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Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous…

Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford (2007)

by Julia Fox

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Having been long interested in the British monarchy, and having been engrossed in the Tudor dynasty for over a decade, I was fairly excited about this biography. Much has been written about Henry's wives, and much speculation placed on Jane Rochford's character: was she really awful? Had she ever had any semblance of a normal relationship with her husband and his sisters, Anne or Mary? Was she truly driven by jealousy when she gave evidence against Anne and her brother, claiming they'd been lovers? Was she just the scorned wife of another playboy, or was her husband's sexual orientation the cause of her bitterness? Did she really think Anne and George were too close for siblings? Had she maliciously encouraged the foolish and gullible Kitty Howard into an affair of her own volition?
These were all things I, and I'm certain many others, have wondered about the "infamous" Lady Rochford.

If you are hoping for some straight answers, I'm afraid you won't find them here.

But if, like me, you are intrigued by the volatile marriages that occurred around her, and have finally grown somewhat tired of religiously reading each new adaptation or revised biography & novel about the usual suspects, you might want to pick up the book. It's one best suited for people who collect or devour the period and it's people, and while it might not be mind-blowing, I still wanted a copy of it for my own shelves.

This particular era had very little use for women~ and even less for those not playing a starring role in the court. Little is known about most of Henry's queen's own lives, prior to their marriages or preceding entrance into court life; so its not all that surprising that almost nothing is known about Jane Rochford before she entered court at a Lady in Waiting. In fact, we cannot even be certain at which juncture of her life that began~ it's been surmised she was present for Catherine of Aragon's reign, and certainly we know she was present for Anne Boleyn's and Anne of Cleves, and Kitty Howards, but some speculate she might have been there even during Jane Seymour's, which would really break the outline of Julia Fox's theory that by the time the Duke of Norfolk found her pitiably living in destitution, she was so desperate to return to the good life that she eagerly signed on for another round of conniving, Boleyn style, against Kitty Howard.

What Fox does do is draw from quite a few reliable records and sources; giving us an adequate and conceivable rendering of who and what Jane might have been, and what eventually drove her to first send her own husband and sister in law to the tower, as well as why she would be willing to help Kitty commit adultery.

The real question i suppose, is not whether Jane really did it or not, but rather, why~ was she just that angry & spiteful, or was she just another pawn in the Duke of Norfolk's minions that had no choice but to go along with the tide, whichever way it rolled, lest she be pulled under.

The book is certainly not a thinker~ but I commend J Fox for what was probably an immense amount of dreadfully dull research into records of purchases, travels, events, and the like. I suspect some of the other reviewers were disappointed because they were expecting a biography with Eric Ives capabilities; with so little information known though, that wait will likely be eternal. Bearing that in mind, this was a valiant effort on Fox's part, just to confirm and deduct what she did from those limited sources. Without anything to really focus on directly about Lady Rochford, Fox digs deep into the lives of those around her, and cross references these records in order to capitalize on what meager information there is to help give us a better idea of Jane's life.

Though at times it can get redundant (what jewels and what fabrics were purchased on what dates gets a little dull), she does give us an interesting theory on what Jane's life was like after the death of George, her husband, as the widow of a traitor, a member of a scandalized family, and one of the Judases who tried to distance themselves from them to save themself. Realizing she likely had a difficult few years between Anne's demise and her return to court for Anne of Cleves, one can at least develop some semblance of sympathy and understanding as to why she'd have obeyed the Duke of Norfolk's command to facilitate an affair between Kitty and another. Henry's prowess was in question long before his marriage to kitty, and by the time he married her, his own health combined with his age and weight were working together to make it even less probable he'd impregnate Kitty~ and so the theory goes that the Duke of Norfolk; realizing Henry's son was often sickly, decided that the best way to usurp the Seymours was to help kitty conceive~ by whomever~ before Henry's abilities completely were negated, so they could pass off the child as his.

I'm not entirely certain how I feel about this strange woman who seemed to bring nothing but misfortune to those around her~ but this book at least forced me to regard her with a new perspective, somewhat more forgiving than my prior one.

The book also has some photographs and sketches; a few that are debated to be of her; regardless, there were some less common ones in there I found well worth the cost of the book.

I feel a little ambivalent about the book, overall. There is a part of me that is hungry for more about this woman, and under that hat, I am dissapointed with this book- but the other hat tells me that the odds a better, or more informative one will ever be written is highly unlikely. So it goes with women who didn't warrant chronicling for anything other than scandal- which is why I'll still take the book, even with it's faults. ( )
  SparrowByTheRailStar | Oct 21, 2013 |
I had high expectations of this book but I was really disappointed. After first 2 pages I was wondering if this is fiction or non-fiction. It portrayed Jane's and George's marriage as happy and that Jane and Anne were close friends. And that Boleyn family loved Jane more than Mary.
And according to the book, Katherine Howard's motto was "No Other Wish Than His" than "No Other Will Than His" ( )
  Elysianfield | Mar 30, 2013 |
Even though I have read many books about Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and her mother, I did not read much that focused solely on the "infamous" Jane Boleyn. This book does just that and for that, I think this is worth the read. It gives a completely different view of Jane. I fell into the trap of disliking her, seeing her as a traitor. This book makes her more human, sheds a more sympathetic light on her. She was just trying to survive and maintain a lifestyle she had become accustom to. Her problem was she kept being dragged into the drama that was the Tudor court.

