George Boleyn - Historical Profile

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George BoleynThe History of
George Boleyn
c. 1504 - 1536 (aged 31/32)
Anne Boleyn called him her
" sweet brother "


  • 1514-15 as a child, George is recorded as taking part in a Christmas Mummery and then becomes a page at court - approximately aged 10 or 11.
  • 1522 - aged about 18 yrs old, George and his father 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” (LP 3. 2214)
  • 1525 he marries Lady Jane Parker [[[Jane Boleyn]]] and also is appointed as a gentleman of the King’s privy chamber.....however, loses this position 6 months later when Wolsey reorganises the King’s court.
  • 1526 he is appointed as Royal Cupbearer.
  • 1528 he is appointed Master of the King’s Buckhounds, squire of the body and survives the sweating sickness.
  • 1529 George is ennobled and given the title of Viscount of Rochford. He is also reinstated as Gentleman of the Privy Chamber.

  • 1529 - He was appointed Ambassador to France in October and attended his first diplomatic embassy to France in late October 1529 until late February 1530. His mission was to encourage the universities of France to support Henry's divorce. He was sucessful in obtaining a letter from the King of France demanding his Doctor's of theology submit to Henry's will.

  • 1533 - he was sent 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 (LP 5. 230). 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. He travelled to France again that year on an embassy with the Duke of Norfolk, his uncle, to be present at a meeting that was supposed to take place between the Pope and Francis I. It was while he was in France that he learned that the Pope had excommunicated Henry so he returned to England to give this news to the King.
  • 1534 - he is made constable of Dover Castle and warden of the Cinque Ports.
  • 1535 George’s final diplomatic mission to France. The purpose of this visit was to negotiate a marriage contract between Princess Elizabeth Tudor and the third son of the King of France. Also that year Ambassador Chapuys records George, his father and the dukes of Norfolk and Richmond were present at the executions of 3 Carthusian monks who, like Sir Thomas More, had refused to swear allegiance to the Acts of Supremacy and Succession. He is also is named as one of the commissioners at the special sessions of oyer and terminer set up to try Sir Thomas More
  • 2 May 1536, he was arrested on charges of "Illicit Intercourse"; incest and treason. Warnicke argues (p. 215) that Rochford had committed ******, using information from George Cavendish's Metrical Visions (see below), and that this was why he had been accused of incest with his sister to explain her alleged deformed fetus. However there is no real evidence to support the case.
  • 15 May 1536 at his trial he was said to have "crumble[d] the royal case to dust" and the odds were thought to be ten to one that he would be acquitted. However, he was asked whether he had ever said that which was written on a piece of paper handed to him, and he either read it out or said that he would not "create suspicion in a manner likely to prejudice the issue the King might have from a second marriage". "I did not say it!" he cried out, but it was too late. His wife, Jane, testified against him; this may have been because her father, Lord Morley, had been a devoted supporter of Queen Katherine of Aragon, or an attempt to remain on the winning side, or possibly the result of an unhappy marriage. He was unanimously found guilty. He accepted the sentence, saying that after all all men were sinners and deserving of death, but was concerned about those who owed him money, fearing that they would be ruined.

  • 17 May 1536 - George Boleyn was beheaded with an axe on Tower Hill, on the morning of Wednesday, May 17. He died well, by Tudor standards, accepting his death and not challenging his sentence.
George Boleyn
George Boleyn by <a class="external" href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank" title="Mark Satchwill">Mark Satchwill</a>
There are no known historical portraits of George
- this is a modern imaginative interpretation.

George Boleyn's Scaffold Speech:

" I was a great reader and mighty debater of the word of God, and one of those who most favoured the gospel of Jesus Christ. Wherefore, lest the word of God should be brought into reproach on my account, I now tell you all Sirs, that if I had, in very deed, kept his holy word, even as I read and reasoned about it with all the strength of my wit, certain am I that I should not be in the piteous condition wherein I now stand. Truly and diligently did I read the gospel of Christ Jesus, but I turned not to profit that which I did read; the which had I done, of a surety I had not fallen into so great errors. Wherefore I do beseech you all, for the love of our Lord God, that ye do at all seasons, hold by the truth, and speak it, and embrace it; for beyond all peradventure, better profiteth he who readeth not and yet doeth well, than he who readeth much and yet liveth in sin"

Another account of these words translates the last sentence as : 'I had rather had a good liver according to the gospel than ten babblers'

Still another version of the speech as recorded by a Calais soldier, Elis Gruffudd probably passed on by the executioner says:

"Truly so that the Word should be among the people of the realm, I took upon myself great labour to urge the king to permit the printing of the Scriptures to go unimpeded among the commons of the realm in their own language. And truly to God I was one of those who did most to procure the matter to place the Word of God among the people because of the love and affection which I bear for the Gospel and the truth of Christ's words."




  • George was considered a well known and talented court poet. A sixteenth century collection of poetry entitled ‘Tottel’s Miscellany’ has a section entitled ‘unknown authors’ and it is believed that some of these poems may be George’s. There is a biography of George’s life written in the late nineteenth century by a man named Edmond Bapst who suggested that George and other poets in Henry’s court kick started the English Renaissance with the beauty of their work.
  • Ambassador du Bellay thought him too young to be an Ambassador ; however, he advised Paris to "flatter Boleyn pretensions" and "lionise the... petit prince [George]". Evidently, George was worth cultivating. Soon after his return, he was restored to the privy chamber as a full adult member. (Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was out of favour now.) About this time (the exact date is unknown) he was created Baron Rochford and, signing as George Rochford, is among the "Barones" on the letter to the Pope about the King's divorce. He was known as Viscount Rochford from 1529 onwards (after his father became Earl of Wiltshire), and this ceased to be merely a courtesy title in 1530.

