The Marriage of George and Jane Boleyn by Clare Cherry

The unhappy George and Jane of The Tudors

Numerous myths and falsehoods plague the memories of Anne and George Boleyn. But there are three specific ones relating to George:-

  1. That he and Anne actually committed the incest they were accused of. This suggestion was largely put to bed (pardon the pun) until the publication of ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’, in which it was strongly hinted at that they were guilty of trying to have a baby together and pass it off as Henry’s. Once again this raised the question in people’s minds and renewed the belief that it may be true. Thankfully the impact and effect of that book is passing, and not even G W Bernard argues that Anne and George were guilty of incest, despite what was reported in a number of newspapers.
  2. That George was either homosexual or bisexual. I’ve dealt with this in a previous article.
  3. That George and Jane Boleyn had an unhappy marriage.

George and Jane had an arranged marriage. Did that mean these two people were forced into a marriage that neither wanted? I don’t think so. Both of them had been at court since they were children. They would have known each other for years prior to their marriage in 1524/25, and there is nothing to suggest either had an aversion to the other. They were both attractive people from good families. Although the marriage was arranged, as with most marriages in their social circle, there is nothing to suggest it was enforced.

Their marriage has been discussed, dissected and disassembled over the last four-hundred and fifty years. Not bad bearing in mind there are no contemporaneous records relating to the state of their marriage whatsoever. In May 1536 Jane wrote to George following his arrest and asked how he was and promised to get him a hearing before the council. Upon receipt of the letter George sent her his thanks, with no indication that he believed she was merely being facetious. This is the only reference we have which hints to a relationship between them. We have absolutely nothing else to go on which gives us any indication of what their private relationship was like or the state of their marriage. It simply isn’t documented.

Extant records are virtually completely silent with respect to Jane, which is hardly surprising. She was merely a woman and a wife with no political importance. And yet there has always been a general consensus that her marriage to George was unhappy, which can be based on nothing more than an assumption. Was it a miserable marriage? Was she jealous of George’s relationship with Anne? Did she hate George? Did he hate her? Did they hate each other? I have absolutely no idea what their day to day marriage was like or how they felt about one another. I’m not necessarily putting forward an argument that their marriage was loving, happy and filled with roses. They were close enough to discuss Henry’s sexual prowess together, which would suggest an open and relaxed marriage, but irrespective of that, I’m just saying we don’t have any conclusive evidence to say one way or the other.

So if there is no direct evidence to suggest how they felt about one another, then what is the assumption of an unhappy marriage based on? I think there are two premises that have created the assumption:-

  1. George’s reputation as a womaniser.
  2. The largely accepted view that Jane provided Cromwell with the evidence he needed to accuse Anne and George of incest.

Dealing with the first, the sole piece of evidence we have to suggest George was a womaniser comes from Cavendish’s ‘Metrical Visions’, and Cavendish is hardly an unbiased source. No other source mentions it, meaning there is no corroboration. That doesn’t mean I’m dismissing Cavendish. However much I admire George I’m not daft enough to think of him as a paragon of virtue. He was a typical sixteenth century man, when extra-marital affairs (on behalf of the man, of course) were an accepted part of marriage. Although ‘Metrical Visions’ was written twenty years after George’s death, Cavendish would have personally known George, and there’s no reason to suppose he was lying. I think it’s highly likely that George was unfaithful to Jane, just as many men were unfaithful to their wives, including Henry VIII. However, it doesn’t mean that they hated their wives, or that their wives hated them. It doesn’t mean their marriages were unhappy either. Jane, like Anne and many other wives, may not have been happy with any infidelity of her husband, but it certainly wouldn’t have surprised her.

The difference in George’s case is that, due to the extremity of the language, Cavendish’s verses have been used to argue he was a ‘notorious libertine’ to a greater degree than the average courtier. However, there was never any scandal surrounding George during his lifetime, and no rumours regarding his marriage. He was the Queen’s brother and one of the highest profile and influential of Henry’s courtiers. If his behaviour with other women had been ‘bestial’ then surely someone would have picked up on it other than Cavendish twenty years later? No one felt his behaviour was base enough to comment on, including the Spanish Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, who would have loved to demonise the young Boleyn brother had the opportunity arisen!

I think the lack of evidence points to George being no more or less of a womaniser than the majority of Henry’s courtiers. In my view Cavendish was exaggerating, and George was just unlucky to have been executed and to have had Cavendish project his morality upon him. They say that history is written by the victors and this is certainly true where the Boleyn siblings are concerned.

