Sunday, June 05, 2011

Question from Merlin - Lady Rochford's motivations

What are your opinions regarding Lady Rochford's motivation in aiding & abetting Kathryn Howard in her relationship with Culpepper? I've never quite bought Julia Fox's suggestion that she was simply following orders and felt unable to refuse Kathryn's requests to facilitate meetings (after all, it wouldn't have been so difficult for Lady Rochford to have gone down with a diplomatic illness and left court for a while)but on the other hand Julia's research seems to demonstrate fairly convincingly that Lady Rochford's sinister reputation was a later invention (which suggests that Lacey Baldwin Smith's take on it- that Lady Rochford was probably always verging on insane- doesn't hold water either). Starkey suggests Lady Rochford's relationship with Kathryn was akin to that of Juliet & her nurse in "Romeo & Juliet" but I find that a bit hard to believe as well. Admittedly, Lady Rochford had no children but I can't really see Kathryn coming to represent the daughter Lady Rochford never had.

What I don't get is how, with her considerable experience of life (and intrigue) at court, not to mention her first-hand knowledge of the consequences of adultery in a queen, Lady Rochford could have behaved in such a suicidally stupid and naive fashion.

I'd be very interested in your opinions.

[There was a similar discussion last year, but on opinion questions it's worth bringing them up again for fresh views. Previous thread linked below. - Lara]


kb said...

Pure speculation ---

It is possible that Lady Rochford was beholden to the Duke of Norfolk. Norfolk may have felt that the best way to cement the Howard's position was for Kathryn Howard to have a son. He may have felt that an illegitimate son backed by the family would be a good thing. If Norfolk knew or at least suspected that Henry was no longer capable of fathering a child, he might have been tempted to arrange for Kathryn to get pregnant. Lady Rochford would be the perfect agent for this and she may have felt unable, or unwilling, to refuse the duke.

Again - only speculation.

Em said...

Lady Rochford may have been told to help Kathryn with her adultery. But it is said that Lady Rochford testified false evidence against her husband, George, and sister-in-law, Anne Boleyn. I think that she could have very well invented this on her own, especially if she wanted Queen Kathryn's favor.

Cate Drewry said...

I have tried to sort of imagine myself in Jane's place, to get an idea of what she was thinking. I believe that she probably did not realize the extent of what she was getting into, until she was already in it up to her ears.

So, now what to do? I'm sure she was frightened and somewhat at a loss. Say we consider telling someone. Well, first of all, whom do you trust enough to go to with this information? Your own family has an extremely vested interest in keeping Katherine in place, they are unlikely to react well to your information. In fact, they might seek to get rid of you in some way (banishment, possibly even murder) to protect their queen.

One of Henry's councillors? Well, that is tricky. Henry was mad with love for Katherine. What if he doesn't believe you, and punishes you for slandering his beloved queen? What if they are willing to do anything to shut you up? And if they do believe you, what then? A repeat of the insane mess with Anne Boleyn, where most everyone related to her was stripped of money, titles, property and position.

If you keep your mouth shut, then it is possible the while thing will never be discovered and it will simply pass. And if it does come out via other sources, well, what can you do about it? Jane probably had no idea about Katherine's liaisons prior to becoming queen, so it probably never occurred to her that the queen's indiscretions would come to light in the way that they actually did - Henry actually found out about Dereham and Manox first, from gossip about the queen's past, before her present with Culpepper came out.

Jane could not have foreseen that. So it probably seemed to her that she was safe enough, with only herself, the queen and Culpepper in on the current situation.

Lastly but definitely not least, I don't think it ever crossed Jane's mind that she could or would actually be executed. After all, she basically admitted to misprision of treason in the case of her husband and Anne, by testifying to an ongoing incestuous relationship between them. In the case of Anne, no one was executed except the alleged adulterors themselves. If Anne had actually been guilty of all those affairs, there would have to have also been witnesses and people to facilitate the meetings, and no one showed any interest in pursuing them. And Jane was probably unaware that there was an extant letter actually naming her as an accomplice. Even if she knew it had been written, she likely assumed that the recipient would have destroyed it, not insanely kept it.

I think there simply was no good solution to hand, and she probably assumed that the worst that would happen if it came to light was another banishment and stripping of her income and position, or at worst a period of imprisonment. So she chose for the time being to try to wait things out.

Who knows, if the thing had rocked on another couple of years and another couple of lovers, she might have decided that the risk scale was tipping and it was time to come forward.

Anonymous said...

This question is interesting! As part of the Howard faction, could Lady R have thought that Henry VIII had little time to live, and since Edward VI was sickly anyway, a son of Kathryn's had a good chance of becoming king? Who better,in that case, to serve as protector than his uncle of Norfolk? However, for that to happen, Kathryn must become pregnant. Risk vs. profit. Also Edward would have to die, but if he didn't do so of his own accord there were precedents. Edward V anyone ? Unfounded speculation, of course. Maybe Lady R was just an incurable romantic? Mary