The “madness” of Jane Boleyn


While waiting in the tower for her fate to be decided it seems that Jane Boleyn suffered from some kind breakdown, one that Chapuys would label as “madness”. Unlike with her sister-in-laws breakdowns, there is no written records of Jane’s episodes so we do not know exactly what she was doing. We do know that it must have caused some alarm and concern for she was released from the tower and placed in the care of Lord Russell’s wife Anne and Henry had his own doctors sent to treat her. According to Chapuys this bout of “madness” ended upon being told she was going to die, suggesting that the breakdowns were not caused by a fear of death or the ax, but perhaps of just not knowing what was to become of her. Both the French ambassador and Johnson, an eye witness to the executions of both Jane and Katherine, suggest that Jane had her wits about her when she went to the block, she was apparently able to make a long and impressive speech. 

Many people, historians and fiction writers alike (Emily Purdy being a prime example here) have often times stretched this “madness” out of proportion, arguing that Jane had always been insane/mentally unstable. They used this as an explanation of her “voyeuristic” tendencies, why she got such a kick out of spying through peepholes, and would later betray four out of the five queens she served. Others have said that this was Jane’s last ditch effort to stay alive, for she would have known an insane person could not be executed. But there is no evidence to support such a claim. More likely than not Julia Fox got it right when she wrote.

In view of the trauma that she had suffered when the king had struck at Anne and George, finding herself in the firing line again, and this time at the epicenter, not the periphery, her breakdown is quite understandable.

This is was no mad woman losing the last little bit of sanity she had left, or a woman desperately trying to escape the block, this was a woman who had seen this all happen before and feared she knew how it was going to end….. 

Anonymous said: What did he do for the reformation ?


A good deal more than he is usually accredited for. 

I wouldn’t go so far as to say he was a catalyst for the English Reformation, or that his impact was invaluable. But he did believe and promote Reformist views. Excessively. 

We have from Chapuys himself that George couldn’t help but enter into religious debates with Catholics constantly. We know he financially supported Evangelicals and Reformers. He encouraged Anne to show reformist pamphlets to the King. He smuggled illegal books from France and translated them for Anne (an extremely risky thing to do). He was heavily involved in the Reformation Parliament from 1530 until his death, he had the best attendance record of any lord during 1534. He was also involved with the Schmalkadic League (which was admittedly as political as it was religious). He supported both Cromwell and Cranmer (though he seems to have been more involved with the former than the later) 

Lastly at his scaffold speech we have him stating that 

"I was a great reader and a mighty debater of the Word of God, and one of those who most favored the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Wherefore, lest the Word of God should be slandered on my account, I now tell you all Sirs, that if I had, in very deed, kept his holy Word, even as I read and reasoned about with all the strength of my wit, certain am I that I should not be in the piteous condition wherein I now stand."  

and later  he calls himself a “setter forth of the word of God”, which George’s contemporary biographer Claire Cherry suggests that George may have done even more than we are aware of, that perhaps some of his works, like his poetry, has been destroyed or accredited to someone else. 

George was a deeply religious man. He cared  alot about the Reformation and seeing it take root and thrive in England. Just like many aspects of George’s life his love and zeal for and what he did to promote the Reformation is overlooked in favor of his sexuality or whether or not he was abusive or snobbish or a drunk party-er. 

Tudor Research Masterlist


Whether you are writing a paper, a book or are just interested in learning more about the Tudor Dynasty and Period (1485-1603), here are some books and online resources I have collected. 

It will be expanded upon as I discover more, if you have something you want to add, feel free!


Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne- David Starkey 

The Reign of Henry VIII- David Starkey 

Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII- David Starkey 

The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn-Eric Ives 

Henry VIII: Very Interesting People Series- Eric Ives

Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery-Eric Ives 

Henry VIII, the King and His Court- Alison Weir 

The Children of Henry VIII- Alison Weir 

The Life of Elizabeth I-Alison Weir 

Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley-Alison Weir 

The Six Wives of Henry VIII- Alison Weir

The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn-Alison Weir 

Elizabeth of York: The First Tudor Queen/Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World- Alison Weir 

Mary Boleyn: ‘The Great and Infamous Whore’- Alison Weir 

The Six Wives of Henry VIII-Antonia Fraser 

Mary, Queen of Scots-Antonia Fraser 

Rethinking Catholicism in Reformation England-Lucy Wooding 

Tudor England, A Very Short Introduction-John Guy 

My Heart is My Own: The Life of Mary, Queen of Scots-John Guy 

A Daughter’s Love: Thomas and Margaret More- John Guy 

Parliament and the Crown in the Reign of Mary Tudor- Jennifer Loach 

Edward VI-Jennifer Loach, George Bernard, Penry Williams
Protector Somerset- Jennifer Loach 
Jane Boleyn: the True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford-Julia Fox 
Sister Queens: The Noble Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana Queen of Castile-Julia Fox 
Divorced, Beheaded, Survived: A Feminist Reinterpretation of the Wives of Henry VIII-Karen Lindsay 
The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Court Politics at the Court of Henry VIII- Retha Warnicke 
The Marrying of Anne of Cleves: Royal Protocol in Early Modern England-Retha Warnicke 
The Six Wives of Henry VIII-David Loades 
England Under the Tudors- Sir Geoffrey Elton 
The Tudor Revolution in Government-Sir Geoffrey Elton 
Reform and Reformation: England 1509-1558-Sir Geoffrey Elton 
The Reformation: A History-Diarmaid MacCulloch
Thomas Cranmer, A Life- Diarmaid MacCulloch 
The Boy King: Edward VI and the Protestant Reformation-Diarmaid MacCulloch 
The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, c.1400 to c.1580-Eamon Duffy 
Fires of Faith: Catholic England Under Mary Tudor-Eamon Duffy 
Young Henry: the rise of Henry VIII-Robert Hutchinson
Elizabeth’s Spy Master: Francis Walsingham and the Secret War that saved England-Robert Hutchinson 
Thomas Cromwell: The Rise and Fall of Henry VIII’s most Notorious Minister-Robert Hutchinson 
Anne Boleyn: A New Life of England’s Tragic Queen- Joanna Denny 
Katherine Howard: A Tudor Conspiracy-Joanna Denny 
The Pilgrimage of Grace, 1536-7: The Rebellion That Shook King Henry’s Throne-Geoffrey Moorehouse 
George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier & Diplomat-Claire Cherry and Claire Ridgeway
Two Gentlemen Poets At The Court Of Henry VIII:George Boleyn and Henry Howard-Edmond Bapst 
Inside The Wardrobe of Anne Boleyn- Barbara Parker Bell
The Mistresses of Henry VIII-Kelly Hart 
The Tudor Rose: Princess Mary, Henry VIII’s Sister by Jennifer Kewley Draskau
Worship and Theology in England: From Canmer to Baxter and Fox, 1534-1690-Horton Davies
Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen: Anna Whitelock 
Bosworth: The Birth of the Tudors: Chris Skidmore 
The Queen’s Agent- John Cooper 
Winter King-The Dawn of Tudor England-Thomas Penn
Anne Boleyn: In Her Own Words and Those Who Knew Her-Elizabeth Norton 
Websites/Online Resources 

(Source: maree-swan)


An article defending Thomas Boleyn, in honour of Father’s Day.

(via sallybethdraperss)

Jane’s Message of Comfort in the Tower


On May 5th 1536, a mere three days after his arrest at Whitehall, while sitting in his cell in the tower, wondering what his fate was to be, George was to receive via a gentleman usher, a small message of comfort sent to him by his wife Jane, asking after his well-being and promising to petition the king on his behalf. A promise for which he was grateful and wanted to give her thanks. 

For years and years this message has gone overlooked by historians, or explained away with a simple “she was playing it safe” kind of statement. But Jane’s message of comfort has a good deal of other implications, one of being that Jane at this point was still nailing her colors to the Boleyn flag, that such an explanation can’t satisfy. 

The message, in it’s entirety is lost to us. The document in which Kingston recorded it was largely destroyed in a fire, and only the jist of the message remains. It reads: 

"M. Caro [equerry to Henry VIII] and Master Bryan commanded hym [a gentleman usher] in the kyngs name to my Lord of Rotchfort from my lady hys wyf; she wold humbly sut unto the kyngs hynes for hyr husband; and so he gave hyr thanks." 

