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The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford

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In a life of extraordinary drama, Jane Boleyn was catapulted from relative obscurity to the inner circle of King Henry VIII. As powerful men and women around her became victims of Henry’s ruthless and absolute power–including her own husband and her sister-in-law, Queen Anne Boleyn–Jane’s allegiance to the volatile monarch was sustained and rewarded. But the cost of her loyalty would eventually be her undoing and the ruination of her name. For centuries, little beyond rumor and scandal has been associated with “the infamous Lady Rochford,” but now historian Julia Fox sets the record straight. Drawing upon her own deep knowledge and years of original research, she brings us into the inner sanctum of court life, teeming with intrigue and redolent with the threat of disgrace. In the eyes and ears of Jane Boleyn, we witness the myriad players of the stormy Tudor period, and Jane herself emerges as a courageous spirit, a modern woman forced by circumstances to make her own way in a privileged but vicious world.


Chapter 1


It was time to go. The horses shifted and stamped restlessly. They always seemed to know when a long journey was imminent. The carts were laden with fashionable clothes, domestic items, everything needed to make life comfortable. Servants and escorts were ready too. For Lord Morley’s daughter, Jane Parker, a new life was about to begin. She rode out toward London, leaving her family home at Great Hallingbury behind.

Until now, the Tudor mansion built by Lord Morley had been her world. The solid, red-bricked house replaced an earlier Morley dwelling that had nestled in the same Essex village for over three hundred years. It was huge, a magical place for giggling children to hide and play. Scattered among the richly carved oak furniture and plate inside the building were many reminders of Lord Morley’s mother, Alice Lovel. When she died in 1518, Alice made generous bequests to her son. Lord Morley could sleep in the bed of cloth of gold and tawny velvet she left him. He could sit in her “best chair,” which stood in the long gallery that Morley equipped with expensive linenfold paneling and tall, graceful windows. Alice’s gilt bowl emblazoned with her own coat of arms as well as that of her first husband’s was on display for all to see. An even older and more precious heirloom was the special cup with its gilt cover, which Alice said was “gotten” by her ancestors. That too was on view. One of the exquisitely embroidered wall hangings also came from her. Lord Morley had been allowed to choose whichever one he wanted from her estate. Everything fitted perfectly into his newly constructed home, which was one of the finest in the county. Its grounds were impressive too. If the weather was fine, Jane roamed happily outside in the carefully tended gardens, which stretched for over two acres. There was an orchard to provide apples, pears, and quinces for the quince marmalade that everyone loved. There was a pond surrounded by trees and stocked with fish. There was a long brick stable block and hay loft, so necessary for the Morley horses, surmounted by tall red Tudor chimneys. Whether Great Hallingbury (or Hallingbury Morley, as her father preferred to call it) was snuggling under thick snow or basking in the warm sunshine of a summer’s afternoon, the setting was idyllic, especially during those few precious years of childhood when time passes slowly and growing up seems so far away.

Just a short walk across the fields from the house was the parish church of St. Giles. It is still standing. Built largely of flint and limestone, and with a square bell tower, the church was small and intimate. The nave, forty-five feet long, with circular windows set deeply into the walls, led into the chancel through a round arch constructed of Roman bricks, for there had once been a Roman site here. It was probably in this pretty church, so much the heart of the village, that Jane was baptized. About the year 1505, the tiny girl was carried to the porch of St. Giles by her mother’s midwife. Lady Morley was not present as it was customary for mothers not to reenter society until they had been churched or purified about forty days after giving birth. With Jane’s godparents at her side, the midwife gently took her inside for the baptism itself. There, at the stone font, before the richly carved rood screen and amid the painted walls and brightly colored statues of saints, the baby was welcomed into the great Catholic fold. Lord and Lady Morley knew how important it was to have babies received into the protection of the church as quickly as possible after their birth. Life was unpredictable and diseases often struck without warning; they did not want their little daughter to fall into limbo, the dreadful nothingness that awaited the souls of unbaptized children. Everything, therefore, was correctly done. The priest blessed Jane with holy oil on her shoulders and chest, on her right hand and on her forehead. Salt was placed into her mouth so that she would be “freed from all uncleanness, and from all assault of spiritual wickedness.” She was dipped three times into the sacred water in the font. She was anointed with holy chrism. The godparents, whose names are lost to us, made their promises. They vowed to ensure that Jane’s mother and father kept her “from fire and water and other perils” and to be certain that she knew “the Pater noster, Ave and Creed, after the law of all holy church.” They told the priest the name chosen for her: she was christened Jane, possibly after her father’s sister, another Jane Parker. Family ties were always important.

