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.

Continue reading “Who Was … Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford?”

Book Review – ‘Following in the Footsteps of the Princes in the Tower’ by Andrew Beattie


Andrew Beattie 'Following in the Footsteps of the Princes in the Tower'

Thanks to Pen and Sword Books for the chance to read this.

The story of the Princes in the Tower is well known: the grim but dramatic events of 1483, when the twelve-year-old Edward Plantagenet was taken into custody by his uncle, Richard of Gloucester, and imprisoned in the Tower of London along with his younger brother, have been told and re-told hundreds of times. The ways in which the events of that year unfolded remain shrouded in mystery, and the fate of the young princes forms an infamous backdrop to Richard III’s reign and the end of the Wars of the Roses. Although little about the princes’ lives is commonly known, Following in the Footsteps of the Princes in the Tower tells the story in a way that is wholly new: through the places they lived in and visited. From Westminster Abbey to the Tower of London, and from the remote castle of Ludlow in the Welsh borders to the quiet Midlands town of Stony Stratford – via major medieval centres such as Northampton and Shrewsbury – the trail through some of England’s most historic places throws a whole new light on this most compelling of historical dramas. [Description from Pen & Sword Books]

I really enjoyed this trip through the lives of the Princes in the Tower. I’d been eyeing this book up for a while so was thrilled when Pen and Sword offered me the chance to read it. The book doesn’t look so much at the disappearance of the Princes, although that is covered in the section on the Tower of London, but at where they spent their lives. The Princes in the Tower is one of my absolute favourite historical mysteries, along with Jack the Ripper, and I don’t think I will ever tire of reading about it because it is so fascinating and there are so many different tendrils to research and discover. The places where they lived and where the great events of their lives took place is just one part of it.

There are excellent sections on the aforementioned Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and Palace, Stony Stratford, and Ludlow. It’s a really interesting way of looking at something that has been examined over and over for the past 500 years. There is also a section at the end looking at the possibility that one or both of the princes could have survived the Tower, and what could have happened to them afterwards, including the Simnel and Warbeck rebellions, and some lesser known myths and legends.

There were plenty of images of the different places discussed which helped to place the events in the locations, and portraits from the time. It helps to link everything together when you have visual aids as well as descriptions and analysis.

However, I didn’t think that the constant references to fictional works like those by Philippa Gregory, Emma Darwin, Terence Morgan and Vanora Bennett really added anything. I skipped past a lot of them. In my opinion, it would have been better to discuss some of the historiography of the places – what other people have thought about these places and how views have changed over time. That is what I felt was missing from this book.

Nevertheless, an enjoyable and interesting read, and I am looking forward to reading another in the series which I have on my shelf – ‘Following in the Footsteps of Henry Tudor’, about Henry VII and places he visited before the Battle of Bosworth.

Chapters:

  1. Westminster: Sanctuary, Palace and Abbey
  2. Ludlow, Shrewsbury and the Marches
  3. A Coup on Watling Street – Northampton and Stony Stratford
  4. Palace and Prison: The Tower of London
  5. The Aftermath – Ghosts and Tombs, Imposters and Battlefields

Book Review – ‘Kindred Spirits: Tower of London’ by Jennifer C. Wilson


A King, three Queens, a handful of nobles and a host of former courtiers… In the Tower of London, the dead outnumber the living, with the likes of Tudor Queens Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard rubbing shoulders with one man who has made his way back from his place of death at Bosworth Field to discover the truth about the disappearance of his famous nephews. Amidst the chaos of daily life, with political and personal tensions running high, Richard III takes control, as each ghostly resident looks for their own peace in the former palace – where privacy was always a limited luxury. With so many characters haunting the Tower of London, will they all find the calm they crave? But foremost – will the young Plantagenet Princes join them? [Description from Amazon UK]

I’d heard of this book long before I actually got around to reading it. Jennifer C. Wilson is a fairly local author to where I live – on the coast in the wet and windy north-east coast of England. She was going to give a talk at my local library, but it was sadly cancelled. I certainly wasn’t disappointed by this book, and it exceeded my expectations!

