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Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford    by Julia Fox order for
Jane Boleyn
by Julia Fox
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2009 (2007)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Here's another perspective on an era in British history that continually fascinates us - the life and times of Henry VIII and his unfortunate wives. Julia Fox takes as her subject Jane Boleyn (c. 1505-1542). Born Jane Parker she became Anne Boleyn's sister-in-law through her marriage to Anne's brother George. In the middle of the book are sixteen pages of color photographs - of paintings of some of the players as well as relevant documents and drawings.

Julia Fox paints a picture for her readers of a woman of her times, a professional courtier and survivor, whose reputation was later 'tarnished with tales of adultery, incest, and betrayal.' Jane lived in a time when 'The most envied situation for a girl was admittance to the royal court in the train of a great lady. The greatest lady of all was the queen.' And Jane served several queens, as one replaced the other in Henry's bed. Two (Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard) were executed - and Jane survived the first but not the second.

Fox shows us that it was a life of luxury while it lasted, and one close to the center of power, especially during Anne Boleyn's years in favor. It was during those years that George Boleyn was made Viscount Rochford, and Jane a viscountess, as gifts were regularly showered on the Boleyn family. But of course Anne failed to produce a son, Henry's fickle eye turned to Jane Seymour, and the rest is history. Fox goes into the prosecution of Anne and George Boleyn in some detail, looking for evidence of Jane Boleyn's role in the affair - and, though Jane was interrogated relentlessly by Cromwell, finds little.

After her husband George was executed - and his possessions confiscated by the king - Jane was forced to fight for her jointure (an agreement signed on her marriage) and to seek a new career. 'She had to forge a new life for herself, to draw a curtain over the ghosts of yesterday.' And she did that, being accepted first into Jane Seymour's privy chamber, and then into Catherine Howard's. Fox tells of how Jane's proximity to Catherine became her downfall, in an account that drives home the lesson to put not your trust in princes.

Jane Boleyn is a fascinating read, not just for what it tells us about its main subject (of whom Fox says, 'Forced to look out for herself in a man's world, she so nearly succeeded'), but also for its illumination of the beliefs of the times, the political struggles amongst the nobility, and the characters of all concerned. If you're at all interested in Tudor history, don't miss this one.

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