Friday, September 14, 2018

Book Review: Holbein's Sir Thomas More The Frick Diptych Series

The Frick Collection is a charming museum on the edges of New York City's Central Park.  Henry Clay Frick was an industrialist, making his money in the late 19th century in coke production and US steel manufacturing.    Mr. Frick built his mansion on 70th street between 5th and 6th avenues and collected a spectacular art collection.  Following his death his mansion opened to the public in 1935 and is a popular museum to this day.

The Frick Diptych Series produces short books focusing on one of the works in the collection.  According to Ian Wardropper, Director, The Frick Collection, the idea is to pair an art historian's in depth look at a single work with a contribution by a writer or an artist.  The first work to be showcased is Hans Holbein the Younger's portrait of Sir Thomas More.

The portrait of More was purchased by Henry Clay Frick in 1912.  He paired it with Holbein's portrait of Thomas Cromwell and they reside in the Living Hall, separated by a beautiful fireplace watched over by El Greco's St. Jerome who rests between them above said fireplace.

For the book Xavier F. Salomon, Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator, The Frick Collection writes the in depth study of the painting.  Salomon, gives a good overview of the life and work of the artist and examines in depth the creation of the painting and its connections to the many extant sketches of Sir Thomas and the members of his extended family.  The famous portrait of More's family was also painted at the same time as the individual portrait and Salomon notes the historical significance of the family portrait being so unusual at this time in history as it does not portray a family with royal blood.  It is sad to realize that the original Holbein painting of More's family was lost in a fire in the 18th century.  Copies remain, but the loss of an important original work by Holbein can be mourned by Tudor scholars, and lovers of history and art appreciation.

The writer/artist chosen to contribute to the book is Man Booker Prize winning author Hilary Mantel. She chose to write her essay reflecting on the life of Thomas More in the form of a letter.  Using the painting as a stepping off point, Mantel give a brief biography of this great man and Catholic saint, while acknowledging More was a man who was a lawyer, literary genius, family man, Lord Chancellor, and martyr, yet, the man was not without his faults.   He may be remembered as the "Man for all seasons," but Mantel reminds the reader he was ultimately human.

Holbein's Sir Thomas More, written by Hilary Mantel and Xavier F. Salomon, is available for $17.95 at the gift shop of The Frick Collection in New York City.  It may be ordered onlilne at

For hours, admission and directions to The Frick Collection please visit

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Paying Respects: My Pilgrimage to the Grave of Gertrude Courtenay, Marchioness of Exeter

Gertrude Courtenay, Marchioness of Exeter died on September 25, 1558.  She been pardoned for her role in the so-called Exeter Conspiracy that cost her husband, Henry Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter and first cousin of King Henry VIII his life and the lives of most of the family of Reginald Pole, the last Roman Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury. She had lived to see her only surviving son, Edward Courtenay pardoned by Queen Mary I. Edward, who had been imprisoned in the Tower of London from the age of 12 to the age of 27, would briefly regain royal favor and his family's hereditary title of Earl of Devon before being caught up in Wyatt's Rebellion with his name linked to Princess Elizabeth in an attempt to thwart Queen Mary's planned Spanish marriage. Her son would be exiled and she would also sadly survive him as he died in mysterious circumstances in Italy in 1556.

The Marchioness of Exeter would be buried in the presbytery of Wimborne Minster opposite the beautiful tomb of John Beaufort and Margaret Beauchamp, Duke and Duchess of Somerset, better known to history as the parents of Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby, the mother of King Henry VII. Wimborne Minster is a charming and beautiful church in the equally charming market town of Wimborne in the county of Dorset, England.. The church is dedicated to Saint Cuthburga, Saxon Princess and foundress of a community of Benedictine nuns at Wimborne in 705.

Wimborne Minster has a rich royal history. King Alfred the Great's elder brother King Ethelred of Wessex was buried there following his death in 871 from wounds suffered battling the Danes in Martin. His grave is not marked but a lovely memorial brass is displayed, believed to be the only memorial brass effigy of an English King and is dated around 1440.

Wimborne Minster has ties to the Lancastrian side of the 15th century civil war known to history as the Wars of the Roses. As I mentioned it is the final resting place of the parents of Lady Margaret Beaufort.

John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset died in 1444 leaving the infant Margaret one of the most sought after English heiresses. Margaret would go on to found in 1497 a chantry chapel with the instructions that a priest would "teach grammar to all comers."

This led to the the current Wimborne Grammar School which received a charter in 1562 from Queen Elizabeth I and a new charter in the reign of Charles I.  The seal of Queen Elizabeth and the charter from Charles I, with his seal attached but no signature are part of the treasures to be found on display in the Minster's famed Chained Library.

