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:

Katheryn Howard – Part Three

The last article in the series covered Katheryn’s wedding night through Easter, or  end of March 1541. It was at this point in time that Katheryn began to show favor to Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford.

Find Part One Here

Find Part Two Here

Katheryn Howard – Part Three

It was around the same time as Margaret Pole’s unexpected execution at the end of May 1541, that Queen Katheryn had become noticeably upset about her relationship with the King. Rumors had been floating around Tudor court that the King wished to take back the Lady Anne of Cleves.

When the Queen’s behavior came to the King’s attention, Henry located his young wife and informed her that she was wrong to think such things – that if he were ever in the position to marry again he would not choose the Lady of Cleves. But I suspect that the reason Katheryn was so paranoid about her relationship was because there was a rumor circulating. The rumor was that Anne of Cleves being pregnant by the King. The Queen had not yet given the King a son.

Queen Katheryn left Greenwich Palace merely four days after the execution of Margaret Pole and was headed to Westminster. Greenwich was in need of a cleaning, a task that could take weeks to complete. Once it was clean she would return.

Upon her return to Greenwich Palace, the Queen was informed that her cousin, Sir Edmund Knyvet had been arrested for “shedding blood” in the precincts of the court. The punishment for said offense was for Knyvet to lose his right hand. As a right-hander, Knyvet begged to have his left hand removed instead – he insisted that it was so he could still yield a sword for the King. The Queen must have put in a good word for her cousin because not long after he was fully pardoned. He was also warned that if it were to happen again there would be no reprieve.

After unpacking Katheryn’s things the Queen’s household got back to their normal activities. Entertainment continued as always as there was much music and dancing – two things Katheryn thoroughly enjoyed. It was this atmosphere that would unleash a chain of events that would inevitably bring down the Queen of England.

Whether it was Margaret Douglas’ secret affair with the Queen’s brother Charles, or Dorothy Bray sneaking afound with the already married, Lord William Parr, Queen Katheryn was not performing her duty as guardian of her ladies reputations, to the extent that she was expected. 


The recklessness of her ladies spilled over into Katheryn’s life when she eventually forgave her former flame, Thomas Culpeper. Apparently, the two had had a disagreement on Maundy Thursday and did not speak again. Something changed with the Queen to at this point open up her reputation to a fling with Culpeper. Was it that she wasn’t receiving the attention from the King that she desired? Was it because her husband was old enough to be her grandfather?

What exactly happened after they reconciled is unknown, but we do eventually come across evidence of Katheryn’s feelings for Thomas Culpeper. Queen Katheryn sent one of her page boys to bring several dinners to Culpeper when he was sick. This, at the time, was not seen as inappropriate but she walk walking a very delicate line.

The progress of 1541

Everything changed during the summer progress of 1541. Henry and Katheryn’s itinerary on the journey included twenty-seven stops in just over three and a half months on the road. In addition to traveling they also had many public appearances along the way. It was as this journey progressed that Katheryn Howard began plotting to be with a man who was not her husband.

A few hours after their departure from London, the royal retinue stopped in Enfield. A progress in the summer was not uncommon for the court – London was known to be unbearable in the summer. The heat and smell of the Thames would often chase away the King. This timing of this progress was perfect for Henry to get to the north and meet many of his subjects who had never seen him before – this was his first time in 32 years that he ventured past Boston, in Lincolnshire.

After stops in Enfield and St. Albans, the court rested in Dunstable. It was at Dunstable that Katheryn Howard became the first Queen consort of Ireland. Something that must have been very exciting for her.

As they continued along their way, the King and Queen enjoyed themselves immensely. The King was having such a great time that he sent the Mayor of London a great stag and two bucks that he had killed on the 14th of July. This shows that there was no shortage of meat along their journey. It was only a week later that it was noted that the Queen was in a great mood – she had never traveled to Northampton before and it made her happy to experience this new city.

A Note

Two stops later in their progress, while at Loddington, Katheryn gave her chamberer, Margaret Morton, a note that was to be delivered to Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford. This letter was missing a seal and was not addressed to anyone, this often meant that the sender wished to be kept anonymous. When Morton delivered the message to Rochford, she was informed that the Queen would have her response in the morning.

The following morning, Morton went to retrieve the answer from Rochford and was greeted with a warning, to tell “her Grace to keep it secret and not lay it abroad.” Morton would not forget this strange interaction. 

As their progress continued, a stop at Collyweston was in order. Collyweston was the former residence of Margaret Beaufort, the King’s grandmother. It then belonged to the King’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, until his death in the summer of 1536. While no one had lived there since the death of Fitzroy, it was considered to be in great condition. Katheryn’s apartments at Collyweston overlooked the garden and she had access with a private staircase to her rooms.

