Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford

Written by Julia Fox
Review by Bethany Latham

I’ve always been fascinated by the shadowy Jane Boleyn, a court intriguer who went so far as to provide the evidence that helped send her own husband to the scaffold, and who (justly?) ended up there herself. With this biography, the first on Jane, I was hoping to get to know the “real” woman behind the historical villainess. No such luck.

This biography is less about Jane than it is about the royal figures who surrounded her, and Tudor women in general. Though it’s perhaps understandable given the paucity of historical documentation on many aspects of Jane’s life, the sheer lack of hard facts compared to the mass of speculation presented as such in this biography is nonetheless inexcusable. Much information comes in the form of “many women of her age (fill in the blank), so Jane would have…” or “most court figures were present at (fill in event here), so certainly Jane would have attended…” The words “probably,” “possibly,” and “likely” appear with alarming frequency. Fox is obviously sympathetic to her much maligned subject, trying to depict her as “a courageous spirit, a modern woman forced…to fend for herself in a privileged but vicious world.” Um, right. Pick up this biography because it’s readable and there’s precious little out there about Jane, but expect a lot of spin and little illumination.