The death of Anne’s father Thomas Boleyn


On 12th March 1539, just under three years after the executions of two of his children, Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire died at Hever Castle, the Boleyn family home. He was in his sixties.

Thomas’s servant, Robert Cranwell, wrote to Thomas Cromwell on 13th March to give him the news:

“My good lord and master is dead. He made the end of a good Christian man.”

Thomas was laid to rest in a tomb in the local church, St Peter’s Church, Hever. His tomb still survives today and is topped with a beautiful memorial brass showing Thomas dressed in the full robes and insignia of a Knight of the Garter, including the badge on his left breast and garter around his left knee.


His head is depicted resting on a helmet surmounted by his daughter’s falcon badge and his feet rest on a griffin. The inscription on his tomb reads:

“Here lieth Sir Thomas Bullen, Knight of the Order of the Garter, Erle of Wilscher and Erle or Ormunde, which decessed the 12th dai of Marche in the iere of our Lorde 1538.”

Notice that his date of death is given as 1538 because the Tudor new year started on 25th March, Lady Day, and not 1st January.

Drawing of Thomas’ memorial brass:

Thomas Boleyn Brass Sketch

In April 1539, Henry VIII paid 16l. 13s. 4d. to his chaplain, William Franklyn, Dean of Windsor, “for certain oraisons, suffrages and masses to be said for the soul’s health of th’erle of Wilts, late deceased”, which is evidence that Thomas was back in favour at his death.

If you visit Hever Castle then do make sure that you also visit St Peter’s Church, which is situated on the green just outside the main castle entrance. There, you can see Thomas’s beautiful brass memorial, a 15th century brass for Margaret Cheyne, a simple brass cross memorial to Henry Boleyn, infant brother of Anne Boleyn, a painting by Tintoretto, a Tudor fireplace, and a stained glass window depicting the arms of the Boleyns (the three bulls).

(Source: fourthcoming)

(Source: fourthcoming)


It looks like there is still the possibility of George having children after all……how strange. 

Jane and Anne: Bitter rivals, or loving sisters?


Much has been made over the years of Anne Boleyn’s relationship with her sister-in-law the Lady Rochford, and a variety of depictions have been put forth in books both fictional and scholarly. Most people have agreed that Anne and Jane didn’t get along, mostly due to Jane’s reputation for helping to bring about Anne and George’s downfall. But even in this agreement there are many versions of how deep the dislike went and why they disliked one another.

One of the older theories is that Jane was jealous of her glamorous sister-in-law who hogged all of her husband’s attention. However this theory is slowly being fazed out and replaced with others, such as the theory that Jane was catholic, or that she was a supporter of Catherine of Aragon and Mary.

Lately, I’ve noticed, many historians and writers are starting to change their tune completely when it comes to the relationship between Anne and her sister-in-law. They are starting to argue that Jane and Anne may have gotten along fine, may have even been close. Katherine Longshore, in her book Tarnish, which focuses on the early life of Anne, before she caught Henry’s eye, has Jane befriending Anne, first in hopes that doing so would get George to notice her, but then because she genuinely likes her. The two soon become very close, sharing secrets, assisting one another, and in one scene, Jane even helps Anne fight off an unwanted suitor. By the end of the book however the relationship suffers from several realizations and the book closes with Anne admitting that she and Jane will never be as close as they once were, but neither seems bitter of one another. And in the book “Gilt” which is the story of Katherine Howard (also written by Katherine Longshore) Jane describes her relationship with Anne as:

"People say I hated her. That I was jealous. But she was my friend. For a while. And the Boleyns? They always stuck together. Except for one." 

she also reveals that Anne had given her one of her signature “B” necklaces, and she seems to keep it hidden in her sleeves, always in her possession. 

Katherine Longshore isn’t the only one to bring up the idea that Jane and Anne got along of course, Jane’s biographer Julia Fox also argues that the evidence shows that Jane was in favor with Anne. While even HBO’s The Tudors, has Anne and Jane more or less getting along, and that Jane turned on them more because of her frustration with George than any kind hatred toward Anne. 

The reason that people seem to have so many different ideas about these two is because the very evidence itself is so contradicting. 

We don’t know how long the two knew each other, though certainly by 1522, when they both (along with Mary) participated in Chateau Vert. It’s very plausible however, that they two knew each other before hand. Jane married into the Boleyn family sometime in 1525 or 1526, either just as Henry’s eye was drifting toward Anne (as David Starkey suggests) or right before this time (as Eric Ives suggests). Like with just about everything regarding Jane, the records are silent with regards to Jane and Anne’s relationship during most of Henry’s courtship. The only exception being that along with her husband George, Jane traveled to Calais to attend Anne while Henry went onward to meet Francis. Jane is also recorded, along with Anne’s sister Mary, to be a part of a masque Anne put on to impress Francis. 