Whether she actually succeeded in making such a petition is unknown and highly unlikely. We have no record that Jane was allowed to speak to the king. But it should be remembered that records from this time are incomplete, a good deal of them burned, and we can’t be sure that she didn’t. After all she’d gotten a message through to her husband. That was be a feat by itself. Perhaps she managed this one as well. 

Bapst, one of George’s biographers certainly seems to think she did, for when he cites Jane’s message in his book he also notes that she “made a public display of sympathy” for George. He seems to be the only one of this opinion, and even Julia Fox admits it’s unlikely Jane did any such thing, and even if she did; it would have done nothing. George’s fate, alongside his sister and the other men, had already been decided. 

so instead of dwelling on whether or not she did as she promised, we should be asking ourselves why would Jane send this message? Was it a self serving political tactic? Was it a sign of support and sympathy? Was it somehow a reward for betraying her family? 

To get a better answer you have to look at what was happening around the time this message was given. Jane would have already given her testimony, although the said testimony is now lost to us, and it’s impossible to say all that Jane told Cromwell, other than what Anne had told her about Henry being unable to please a woman. Shortly after the rather sudden arrests of George and Anne (it’s possible Jane knew Anne’s arrest was coming, but there is nothing to suggest she was aware that George would be drug down as well and on the same day) Henry was having George AND Thomas’ stuff inventoried, including Jane’s own possessions, which, legally, belonged to her husband (we in fact have a list of some of Jane’s personal possessions which she kept in a chest above the kitchen in Rochford hall and included several sleeves, broken beads, sheathed knives and a couple of books). Losing George was frightening enough, but the thought of losing Thomas, whom Jane would depend upon should George pre-decease her. meant that Jane could have been facing utter destitution. 

Jane knew that everything about her identity and her future lay with George, and by extension, with the Boleyn family. No matter what her personal feelings towards her husband and his family may have been, she needed them alive and well. While the meaning behind her message may never be known for certain, I think Jane was more or less being honest and earnest, and not just trying to (as someone on the Anne Boleyn Files stated once) “lull him into a false sense of security”…..

Spring, 1536: The Conspiracy to Destroy Anne Boleyn



By spring of 1536, Henry VIII’s passion for Anne Boleyn had soured into hatred. The son he had expected had turned out to be another worthless daughter, and Anne had miscarried of a son in January. The quick mind and spirited personality that had attracted him to Anne in the first place were now starting to irritate him. He was experiencing problems in the bedroom, which - knowing Henry’s personality - he likely blamed on Anne. He wanted a placid, submissive wife now, and he had his eye on a woman who seemed to embody those very qualities: Jane Seymour.

But it had taken Henry seven long years to rid himself of his first wife, Katharine of Aragon. Anne was just as stalwart as Katharine, and well-versed in Scripture. She also had powerful and wealthy supporters in the religious reformist movement. Like Katharine, Anne deeply loved her daughter and would fight to her last breath to preserve Elizabeth’s rights to the throne. Henry was in no mood for a protracted legal battle and another inconvenient ex-wife causing him grief.


Divorce also left his future marriage to Jane questionable. There were people who never accepted his marriage to Anne while Katharine still lived. Princess Elizabeth was considered a bastard by conservative Catholics, born of a bigamous relationship. Henry didn’t want anyone to question the legitimacy of the heir he was certain he would father with Jane. There was only one conclusion …

Anne must die.

Thomas Cromwell later admitted he was the main architect of the plot against Anne. He had to have started working on it in April, 1536 - possibly earlier, but likely around then, because they needed to move fast in order to catch Anne and her supporters unaware.

Cromwell was a religious reformist himself, but he was the king’s man first. His primary duty was to get Henry whatever he wanted - to find a “legal” way to obtain his desired end, that is. And Cromwell was extraordinarily good at his job.


