For centuries, little beyond rumor and scandal has been associated with the infamous Lady Rochford. But now historian Julia Fox sets the record straight and restores dignity to this much-maligned figure whose life and reputation were taken from her.
Drawing upon her own deep knowledge and years of original research, Julia Fox brings us into the inner sanctum of court life, laced with intrigue and encumbered by disgrace. Through the eyes and ears of Jane Boleyn, we witness the myriad players of the stormy Tudor period. Jane emerges as a courageous spirit, a modern woman forced by circumstances to fend for herself in a privileged but vicious world.
©2007 Books on Tape; (P)2007 Julia Fox
I have been fascinated with Tudor England for most of my life. This book about Jane Boleyn was enlightening about a side of Tudor history - the cruel side - that generally is underplayed. Jane Boleyn was most likely not a model wife of George or sister-in-law to Anne, but it is also unlikely that she deserved to become as vilified as as history has shown her. I was completely fascinated with this book - and when it ended - I still was waiting for more. I think that the book, could possibly have gone further to trace what ramification Jane's death had to to the familial heirs - but all in all I can recommend this book without qualification
I am very interested in the Tudor history and all of the side stories involved. In my past readings, I was able to deduce very little about Jane and thought that I could get a good idea of her with this book. However, only about 15% of the book was about Jane, and it was the stuff I already knew. I was disappointed with that.
Maybe it's just that I know too much about the Tudors already . . . I learned little new about Jane Boleyn or the court of Henry VIII from listening to this book. The author relays a lot of familiar information and many familiar scenes that are peripheral to Jane's story. For example, she provides a lengthy description of the meeting of two kings on the Field of the Cloth of Gold--then tells us that there is no evidence that Jane Parker was there, but she MIGHT have been. She uses this strategy--something that true scholars would reject--over and over again to make her subject more important and interesting. Someone totally unfamiliar with the Tudors who isn't looking for expert scholarship might enjoy the book, but I was disappointed. I have it in hardback as well but am donating it to my local library. Kudos to Rosalind Landor, however, who is always a fine reader of English history and novels.
I love reading about Henry VIII and the Tudor regime, so I was excited to find this book on Jane Boleyn. But my disappointment set in early on, when I realized the book was nothing more than a rehash of other books I had read on the subject. As far as the subject concerned, all "facts" were really just conjecture, with the author reminding us time and again that we don't know what Jane was feeling or what she said, or how she acted, or even if she was present. I was really hoping that I would be hearing more about her thoughts on some of the pivotal events she was part of. I started to lose interest before the first part finished, but was determined to finish it. At times the reading seemed so familiar to other books I had read that I was questioning the possibility of plagerism. An easy listen if you haven't had exposure to Henry VII or the Boleyn family.
It is so refreshing to read a book about Tudor history that is based in fact, not speculation. But it was also riveting. I couldn't put it down.
This book was way more interesting -- and more factual -- than the tedious and highly speculative novel "Wolf Hall" (by another author). Julia Fox was careful with her facts, yet this book read like a novel.
The reader, Rosalyn Landor, was superb. I highly recommend "Jane Boleyn" to anyone interested in Tudor history.
This biography is a whitewash. It is certainly historical revisionism, which usually tries to say that some historical personage we thought we knew was far more lurid, with feet deeply clay-bound, like the modern bios saying Lincoln was homosexual or Thomas Jefferson had a child by a slave woman. But this historical revision of Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, sister-in-law to Anne Boleyn, attempts to make a nice lady out of one of the most villainous women of Tudor times. In a time when noblemen killed each other with abandon, the women were nearly as wicked as the men and Jane has some competition in villainy, such as Anne Boleyn, who repeatedly threatened or begged that Queen Katherine and her daughter Mary be put to death, or Anne Stanhope, who is twice documented to have buffeted Henry's widow Catherine Parr out of a doorway like a linebacker, so Katherine couldn't take precedence over Anne herself.
Jane Boleyn definitely needs her own biography, as the events she was involved in were repeatedly scandalous and extremely important. It's amazing that this has not been done before, and unfortunate that the thrust of her only biography is to say Jane was a nice lady who made some mistakes of judgment. This is an dramatic understatement, given all the heads that Lady Jane Rochford left rolling like bowling balls as she proceeded through life.
The reader, Rosalyn Landor, is expressionless and very clear, which seems to be a new style of reading nonfiction; I would have gotten the other version of this book had it been available when I bought this one.
