Henry VIIIHappy All Souls’ Day!

Unfortunately, back in 1541 All Souls’ Day was not a happy day for Henry VIII and any thoughts or prayers he had for departed loved ones were soon forgotten when he attended All Souls’ mass and found a letter left for him in the Holy Day Closet at Hampton Court Palace. The letter had been left by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and was about the King’s wife, Catherine Howard. It was not good news.

Just the day before, at the All Saints’ mass, the Bishop of Lincoln, by order of the King, had given “thanks with him for the good life he led and hoped to [lead with her]”, but now Cranmer had revealed that Catherine “was not a woman of [such purity]” or the “jewel for womanhood” Henry VIII believed her to be.

A report from the King’s Council to William Paget, the English ambassador in France, gives details about what Archbishop Cranmer had found out about Catherine Howard’s past:

“While the King was in his progress, one John [Lossels] came to the Abp. and told him that he had been with a sister of his, married, in [Sussex], who had been servant with the old duchess of [Norfolk] who brought up the said Katharine, and he had recommended her to sue for service with [the Queen]. She said she would not, but [was very sorry for the Queen]. “Why? quoth Lossels. Marry, quoth she, for she is [light, both in living] and conditions. How so? quoth Lossels.” [She replied] that one Fras. Derham had lain in bed[with her, in his doublet] and hose, between the sheets an hundr[ed nights], and a maid in the house had said she would lie no longer with her because [she knew not what ma]trimony was. Moreover [one] Mannock, a servant of the [Duchess, knew a] privy mark on her body. The Abp., being much perplexed, consulted the lord Chancellor and the [earl of Hertford], and by their advice reported the matter to the King in writing, as he had not the heart to tell it by word of mouth.”

The report goes on to say that on hearing of these allegations, Henry VIII ordered that John Lassells and his sister should be examined, along with Henry Manox and Francis Dereham. The report also gives the results of these interrogations:

“Wriothesley found from Mannock’s confession that he used to feel the [secret parts] of her body before Derrham [was familiar] with her; and Derrham confessed that he had k[nown her car]nally many times, both in his doublet and [hose between] the sheets and in naked bed, alleging three women [as witnesses]. On learning this the King’s heart was pierced with pe[nsiveness, so that it was long] before he could [utter his sorrow]; “and finally, with plenty [of tears, (which was strange] in his courage), opened the same.” [Katharine was spoken] to by the abp. of [Canterbury, the lord] Chancellor, the duke of Norfolk, [the lord Great Chamberlain], and the bp. of [Winchester]. She at first constantly denied it, but at last disclosed everything [to the abp.] of Canterbury, who took her confession [in writing] subscribed by her hand. Then [the rest of the witnesses], eight or nine men and women, were examined, and agreed in one [tale].”

What was suspicious to the King’s Council was that Catherine had taken “this Derrham into her service, and trained him upon occasions, as sending of errands and writing of letters when her [secre]tary was out of the way, to come often into her [privy] chamber. And she had gotten also into her privy cham[ber] to be one of her chamberers, one of the women which [had] before lien in the bed with her and Derrham.” And this was before they heard about meetings with a certain Thomas Culpeper – oh dear!

Notes and Sources

  • Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 16, 1540-1541, 1334 – This report opens by giving the date on which Cranmer revealed the news to the King: “on All Souls Day at mass the abp. [of Canterbury] having heard that she was not a woman of [such purity] as was esteemed, sorrowfully revealed it to the King”.

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