Catherine HowardOn 2nd November 1541, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer left a letter for Henry VIII in the Holy Day Closet at Hampton Court Palace. He had been given information concerning Queen Catherine Howard’s colourful past and had consulted Sir Thomas Audley, Lord Chancellor, and Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford. They advised him to report the matter to Henry VIII “in writing”, so he did, “as he had not the heart to tell it by word of mouth.”

But what was this information?

A report to William Paget, Henry VIII’s ambassador in France, from the King’s council gives us the details:

“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.”1

The report goes on to say that the King’s reaction was to order his council to investigate the matter and interview John Lascelles and his sister because he thought “the matter forged”. Henry VIII could not believe that his “rose without a thorn” could have been intimate with two men in this way.

Reports in Letters and Papers show that Henry’s council did indeed investigate the matter. On 4th November they examined a Roger Cotes regarding dealings he’d had with the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk and her household. In his “confession”, Cotes stated that he “Never received entertainment of anyone, except 10l. “before the progress of his mistress.” Grants that he said that if she were advanced he expected a good living, but denies ever saying he was in such favour that he might have married her.”2 We do not hear any more about him.

On 5th November 1541, Mary Hall (née Lascelles) was examined and her confession recorded by Thomas Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton and the King’s principal secretary:

“Confession of Mary Halle alias Lassels, “taken by me W. earl of Southampton,” 5 Nov. 33 Hen. VIII.
Three or four years past, she was nurse to my lord William’s child by lady Rossel’s daughter, and was afterwards some time in Lord William’s house at Lambeth, but mostly in my lady of Norfolk’s house. Was after that in service with my old lady of Norfolk as a chamberer. Describes misconduct, which took place while she was nurse, between Mrs. Katharine Howard and Henry Monoxe, a player of the virginals, and how she remonstrated with Monoxe. Mrs. Isabel, now married to the sword-bearer of York, and Dorothy Barweke, who was put to my Lady’s service by Mrs. Barweke, of Horssam, carried tokens between Mrs. Katharine and Monoxe.
Examined what she knows “by” Deram, describes how my old lady of Norfolk used to have the keys of the gentlewomen’s chamber brought into her own chamber at night, how Mrs. Katharine would come in and steal the keys, and how one Mrs. Alice Welkes (in margin in another hand, Alice Wilkes alias Restwold) related to her Mrs. Katharine’s doings with Deram. Deponent said to Alice Welkes, “Let her alone, for [an] she hold on as she begins we shall hear she will be nought within a while.” Knows not where Welkes dwells, but lord William put her to service. Never told my lady of Norfolk, lord William or his wife or anyone except her brother. The old porter [John] Walsheman, John Baynet, and Richa[rd] Faver, grooms of the chamber, and Margery, my lady’s chamberer, can tell much.”3

Then, Henry Manox, Catherine Howard’s former music teacher, was examined:
“Examination of Henry Manox, at Lambeth, 5 Nov. 33 Hen. VIII., before Thomas abp. of Canterbury and Sir Thomas Wriothesley, as to any displeasure between him and one Deram, now servant to the Queen. When he came to the old duchess of Norfolk’s service, five years past, he and one Barnes were appointed to teach the Queen, then Mrs. Katharine Howard, to play the virginals. He fell in love with her and she with him, but the Duchess found them alone together one day and gave Mrs. Katharine two or three blows, and charged them never to be alone together after. Then Deram, who was the Duchess’s kinsman, and also loved Mrs. Katharine, and Edw. Walgrave, who loved a maiden named Baskervile, used to haunt her chamber rightly and banquet there until 2 or 3 a.m.; so Deponent and Barnes wrote an anonymous letter to the Duchess (tenor given), warning her that if she would rise half an hour after going to bed and visit the gentlewomen’s chamber she would be displeased. The Duchess thereupon stormed with her women; and Mrs. Katharine afterwards stole the letter and showed it to Deram, who suspected Deponent to have written it and called him knave. Young Bulmer’s wife, who was her bedfellow and also entertained by Deram, Dorothy Dawby, then chamberer with the Duchess, Kath. Tylney, now chamberer with the Queen, Edw. Walgrave, servant to my lord Prince, Mary Lasselles and Malyn Tylney, widow, can speak of the misrule between Deram and Mrs. Katharine. Describes his own familiarity with her.”4

