Lady Jane Parker was born in Norfolk around 1505 to Henry Parker, 10th Baron Morley and Alice St John. Her family was wealthy, well-connected, and respected by their peers.
As a noblewoman, we can assume that Jane’s education included reading, writing, religious instruction and courtly entertainment like… dancing, singing and playing an instrument.
Jane joined the English court in her teens to likely serve as a Maid-of-Honor to Queen Katherine of Aragon. We first hear of her when she is listed as attending the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520.
In 1524/25 Jane Parker married George Boleyn. Jane’s marriage with George was most certainly arranged by their parents to benefit them one way or another — we do not know for certain whether or not the marriage was a good match. There is no evidence to prove whether George was homosexual, or whether he was a womanizer. Many authors have picked a side, but we’ll stay neutral in the matter since there is no definitive proof one way or another.
Around 1534, as a Lady-in-Waiting, Jane worked with her sister-in-law Queen Anne Boleyn when it was discovered Henry VIII was having an affair with an unknown woman. Together, they conspired to have the lady removed from court. However, when Henry found out about their scheming he banished Jane from court. We do not know for certain when Jane was allowed back at court, but most likely she was only gone a few months. Just enough time for Henry to forget about the incident and move on to his next mistress – quite possibly Madge Shelton, cousin to Queen Anne. Some have suggested that Madge was a puppet for Anne Boleyn. Anne supposedly pushed her cousin to be a mistress to the king so she could make sure her position was safe as queen.
In Alison Weir’s book, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, she states that Jane Boleyn was instrumental in the downfall of her husband and Queen Anne. Weir claims that Jane was envious of the relationship between George and Anne.
Jane and her husband George were married eleven years when he was arrested in May 1536. He was charged with incest and plotting to kill the king. It has been said that Jane gave testimony against her husband, but again, there is no evidence to corroborate that statement, however, author Antonia Fraser suggests that Jane was the one who was responsible for Anne and George being charged with incest. Never was Jane mentioned by name, nor George’s wife mentioned as someone who gave testimony against him. If Jane had given testimony against her husband and sister-in-law, it was only verbal – there is no written testimony available from her.
George’s trial was after Anne’s and the evidence against him (per Weir’s book) was based on a time that he and Anne had once been witnessed to be closeted alone together for an extended period of time, in addition to what others had verbally claimed (true or not).
Rochford said he knew that death awaited him and would say the truth, but raising his eyes to Heaven denied the accusations against him
Rochford was not tried at Westminster, but at the Tower, with the Queen. His calm behaviour, and good defence. More himself did not reply better. The judges at first were of different opinions, but at last one view overturned the other and they were unanimous. The duke of Norfolk as president, though maternal uncle of the accused, asked them if he was guilty or not, and one replied guilty. Rochford then merely requested the judges that they would ask the King to pay his debts. via – Henry VIII: June 1536, 1-5
Jane Boleyn was most likely interviewed about her husband and sister-in-law, but we cannot verify what she said or did not say. It’s obvious that history has made her out to be the wicked wife who sought revenge on her unfaithful husband by accusing him of incest and treason. The truth is we just don’t know…and never will, unless new evidence comes forward. It’s unfair to judge her in this situation until we have more facts.
Of course, later on in history she was executed for her involvement in the affair between Katheryn Howard and Thomas Culpeper – but that’s a story for another time.
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The Six Wives of Henry VIII, by Alison Weir
Who’s Who at the Tudor Court, by Victoria Silvia Evans
Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser