Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines' take on Jane Boleyn.
In this fascinating debut, Tudor historian Julia Fox pays tribute to a woman who has been misunderstood and unfairly maligned for over four hundred years. Jane Boleyn has been blamed for causing the downfall and beheading of two of Henry VIII's wives - Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, respectively - but her role in these events, as Fox argues, are not as scandalous as history has portrayed.
Fox uses historical records to tell the story of Jane's upbringing at Great Hallingbury, her parents' estate in Essex. As a young girl, she was sent to Henry VIII's court to serve Katherine of Aragon and soon became completely intoxicated by the glitter, pageantry, and intrigues. Her parents make a good match for her in George Boleyn, and as the king becomes increasingly besotted with Anne Boleyn, Jane's status begins to rise along with her husband's. She soon finds herself a sister-in-law and confidante of the new queen, with riches beyond her wildest dreams.
Of course, Anne Boleyn is convicted of treason, adultery and incest and sentenced to be beheaded, along with her brother, who is accused of having inappropriate relations with his sister. Jane's testimony is a crucial part of the interrogation leading up to Anne's conviction, but as Fox points out, the evidence suggests that Jane had to confess what she knew: her life depended on it. She told the truth, which was skewed and twisted by her interrogators in order to reach the result that Henry VIII wanted. When Anne and George died, Jane Boleyn lost everything. History portrays her as a pariah, but Fox convincingly argues that she was a tragic victim of circumstance.
With the arrival of Jane Seymour, Jane Boleyn had to try and win her way back into the king's good graces in order to earn a living again. Fox explains how she manages to do this, gradually working her way back into a position of trust, until Catherine Howard's dalliance with Thomas Culpepper, and Jane's unwitting role in it, eventually leads to her disgrace and execution.
This biography is somewhat speculative, given that documentation on Jane Boleyn's life is sometimes scanty or nonexistent. Fox does a good job of filling in the gaps in a plausible way, using documentation about the Tudor period and Henry VIII's court to show what Jane would have experienced, and how she might have reacted. Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford is a spellbinding examination of life in the Tudor court and gives fascinating insight into all the key players. Most importantly, Jane Boleyn is redeemed in this book, a woman who showed remarkable courage and aplomb in a world where one false move could lead to a horrifying end and a besmirched reputation.