This book had a really interesting premise for me, surrounding two of my favourite historical figures – Anne Boleyn and Richard III. The idea is that the ghosts with a connection to the Tower of London haunt the grounds and buildings of the Tower. These ghosts include, not only Anne and Richard, but the Duke of Clarence, William Hastings, Jane Lady Rochford, Katherine Howard, Jane Grey, George Boleyn and Thomas Culpeper. These are some of the most famous figures of the Wars of the Roses and the Tudor dynasty.

The main narrative involves Richard III and his search for what happened to the Princes in the Tower. Wilson’s narrative suggests that Richard III wasn’t guilty of their murder, and didn’t actually know what happened to them. Anne Boleyn is determined to help Richard, and there even seems to be a kind of romantic relationship between them. The only thing that disappointed me about this book was that we never do find out what happened to the Princes in Wilson’s narrative.

It’s a well-written historical / supernatural crossover and the characters come to life, with characteristics we would recognise from the historical record, as well as novels by the likes of Philippa Gregory and Jean Plaidy. The interplay between characters from different periods was really intriguing, especially between the likes of George Boleyn and George, Duke of Clarence. The idea of choosing to haunt the living was also funny, and provided some comic moments. Wilson has obviously done her research about the atmosphere and timetable of the Tower of London and the history and relationships between some of these characters.

I am very much looking forward to reading the other books in this series on the Royal Mile, Westminster Abbey and York. It will be interesting to see how Wilson handles other historical characters and periods. I know the Royal Mile one is based around Mary Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley, another one based in my favourite Tudor period!

Documentary Notes – British History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley: the Wars of the Roses


  • Story of past open to interpretation 
  • Carefully edited and deceitful version of events 
  • Not just a version of what happened – more a tapestry of different stories woven together by whoever was in power at the time 
  • Wars of the Roses was invented by the Tudors to justify their power 
  • Immortalised by Shakespeare – darkest chapter in English history 
  • Lancaster and York locked in battle for the crown of England – kings deposed, innocent children murdered, cousin fought against cousin 
  • 1485 Richard III slain and Henry Tudor took the throne 
  • Henry VII’s victory hailed the ending of the Medieval period 
  • Line between fact and fiction often gets blurred 

Late 16th Century portrait of Richard III, housed in the National Portrait Gallery.
Late 16th Century portrait of Richard III, housed in the National Portrait Gallery.

  • 1455 Stubbins in Lancashire scene of a legendary battle in the Wars of the Roses beginning with volleys of arrows but ran out of ammunition 
  • Lancastrians pelted the Yorkists with black pudding – local legend 
  • Yorkists pelted the Lancastrians with Yorkshire puddings – local legend 
  • Wars of the Roses in national memory 
  • History books – rivalry between Lancaster (red rose) and York (white rose) – bloody rivalry largely a creation of the Tudors 
  • 1461 bloodshed real in the middle of a snowstorm at Towton 
  • Lancastrians started out well but tide turned against them, chased by the Yorkists down the slope to a river and so a massacre began 
  • Blood stained the snow red, so location became known as the bloody meadow 
  • Shakespeare portrayed the battle as a bloody Armageddon – represented a country torn apart by war, nothing as bad in our history 
  • Somme 19,000 British soldiers killed on the first day, Towton 28,000 killed 
  • 20 years ago Bradford University revealed barbarity of fighting with remains of 43 men killed at Towton 
  • Head forced down into the spine, poleaxes – exceptional even for the Wars of the Roses 
  • Skirmishes, but real battles only around 8 in 30 years 
  • Not ravaged by all-out war – later myth 
  • Out of 32 years of wars, fighting on lasted a total of 13 weeks 

Continue reading “Documentary Notes – British History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley: the Wars of the Roses”

Discussion Questions – ‘The Last Tudor’ by Philippa Gregory


Philippa Gregory 'The Last Tudor'