As she rode away from these familiar surroundings, Jane knew just how important those ties were. She had every reason to feel pride in her lineage. Her father, Sir Henry Parker, Lord Morley, was a peer of the realm. He owned lands in Norfolk, Buckinghamshire, and Herefordshire as well as in Essex. He came from ancient stock. His ancestors had played their part in tumultuous events over the centuries, helping to quell the Peasants’ Revolt and fighting for king and country in the Hundred Years’ War against England’s traditional enemy, France. Yes, Jane could feel proud.

Of course, she knew it could all have been otherwise. The family lands and title came through Jane’s grandmother, Alice Lovel. Alice’s brother, a previous Lord Morley, died in Flanders fighting for Edward IV. However, while he had died a hero, he also died without children so his entire estate went to Alice. Girls sometimes had their uses. But Alice’s first marriage, to Sir William Parker, Jane’s grandfather, brought the family close to disaster: Sir William Parker fought on the wrong side at the Battle of Bosworth. He supported the doomed Richard III against Henry Tudor, the victorious Henry VII. Sir William survived the battle but the new king never really trusted him. His son, the young Henry Parker, the future Lord Morley and Jane’s father, was fortunate to have been brought up in the household of Lady Margaret Beaufort, Henry VII’s mother.

Stern and formidable she might be, but Lady Margaret was loyal to those she took under her wing. She was particularly concerned that the little boy should receive what she felt was his due, especially when his mother remarried after Sir William’s death. Lady Margaret paid five hundred marks (just under four hundred pounds) to Alice’s new husband, Sir Edward Howard, to make sure that young Henry Parker kept some family land, presumably at Great Hallingbury. Sir Edward adhered to the bargain and also remembered his stepson in his will of 1512. He bequeathed the manor of Morley Hall in Norfolk to his wife, Alice, for her lifetime, after which it would pass to Jane’s father. The legacy did not come without conditions, however. In exchange, Morley was required to give land worth ten marks a year to the prior and convent of Ingham in Norfolk or forfeit Morley Hall to them. Morley was lucky that Alice and Sir Edward had no children to complicate the situation even more. Sir Edward had sired two bastards for whom he did his best to provide: he asked the king to choose one; the other was allocated to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. Howard hoped their new guardians would be “good” lords to his sons, but as an extra safeguard he left the boys money to help them set “forth in the world.”

This did not, of course, affect Lord Morley or his inheritance. In fact, as far as Jane’s father was concerned, the Howard marriage, which might have proved so awkward, brought him both land and valuable connections at court. The Howards were a very influential family. Sir Edward’s father was the Duke of Norfolk, one of the leading men in the land, and Sir Edward’s sister, Elizabeth, had married Sir Thomas Boleyn. Sir Thomas was a rising star, an ideal companion to the gregarious Henry VIII, certainly a man it was advantageous to know. And he was a neighbor, for the Boleyns owned lands in Essex and Norfolk just like the Morleys. Being linked to the Boleyns brought more associations since Thomas had sisters who married into other Norfolk or Essex families. His sister Anne, for example, married Sir John Shelton, Alice married Sir Robert Clere, and Margaret married Sir John Sackville. The inter- relationships were all very complicated but Lord Morley had every reason to believe that he and his family would gain from them. And Sir Thomas Boleyn had a son, George, who was more or less Jane’s age. Who knew what time might bring?

