11 February 1542 – The bill of attainder against Catherine Howard and Jane Boleyn is given royal assent

On this day in history, 11th February 1542, the bill of attainder against Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife, and Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford “received the king’s assent, given in absentia by letters patent”.

The bill had been introduced into Parliament on 21st January 1542 and you can read the full bill in my article on it – click here – but Catherine had “proved to have been not of pure and honest living before her marriage” and had allegedly wanted to “return to her old abominable life.” She had also “confederated with lady Jane Rocheford, widow, late wife of Sir Geo. Boleyn, late lord Rocheford, to ‘bring her vicious and abominable purpose to pass’ with Thos. Culpeper, late one of the King’s Privy Chamber”, who, of course, had already been executed with Francis Dereham in December 1541.

The bill also stated that “the indictments of such as have lately suffered are hereby approved, and the said Queen and lady Rochford are, by authority of this Parliament, convicted and attainted of high treason, and shall suffer accordingly.” They did “suffer accordingly”, being executed by beheading at the Tower of London on 13th February 1542.

Also on this day in history…

  • 1466 – Birth of Elizabeth of York, wife of King Henry VII and daughter of King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. She also died on this day in 1503. Click here to read more.
  • Convocation granted Henry VIII the title of “singular protector, supreme lord, and even, so far as the law of Christ allows, supreme head of the English church and clergy”. Click here to read more.

Notes and Sources

  • Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume XVII (LP xvii), 28 ii Acts printed in the Statutes at Large, but not entered on the Parliament Roll, C21.
  • LP xvii. 28 xv c. 20, o.n. 33 of the year 37 Hen. VIII.
  • ed. Wharton, Thomas I., Esq (1842) The Law Library, Volume 38, John S. Littell, p.230.

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4 thoughts on “11 February 1542 – The bill of attainder against Catherine Howard and Jane Boleyn is given royal assent”
  1. The most outstanding thing in this Bill of Attainder is the emphasis on Katherine’s life before her marriage to the King, which is then linked to her present nocturnal adventures. She is accused of living an immoral life, note none of the men were, so a double standard, she is a woman so must be immoral and have a “vicious” purpose. She intended to commit adultery and return to her former life, the Bill says. Katherine was not Attained for adultery, although it is implied in the Indictment which mentioned several places and the law allowed the Court to presume something was intended by their actions or words so treason was implied as both confessed they wanted to go further. It is therefore implied here because Katherine it says put into her household one of her former companions who knew and helped her before and took a former lover into her household, one Francis Dereham. The Bill practically accused Katherine and the others of conspiracy to put this woman, who was not pure into the King’s bed and deceived him into believing she was pure, so Henry would make her Queen.

    Yes, no wonder it took three readings and two visits to the King before Parliament passed the Bill as some of the Judges simply didn’t believe what the Queen did was treason. They were also concerned that the Queen had no chance of a hearing, but Henry had changed his mind about them speaking with her and only sent them to inform her of her fate. Katherine and Jane were not given a trial, the Bill claims the charges have been proved but this was not the case. There was no direct proof or a witness to any sexual contact but there is no doubt Katherine met with Thomas Culpepper, at least ten times, although Jane Rochford, also condemned by this Bill had chaperoned the young Queen and her testimony backed their own honest admissions.

    The Bill refers to both Culpepper and Francis Dereham to whom Katherine was linked because he was her former boyfriend. Now I know the nature of that relationship is contentious because Katherine had alleged she was constrained or raped, but the others in her dormitory and other evidence from her confession confirmed it as a consensual relationship. I also believe Dereham thought of himself as a common law husband and that Katherine had promised him marriage but for Katherine the relationship was well over before her marriage. I also believe he came to court to claim Katherine but had found it was a lost cause. The acceptance of Dereham into her household was held as evidence that the two intended to carry on being lovers. Dereham was interrogated several times and he insisted that he didn’t have an affair with Katherine as he had been replaced by Culpepper. The two men had already been found guilty so by their condemnation Katherine and Jane were condemned in the same. Here is another thing of Tudor Treason Law, thought crime. His intentions, even though he didn’t follow through condemned him. The odd thing is, Dereham did visit the Queen on many occasions, but probably not without a chaperone and not in her inner bedrooms, because his position gave him the right of access. (Gareth Russell points out Dereham was not Katherine’s Secretary and his position was a bit unspecified)

    Again, there is no direct evidence that Katherine and Culpepper committed adultery, although the meetings they did have were at night, mostly alone, but with a chaperone close by, in odd places or in Jane or Katherine’s rooms and that was risky, appeared to be an affair and that was enough for the Council and for the King. The small admission from both parties that if they had the opportunity they would have gone further was fatal. This set into the minds of those leading the investigation that adultery and treason, possibly a resulting child being in the line of Succession, were intended. In the Tudor era thought crime was possible and intentions enough to condemn you. This added to their woes.