  1. What role do faith and religion play during the time period represented in The Last Tudor? What is the relationship between religion and politics, and how does this relationship affect the cultural climate of England? Is the country mostly united in their faith or divided? What impact does this have on the royals of England?
  • After the Henrician Reformation, there was the mid-Tudor crisis, already with differences of faith across England.
  • Edward VI was a devout Protestant as he had been raised, Mary I was a devout Catholic as her mother Katherine of Aragon had been, and Elizabeth I looked for a middle way in religion having seen the chaos of her brother’s and sister’s reigns.
  • Edward VI altered his Device for the Succession to stop Mary I succeeding to the throne and returning the English church to Rome.
  • Politics was based on religion – generally people who supported Edward VI and Jane Grey were protestant, and those who supported Mary I were Catholic, although Mary I did at first also attract the support of protestants as the real claimant to the throne by Henry VIII’s will.
  1. What is “the true religion” according to Lady Jane Grey? Why does Jane believe that she and her family do not need to earn their place in heaven as others do? Does her faith ultimately serve her well? Discuss.
  • Jane Grey believes the true religion is protestant – each is influenced in religion in the way that they were raised.
  • Protestants believe in pre-destination – that it is already decided whether you go to heaven or hell before you’re even born and you can’t influence that through good works.
  • Good works leading to heaven is a Catholic doctrine.
  • Jane Grey relies on her faith and it ultimately helps her to die, but she wouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place if she wasn’t staunchly Protestant.
  • Edward VI settles the succession on Jane Grey because she is Protestant, rather than his Catholic half-sister Mary I.

Continue reading “Discussion Questions – ‘The Last Tudor’ by Philippa Gregory”

Documentary Notes – ‘Henry VIII and his Six Wives’ with Suzannah Lipscomb & Dan Jones – Episode 2, Anne Boleyn


Anne Boleyn Hever Castle Portrait
Anne Boleyn Hever Castle Portrait

Anne Boleyn was the most notorious mistress in English history

Intelligent, sophisticated, ambitious

Captivated Henry VIII

Together Henry and Anne destroyed Katherine of Aragon

Anne became too confident and paid for the crown with her life

1529 Henry VIII in love with Anne for 3 years

Was lady in waiting to Katherine of Aragon – tired of being mistress

Anne promised Henry a living son – the one thing Katherine had failed to give him – but she wouldn’t sleep with Henry until he left his wife

Katherine refused to step aside – loyal wife for 2 decades

Katherine wouldn’t give up Henry without a fight – Katherine asked Henry to allow marriage to be judged in public court

Katherine had chance to save marriage and crown

Katherine had been preparing for this her whole life – not to be crushed by any man

All or nothing

21 June 1529 great hall at Blackfriars priory – struggle made public

Henry and Katherine faced each other in the divorce court in front of public audience

Continue reading “Documentary Notes – ‘Henry VIII and his Six Wives’ with Suzannah Lipscomb & Dan Jones – Episode 2, Anne Boleyn”

On This Day in History – 19 May – Execution of Anne Boleyn


White Tower at the Tower of London
White Tower at the Tower of London

Event– Execution of Anne Boleyn

Year– 1536

Location– Tower of London (England)

Anne Boleyn was arrested on 2 May 1536 and sent to the Tower of London, accused of adultery, incest and treason. She was tried and found guilty of all charges against her on 15 May 1536 with the sentence pronounced as burning or beheading at the king’s pleasure.

Anne’s so-called lovers were executed on 17 May – Mark Smeaton, Henry Norris, William Brereton, Francis Weston and her brother, George Boleyn. All had been found guilty of adultery with Anne. Richard Page and Thomas Wyatt were arrested but never charged with anything. They were released after the executions.

It is generally accepted that Anne Boleyn wasn’t guilty of the charges against her. Perhaps she had been a little reckless in her speech, and a little too flirtatious, but that doesn’t automatically convert to adultery. From what I have read, the only historian who thinks it possible that Anne was in fact guilty was G.W. Bernard, though I personally don’t buy his arguments.

Anne was beheaded on Tower Green within the Tower of London on 19 May 1536 by the swordsman of Calais, rather than the more cumbersome English axe, and was buried in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula within the Tower grounds. There is a memorial slab commemorating her place of burial there today.

Further Reading

  • Paul Friedmann, Anne Boleyn (1884)
  • Eric Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn (1986)
  • Retha Warnicke, The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn (1989)
  • Alison Weir, The Lady in the Tower: the Fall of Anne Boleyn (2009)

On This Day in History – 2 May – Arrest of Anne Boleyn


Anne Boleyn Hever Castle Portrait
Anne Boleyn Hever Castle Portrait

Event– Arrest of Anne Boleyn

Year– 1536

Location– Greenwich Palace & Tower of London (England)

Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn attended the May Day jousts at Greenwich on 1 May 1536. Henry left suddenly without warning and without saying goodbye to Anne. They wouldn’t see each other again.