The second premise to suggest George and Jane Boleyn had an unhappy marriage is that, throughout history, Jane has been blamed for providing the evidence which sent George to his death. Yet other than providing the prosecution with a statement saying Anne had told her of Henry’s occasional sexual dysfunction, there is no evidence to prove Jane was behind the incest allegation. I’m not going into detail about that because Claire has already written a brilliant article about Jane being history’s scapegoat, and I would just be regurgitating what she said. It was unfortunate that Jane told the prosecution of Anne’s comments, because if Henry believed that Anne and George openly discussed intimate information pertaining to him then the siblings were dead the moment that allegation came to Henry’s ears, irrespective of the incest charge. I think that Jane was known to have given evidence at the trial of the Boleyns, but the exact nature of that evidence became skewed and exaggerated over time like Chinese whispers until it became accepted fact that she betrayed the siblings and that it was Jane who provided evidence of incest.

In almost every book in which Jane appeared, whether fiction or non-fiction, her character became blacker and blacker. And with each portrayal that perception became more and more entrenched, until we were left with the monster so many people think she was.

Taking the two threads used to argue an unhappy marriage, then other than Cavendish I have found no evidence to suggest George was any more of a womaniser than any other courtier, and there is no evidence to prove Jane provided evidence which helped convict Anne and George of incest.

So what we’re left with is actually very little. Yet irrespective of that, the myth lives on, because in virtually every book which refers to George and Jane, they have a miserable marriage. And because of that people often try to theorise why Jane hated George and why she gave evidence against him. In most works of fiction, and some non-fiction, Jane is a jealous vicious vindictive shrew. Alternatively George is cruel and uncaring towards her. ‘The Tudors’ took that one step further and had him rape her. In Alison Weir’s ‘The Lady in the Tower’ she theorises that George was probably cruel to Jane and perhaps subjected her to unusual sexual practises. She also suggests he may have committed acts of rape, without giving a shred of evidence to support that theory, other than one line in ‘Metrical Visions’, which says, ‘I forced widows’. From this one innocuous comment George is turned into a rapist and wife abuser, despite there being no evidence to substantiate the allegation.

Sadly these myths are propagating rather than diminishing, largely due to an attempt to find a reason for the unhappiness in the Boleyn marriage, when in fact we have no evidence that the marriage was unhappy, or that Jane hated her husband, or that she gave evidence to convict him of incest.

Following George’s death Jane got on with her life. She became lady-in-waiting to two of Henry’s future queen’s before coming to a sticky end in 1541. This may suggest she and George were not particularly close by 1536, but it’s hardly conclusive evidence. Thomas Boleyn got on with his life too, as did Francis Weston’s father who continued to serve Henry. It does not mean these people didn’t care about their loved ones. It’s difficult for us to understand their responses to the murders of their children/husbands, and how they were able to continue in Henry’s service. To Jane and Thomas court life was all they knew, and in order to have any hope of a future in the glorified world they were used to, they had to put the deaths of 1536 behind them, irrespective of their personal feelings.

Perhaps in private George and Jane Boleyn fought like cat and dog and she regularly threw the fire-irons at him! It’s possible, as with any marriage, but possible doesn’t mean probable, particularly where there’s no evidence. Possibly, perhaps, maybe, probably, likely. These words aren’t good enough to base a theory on and they certainly aren’t good enough to destroy two reputations.

Back to Claire (Ridgway)

Thank you so much, Clare, for your article on George and Jane, I feel very strongly about the way that fiction and TV has caused people to assume that George and Jane were unhappy, that George was gay and that Jane too revenge for her ill-treatment by betraying Anne and George in 1536.

I think another premise for the unhappy marriage argument is the fact that George and Jane were childless. There is no evidence of a living child so therefore the marriage was unhappy, is the assumption. In my opinion it is a dangerous assumption to make when we know nothing of Jane’s obstetric history. As Clare has pointed out, Jane was not an important woman, she was simply the wife of a courtier, so nobody would bother recording her having a miscarriage or stillbirth, would they? Jane could have had a number of pregnancies, we just don’t know, or perhaps one of them had fertility issues. To say that the absence of a child means that their marriage was unhappy is like adding 2 and 2 and getting 5.

If you’re going to jump to a conclusion about the state of their marriage then why not conclude that it was happy, or, at least, tolerable. It appears that Jane, George and Anne discussed Henry VIII’s sexual prowess, and, as Clare says, Jane wrote to George when he was imprisoned in the Tower, so perhaps there’s more evidence of a close relationship rather than an abusive one. Of course, a happy marriage isn’t quite so interesting, is it?

What do you think?

More Articles on George and Jane Boleyn

Related Post

44 thoughts on “The Marriage of George and Jane Boleyn by Clare Cherry”
  1. Excellent article! I have read about the Tudors for years, unfortunately it has always shown Jane to be a shrew who hated her husband and Anne. That is how she is perceived. Thank heavens for this blog and some fine researchers who have tried to make people realize no such information exists. You are right with no written record how can anyone know what’s going on in a marriage.I believe, for the past several years, Jane has been a scapegoat for fiction writers to lend excitment to their stories (i.e Weir and Gregory). She has become an easy target, rather than do actual research. George was no worse and no better than any other man of his era.
    As usual an interesting and thought provoking article.

