George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford, (1504 – 1536) was the brother of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII of England.
Though his sister would eventually be executed by beheading for treason, George himself met a more gruesome end as he was hung, drawn, and quartered on May 17th, 1536.
This article will explore the life and death of George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford.
George Boleyn was born in 1504, making him the younger brother of Anne Boleyn.
He was born into a noble family and his father, Thomas Boleyn, served as an earl and ambassador for Henry VIII. His mother, Elizabeth Howard, was also from a noble family. George was educated at St. Paul’s School in London and later at Trinity College in Cambridge.
He married Jane Parker in 1524.
There is no record of the pair having children, and when Jane wrote Cromwell begging for money following George’s death, she makes no mention of being responsible for a child.
George Boleyn’s Rise to Power
In 1529, George Boleyn was made a Knight of the Bath and, just a few years later in 1532, he was made Viscount Rochford.
Mary Boleyn began an affair with King Henry VIII in 1519, and she would become his mistress. It’s uncertain when that connection began or how long it persisted.
It was undoubtedly by 1526 when the King’s attention turned to another Boleyn sibling, Anne, and in 1527 he began to look for a way to marry her.
George Boleyn helped the king get a divorce from his first wife so that he could marry Anne.
This rise in power was due, in large part, to his sister Anne’s influence over Henry VIII. Anne became Henry’s mistress in 1526 and she would eventually become his second wife in 1533.
George benefited from his sister’s new position, being appointed to various high-ranking positions in court.
George’s own religious beliefs helped him to have a significant influence on the Reformation Parliament, which began in late 1529 and ended with his death in 1536.
George was an excellent debater on religious matters, and it was George who Henry picked in 1531 to present the royal supremacy argument before Convocation, the Church’s consultative body.
In 1535, he was one of the special commissioners at the trial of Sir Thomas More, and at the trials of three Carthusian monks who refused to swear allegiance to the Act of Succession and Supremacy, which had been enacted a year earlier.
On May 4, 1535, several courtiers of high rank were present for the monks’ executions, which took place on that day. Among them were George and his father Thomas, Henry’s illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy, as well as all other courtiers of high rank.
The Fall of George Boleyn
Unfortunately, George’s rise to power would not last.
In 1536, Anne Boleyn lost the baby she was expecting. Henry’s affection for Jane Seymour, one of his wife’s maids-of-honor, coincided with her failure to give him a male heir.
Henry and his chief advisor, Thomas Cromwell, devised a plan in which Anne was charged with adultery with five men, one of whom was her brother, George.
George was charged with incest with the Queen and plotting with Anne to kill the King.
After the May Day joust, Anne Boleyn was arrested and accused of treasonous adultery and incest with her brother.
George was also arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was tried and found guilty of the same charges as his sister and, on May 17th, 1536, he was executed at Tower Hill alongside the other men.
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Link will appear as Hanson, Marilee. "George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford" https://englishhistory.net/tudor/citizens/george-boleyn/, May 19, 2022