Yet, the reason I traveled to Wimborne Minster was to pay my respects to the Marchioness of Exeter.
Gertrude Blount's tomb is in a prestigious location in the presbytery on the left side as you approach the high altar. The Duke and Duchess of Somerset's tomb is on the right side.  The tomb is a beautiful chest that appears to have had at one time heraldic decorations that were either removed or have worn away. A Latin inscription runs about halfway around the top edge of the tomb. It is a beautiful spot.

In the Minster's St. George's Chapel located to the left of the presbytery is an armourial window for the Courtenay family.  Created by Thomas Willement, the "father of Victorian stained glass" the window shows the coats of arms for the Tudor Earls of Devon. The inscriptions have faded, particularly the inscription beneath the coat of arms for Henry and Gertrude's son, Edward, but with effort they can be read.

The inscription reads "Henry Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter"
Note the Garter surrounding the shield

The man who started it all
The inscription reads:
"William Courtenay
Married Katherine daughter of
King Edward IV"
This is the reason the Courtenays had royal blood

I need to research these two coats of arms
I am unsure of their significance

This coat of arms commemorates the marriage of Henry Courtenay and Gertrude Blount
The Blount coat of arms is on the right

Of the captions this one is the easiest to read

Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon
His inscription reads
Edward Courtenay Earl of Devon
Only child of Henry and Gertrude
Died Without Issue

Wimborne Minster is a beautiful and little known part of Tudor history. If you find yourself in Dorset make an effort to visit this wonderful town and church. Make sure that you check to see if the famed Chained Library is open during your visit. Founded in 1685 it is the second largest chained library in England. It has limited hours and the library can only hold a few people at a time.  You can find more information about the library and the Minster at the Minster's website

Resources used for this post
Wimborne Minster guide book text by Christine Oliver, published by Jerrold Publishing, Norwich 2002
Stained Glass Windows in Wimborne Minster complied from Minster Records, publishing information and date not in the guide book.
The Chained Library of Wimborne Minster, pamphlet available in the Minster

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

That Bawd Lady Rochford or How Popular Culture Turned Me Into a Bitch

Presented at the Popular Cultural Association/
American Cultural Association National Conference

New Orleans April 1, 2015


This paper would not have been possible without the cooperation and support of the following:

Dr. Kimberly Tony Korol-Evans – department chair, friend, mentor

Carolyn Spedden, Artistic Director, Maryland Renaissance Festival

Patrick Wilshere, PowerPoint guru

And this paper is dedicated to Kevin Wilshere, for his love, support and putting up with the author’s eccentricities

 Most of the quotations in the paper that are from original documents have been rendered into modern spelling for ease of reading.

At London the 15th day in February 1541*

         From Calais I have heard nothing as yet of your suit to my Lord Gray; and for news from hence, know ye, that even according to my writing on Sunday last, I see the Queen and the Lady Rochford suffer within the Tower, the day following, whose souls (I doubt not) be with God, for they made the most godly and Christian end, that ever was heard tell of (I think) since the world’s creation; uttering their lively faith in the blood of Christ only, and with goodly words and steadfast countenances they desired all Christian people to take regard unto their worthy and just punishment with death for their offences, and against God heinously from their youth upward, in breaking all his commandments, and also against the King’s royal Majesty very dangerously: wherefore they being justly condemned (as they said) by the Laws of the Realm and Parliament, to die, required the people (I say) to take example at them, for amendment of their ungodly lives, and gladly to obey the King in all things, for whose preservation they did heartily pray; and willed all people so to do: commending their souls to God, and earnestly calling for mercy upon him: whom I beseech to give us grace, with such faith, hope, and charity at our departing out of this miserable world, to come to the fruition of his godhead in joy everlasting. Amen.
                                    Your loving brother
                                                      Otwell Johnson[1]

On February 13th, 1542 Katherine Howard, fifth wife of King Henry VIII and Jane Parker Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford were executed. While there is a great deal of sympathy for the death of young Katherine many persons feel that Jane Parker Boleyn's fate was just desserts for her villainous life.  After all this woman is the consummate bitch. Who wouldn’t revel in justice being served upon the horrid woman who accused her own husband of incest with his sister, Queen Anne Boleyn? That bawd Lady Rochford is no better than a pimp for bringing Queen Katherine Howard her late night lovers lasciviously listening at the door while the Rose Without A Thorn cuckolded poor King Henry.

“…the said Lady Katherine late queen, with the Lady Jane Rochford widow, late wife to George Boleyn Lord Rochford, brother to Queen Anne Boleyn, were beheaded for their desserts with the Tower.”[2]

The problem is that most portrayals of Jane Parker Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford in films, plays and novels are not based on the historical record. They are based on popular cultural representations, of which the majorities make assumptions of her character, her marriage and her guilt. What’s an actress to do when confronting the baggage of popular assumption?

The Maryland Renaissance Festival has portrayed the stories of all six of King Henry VIII’s Queens twice.  During those cycles four actresses have portrayed Jane Parker Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford.  Each of these actresses portrayed Lady Rochford at a different period in her life.  Two actresses, Sonia Motlagh and Diane Holcomb Wilshere were given the task of portraying Jane Parker Boleyn at the pivotal moments of her life that have forever shaped the way she is seen in popular culture.