Certainly, as she rode to London, Jane understood that her destiny lay outside the confines of Great Hallingbury. Even while she enjoyed those brief years of childhood, Jane realized that they were but a preparation for the future—hers. Lord and Lady Morley took the upbringing of their children very seriously. It was their duty. Both boys and girls must be taught all that society demanded if they were to take their rightful place when the time came. Lord Morley had a love of learning that lasted all his life. Educated at Oxford himself, he wanted a stimulating and rigorous education for his son and heir, Henry. Expertise in the classics, though, was not something to encourage in his daughters. No husband would want a wife who was more knowledgeable than himself. And so Jane’s schooling was designed to fit her for the role of a wife and mother. She stayed at home in those early years, learning how to read and write, how to supervise servants and run a large household, and how to harness the healing properties of common herbs so that she could treat everyday ailments. Then, of course, there was needlework. Jane spent hours quietly sewing and perfecting convoluted yet delicate stitches. In this she was not alone; most wealthy women excelled in this pastime. Even Queen Katherine made shirts for her husband and thought nothing of mending them herself as a sign of her love. Jane’s favorite lessons, though, were perhaps music and dancing. A talented musician himself, the king delighted in everything musical. He reveled in the highly choreographed and glittering masques performed after supper at court. In these spectacular entertainments, favorite gentlemen strutted about in elaborate costumes, performing roles as holy pilgrims, mysterious strangers, or brave knights ready to rescue damsels in distress. The prettiest and most accomplished of the ladies always got the best parts. For Jane, it was as well to be ready. Opportunities to be on show before the entire court did not come easily, even for the daughter of a peer. Chances had to be seized.

That is, naturally, if God willed it so. Religion underpinned everything. While still a child, Jane was instructed with the underlying beliefs of Catholicism. She learned about the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrament of the Mass. She took comfort in the gentle goodness of the Virgin Mary who, along with the saints, could intercede for her with God. She prayed for the pope in Rome and she prayed for the king and queen. With her rosary beads in her hands, Jane recited the prayers she was taught. And she attended the services that were conducted in the Morleys’ private chapel within the house itself. The Latin words of the Mass became familiar to her as she knelt with her relatives and servants before the altar and watched the priest use the chalice and other religious ornaments given by the late Alice Lovel. She saw the terrifyingly vivid doom pictures painted on church walls that showed the souls of the righteous led into heaven by saints, martyrs, and winged angels while the damned were dragged away to eternal torment by laughing devils and monsters. She was thankful that the Catholic Church stood between herself and the horrors of hell, for the church was invincible.

It also preserved the fabric of society and the established hierarchy. For Jane, this meant that next to the king, her father was the most revered person in her life. He was head of the family. He took all the major decisions. As she rode away from Great Hallingbury, Jane knew that one day he would arrange her betrothal and she would be expected to conform to his wishes. All families chose their children’s spouses with infinite care. Marriage was, after all, a contract. It brought material and social advantages to both sides. It was not something to be entered into lightly. But it was what she was being trained for and one day it would happen.