    1. Thank you Helen H. for bring Weir into this as I would love to know if her publsher woud not approve the the annotation, “In Alison Weir’s ‘The Lady in the Tower’ she theorises that George was probably cruel to Jane and perhaps subjected her to unusual sexual practises”. I will have to make a “macro” of this one statemtetent.” I have read that Weir has been reported as copying some of her sources from other works, and that Claire, in a previous article wrote that in an interview with Weir why she did not document and/or annotate her source as Ives’ does. Weir simply said her publisher would not allow her to do so. It was agreed among those of use who commented Weir should seek another publisher, or that maybe she and/or her agent must be bound by contract. Either way, Weir is well off enough to have looked for a better pusblisher. Any other excuse would mean that she is too lazy to do so as with G. would sell anyway.

      I was also wondering the source for the quote made in this wonderful article saying, “Jane has been blamed for providing the evidence which sent George to his death. Yet other than providing the prosecution with a statement saying Anne had told her of Henry’s occasional sexual dysfunction.” Well, this would have done it for Anne! A man does not like his genitalium talked about in a pejorative way, nor anything of the kind even today as most men are basically very insecure about those things. Where did this quote orignate? Man, at trial, no wonder, even if Henry had ordered that swordsman from Calais before the final judgement that news was brought to Queen Anne that she was to be burned at the stack or death by decapitation. Queen Anne worried (as she was terrified of being burnt) for three days before she got the news that she would be beheaded. I know that I saw no sources (and after dismissing Weir, we only have Cavendish) at the end of this article except to read all of Claire’s former article on George, and Claire know that I would have looked at her sources as well.

      It is nice to see history, Clare, from a modern J.D.’ s point of view, of what it looks like from your perspective. I also love Claire’s ending question, “Of course, a happy marriage isn’t quite so interesting, is it?”

      Thank you Helen H., Clare, and Claire, as I really enjoyed this as one of Shakespeare’s titles from one of his plays, “Much Ado About Nothing.” Weir and Cavendish didn’t do it for me, but Claire’s last comment did, as welll as the comment (of which I think it was reprehensible for Jane to make to the prosecution about Henry’s sexual dsyfundtion),

      Thank you Helen H. Clare, and Claire! WilesWales

  2. Excellent article, Clare!

    That is so true “a happy marriage isn’t quite so interesting”, in Tudor times and present day. Everyone loves a good drama!

    I think, too, people interject meaning into the inscription George wrote “this book is mine” on the satire of marriages book. I think George was simply having a good joke (at the expense of their wives) with the rest of the courtiers who had this book passed around to them. When you think of Tudor marriages, any woman who spoke up and had opinions of her own would suffer the consequences – which is why I think Anne intrigues us all – to be as outspoken as she was and hold Henry’s interest (and love) for so long is amazing. I think at one time, Henry respected Anne’s opinions, but when he didn’t get his promised male heir and Anne’s opinions clashed with his own, it was over.

    I did have a question, Clare & Claire – I vaguely recall the resource which documents Anne telling George/Jane about Henry’s sexual prowess. Can you refresh my memory on where this came from and what Anne was “supposed” to have said?

    Thanks! As always, reading this site is the highlight of my day.

    1. Hi Leslie,
      Yes, a normal marriage just isn’t interesting enough for fiction or TV!

      Chapuys recorded details of George’s trial in a letter to Charles V:-
      “I must not omit, that among other things charged against him as a crime was, that his sister had told his wife that the King “nestoit habile en cas de soy copuler avec femme, et quil navoit ne vertu ne puissance.” [had not the ability to copulate with a woman, and he had neither the potency or vigour] This he was not openly charged with, but it was shown him in writing, with a warning not to repeat it. But he immediately declared the matter, in great contempt of Cromwell and some others, saying he would not in this point arouse any suspicion which might prejudice the King’s issue. He was also charged with having spread reports which called in question whether his sister’s daughter was the King’s child.” LP x.908

      I’m so glad you enjoy the site!

      1. Thanks, Claire, for taking the time to answer my question!

        Thank goodness for Chapuys’ records – however biased they may be. Without him, we would know far less it seems.

        That was incredibly brave for George to declare the matter publically when he had received instructions not to – at that point, I’m sure he knew he had nothing to lose!