During the 2004 performance season, the Festival portrayed The Year of Three Queens. Condensing the major events of the first six months of the year 1536, during the course of the performing day, Queen Katherine of Aragon died, Queen Anne Boleyn and her alleged lovers were arrested and the King and Mistress Jane Seymour were betrothed.

If thy information be true, knowst thou what it means?


You accuse your husband, the Queen’s own brother, of such foul deeds. Detestable.


Jane Parker Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford, as portrayed by Sonia Motlagh had a very memorable scene in the play Queen Anne’s Arrest. Simple one-word answers were delivered with a mixture of icy resolve and malice as Sonia’s version of Lady Rochford ensured that her hated husband and sister-in-law would die. The realization that it was his wife who accused him of incest with his sister the Queen led actor John Dickson Wakefield to show anger and disbelief that his hated wife had gotten her revenge.

“George Boleyn
Do you know what you say?
I am her brother!

And that the King finds most despicable.

George Boleyn
Who would say such a thing!?

Lady Rochford walks out the side door onto the stage, then begins to exit down the stage right stairs to the audience.

George Boleyn
(in disbelief) Jane? My wife accuses me.”[4]

In 2008 it became the author’s turn to take on the role of Lady Rochford as the festival portrayed the downfall and arrest of Queen Katherine Howard. The relationship between Diane Holcomb Wilshere’s Lady Rochford and Tiffany Jarman Jansen’s Queen Katherine was maternal. There was genuine warmth in their scenes. Katherine was sympathetically portrayed. She loved and admired the King, but she longed for her soul mate, Thomas Culpepper. 

When all is secured, I shall send Master Culpepper to you.

(hugs Rochford) Oh, Jane, I do not know what I’d do without you. I could not bear another day to go by without seeing Thomas.
And you must do me one more favor.

Anything, my sweet.”[5]

The script for Court’s Court included an abridged version of the famous letter that Katherine wrote to Thomas Culpepper. Ms. Jarman Jansen’s poignant recitation of the final lines of the letter  “yours as long as life endures, Katherine”[6] [7]brought many members of the audience to tears. Katherine begged and pleaded for mercy and was escorted from the stage in tears.  Then it was Lady Rochford’s turn.

Enough for now. You shall join the Queen.

Lady Rochford
No! I have told you what you wanted to know.”[8]

The Lady Rochford of 2008 was older, wiser and defiant. This was a Lady Rochford who regretted her role in Queen Anne Boleyn and George Boleyn’s deaths. It was clear in this script that Lady Rochford was only following orders. 

Why Jane, you have attended on two Queens; Katherine and her cousin Anne Boleyn. Both betrayed the King. You were there for both betrayals.

Lady Rochford
No. Both did not betray. And you know the truth of that, and it weighs on your souls as it weighs on mine.

My soul is content. I serve the King.

Lady Rochford
Let him look to his own soul. I am undone.”[9]

Two very different portrayals, written by the same scriptwriter only a few years apart show the challenges in portraying a character that is seen by the average audience member as the very embodiment of villainy.  It does not help that there has been a plethora of new historical films, television series, plays and books, both fiction and non-fiction in the past few years. Nearly all them portray Lady Rochford as a villain. Actresses, must be prepared to be called a lot of nasty names and to be told over and over again that you will lose your head and that you deserve it.

How did Jane Parker Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford turn into That Bawd Lady Rochford?

Who was Jane Parker Boleyn? Is she the consummate grasping villain who accused her husband and sister-in-law of incest and then acted as bawd to Katherine Howard's extramarital carryings on?  Or is she a victim of popular culture’s need to have clear heroes and villains? As a renaissance festival actress it is necessary to do a lot of historical research trying to find out the historic person's entire life. There is a plethora of information particularly online including original historic document and out of print books from the 19th and 20th centuries. Actors must also deal with having to portray the stereotype rather than the real human being. Stage and screen portrayals are always heightened for dramatic effect.

“Jane Rochford is unhappily married to George Boleyn, Anne Boleyn’s brother – an arranged marriage...Apparently, on their wedding night, George Boleyn looked at Jane’s breasts and said ‘Oh, they are pathetic…’”[10]
Jessica Raine, actress, Jane Boleyn, Wolf Hall BBC miniseries.

It is stated with absolute confidence in popular cultural depictions of Lady Rochford that her marriage to George Boleyn was at best unhappy and at worst a living nightmare. 

Say another word, wife, and I may strike you!