On Anne’s parade into and through London, Jane was listed as being seated with the highest ranking Duchesses of the Realm, far above what her rank of Viscountess entitled her, directly behind the Queen. Both Mary and Anne’s mother Elizabeth were not afforded the same honor which might point to Anne holding Jane in higher esteem, or perhaps it was a case of “keep your friends close and your enemies closer?” also a note of interest is that Jane’s brother Henry Parker was chosen to be made a knight of the bath the night before Anne’s coronation, this too could have been a sign of Anne’s favor, or it could have just been because the Parkers were still an influential family with Henry at the time. 

Jane, as Anne’s lady in waiting, was with her during her laying in and the birth of the future Elizabeth I. She’s not recorded as being at Elizabeth’s baptism, but probably because she was still attending Anne with the other ladies. 

Jane is also mentioned by Chaupys as teaming up with Anne to try to get rid of a rival for Henry’s affections. The two’s plan is foiled by this “clever maiden” and it backfires on them, with Jane getting banished from court instead. This could have led to a souring in the relationship the two may have had, it probably did dissuade Jane from helping Anne in any more of her “schemes”!  

When Mary was made to serve in Elizabeth’s household, two ambassadors say that a bunch of the city’s women ran forward cheering for Mary and reassuring her that she was the rightful princess. The highest ranking of these women were apparently arrested.  In the margin’s of one of these reports, the names Lord Rochford and Lord William Howard are scribbled leading many to believe that Jane Rochford and her aunt, the wife of William Howard, were among those gathered, which would speak to Jane being openly hostile toward Anne at this point. However there are no records of Jane or her aunt, wives of some extremely important lords, being arrested, and no one else seems to mention it either. Edmond Bapst, George’s biographer, suggests that the scribbles on the margins might have meant that George and William were the men to tell this ambassador this bit of information. And that would mean that Jane and her aunt both had nothing to do with the whole ordeal. 

Lastly we come to Anne’s trial and Jane’s role in it. This has been discussed many times by many historians and I do not wish to rehash the arguments, I leave it up to the reader to decide if Jane is guilty of all that is laid against her. However it is certain that, as the trial transcripts show, Jane did share one bit of information with Cromwell. Anne had confided to her that the King was unable to please a woman. This might be the most telling bit of information we have into the relationship between these sister-in-laws. Anne, most agree, was extremely smart. It’s hard to believe that such an intelligent woman would let such a damming piece of information slip to a woman she detested, or at least that she didn’t trust. So what does that show about what she thought of Jane? Probably that Jane had so far shown herself to be trustworthy. 

I gather that until Jane’s secret diary, or something like it, pops up, we’ll never really know what Jane and Anne’s relationship was or what they thought of each other. Perhaps they hated one another, perhaps Jane was jealous of Anne as some suggest. Maybe she was hostile to Anne’s reformist sympathies. Or perhaps they started out friends but suffered from Anne’s rise to power.

or maybe they were friends all throughout Anne’s adult life….

Just something to think about. 

George Boleyn’s First Embassy to France


Since it’s been a while since I’ve typed up anything remotely intelligent, I decided it was high time that I wrote up another long (ish) post about someone that I feel just as strongly about as I do Jane….and that is obviously her husband George. We have already well established that I think George has been handled in a way almost as cruel as Jane.

 George’s political impact is 9 times out of 10 downplayed in both fictional and nonfictional explanations of him and his role in Anne’s life. SO just to give people a better idea (ish) of exactly what George was actually doing, I’ve decided to outline, albeit briefly, his first major political feat. 

Though George’s birth date is as debated as his sister’s (as well as the question of was he older or younger than Anne), Many people agree, including George’s biographer Edmond Bapst and Claire Cherry of The Anne Boleyn Files, that he was probably a) the youngest of the three Boleyns and b) born around 1504/1505 to allow for the births of his other two brothers. If this is true, then that would place George in his mid twenties, twenty-five or twenty-six when he made his first debut into the world of international politics. This, even back then, was unbelievably young, so much so that many of the men in the French court laughed at George, and had a hard time taking him seriously. How George even got the position of “Ambassador” is somewhat debated. Bapst argues that George got the position solely because Anne wanted to take the opportunity to “show George off” to the French, and Claire Cherry, who is a more modern George historian, seems to agree that Anne’s influence had a lot to do with his selection. He was given a more experienced man to travel and work with, John Stokesley. Edmund states that Stokesley:

"…was only the subordinate plenipotentiary; but in the King’s mind, it was he alone who would work toward the mission’s accomplishment, in particular, it was he who was instructed to negotiate with the French universities, and even though Boleyn had full powers to deal with Francis I on the subject of the divorce, it was was understood that he would only act in concert with his colleague and would always defer to his opinion." 

