21 January 1542 – A bill of attainder against Queen Catherine Howard and Lady Rochford is introduced

On this day in history, 21st January 1542, just over two and a half months after Queen Catherine Howard’s colourful past had come to light, a bill of attainder against the queen and one of her ladies, Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, widow of George Boleyn, was introduced into the House of Lords.

According to this bill, the two women were guilty of treason and could be punished without there being any need for a trial.
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17 thoughts on “21 January 1542 – A bill of attainder against Queen Catherine Howard and Lady Rochford is introduced”
  1. The Bill of Attainder does seem strange to me, a bit rushed like Henry wanted this unhappy affair over and done with, to me it seems incredibly unfair that the accused were not given a trial where they could make their voices heard but then Catherine had been questioned constantly and Henry and his council were satisfied that a trial was not necessary and her guit was confirmed, stil unfair though, in Jane Rochfords case she appears to have suffered a mental breakdown so would not be fit for trial, Jane aided and abetted Catherine in her meetings with Culpeper so she too was guilty of betraying her King which the law said was treason yet I don’t feel she deserved death, by modern standards neither did poor Catherine but this was the court of Henry V111 and she was his queen, I believe Henry had Parliament pass this bill because he wanted to spare the embarrassment of yet another unfaithful wife, even though we believe Anne was stitched up but in the eyes of the world he would look foolish and he wanted to avoid that as much as possible, so two women one hardly more than a girl were led out to Tower green and decapitated, Henry had had another act passed that made it possible to execute an insane person, heavens above! Jane Rochford has been referred to as ‘that bawd’ some sort of procuress who took a delight in intrigue, she maybe felt quite important being in the queens confidence and got a thrill out of the meetings, she was however older and supposed to be wiser than the queen and she had already witnessed the deaths of her husband and sister in law yet that did not stop her indulging the queen, the report says the queen and Culpeper were alone together from 11 to 3 so I feel something must have gone on, there have been several theory’s put forward that he was blackmailing her yet I feel she would have confessed this to Cranmer, Culpeper certainly wasn’t the sort of man you would want your daughter to be associated with, he had assaulted a game keepers wife and had been pardoned by the King because he liked him, he was said to be handsome and could no doubt be charming when he chose to be, maybe his reputation appealed to something in Catherine, she was so young and young girls find the bad guys irresistible, personally I don’t think he was blackmailing her, I think she was besotted with him and was the sort of girl who lived for the moment, after having to sleep with Henry who by this time was not every girls dream, being fat and now quite bald, having a bad leg which stunk I should imagine it was bliss to be with a younger attractive man, in the report one sentence reads ‘her vicious life’ it makes her seem like the town prostitute yet in a household where there were plenty of young men and women, flirtations were inevitable, it’s such a shame that when she was first questioned by Cranmer about Derham she denied any pre contract with him, had she admitted there was one she could have escaped with her life, her marriage would have been annulled and she would be in disgrace for some time and no doubt her family, but she would be alive, Henry would be furious with her but no harm would have been done, she panicked I think and was unsure what to do poor Catherine, by denying the pre contract she was lying to parliament and then they arrested Derham and he told a very different tale, Culpeper was then implicated and the rest is history, still I am surprised that he executed Catherine to, no King had ever executed his queen before but two? And Catherine was no Anne Boleyn, she had not made enemies the way Anne had, she had not been the cause of a beloved queen being deposed and unsettling the religion of the country, she had not been the cause of the break with Rome, her only crime was being the victim of her own frailty, yes she had not treated Henry with the respect he deserved as her husband and monarch, she had betrayed him but it’s very very sad he could not find it in his heart to be merciful towards the poor wretch who after all was young enough to be his daughter, no ones how old she was when she died but the general assumption is not more than eighteen or nineteen, he had been very happy with her and even lost weight, he was cheerful and more affectionate towards her than any of his other wives it was noted, Lucy Worsley wonders why he decided to marry her and not just be content with having her as his mistress, as it turned out this would have been better for Catherine but he wanted another boy, after her death he sank into a deep depression till he met his sixth wife, I know this sounds odd but I’m glad he did marry Catherine Parr as she was a very kind sensible and mature woman who made him happy, I like to think of the old monster enjoying marital bliss with Mrs Bluestocking, I can see Henry in his chamber, his leg resting on her knee whilst he had some wine and Catherine reading to him and a musician playing Greensleeves in the background.

    1. I don’t think Henry was rushing this matter. However, by now it had dragged on for over two months. At first it appeared to be about Kathrrines alleged past, which he thought was untrue, but as it was treason to slander the Queen, he investigated anyway. By now he probably does want a conclusion, but it is still not being rushed as it was 28th before the bill was passed, due to the before mentioned concerns of the Parliament and council that the Queen has not had a chance to defend herself. Amazingly Henry agreed to them speaking to Katherine, more clarification is sought, none comes, the King changed the agenda of the commission and at another reading the Bill passed.

