11 November – An important mission for George Boleyn and a move for Queen Catherine Howard

On 11th November 1534, Philippe de Chabot, Seigneur De Brion and Admiral of France, landed on English soil. The purpose of the diplomatic mission he was leading was to renew Anglo-French relations. George Boleyn, Lord Rochford and brother of Queen Anne Boleyn, was chosen to meet the admiral and escort him from Dover to London.

As Clare Cherry and I point out in our biography of George Boleyn, England had become “more and more isolated from her European cousins” due to Henry VIII’s annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, his break with Rome and his marriage to Anne Boleyn, so this French embassy was hugely significant.

You can read an article about the admiral’s visit and George’s involvement by clicking here.

Also on this day in history, 11th November 1541, Henry VIII’s council sent Archbishop Thomas Cranmer a letter containing instructions to move Queen Catherine Howard from Hampton Court Palace to Syon House, formerly Syon Abbey. Find out more about this in today’s video:

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16 thoughts on “11 November – An important mission for George Boleyn and a move for Queen Catherine Howard”
  1. Gosh, long time no post … however, I’ve been musing on the top of gender (haven’t we all) – meaning, the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between, masculinity and femininity – sparked by obtaining (finally) and beginning to read, Gareth Russell’s ” Young & Damned & Fair”. buy this book. Do yourself a favour!
    So to gender. Young Catherine strikes me as having qualities previously seen as masculine, such as
    ‘curiosity’ and ‘activity’ or ‘having the right to act’. Catherine’s status may grant these it’s true, but if allied to a natural disposition, a desire to ‘experience life’, then I really am not seeing this woman as a victim at all. And that is because Catherine knew the game, the stakes, the dice, the roll, the opportunities and the consequences and she nevertheless still played.
    If the Tudor ‘opportunities’ for women depended entirely upon whom she married, then what would you want from a young girl who seems determined to live life and experience it all, and goes for it, and contrary to expectation achieves it all, only to fall and lose it all, in the end.
    More and more, I don’t want Tudor women to be seen as victims of Times Past, but as players in the great game of life, as feisty as hell, and every bit as adventurous, in their way, as were men.

    1. Actually Globerose I do agree with you there, it was that characteristic of Catherine’s that gave Lacey Smith no sympathy towards this young wretched queen, she did know the consequences she gambled and lost, and having done so cried tears of self pity, I think she could have been over bold so was Anne Boleyn, that said it was very tragic she lost her life and that of her lady in waiting lady Jane Rochford, queens had to have a spotless reputation as Weir put it, Caesar’s wife has to be above reproach, I do not think she deliberately set out to deceive and humiliate her husband but she made some disastrous choices while queen, and these ultimately led to her downfall.

  2. Hi Globerose. I would like to second Globerose’s recommendation of “Young and Damned and Fair”. Excellent book. I’ve read it twice.

  3. Hi Michael,

    How nice to hear from you again. Isn’t this a great book. I am loving reading it. Gareth is that captivating historian who has the gossip and the goods. Love it. I am in a busy period where reading is a luxury – how frustrating. You’ll know what I mean.

    1. I know exactly what you mean. The only time I get a chance to read is before I go to bed and even that isn’t always possible. I love the book. Prior to reading it all I knew about KH were some of the details regarding her downfall. So nice to read a well fleshed out biography putting her fall into the context of her entire life. After reading it I felt I knew enough about her to decide I think I would have liked her.

  4. Hello Globerose, nice to hear from you again.

    This action was lenient by the standards of Henry Viii because remember Anne Boleyn was well and truly locked up when she was being investigated and if her affair with Culpeper was now known, then at this point her treason was suspected. So her being moved to a former monastery, now a luxurious palace, this was an act of leniency because she could easily have been sent to the Tower. She also had all of the dresses, although no fine jewellery or cloth of estate, so no indication of her being Queen, but several servants still. She was sent nice clothes and hoods and her treatment up to now is quite mild. In fact she wasn’t actually locked up in the Tower for several more months, until about 11th February or thereabouts in 1542,_just a few days before her demise. Lady Jane Rochford was unable to bear her questioning and went mad, being cared for at the home of Lord and Lady Russell. She was unfortunate because it was illegal to execute a mad person because Henry Viii capricious as he was, made Parliament pass an Act to make it legal to execute an insane person for treason. Mary I repealed this capricious Act. That doesn’t prevent the Government of Elizabeth I for killing a man we now know was completely round the bend on false charges of an alleged assassination attempt. Who are the insane ones here? Tudor madness or just completely paranoid? The investigation was just revealing the truth bit by bit and it would of course get worse and Henry’s distress would turn to complete anger.