      2. Thank you, Claire! As mentioned in another article,considering what was going on i Europe as a whole and Rome as well, good ole’s Chapuys was very lucky to be in England at this time, and especially right before the marriage of Queen Anne to Henry VIII. Queen Anne was innocent on all charges, and I will defend her until I am no longer around! She also gave us Elizabeth I, the greatest absolute monarch England ever had, and for over 40 years, too!!!! Thank you! WilesWales

  3. Thank you for this article! I’ve always felt that poor Jane was unfairly maligned, but for some reason part of me also always believed that Jane and George had an unhappy marriage. (So goes the power of media). I love the idea that perhaps things were different.

  4. IMO, the whole case for George and Jane having an unhappy marriage rests on the idea that Jane accused him of incest with Anne. Childlessness, alone, shows nothing, especially George never sought to dissolve or annul the marriage — this may indicate a happy marriage. Also, there is no clear evidence that George had illegitimate children (it is unclear if the clergyman named “George Boleyn” was or was not his son) — he may have had a fertility problem. Actually, I don’t think there is much evidence regarding the happiness in most marriages of the nobility in Henry VIII’s time … there are not a lot of letters such as the one from the Duchess of Norfolk to Cromwell claiming assault from her husband and his mistress. If George had been brutal, though, couldn’t Jane have complained to someone in the “anti-Boleyn” faction, just as the Duchess complained about her husband to someone in the “anti-Howard” faction? According to Weir, Jane’s father was a supporter of Princess Mary … if Jane couldn’t have complained to him, she would at least have known of someone who would listen. So, I think the lack of any complaints is significant.

  5. Thank you very much to both of you for posting information about George Boleyn, it is a real pleasure to read the articles concering him and I feel like you are taking the bad spell off not only George but also his wife. I also have a technical suggestion to Claire as an admin: how about including George in the categories section (and possibly Thomas and Elizabeth Bolyen as well)? Mary Boleyn is already there and I think that the posts about other members of the Boleyn family would be found in an easier way. Thank you again for your work, I’m so glad that this site exists 🙂

  6. Great article.

    I am getting tired over how many people cite “The other Boleyn girl” as fact. (not this article, I am talking just random people you “run into”) The book was fiction! Never meant as historical fact…. Doesn’t anybody check genre before reading a book?
    The same goes for “The Tudors”. The show was ENTERTAINMENT, not a documentary. If people have to get their history lesson from HBO then I think they deserve our collective pity.

    I am thankful for websites like this, where I send these errant souls to get their facts straight!
    Thank you! 🙂

    1. Funny you should mention “The Tudors”, you know its fiction when Henry VIII never looked anything like the actor who portrayed him….At least the Bristish productions such as “The Six Wives Of Henry VIII” and the old Charles Laughton film showed him as he actually appeared in his later years…not so romantic as they dipicted on the Tudors!!

  7. Thanks for this article, and I agree your suggestion of Jane and Georges marriage, might have been a normal marriage for the times. There’s never been any documented evidence to show their relationship was different from the any other marriages for family connection.
    I feel the book, The Other Boleyn Girl, did as much harm to Anne and George, in our modern times, as Chapuys did in, their lifetime, yet there is no evidence that Chapuys ever met Anne. I put more weight on Cavendish book and description of Anne, as well as Jane Seymour. In many parts of his book he describes Anne as beautiful, vibrant and accomplished. He also pointed out some of her negative qualities. suggesting she was woman who exacted revenge on those he wronged her, We also get an insight in to charitable causes as well. More like the Princess Diana of our times,as she stood up for her causes. There is also strong evidence to support, she was a loving mother to her daughter, Elizabeth. He describes Henry’s third wife Jane Seymour quite the opposite. Stating she more pleasing to the King, by her meekness, almost colourless, and a nondescript personality, we do not know what kind of mother she would have made, but we can assume, she would have been a loving one, based on how she treated her step daughter Princess Mary. most Likely she seem to have learned from poor Anne’s mistakes. In my opinion Anne will always remain Henry’s most Brilliant, as well as beautiful wife, a woman years ahead of her

    1. I agree with much you say concerning Anne’s positive traits… this is just a little nit pick. I think it’s highly unlikely that the Spanish Ambassador did not meet Anne either as Mistress Anne attendant to Queen Katherine, the Marquess of Pembroke, or when she was Queen. Some things one can “assume” comfortably, in the context of the society we are looking at, and we know enough about court protocol in this case to be comfortable with the idea that Chapuys would have known her well.

      Now, was he a die hard enemy would would have magnified Anne’s every flaw for the catty pleasure (and political wisdom) of snarking about her to his master, Katherine’s nephew? Absolutely. So we can take his musings on Anne’s character with more than a grain of salt 😉

  8. I feel sorry for Jane Boylen, Lady Rochford, she has been cast as the villian for so long now that much of what has been written both by historians and novelists has entered peoples perceptions of Jane as fact.

    Considering she had an arranged marriage doesn’t make that marriage unhappy or her a shrew, George and Jane probley did what many of the high born couples of the time did and rubbed along together but apart.