Oh dear, the matter certainly did not seem “forged”. The council then went on to examine the Queen, but I’ll tell you about that another day…

Notes and Sources

  • LP xvi. 1334
  • Ibid., 1317
  • Ibid., 1320
  • Ibid., 1321

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22 thoughts on “2 November 1541 – The Beginning of the End for Catherine Howard”
  1. I am going to say it – ‘poor little Katherine!’ – although i know many people feel she ‘deserved’ what she got. As you know, I’ve been working on her on and off for years, and I still can’t find an all-embracing label to stick on her. (Just had to smile at reading in an old article on this site that I had expected to be finished and published by the end of 2011!! Thanks for your references to my work in your latest book)
    A couple of things, Claire:

    How would you describe the duties of a chamberer?

    Have you come across the girl named Baskerville anywhere else?

    I’m not sure about the Roger Cotes thing either; I wonder if it’s the complete interview, or perhaps there might be more that’s illegible? It’s in Wriothesley’s handwriting and these interrogators were not clerks, so some of the papers can’t be deciphered, although I believe David Starkey has had a go.



  2. I just find it very bizarre that Mary Lascelles, over four or five years after these events supposedly happened, only came forward in the autumn of 1541 and imparted her information. To me it’s very suspicious and it’s surely too much of a coincidence that the Lascelles’ reformist beliefs conflicted mightily with the Catholicism espoused by the Howards.

    I personally do not give much grain to these stories and, although I might not go so far as Elisabeth Wheeler in suggesting that Katherine was the innocent victim of a reformist plot which created malicious fictional stories about her past, I do think people lied and exaggerated very heavily about what happened from 1536-9.

    Like Anne Boleyn, she was the victim of a patriarchal society which ruined women on the basis of their sexuality and gave them no real chance to defend themselves.

    1. I have to agree on that.

      How convenient that Margaret Bennett just happened to be looking ‘through a hole in the door’ as Dereham was lifting Katherine’s skirts and the two were discussing contraception! I just wonder how much coaching the so-called witnesses had before the interviews began.

      (How’s your research going, Conor? I had to put Katherine aside again for a few months because of other commitments, but am back with her now. Re-read some of Retha Warnicke’s theories yesterday – I would think you two are on the same wavelength to a certain extent.)

    2. Obviously it was a political move (what occurrence in that court wasn’t?) but I am very curious about the timing. Why then? The parallel that sprang to mind for me was a political candidate’s enemies waiting until a week before the election to reveal some unpleasant surprise from the candidate’s past, but Katherine had been queen well over a year by then. It could be that Mary Lascelles (and her party) was torn between wanting to damage Katherine and fearing a reprisal if they weren’t believed. I wonder if there was anything in particular happening in September/October 1541 which could have spurred them?

      1. Some scholars see the timing as a reflection of an element of sour grapes on Mary’s part for not having been invited to serve in the Queen’s household, and that is why it all came out at this time:

        “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.”

        I would think there was a great deal more to it. I wonder if there was a rumour that Katherine was pregnant?

        1. Interesting — if you take the account at face value (risky, of course) it sounds as if Mary wasn’t completely sold on the idea of serving Katherine because of her past being essentially a ticking bomb; eventually that bomb was going to blow up and she didn’t want to be in the blast radius. (Of course, it’s also a convenient justification if she was disappointed in her hopes of a court appointment). I actually think the timing makes a decent amount of sense when reading Lascelles’ account. He doesn’t say that Mary came to him and said “I have this damaging information on Katherine, go report it so we can get the Howards out of court,” but rather that he happened to visit Mary and ask her about court service, and that was when the story came out and of course he saw how useful it was. So the timing of the revelation may have had less to do with Katherine’s activities and more to do with when John Lascelles found time to visit his sister and hear some gossip.

          There were probably constant rumours of Katherine’s pregnancy. Wasn’t she rumoured to be pregnant when she was married? That wouldn’t be a difficult one to believe.

        2. I highly doubt so sonetka. The “King” already had an heir or should I say more than one heir to secure the future of his dynasty so I do not think it was another child he was after and by that time he was just looking for companionship love and a nurse was he not. That is always how I have perceived it to be.