I definitely enjoyed this book and it provided a new angle on Henry VIII and Jane Boleyn. ( )
  Angelic55blonde | Apr 4, 2012 |
This attractively written book tells the story of Jane Boleyn, the wife of Queen Anne Boleyn's brother George. Not a great deal is known about her life other than her involvement in the fall of her brother and sister in law, and her own demise together with that of Queen Catherine Howard six years later, but a fair amount can be divined from property transactions and other documentation. The thrust of the author's argument is that Jane cannot have betrayed her husband and Anne as is traditionally thought as this would have been economic suicide for a woman in her position (she did suffer comparative poverty after their executions until she was able to persuade her father in law Thomas Boleyn to provide for her more liberally). I can see the author's point, but am not sure that I am really persuaded that she has been quite as grossly maligned as the author believes; I suspect that Jane was caught up in events that spiralled beyond the control of a woman who seems to have been seduced by the glitz and glamour of court life and unwilling to relinquish being at the centre of events - so naive rather than malign perhaps, though having been at the heart of events for some years, she arguably should have known better. She was fortunate to have restored her position as a lady of the bedchamber to Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves and finally, fatally, to Catherine Howard. Again, she got caught up in the latter's affair with Thomas Culpepper, and this time there was no escape; by the standards of the time, she was justly condemned for abetting the Queen's treasonous affair. A Tudor tragedy, to be sure, but not, in my view, on a par with that of Anne and George and many others wrongly brought down by King Henry VIII. ( )
  john257hopper | Mar 23, 2012 |
The only difference between this book and a book about Henry VIII's wives is that Julia Fox adds that "Jane might have been there" or "Jane was almost certainly there." And her argument that Jane Boleyn was a "courageous spirit" was not convincing to me. I gave it 2 1/2 stars because it was did use contemporary sources (primarily Ambassador Chapuys) and did seem pretty well researched, despite a few mistakes. But if you've read on the Tudors before, you probably wont learn anything new. ( )
  mallinje | Aug 8, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345485416, Hardcover)

In a life of extraordinary drama, Jane Boleyn was catapulted from relative obscurity to the inner circle of King Henry VIII. As powerful men and women around her became victims of Henry’s ruthless and absolute power, including her own husband and sister-in-law, Queen Anne Boleyn, Jane’s allegiance to the volatile monarchy was sustained and rewarded. But the price for her loyalty would eventually be her undoing and the ruination of her name. For centuries, little beyond rumor and scandal has been associated with “the infamous Lady Rochford.” But now historian Julia Fox sets the record straight and restores dignity to this much-maligned figure whose life and reputation were taken from her.

Born to aristocratic parents in the English countryside, young Jane Parker found a suitable match in George Boleyn, brother to Anne, the woman who would eventually be the touchstone of England’s greatest political and religious crisis. Once settled in the bustling, spectacular court of Henry VIII as the wife of a nobleman, Jane was privy to the regal festivities of masques and jousts, royal births and funerals, and she played an intimate part in the drama and gossip that swirled around the king’s court.

But it was Anne Boleyn’s descent from palace to prison that first thrust Jane into the spotlight. Impatient with Anne’s inability to produce a male heir, King Henry accused the queen of treason and adultery with a multitude of men, including her own brother, George. Jane was among those interrogated in the scandal, and following two swift strokes from the executioner’s blade, she lost her husband and her sister-in-law, her inheritance and her place in court society.

Now the thirty-year-old widow of a traitor, Jane had to ensure her survival and protect her own interests by securing land and income. With sheer determination, she navigated her way back into royal favor by becoming lady-in-waiting to Henry’s three subsequent brides, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, and Catherine Howard. At last Jane’s future seemed secure–until an unwitting misstep involving the sexual intrigues of young Queen Catherine destroyed the life and reputation Jane worked so hard to rebuild.

Drawing upon her own deep knowledge and years of original research, Julia Fox brings us into the inner sanctum of court life, laced with intrigue and encumbered by disgrace. Through the eyes and ears of Jane Boleyn, we witness the myriad players of the stormy Tudor period. Jane emerges as a courageous spirit, a modern woman forced by circumstances to fend for herself in a privileged but vicious world.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:11 -0400)

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Exposes the inner sanctum of court life during the reign of Henry VIII through the eyes and ears of Jane Boleyn, wife of George Boleyn and sister-in-law to Queen Anne Boleyn. Jane emerges as a courageous spirit, a modern woman forced by circumstances to fend for herself in a privileged but vicious world.--From source other than Library of Congress.… (more)

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