    Is there any real proof that Jane said any of the things she’s accused of or was it a case of hearsay?

    If, and it’s a George and Jane had such a terrible marriage why was she writing to him while he was in prision? Can’t have been that bad a marriage if you ask me!!!!

    I just really feel so sorry for her considering she was excuted only a few short years later during the Katherine Howard debacle, I think it was wrong place at the wrong time, also having the Boylen surname and her husbands title Lady Rochford didn’t help her when the beady eye of Henry fell on those around his fifth wife, he wanted to make an example of someone so why not the last remaining person directly involved in the case of his second wife? The sister in law……… didn’t help her either being related to Kathrine by marriage either.

    I feel she’s to be pityed more than anything else……….she found herself in two situations not of her own making with no way of really defending herself.

  9. Again thanks Clare, also my husband purchased (well I hand him my list, and showed him where he could find them) some of the replica earrings of Anne and Catherine, for my Christmas gifts last year. They came after Christmas, so I used Anne’s pair for Old Years night fete/engagement celebrations. How lovely they are at least in my eyes. What I am truly saying thanks for, is that you are allowing people to read and have objective views, based on what they want to believe. I love Jean Plaidy’s novels on the Tudors. As I feel she is more forgiving, than most other authors about about Anne Bolyen, and the rest of Henrys wives. I reject Philippa Gregory’s version of Anne in The other Bolyen girl and Catherine In the constant Princess. And would encourage readers to sort out other authors. Those make makes great reading, but it’s pure fiction. I was so bothered when my sister read The Other Bolyen Girl book, and took every word as facts, and uses it as a reference in our group discussions. I have since direct others to this forum for get an objective point of view.

  10. Another great article!
    I think George and Jane have both been treated poorly by all the myths spread about them through the centuries. And what saddens me is that after a while people have heard the myths so many times that many just assume they are true! Thank you both for putting the real truth out there!
    I just can’t comprehend why some people would assume a marriage was horrible based on the interpretation of one book written twenty years after his death. I agree that there is a possibility that George had affairs but I honestly do not think Jane would have written to George in the Tower if he had been a horrible monster to her. And why would she offer to help him if she had given evidence against him being incestual with Anne? That reasoning makes no sense to me.
    Because of a lack of evidence I would like to believe that their marriage was at least an amicable one. They may not have hated each other, they may not have been passionate lovers but I would like to think they were at least friends.

  11. The point about Jane ‘getting on with her life’ after George’s death is interesting. We can’t know what went on when she was alone or how much being widowed affected her. Unlike our own society people were not encourage

  12. Sorry computer error there.

    Unlike our own society people were not encouraged to discuss their feelings and be open in their grieving process. Jane’s situation would have been worse as a her late husband was a condemed traitor. Showing any unhappiness about his fate would have been very unwise for someone in Jane’s situation. Even if George and Jane’s marriage had not been as happy as they might have wanted she had lived with him as his wife and I find it highly unlikely that she didn’t mourn his passing to some extent. Also people then had a much stronger belief in God which would have been a great comfort to them.

  13. We may not know for sure if Anne and Jane had a close relationship, or even if they liked each other, but they certainly did have one thing in common…that they both have been villified through the centuries, George too, for that matter.
    It certainly seems the Boleyns were cursed with ‘bad press’, but thank goodness for ‘New Historians’ who are looking to find and write a truthful account of these people and the time, and not a ‘Hollywood’ version….We need to look no further than this site 🙂

  14. I am currently researching the life of Katherine Howard and my focus is on the sexual deviances pervading the court; particularly in the queen’s case where adultery, pre-marital sexual relations and the possibility of rape led to the attitudes of disgust at the queen’s behaviour and influenced the harsh proceedings against her.
    It will be interesting to look afresh at the evidence from the period and deduce what Lady Rochford’s role was in the whole proceedings. On the one hand, Baldwin Smith argues to an extent that Katherine forced her to take part, she took the initiative, and perhaps agrees with Jane’s statement that she was an unwilling witness. On the other hand, the queen insisted Lady Rochford forced her to meet Culpeper. I am fascinated to see what part the queen’s servant played in this deadly play of sexual politics.

  15. I have a theory about Lady Rochford’s involvement. It is just a theory without any supporting evidence but it does explain Jane’s strange behaviour. (I am not going to go all Phillipa Gregory and insist I know the truth, I would never be so arrogant as to claim that but indulge me for a moment here). Jane was close to the events surrounding the fall of Anne Boleyn and like many others, such as Chapuys, may have known at at least suspected that the real reason for the Queen’s destruction was her failure to produce a healthy son. Katherine Howard marries Henry and not only does not give birth to the long desired Duke of York but does not even get pregnant. Jane is well aware of the fate of a young Queen with no powerful allies who does not do her ‘duty’. It is a bit of a long shot but could this possibly be why Katherine planned to commit adultry and why Jane helped her ? As I say it is pure speculation but it would explain why a woman who was almost destroyed by the false accusations against one Queen would help another to actually commit them. What does everyone else think ? As I said it is all speculation but for the sake of argument.