        3. Considering that the marriage to Anne of Cleves was accompanied by hopes of a “Duke of York” I doubt Henry would have objected to another child, and besides, I’m not saying that she was pregnant but rather that people would think she was. Henry worried about a female succession — with reason, considering English history — and no doubt a second son would have been very welcome.

  3. Katherine it seems had quite a past while in the care of the old dowager duchess of Norfolk, but it has to be asked: What was the motivation of Harry and Mary Lascells coming forward now and snitching on the Queen?

    Both were Protestants and of course Thomas Cranmer was a reformer. But there seems not to have been any evidence that the Archbishop was plotting to bring the Queen down. Did these two come forward by themselves, out of fear, or because they wanted revenge for something?

    i do not imagine that either of them was so devoted to the King that they decided he should know the truth of his wife’s illicit past. It was a serious matter to perjure yourself and could bring the death penalty so bringing accusations against the Queen was risky, especially if the stories and rumours proved to be untrue. Making rumours about the Queen without proof was treason, so was hiding true knowledge of something that the Queen or others did that was also treason. It must have been a case of damned if you told and damned if you did not tell.

    If Katherine had a past it would not have been treason as it was before her marriage but it was still risky as it pointed to her not being suitable as a wife to the King and that if she had consented to sex and promised marriage to any of the gentlemen that she was with, then her marriage to the King may not even be lawful. Consent constituted a marriage and a betrothal as in the Helen Caster series. The gentleman that Katherine had made her promise to was Francis Dereham. But it was Henry Mannox that the couple brought word about, her music teacher, who was taking advantage of young Katherine.

    Did the couple have an agenda to work against the Queen as she was from a powerful Catholic family and they were strong reformers? The content of the letter would be very enlightening I believe and give more insight. I do not have any sympathy for Katherine as she made her own choices, but I do feel sorry for her as her happiness and that of the King was destroyed by jealous hearts.

    I feel also for Thomas Cramner as he was shocked and did not know how to break this terrible and sad news to the King. Writing a letter may have seemed a good idea but it must have been really hard for him to do. Henry was his friend as well as his King and he had served him faithfully for almost a decade. He was trusted by the King and Henry had protected him when charges of heresy where levied against him by the council. He owed his appointment as Archbishop of Canterbuty, Primate of England to the King. This news was going to break the King’s heart, but he must have believed it to be true and important enough to bring it to Henry’s attention and ask leave to investigate further. And there was worse to come.

    The investigation opened a can of worms, not only had Katherine had several sexual encounters before her marriage according to her own confession, but she had strayed from the marital bed during the progress. The allegations were many and incrediable: involving two men, the same Francis Dereham and the King’s close servant and groom Thomas Culpepper. True or not; the accusations made shocking reading and the King ws given the news by his council; he broke down and wept as he could not believe that he had been betrayed again. Henry is said to have been so distraught and angry that he demanded a sword to kill Katherine himself. His rose had thorns after all. And Katherine was kept in the dark during the investigation; confined first to her chambers with only one lady, and then to Syon Abbey; an old palace. She must have been terrified.

    When the story was finally put together, Katherine was accused of having sexual relations with at least two men prior to the marriage and at least two afterwards. Dereham was also accused of imagining the King’s death, and it was this charge that carried the death penalty as adultry was not yet treason. It was made so in 1542 and it was also made so that any candidate for the Kings wife had to declare her past on pain of death.

    Lassals and his sister must have had some real agenda to go this far; fortunately for them they were believed, an investigation followed and they succeeded, even if it was by default. They may not have intended to bring the Queen down, but that was the end result of their bringing the stories of Katherine and her early life to the notice of the archbishop and the King. It may be Karma, but it is recorded that Lassals was executed a couple of years later as a heretic. What comes around goes around.

  4. bandit queen ,I totally agree with what you have just posted,ie “you were damned if you told and damned if you did not ” no one had any real choice but to speak up ,because if you did not and it was found out later on that you knew something ,well serous trouble ahead,i feel sorry for Thomas cranmer in this instance ,it must have been a very worrying time for him,but Katherine was “foolish “and should have known better ,bad enough her past but to continue her foolishness .after her marriage was just downright dangerous,and was there not a letter found she had sent to culpepper ,what was he thinking ?keeping it

      1. Do you know what Marilyn, and Tom, your posts have really opened a new way of looking at Katherine for me….over the years my I can see my view points may have become jaded by what little there is to read about her, and how little truth it may contain. I try not to believe all I read, and make some kind of ‘fair’ judgement but it can be difficult without anyone coming from a different angle as you have.

