Posted By Claire on February 13, 2016
On 13th February 1542, Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII, and her lady, Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, were executed by beheading within the confines of the Tower of London.
Chronicler Edward Hall recorded:
“And so on the thirtene daie, these twoo ladies were behedded on the Grene, within the Tower with an axe, and confessed their offences, and died repentaunt.”1
And chronicler and Windsor Herald Charles Wriothesley wrote:
“And the 13th of February, beinge Monday, the sayd Quene, otherwise Lady Katharine Haward, was beheaded within the Tower on the grene, and my Lady of Rochforde allso; the Lordes of the Counsell, with other noblemen, and certaine commoners, beinge there present at the execution, she beinge afore condempned by the body of the whole Parliament of high treason.”2
An eye-witness, London merchant Otwell Johnson, wrote an account of the executions in a letter to his brother, John Johnson, a merchant of the Staple at Calais, dated 15th February 1541:3
“[…] and for news from hens, know ye, that even according to my writing on Sonday last, I se the Quene and the Lady Retcheford suffer within the Tower, the day following, whos sowles (I doubt not) be with God, for thay made the moost godly and christyan’s end, that ever was hard tell of (I thinke) since the worlds creation; uttering thayer lively faeth in the blode of Christe onely, and with goodly words and stedfast countenances thay desyred all christen people to take regard unto thayer worthy and just punnishment with death for thayer offences, and agenst God hainously from thayer youth upward, in breaking all his commandements, and also agenst the King’s royall Majesty very daungeriously: wherfore thay being justly condempned (as thay sayed) by the Lawes of the Realme and Parlement, to dye, required the people (I say) to take example at them, for amendement of thayer ungodly lyves, and gladdly to obey the King in all things, for whos preservation they did hartely pray; and willed all people so to do: commending thayer sowles to God, and ernestly calling for mercy upon him: whom I besieche to geve us grace, with such faeth, hope, and charite at our departing owt of this miserable world, to come to the fruytion of his godhed in joy everlasting. Amen.
Your loving brother
None of these accounts back up that of The Spanish Chronicle, which has Catherine saying, “I die a Queen, but I would rather die the wife of Culpeper. God have mercy on my soul. Good people, I beg you pray for me.”5 Click here to read more about this.
Notes and Sources
Image: Lynne Frederick as Catherine Howard in “Henry VIII and His Six Wives”.
- Hall, Edward (1809) Hall’s chronicle: containing the history of England, during the reign of Henry the Fourth, and the succeeding monarchs, to the end of the reign of Henry the Eighth, in which are particularly described the manners and customs of those periods. Carefully collated with the editions of 1548 and 1550, printed for J. Johnson; F.C. and J. Rivington; T. Payne; Wilkie and Robinson; Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme; Cadell and Davies; and J. Mawman; London. p.843.
- Wriothesley, Charles (1875 edition) A chronicle of England during the reigns of the Tudors, from A.D. 1485 to 1559, Volume 1, Camden Society, p. 134.
- The Tudor calendar year didn’t start until Lady Day on 25th March so what Johnson called “February 1541” is what we’d call “February 1542”.
- ed. Ellis, Henry (1825) Original letters, illustrative of English history, Volume II, p.128.
- transl. Hume, Martin A. Sharp, The Chronicle of King Henry VIII of England (The Spanish Chronicle), p.86.