Anne and Cromwell had worked together in the past, but lately, tensions between them had increased. On the 1st of April, Cromwell told the Imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, that Anne would like to see Cromwell beheaded. Whether he was speaking with hyperbole to try to curry favor with Chapuys, or whether relations between Cromwell and Anne had really gotten so strained, is unknown.

imageOne of the main sticking points between them was that Anne wanted the funds from the dissolved monasteries to go toward founding schools. Cromwell and the king wanted it to go to the royal treasury. Guess who won that particular dispute? Anne also favored an alliance with the French, and German religious reformers; Cromwell was courting the Emperor and a renewed friendship with the Spanish.

Some scholars have put the entire conspiracy on Cromwell’s shoulders, making Henry an innocent dupe of the false accusations against the queen, but I doubt that highly. Henry’s own behavior illustrates plainly that he was in on the plot. (Contrast his behavior during Anne’s fall with how he reacted to the fall of Katheryn Howard for ample proof.) Henry said he wanted rid of his queen, and Cromwell supplied a way to make it happen.

imageAnne likely knew something was stirring. In January, Chapuys had written that the king had said he felt his marriage was invalid because he had been tricked into it by the promises of soothsayers (“sortileges”) that Anne Boleyn would bear him a son. In late April, Chapuys reported that the Bishop of London had been asked whether the king’s marriage to Anne might be found invalid. (The Bishop wisely responded he would only give his answer to the king himself, and only if he knew in advance what answer was wanted.) Henry was testing the waters.

Jane Seymour’s supporters also knew the queen’s days were numbered. Henry had already been speaking to her of their future marriage, even before Anne’s arrest. Chapuys writes at the end of April that Nicholas Carew was daily conspiring with Jane toward the queen’s ruin.

The Grand Esquire, Master Caro (Carew), was on St. George’s Day invested with the Order of the Garter, in the room of Mr. De Bourgain, who died some time ago. This has been a source of great disappointment and sorrow for lord Rochefort [George Boleyn], who wanted it for himself, and still more for the concubine, who has not had sufficient credit to get her own brother knighted. In fact, it will not be Carew’s fault if the aforesaid concubine, though a cousin of his, is not overthrown (desarçonee) one of these days, for I hear that he is daily conspiring against her, and trying to persuade Miss Seymour and her friends to accomplish her ruin. Indeed, only four days ago the said Carew and certain gentlemen of the Kings chamber sent word to the Princess to take courage, for very shortly her rival would be dismissed, the King being so tired of the said concubine that he could not bear her any longer.

Cromwell seems to have operated under the concept of “Go big, or go home.” The plot against Anne had to destroy her reputation utterly, and leave the king’s honor spotless. As a result, Anne could not be charged with mere adultery, because then people might laugh at the king for having a wife who prefered another man’s caresses to his own. No, she had to be a depraved monster of lust, whose carnal appetites were so all-consuming that she would seduce her own brother to satisfy them. That’s why so many men were accused with her, along with Mark Smeaton, whose inclusion was meant to show how truly depraved she was. She would even sleep with commoners!

Cromwell also seems to have used the case against the queen to solve some pesky problems he had on his desk. William Brereton, for example, was involved in a dispute over some land with one of the lords of the privy council. He was killing  all of his inconvenient birds with one stone.

Henry was kept aware of the progress of the plot. Chapuys reports that all-day council meetings ran late into the evening. Anne was also getting very nervous. On the 26th of April, she met with her chaplain, Matthew Parker, and made a special request of him. She asked him to watch over her daughter, Princess Elizabeth, if anything were to happen to her.


But Anne couldn’t have known what was in store for her. Likely, she suspected Henry was trying to get his ducks in a row for an annulment suit, or put her under a state of perpetual house arrest, as had been done with Eleanor of Aquitaine. She would never have suspected what Henry actually had in mind. No queen of England had ever been executed.

On May 2nd, Anne Boleyn was arrested and charged with adultery and treason.

Anne Boleyn: Wicked Stepmother?


imageAnne Boleyn’s relationship with Princess Mary Tudor was doomed from the start.

