Jane and George Boleyn’s Children (Guest Post)

Guest post by Danielle Marchant

Anne Boleyn’s younger brother, George, was married to Jane Parker for over ten years. However, they never had children of their own. Often in Historical Fiction, one of the reasons why their marriage is viewed as an unhappy one is due to the lack of children produced. However, was it true that the couple never had children? There have been several people linked to George Boleyn, raising the question of whether he may have had an illegitimate heir.

The Boleyn Girls of Clonony

It may be possible that he had an illegitimate son who grew up in Ireland away from the English court. At Clonony Castle, Ireland, the remains of two bodies were found in the early 19th century. It is believed that these were the great granddaughters of George, Elizabeth and Mary Boleyn.

Clonony Castle had originally been given to the Henry VIII by John Og MacCoghlan. The castle was then given to Thomas Boleyn. According to the story, after George’s execution, his illegitimate son was moved to Clonony for safety. Therefore, Elizabeth and Mary were descended from this young boy.

The two girls, however, also met a tragic end. Elizabeth died young and Mary devastated, threw herself from Clonony Castle Tower. They were buried behind the castle and the grave was eventually forgotten about, until it was discovered in the 19th century. They were found under a tomb slab, which had the following inscription:

“Here under leys Elizabeth and Mary Bullyn daughters of Thomas Bullyn son of George Bullyn, the son of George Bullyn Viscount Rochford son of Sir Thomas Bullyn Earle of Ormonde and Wiltshire.”

The tomb slab was discovered by labourers who were gathering stone for building work near the castle, in 1803. They found a cave about hundred yards from the castle. In the cave they found a coffin cut in the Limestone rock, which contained the two bodies. The slab was referred to locally as the monument of “Queen Elizabeth’s cousins”.

At the time of the discovery, the Earl of Rosse, a descendant of Alice, daughter of Sir William Boleyn of Blickling, showed paintings to a journalist of two unknown, young women at Birr Castle. The paintings were marked to indicate that the girls were 18 and 19 years old when they were painted in 1567. The Earl suggested that these two young women in the portrait were Elizabeth and Mary Boleyn and were hence the girls found in the tomb.

However, it is believed that they are actually linked to the Boleyn family via the Clere family. Therefore, it’s possible that the girls were in fact Margaret and Elizabeth Clere, born in 1548 and 1547, daughters of John Clere of Ormesby St. Margaret, Norfolk. He was son of Robert Clere and Alice Boleyn, Anne’s aunt.

George Boleyn, Dean of Lichfield

George Boleyn, who was Dean of Lichfield from 1576 up to his death in 1603, has also been linked to Anne’s brother, George, as his son, either by Jane Parker, or illegitimately. The Dean referred to himself as a kinsman of the Carey and Knollys family, who were both families linked to Mary Boleyn.

In 1597, George Carey, 2nd Baron Hunsdon and Mary Boleyn’s grandson, sent a letter to Lord Burghley asking for advice petitioning Elizabeth I, concerning the earldom of Ormond. This earldom had once been held by his great-grandfather, Thomas Boleyn, so Hunsdon’s claim was that he believed that the title should have been handed down to his father and then, to himself because of their connection to Thomas’ eldest daughter, Mary Boleyn. So, if George Boleyn, Dean of Lichfield, was in fact George Boleyn’s son, wouldn’t it have been the case that he should have petitioned about his claim to the title instead of George Carey? However, this issue was not raised at the time, so adding doubt to whether he was George Boleyn’s son.

In the end, Thomas Boleyn passed on the ancestral claim to the St Leger branch of the family – because his son, George Boleyn, had died without a son. Therefore, if the Dean was George’s son, there’s no doubt that he would have inherited it. Even if the Dean was illegitimate, it would have still been expected that he would have been looked after in some way and recognised by the surviving Boleyn relatives. If George Boleyn did have an illegitimate son, there would have been no reason for him not to recognise him, especially as he had no legitimate heirs with Jane.

Edmund Sheffield

Even though it seems unlikely that Jane and George had children of their own, one thing we do definitely know is that in April 1533, Jane and George were granted wardship of twelve year old Edmund Sheffield. This was probably the nearest they experienced to some kind of parenthood.

Edmund was a distant relation of the King and being granted his wardship was a reward from the King to Jane and George for their loyalty to him. Edmund was the son of Sir Robert Sheffield and his wife, Jane Stanley, who was the daughter of George Stanley, Lord Strange. His father had died in 1531 and Edmund would be the heir to his father’s land in Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire. Not only was this wardship a reward for their loyalty to the King, but it also meant if Jane and George did have a girl, Edmund could be a potential husband for her.

As George’s wife, it would have been Jane’s duty to produce an “heir”. Therefore, for Jane to be married to George for that long and still not have at least one child, this would have been seen as very odd by 16th century standards. Unfortunately, there are no records of miscarriages and we can’t rule out the possibility that either or both Jane and George may have suffered from fertility problems.

Even though there are no records of Jane having miscarriages, this doesn’t mean they didn’t happen. It is possible that Jane maybe did eventually fall pregnant. However, as there are no records of Jane having children with George, if Jane did fall pregnant, unfortunately the children were not carried to full term.

The question on whether George and Jane did have children of their own is definitely still a much debated area. The gaps in what we know so far, have been filled in by Historical Fiction and in most cases, this has not necessarily been a good thing, as it has on its own helped to fuel the idea their marriage was an unhappy one.


Clonony Castle, Ireland. Taken from http://www.britainirelandcastles.com

Sources and suggested further reading:

“George Boleyn – Tudor Poet, Courtier and Diplomat” – Clare Cherry and Claire Ridgway, MadeGlobal Publishing, 2014.

“Jane Boleyn: The Infamous Lady Rochford” – Julia Fox, Phoenix, 2007.

About the Author: Danielle Marchant

I am an Independent Author from London, UK. Parts 1, 2 and 3 of my series of historical novellas based on Jane Boleyn Lady Rochford’s life,“The Lady Rochford Saga”, are available now:


Visit my pages at https://www.facebook.com/TheLadyRochfordSaga and at http://danielleliannem.wix.com/janeboleyn .

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Book Review: “The Raven’s Widow” by Adrienne Dillard

Jane Seymour (13)

It is through my connections to the Tudor world online that I ran into author Adrienne Dillard. Adrienne is a total sweetheart and sent me her book to review after I asked her to write an article about Jane Boleyn for my site. I already had a growing “To Be Read” pile going on but I moved her book closer to the top because I was reading about Katheryn Howard at the time and I thought Jane Boleyn would be a great follow-up book. I wasn’t sure what to expect since this is the first book by Dillard that I’ve read. She has also written Cor Rotto – A Novel of Catherine Carey and Catherine Carey in a Nutshell.

Jane Boleyn, or Jane Parker, Lady Rochford is often portrayed as a villain in novels and TV series such as Showtime’s The Tudors. It is because of those depictions that average people like you and me get our first impressions of Tudor “characters” from. I’ve always believed Jane’s depictions to be unfair and one-sided, she was a very complex woman who became tangled in two major controversies in her lifetime.

The Raven’s Widow – Book Review

Jane Parker never dreamed that her marriage into the Boleyn family would raise her star to such dizzying heights. Before long, she finds herself as trusted servant and confidante to her sister-in-law, Anne Boleyn; King Henry VIII’s second queen. On a gorgeous spring day, that golden era is cut short by the swing of a sword. Jane is unmoored by the tragic death of her husband, George, and her loss sets her on a reckless path that leads to her own imprisonment in the Tower of London. Surrounded by the remnants of her former life, Jane must come to terms with her actions. In the Tower, she will face up to who she really is and how everything went so wrong.

The Raven’s Widow is a brilliantly told story about Jane Parker, wife of George Boleyn, Lord Rochford. The story is told in two timelines, her time with Anne and George and her time with Katheryn Howard.

The story begins with a young Jane who is trying to find her way and control her mouth. It continues with her blossoming into an amazing and loyal woman who suffered way too much loss in her lifetime. One of the things I have always wondered was, why did she and George never have children? Of course not everyone had children, or were able to, but other fictionalized stories about the couple would lead you to believe that their marriage was a sham and George was gay. In this story you cannot help but feel for Jane and George who struggle to get pregnant because of their limited time together due to his loyalty to the King. My heart broke along with her’s through each miscarriage she suffered.

Jane had always noticed that her brother Henry’s friend George Boleyn was attractive but was turned off by all the attention he received from the other ladies. When Jane found out she was to marry George she was not pleased with the decision at all. Their marriage was an arranged one that over time turned into true love. A great love.

Each character in the story came to life while reading it – that’s everyone from Mary Boleyn to Jane’s servant Lucy and even Thomas Cromwell. Anne Boleyn shares a decent amount of the story with Jane and George and is just as fiery and hot-tempered as we all imagine from stories about her. You really can’t blame her either, especially near the end, she became desperate to save herself, her family and her daughter from disaster.

