Jane Foole

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Henry the Eighth and His Family (1545); the man at the far-right background is jester Will Somers, and it has been suggested that the woman at the far left is Jane Foole.

Jane Foole, also known as Jane The Foole, Jane, The Queen's Fool, "Jeannne le Fol" or "Jane Hir Fole" (fl. 1543–1558), was an English court jester. She was the jester of queens Catherine Parr and Mary I, and possibly also of Anne Boleyn.

Today, entertainers sometimes perform as "Jane" in Renaissance-themed entertainments such as Renaissance faires.


Personal life[edit]

Jane's full name, birth year, and background are unknown. Beden the Fool also appears in related notes of the time, and it has been suggested that Beden was her surname.

Jane is believed to have had a learning disability.[1]


In the accounts of Anne Boleyn, bills for caps supplied to her "female jester" are recorded in 1535–36.[2] The name of this female jester is not mentioned, but may have been Jane.[3]

In 1537, she is noted to be in service of Princess Mary.[4] As well as Jane, Mary also employed Lucretia the Tumbler. Lucretia and Jane are known to have performed together, and Lucretia may have been Jane's minder.[5]

When Catherine Parr became queen in 1543, Jane may have been transferred to Catherine's household. Jane was a well-liked jester at the court of Catherine Parr, where she is mentioned by name as "Jane Foole" in 1543.[2] She may have been depicted in the painting of Henry the Eighth and His Family (1545), in which the man on the far right is identified as her colleague, court jester William Sommers. Jane is among several women suggested as the figure on the left, in the matching end panel to his. Catherine Parr died in 1548. Jane Fool apparently returned to Mary.

When Mary I came to the throne in 1553, Jane was in her employ. She apparently had a favoured position with Mary and was given a valuable wardrobe and an unusually large number of shoes. Her head was shaved, just as the heads of male jesters.

Jane hurt her eye in 1557. Mary gave gilt silver salts as rewards to two women who looked after her, a Mistress Ayer and a woman from Bury St Edmunds who healed her.[6][7]

It has been suggested that Jane was married to Will Sommers, but this has not been confirmed. It is known that Jane and Will Sommers often performed together, dressed in matching outfits: they are noted to have done so in 1555.[4]

It is not known what happened to her after Mary's death in 1558.


Philippa Gregory's historical novel The Queen's Fool is focused on a female jester active in the court of Mary I, though the fictional character is not called "Jane Foole".


  1. ^ "The King's Fools - Disability in the Tudor Court". Historic England. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
  2. ^ a b Fraser, Antonia (1995). Henrik VIII:s sex hustrur [The six wives of Henry VIII] (in Swedish). Translated by Eklöf, Margareta. Stockholm, SE. pp. 255, 394. ISBN 978-91-37-10713-4.
  3. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Online ed.). Oxford: British Academy, Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198614128. OCLC 56568095.
  4. ^ a b John Southworth (30 November 2011). Fools and Jesters at the English Court. History Press Limited. pp. 108–. ISBN 978-0-7524-7986-6.
  5. ^ "Fools".
  6. ^ John Nichols, llustrations of the manners and expences of antient times in England (London, 1797), pp. 27-8
  7. ^ British Library Add. MS 62525 f.6r Queen Mary's gift roll