Grimsthorpe Castle

A short three-day stop at Grimsthorpe Castle was next for the royal couple. This castle belonged to the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk and the Charles Brandon was there to greet the group when they arrived.

As the Queen’s chamberers finished unpacking for their short stay, Katheryn asked her former bedmate, Katherine Tilney to fetch Lady Rochford and ask if she had followed through on the Queen’s request. Rochford told Tilney that she would bring word herself when it had arrived. Yet another strange interaction that would never be forgotten.

The Queen and Lady Rochford had discussed Culpepper throughout the lengthy progress. At one point Rochford mentioned to Katheryn that another privy chamber gentleman, Thomas Paston had also showed interested in the Queen. If Rochford was trying to find more men for Katheryn, the Queen was not interested. The only person on her mind was Thomas Culpeper.

The group left Grimsthorpe on the 7th/8th of August and headed to the small market town of Sleaford. The manor house in Sleaford, where they stopped briefly, had previously been owned by Lord Hussey. Hussey was a man who was beheaded after supporting the Pilgrimage of Grace. A common theme while in the north.

Treason at Lincoln

The following morning they were on the move once again. Roughly 10 miles outside of Lincoln, while the royal cortege ate, messengers were sent to Lincoln to inform those in charge that the King and Queen would arrive shortly.

Henry and Katheryn’s entrance into Lincoln must have been quite the site – as they rode toward the city wall, a group of men in red robes gathered. As Katheryn (also wearing red) approached the men, they quickly bowed to their new Queen. A tent had been erected nearby so the royal couple could change out of their riding clothes. Henry changed into an outfit made of cloth of gold and Katheryn wore a silver dress.

“Throughout the progress, she carried out her public duties perfectly. Accounts of the tour written years later, referred to her as Henry’s ‘fair and beloved queen.’” Katheryn was a flawlessly behaved consort – content to dazzle as a supporting player, cloth of silver next to Henry’s cloth of gold, never pulling focus or openly pursuing her own agenda. Her first few months as queen had been considered a success.

With all that being said, it was during their stay in Lincoln that Katheryn began her late night chats with Lady Rochford. Both Katherine Tilney and Margaret Morton (two ladies who were already suspicious) were assigned to escort the Queen to Rochford’s room. When they arrived at Rochford’s door, the Queen dismissed both Tilney and Morton. This behavior was very suspicious. The fact that the Queen went to a servants room instead of inviting the servant into her own was unusual by social standards.

Once Katheryn and Lady Rochford were alone they snuck down the stairs to the back entrance of the apartments. It was there they waited for the arrival of Thomas Culpeper. As they waited that a guardsmen noticed the door was unlocked. Without assessing the situation he locked the door. Katheryn and Rochford had narrowly missed getting caught. Lucky for them, when Culpeper arrived he wasn’t concerned – he picked the lock and was there to calm a panicked Queen.

The three of them returned to Lady Rochford’s lavatory. The the size of the room wasn’t small by any means – Lady Rochford could sleep in the corner and not know what was going on between Katheryn and Culpeper.

In a room lit by candlelight, Thomas and Katheryn shared their darkest secrets with one another. Katheryn spoke of her history with Henry Manox and Francis Dereham. While Thomas Culpeper listened intently and appeared amused by her stories. The conversation became more intimate when Katheryn bragged about her skills as a lover to the attractive young man sitting across from her.

As the hours ticked away, the Queen’s household became suspicious of the relationship of Katheryn and Lady Rochford. Margaret Morton, who was already suspicious, decided to checked if the Queen was back in her bed – when she returned Katherine Tilney asked, “Jesus, is not the Queen abed yet?” At which Morton replied, “Yes, even now,” and went to bed. 

The Queen and Culpeper talked for hours – they finally went their separate ways at around two or three in the morning.

The following morning, after only getting a few hours of sleep, the Queen had the energy to show her generosity to a woman called Helen Page. Page was a local spinster who had been condemned for several minor felonies. Page’s sentence is unknown, but was pardoned by the King on the Queen’s request. 

I Love You

That evening, the Queen and Thomas Culpeper met again. This time she charged Katherine Tilney to escort her to Rochford’s room. She knew Tilney could keep a secret. Katheryn told Tilney to wait outside. This meeting would be the first time that Katheryn Howard, wife of Henry VIII, Queen, told Thomas Culpeper that she loved him. He reciprocated her feelings by saying he felt bound to her because he “did love her again above all other creatures”. As Culpeper left he kissed Katheryn on the hand because he could not allow himself to go further.