Jane Rochford
The King can have nothing to do with her – if she’s concealing a secret marriage –

I wish you were concealing a secret marriage – I wish I could divorce you – but Jesus, no chance of that! The fields were black with men running in the other direction.”[11]

George Cavendish, gentleman usher to Thomas, Cardinal Wolsey, and his biographer vilified George Boleyn in his poetry collection Metrical Visions.  In an imagined execution speech in Cavendish’s poetry George confesses his unbridled lechery.[12] The historian Retha Warnicke writing in her book, The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn believed that George Boleyn and the other men accused with Anne Boleyn with homosexual stating that she believed it was extremely likely that they were suspected of violating the Buggery Statute and that the dates they were arrested beginning on April 30 and lasting into the first week of May were associated with eroticism and transvestitism.[13]

(turns on her) This morning you swore an affidavit, that your mistress is a whore, has slept even with a no doubt pox-ridden musician of the Court, along with five other men.

Maybe I was mistaken.”[14]

         The Showtime television series The Tudors popularized this view of George Boleyn and the other men accused of adultery with Anne Boleyn. It went so far as to have George Boleyn rape his wife on their wedding night and have a passionate affair with the musician Mark Smeaton.[15]

         No wonder Jane Boleyn accused her husband of incest. Or so, popular culture would have you believe. There is no concrete evidence that Jane Boleyn is the source of the incest charge against George and Anne Boleyn. As mentioned by Claire Ridgway in her book The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown all of the sources that are used to claim Jane Boleyn's guilt are not so clear-cut.  Imperial Ambassador Eustace Chapuys never named her as the witness and neither did a Portuguese source. Other sources are either a forgery or based on sources several centuries after the fact. And there is another candidate for the charge, Elizabeth Browne, Countess of Worcester who when accused by her brother of adultery claimed that her offenses were nothing compared with the Queen.[16]

         It has also been claimed that George Boleyn accused his wife of betraying him at his trial. Lancelot de Carles wrote that George said “ 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.”[17] Note that George is quoted as saying one woman not my wife. The conjecture has been that he must have been speaking about Jane. That leaves out one crucial piece of evidence from George Boleyn’s imprisonment in the Tower of London.

         "After your departing yesterday, Greneway gentleman usher came to me and... M Caro and....... Master Bryan commanded him in the King's name to my ...(Lord) Ratchfort for my lady his wife, and the message was now more...(to see)se how he did, and also she would humbly suit unto the King's Hy.....(highness) for her husband; and so he gave thanks."[18]

         On May 5, 1536 Sir William Kingston constable of the Tower included the above in his copious correspondence with Thomas Cromwell surrounding the imprisonment of Queen Anne and the men arrested and charged with treason. Part of the Cotton manuscript collection it was badly damaged in a fire in the early 18th century. There is no record of Jane actually petitioning the King. However George’s reported thanks for the efforts on his behalf is a mark in their favor that their marriage was not the nightmare that popular culture seems to adore to portray.

That Bawd Lady Rochford

          Lady Rochford is already condemned in popular culture for accusing her husband of committing incest.  Yet, she remains a presence at the court of Henry VIII following her husband’s death. She served Queen Jane Seymour and Queen Anna of Cleves. Along with Eleanor Manners, Countess of Rutland and Lady Katherine Edgecombe Lady Rochford gave testimony as to Anna’s alleged naivety in the matters of sex.[19] [20]

Following the marriage of Henry VIII to Katherine Howard Jane Parker Boleyn takes on her most familiar role, that of bawd for the Queen. According to Jane's own interrogations she assisted Katherine in arranging her assignations with Thomas Culpepper on the northern progress of 1541.[21] Once the arrests happened no one in that scandal behaved well. Francis Dereham, guilty only of being the Queen's lover before her marriage to the King, accused Culpepper of taking his place after the marriage. Thomas Culpepper kept a letter from the Queen, the only letter that exists in Katherine Howard's handwriting. (Note: recent biographers have questioned the authenticity of this letter)  The letter implicated Lady Rochford. And during their interrogations they all blamed each other.

“…It my trust is always in you that you will be as you have promised me, and in that hope I trust upon still, praying you that you will come when my Lady Rochford is here for then I shall be best at leisure to be at your commandment,…”[22]

Katherine Howard has gone down in history and popular culture as the Queen who was guilty of adultery. Like Jane Parker Boleyn she also gets maligned as either a “good time girl”[23] or as someone who, in her own confession stated she was “so desirous to be taken unto your grace’s favour and so blinded with the desire of worldly glory.”[24]

More recent biographers have been more sympathetic with her newest biographer Conor Byrne arguing that Katherine should be reassessed historically through gendered studies and fertility politics.[25]  Mr. Byrne argues that Katherine’s premarital history should be seen as examples of predatory sexual abuse.[26] To assess and analyze the life of Queen Katherine Howard would take another paper.  Suffice it to say that choices were made by the Queen that brought her past and present indiscretions to light. Jane Parker Boleyn was caught in the middle of it.