        Putting aside trying to work out Katherine’s character, behaviour etc.; I still can’t see her stepping up to the throne without a large input from family, after all, the pushing and shoving for power and position that went on in Courts, it seems obvious that the men (and women at times) seeking these advancements would use what ever they could to gain favour, be it from giving their services in all aspects to the King,fair or foul, or using family for the same gain.

        I can see, that there could have been conspiracies concerning the people you have mentioned, their ‘convenient’ remembering of events rather late in the day! etc.
        But what you have said about the letter supposedly written by Katherine is a very good point, like you said did she write it? how do we know it was by her hand?, and even though she seems she may not have been up there with the intellectuals, would she be daft enough to write such a letter, then keep it!? did she not take on board what happens to Henry’s ex’s if they pee him off…was she really that simple, or fool hardy? opens up so many trains of thoughts…

        What I would like to ask you though, if this is the case, and the letter being a ‘set up’, where does that leave this affair with Culpeper? does it cast doubt on this in your minds, I would be really interested to know…was Katherine a lamb to the slaughter here, by conspiracy theories, with poor old Jane Rochford collateral damage…and how could a women of Jane’s experience in the Courtly rises and falls with the fatal consequences these could have doing playing a game such as this? It would have been more in her favour to report what the Queen was intending to get up to than to be part of it surely…

        I do agree with your first comment ‘Poor Katherine’ I personally think she was led to Queenship ill equipped even with family guidance, right up to, (if it was her own devices) she started this carry on with Culpeper, then, even though she may have been manipulated by him, she must have realised how fatal this would be, a different word springs to mind then 🙂 Another question also, sorry, but I am intrigued now, any thoughts on why Culpeper would play such a game of Russian Roulette, he knew the King well, by all accounts.

        Hope my questions have made sense.

        1. Thanks, Dawn.

          With Katherine, and so many others, we are often faced with a rehash of a rehash of an interpretation made some while ago and now accepted as the ‘truth’, when in actual fact the original sources are few and vague and can be interpreted in just about any way you like, as discussions on this and other threads ably demonstrate – and that has to be good. It’s through mulling all this over at a leisurely pace I’m way behind with the research on Katherine and her companions at Norfolk House, but no matter.

          I have always had reservations about the letter: as Conor says, it appears to be in two different hands, and without other examples of Katherine’s writing, how can we be sure it wasn’t a fake planted amongst Culpeper’s things? Again, when you actually read it, it’s a funny sort of love letter and, bearing in mind the flowery language of the times, I think we need to be careful. (One of my favourites is the letter from Katherine’s great-grandfather John Howard, Duke of Norfolk to John Paston just before Bosworth asking him to get some fighting men organised, when he signs off ‘Yower lover John Norffolk’. It’s the equivalent of ‘friend fighting on the same side’, but no doubt it will only be a matter of time before some bright spark comes up with the claim that the two were a gay couple! And before anybody asks me how I know they weren’t – I don’t!)

          As far as Culpeper and Jane Rochford are concerned, I haven’t a clue what was going on in their heads, but I have wondered if Culpeper was truly in love with Katherine. My research is really about what happened before Katherine’s move to court, what her step-grandmother did about it and the rough time the old lady had when the scandal came out into the open. Katherine herself is not really the central character for me, although all revolve around her, so I think Conor will have given more thought to Jane Rochford and Thomas Culpeper than I have.

        2. Cheers for that Marilyn, and I do hope no-on starts claiming those two gentlemen in your post were gay, lol.

          I hope Conor picks up on the questions too then, and ‘enlightens’ me. 🙂

  5. Marilyn I agree with a lot of what you wrote above. Your last comment is very thought-provoking: did Katherine ever send that letter and did she even write it, more to the point? There is no other evidence, that I know of, that Katherine was even literate. Yes she reigned for only a short time but so did both Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves and we have examples of their writing. There is a suggestion in July 1541, which Warnicke might have made (I don’t think she went as far as this, however), that Lady Rochford carried a letter to Culpeper and so it’s more than possible that she, rather than Katherine, wrote it. If you look very carefully at the letter it’s noticeable that the first lines of the letter are in a completely different hand to the rest of the letter.