After Lincoln

A day or two later the court moved on to Gainsborough, which was eighteen miles from Lincoln. It’s unclear where Katheryn and her household stayed during this visit but author Gareth Russell believes it could have been Gainsborough Old Hall, the home of the old Lord Burgh. Local legend says that the King and his Queen slept in the upper bedchamber of Gainsborough Old Hall’s tower. While it’s likely that the Queen stayed there it is highly unlikely that the royal couple shared a room.

After spending a few days in Gainsborough they were off to Scrooby and then Hatfield. It was at Hatfield that Katheryn’s lady, Margaret Morton later stated that she “saw her look out of her chamber window on Master Culpeper after such sort that I thought there was love between them.” Morton did not report what she had seen and instead made another mental note of the Queen’s behavior. The court stayed at Hatfield for roughly five days before moving on to Pontefract Castle – which would be their longest stop on their progress.

Nearing the end of August, the royal couple had been on progress for over two months. The Queen, at this point, was not adjusting well to all the traveling – I’m certain she’d never experience anything like it in her lifetime. She was tired and jumping. Whether it was her tiredness, or the excitement of seeing Culpeper we don’t know, but she was not acting herself and treated her ladies poorly. 

At one point at Pontefract the paranoid Queen yelled at Margaret Morton and Maude Luffkyn after suspecting they were spying on her.

Things didn’t get any easier for Katheryn either. On the 25th of August, Francis Dereham showed up at Pontefract, unannounced. Dereham was there to get what was his. He had just had an agrument with the dowager duchess of Norfolk. Norfolk threw him out. He had lost everything. What more did he have to lose? He asked for a position in the Queen’s household.

Katheryn had to think on her toes – she needed to find a way to appease this ticking time bomb…but her household was full.

After having a private meeting with Dereham she introduced him to the rest of her staff as her gentleman usher.

Being the thorn in her side that he was, Dereham continued with his boasting and bad manners – something that would haunt them all later and cost Dereham his life.

It All Changed

During their long stay at Pontefract, Thomas Culpeper spent an increasing amount of time together with Katheryn in her rooms, until he had to leave to undress the King at night – at which he would, some nights, return.

A new habit formed for the Queen while at Pontefract Castle – she began to lock her the doors to her bedroom at night, only giving access to Lady Rochford.

Maude Luffkyn got in trouble with the Queen again when she attempted to enter the Queen’s bedroom one night. She either forgot the door was locked, or was suspicious of the Queen’s behavior. Katheryn was so upset with her that she threatened to remove both Luffkyn and Morton.

It wasn’t only Maude Luffkyn who tried to get into the Queen’s room but also a servant to the King. He had a message for Katheryn from Henry. The servant found the door locked and left – he  hadn’t thought twice about it. That is until later.

In mid-September, the King required Culpeper’s service for his trip to inspect the northern port of Hull. One can imagine Queen Katheryn heartsick over the distance between them. 

Upon his return from Hull, Katheryn was quick to restart their late-night meetings. At one meeting she begged Culpeper not to confess what they had been doing to a priest, because, she believed her husband, as head of the Church of England would hear his confussion. Culpeper promised her he would not tell a soul, not even a priest.

End of the Progress

After the long progress Katheryn returned to Hampton Court Palace on the 28th of October 1541. In only a couple of days her world would begin to change.

Katheryn continued to take risks in order to see Thomas Culpeper, after arriving back at Hampton Court. Her infatuation with the man was causing the Queen to make terrible decisions. Before too long she would never see him again.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s (Thomas Cranmer) official London residence was Lambeth Palace. It was there that he accepted the audience of a man called John Lascelles. What came from this conversation was not what Canterbury had expected.

Lascelles came with news that he had heard from his sister, Mary Lascelles – now Mary Hall about Queen Katheryn’s behavior. Hall was once a servant of the dowager duchess of Norfolk and lived in the same household with Queen Katheryn when she was a ward there. John Lascelles stated that he had recently encouraged his younger sister to petition for a position in the Queen’s household, but Mary Hall said that she would not feel comfortable having a mistress whose morals were lacking and who was “light, both in living and conditions”.

When Lascelles naturally pressed his sister for more information she told him of the Queen’s past romances with both Henry Manox and Francis Dereham. To prove that this was true he repeated what his sister had told him, but possibly in a more delicate way. She had approached Manox (as we covered in the last podcast) and informed him that he could not have a future with Katheryn due to his status. This is where Hall told her brother that Manox informed her that he had seen a very private part of Katheryn’s body and would recognize it easily.

After John Lascelles heard this story from his sister he chose to discuss with friends to help decide what he should do with the information. The consensus was to bring it to the Privy Council. This was when Lascelles paid visit to Canterbury at Lambeth Palace.

The entire matter was extremely delicate for anyone near the King who may have known of the Queen’s past.  It would all have to be dealt with very carefully. Cranmer decided, most likely for fear of the wrath of the King, to leave a note for him to read after the mass for All Souls.