We don't know why Jane helped Katherine Howard. It could have been as simple as obeying her Queen or pitying a young girl married to a man at least thirty years her senior who was suffering from a lot of health issues. However, Lady Rochford lost a potential protector when Thomas Cromwell was executed in 1540. No one would save her.  Katherine Howard, Frances Dereham, Thomas Culpepper and Jane Parker Boleyn were arrested in November 1541.

Jane Parker Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford was taken to the Tower of London. Three days later she suffered a mental collapse. She was removed from the Tower of London to the care of Sir John Russell and his wife, Anne. The King provided his own physicians to cure her of her affliction. [27]

An Act of Attainder passed in early February 1542 and signed with Henry VIII’s dry stamp condemned Katherine and Jane without trial. It was that Act of Attainder that first labeled Lady Rochford as "that bawd Lady Rochford." [28] Jane was returned to the Tower on February 9th, Katherine was sent from Syon Abbey to the Tower on February 10th. Otwell Johnson, who provides the only eyewitness account of the executions stated that both ladies died well. There is no record of either Jane or Katherine's scaffold speeches. It is a myth that Jane confessed to falsely accusing Anne and George.

P.S.—13 Feb. : After writing the above, was informed that to-day, Monday, 13th inst., the condemned ladies should be executed; and, indeed, about nine o'clock in the morning, this Queen first, and afterwards the lady of Rochefort, within the Tower, had their heads cut off with an axe, after the manner of the country. The Queen was so weak that she could hardly speak, but confessed in few words that she had merited a hundred deaths for so offending the King who had so graciously treated her. The lady of Rochefort said as much in a long discourse of several faults which she had committed in her life. It is not yet said who will be Queen; but the common voice is that this King will not be long without a wife, for the great desire he has to have further issue.
Charles de Marillac, French Ambassador
French. Modern transcript, pp. 3.
 Headed : Londres, 11 Fevrier.[29]

A number of modern historians and fiction writers have started to rehabilitate many historic figures that have been traditional portrayed in a negative light. Clare Cherry and Claire Ridgeway have written a biography of George Boleyn that seeks to reclaim his role as an ambassador and poet. Biographers Conor Byrne and Kyra Cornelius Kramer make strong arguments for seeing Katherine Howard in a more favorable light. Yet, except for Julia Fox, Jane Parker Boleyn’s revisionist biographer, Clare Cherry, George Boleyn’s biographer and Ms. Cherry’s writing partner Claire Ridgway who has championed a  reassessment of Anne Boleyn and her family members through her books and her website The Anne Boleyn Files, not many recent historians grant Jane Parker Boleyn the same favor.

“…perhaps it is charitable to believe that she was insane from the start.”
Lacey Baldwin Smith[30]

“Why would Katheryn place her faith in Jane Boleyn, when Lady Rochford had been instrumental in the deaths of her husband and Anne Boleyn?”
Kyra Cornelius Kramer[31]

         Who was the real Lady Rochford? Jane Parker Boleyn  was the daughter of a Baron and sister-in-law of Queen Anne Boleyn. She was a  woman who served five of the six Queens of King Henry VIII. She  woman who attended the Field of the Cloth of Gold and participated in the famous Chateau Vert Pageant. She was present at Anne Boleyn’s coronation and Jane Seymour’s funeral.  For whatever reason, she assisted Katherine Howard in her late night meetings with Thomas Culpepper.  That decision cost Jane Parker Boleyn her life.

        Was she a lascivious bawd to Katherine Howard? Or was she a bitter vengeful wife who accused her husband of incest? It is easy to accept clear heroes and villains in popular cultural portrayals of historic figures. In the end Jane Parker Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford was simply human.

Appendix One
A brief biography of Jane Parker Boleyn Viscountess Rochford
No one knows when Jane Parker was born. This is true for most courtiers and their wives in the first half of the sixteenth century. Jane’s biographer Julia Fox believes that Jane Parker was probably born around 1505.[32]  The Victorians who dug up the altar floor in the Chapel of St. Peter-ad-Vincula in 1877 believed that the skeleton they identified as being hers was around 40 years old at the time of death.[33]

Jane Parker was the daughter of a Baron. Henry Parker, Lord Morley was a member of the household of Lady Margaret Beaufort, the mother of King Henry VII and acted as her cupbearer at the coronation feast of King Henry VIII. Lord Morley was educated at Oxford and was known for his intellectual abilities being used as a literary translator in Henry VIII's reign.  Lord Morley also served as an ambassador being one of a party who delivered the Order of the Garter to the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria.[34]Jane's mother, Alice St. John, was the daughter of Sir John St. John, a prosperous landowner in Bedfordshire. Jane had at least four siblings, Henry, Francis, Margaret and Elizabeth.[35]