    My research is going well Marilyn – how has yours gone? Your Warnicke comparison is interesting – I disagree with so much of what she says regarding Anne Boleyn but I think in regards to Katherine she just might have hit the nail on the head. Certainly I agree with her that both Manox and Dereham were predator-like and I don’t think Katherine ever had the sort of romantic relationship with Dereham that historians and writers have envisaged. To me, she couldn’t wait to get rid of him!

    The whole thing with Mary Lascelles is bizarre and your point that maybe it was rumours of the queen’s pregnancy that motivated her could be the correct one. I just think, in view of her brother’s fanatical Protestantism and the fact that he later died at the stake, that brother and sister were itching for a chance to bring down the Howards, hence why I think she completely exaggerated if not invented her story. But then she had supposedly intervened with Katherine and Manox – or was she just trying to present herself in the best possible light? Hardly a likeable woman, from the sounds of it.

  6. Katheryn as she liked to spell her name with a “Y” instead of an “I”. It is obvious that she liked to spell her name the welsh way just as one of her ladies did too. Malyn hence spelled also with a “Y”. I think that she was different to most ladies of her time just like as her cousin Anne Boleyn had been before her. What strikes me is that both of them had been accused of the same thing as each other “Adultery” which I find ironic not to mention that just like Anne one of the men had also been a musician but oddly enough Mannox was not tried condemned and executed unlike the latter two Dereham and Culpepper he had a lucky escape. The difference though is that a woman one of her ladies was executed with her unlike Anne it was just men but similar never the less. Just like Anne she should of never have been crowned “Queen” for different reasons although similar but not exact. Never the less. It really and truly was the “Beginning” of the end for “Katheryn” and it is not just “Katheryn” I pity or that should be “pitted” as one poster said I also feel that just like her cousin before her “Anne” needs pitying too.

    1. Spelling in Tudor times wasn’t as standaredised as speeling in modern tymes.
      The vast majority of people were illerate.
      Even those in the elite parts of society weren’t funcuntally literate.
      Any personne who coulde spelle was most likely ye cleric or sekretary to a powerful noble familie.

      For womyn to be able to rite even the most simple of messgaes shown that the family was preperÉd to invest thyme and efoert inn educating a meer wyman to the sam levelle as a manne shown that ye fammille was og highest classe..

      And as being able to write was connsidered only for women to send love notes to their male admirers..then writing was not considered to be a proper thing for a woman to know..

      all spelling mistakes are totally intentional

      1. I know that they had a different way of conversing word use the had a way with words did they not and I could gather that you were doing it deliberately hence using it to your advantage 😀

  7. What I would also like to add which I forgot to mention in my previous post earlier is that it is funny how Henry was ready and willing to believe the allegations about Anne but when it came to Katheryn he could not not to mention a proper and thorough investigation was conducted which lasted over three months for her but for the men about a month and Anne just like the men who’s matters were rushed without a proper and thorough investigation just under three weeks. It makes me wonder at times. So unfair. So different yet so the same when I think it over again again and again.

  8. No wonder Henry threw all the Howard’s in the Tower they all collaborated in keeping Catherine’s past from him and made him look such a fool, it was his ego that was hurt really I think, although he seemed to have loved Catherine, I think it was more or less an older mans fancy to have a trophy wife on his arm, what I find so sad is that he couldn’t find it in his heart to show her mercy and at least try to understand it was mainly due to her upbringing and extreme youth and naivety that was responsible, I’m not condoning her behaviour after her marriage, but she had no guidance when she lived with the Duchess and it’s a shame Henry just couldn’t realise that she was a rather silly girl, not evil but weak not blatantly immoral but she couldn’t see far ahead beyond her infatuation for Culpeper, other Queens in history had committed adultery in France couple hundred years before and King Johns wife Queen Isabella but he never executed her, and he has always been called ‘Bad King John’ but Henry was the first King in history to execute women and burn them to.

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