Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tudor Tart: Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford

Lady Jane Boleyn, nee Parker, was the daughter of Henry Parker, 10th Baron Morley and Alice St. John.

Though no confirmed portrait of Jane
survives, this one by Hans Holbien is
inscribed "The Lady Parker" and could
be Jane.
In 1524/25, Jane married George Boleyn, brother of Anne Boleyn. Though many claim the marriage was unhappy, there is little evidence for this. However, it was well known that George was extremely promiscuous, which could have caused quite a bit of trouble between the two.

Regardless of their happy or unhappy marriage, Jane played a role in George and Anne's quick fall and deaths. According to some contemporary sources and modern historians, it was Jane's testimony that Anne and George had a sexual relationship which helped convict both of incest and treason. She also implied that George had been the biological father of the deformed foetus Anne had miscarried early in 1536. There was no truth in her statements, according to the majority of contemporary witnesses as well as the trial itself. In fact, many placed wagers that George would walk free!

So why did she do it? According to contemporary sources, it was an act of malice against George due to the difficulty in their marriage from his affairs and possibly due to her jealousy of his close relationship with Anne.

Because of her supposed backstabbing nature and dramatic end, Jane Boleyn has been painted throughout history as an ugly, jealous woman. However, biographer Julia Fox disagrees.

On the matter of Jane's appearance, she points out that because Jane was chosen for quite a few pageants about court, she would have most likely been quite pretty.

As for the role in her husband and sister-in-law's downfall, Fox states
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 [Rochford] would have come thick and fast... 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... [But] Jane had not been quick to tell tales, but she had buckled under the pressure of relentless questioning... 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..."

After their deaths, Jane was absent from court due to the loss of her lands and income. She was eventually able to return to court and served Henry's later wives as a lady-in-waiting.

She quickly became a favorite of the young Katheryn Howard. Once Katheryn's affair with Culpepper was discovered (thanks to a letter found which she wrote him), she and Lady Rochford were detained. The letter mentioned Jane by name in aiding the young lovers, which led to her arrest.

After months of being interrogated in the Tower, Jane had a nervous breakdown as was declared insane. Henry VIII had a special law passed which allowed him to execute an insane person. On Feb. 13th, 1542, Jane followed Katheryn Howard to the scaffold and was beheaded. She was buried near Anne and George in St. Peter Ad Vincula within the Tower of London.

So, what do you think? Was Jane an innocent bystander caught up in several bad situations, or a true Tudor Tart? Pin It


  1. I believe Lady Jane Rochford was far from innocent. She was a woman who was doing everything she could to thrive in the competitive and fickle world of Court life, and paid dearly, especially as Lady to Katheryn Howard. However, when examining her role in the Anne and George downfall I have come to the conclusion that she did not intend to be a part of the removal of these two individuals, on the contrary, I believe she would have tried to do what she could to aide them considering if they fell she two would in fact suffer why would she knowingly cut her nose off to spite her face? Nay, I believe she was backed into a corner by Cromwell and his cronies, and her words twisted and turned by the latter. With these events transpiring she lost her privileges, her wealth, her social standing...and ultimately for the first time found herself alone in a man's world with only a measly allowance and a parcel of land to hold too; not exactly something a woman of her social standing would intentionally jump up and down for. I believe history has vilified her because a great story craves those love to hate figures...In the end, I don't believe she's half as bad as she is portrayed.

  2. I had always considered Lady Rochford a horrible woman, one that I absolutely could not (and still cannot) relate to, but certainly it makes sense that she was essentially bullied in regards to Anne. Her actions have always seemed so selfish to me, but perhaps I am just thinking too modernly. Posed with such extreme circumstances I can certainly understand her fear, and the concept of loyalty at that time being extended to the King rather than to someone in his disfavor (even if that person is her own husband). She clearly valued her own life more than any other, and it just seems so crazy to me that she would go on to make another catastrophic decision (by aiding Howard & Culpepper) and ultimately lose her life anyway.

  3. ihave read somethings that she wasnt the one who said that anne and her brother had an affair

  4. Just a suggestion - I think that no collection of Tudor Tarts can be complete without the addition of Lettice Knollys Devereaux Dudley, Countess of Leicester.

  5. Is there any evidence to confirm that Jane and Cromwell had a liaison?