Mary was her mother’s fierce partisan when it came to the Great Matter and would not accept that her parents’ marriage had been annulled by the English church. She felt that doing so would be a betrayal of her mother, and a betrayal of her Catholic faith. Her father might claim the title of Head of the English Church, but to Mary, the Pope was the only one who could rule on the legitimacy of her parents’ marriage, and of Mary herself.

Because Mary refused to accept her new status, the king exiled her from court, separated from her mother, whom she would never see again. Mary blamed this cruel treatment on Anne, whom she was convinced had bewitched her father.

Mary had memories of a golden childhood in which her proud father carried her around and showed her off, calling her the “pearl” of his kingdom. Now, he wouldn’t even speak to her, or allow her to see her beloved mother. He now called Mary his “greatest enemy” and told ambassadors she was trying to incite rebellion against him.

imageAnne is often portrayed as having been spiteful and vindictive to her stepdaughter, but the documentary evidence for their relationship actually indicates that Anne tried several times to reconcile with Mary, or to at least make peace. She first sent Mary a message, offering to intercede with the king on her behalf if she would but acknowledge Anne as queen. Mary sent back a “puzzled” response saying she knew of no queen in England but her mother, but if Lady Pembroke wished to assist her in reuniting with her father, she would be grateful.

According to legend, Anne and Mary were once in the chapel of Eltham at the same time. A lady in waiting erroneously informed Anne that Mary had bowed to her, but Anne hadn’t noticed. She sent Mary an apologetic note in which Anne explained she hadn’t seen Mary’s symbolic submission to her, but hoped this would be the beginning of friendly relations between the two.

Mary’s ladies brought the note to her, saying it was from the queen. Mary retorted that the note couldn’t be from the queen because it wasn’t from Katharine. It was from Lady Pembroke, and Mary certainly hadn’t acknowledged Lady Pembroke.

The story might not be true, but it illustrates the impasse of these two women.
Anne was exasperated and frustrated by this. She’d tried kindness and patience, and that didn’t work. Henry was outraged. He expected his daughter to be obedient, and her defiance was infuriating.

Henry ordered that Mary was to go serve her new half-sister Elizabeth as a maid, hoping to break her “stiff-necked Spanish pride.” Instructions were given to Lady Shelton, her governess, to box Mary’s ears as “the cursed bastard” she was if she refused to obey. Who sent these instructions? Most history books attribute them to Anne, but I haven’t seen documentary evidence of it. Likely, Eustace Chapuys heard of it and attributed it to Anne, as he did every cruel action Henry took toward his daughter.

Despite the multiple conversations Chapuys had with Henry about the princess in which Henry restated his hostility to the girl for her refusal to obey, Chapuys believed it was Anne who put him in this “perverse temper.” Anne undoubtedly had her own frustrations with Mary, but it’s ridiculous to paint the situation as though Anne somehow manipulated or henpecked Henry into abusing his daughter, especially considering the fact the cruelty only increased after Anne died.


Mary was truly Henry’s daughter. Her will was iron. She would not bend. Her always-fragile health suffered, but Henry was unsympathetic. As far as he was concerned, her misery could end as soon as she was once again an obedient daughter, but until then, she could suffer in a situation of her own making.

We can’t know how Anne felt about Princess Mary. If we accept the position of Eustace Chapuys, Anne despised her, but he’s the sole source for most of this “information,” and it’s well-known that he was deeply biased, and not above reporting snippets of gossip as fact, as long as it made Anne look bad.

Chapuys quoted Anne as saying that “[Mary] is my death, and I am hers,” meaning, “That girl will be the death of me, or I’ll be the death of her.” He reported it as a cold-blooded threat, but I’m sure many stepmothers have thrown up their hands in exasperation and something similar of a rebellious teenage girl.


Chapuys also reported Anne told her brother if Henry left for France and made Anne regent, she’d take it as a chance to execute the girl, to which George replied the king might be upset. Anne supposedly said she didn’t care if it meant her own death. Again, Chapuys reports these words literally, as statements of intent, but people sometimes say things they don’t really mean in the heat of the moment. Anne is also known to have had a macabre sense of humor and may have even been joking about it in order to relieve stress.

imageAnd in this particular situation, we have to question whether they actually said them at all. Chapuys never gives a source for who overheard these supposed statements, only that it was someone he trusted. Why would Anne be stupid enough to publicly threaten to murder someone?