  • Like his sister, Rochford was a supporter of reform. (He was alleged to have suggested toAnne that she show the copy of Fish's A Supplication for the Beggars to the King that she had been sent) There was an element of self-interest in his support, but (as with Anne) he does seem to have had a genuine interest in reform for its own sake. When he and Anne fell, many reformers feared that their cause would go down with them.

George Boleyn - The Tudors Wiki

Headsman's block and Axe at the Tower of London

The Lover Complaineth the Unkindness of His Love
My Lute awake, perform the last
Labour that thou and I shall waste,
And end that I have now begun!
And when this song is sung and rest,
My Lute be still, for I have done!

The rocks do not so cruelly
Repulse the waves continually,
As she my suit and affection:
So that I am past remedy;
Whereby my lute and I have done.

Proud of the spoil that thou hast got
Of simple hearts through Love’s shot,
By whom (unkind!) thou has them won,
Think not he hath his bow forgot,
Although my lute and I have done.

Vengeance shall fall on thy distain
That mak’st but game on earnest pain:
Think not alone under the sun
Unquit to cause thy lover’s plain
Although my lute and I have done.

May chance thee lie wither’d and old
In winter nights that are so cold,
Plaining in vain unto the moon:
Thy wishes then dare not be told,
Care then who list, for I have done.

And then may chance thee to repent
The time that thou hast lost and spent,
To cause thy lovers sigh and swoon;
Then shalt thou know beauty but lent,
And wish and want, as I have done.

Now cease my lute: this is the last
Labour that thou and I shall waste,
And ended is that we begun;
Now is this song both sung and past;
My lute be still, for I have done.

[Walpole’s, Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors of England, Scotland and Ireland, pp. 249-50 and Nugae Antiquae, vol ii, p. 400. Both Walpole and Bale extracted the poem from Harington’s original manuscript dated 1564.]

Although the above poem is attributed to Thomas Wyatt in Tottel's Miscellany, John Harington, an author of literature in the sixteenth century, (1564) and Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford (1806) both attribute it to George.

George Boleyn's signature George Boleyn’s signature. It was written inside the book ‘Les Lamentations de Matheolus’ and ‘Le Livre de Leesce’ by Jean Lefevre. George Boleyn wrote inside:

‘Thys boke ys myne, George Boleyn 1526’.

It appears that the book was passed around the Boleyn circle. George seems to have passed it on to Mark Smeaton who added ‘A moi M. Marc S’ at the end of one page. Then the poet Thomas Wyatt owned it and he scribbled down proverbs in Latin, French, Spanish and Italian on the back flyleaves.George was deeply interested in religious texts and when abroad for various diplomatic reasons he purchased books for his sister Anne. Anne amassed a great number of religious books and greatly enhanced the royal library. The fact that both George and Smeaton had access to this book was used by historian Retha Warnicke as the sole piece of evidence to suggest the two men were involved in a homosexual relationship, whilst ignoring the fact that Wyatt had also endorsed the book. This seems to be a case of making the evidence fit the theory rather than the other way around.

Metrical Visions
by George Cavendish
excerpt on George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford

NB. Cavendish’s terminology such as ‘bestial’ and ‘unlawful lechery’ are used frequently in his work
to suggest any behaviour he considers inappropriate, such as adultery. These cannot be taken to mean buggery, because that was not Cavendish’s sixteenth century intention for these words.
He even talks of Henry’s unlawful lechery later and presumably he wasn’t
suggesting Henry indulged in same sex relationships

Dame Eloquence also taught
me the arte
In meter and verse to pleasaunt dities.
It hath not been knowen nor seldome seen,
That any of my yeres byfore this day
Into the privy councell preferred hath been:
My soverayn lord in his chamber did me assay,
Or yere thryes nine my life had past away;
A rare thing suer seldom or never hard,
So yong a man so highly to be preferrd.
In this my welthe I had God clean forgot,
And my senusall apetyte I did always ensewe,
Esteming in my slef the thyng that I bad not,
Sufficient grace this chaunce for to eschewe,
The contrary, I perceyve, causithe me now to rewe;
My folly was such that vertue I set asyde,
And forsoke God that should have been my gyde.
My life not chaste, my lyvyng bestyall;
I forced wydowes, maydens I did deflower.
All was oon to me, I spared none at all,
My appetite was all women to devoure,
My study was both day and hower,
My onleafull lechery how I might it fulfill,
Sparyng no woman to have on hyr my will.

Let myne estatte, therefore, a myrror to you be,
And in your mynd my dolors comprehend
For myne offences how God hath made dissend.
Se how fortune can alter and change her tyde,
That to me but late could be so good and favorable,
Ane at this present to frowne and set me thus aside,
Which thoughte hyr whele to stand both firme and stable,
Now I found hyr very froward and mutable;
Where she was frendly now she is at discord,
As by experience of me Viscount Rocheford.
For where God list to punysh a man of right,
By mortal sword, farewell all resistence;
When grace faylyth, honor hath no force or myght,
Of nobilitie also it defacyth the high preeminence,
And changythe their power to feeble impotence;
Than tornyth fortune hyr whele most spedely
Example take of me for my lewde avoultrie.
All noblemen, therefore, with stedfast hart entyer,
Lyft up your corages, and think this is no fable;
Though yet sit high, conceive yt in your chere,
That no worldly prynce in yerthe is perdurable;
And since that ye be of nature reasonable,
Remember in your welthe, as thyng most necessary,
That all standythe on fortune when she listeth to vary.