      The wording of the bill refers to the intention to hide alleged immoral conduct before her marriage to the King and living an immoral life. This is important because this was totally shocking at a time when women, especially nobles and queens were the property of a male relative or guardian and then their husband. Even when rape was prosecuted, and it was, it was an assault on a man’s property that was the actual crime. Katherine should have been pure..simple…it doesn’t matter what the King did or didn’t do. This was a time when women were seen as sexually wild and had to be tamed by being married. Her, greatly exaggerated sexual crimes were included to emphasise that, but they would have deeply shocked anyone reading this document, that is how it was then. From a 21st century view, it may be questioned as to how pfe marriage sex is treason, but from their point of view, her hiding these facts compromised the King’s honour. Again, it does not matter if the King sleeps with someone else, plus this goes beyond the double standard. Henry is the King, Katherine is his subject. Even as his wife, she is not his equal. She can never be his equal. We need to forget we live now, our modern views are nonsense here…this is 500 plus years ago…adultery in a Queen put the succession and the realm in danger. Although adultery was a sin, here Katherine had also, according to the earlier trials of the men, spoken about being with one or both of her lovers instead of the King, so imagination of the Kings death thus treason. It was therefore important to make Katherine out to be of poor character and capable of the most horrendous of crimes…Henry’s murder. It might have been nonsense, but you have to paint a good picture.

      Henry had taken his time over this case, special care had been taken with the women, it had to be concluded some time, especially as the men had already been executed. When you think poor Anne Boleyn was railroaded in 19 days, this case had gone on for quite some time. In this I think Henry was being patient, but he could not risk a trial, which meant he had to wait for Parliament to sit. Henry Viii ruled with his Parliamentary system fully functioning, giving the impression of legal support for his actions. Even now he had to wait for the Bill to return to the House, before proceeding to move Katherine to the Tower. A very unsatisfactory state of affairs, but one designed clearly to protect the royal honour and give the accused no chance to impugn it further.

      1. Yes Anne was arrested put on trial condemned and executed all within a few weeks, absolutely horrendous! At least with Catherine the King had ordered an investigation which he had to do, no one could be allowed to slander the queen and if it was found to be slander, then those responsible would have paid with their lives, he must have hoped beyond hope that his perfect jewel of womanhood was innocent, yes we look at things from our viewpoint but we did not live 500 years ago, by not disclosing her past she was guilty of dishonouring the King yet why did not her family advise her on this? The Howard’s were ambitious and were overjoyed when the King paid court to her, they should have realised if her past came out they were all in danger,( as indeed they were all thrown in the tower later on), they had seen one family member beheaded and so I think should have been extremely wary when he decided he wanted to marry Catherine, they should have disclosed to Henry her relationship with Derham and Manox, let him know from the beginning what her life had been like in the country at her grandmothers house, things have a habit of coming out and Henry then could have just decided she wasn’t marriage material and just enjoyed her company as his mistress, her upbringing wasn’t that of a conventional noblewoman of the age, her gaurdians had been lax, the Victorians themselves set great store by high moral standards yet indulged in pre marital sex and gentleman and members of the aristocracy frequently visited brothels, ( Winston Churchills own father one of them), Henry himself was known to be a prude and expected women to be virtuous yet because he was a King and a man it was different for him, ( as you mention double standards) yet that’s how it was and I feel with the Howard’s keeping quiet on this matter was a very grave mistake, Catherine was let down I feel by her family who should have made sure her upbringing was proper as befitted a lady of such a great house as the house of Howard, the men frequently visited the women in the shared dormitory and Catherine being young and not knowing any better, saw no wrong in this, it was merely an adventure to her, then she thought all that was behind her and came to court, her family thought let it lie no one need ever know, but sadly one ex servant of her grandmothers decided to tell her brother who then decided the King must know, this shows how honour came above all else, John Lassells possibly did not have anything personal against the queen apart from the fact she was a Catholic and he himself was burnt for heresy some years after, but because of the moral standards of the age decided the King and his ministers must be aware of her lack of virtue, Caesers wife has to be above reproach, his last and sixth wife was completely different being no giddy teenager, but middle aged sensible and mature.

        1. I don’t believe Norfolk knew anything about her past, but Agnus did. I don’t believe that she gave it much serious credence, believing him to have gone to Ireland for good, the hope was he would not resurface as he was warned off. It was hoped that with Katherine safely married, especially to the King all that could be forgotten. The family also had the good old Howard name and ambition to protect. Katherine was going to raise their profile, they were back, so why spoil things by mentioning something which could be covered up? Yes, with hindsight it would be a good idea, but Henry would never have married her had he known about Dereham and if it became public knowledge, quite possibly nobody else would either.