Of course, it would bring responsibilities. Jane only had to watch her own mother to appreciate the complexities of the life that awaited her. Alice St. John was the daughter of Sir John St. John, a prosperous and respected Bedfordshire landowner. Her wedding to Lord Morley was brokered by Lady Margaret Beaufort, Morley’s patroness and a relative of the St. Johns. Jane saw how well the match worked. Alice gave birth to at least five children: Jane herself; her sister Margaret, presumably named after Lady Margaret, who helped pay christening expenses for the Morley progeny; another sister Elizabeth; and two sons, Henry, the heir, and his brother, Francis. Childbirth was both painful and hazardous but it did not interfere very much with a noblewoman’s other duties. Although the bond between mother and baby could be as strong then as it is now, Lady Morley was not required to care for any of her offspring herself; wet-nurses and servants did that. She supervised their upbringing only in the most general of terms. In fact, Jane rarely saw her mother when she was very young, for like so many women of her station Lady Morley accompanied her husband on his visits to court, sometimes staying away from the family houses for long periods. As a peer, Lord Morley had to play his part in the affairs of state. For most nobles, this meant engaging in the dangerous jousting that the king so enjoyed and fighting in the wars against France. Morley, though, was no soldier. Eventually, he served Henry with his pen, as a writer and translator of classical texts, but in the meantime attendance at court was a painless way of proving his loyalty and doing his duty. Naturally, Lady Morley went with him. So, once she was old enough, did Jane.

Unsurprisingly, since her true importance still lay in the future, much of Jane’s early life is undocumented. There was nothing unusual or noteworthy in how she was brought up. But as a way of widening experience, it was customary for young girls of her class, while in their early teens, to be sent away from home to serve in the households of other rich noblewomen. Sir Thomas Boleyn sent his two daughters to France; little Catherine Howard, another relation of Jane’s through marriage, spent her formative years with the Duchess of Norfolk. For the Morleys, the crucial decision was not whether to let Jane go; it was her destination. The most envied situation of all for a girl was admittance to the royal court in the train of a great lady. The greatest lady of all was the queen. Mothers schemed and plotted furiously to place their daughters with her. And very possibly, this is what happened to Jane. In his series of poems, Metrical Visions, George Cavendish, who knew her personally, wrote that Jane was “brought up at court” all of her “young age.” Certainly, when Jane rode out from Great Hallingbury and left childhood behind, she traveled to a new life. And that life was centered on the court of Henry VIII with all its intrigue, jealousies, and sheer exuberant luxury. It was an environment she would never leave.

From the Hardcover edition.
Julia Fox|Author Q&A

About Julia Fox

Julia Fox - Jane Boleyn

Photo © Sue Greenhill

Julia Fox has a degree in history from the University of London, where she has taught for a number of years, specializing in the Tudors and in the nineteenth century. She is married to the historian John Guy and lives in the U.K. Jane Boleyn is her first book.

Author Q&A

A Conversation with Julia Fox

Random House Reader's Circle:What initially drew you to Jane Boleyn as the subject of a biography?

Julia Fox: It was a sheer fluke that I stumbled upon Jane Boleyn. Originally intending to write about Anne Boleyn and possibly linking her with Catherine Howard because Henry VIII executed both of them, I realized that Jane was not only at both women's sides throughout their triumphs and disasters but was also a figure totally neglected by historians. Once I started to research Jane, I became really excited to see just what an amazing life she had led.

RHRC: Jane's historical reputation is a dark one, to put it mildly. Many historians believe she perjured herself in order to help send her husband, George, and his sister, Queen Anne, to their deaths on charges of treason and incest, and that she later assisted Queen Catherine in conducting an adulterous affair.Has Jane gotten a bum rap from history, and if so, why? Did you consciously set out to rehabilitate her?

JF: When I decided to concentrate on Jane, I was pretty sure that there was no real evidence to support the stories about her. They all seemed to hinge on motivation. I couldn't see why she'd give false testimony against her own husband or why she'd encourage Catherine Howard's sexual misdemeanor. If she testified against George and Anne, she knew she'd lose financially, and if she'd pushed Catherine Howard into an affair, she'd have known she risked her own head too. It didn't make sense, and so I wanted to delve more deeply and see just what would prove that this woman really deserved her infamous reputation. And what I found showed that yes, she did get a bum deal from history. Once Anne Boleyn's daughter, Elizabeth I, was queen, an explanation was needed for why Henry VIII had sent Anne to her death for treason and incest. It was thought that Anne, herself a Protestant icon by then, must have been innocent of the charges, but that Henry would not have ordered Anne's execution unless he had believed her guilty. Conveniently ignoring Henry's passion for Jane Seymour, it was easy to suggest that the king had been lied to. And the person who had told the lies, it was alleged, was Jane. Herself executed for her supposed treason, and with no one to speak for her, she was the perfect scapegoat.Yet I found that if you looked at the evidence with an unprejudiced eye, it just didn't stack up against Jane. Once I knew that, I wanted to tell her story and stick up for her-it was about time that someone did.

