George Boleyn 2nd Viscount Rochford 1504-1536 brother of Anne Boleyn

George Boleyn 2nd Viscount Rochford 1504-1536 brother of Anne Boleyn

George  Boleyn,  2nd  Viscount  Rochford  April 1504 – 17  May 1536.  He  was  an  English  nobleman  and  courtier,  and  the  brother  of  Queen  Anne  Boleyn.  This  made  him  the  brother  in  law  of  King  Henry  VIII  and  the  maternal  uncle  of  Queen  Elizabeth I.  A  prominent  figure  in  the  politics  of  the  early  1530s,  he  was  falsely  accused  of  incest  with  his  sister  Anne  during  the  period  of  her  trial  for  high  treason.  They  were  both  executed  as  a  result.

 George Boleyn
2nd Viscount Rochford
1504-1536

Born
April 1504
Blickling Hall, Norfolk

Died
17 May 1536 (aged 32)
Tower Hill, London

Buried
Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula
Tower of London

Noble family
Boleyn

Members of which include:
Anne Boleyn, Queen of England (1533-1536)
Elizabeth Boleyn, Countess of Wiltshire
Elizabeth Boleyn, Lady Boleyn
Geoffrey Boleyn, Lord Mayor of London
George Boleyn (dean)
James Boleyn
Jane Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford
Mary Boleyn
Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire
Lady Margaret Butler, mother of Thomas

Spouse
Jane Parker

Father
Thomas Boleyn
1st Earl of Wiltshire

Mother
Lady Elizabeth Howard
Countess of Wiltshire

Surviving siblings
1 Lady Mary Boleyn

2 Queen
Anne Boleyn

George was born in Norfolk at his family’s home of Blickling Hall. However, they spent most of their childhood at another of the family’s homes, Hever Castle in Kent, which became their chief residence in 1505 when Thomas inherited the property from his father.

while his sisters were probably educated
together at home, at Hever Castle George
went to Oxford to be educated.

Like his father, it was understood that George would have a career as a courtier, politician and diplomat. The monarchy was the font of all patronage and potential wealth and it was only through service to the Royal Family that a family could hope to achieve or protect their greatness and social position.

Thanks to his family’s influence
and the fact he obviously impressed
Henry at an early age, he became
one of the King’s pageboys

Since learning was highly praised at Court and essential for a career as a diplomat George received an excellent education, speaking fluent French together with some Italian and Latin. Although his two sisters were educated abroad, Mary from 1514 to 1519, Anne from the spring of 1513 to late 1521, George remained in England throughout his formative years. In April 1522 George and his father, Thomas were given various offices in survivorship in the manor honor and town of Tunbridge the manors of Brasted and Pensherst and the parks of Pensherst Northlegh and Northlaundes Kent with various fees and power to lease. This may have been an 18th birthday present for George In 1525 He was appointed as a gentleman of the King’s privy chamber but lost this position just six months later when Wolsey reorganised the King’s court and weeded out those he didn’t like and trust.

He married Jane Parker sometime during 1525.
They were certainly married by January 1526
because a note of that date in Wolsey’s
hand confirms that an extra £20 a year
had been awarded to “young Boleyn for
him and his wife to live on”

George Cavendish in his poetry entitled
Metrical Visions, lambastes George for his
womanising, saying….

Yet in the same poem Cavendish
acknowledges George’s good looks
and intelligence, saying:…

Likewise Thomas Wyatt in his poetry
also recognises George’s “Great wit”..

There were rumours relating to
George Boleyn’s sexuality but it
is not known for certain if he
was bisexual.

In June 1528, George contracted the disease
known as sweating sickness whilst with the
King and Catherine of Aragon at Waltham
Abbey. In a letter to Anne, who also
contracted the disease while at
Hever Castle, Henry told her
of her brother’s illness
and recovery

Later that year, George was appointed
Esquire of the Body and Master of the
King’s Buckhounds in 1528. Throughout
the late 1520s grants continued
to be bestowed upon him. On 15
November 1528 he became keeper
of the Palace of Beaulieu

On 29 July 1529 he was appointed Governor of
Bethlehem Hospital (Bedlam), which was a
profitable sinecure.

George’s diplomatic career took off in late 1529
when he was knighted and regained his former
position as a member of the Privy chamber.

It was also in December 1529 that he became known by the courtesy title of Viscount Rochford when his father was created Earl of Wiltshire and Earl of Ormond and undertook his first assignment as a diplomat to France as ambassador. Because of his youth (he was only 25) it is believed that Anne’s influence secured him this post.

The French ambassador Jean du Bellay commented
that George was considerably younger than many of
the other foreign diplomats and that the
appointment of a man barely out of his
teens would cause amusement. But he
also goes on to say that George
should be shown more honour
than was ordinarily
necessary.

Irrespective of his age, George quickly established a good relationship with King Francis I of France and did well in his first embassy. George attended a total of six foreign embassies to France. George attended with John Stokesley the Dean of the Chapel Royal. Their mission was to encourage France to support Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon. The response was initially negative.