    The Bill also extended the conspiracy and knowledge of Katherine’s alleged early life, and therefore knowledge that she was not pure and may return to her lover to include the whole Howard family, almost, the women in particular. They had been tried and found guilty of misprison (knowledge) and imprisonment followed for many months. Although imprisoned perpetually they were granted mercy and released by the Summer of 1542 but for Katherine and Jane there would be no mercy and they now waited their fate in the Tower.

  2. Remembering Elizabeth Of York, the last Plantaganet Princess of the House Of York, one time Queen Of England, a beautiful kind and gracious woman who died tragically on this day, the same day as she was born, RIP, I have just finished Weirs biography on her and read how her widow was beside himself with grief, he had lost his son Arthur and between them he and Elizabeth had comforted each other, she became pregnant again selflessly putting her own health at risk in a bid to give her husband another son, but it was not to be, she died due to childbirth complications or maybe something more sinister as her health leading upto the birth was not good, and the ordeal could have weakened her so much it resulted in her death, her little baby soon followed her and so Henry lost his beloved wife and child in a matter of days, it prematurely aged him and everyone noted he withdrew into himself more, he had been married for fifteen years and whilst it had merely been a marriage of convenience, he appeared to have fallen in love with his charming bride, he gave her a lavish funeral a sign of his great esteem and no expense was spared, it was the honour this much loved queen deserved, one of the most loved queens in English history.

    1. I haven’t read Alison Weir’s but I recently finished Elizabeth Norton’s biography on her. I highly recommend it.

      1. Elizabeth was a fantastic Lady I think because she was willing to go along with her mother’s desire for her to marry a man who may never even make it to England as Henry, Earl of Richmond was an exile and a number of heirs still stood in his way. He had a small number of supporters, he had contact with some Welsh and Flemish support and some contacts in England, via Margaret Beaufort and the Stanley family. However, he had no army or ships and his dream of being King in July 1483 was as far away as it had ever been. By the end of that year, however, things had changed. In October Henry had set sail with a couple of ships, lost all but his own and he waited of the shore for news that a rebellion against Richard iii had been successful. This rebellion, led by Harry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, was meant to put Richard off the throne and some sort of joint effort would promote Henry as King. The entire thing was a flop from the start, it didn’t attract anything vlike the support Buckingham hoped to raise in Wales and the South and Richard, hearing of this in York took swift action. Henry was a cautious man and remained at sea. The rebellion was crushed but Richard tried to coax Henry to land using Buckingham’s code but Henry returned to Brittany. However, the Rebellion attracted displaced gentlemen from the South and East Anglia and a number, although pardoned, sought refuge with Henry Tudor abroad and he now made a move which would guarantee the support of the House of York should he be fortunate enough to become King, he bound himself by public sacred oath in the Cathedral at Vennes on Christmas Day to marry Elizabeth of York.

        Elizabeth must have been prepared by her mother for this marriage but probably only gave it a smile as it must have seemed an unreal future. The Princess, as the eldest daughter, eldest child in fact of King Edward civ had been for much of hef life betrothed to the Dauphan of France. After she came out of Sanctuary in 1484 and went to court, her prospects went up again, despite her legally illegitimate status. Elizabeth was still a catch and beautiful at eighteen. (I am not going to mention the rumours about Elizabeth and Richard save to say it was all nonsense, although Alison Weir goes into a great deal of speculation and discussion on this). We now know that by March 1485 negotiations with Portugal were underway and soon after the death of Queen Anne, ambassadors offered a joint marriage which was agreed. The proposal was for Richard to marry the King of Portugal sister, Joanna, who was an odd choice at 32 and virtually a nun. Elizabeth was to marry her cousin Manuel Duke of Beju. This would have eventually made her Queen of Portugal. Richard also looked at the much younger Isabella of Aragon. Elizabeth was still to wed Manuel and a letter, now lost but contained in Buck in the seventeenth century begs the Duke of Norfolk to support her cause for the marriage, which is interpreted as being this marriage treaty. The treaty was in a very advanced stage during the Summer, but the presentation for the impending invasion by Henry Tudor held everything up.

