“No man as godly as George, the only fault he finds with God is that he made folk with too few orifices. If George could meet a woman with a quinny under her armpit, he would call out ‘Glory be’ and set her up in a house and visit her every day, until the novelty wore off. Nothing is forbidden to George, you see. He’d go to it with a terrier bitch if she wagged her tail at him and said bow-wow.’
For once he is struck silent. He knows he will never get it out of his mind, the picture of George in a hairy grapple with a little ratting dog.”
— Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies —
George Boleyn, Lord of Rochford — is there any man more maligned by historical fiction or screen play writers in English History? If we are to believe how he is commonly portrayed in novels, movies and television, George Boleyn is an opportunist and promiscuous bi-sexual who raped his wife and other ladies of the court, bedded his sister and violated the 1533 Buggery Act repeatedly with the court musician.
It matters not if the author is a professed historian/fiction writer with odd sordid theories teenagers latch on to, a talented new writer composing her first novel, a cable TV producer seeking big ratings, or a repeat Man Booker prize winner — George Boleyn, Lord of Rochford, along with his sisters — one the whoring mistress of Kings, the other the bewitching Queen who usurped true royalty — was the scandal of Christendom.
Or was he? I really had no clue. After all, as bizarre and outlandish as many of the fictional accounts are, until just a few weeks ago, there was no biography of George Boleyn to teach us otherwise.
Let’s think about that for a moment. Until Clare Cherry and Claire Ridgway released their new biography George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier and Diplomat, there was no biography — absolutely not a one — of the life of George Boleyn, yet many of us think we know all about him. That is how successful fictional accounts are in shaping our perceived knowledge of history. It is a dangerous dynamic and a complete injustice.
George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier and Diplomat is a biography with a mission to find truth. Who was George Boleyn, Lord of Rochford? What were his interests and passions? What were his strengths, attributes and vices? What was his personality? Through research readily available to historians for centuries, Clare Cherry and Claire Ridgway teach us that all we thought we knew, we really do not.
Thankfully the Tudor regime was not as successful at erasing contemporary source material speaking to the life of George Boleyn as they were with his sister, King Henry VIII’s second wife and Queen consort. Beyond most of his poetry and portraiture being lost to history, there are abundant contemporary sources that speak to George Boleyn’s life. Consequently, through Cherry’s and Ridgway’s outstanding research, we now can gain a very comprehensive look at George Boleyn.
The reality may surprise you. Like Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, George Boleyn was a talented poet. Like Henry Norris and Charles Brandon, George Boleyn was an entertaining and beloved courtier very close to King Henry’s affection. Like his sister Anne Boleyn, Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer, George Boleyn was a committed and staunch religious reformer. Like his father Thomas Boleyn and Eustace Chapuys, George Boleyn was an accomplished diplomat.
In the spirit of full disclosure, Cherry and Ridgway teach us all of George Boleyn’s “warts”, as well. Like many of the talented and privileged of his age, George Boleyn had an air or arrogance. Unfaithful to his wife, George Boleyn was certainly not the ideal husband. Spending with extravagance, George Boleyn died worried those he owned money would go unpaid.
In short, George Boleyn, Lord of Rochford, was an intellectually gifted, multi-talented, religiously and politically driven, and genuinely highly respected work-a-holic. Who knew?
If you have an interest in Tudor History, particularly the reign of King Henry VIII, do buy this book. Richly researched and engagingly written, you will gain excellent insight not only in the life of George Boleyn, Lord of Rochford, but his relationships with his sisters Mary Carey and Queen Anne Boleyn, as well as his wife Jane, Lady Rochford. Also notable is the excellent detailing of the expectations of King Henry VIII’s courtiers, which I found very fascinating, as well as the role of King Henry’s diplomats and politicians.
NEW RELEASE: George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier and Diplomat
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Clare Cherry: (Source: George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier & Diplomat) Clare lives in Hampshire with her partner David. She works as a solicitor in Dorset, but has a passion for Tudor history and began researching the life of George Boleyn in 2006. She started corresponding with Claire Ridgway in late 2009, after meeting through The Anne Boleyn Files website, and the two Tudor enthusiasts became firm friends. Clare divides her time between the legal profession and researching Tudor history. Clare has written guest articles on George Boleyn for The Anne Boleyn Files, Nerdalicious.com.au, and author Susan Bordo’s The Creation of Anne Boleyn website.
Claire Ridgway: (Source: George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier & Diplomat) Claire is the author of the best-selling books On This Day in Tudor History, The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown, The Anne Boleyn Collection, and The Anne Boleyn Collection II, as well as Interviews With Indi Authors: Top Tips From Successful Self-Published Authors. Claire was also involved in the English translation and editing of Edmond Bapst’s 19th century French biography of George Boleyn and Henry Howard, now available as Two Gentleman Poets at the Court of Henry VIII.
Claire worked in education and freelance writing before creating The Anne Boleyn Files history website and becoming a full-time history researcher, blogger and author. The Anne Boleyn Files is known for its historical accuracy and Claire’s mission to get to the truth behind Anne Boleyn’s story. Her writing is easy-to-read and conversational, and readers often comment on how reading Claire’s books is like having a coffee with her and chatting about history.
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