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Title: Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford
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Status: royally unamused
From: USA

(Date Posted:02/18/2011 10:30)
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Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford is the debut biography from Julia Fox, a British professor of history who specializes in the Tudor period, & she states she researched this book for three years. 

The bibilography is staggering in its scope & content.  Fox not only used the usual sources, but there are many out of the mainstream books & magazine articles cited, & she apparently even donned the white cotton gloves & was permitted to muck about in Tudor primary documents.  Wouldn't you love to thumb through Henry VIIIs state papers?
Unfortunately, despite her relationship & proximity to two executed Queen Consorts, there's a sad dearth of information on Jane's life, especially the early bits.  Fox likes a birth date of around 1505 for her, but, like the rest of the Boleyns, it's an educated guess.  The marriage contract of Jane Parker & George Boleyn still exists & was signed on October 4, 1525; Fox surmises they were most likely wed somewhere in the next year, as she came across a little squib of information in Henry's household rolls regarding the provision of lodgings granted for "Mr Boleyn & his wife" the following autumn. 
Because of this lack of solid info on Jane, what Fox does is basically tell the story of what was happening with Henry's queens & tries to insert Jane into it, with phrases such as "Jane may have...." or "It's possible that Jane...." etc., which was rather disappointing, but it's probably the best one can do without making stuff up, I guess. 

She did unearth listings of George Boleyn's grants & properties given to him by Henry, & there is still extant the accounting Cromwell's minions did after George's execution of tallying up every single thing he owned for purposes of Crown confiscation.  For example, I never knew Henry had given George a life interest in the palace of Beaulieu, which "may have" served as the Rochfords' primary residence while not at Court (which probably wasn't often after Anne became queen). 
Everything I've ever read about Jane Rochford has portrayed her in a violently negative light, but Fox's bio is definitely what one could term "revisionist history".  She claims that there was no reason to think Jane & George did not have a reasonably happy marriage despite the distressing lack of heirs after about seven years of it. 

She states that Jane was a "close friend & confidante" of Anne's, & was even banished from Court for a time on her SILs behalf.  Apparently there was an unnamed Court lady with whom Henry was dallying (the gossipy letters to Charles V of the Imperial ambassador Chapuys, who eagerly watched "the concubine's" every move in hopes that the marriage was in trouble, is the source for this).  Fox suggests Anne asked Jane to provoke this lady into a public argument in the hopes that Henry would send the wench from Court for such unseemly behavior, but the plan backfired & it was Jane who was sent away for a time.
Fox also stresses that she could find NO contemporary allegations against Jane, & it was not until well after her death that the tales of her running to Henry with stories of Anne's incest with her brother began to circulate.  She states that Jane would have no reason to want to be rid of George in such a manner, the main reason being the confiscation of all their wealth after his execution, leaving her in penury. 

Fox makes a reasonably good point in that she culled through privy papers & could find no official record of vilification of Jane.  Still, there is her letter to Cromwell begging him to make Thomas Boleyn pony up to the terms of her betrothal contract, & the allegation that Cromwell found her a place amongst Jane Seymour's ladies.  It tends to make one think Cromwell perhaps "owed" Jane in some way, possibly for her assistance in ridding England of Queen Anne?
Fox also says that Jane was "trapped" into pandering by Catherine Howard, whom she states was quite full of herself & arrogant to those who served her, even coming off best in a tussle with Mary, who was forced by Henry to beg his wife's forgiveness for causing offense.  Catherine's forceful personality & Henry's absolute besottedness with her made her a dangerous enemy, & Jane dared not naysay her in the matter of arranging secret meeting with Culpeper. 

Fox says that the manner in which Catherine immediately attempted to shift blame for the entire Culpeper affair onto Jane's shoulders shows that Catherine wasn't as bird-witted as she's been portrayed.  Hmmm.
At any rate, I am sure there will be people who will disagree vehemently with this new assessment of one of the most reviled characters on the Tudor stage, but it's a fairly interesting read with a lot of obscure information gleaned from primary documents & I'd recommend it if you're interested in that sort of stuff :-P

I've also discovered that the author of this book, Julia Fox, happens to be the wife of John Guy, who wrote the biography Queen of Scots: The True Story of Mary Stuart.  Can you imagine this couple's dinner table conversations?  For sure she at least swiped his title LOL

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