        Henry had a change of fortune that Summer and he now had support from France and had recruited mercenaries from France, Flanders and Bretons. He also had prisoners from French dungeons and a selection of English gentlemen and other retainers. His main hope was to find support in his homeland in Wales and to use his connections there to raise an army. He also had a couple of aces….the veteran Earl of Oxford and the hope that his mother could bring her husband, Lord Stanley and his brother, Sir William onto his side as they combined commanded some 7000 men. For Elizabeth this was a waiting game and the outcome very uncertain.

        As we know Henry did win at Bosworth on 22 nd August 1485, thanks to a bit of luck and treason by the Stanleys and he now honoured his promise of two years before and married Elizabeth. There was of course a delay because Elizabeth and her sisters (and brothers if they still lived) were legally illegitimate. Parliament would need to reverse the legislation and give her back her birthright. An uncrowned King cannot open an official Parliament so Henry had to be crowned first. The former also showed his title didn’t sole come by extension of his intended wife and established his authority. The couple also had to wait for the usual dispensation as they were related. Henry was showing he honoured Elizabeth by going to every trouble to restore her name and title. The couple were married in January 1486 in a huge public ceremony.

        I entirely agree that this was an affectionate marriage. I don’t believe they were madly in love but the five months delay must have allowed them to get to know each other. All dynastic marriages must be fairly awkward at first as you are strangers. However, it is obvious that by the time of their wedding and through their first year, which saw difficulties as in challenging Henry’s new crown, from the North, because Elizabeth was quickly pregnant and submitted quite willingly to the establishment of a long confinement and made a difficult ceremonial progress from Greenwich to Winchester to give birth to her son, Prince Arthur. This was very symbolic as Winchester was linked to Camelot and was the old capital of Saxon England. This linked Henry to the ancient Kings and emphasised his claim to be descended from the Welsh King Cadwallador. The Arthurian legends have strong ties to Wales and this Prince was a new hope and a new Prince to fulfil all of the myths and unite the people in peace and prosperity. The Tudor mythology had begun.

        Although Elizabeth of York was not a political Queen, she was helpful to Henry, popular and astute. They faced many years of dangerous challenges with the Battle of Stoke in 1487. No sooner was her husband on the throne than York supporters and mumbling nobles were trying to get him of it again. Princes popped up all over the place and with the Richard of England affair (Perkin Warbeck) that lasted for eight years, Elizabeth must have had mixed feelings over whether he was her real brother or not. Henry kept her away from him when he captured him and had his face badly beaten three times so as nobody could recognise him. In the end Elizabeth stood by her husband and continued to give him children through all of this. She had to flee with two of them, including five years old, Prince Henry when the Cornish attacked London in 1497. The entire family had to flee for their lives when Sheen Palace burnt down the previous year. Elizabeth was with Henry when they went to York and she made a long dangerous progress around the counties of Gloucester, Herefordshire, South Wales and Carmarthen in 1503, weeks before giving birth to her last child, Katherine. She made the progress to reaffirm royal and personal ties by visiting known supporting families and relatives and friends but also to gain alliances and pledges as yet again the Kingdom was under threat. The threat did not emerge but the Queens progress served its purpose. Unfortunately, Elizabeth died after a difficult birth and her baby died a few days later. Elizabeth had undergone this pregnancy as an act of love and devotion. Their eldest son, Arthur had died in Ludlow in April 1502, six months after his wedding to Katherine of Aragon and after the King and Queen who comforted each other, had recovered, Elizabeth offered to have another child in order to attempt to get another son, to replace Arthur. It was a highly dangerous thing to do as she was now in her late thirties and her last child was born a few years ago. Childbirth was dangerous anyway and both mother and child could die and infant mortality high. Undertaking such a dangerous adventure and then more or less strengthening her husband’s authority on a strenuous and risky progress while heavily pregnant shows that Elizabeth was devoted to her husband and to his Kingship. When she died Henry was devastated and her son Prince Henry was heartbroken. Henry was not the same man after her death. He never married again, her funeral and her tomb, with his was magnificent, as their son, Henry Viii showed his own love in the tomb he built in Westminster Abbey, he became withdrawn and more suspicious and less trusting.

        Elizabeth had a personal interest in her sons education and she had a very big influence on Prince Henry and his sisters. Henry declared his sadness at his mother’s death. Elizabeth as with other Queens fulfilled her duty in the bedroom, filling the nursery with four surviving children and two more babies who died under three. She was pious and generous and charitable and popular, but she took a passive role, advising behind the scenes, not taking a leading role of a political mediator. Elizabeth also loved to gamble and give money and elaborate presents away. She was in debt and was a shopoholic. Henry had to intervene in her wardrobe allowances a few times and pay off her debts. Despite this it is clear from the evidence that this was a genuine successful and strong marriage and that genuine affection had grown between them over the years.

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