As I was finishing this book I had tears in my eyes – I had become so attached to Jane that I didn’t want her ending to come. Nor did I want this amazingly written book to end.

This book is a real page-turner and you’ll have a difficult time putting it down. Even though I knew where the story was going it left me anxious for what was to come on the following pages.

Order your copy today!

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The Complex Nature of Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford (Guest Post)

On February 15, 1542 Ottwell Johnson sent a letter to his brother at Calais.  Only two days prior, he had been part of the throng of people filtering in through the great stone walls surrounding the Tower of London, braving the bitter winter air to stand witness to Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford’s final hours on Earth.

I see the Quene and the Lady Retcheford suffer within the Tower, the day following, whos sowles (I doubt not) be with God, for thay made the moost godley and christyan’s end, that ever was hard tell of (I thinke) sins the worlds creation; uttering thayer lively faeth in the blode of Christe onely, and with goodly words and stedfast countenances thay desyred all christen people to take regard unto thayer worthy and just punishment with death for thayer offences, agenst God heinously from thayer youth upward, in breaking all his commandements, and also agenst the King’s royall Majesty very daungeriously: wherfor thay being justly condempned (as thay sayed) by the Lawes of the Realme and Parlement, to dye, require the people (I say) to take example at them, for amendement of thayer ungodly lyves, and gladly to obey the King in all things, for whos preservation thay did hartely pray; and willed all people so to do: commending thayer sowles to God, and earnestly calling for mercy upon him: whom I besieche to geve us grace with suche faeth, hope, and charite at our departing owt of this miserable world, to come to the fruytion of his godhed in joy everlasting.  Amen.

Offences against God and the king…Justly condemned…Ungodly lives – these are damning words indeed.  Could that bawd, Lady Rochford, expect anything better?  After all, it’s her own fault she found herself kneeling before the block on a scaffold drenched, just moments before, in the sticky crimson blood of her mistress, right?  What goes around comes around – her death was payback for her role in the downfall of her husband and sister-in-law.

I don’t think so.

To accept Jane’s death as karma, you have to accept that she played an active role in the judicial murder Anne and George Boleyn, and I don’t. Though television shows like The Tudors and books like Wolf Hall would like to convince you of her duplicity, there is no evidence for it.  Yes, there are rumors and hearsay, but those came long after her death and were most likely colored by her actions at the end of her life.  However, she was guilty of helping Queen Katherine Howard and Thomas Culpeper meet; she confessed as much during her interrogation in 1541, this we know for certain.  It’s only her motivation and the extent of her involvement that are up for debate.

When the Privy Council met with Katherine Howard on November 12, 1541 to grill her on her late night activities with Thomas Culpeper, she made it clear that the fault belonged to her lady-in-waiting.  It all started when Lady Rochford had told her that the king’s groom desired to speak to her.  Katherine insisted that she demurred several times, but Jane was unrelenting, even ‘swearing upon a book’ that Culpeper meant no ill will towards her.  It was only because of her lady’s nagging that she eventually gave in to that first meeting at Lincoln.  She goes on to recount, almost word-for-word, conversations she had with her maid about how the meetings were wrong, her fear of being caught, and her constant protestations.  Were these accusations true or were they the words of a terrified young woman desperate to save her own skin?

When it came time for Thomas Culpeper’s examination, he appeared to sing the same song as Katherine; it was Lady Rochford who contrived these interviews.  At face value, Culpeper’s wording could intimate that the meetings were Jane’s idea, but contrived can also be taken in much less sinister way, merely that Jane planned the meetings.  That’s true – she did.  Jane did look for hidden, out-of-the-way places – she did sneak about – with the queen.  Culpeper backs that up: ‘The queen would in every house seek for the back doors and back stairs herself.’  Later in the interrogation, the groom details Katherine’s flirtations and gifts she gave him.  He said that Lady Rochford provoked him much to love the queen and he intended to do ill with her.  Ah, there it is – Jane’s provocation.

The other interrogations all paint a picture of a woman so forceful, so influential, that she managed to convince an entire household to knowingly partake in treason.  It almost seems outlandish.  How could the widow of a convicted traitor wield so much power?  She couldn’t.  She wasn’t even the most senior lady in Katherine’s household.  So why did everyone blame Jane?  No one knows.  The only clear fact from these records is that Lady Rochford was not a popular courtier.  Perhaps therein lies the answer.