  16. I think it is very important that people remember the difference between fiction and non fiction. The Tudors is a TV Show and should not be used for historical accuracy. The people behind the show are going for ratings so of course they will misconstrue some historical facts in order to make a better show. Drama & Skin = Ratings. They are many other historical mishaps on the show besides the rape scene. Some of it though had to be thought up because honestly we just don’t know all the historical information about every single person. If a person was not important back then then they’re life was not recorded and is lost in history. For example, we do not know if Lady Rochford was ever pregnant or if she and George had a bad marriage. One can only assume. Unfortunately most people assume the worse in order to sell Books and get ratings. Do not get me wrong I love The Tudors but I do not use it for historical information.

  17. I see your point about making historical drama entertaining but is it neccesary to do it by slandering people ? It’s not as if the Tudor period was short on scandal, violence and sex. Besides anything else the storyline of the rape seems to be a case of the old homophobic sterotype of gay men as women haters.

    1. I wasn’t saying that it was necessary. I was saying the TV and Movie’s will make more unnecessary drama to get better reviews and more ratings. The Tudor period was full of enough drama, scandal, sex, and violence that it did not need anything extra. I also think that writers and producers not only twist history to get better ratings but they also twist history to fill in the gaps. Not everything is known about the Tudor period so where there is a gap they filled it in with unnecessary drama. The rape & love triangle storyline was a little far fetched for me and actually got my blood going a bit. As Claire has said in her article about Jane & George’s marriage we don’t have enough information to make a conclusion on whether it was happy or bad. However, there is also no evidence that George was either bisexual or gay. With all the enemies he had I think that would have come up. I also think that Anne being as religious as she was would not have condone George raping Jane or cheating on her with a man. A woman however is a different story as that was expected back then.

  18. Jane Rochford has possibly been unfairly vilified by history, but there is no doubting that this Woman was weird. She was at the center(or near) to two sex scandals involving H8 and his wives; this in itself is incredible! After surviving the tornado of Anne Boleyn’s downfall(and her husband’s), you would think that Jane would tread very carefully, but no, she helps Katherine Howard commit adultery with Culpeper! This Woman does seem to have been very nosey with a pre-occupation with other people’s sex lives; was she perhaps sex-starved in her own life? she and George Boleyn had been married for 11 or 12 years and had no children. Whilst it is likely that one or both of them were infertile, could it also be that for some reason George would not sleep with her? I have read that she lost her mind whilst swaiting execution in the tower, but there is no evidence for this; however, a Woman who seems to be obsessed by the private lives of others, and is prepared to put her life on the line for the simple love of intrigue and danger, does seem to point to a person who was a little unbalanced, to say the least. Although she is never actually mentioned as being a witness for Cromwell in the prosecution of Anne and George Boleyn, from what we do know of Jane, I am inclined to believe that she WAS instrumental in their fall, for reasons we will perhaps never know.

    1. Hi Jade,
      I’ll reply a point at a time to make it easier:
      “there is no doubting that this Woman was weird” – why? There is no evidence to suggest that she was anything but a normal lady of the court.
      “She was at the center(or near) to two sex scandals involving H8 and his wives” – So were the whole court. I do not believe that Anne or the men accused of adultery with her were actually part of any sex scandal and there is no evidence that Jane gave evidence against them or made anything up. As far as Catherine Howard was concerned, she simply did her mistress’s bidding.
      “This Woman does seem to have been very nosey with a pre-occupation with other people’s sex lives; was she perhaps sex-starved in her own life?” – How do you know that she was nosey or that she had a pre-occupation with other people’s sex lives. The Jane of The Tudors and of Philippa Gregory’s novels was like that, but what evidence is there that the real Jane was like that?
      “She and George Boleyn had been married for 11 or 12 years and had no children” – Author and historian Patricia Crawford estimates that in 17th century 19% of landed families died childless because the children died or they never conceived. We do not know whether Jane had miscarriages or stillbirths because she was not an important person and therefore they were not recorded. Even if she never had a pregnancy, it is far more likely to suggest that she or George had fertility problems, rather than them having a childless marriage. George was the only Boleyn son and it was his duty to carry on the name and line, whether he loved his wife or not.
      Jane did show signs of madness in the Tower and Henry VIII had to change the law to allow him to executed someone showing signs of insanity.
      ” aWoman who seems to be obsessed by the private lives of others, and is prepared to put her life on the line for the simple love of intrigue and danger, does seem to point to a person who was a little unbalanced, to say the least.” – I can’t see any evidence for her being obsessed with others’ private lives or putting her life on the line for love of intrigue and danger. She was the Queen’s lady-in-waiting and was expected to carry out her mistress’s orders. We do not know what was said between the two women and Jane may well have pointed out the dangers of Catherine’s actions.
      ” Although she is never actually mentioned as being a witness for Cromwell in the prosecution of Anne and George Boleyn, from what we do know of Jane, I am inclined to believe that she WAS instrumental in their fall, for reasons we will perhaps never know.” – I don’t mean to be funny or argumentative but we don’t know anything about Jane’s personality so it would be hard for anyone to say that her personality made it likely for her to be “instrumental” in George and Anne’s fall. The fact that Anne sought help from Jane when she wanted to remove a lady from court and that she confided in her about Henry VIII’s sexual problems suggests a close friendship, and I can’t see any evidence or reason for Jane being involved in bringing Anne and George down.