RHRC: How did you go about uncovering new and overlooked material pertaining to Jane's role in the intrigues of Henry's court?

JF: I began by going over the much-known material with a fresh eye. It's surprising what you can discover if you look at things from a different perspective. Then I moved on to researching some of the people around Jane, like her birth family and the Boleyn relatives. All of this helped put Jane into a wider context. And then I had a great stroke of luck-a chance reference in the archives led me to discover a totally unknown and ignored copy of Jane's marriage settlement. Once I'd put the information I gleaned from that together with details from the Act of Parliament she obtained later on, I knew just what a task it had been for her to get a decent settlement after George's execution. It's always been said that she was rewarded for perjuring herself at his trial; by finding out about her financial situation, I knew that just wasn't the case. She wasn't rewarded at all. Once I'd taken that fully on board, it helped provide the evidence I needed to start nailing the myths. And then I followed a sixteenth-century paper trail. As in Watergate, you follow the money.

RHRC:Why do you think that readers remain so fascinated by the figure of Henry VIII and the Tudor period in English history?

JF:Henry is a larger-than-life figure.What with his sheer physical bulk, his wives, his excesses, he can't help but insinuate himself into the imagination. And his children are just as colorful: the young boy king who died before his sixteenth birthday and the much-wronged daughter, a Catholic fanatic who allowed the burnings of over 300 Protestants before she died knowing that her life's work would be undone when her half sister, Anne Boleyn's child, took the throne as Elizabeth I. Throw in the defeat of the Spanish Armada and the plays of Shakespeare and how can anyone fail to be fascinated?

RHRC: I think it's fair to say that most people's ideas of Henry VIII and the Tudor era have been shaped by popular culture. Are there any books or movies that stand out for you as providing a particularly accurate picture of the time?

JF: I think the point is that one thing tends to lead to another. As a child, I remember long summer holidays in the garden devouring historical novels by Jean Plaidy. They gave me a lifelong love of the period. I then moved on to standard biographies such as J. E. Neale's Queen Elizabeth I and H.F.M. Prescott's Mary Tudor.And then I was well and truly hooked. As for films, Anne of the Thousand Days still thrills me, and Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons, about Sir Thomas More, is a sheer delight. And who could forget Charles Laughton's amazing Henry VIII, with a deliciously funny Elsa Lanchester as Anne of Cleves? Although Laughton's portrayal of Henry was extreme, some of the lines in that film were taken from original sources.

RHRC:What did it mean for a woman like Jane to marry into a powerful and ambitious family like the Boleyns?

JF:You have to remember that Jane, who was quite a catch in her own right, had no idea when she married George that his sister would ever become a crowned queen. She envisioned a life rather like that of her own mother: running a household, going to court sometimes, bringing up children. That just didn't happen. The Boleyns were a family on the make, and were likely to get favors from the king, but what happened must have come as just as much of a surprise to her as it did to them. And she fitted in. It was a wife's duty to support her husband, and she did that, but she also came to revel in court life at the center of the action.

RHRC: At one point in the book, you use the word “addiction” to describe Jane's penchant for court life, which, although exciting and glamorous, was also very dangerous. What do you think accounts for her addiction? Why didn't she simply retire to a life of comfort and privilege in the country following her husband's death? Why return to the vipers' nest of the court?