    George Boleyn was totally unsuited to the task of receiving an important Ambassador on a mission of this importance because he lacked status and experience. Yes, he had potential, yes, he had importance as the brother of the Queen, but this was a complete lack of protocol. He should have been received by one or both of the premier Dukes and he wasn’t. These letters provide us with a sense of panic and inexperience and he needed that support from Norfolk. Thomas Boleyn was an experienced diplomatic expert but George was still learning and had only been on a couple of missions on relatively minor matters, with his father and others, so putting him in charge of such a vital reception was taking a big risk.

    Then it all went downhill anyway because Phillippe de Chabot had no intention of negotiating for the hand in marriage of Elizabeth but wanted the hand of Mary and confirmation of her status as legitimate heir to the throne. In other words, Anne Boleyn was not being acknowledged as Henry’s Queen, Katherine of Aragon was. The Pope had already made his decision in Katherine’s favour and a threat of Excommunication hung over Henry Viii and there was no way France could recognise any children of this marriage now as legitimate. Anne was insulted and rejected and furious. So was Henry Viii and the entire mission ended in disaster, despite Anne putting on a brave face and a fancy ball and banquet. Maybe a more experienced noble might have weedled the truth out before the French Ambassador and Admiral of France met with Henry and made a report to Cromwell. The entire episode was highly embarrassing.

    1. Catherine was treated well compared to Anne yes I do agree, Anne was although housed in her luxurious coronation apartments in the tower, escorted there right away and afterwards complained she was treated without the respect due to her as queen, but Henry’s fifth queen was different and that must have been a terrible ordeal for him as well as for her, the matter was investigated and rightly so, if someone was spreading defamatory gossip about the queen then the person / persons must be caught and punished, he had not turned his back on her and hoped the matter would be resolved and that it was merely kitchen gossip, he had just given thanks earlier after returning from their successful tour of the north, for god granting him this perfect jewel of womanhood , they say to be really happy with ones lot is tempting the fates and never was fate more cruel to Henry V111; alas for him and his young girl queen scurrilous gossip turned out to be factual and Henry was devastated, it was noted when she was moved to Syon she still acted imperiously like she was still the queen, which in theory she was but one would think her predicament would have served to make her more humble, in Anne Boleyns case the proceedings were swift,the indictments the trial then the deaths of five people, one an anointed queen, we can see Henry’s urgent desire to have his queen out of the way as soon as possible, he was granted his wish but his reputation suffered and it was never recaptured, with Catherine Howard she was treated like a well loved consort and yes still lived in comfort, high status prisoners were treated thus, Lady Margaret Pole was well looked after in the Tower, Catherine was unlike her equally tragic cousin not bundled onto the Tower but kept under lock and key in Hampton Court, I find it sinister her jewels were taken however, why this if it was merely an investigation? As she was rowed down the river to Syon her heart must have been heavy, we can all of us sympathise with this young girl queen of Henry V111, even those who find her stupid and reckless, but the terror she must have felt resonates down the centuries as does her husbands bitter sense of betrayal, she must have in her minds eye seen the image of his second queen on the scaffold, and the hysteria she displayed is proof of the fear she held for her life, she knew she was in very real danger and the reckless confessions of Dereham and Culpeper were to eventually seal her fate.

  5. I am going to buy Gareth’s book on Catherine as Michael has said it is good and now Globerose, it also has good reviews from the book critics so I am going to treat myself.