    2. We don’t really know that much about her–and admittedly I’ve never dug around the first or even second hand sources about her life–to assume she’s a weirdo or a perv or anything like that. Proximity to sex scandle doesn’t mean she was peeping through the keyhole as the Tudors suggested. Showtime and Phillipa Gregory are entertainers and they made calls for the benefit of the story they were telling; they didn’t mean for you to take their work as their doctoral thesis on Lady Jane Rochford’s life or psychology.

      What if she was scapegoated? What if it was a case of wrong place, wrong time? What if someone like Katherine Howard had dirt on her or something over her head? What if she was slightly tainted by her part in the old regime (Anne’s) to have enemies of the Howards want to clean her out of there, or what if Duke Howard threw her to the wolves because he knew it would be believable? All conjecture JUST as likely as some sort of devient sex-starved woman arranging royal intrigue for personal gratification.

      There’s really no evidence at all George and Jane hated each other. It wasn’t that nice to give evidence against him, telling that the King was impotant, but even today people are taking cracks at spousal privilege. If your husband steals, the cops WILL lean on you as hard as they can to make you rat him out. If you don’t keep your head (pardon the pun), if you are afraid, or if you are naive enough to think a little “cooperation” will help him, you too might fold as Jane did. Doesn’t mean she didn’t love George. Honestly, our description of him is of a vibrant, fashionable young man speaks in favor of a good relationship in one thing at least: remember how many young women are given to wretched old men. In a society of arranged political marriage, we might assume Jane could have at least felt RELIEF to be matched with George, the handsome young star of the court. Why wouldn’t Jane be glad and do her best to make it work? What evidence do you have that they had a bad sex life? And honestly, Jane’s culture didn’t place as high a premium on hot marital sex as we do.

      Even if George was impotant and abusive–which we have no evidence for–wouldn’t it have been a whole lot easier to go to it with the sexy stable boy than arrange a treasonous liason for Katherine H and Culpeper for the teeny gratification of knowing someone ELSE was getting some?

      We also have no evidence at all that Anne was in ANY sex scandal. Not at all like her cousin Katherine.More likely, it was the death of Henry’s first wife that doomed Anne, because since most of Europe deemed her illegally married, Henry’s future heirs would be doubted. Also, Anne kept losing babies, which we know Henry didn’t have patience for. We know she was extremely high spirited, which is, for many men, attractive before the wedding but not so much the morning after. IMHO, the insane round of treason charges (who DIDN’t Anne get accused of sleeping with?) were cooked up. The goal was to get rid of her, by any possible way, freeing the King to take a wife whose legitimacy would not be in doubt.

      Jane’s been much maligned, and you shouldn’t think that she was some perv because an entertainer portrayed her that way in a fictionalized portrayal of the Tudor court.

  19. So despte lack of evidence you are more inclined to believe your own hunch, Jade. I’m inclined to believe you don’t know a great deal about factual Tudor history and that you’re not really interested in learning any, although admittedly that’s just a hunch.

  20. I believe miss Claire said a very interesting thing when said in her last sentence how a good and prosperous marriage is not very “fun” because it could just be the reason why people want to make jane and Georges marriage unhappy. It would be a perfect setting for a book and some evidence to sustain the charges that were lain before Anne and George.

  21. Has anyone written a good novel of Jane Rochford? As I understand it, there is little to go on, no?

    I do have a desire to do it, if it is in any way possible…

  22. Thanks very much for a very interesting article!
    It confirms what I’ve been thinking for quite some time.
    I have a question for you wonderful researchers:
    Do any of the state papers, expense reports or other records show revealing hints of daily living habits?
    I can recall from the expenses of Henry VIII there were often references of gambling payments and other miscellany. Perhaps there lies buried some very interesting tidbits to tell us more? I’ve not yet been able to justify the purchase of the records of Henry’s possessions after his death.
    I do look forward to reading more from both of you.
    Thanks again!

