Who Was … Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford?


Jane Parker, Lady Rochford, was the wife of George Boleyn and sister-in-law to Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. She is said to have been the source of the incest charge against Anne and George, as well as being involved in the fall of Katherine Howard. She allegedly went mad while in the Tower of London awaiting execution in 1542. She had served 5 of Henry VIII’s wives – Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard.

Name: Jane Parker / Jane Boleyn

Title/s: Lady Rochford / Viscountess Rochford

Birth: c.1505

Death: 13 February 1542 at the Tower of London

Burial: Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London

Spouse: George Boleyn, Lord Rochford c.1503-1536

Children: None

Parents: George Parker, Lord Morley (c.1476-1556) & Alice St John (c.1484-1552)

Siblings: Henry Parker (c.1513-1553) & Margaret Shelton (?-1558)

Noble Connections: Through her marriage to George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, Jane was the sister-in-law to Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. This also made her aunt to the future Elizabeth I. Jane spent a lot of time around Henry VIII’s court and was familiar with the likes of Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset and Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. She also served in the households of Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard.

Controversy: The main controversy around Jane Parker concerns the executions of two queens, both wives of Henry VIII. It is said by some historians that Jane was the source of the incest accusation against Anne Boleyn and her brother, George, who was also Jane’s own husband. Jane’s involvement in the death of Katherine Howard is also questioned – some historians believe that she encouraged Katherine to have an affair with Thomas Culpeper. She then supposedly went mad.

Works of Fiction:

  • Philippa Gregory, The Boleyn Inheritance (2006)
  • Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall (2009)
  • Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies (2012)
  • Jean Plaidy, The Rose Without a Thorn (1993)
  • Emily Purdy, The Tudor Wife (2010)

Portrayals on Screen:

  • Sheila Burrell, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, 1970, 3 episodes
  • Kelly Hunter, Henry VIII, 2003, directed by Pete Travis
  • Joanne King, The Tudors, 2008-2010, 14 episodes
  • Jessica Raine, Wolf Hall, 2015, 6 episodes
  • Juno Temple, The Other Boleyn Girl, 2008, directed by Justin Chadwick

Further Reading:  

  • Julia Fox, Jane Boleyn: The Infamous Lady Rochford (2007)
  • Leanda de Lisle, Tudor: the Family Story (2014)
  • Alison Weir, The Lady in the Tower: the Fall of Anne Boleyn (2009)
  • Alison Weir, Henry VIII: King and Court (2001)
  • Jane Boleyn, nee Parker, Lady Rochford, by Hans Holbein.
  • Joanne King as Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford in 'The Tudors' (2008-2010)

Author: Helene Harrison

I have an MA in History, with a thesis entitled 'The Many Faces of Anne Boleyn: Perceptions in History, Literature and Film'. I have an interest in the Tudors and the Wars of the Roses along with my love of reading and literature.

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