A letter to his sister Anne which George
prefaced to “The Epistles and Gospels”
originally written in french…

In March 1533 George was sent back to France to present King Francis I with letters from Henry VIII, “written in the King’s own hand” informing the French king of his marriage to Anne Boleyn and encouraging his support for this marriage. Henry VIII enclosed a letter that he proposed that Francis should write to the Pope, urging him to support the divorce. George was successful in this mission.

In July 1534 George sent to France yet again
with instructions to rearrange the meeting
between Anne, Henry and Francis I due to
Anne’s pregnancy and her not wishing to
travel in that state.

On 10 September 1533, George carried the
canopy over his royal niece the Princess
Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth I)
at her christening

George’s final embassy was in May 1535
when he and his uncle were appointed by
the King to negotiate a marriage
contract between the King of
France’s third son and the
baby Princess Elizabeth.

In addition to his diplomatic career
George was an acknowledged court poet
of considerable merit, and was also
much admired as a talented
linguist and translator.

In 1535 he was one of the special commissioners
at the trial of Sir Thomas More and at the trial
of three Carthusian Monks, all of whom, because
of their religious convictions, refused to
swear allegiance to the Act of Succession
and Supremacy which had been passed the
previous year.

In June 1534, George was appointed Lord Warden of
the Cinque Ports and Constable of Dover Castle.
These were the highest appointments in
the realm.

In 1536, Anne Boleyn miscarried a son. Her
failure to provide Henry with a male heir
coincided with Henry’s infatuation with
Jane Seymour, one of his wife’s
maids-of-honour.

The first sign that George was losing royal favour was on the 29th April 1536. It was expected that George was going to be made a Knight of the Garter but Henry VIII had a change of heart and appointed Sir Nicholas Carew a supporter of Jane Seymour, as a Knight of the Garter. This was a shock for Anne and George and was a warning sign that things were swinging in Jane Seymour’s favour and that Anne was losing her power over the King. What Anne and her brother did not know was that Henry and his chief advisor, Thomas Cromwell, devised a plot whereby Anne was accused of adultery with five men, one of whom was George Anne and George were arrested on 2 May 1536, the day after the May Day joust at which George was one of the principal jousters.

Anne was pre-judged for the earlier convictions
of the men found guilty of adultery with her
therefore she stood trial before her brother.
George stood trial a few hours after Anne on
Monday 15 May. As Anne had been found guilty
before George had stood trial he too was pre
judged because he could hardly be acquitted
when his sister had already been found
guilty of incest.

The Letters and Papers say of Anne’s trial…

It was George’s wife Jane who gave the damning
evidence. Bishop Burnet who wasn’t a contemporary
of Anne and George but who had access to primary
sources, asserted that Jane “carried many
stories to the king or some about him”
and gave evidence “that there was a
familiarity between the queen and
her brother beyond what so near a
relationship could justify.”

What the letters and papers say of George’s trial…

In a letter from Chapuys to Charles V, from
19th May Chapuys wrote…

Two days after his arrest George’s wife Jane
Boleyn Lady Rochford, sent him a message by
Sir William Kingston, Constable of the
Tower of London. There is no record of
what she wrote. As various documents
were damaged or destroyed in the
Ashburnam House fire.

George defended himself as strongly and
eloquently as Anne had done Chapuys wrote…

On the morning of Wednesday 17th May, George
Boleyn, Norris, Weston, Brereton and Smeaton
were led out of the Tower to a scaffold on
Tower Hill. George Boleyn, Lord Rochford
was the highest in rank and so was the
first to be executed

Letters and Papers has the following record…

The Spanish Chronicle says…

George Boleyn’s execution speech…

He came close to denying his guilt by declaring beware, trust not in the vanity of the world or the flatterys of the court, or the favour and treacheries of fortune. He said he would be alive if he had not done so. By blaming fortune for his fall he came as close as he dared to denying his guilt (i.e. he was dying because luck had been against him, not because he was guilty)

It took three blows of the axe to
remove his head

Once the men had been executed and their
bodies stripped of their clothing, George,
as a nobleman was taken to the Chapel of
St Peter ad Vincula where his head and
body were interred before
the high altar.

George Boleyn is portrayed by Michael
Johnson in the 1969 film Anne of the
Thousand Days

Jonathan Newth in the 1970 television
series The Six Wives of Henry VIII

Steven MacKintosh in the 2003 television
film The Other Boleyn Girl

Jim Sturgess in the 2008 theatrical
film The Other Boleyn Girl

Pádraic Delaney in the television
series The Tudors

Edward Holcroft in the television
series Wolf Hall

George Boleyn is one of two protagonists
(along with sister Anne) in a play by
British writer Joanna Carrick,
Fallen In Love

In the 1830 tragic opera Anna Bolena by
Gaetano Donizetti, the character of Lord
Rochfort is based on George Boleyn
Viscount Rochford

George Boleyn’s signature

George Boleyn
2nd Viscount Rochford
1504-1536

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. This is a very interesting read based on fact rather than fiction.

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