JF: Following George's death, she had only fifty pounds a year to live on; that would not have given her anything like what she had been used to. She had no country estate; she would have been dependent on her father's generosity. The court offered a career. When she became more prosperous, though, she did have a genuine choice. Yet you have to remember that she had been at court for most of her life; she knew it and she probably thought she understood how it worked, having survived the fall of Anne and George. She certainly didn't think that the time would come when she would become a victim herself. The court offered excitement, gossip, entertainment: It was life at the cutting edge. Retirement to a tranquil estate in the middle of the English countryside could hardly compete with all of that.

RHRC:Why didn't Jane remarry after George's execution? Although the wife of a convicted traitor, she was forgiven by the king.And with no children, this well-off widow must have made a tempting prize for ambitious young noblemen.

JF: Yes, I've wondered why she didn't marry again. Immediately after George's execution, she didn't have much to offer a second husband. Love matches did take place occasionally, but most people married for practical reasons like uniting families or for land or money. She had no land and little money and was tainted with the Boleyn stigma. Once she had got her jointure settlement, she was a much more attractive proposition, but perhaps she didn't want to risk marriage again. Maybe she might have succumbed later, but she was executed only three years afterward.

RHRC: Can you talk a little bit about the importance of religion in Jane's life and in the life of the court generally at this time?

JF: Religion underpinned everything. You have to remember the fragility of life in the sixteenth century. Plague could strike at any moment, the infant mortality rate was high, there were no antibiotics or anesthetics so a simple cut could become infected and kill you, and common complaints like appendicitis could not be dealt with. Religion gave life a meaning and a purpose. It mattered. But Jane lived at a time of religious change and upheaval, when established practices were questioned and ideas were challenged. There was a sense of excitement and discovery that, depending on your point of view, could either threaten your faith or enlighten it. And she became caught up in that because Anne and George Boleyn were so involved with the new concepts.

RHRC: Reading about the young Henry and the man he became is like reading about two entirely different people.Why did the king's personality change so markedly as he grew older?

JF: I think Henry was just too beautiful when he was young. He became used to adulation and came to think it was his due. As he aged, his youthful idealism faded and he was forced to face up to life's disappointments- primarily to his failure to have a male heir for such a long time.Remember that he first married in 1509, and his only legitimate son wasn't born until 1537.He surely waited a long time! And he also faced health problems.His ulcerated legs must have been excruciatingly painful; simply moving his huge frame must have been a nightmare for him.

RHRC: One thing that surprised me about Henry was his ability to get away with acting like an absolute monarch when in fact, or at least in theory, his powers were constrained by law and custom.Why was Henry able to exercise his will without significant pushback from Parliament and the nobility?

JF: Sheer physical presence has a part to play. At six feet two inches tall, the king towered over his contemporaries. It was said that the mere sight of Holbein's depiction of him terrified courtiers years after his death! And then who was there to actually stand against him? Parliament's role was not clearly defined; it was an aid to government, but it did not form the government.Most members simply wanted to run their businesses or country estates while doing their duty to the country; they didn't want to be career politicians. Henry saw them as there to grant him taxes and to pass whatever laws he wanted. And he could use fear to make sure they did just that. Once he went striding into the parliament chamber and demanded that anyone who didn't agree with him should stand up and be counted there and then.Needless to say, the law he wanted was passed! As for the nobles, few wanted to risk open opposition or rebellion when the chances of success were so slim and, anyway, the king could be very, very generous. He could offer gifts, lands, titles, and honors, but he could also sign death warrants. He was not above leaving people to rot in prison without trial to literally starve to death, as he did with some of the Carthusians. The most serious rebellion Henry faced was the Pilgrimage of Grace, which broke out as he was busy closing the monasteries, and he dealt with that brutally, hanging the leaders in chains.

RHRC: Do you have other histories in the works? Are you going to continue writing about the Tudor period?

JF: I shall part from Jane with reluctance; she has been part of my life for over three years. I would like to write again, and the Tudor period will always be my first love, but I want to choose a subject with considerable care since he, she, or it has to fill Jane's shoes for me. And that won't be easy.