Who knows how many layers of “the telephone game" the story went through before it got to Chapuys’s eager ears? Some historians acknowledge Chapuys’s errors and biases, but then go on to report his words as established fact, basing judgments about Anne’s actions and character on them.

Anne tried one last time when Katharine died. She told Mary she would find a second mother in Anne if Mary would obey her father and extend just the minimal courtesies. Mary retorted she would obey her father as far as her conscience would allow - which was, essentially, a flat-out refusal.

Soon afterward, Chapuys reported a strange incident. He said Mary found a letter in the chapel, addressed to her guardian, Lady Shelton. She copied it and put it back where she found it. Chapuys and Mary didn’t know what to make of the letter. Chapuys thought it had to be some kind of trick.


Mrs. Shelton, my pleasure is that you do not further move the lady Mary to be towards the King’s Grace otherwise than it pleases herself. What I have done has been more for charity than for anything the King or I care what road she takes, or whether she will change her purpose, for if I have a son, as I hope shortly, I know what will happen to her; and therefore, considering the Word of God, to do good to one’s enemy, I wished to warn her before hand, because I have daily experience that the King’s wisdom is such as not to esteem her repentance of her rudeness and unnatural obstinacy when she has no choice. By the law of God and of the King, she ought clearly to acknowledge her error and evil conscience if her blind affection had not so blinded her eyes that she will see nothing but what pleases herself. Mrs. Shelton, I beg you not to think to do me any pleasure by turning her from any of her wilful courses, because she could not do me [good] or evil; and do your duty about her according to the King’s command, as I am assured you do.

Little mention of this letter is made in some histories of Anne and Mary, except for taking the line, “I know what will happen to her,” and making it sound ominous. (Likely, Anne referred to Henry’s plans to marry Mary off to one of his courtiers once he had his heir.) As far as Anne was concerned, she wasn’t going to try anymore, and Mary and the king would have to sort it out themselves.

It would be very odd for Anne to have written, “What I have done has been more for charity than for anything …” if her actions had been spiteful and cruel as some people allege.

Anne would be arrested only a few months later.

Before she died, Anne called aside Lady Kingston, who was known to be friendly with Mary. The
Victorian version of this story says Anne asked Lady Kingston to take a message to Mary and deliver it exactly as Anne was delivering it. She pushed the protesting Lady Kingston into her chair of estate and bowed to her - bowing to Mary by proxy - and begged on her knees that Mary would forgive Anne for any wrongs Anne had done her. This story has a ring of truth, though I don’t think it was so dramatically enacted. Anne likely did ask lady Kingston to ask Mary’s forgiveness. It was something customarily done by prisoners awaiting execution, to try to right any wrongs, settle debts and differences.

imageBut Mary would not forgive. She was delighted with Anne’s fall and execution. She thought the sentence was just and legitimate, and was later fond of saying that Elizabeth looked just like her father, Mark Smeaton. She thought her suffering was over at long last, and she would soon be restored to her position as princess and as the jewel of her father’s heart.

But Mary was stunned when the cruel treatment only increased after Anne died. Her father still insisted his marriage to Katharine had been invalid and demanded Mary admit she was a bastard. Mary had firmly believed that all of it - the isolation, the increasing pressure, her friends and partisans being taken from her, being forced to serve as a maid to her sister, the “heretical” changes her father was making to the church - had been Anne’s doing. But her father’s demands and pressure only increased after Anne’s death. Eventually, Mary broke beneath it and submitted to her father’s will.

Ultimately, Henry was the one to blame for all of this. Even if Anne had been as vindictive and spiteful as she’s sometimes painted, it was Henry who had the last word, Henry who could have stopped it with one single command. It was Henry’s authority which carried out these cruelties. The fact that it didn’t stop after Anne died shows who was really the one who was inflicting the punishment on Mary.


Mary would spend the rest of her life trying to undo what Anne Boleyn had done and restore England to what it had been during her childhood. She would die lonely and heartbroken, having never accomplished it. And Anne Boleyn’s daughter would rule after she took her last breath.