Jane Parker first appears in the court records as Mistress Parker in attendance upon Queen Katherine of Aragon at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520.[36] Next she appears as one of the eight ladies in the famous Chateau Vert Masque on March 4, 1522. Playing the courtly virtues the ladies were a who's who of the prominent women of the early 1520's Henrican court. Mary Tudor Brandon, Dowager Queen of France and Duchess of Suffolk, Henry VIII's younger sister played Beauty. Gertrude Blount Courtenay, Countess of Devonshire played Honor. Mistress Browne was Bounty, Mistress Dannet was Mercy and we do not know the name of the lady who portrayed Pity. The final trio would be entwined together through family ties and history. Mary Boleyn Carey portrayed Kindness, Anne Boleyn was Perseverance and Jane Parker was Constancy.[37]

In 1524 marriage negotiations began for Jane Parker to wed George Boleyn, the only surviving son and heir of Sir Thomas Boleyn. The Parkers and the Boleyns knew each other well. The legal contract was drawn up on October 4, 1524 that settled a widow's jointure on Jane of 100 marks (about 66 pounds) a year to be paid in the event that George died before Jane. Jane brought a marriage jointure, of 2000 marks (1300 pounds). King Henry VIII doubled Jane's widow's jointure to 200 marks, possibly as a wedding present. George and Jane were given the manors of Aylesbury, Bierton and West Laxham.[38]

Jane's fortunes at court rose at the same time that her sister-in-law Anne's rise in King Henry VIII's favor. Her husband became a privy counselor and an ambassador. George was granted his father's secondary title of Viscount Rochford in 1529 when Thomas Boleyn was elevated to the Earldom of Wiltshire.[39]

It is common to say in popular fictional portrayals that these positions were rewards for first Mary Boleyn becoming the King's mistress and then the King's love affair with Anne Boleyn.  To state that without looking at the facts is to ignore that both George Boleyn and his father Thomas Boleyn had court careers that were respected long before the sisters became involved with the King.

George and Jane did not have any surviving children and like many people of the sixteenth century there is nothing in the historical record about any births or miscarriages. There was a George Boleyn who became the Dean of Lichfield in the reign of Elizabeth I. A few have posited that he was either George and Jane's son or that he was the illegitimate son of George, but there is no evidence of either assertion.[40]

We don't know what George and Jane's marriage was like. Unlike how he was portrayed in the Showtime series The Tudors, there is no evidence that George Boleyn was homosexual. Neither was he an arrogant fop as he was portrayed in the novels and play versions of Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies. It is possible that he was a womanizer, men having mistresses was extremely common at the Tudor court but the evidence for that comes from sources that were enemies of the Boleyn family.

Jane Parker Boleyn, now Viscountess Rochford, became a lady-in-waiting to her sister-in-law, Anne Boleyn. She participated in the coronation of Queen Anne and attended the coronation banquet and was probably in attendance at the birth of Princess Elizabeth. During this time period she also became the patroness of a scholar, William Foster.[41]

In 1534, King Henry VIII banished Jane from court. Why?  According to ambassadors' reports, Henry had shown interest in an unknown lady at court. Queen Anne used Jane to get rid of her so the king had her dismissed in the fall of 1534. We do not know how long she was kept from court, probably only a few months. [42]

When Queen Anne was arrested one of the five men who would be condemned to death with her was her brother, George Boleyn. The interviews and interrogations do not survive, yet as mentioned in the main body of this paper it has been long assumed that the incest charge came from Jane. It is also assumed and is more likely that the accusation that Henry VIII suffered from impotency, which George Boleyn read out loud during his trial, was information received from Jane. [43]
There has been little known about Jane Parker Boleyn's life between the execution of her husband and her end on the scaffold in 1542. For filling in the gaps we should all be grateful to Jane's biographer, Julia Fox, as she uncovered the story of what happens to the wife after the husband is executed for treason.

Jane Parker Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford lost everything. As the wife of a convicted traitor all of her goods, down to her silk stockings were inventoried and forfeited to the crown. She was still entitled to  her widow's jointure and to get it she had to legally battle her father-in-law Thomas Boleyn to receive its entirety.[44] For assistance Jane turned to Thomas Cromwell for help.

"Master Secretary

as a poor desolate widow without comfort, as to my special trust under God and my Prince, I have me most humbly recommended unto you; praying you, after your accustomed gentle manner to all them that be in such lamentable case as I am in, to be mean to the King's gracious Highness for me for such poor stuff and plate as my husband had, whom God pardon; that of his gracious and mere liberality I may have it to help my poor living, which to his Highness is nothing to be regarded, and to me should be a most high help and succor. And further more, where that the King's Highness and my Lord my father paid great sums of money for my Jointure to the Earl of Wiltshire to the sum of two thousand marks, and I not assured of no more during the said Earl's natural life than one hundred marks; which is very hard for me to shift the world with all. That you will so specially tender me in this behalf as to inform the King's highness of these promises, whereby I may the more tenderly be regarded of his gracious person, your World in this shall be to me a sure help: and God shall be to you therefore a sure reward, which doth promise good to them that doth help poor forsaken Widows. And both my prayer and service shall help to this during my natural life, as most bounden so to do, God my witness; whoever more preserve you.

