Rehabbing a Villain from Henry VIII's Court In Jane Boleyn: The Infamous Lady Rochford, author Julia Fox challenges the long-standing picture of Jane Boleyn as an opportunistic and vindictive woman who helped condemn her sister-in-law, Anne Boleyn, to death.
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Rehabbing a Villain from Henry VIII's Court

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Rehabbing a Villain from Henry VIII's Court

Rehabbing a Villain from Henry VIII's Court

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Now, it's time to brush up on your British monarchs. A film about King Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn opens this week. It's called "The Other Boleyn Girl." Yes, there was more than just one. Here's a clip from the movie:

(Soundbite from movie, "The Other Boleyn Girl")

Mr. ERIC BANA (Actor): (as Henry Tudor) I'm aware of one Boleyn girl but she's lying in with a certain child in her belly. What do you mean the other one? The one who almost killed me? Well, come on, other Boleyn girl, show your face.

HANSEN: The other Boleyn girl is Anne's sister Mary, who was Henry's mistress before Anne. But there is yet another Boleyn girl, Jane. Jane was married to Anne and Mary's brother, George. She later served as lady-in-waiting to Kathryn Howard, Henry's fifth wife. Both women met the same fate as Anne. Jane Boleyn was maligned as a traitor and scorned as a scandalous woman.

Historian Julia Fox wants to restore Jane's reputation. She aims to set the record straight in her new book, "Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford." Julia Fox is in our London bureau.


Ms. JULIA FOX (Author, "Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford"): Thank you very much.

HANSEN: How was it that Jane Parker entered into the inner circles of Henry VIII's court?

Ms. FOX: Entirely through her marriage and entirely by accident. Tudor women were expected to marry but to marry into a family that suddenly was catapulted into Henry's inner sanctum was very, very unusual. It wasn't Jane herself that originally got there, it was because she married George, Anne's brother.


Ms. FOX: You know, it's through her marriage.

HANSEN: Through her marriage.

Ms. FOX: Yeah.

HANSEN: Her marriage to George, it was arranged but in your account it was a pretty happy union. I mean, given the kinds of unions that were made at the time. And Anne Boleyn became Henry's wife and queen under famous circumstances. Henry tried to get his first marriage to Katherine of Aragon annulled, he failed and that changed the course of both history and religion in the kingdom.

Anne then failed to produce a male heir, Henry fell in love with Jane Seymour and Anne was beheaded. But George Boleyn was beheaded then as well. Why was George killed?

Ms. FOX: Allegedly because he and Anne had committed incest. And, allegedly, later on of course, the argument is that the evidence for that was actually given by his own wife, my Jane. And this is really what interested me, I think, in Jane. In that, I couldn't quite see why any woman would actually do that if it was a lie. And I don't think really - I know there is no evidence to suggest that it's actually true.

HANSEN: What kind of relationship did she have with Katherine Howard, Henry's fifth wife?

Ms. FOX: I think a very good one. She'd known Katherine Howard earlier. In fact, after Anne's death, Jane became lady-in-waiting to Henry's next wife, Jane Seymour, she was actually one of the chief mourners at Jane's funeral. She was fighting her way back, you see. She's quite a modern lady. She was lady-in-waiting to his next wife, Anne of Cleaves. And it was while she was lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleaves that she met Katherine Howard, who was also Anne of Cleaves's lady-in-waiting.

And for some reason the two women just hit it off and she became a confidante to Katherine.

HANSEN: What were the charges that were brought against Jane Boleyn and Katherine Howard, charges that resulted in both of them being beheaded on the same day?

Ms. FOX: Katherine's sexual adventures, to put it bluntly. Katherine actually had had a very highly charged sex life before she met Henry. That was bad enough, but she continued to meet one particular young man, Thomas Culpepper, after her marriage to Henry.

In order for Katherine Howard to meet Thomas Culpepper, she needed somebody to take messages. She needed somebody to stand guard. And she persuaded Jane to do precisely that.

HANSEN: If I were to conjure an imaginary scenario where you actually had the chance to talk to Jane, what questions would you ask her?

Ms. FOX: I think I'd probably ask her a little bit more about her relationship with Anne. It would be wonderful to sort of listen in to some of their chatter, I think. But I would also want to ask her definitely why was it you actually stand outside Katherine Howard's room? 'Cause I think that is really much more difficult to explain.

But I'd love to just say, why?

HANSEN: Julia Fox is the author of "Jane Boleyn," published by Ballantine, and she joined us from our London bureau. Thank you.

Ms. FOX: Thank you.

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