Jane Boleyn’s only biographer, Julia Fox, believes that she most likely agreed to help Katherine one time, and then because she said yes once, she felt as though she had to continue – it all snowballed from that first event.  I concur that it’s the most likely explanation, but why in the world would she have agreed in the first place, knowing what had happened to her sister-in-law only a few years earlier?  With the benefit of 500 years distance from the events, we can look back at it and smirk at how foolish she seemed, but Jane didn’t have that luxury.  She was in the moment, making a split second decision that, eventually, became life or death.

Katherine Howard’s household is reminiscent of the ‘mean girl’ cliques of popular culture.  Ripe with competition, it was a pit of jealousy and vanity.  The details of Katherine’s affair may have remained hidden from the king, but it was almost an open secret in her household, nearly everyone appeared to know about it.  When it was finally brought to light, the ladies closed rank, leaving Lady Rochford out in the cold.  For someone as unpopular as she seems to have been, it’s not a great leap to believe that Jane agreed to help because she wanted to be liked.  If she pleased the queen, then perhaps Katherine would show her favor.  A valid theory, for certain, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right one – or the only one.

Was it revenge?  Perhaps.  Contrary to the image we have of Jane benefitting from George Boleyn’s downfall, his death hit her interests hard.  As a convicted traitor, all of his goods were forfeit to the Crown.  It is only through Thomas Cromwell’s good offices that she was able to keep some of his household-stuffs, including their marriage bed.  She had to wage an enduring legal battle with Thomas Boleyn to claim any of her jointure lands, and she never again rose to the same status she had during her husband’s lifetime.  Whether or not you believe that the Rochford marriage was a love-match, it’s doubtful that Jane relished George’s demise.  Beyond the request for the return of her marriage bed and her decision to wear widow’s weeds rather than remarry, Jane was the only one to reach out to offer comfort to George during his imprisonment.  If there was no love between them, there was at least affection.  His death impacted her emotionally, as well as financially.

Though it’s usually glossed over, Jane’s mental state played a large role in her downfall.  The Imperial Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, reported that she ‘went mad’ on her third day of imprisonment so she was sent down the Thames to Sir John Russell’s home on the Strand to recuperate.  The king even sent his own doctors to look after her.  What would appear to be benevolent generosity on His Grace’s behalf actually had a far more selfish bent.  He wanted her well-amended because it was illegal to execute the mentally ill.  Regardless of how composed Jane later appeared on the scaffold, the fact that the king had that particular law changed speaks volumes about her stability.  Perhaps she had exhibited signs before she found herself in the Tower?

When considered separately, none of these theories offer a satisfactory conclusion, but together they show a clear picture of the complex nature of human behavior.  What was once unexplainable can become understandable.   The capacity for rational thought is severely hindered under the influence of psychological distress.  Jane’s later life was filled with instability, so it’s no small wonder she made decisions that we would now consider outrageous and risky.  The events of 1536 sent shockwaves throughout the Tudor court, leaving lasting damage on those at the epicenter.


Source for Ottwell Letter:

Original Letter Illustrative of English History Vol II Ed. Henry Ellis

About the Author: Adrienne Dillard

Adrienne Dillard is a graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies with emphasis in History from Montana State University-Northern. Adrienne has been an eager student of history for most of her life and has completed in-depth research on the American Revolutionary War time period in American History and the history and sinking of the Titanic. Her senior university capstone paper was on the discrepancies in passenger lists on the ill-fated liner and Adrienne was able to work with Philip Hind of Encyclopedia Titanica for much of her research on that subject. Her previous works include best-selling novel,”Cor Rotto: A Novel of Catherine Carey” and the non-fiction “Catherine Carey in a Nutshell” for MadeGlobal’s History in a Nutshell series. When she isn’t writing, Adrienne works as an administrative assistant in the financial services industry and enjoys spending time with her husband, Kyle, and son, Logan, at their home in the Pacific Northwest. 

Find Adrienne’s books on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Adrienne-Dillard/e/B00PALNC2M

Jane Boleyn: Victim of History


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.

25B602CA00000578-2954991-The_portrait_of_Anne_Boleyn_which_after_being_analysed_using_fac-m-61_1424072576506Around 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.

If you love the stories you find on my website and/or enjoy my podcasts, feel free to drop me a small donation – anything you can spare is greatly appreciated and will help me pay for the monthly costs involved in running this website and my podcast. These donations are made through a secure PayPal page. Even if all you can do is $1 – I’ll appreciate it! Thank you. -Rebecca

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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

http://thetudorenthusiast.weebly.com/my-tudor-blog/understanding-jane-boleyn-viscountess-rochford https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Boleyn,_Viscountess_Rochford

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