      1. I did read the first few pages on amazon and I was hooked looking forward to it arriving now, iv had a stressful fortnight having my new kitchen fitted so I need some therapy.

        1. Best book on Katherine Howard, very good analysis, wonderful research, expert story telling and context, the fruit of many years of study and really worth buying. It is excellent. Highly recommended.

  6. If you want ‘therapy’ Christine (much missed from my daily reading) this will do it and more. The Times says, on the back cover, “Russell is a wonderful storyteller, with a good nose for detail. He packs his book with fascinating minutiae from Tudor times.” This book was heaven made for you, C. For you and BQ, who always did enliven our conversations with that same fascinating minutiae.

      1. Ah thanks, Globerose, that’s sweet.

        I am actually just starting to read it again, the Kindle so I can make notes, as I don’t write in books. I did write at the back of a Bible once years ago during the Billy Graham rally at Anfield, but that was in the notes section, but not a normal thing to do, so the Kindle version is good for thoughts or questions. Russell gives such a lot of detail of the care taken with the investigation, the care taken in examination of witnesses and suspects more than once and the care taken to get to the truth. There was no rush to judgement, unlike the case of Anne Boleyn and no suggestion of fractional conspiracy. The smallest details are apparent in this wonderful biography and you are brought intimately into Kathryn’s world from the smallest of details noted in the various sources. Kathryn is not a stupid, wanton hussy with an eye for Henry’s young gentlemen of the bedchamber who she lurred to her rooms and betrayed her husband with for fun. She is not an empty headed bimbo or an abused child. She is a young and vibrant girl and woman who had a semi conventional upbringing, but no parental supervision, who lit up the Tudor Court with her charm and bright personality. She was trained to expect to run a large household, learning everything, even how to clean properly so she could supervise servants, but in the middle of all this, a lack of strict control meant the young ladies had midnight feasts and wild parties. Young men were allowed in by them, gifts were brought, wine and strawberries, some had sexual partners, including Kathryn and she took her past into her future. Few writers have had sympathy for Kathryn Howard, she is often painted as a sexual young woman who enjoyed sex and didn’t care about the dangers of cheating on King Henry Viii. She is also seen as guilty, as opposed to Anne Boleyn, whom most historians immediately state was not guilty. Maybe this is because Kathryn Howard is more complicated in her complicity and her case is far from straightforward. For one thing on several nights she entertained a young man, about ten years her senior and sexually experienced in her rooms and most of her personal household seem to have known about it. In that it is little wonder that Kathryn was assumed to be guilty of adultery. In addition to that she is often portrayed as a promiscuous teenager with a number of former lovers, one of whom remained her lover after her marriage and as enjoying loose living. The truth is much different. As with Josephine Wilkinson and Joanna Denny, both of whom are very sympathetic towards Kathryn, Conor Bryne has raised the question of her being the victim of sexual assaults or abuse. She also had no more than two “lovers” pre marriage and she wasn’t planning on being Queen at the time. One was a young girl, in early sexual awakening experimenting but who was also being groomed by her music teacher. However, her relationship with Francis Dereham was a consensual love match, that of a fun loving young woman of fifteen or so, whom she had promised to marry but probably didn’t mean it. Dereham took the vows much more seriously and intended to claim his bride, but she had married the King by the time he came back from Ireland.

        Another aspect of Kathryn Howard’s historiography is that she fell victim to bribery and was given no choice but to bring certain members of her household into her employment because they knew of her past and blackmailed her. However, this is very much a push. The evidence does not support the idea that Dereham blackmailed her, although he could have used persuasive arguments to allow her to bring him into her Queens household. She did show similar kindness to former fellows but many were placed there because of their status and relationship to the Howards. There is no evidence that Thomas Culpeper bribed her. She gave him gifts and she accepted his affection. She sent him gifts when he was ill and wrote him a friendship/love letter. Gareth Russell brings to life a much more normal and passionate woman who was unfortunate in her choices and the circumstances of her marriage. If Kathryn committed adultery it was the act of a foolish but warm hearted person who was looking for love, not to commit treason. I seriously believe she gave little thought to the consequences until it was too late and we can by no means be absolutely certain that her relationship with Culpeper was a sexual one. Whatever her faults, Kathryn was not the sexual predator of legend or a stupid spoilt child. She had one pre marital relationship at least a year before she came to Court and she wasn’t the first young noble to do so: like many young people, they defied convention and adults to have a good time. Young men were encouraged to become sexually mature but women and girls were supposed to be virgins when they married and super chased during marriage. Women who strayed were vilified far more than men and that is exactly what happened to Kathryn. One would think she had a whole parade of lovers the way she was spoken about and her reputation has been destroyed because of our pre conceptions of her behaviour. On one hand we must have some sympathy for her, her youth and her fate, even if her choices contributed to her downfall, or our assumptions about them at least.

