invent such a horror as she seems to have been.” from the Other Boleyn Girl makes me both cringe and laugh in disbelief.

    The other thing that makes me crazy is the suggestion that Jane and George must have had a terrible marriage. Based on what Jane did say to George about Anne’s comment on Henry’s fertility, it shows that they must have had a decent enough marriage for her to confide in him things like that.

    If you haven’t read this book, I strongly suggest reading it! It got my blood boiling and now I’m totally obsessed about Jane and her sad story (as well as almost every other Tudor person… but that’s for another time).

    1. I see much more evidence that not only Anne and Jane had a close relationship but that Jane and George Boleyn has a close and comfortable relationship. Not only did Anne confide in her sister-in-law about the bedroom problems she and the King were experiencing but she got Jane–unsuccessfully (!)–to help her get rid of one of Henry’s latest possible mistress. The fact that Jane also felt comfortable enough with her husband to pass on a bit of family gossip is also an indicator to me that their relationship was perfectly fine. However….! even after having read Gareth Russell’s “Young, Damned and Fair” twice I’m still at a loss as to why Jane Boleyn played that huge and inexplicable part in Catherine and Culpepper’s pre-affair.

  20. Fantastic post! Thank you for writing this Julia. It was so nice meeting you on the Executed Queens Tour 🙂

  21. Well once again a truely wonderful read. I cant help but get the feeling as catherine parr so put it “wemon are greatly put apon in this time” many a women seemed acused when any man of higher power wanted a scape goat, what a shame four queens had to be discredited and two died just because a king wanted a son!!!! And how like man to blame the one women who was close to both AB and KH for ruining both of them in different ways by giving information about them. Lets hope that a lost or hidden paper/papers turn up to clear them all one day.

  22. I just picked up this book and I am reading it now! I shall certainly post my review on it when I am done!

  23. I have to agree with Louise on this myself, and I am sorry she is taking a break. I think there is too much coincidence in Anne Boleyn making noises about Henry’s impotence, and most certainly with Catherine Howard. I do not believe in coincidence, and along with the explanations of her outrage at George for what he had them do in the bedroom. This is not something that would be taken lightly over 475 years later, and he also touches on the fact that I and many others readers have noted that has more to do with Tudor History than her. I still do believe that Jane did give Cromwell evidence against Anne, maybe not all, but most. Along with Catherine Howard, a leopard does not change it’s spots, it just better! Just my humble opionion, once again. Thank you! WilesWales

  24. Forgive me, but I mean better in the sense that it becomes better, and becomes to sure of itself. In addition, I still do not trust Weir’s sources since in some (meaning at least one) of her book, and being cautious to her fans, have not checked out as they have been copied form other sources and the like. I won’t even touch on Gregory, as there are no words needed there.

    I fear my side for Anne gets in the way, but as I said as for Gregory, no words are needed there. Thank you! WilesWales

    1. I apologize once again, and you are right about Weir.

      From the initial article, “Jane Boleyn – History’s Scapegoat”

      “Weir goes on to write of Jane’s jealousy of the close relationship between George and Anne, the unhappiness of her marriage to George, the possibility that George had “subjected Jane to sexual practices that outraged her” and”

      Please forgive me again, and I “will” definitely use quotes from the source, and not off the top of my head, from rememberingt the wrong way in the future. This is how things get mixed up, and I thank you very much for catching me on that one, as when one does what I did , is not the proper way of choosing what was actually said. There is not need to reply as you are absolutely corrrect! Thank you very much, again! WilesWales

        1. Thank you, Claire, as I really didn’t know about Weir’s dislike of George, as I don’t read her anymore, I don’t like Weir’s references a lot of the time either. I wish I had known about it. Ignorance, I suppose is bliss, LOL! I do not intend to stay there though. It’s things like this that educate and make it fun! Thank you! WilesWales

  25. Hello. Loved the article, but I do believe that Jane did give some evidence against Anne and George. I also believe that she should not have been vilified the way she has been over the years. It was just a matter of survival.

    1. What makes you think that she did give evidence? Jane was not named in any of the contemporary sources, whereas we do know that evidence from the Countess of Worcester (a conversation she had with her brother) and letters written by Lady Wingfield were used in building the case. We know that Jane told the truth in regards to saying that Anne confided in her regarding Henry’s lack of sexual prowess but there is no evidence that she said any more than that.

  26. Si Jane Parker dio testimonio contra su esposo y cuñada no significa que ella haya sido la causa principal de la caída de los Bolena. Ana fue victima de una conspiración. Hubiese dado o no su acusación contra Ana, de todos modos la reina ya estaba condenada. Sin embargo no es del todo improbable que Jane participara en la caída de Ana, si sabemos que Jane era partidaria de la reina Catalina

  27. Yes I think Jane is a scapegoat for the events of 1536, she must have been subject to a lot of interrogation and it’s possible she just broke down and told them what they wanted to hear, she could well have been terrified after all it’s a kind of bullying with the accusers putting words in your mouth, if that’s what happened she can’t really be blamed, the fact that she was concerned over her husband when he was in the tower shows she must have cared for him, like Anne and George I think a lot of rumours circulated around her and she’s had a bad press because of it, we will never know what kind of role she did play but I doubt if she had much choice in the matter, she did act very foolish in arranging meetings between Catherine and Culpepper however, I’d have thought she had had enough of intrigue to last her a lifetime !