    1. As you say, there are records to show that George gambled with the King, and there are also records of Jane’s possessions in May 1536 and then at her death in 1542. The 1536 list lists items from a chest “in the chamber over the kitchen” which included clothing and jewellery, and the 1542 list has plate, clothes, bedding and jewels. They make interesting reading and do give an insight into Jane’s life.

  23. Interesting read 🙂 pretty much all high ranking families had arranged marriage and went into it as more of a business than for love. It was all about status and no doubt Jane’s family felt that the Boleyns were rising high and thought it a great match. Jane herself would have benefitted too and enjoyed courtly life. When she was questioned after the arrests she must have been petrified for her life and clearly she didnt spread the incest rumour as surely being such a bad thing she would not have written to George saying she would try to get a pardon for him..surely she would have completely distanced herself from him to protect herself? X

  24. There is a sympathetic (despite the title) biography of Jane “Jane Boleyn: The Infamous Lady Rochford” by Julia Fox. I think a lot of her bad press stems from her later involvement in Catherine Howard’s adultery. And people read it back and assume that if she was prepared to facilitate a Queen’s adultery she had a bad character and therefore must have behaved badly in the matter of Anne Boleyn. But, having said that, she hardly did her husband and Anne any favours by reporting Anne’s comments about Henry’s sexual prowess.

  25. In watching “The Tudors” I have watched all the seasons and I surmise that Lady Rochfordwanted her husband George to lay in bed with her , but he did not. In watching ” The Other Boylen Girl ” George didnt want to marry Jane he hated her but he married her anyway to please the family. Why were they forced to marry even if they did not like one another.

  26. In Leanda De Lisle’s ” Tudor Family ” She gives proof that Anne Boleyn accused Charles Brandon of committing incest with his daughter by Mary Tudor, Francis Brandon Grey. There was nothing ever mentioned about Anne’s accusation again , nor any proof or collaboration. and could be the major factor for Mary Tudor Brandon despising Anne Boleyn so much. I find it too much of a coincidence that Anne is accused of incest with George. I believe that the idea for the incest charge came from Charles Brandon as payback to Anne. She would have known that this was retribution for her slander against Brandon. Wether Brandon whispered it to Cromwell or Henry, it makes much more sense that this is where Anne’s trumped up incest charges came from. Brandon was on good terms with Cromwell and there was no love lost between Anne and Brandon. Brandon wasn’t called the 2nd king without a reason. I believe this is the source for Anne’s incest charge.

  27. What do we know about the Rochfords’ marriage? She did write to him during his imprisonment to provide some reassurance. They were childless. That could mean several things-one of them was infertile, there were unsuccessful, unrecorded pregnancies, or that they did not cohabit as man and wife. We just do not know. She did give information that was harmful to her husband, but we don’t know under what circumstances. She may have been promised he would be released if she told all, or she may have simply chosen to save herself, regardless of consequence to George.

    There is little question but that the marriage was arranged. There is also little doubt that they were not consulted about the choice of spouse. George seems to have been an appealing figure. We can’t be sure of much about Jane, though she was a relative of the King, and her father was a man of culture and learning. She did take part in the Chateau Vert, so she was likely an attractive woman.

    George was likely unfaithful. It was common enough. There were no open scandals, nor any gossip at the time regarding the marriage that we can use to justify the stories that have been told. Her own marital behavior excited no comment. Anne would not have tolerated any scandal involving her sister-in-law. There’s also no evidence of any protracted extramarital affair of George’s, and no confirmation that he had illegitimate offspring, only some later speculation about the Dean of Lichfield.

    One has to believe that it is the unsavory events involving Katherine Howard that have led to her dreadful reputation. Perhaps had Cromwell been alive, she would have gone to him. One has to wonder why she did not go to Cranmer. She owed the King a good deal. She was the only Boleyn who really survived the scandal of 1536 well. That in and of itself makes her rather suspect. Did mere crawling to Cromwell save her, or something more? She did demonstrate a gift for self preservation in 1536.

    Did she feel such affection for the Queen that she could not speak up? Why not at least make some excuse to be sent away from Court? One would think, after the events of 1536, the last thing she would do would be to get involved in the affairs of an unfaithful, or at least, indiscreet Queen. That she feared execution is clear enough, given her conduct after her arrest.

    I must say, it is good to see a new evaluation of the characters involved. I don’t know that I agree entirely with Julia Fox’ appraisal of Jane. She was not as helpless or innocent as painted. But the malicious, evil minded creature we see in other portrayals is certainly not justified either.

    We just don’t know much about her, and likely never will, but the fact that she was so intimately involved in the two greatest scandals of Henry’s life certainly is cause to wonder what kind of woman she really was.

Leave a Reply

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