Jane Rocheford"[45]

Jane did receive her income eventually yet was involved in legal disputes with her father-in-law over property until his death in 1539.

Jane returned to court several months after the death of her husband.  Lady Rochford served Queen Jane Seymour receiving a New Year's gift from the Queen in 1537.  Along with her father and her brother she participated in Queen Jane's funeral. She was appointed one of the ladies of the bedchamber to Queen Anna of Cleves and she gave testimony of Anna's alleged naivety in the matters of sex and signed the annulment papers as one of the official witnesses.

Why did Jane Parker Boleyn return to court? She could have settled in the country and lived very comfortably on her widow's income. To give an analogy to the 21st century it is like how a celebrity past their popularity tries to stay in the public eye by doing reality programs. The court was the Hollywood of its day. You strived to stay at the center of the cultural and political universe and it was very difficult to retire from that life.

As mentioned in the body of this paper she went on to serve Queen Jane Seymour, Queen Anna of Cleves and, fatally Queen Katherine Howard.  The end of her story is in the body of this paper.

Appendix Two
Katherine Howard’s Letter to Thomas Culpepper

"Master Culpeper,

I heartily recommend me unto you, praying you to send me word how that you do. It was showed me that you was sick, the which thing troubled me very much till such time that I hear from you praying you to send me word how that you do, for I never longed so much for thing as I do to see you and to speak with you, the which I trust shall be shortly now. The which doth comfortly me very much when I think of it, and  when I think again that  you shall depart from me again it makes my heart to die to think what fortune I have that I cannot always in your company. It my trust is always in you that you will be as you have promised me, and in that hope I trust upon still, praying you that you will come when my Lady Rochford is here for then I shall be best at leisure to be at your commandment, thanking you for that you have promised me to be so good unto that poor fellow my man which is one of the griefs that I do feel to depart from him for then I do know no one that I dare trust to send to you, and therefore I pray you take him to be with you that I may sometime hear from you one thing. I pray you to give me a horse for my man for I had much ado to get one and therefore I pray send one by him and in so doing I am as I said afore, and thus I take my leave of you, trusting to see you shortly again and I would you was with me now that you might see what pain I take in writing to you.

Yours as long as life endures, Katheryn

One thing I had forgotten and that is to instruct my man to tarry here with me still for he says whatsomever you bid him he will do it."[46]

 Appendix Three
The Bill of Attainder passed by Parliament that condemned
Katherine Howard and Jane Parker Boleyn

“Katharine Howard whom the King took to wife is proved to have been not of pure and honest living before her marriage, and the fact that she has since taken to her service one Francis Dereham, the person with whom she ‘used that vicious life before,’ and has taken as chamberer a woman who was privy to her naughty life before, is proof of her will to return to her old abominable life. Also she has confederated with lady Jane Rocheford, widow, late wife of Sir Geo. Boleyn, late lord Rocheford, to ‘bring her vicious and abominable purpose to pass’ with Thos. Culpeper, late one of the King’s Privy Chamber, and has met Culpeper in ‘a secret and vile place,’ at 11 o’clock at night, and remained there with him until 3 a.m., with only ‘that bawd, the lady Jane Rocheford.’ For these treasons, Culpeper and Dereham have been convicted and executed, and the Queen and lady Rochford stand indicted. The indictments of such as have lately suffered are hereby approved, and the said Queen and lady Rochford are, by authority of this Parliament, convicted and attainted of high treason, and shall suffer accordingly; and the said Queen, lady Rocheford, Culpeper, and Dereham shall forfeit to the Crown all possessions which they held on 25 Aug. 33 Hen. VIIII. The Royal assent to this Act shall be given by commission.”[47]