  28. Lady Rochford was an unsavoury character spiteful and bitter. She was an accomplice and the go-betwwen in the adulterous affair of KH, She allowed the use of her chamber after hours for the hanky panky going on between Culpepper and the queen and at the end she confessed she knew of thei sexual relationship. Jane Boleyn, an ill natured and evil woman.

    1. But couldn’t she have just been doing the queen’s bidding? Jane was a lady-in-waiting and had no power over the queen or Culpeper, she was there to obey the queen. And what evidence is there that she was ill-natured, evil, spiteful and bitter?

  29. I have a lot of sympathy for Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford. She is one of the most maligned women of history. She is always shown as either spying for Cromwell, uniting with Norfolk or setting up Anne Boleyn. She is shown as a gossip, a badly done to wife who lies about her husband for revenge or as the mastermind behind Katherine Howard ‘s alleged affairs.

    There is no evidence to support any of these theories. Even if Jane was questioned as a member of Anne Boleyn’s household, as her ladies probably were or as the wife of a suspect, i.e, her husband, George, she would be put under heavy pressure to answer questions in the way Cromwell and his henchmen wanted and could have accidentally said something which was then twisted into so called evidence. There is no real evidence that Jane gave testimony against her husband and the Queen, although a foolish bit of gossip from her conversion with Anne may have reached the wrong ears. Although she is often shown in drama as the one who betrayed George Boleyn and claimed he had sex with his own sister or homosexual relations, it is not true. There is no evidence to support this, so calling her evil and spiteful is not justified.

    Jane actually wrote a note of support to her husband and asked about him while he was in the Tower. She also promised to do what she could for him. This is not Jane the vengeful wife as she is known, but of a wife worried about her husband’s health and life. There is also no evidence that George mistreated her and just because they didn’t have children, that does not prove a poor relationship. Would you really say to a friend today who was unfortunate not to have children, but clearly had a good marriage that you thought they had an unhappy marriage? The problem is we don’t know enough details to comment at all, but apart from his late night council meetings, Jane never complained of anything being wrong in her marriage.

    There is no evidence that Jane gave any evidence against Anne, let alone spied for Thomas Cromwell, who was well able do do his own dirty work. A Lady Elizabeth Browne, Countess of Worcester is named as giving testimony which Cromwell used, but even this was based on gossip and a quarrel she herself had with her own brother who accused the Countess of being an adulterous wh*re. Her name is in the trial report of Judge Spellman. Jane is not mentioned.

    As to what Jane got up to on behalf of Queen Katherine Howard is always very controversial and unclear. Yes, there is evidence that Jane did look for the best places on progress to meet Thomas Culpepper, was one of the ladies to bring him to the Queen and keep guard, but it was not as simple as that. Although Jane was one of the senior ladies in the household, Katherine was in charge. Jane had to take an oath to obey and serve and protect the Queen and her confidence. She had little choice in helping Katherine, who could be bossy and manipulating. Jane owed a duty to the King as a subject, to report anything which looked like a scandal or treason and a duty to keep the Queens confidence and even her secrets. She was in a difficult position. Jane went with the Queen to every meeting, but she may have. been acting as a chaperone as much as anything, although on occasion she fell asleep while the ‘lovers ‘ talking, kissed. There is no evidence that Jane was the person who started this affair, but there is that the Queen asked to see him. She met either in her room or the Queens apartments, although some odd places are named in the Bill of Attainder, which is the whole evidence we have. We don’t know what motivation Jane had, but did she have any other choices? She was foolish to give any consent or encouragement to the risky night time adventures, but it is not fair to label her for being entirely to blame in this matter. It was the Queen who sent for Culpepper and Jane got caught up in the whole thing. Maybe she should have stopped her, but really, how could she?

    I feel sorry for Jane because at the end of all this because she had a breakdown, was ill and had to be nursed away from the Tower, until she was well enough for trial. In their confessions and interrogations both Katherine and Culpepper blamed Jane and Culpepper blamed both women. The other thing is that there is actually no evidence that Katherine Howard had a sexual relationship with Culpepper. Both Dereham and he denied everything but talking and exchanging gifts and Dereham probably didn’t even meet with the Queen in private. He boasted about their previous lives, but he said he had not continued once she was married as Culpepper succeeded him. Katherine also denied adultery, but she did indicate she may have gone further, as did Culpepper. Culpepper also said the Queen led him on, but he had no right to be in her rooms. Jane was trying to protect both parties and it was too much for her. Far from being evil and spiteful, this shows a woman who was loyal and cared for her mistress, but was torn between making her happy and her duty.

    Jane and Katherine were not even granted a trial but condemned and found guilty by an Act of Attainder, a legal way of getting around a trial in Parliament. So worried about the justice of this were Henry’s Council and Parliament members that they delayed the vote until they could question the Queen. At first Henry allowed this, but then changed his mind. Poor Jane was legally incapable of being responsible so could not be executed, even though it was misprison of treason to aid the Queen as she had under Tudor Law, but Henry ordered Parliament to make a new law to allow an insane person to be executed. This allowed Jane to be executed with Katherine. Both women were beheaded at the Tower on 13th February 1542, with dignity, but their guilt is open to question. I doubt that Jane was spiteful or evil or planned to help Katherine, who could be just as demanding as anyone when it came to getting her own way. The way she has been shown in drama and fiction gives a false and incomplete picture of this maligned woman and I can only recommend Julia Fox or the Ravens Widow as reading material to redress the balance.

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