Here are the bad things Jane Boleyn did: She started her career of infamy through the centuries, it has long been said, by testifying to the king's interrogators that her husband, the queen's brother George, had committed incest with Anne. He gasped in amazement and disgust when told of this charge and no one has ever believed it, then or since. But he was beheaded. The author says there is no real proof that Jane did this, it could have been someone else. She did tell him that Anne said Henry was impotent, and George read that note out loudly in open court after having been told to read it silently, apparently on the principle that he might as well be hanged for a sheep as a goat. But any wife might tell a husband something that juicy. The author is very vague about the pressures of interrogation, twice, and what Jane may or may not have told Cranmer about her husband. It is notable that no one ever married Jane again.
Next, she became Cromwell's spy on Jane Seymour; next, she testified in court that Anne of Cleves was so naive that she thought kissing was intercourse and so her marriage with the king had never been consummated, so it could be annulled. Then as a mature woman in the lead among young Katherine Howard's ladies-in-waiting, she allowed Katherine to hire an old lover as her secretary and also arranged many private meetings between the 17-year-old queen and Thomas Culpepper, a very handsome young man of the court. Why did she do this crazy thing? They were bound to be discovered quickly, and they were. Was she a voyeuse? Was she an adrenaline junkie? Author Julia Fox does not mention the obvious reason that everyone has thought of then and now: Henry VIII probably was impotent, at least sometimes, and given the really bad state of his health then, could not be expected to beget the "spare" prince everyone wanted. Culpepper, however, probably could. If Jane Boleyn could help Katherine get pregnant, perhaps they hoped they both would be secure forever. It could have worked, except all that banging around in small offices, back stairs, and toilet rooms was a little obvious. The author simply says that Jane Boleyn "had" to do what the queen said, that's why she arranged all the trysts. No one else did any of that, however, and Katherine and Jane were the only two ladies beheaded for it. It's just not good enough. There is a lot of information in this book, but some of it feels wrong. We need another biography of Jane Boleyn.
Sister in-law to Anne & Mary. Married to Brother George. Good story. This woman just couldn't stay out of trouble. She was jealous of Anne and had both Anne and her husband George beheaded. She was allowed to stay at court and serve as lady in waitting to Queen Cathrine she would play as a go between with the young Queen and Culpepper until they too were beheaded.
I'm torn on this book. Jane was witness to important events of the time, but her personality is missing from the book. How did she feel about her sister-in-law Anne Boleyn? How did she feel about her husband George or her imposing father-in-law Thomas? There aren't any diaries or letters or even a portrait of her or her husband. Was she an active schemer trying to help out the Boleyns or was she an unwilling witness, dependent on the family for her well-being? She gains notoriety primarily as a bystander. She was at court when Anne Boleyn was queen and managed to survive the tremendous fall of the Boleyns that resulted in the execution of Anne and Jane's husband George. She bypasses any wrath Henry has towards the Boleyns and becomes lady-in-waiting to Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, and lastly (and fatally) Catherine Howard. This book is full of a lot of background, but the main character fades into the background rather than stands out.
As Catherine Howard's indiscretions are discovered, Jane ends up center stage. At this point, the book shines in discussing Jane's role in the scandal: the scapegoat. Jane was labeled "That bawd, Jane Rochford" for arranging meetings for Catherine Howard and Thomas Culpepper. Catherine put the blame on Jane as well. Already tainted by her association with the Boleyns, Jane must be to blame for Catherine being led astray (although Catherine had already been led astray long before meeting Henry). Otherwise, Henry made a grievous error in his opinion of Catherine, his "jewel".
However, Jane had already witnessed the result of getting on the wrong side of Henry with Anne and George's executions. She knew of his anger of her passing on Anne's comment to George about Henry's flagging sexual prowess. Would she have willingly put herself at risk for no good reason? Or is it more likely that Catherine put her in this awkward position as a trusted messenger between Catherine and her favorite. Catherine was a young beautiful woman and Henry was an older fat man with pus oozing from his leg sores. Catherine was the queen and if Jane wanted to stay at court, she would have had to follow Catherine's directions. Communicating the truth to Henry would not only have been logistically difficult, it would have been extremely risky on its own: he was so enamored of Catherine, Jane might have been punished for slandering the queen. While it suited everyone at the time to lay the blame on Jane, it doesn't seem likely that she played matchmaker for Queen Catherine.
The author weaves together a lot of interesting information and avoids being pigeon holed as one of the countless books on the wives of Henry VIII by making it about Jane. Unfortunately, not enough of Jane herself is available- not by any fault of the author, just by historical record.
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