[1] Henry Ellis,  Original Letters Illustrative of English History, Vol. II. (London: Harding, Triphook and Lepard. 1824.) 128-129
[2] John Foxe The Unabridged Actes and Monuments Online or TAMO.  (Sheffield: HRI Online Publishing) 1576 edition. Book 8. 1205
[3] Carolyn Spedden Queen Anne’s Arrest. (Crownsville, MD: Maryland Renaissance Festival 2004.)  1-2
[4] Spedden.  18
[5] Carolyn Spedden The Letter. (Crownsville MD: Maryland Renaissance Festival.  2008.)10
[6] Anne Crawford. Letters of the Queens of England 1100-1547. (United Kingdom: Sutton Publishing Ltd.  1994. Paperback edition 1997.) 210
[7] Carolyn Spedden  Court’s Court. (Crownsville MD: Maryland Renaissance Festival 2008. ) 24
[8] Spedden 25
[9] Spedden 25
[10] Kate Kellaway.  “Jessica Raine: ‘If I’d Been Born in Tudor  Times I’d Have Married a Blacksmith.’” www.the December 27, 2014. Accessed March 26, 2014.
[11] Hilary Mantel and Mike Poulton. Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies (London: Nick Hern Books. 2014) 138
[12] Clare Cherry and Claire Ridgway. George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier & Diplomat. (MadeGlobal Publishing 2014.) 305
[13] Retha Warnicke. The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1989.)  214-215
[14] Howard Brenton. Anne Boleyn. (London: Nick Hern Books. 2010.) Kindle Edition. Location 1476-1485
[15] Michael Hirst.. The Tudors : The Definition of Love. (Showtime, TM Productions Limited/PA Tudors Inc. An Ireland – Canada Co-Production) 2007-2010
[16] Claire Ridgway.  The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown. (MadeGlobal Publishing. 2012 Kindle Edition) location 1098
[17] Ridgway. location 1449
[19] Julia Fox. Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford. New York: Ballantine Books. 2007. 252
[20] David Starkey. Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII. (London: Chatto & Windus. 2003) 633
[21] Starkey. 672-677
[22] Crawford. 210
[23] Starkey. 655
[24] Lacey Baldwin Smith. A Tudor Tragedy: The Life and Times of Catherine Howard.  (London: Jonathan Cape 1961) 147
[25] Conor Byrne. Katherine Howard: A New History. (MadeGlobal Publishing. 2015) 7-9
[26] Byrne. 53
[27] Fox 288-289
[28] Byrne. 186-187
[29] Marillac to Francis I. R.O.Kaulak 388
[30] Smith. 170
[31]Kyra Cornelius Kramer. The Jezebel Effect: Why The Slut Shaming of Famous Queens Still Matters (Bloomington IN: Ash Wood Press Kindle Edition 2015) Location 3213
[32] Fox. 4
[33] Doyne Courtenay Bell. Notices of the Historic Persons Buried in the Chapel of St. Peter Ad Vincula in the Tower of London. (London: John Murray. 1877.  Google Play Books Edition.) 24
[34] Fox.  4 – 9
[35] “A Who’s Who of Tudor Women”
[36] William Jerdan. The Rutland Papers.  (New York: London The Camden Society. 1968.) 38
[37] Fox.  24-25
[38] Fox 31-35
[39] Eric. W. Ives. The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn.  (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. 2004) 127
[40] Cherry and Ridgway. Appendix E. 319-323
[41] Fox 114-115
[42] Fox 50
[43] Ives 341-342
[44] Fox  201-205
[45] 1024.
[46] Crawford,. 210
[47] Byrne. 186-187


Bell, Doyne Courtenay. Notices of the Historic Persons Buried in the Chapel of St. Peter Ad Vincula in the Tower of London. London: John Murray. 1877.
Brenton, Howard. Anne Boleyn. London: Nick Hern Books. 2010.
Byrne. Conor. Katherine Howard: A New History. MadeGlobal Publishing. 2015.
Cherry, Clare and Claire Ridgway. George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier & Diplomat. MadeGlobal Publishing. 2014.
Crawford, Anne. Letters of the Queens of England 1100-1547. United Kingdom: Sutton Publishing Ltd. 1994. Paperback edition 1997.
Ellis, Henry. Original Letters Illustrative of English History, Vol. II. London: Harding, Triphook and Lepard. 1824.
Fox, Julia. Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford. New York: Ballantine Books. 2007.
Hirst, Michael. The Tudors: The Definition of Love. Showtime, TIM Productions Limited/PA Tudors Inc. An Ireland-Canada Co-Production. 2007-2010.
Ives, Eric W. The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. 2004.
Jerdan, William. The Rutland Papers. New York: London The Camden Society. 1968.
Kellaway, Kate. “Jessica Raine: ‘If I’d Been Born in Tudor Times I’d Have Married a Blacksmith.’” December 27, 2014. accessed March 26, 2015.
Kramer, Kyra Cornelius. The Jezebel Effect: Why the Slut Shaming of Famous Queens Still Matters. Bloomington, IN: Ash Wood Press. 2015.
Mantel, Hilary and Mike Poulton. Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies.  London: Nick Hern Books. 2014.
Ridgway, Claire. The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown. MadeGlobal Publishing. 2012.
Smith, Lacey Baldwin. A Tudor Tragedy: The Life and Times of Catherine Howard. London: Jonathan Cape. 1961.
Spedden, Carolyn. Court’s Court. Crownsville MD: Maryland Renaissance Festival. 2008.
Spedden, Carolyn. The Letter. Crownsville MD: Maryland Renaissance Festival. 2008.
Spedden, Carolyn. Queen Anne’s Arrest. Crownsville MD: Maryland Renaissance Festival. 2004.
Starkey, David. Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII.  London: Chatto & Windus. 2003.
Warnicke, Retha. The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1989.
Foxe, John. The Unabridged Actes and Monuments Online or TAMO. (Sheffield: HRI Online Publishing) 1576 edition.