RHRC: Your husband is also a historian of the Tudor period. How involved are the two of you in each other's ongoing projects? Is there ever any friendly rivalry between you?

JF:We're very much involved with each other's projects.We read history, we think history, and we talk history (sometimes in the middle of the night). We make suggestions on each other's work, and we read each other's work. We do have interests outside of history, of course, but it is certainly a major factor in our lives.As to rivalry, well, this is my first book, so I hope it does well. A couple of years ago, my husband's biography of Mary, Queen of Scots, won the Whitbread (now Costa) Biography Prize and the Marsh Prize in the United Kingdom, and he was a finalist in the National Book Critics' Circle Awards in the United States. I certainly have a challenge on my hands, but it would be great if I could do the same!

From the Hardcover edition.



“Fox does a splendid job in conveying life at the top of the Tudor pyramid.”—USA Today

“Engrossing . . . [Jane Boleyn] dances with devilry, opulence and deception as Tudor court intrigue swirls around Henry VIII and his various queens. . . . A sparkling chronicle, fine-tuned to the personal stories that lend texture and emotion to a biography.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Outstanding . . . A fascinating and moving read, Jane Boleyn exposes the harsh reality of Henry VIII’s court, where cleverness and ambition often led to the block.”—Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire

“Fox is an English historian [who] imbues her writing with rich detail and confident knowledge. . . . She’s given depth and character to Jane Boleyn.”—The Austin Chronicle
Discussion Questions

Discussion Guides

1. When Julia Fox started this book she knew that she might challenge established views about Jane Boleyn. Did you come to the book with any preconceived views about Jane, and if so, what were they?

2. Although no one during Jane’s lifetime suggested she gave the fatal evidence that condemned Anne and George Boleyn—and handwritten originals of sixteenth-century sources prove that she did not do so—the idea that she betrayed them has crept into popular culture and has persisted. One of Fox’s aims was to question this mistaken idea by tracing this belief back through the centuries to its origin in Elizabeth’s reign. Did you find the research Fox outlined in her Epiloguen convincing?

3. Fox’s book is based on her study of Tudor documents in their original form. She says that some of her most thrilling moments while researching Jane Boleyn came from holding in her hand documents that had once been, almost five hundred years ago, in the hands of Henry VIII,Wolsey, the Boleyns, and Jane herself.What aspect of historical research do you think you would find the most thrilling?

4. One of Fox’s finds was a previously forgotten document in an English country record office that lists the terms of Jane’s marriage settlement. It reflects the trouble that she had prying a satisfactory income from her in-laws should her husband die.What light do you feel this sheds on Jane’s conduct when George was arrested?

5. One problem facing Fox was that she could not prove that Jane was present at certain events, even if she felt sure of it in her own mind, because the names of only the most important figures there were recorded. This meant that the author used such stratagems as “probably” or “most likely.” Do you think that she was right to be such a stickler for accuracy or do you feel that she should have been more willing to commit herself?

6. Do you feel that Fox’s explanation of how Jane Boleyn became involved in Catherine Howard’s escapades rings true? Can you suggest any other explanation?

7. Did you have any sympathy for Anne Boleyn as she faced the executioner’s sword that May morning in 1536, or with Catherine Howard as she picked her way across the icy cobbles of the Tower to meet a similar death a few years later? Did you feel that, within the context of their time, either deserved her fate?

8. What light do you think the book sheds on the role of women within the prevailing culture of Henry VIII’s England?

9. When Henry VIII became king he was a handsome, generous, and talented youth. By the time he died, Fox believes, he had become a monster with little regard for the law or for human life. Do you feel that she has painted too dark a picture of Henry?

10. The Tudors are perennially popular subjects for films, TV series, and historical fiction. Do you think that this blurring of fact and fiction is good or bad for understanding history?

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