So he seems to think that while George was the front man, it was Stokesley who would be doing the real work. This of course doesn’t mean that Henry didn’t have faith in George’s abilities as Bapst implies, but perhaps more that he was given a man to help ease him into his role, and be a guiding force for him. Because as we will see: George wasn’t at all unfit for the job he was handed.

The two men’s main goal in this embassy was to convince the universities of France, and to receive the backing of Francis, that Henry’s first marriage to Catherine of Aragon was null and invalid, so that he could be free to marry Anne, his mistress. George and Stokesley were sent off towards the beginning of October in great pomp and with an extravagant train to Paris. Here Stokesley immediately took up with the universities, presenting his case and trying to win the signatures of those gathered in Henry’s favor while George was shown to Francis who seemed to have taken to George quite well. It didn’t take long for George to get Francis to declare that he would do all he could to help Henry reach his goal as quickly as possible. And, to show that this wasn’t just flattering words, he did send an order to the Grand Master to immediately begin a campaign in Henry’s favor, helping Stokesley and the other English agents to win over the Universite de Paris. However Francis also knew that he needed to at least appear neutral for the Pope and for the Emperor, so he went to great lengths to conceal all the evidence of the Sorbonne, and so every piece of evidence relating to these intrigues were destroyed, and we only know of them because of Chapuys and Du Bellay’s vague references in their letters and dispatches. 

At first things looked favorable for our little duo. Both Boleyn and Stokesley felt confident enough to write to Henry to assure him that they felt a favorable ruling would be given very quickly. In the end though, this would become a lesson in “look before you leap” because they had left one VERY important person out of their equation: Catherine of Aragon. 

The queen of course wasn’t sitting by twiddling her thumbs and praying the entire time, she was out campaigning for her own cause, and she had agents of her own. She sent a Spanish theologian, Pierre Garray to France where he quickly met up with Noel Beda and together they moved forward to counteract all George and Stokesley had accomplished. Beda had already written a ruling of his own, asserting that the Pope had had every right to allow the marriage of Henry and Catherine, and he already had it signed by several of his friends among the faculty. He then gave it to Garray, who managed, by showing it around, in a short time, to add a large amount of signatures as well. 

So phase one was quickly nosediving into a failure. Henry was extremely annoyed, not mention not pleased with his two ambassadors. It was here that George finally showed off his true potential: Francis had just left Paris and was traveling around the east of his kingdom, so George decided that he was going to find Francis and ask him to give a precise order that the doctors of the Sorbonne retract their statements and emit a new one, this one favorable to Henry’s desires. We don’t know what was said at this meeting, and we don’t know what tactic George used, but what we do know, is that George Boleyn, the man that everyone had laughed at for his youth, came out victorious. Not only did Francis agree to help George and the English agents, George also managed to extract a promise that if Beda persisted in “building obstacles” (Bapst’ words) then Francis would boot him out of France. Not bad for a newbie huh? 

After getting the desired promises out of Francis, George promptly returned to Paris, just in time to meet his father who was traveling across France to get to a meeting in Italy to represent Henry for the Pope and the Emperor. 

It seems after his great, stunning success with Francis, George had little success at all with the doctors of the University. Bapst argues it was because he wasn’t very well versed in “cannon law”, however another theory could be because the doctors still refused to take such a youngster seriously. George himself reported later that the men wouldn’t talk much to him. He soon grew homesick and weary and applied to be replaced. His request was granted and George was back in England before the 5th of April, while John Wellisourne was sent to continue the work George had started. 

"Why [Jane Boleyn] became involved with Katherine [Howard] is impossible to determine, but [Retha] Warnicke suggests - and it is possible - that Culpeper blackmailed her into allowing him to meet with Katherine…Certainly it makes no sense why she would have initiated the meetings on her own, and there is no evidence to suggest that Katherine instigated the whole thing. But whatever the case, Lady Rochford was to pay dearly for her indiscretions…"

C.Bryne is listed as the source for this quote, but I don’t know who that is. 

But whoever that is, I’m interested in how they view Jane’s involvement with the downfall of Anne and George……

(via fourthcoming)