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Tudor festival celebrates Great Hallingbury's link with Anne Boleyn





Visitors to Great Hallingbury's Tudor Festival this weekend can step back in time with tales of adultery, intrigue and execution.

The event kicks off on Saturday (Oct 1) at 10am with a talk about Jane Boleyn by Julia Fox.

The author will be joined by Philip Hays, an expert on Jane's father Baron Morley, and signed copies of her book Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford will be available.

Julia Fox's book (59653899)
Julia Fox's book (59653899)

Their exploration of one of the most torrid and turbulent periods in English history will be followed by a Tudor fete in the grounds of St Giles' Church from 1pm to 5pm and a schools art competition in the village hall to celebrate the medieval theme.

Saturday's merriment ends with a concert in the church from 7pm featuring The Colchester Waits, a period Tudor band, the de Merc Chamber Choir and renowned Tudor musician Lizzie Gutteridge. She plays a wide range of historic instruments including shawms, bagpipes, recorders, curtals and fiddles.

Sunday's programme begins with sung matins from 1549 in the church at 11am. The Bishop of Chelmsford the Rt Rev Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani will conduct the service and she will be played in and out of St Giles by the Colchester Waits in a spectacle not seen in the village for 500 years.

Colchester Waits (59654283)
Colchester Waits (59654283)

The schools art competition and fete will continue from 1pm to 5pm on Sunday with refreshments including sausages, cream teas and ice creams. There will also be traditional ales from Hadham Brewery – reviving the Tudor tradition of "The Drinking" when beer was sold in the churchyard.

The whole weekend was inspired by a Channel 5 film crew's visit to the village during the Covid-19 lockdown who were on the trail of its most infamous daughter.

During the Tudor period, the parishes of Great and Little Hallingbury were together known as Hallingbury Morley, recognising the power and influence of the Morley family. They were leading lights of the courts of Richard III, Henry VII, Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I.

Jane Parker was born in around 1505 at Great Hallingbury Manor to Henry Parker, 10th Baron Morley, and Alice St John. Henry is buried at St Giles' Church.

Cadaver tomb of Baron Morley by John Salmon (59654153)
Cadaver tomb of Baron Morley by John Salmon (59654153)

As Lady Rochford, she has been vilified by history for her part in the downfall of Henry VIII's second wife Anne Boleyn, but her role in a series of royal scandals is being re-evaluated today by historians like Julia Fox. Instead, the writer has concluded she was a woman forced by circumstances to make her own way in a privileged but vicious world.

She married Anne's brother George in late 1524 or early 1525. As a wedding present, King Henry gave Jane and George a mansion, Grimston Manor in Norfolk, and she became Viscountess Rochford in 1529.

By 1533, when her sister-in-law Anne married Henry, she was part of an inner royal circle.

King Henry VIII of England reigned from 1509 to 1547. He had six wives including Anne Boleyn. Note engraving from 1855 photo and toning by D Walker (59653997)
King Henry VIII of England reigned from 1509 to 1547. He had six wives including Anne Boleyn. Note engraving from 1855 photo and toning by D Walker (59653997)

She is often portrayed as a vindictive woman, at odds with Anne and in an unhappy marriage, but questions are emerging about how true this picture is.

Jane and Anne both served in the household of Henry VIII's first wife, Queen Catherine of Aragon, and when, in 1534, they discovered Henry had a new mistress, they plotted her downfall together.

In the end, only Jane was banished from court for her part in the machinations and it is said Anne made no attempt to have her restored, suggesting any friendship had soured.

Anne Boleyn met King Henry VIII while a maid of honour at Leeds Castle where Queen Katherine was in residence. Picture: National Portrait Gallery in London.
Anne Boleyn met King Henry VIII while a maid of honour at Leeds Castle where Queen Katherine was in residence. Picture: National Portrait Gallery in London.

In 1535, it has been suggested, Jane was linked with a demonstration in support of Lady Mary, Henry's daughter by Queen Catherine, yet by the following year there was evidence to suggest that when Queen Anne suffered a miscarriage, Jane was the only lady in waiting allowed to comfort her.

Nevertheless, several Tudor chroniclers were clear she played a significant and malign role in the downfall and deaths of both her husband and her queen.

Jane was questioned by Thomas Cromwell, Henry's chief minister and fixer and the man regarded by many as the chief orchestrator of the Boleyns' executions.

George Boleyn (59653897)
George Boleyn (59653897)

What he asked and what she answered are unknown, but the danger was clear. She may have condemned the siblings, confirming Anne's alleged adultery, or she may have tried to defend them both. She clearly had to be careful not to incriminate herself.

She may also have been under pressure from her father to distance herself from the Boleyns and stand with Henry. Baron Morley was to be part of the jury when George was tried for high treason. Boleyn was accused of incest with his sister and conspiring at the king's death.

The stakes could not have been higher. Either way, Jane faced disgrace and she would have been desperate to avoid imprisonment in the Tower of London and the executioner's axe.

Henry Parker, Lord Morley, by German master Albrecht Dürer (59653895)
Henry Parker, Lord Morley, by German master Albrecht Dürer (59653895)

Her respite was temporary. After she was accused of helping Henry VIII's fifth wife, Catherine Howard, commit adultery, she was taken to the tower and on February 13, 1542, she was beheaded.

* For information and tickets to the history talks and concert, email hallingburymorley@gmail.com.



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