  7. Dereham is portrayed as a young man in love with Catherine and a young braggart, and he was certainly disrespectful towards her whilst in her household, this lack of respect came from the knowledge that he knew her intimately, he was a loud mouthed idiot and was engaged in a brawl with another member of the queens household who reprimanded him for acting thus, he was one of Catherine’s early loves and like all young people pledge themselves to each other and think one day they will get married, it nearly always does fizzle out though some sweethearts who meet at college school etc, sometimes do marry and remain together all their lives, in Catherine’s case I think she was just enjoying a light hearted affair, maybe she thought she was in love with him but he it does appear felt more strongly towards her than she did about him, Catherine was always aware she was a Howard, that had been drummed into her from an early age, that she sometimes acted like a kitchen wench is neither here nor there, she knew when she was older like many other aristocratic girls she would go to court and make a fine marriage, Dereham probably hoped otherwise, here he was acting naive and with customary arrogance that he thought he would ever be considered good enough for her, they parted ways and she came to court, then somehow he infiltrated himself into her household, that was the first mistake, he hoped they would rekindle their past relationship, even though she was now queen consort and married to the most dangerous powerful man in the kingdom, I believe she rejected him and that was why he became stroppy and obnoxious, then in questioning possibly out of hurt and anger he mentioned Culpepers name,the question is how did he know about Culpeper? The answer here was another young braggart who possibly boasted about him and the queen and Dereham got to hear of it, Bq is correct there is no evidence to suggest that Dereham used blackmail to gain a place in her household and Catherine herself never stated that fact, and I feel here Catherine was just being kind to an ex lover, but it inferred sinister reason and Catherine when questioned by Cranmer had no explanation as to how he came to be in her household, it was therefore presumed she hoped to continue their old affair, maybe Dereham himself thought he loved Catherine maybe when they were younger and in the first throes of their love affair, I feel his interest in her was more to do with the fact that she was a Howard and he knew in so marrying her, he would become a very rich young man, but this is just speculation on my part, it seems Catherine was a pretty young woman, she has been described as attractive and her portraits do show a fresh faced girl with delicate features, auburn hair and heavy lidded hazel eyes, she could well have had a kind of allure that was more sexual in nature than beauty, and which her cousin Anne Boleyn could have possessed, she had had three lovers prior to marrying the king although Manox her old music tutor may not have actually slept with her, to do so would have brought ruin on himself so that could have just been kisses and cuddles and casting languid eyes at each other over the lute, with Dereham she did enjoy a full sexual relationship and it appears he was upset when it ended, the problem was here was a queen who had a past even though it was in the past, it was very very unfortunate for both Catherine and the king that he fell in love with her and sought to marry her, after her death a bill was passed to make it treason for a queen to have had lovers prior to marrying the king, the affair of Catherine Howard was plain tragic she remains I feel the most tragic of all Henry V111s wives, by a series of unfortunate events she was condemned merely on supposition, and she was not even allowed a trial, her very youth lack of reasoning and foresight led to her doom, her death turned the king into a morose bitter old man, he had genuinely loved Catherine yet he could not find it in his heart to pardon her, Catherine Howard’s tragedy was Henry V111s tragedy also, and her family the numerous Howard kin was under very grave suspicion for a long time, all imprisoned in the Tower, it was said there was not enough room for them all.

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