Thursday, January 03, 2008

Question from Sara - Jane Rochford apologizing at execution

I read online somewhere that in Jane Parker-Rotchford's last speech, she apologized for her part in her husband George Boleyn's execution and admitted she had lied. Is this true? I had never heard about it in any other place, and I'm not sure whether the site is trustworthy or not.


PhD Historian said...

The entry on Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states that she died on 13 February 1542 "after making a conventional confession," suggesting that she did not recant her prior testimony regarding George and Anne. ("Conventional confessions" were limited to acknowledging the crime one had been convicted of and to a religious confession.) Yet the Wikipedia article on Jane, Lady Rochford, refers to "reliable sources" when stating that Jane supposedly confessed to having lied about the extent of the relationship between George Boleyn and his sister Anne. Perhaps this is where you read the tale? The article does not specify what those "reliable sources" are, however. Without knowing the nature and origin of the sources, and considering Wikipedia's negative reputation, I would encourage you to check the pages of a few legitimate academic historians who have written about Jane Boleyn. You might start with Eric Ives' biographies of her sister-in-law Anne, as well as similar bios by Retha Warnicke. "Jane Boleyn" by Julia Fox is the only biography devoted solely to Jane, but despite Ms Fox's status as the wife of John Guy, a preeminent academic historian of the Tudor period, her own work has been reviewed by "Publisher's Weekly" as an "amateurish, toothless history [that] is more a rehash of Anne's rise and fall" (issue of 8 Oct 2007). I don't know whether Fox's book addresses the confession you refer to, but considering the poor reviews, I probably would not give it too much credence even if it does. I did search the British Library's Manuscript Catalogue for documents related to Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, and found none ... not even a scaffold speech.

monica said...

I loved Julia Fox's biography of Jane Boleyn. It is nothing like John Guy's style, but it is written not for academics studying the period but for people who have an interest in the women of Tudor times. Nevertheless, it's well-researched and clearly referenced.

It is a large book, so it naturally 're-hashes' some of Anne Boleyn's story, but as Jane was beside her throughout this, this is also the story of Jane's life.

Our accounts of her last speech come from Marillac, the French ambassador, and Ottwell Johnson. Marillac said she gave a 'long discourse' but gave no details beyond this. Johnson gives an alleged account of the speech, but this admits to 'many sins' but does not specify what they were. Neither accounts mentions, or even hints at, George or Anne.

Fox's book also questions whether she gave evidence against Geotge and Anne at all She certainly didn't in person; it may well be that Cromwell completely twisted her replies to his leading questions.

Foose said...

Monica, I loved this biography too, despite mixed reviews. It got across very clearly how everyone had to grovel to Thomas Cromwell as a matter of procedure, even after their nearest and dearest had been executed through his machinations. And to be fair, it showed that Cromwell was pretty statesmenlike about working productively with grieving relations in the aftermath of their family tragedies. The impression I got was that he didn't see killing people as a personal matter -- it was a matter of state. Whether the families of his victims saw it that way, was another matter.

Anonymous said...

I am reading yet another Tudor story. " The Tudor wife" by Emily Purdy. In it she makes reference to Jane and Cromwell having a liaison. Is there any evidence to back this up, or is it just story telling?