The Parker Family

By Danielle Marchant

The Parker Family

Jane Boleyn (née Parker) Lady Rochford was the sister-in-law of Anne Boleyn and wife to George Boleyn. Jane served five of Henry VIII’s six wives and ended her life on the scaffold due to the part she played in Queen Catherine Howard’s affair. Jane was from the Parker family, which had a very interesting background in itself:

Jane’s Mother:

Jane Boleyn’s mother was Alice St. John. Through her mother, Jane was related to the royal line – Alice was the eldest daughter of Sir John St. John of Bletsoe, who was a first cousin of Henry VII.

Around the time that Jane joined the court in 1519, there were contemporary rumours that the King did have an affair with a mystery lady only referred to as “Mistress Parker”. It hasn’t been confirmed who this lady was, but both Jane and her mother, Alice, have been put forward as possible candidates. Even though neither of the two women have been proven to be the mistress, at the same time, neither of them have been ruled out.

However, I don’t believe Jane ever had an affair with the King. Even though she would have been considered a young woman of child-bearing age at this time, I think it’s still very likely that she may have been seen as too young to be his mistress. However, I do believe that her mother Alice should not be ruled out.

The affair took place after the King’s affair with Elizabeth Blount and before his affair with Mary Boleyn, which was around the same time that Jane joined his court. Also, due to the nature of court politics, women had been used as a way of helping their families to achieve court positions. This was later seen with Anne and Mary Boleyn, whose close involvement with the King gave many benefits to the Boleyn family. To get Jane into the court in the first place, the Parkers would have had to have found some edge over the other competing noble families, who also wanted their daughters in the court serving Catherine of Aragon.

Therefore, given the timing of Jane’s entry into the court and the nature of court politics, it doesn’t rule out the possibility that Alice had an affair with the King. Who knows what the Parkers would have resorted to in order to get a position for their daughter at court, even if this had meant Jane’s father, Henry Parker, Lord Morley, willingly allowing his own wife into the King’s bed.

Alice died in 1553, outliving Jane, who was executed in 1542. Even though she did not publicly mourn her daughter’s death, in Jane’s memory she contributed to the cost of a new bell for the church in Great Hallingbury, Essex, where Jane grew up.

Jane’s Father:

Jane Boleyn’s father was Henry Parker, the 10th Baron Morley. He was a nobleman, diplomat and translator. Morley grew up in the household of Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII. Although he was a prominent courtier, he is remembered more for his literary translations from Latin and Italian, which he gave to Henry VIII and Mary I as New Year’s gifts. His translations include Petrarch’s “Trionfi”, the “Life of Thesius” and the “Lyfe of Paulus Emelius”.

Alongside his wife, Alice, he did not publicly mourn Jane’s death in February 1542. However, nearly a year after Jane’s execution and as part of his New Year gift to Henry VIII in 1543, he presented to the King a decorated manuscript describing the sacrifice of Polyxena, the daughter of Hecuba and Priam, at the fall of Troy. Even though the translation of the manuscript was accurate, the way in which Lord Morley had described Polyxena’s sacrifice was a deliberate, subtle reference to his own daughter’s fate.

Jane’s Grandfather:

Jane Boleyn’s grandfather, Sir William Parker, fought at the Battle of Bosworth on the 22nd August 1485. Unfortunately, however, he fought for Richard III, who was defeated by Henry Tudor. Henry was then crowned on the battlefield as Henry VII.

William survived the battle, but understandably Henry Tudor never trusted him. However, William’s son, Henry – Jane’s father – was very fortunate to have been brought up in the household of Henry VII’s mother, Margaret Beaufort. Margaret was always loyal to those that she looked after and she ensured that Henry Parker still kept some family land at Great Hallingbury, Essex.

Jane’s Siblings:

Jane had four siblings – Henry, Margaret, Elizabeth and Francis. There is very little recorded about Elizabeth and Francis, so there is a possibility that they may have not survived childhood.

In 1529, Margaret was married Sir John Shelton. He was the brother of Margaret (“Madge”) Shelton. Madge became Henry VIII’s mistress while still married to Anne Boleyn in 1535.  His father, another Sir John Shelton, was uncle (by marriage) to Anne Boleyn and was Controller of the Joint Household of Henry VIII’s daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, from July 1536.

In May 1533, Henry was made a Knight of the Bath at Anne Boleyn’s Coronation. Henry was following in the footsteps of his father, who had become a Knight of the Bath when Henry VIII was crowned in 1509.

Jane’s Great-Grandnephew:

William Parker, 13th Baron Morley and 4th Baron Monteagle, was the great-grandson of Jane’s brother, Henry Parker. William helped to uncover the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 against King James I.   The plot was a failed attempt by a group of Catholics to assassinate the King, who was a Protestant. The plan was to blow up Parliament, however, the plot was exposed and the trial and executions of Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators followed. This notorious chapter in English history is marked by the annual tradition of Bonfire Night on 5th November.

Since Jane’s time, the Parker family was Catholic and had associations with other Catholic families during the reign of Elizabeth I. However, when King James I came to the throne, William Parker promised to be faithful to the King and the state religion.

His brother-in-law was plotter Francis Tresham. Francis Tresham, is believed to have written an anonymous letter to William which exposed the Gunpowder Plot to the authorities. In the letter, there was a warning to stay away from Parliament. The letter was then given to Robert Cecil and this led to the discovery of Guy Fawkes under the House of Lords on the night of 4th November. The plot was a failure and Fawkes revealed the names of his co-conspirators under torture.

Image:

Jane’s father, Henry Parker Lord Morley, sketched by Dürer, 1523.

Sources:

“Jane Boleyn: The Infamous Lady Rochford” – Julia Fox, 2007.

“The Other Tudors: Henry VIII’s Mistresses and Bastards” – Philippa Jones, 2009

http://goodgentlewoman.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/alice-st-john-lady-morley/

https://www.facebook.com/theanneboleynfiles

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/

About the Author

I am an Independent Author from London, UK. Parts 1, 2 and 3 of my series of historical novellas based on Jane Boleyn Lady Rochford’s life,“The Lady Rochford Saga”, are available now:

Amazon

Visit my pages at https://www.facebook.com/TheLadyRochfordSaga and at http://danielleliannem.wix.com/janeboleyn .

 

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Comments

  1. Nicola.daniel says:

    that is really interesting! I am just learning about these times and it seem women did play important roles and were used as paws for family’s greater wealth ! I had never really thought about close connections to family members.

  2. Thank you. This was very interesting.

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