Anne was with her ladies in her apartments at Greenwich on 2 May 1536 when a delegation from the Privy Council arrived to question her, and then escort her to the Tower of London under arrest. Mark Smeaton, a court musician, had already been arrested and taken to the Tower the day before and had confessed to adultery with Anne, possibly under torture. Henry Norris, Groom of the Stool, arrived at the Tower that morning, and Anne’s brother, George, followed her there just a few hours later.

She was accused of adultery with 5 men, incest with her brother, and plotting the king’s death. She would be condemned to death and executed.

There have been several suggestions as to what led to Anne’s arrest – was it her miscarriage in January 1536? Was it Henry VIII’s newfound love for Jane Seymour? Was it a conspiracy by Thomas Cromwell endorsed by Henry? Was it Anne’s own reckless behaviour?

Further Reading

  • Paul Friedmann, Anne Boleyn (1884)
  • Eric Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn (1986)
  • Retha Warnicke, The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn (1989)
  • Alison Weir, The Lady in the Tower: the Fall of Anne Boleyn (2009)

On This Day in History – 20 March – Execution of Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour of Sudeley


Thomas Seymour at the Royal Armouries at the Tower of London.
Thomas Seymour at the Royal Armouries at the Tower of London.

Event- Execution of Thomas Seymour

Year- 1549

Location- Tower Hill, London

Thomas Seymour was executed on Tower Hill in London for high treason on 33 different counts. He was already being watched as he was considered untrustworthy and was openly envious of his brother, the Protector Somerset.

In January 1549 it was alleged that Seymour intended to kidnap his nephew, the young king Edward VI. On 16 January 1549 Seymour broke into the king’s apartments at Hampton Court and shot the king’s spaniel after it barked at him. It has also been suggested that Seymour wrote letters to Princesses Mary and Elizabeth encouraging them to rise up against his brother, the Protector.

The warrant was delayed in its signing, as both Protector Somerset (Seymour’s brother) and King Edward VI (Seymour’s uncle) were reluctant to sign it. Many people couldn’t believe the cruelty of Somerset and the King in signing the death warrant of a man of their own blood.

Possibly the most famous line on Seymour’s death was that uttered by Princess Elizabeth (later Elizabeth I): “this day died a man of much wit and very little judgement”. This wasn’t an exaggeration as Seymour had a way with words from all sources, and wrote poetry, but he doesn’t seem to have understood government, which is possibly why Henry VIII didn’t include him in the regency council for his son.

Further Reading

  • John Maclean, The Life of Sir Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour of Sudeley (1869)
  • Linda Porter, Katherine the Queen: the Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr (2010)
  • Chris Skidmore, Edward VI: the Lost King of England (2007)
  • Alison Weir, Children of Henry VIII (1996)

Analysis of a Letter Supposedly from Anne Boleyn to Henry VIII from the Tower of London May 1536


“Sir, your Grace’s displeasure, and my Imprisonment are Things so strange unto me, as what to Write, or what to Excuse, I am altogether ignorant; whereas you sent unto me (willing me to confess a Truth, and so obtain your Favour) by such a one, whom you know to be my ancient and professed Enemy; I no sooner received the Message by him, than I rightly conceived your Meaning; and if, as you say, confessing Truth indeed may procure my safety, I shall with all Willingness and Duty perform your Command.

But let not your Grace ever imagine that your poor Wife will ever be brought to acknowledge a Fault, where not so much as Thought thereof proceeded. And to speak a truth, never Prince had Wife more Loyal in all Duty, and in all true Affection, than you have found in Anne Boleyn, with which Name and Place could willingly have contented my self, as if God, and your Grace’s Pleasure had been so pleased. Neither did I at any time so far forge my self in my Exaltation, or received Queenship, but that I always looked for such an Alteration as now I find; for the ground of my preferment being on no surer Foundation than your Grace’s Fancy, the least Alteration, I knew, was fit and sufficient to draw that Fancy to some other subject.

Continue reading “Analysis of a Letter Supposedly from Anne Boleyn to Henry VIII from the Tower of London May 1536”