After reading the note, King Henry did not have the initial reaction that was expected of him. His biggest concern was in finding the truth in the story – not to lock up his Queen, who remained in her apartments, utterly clueless, for the rest of day. The King either hoped or believed it was all a big misunderstanding.

It did not take long before the Privy Council began to interview witnesses. At the top of the list was John Lascelles and his sister Mary Hall. The Earl of Southampton, a member of the King’s Privy Council began with John Lascelles, and the following day the Earl of Sussex stopped at the home of Mary Hall.

To stop rumors from spreading back to court where those involved in the accusations could find out, Sussex and some other men disguised their stop at the Hall residence as a place to rest on their journey from hunting. Eventually, Sussex was able to get Mary alone to inform her that the hunting trip was a ruse – to keep this matter as private as possible. He asked Mary if she would stand behind her words at which she declared she would.

After the confession of Mary Hall, Wriothesley and Canterbury examined Henry Manox at Lambeth. Manox said that he was appointed to the service of the dowager duchess of Norfolk about five years earlier. He fell in love with Katheryn, and she with him. Unfortunately their so-called fairy tale was interrupted when the lady of the household found them alone together.

Canterbury and Southampton proceeded to ask Manox if he had any displeasure with Francis Dereham. Manox stated that Dereham also loved Katheryn, and Edward Walgrave, who loved a maiden named Baskervile, used to visit her there until 2 or 3 in the morning.; so he wrote an anonymous letter to the Duchess, warning her that if she would rise half an hour after going to bed and visit the gentlewomen’s chamber she would be displeased. The Duchess did as he said and was furious with the girls.

Sometime afterward, Katheryn had become suspicious of the letter that informed the duchess and stole it from her room. She showed it to Dereham, who suspected Manox to have written it, and called him knave.

Manox during his interrogation also said that Joan Bulmer, who was Katheryn’s bedfellow had also been entertained by Dereham.

Manox continued on by listing more witnesses to the happenings in the dowager duchess’ household: Dorothy Dawby, then chamberer, Katherine Tylney, now chamberer with the Queen, Edward Walgrave, servant to Prince Edward, Mary Lascelles (or Hall) and Malyn Tylney, widow, can speak of the misrule between Dereham and Katheryn.

After the Manox interrogation, the men moved on to Francis Dereham, who was already in custody. They were careful about removing Dereham from the Queen’s household without causing suspicion. Dereham was told that he would be questioned about earlier claims of piracy during his time in Ireland. Once behind closed-door, he would learn it was even worse than piracy. It was treason.

Francis Dereham was questioned by the men about his doings in Ireland. What brought him there in the first place? Why did he choose now? Dereham’s new position in the Queen’s household was known and was considered suspicious as well. Francis told his interrogators that he had been invited to the Queen’s chambers, was given gifts and was told to “take heed what words you speak”.

He also confessed to have known Katheryn “carnally” many times during their time at the dowager duchess’ home. He went so far to recall a time that he was “in his doublet and hose between the sheets” with Katheryn, and there were witnesses to their love-making.

It hit very close to home when Katheryn’s aunt, Margaret Howard and her former bedmate, Katherine Tilney were both taken in for questioning. Katheryn’s aunt slyly told the men that she had suspected a relationship between Dereham and her niece but that’s as far as she went with it. Margaret knew better than to incriminate herself. Katherine Tilney, on the other hand, confirmed the words of Mary Hall and Francis Dereham during her interrogation.

On the 6th of November, Canterbury and Southampton paid visit to the King. This meeting filled the King in on the intelligence collected. This moment would have been nerve-wracking for them as well, to displease the King was terrifying and they wouldn’t want to be punished for telling him what had actually happened. Once all the evidence was revealed, Henry sat there quiet for a while, until eventually he began to cry.

Not long after, the King ordered both the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk back to court. Once the men had arrived secretive council meetings took place, not to cause alarm at court. Unfortunately it did not take long for gossip to start after Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk was seen leaving a meeting noticeably shaken. At this point nobody had suspected that this was all related to the Queen.

Read Part Four

Further Reading:

‘Henry VIII: in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 16, 1540-1541, ed. James Gairdner and R H Brodie (London, 1898)

Byrne, Conor; Katherine Howard: A New History (2014)
Fraser, Antonia; The Wives of Henry VIII  (1994) Loades, David; The 6 Wives of Henry VIII (2014)
Licence, Amy; The Six Wives and Many Mistresses of Henry VIII (2014)
Russell, Gareth; Young and Damned and Fair – The Life of Catherine Howard, Fifth Wife of Henry VIII (2016)
Weir, Alison; The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1991)

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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.

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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,_Viscountess_Rochford

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