  2. I have just dived into Gareth Russell and read his chapter on this point. He states and shows some evidence that Katherine Howard herself turned down the offer of a trial, while other authorities, Professor Wilkinson, being the latest, insist that Henry himself put the blocks on an appearance before Parliament as he was too embarrassed after the public trial of Anne Boleyn showed him up. Before 2000 witnesses Anne and George Boleyn made statements that undermined the Kings virility. Not that Katherine was likely to do the same, she stood too much in awe of Henry, but could he take the chance. The Lords were deeply concerned that Katherine had not been given a chance to defend herself, so they came in a delegation to the King. While being upset and depressed about his wife’s, alleged, presumed, or actual adultery and treason, Henry was still in relative control of himself and agreed to the council speaking to Katherine. Unfortunately, it was with a different agenda than intended, the Bill of Attainment was passed which set out her crimes and found her guilty at the same time, for intentions not actually sleeping with her alleged lovers. A delegation went again to Katherine a couple of weeks later, this time to declare her condemnation and her removal to the Tower.

    Katherine was never going to have a fair hearing anyway after the condemnation of Dereham and Culpeper as they were found guilty and their guilt equalled hers. She was herself reckless in her behaviour, probably did sleep with Culpeper, intended to sleep with Dereham and Culpeper, with whom she was in love, not raped, but the evidence does not provide support to prove these ideas. Although her first relationship with Mannox was abusive and about power and inappropriate on his part, her relationship with Dereham was a consensual and fulfilling one. She was not being raped by him; that new age theory is now finally being challenged again by Professor Russell and the evidence of Katherine herself in many parts of her confession, despite her statement that she was forced, shows she was not and is trying to cover her tracks, the evidence of Margaret Morton, whose sleep she disturbed, the testimony of her other dormmates, the testimony of the men and her own courting behaviour prove Katherine Howard was not raped by either Francis Dereham or Thomas Culpeper.

    This doesn’t mean that Dereham did not behave poorly afterwards or did not bribe her. He thought of Katherine as his wife and as such he owned her. When he entered her service he was trying to reclaim her, but finding her out of reach as Queen he tried to discredit her instead. Katherine was now the property of another, but that didn’t stop a loud mouthed brash Francis Dereham who took advantage of Katherine who had her new position to protect. Katherine did not see Francis in the same light, but then again, she was now both Queen and also in love with Thomas Culpeper. The evidence suggests Katherine was obsessed with Culpeper and he probably felt the same, or at least led her to believe he was. All three intended to go further even if no adultery had taken place and that was their crime in Tudor England. Katherine may have been given the opportunity to defend herself, but really, given her state of mind, was she in any fit state and what was the point? Had she realised that she was flogging a dead horse, that her cause was lost or had she simply given up and accepted her fate, no matter what happened next? I don’t believe a trial, even before Parliament would avail her much, but it may have at least have given her side of things a wider audience.

    1. I think Catherine was absolutely terrified at the danger she found herself in and unlike Anne Boleyn could not have stood the pressure of a trial, at the latters trial there were about a thousand yet Catherine I feel would have collapsed had she been subjected to one, maybe she was grateful for the bill of attainder who knows? By now she must have been in such a weak vulnerable state I have often wondered how she never had a breakdown like Jane Rochford, the image of her practising laying her head on the block is extremely poignant, it probably gave her the strength when the time for her execution arrived, after her death I believe the Howard’s distanced themselves from the court not being on very good terms with his majesty, and possibly decided to stay out of politics for the time being.

  3. I have to admit, I did chuckle somewhat at this: “but the evidence does not provide support to prove these ideas.” If we don’t have the evidence, then we can’t state definitively that such and such was the case!

    I just want to point out that the idea of Katherine being abused is not a “new age theory”; it was a theory put forward as long ago as the Victorian period, although of course at that time writers could not use explicit language because they did not want to risk offending society. I think most historians have agreed that Katherine was exploited by Henry Manox; whether she was abused by Dereham, or whether they enjoyed a consensual relationship, is still open to debate and probably always will be.

    We cannot say that Katherine and Culpeper were in love, they lived five hundred years ago and it is impossible to tell how one person truly felt about another. This was an age of elaborate courtesy in letter-writing. Katherine’s letter is not a love letter, most individuals at the time ended their letters the way she did, usually a variant of “yours during my life”. Mary Tudor, for example, being a case in point. So Katherine ending hers with “yours as long as life endures” was neither shocking nor a declaration of love. It was the equivalent of “yours” or “yours sincerely”. Some have argued that Katherine was cultivating Culpeper’s friendship, given his closeness to the king, and this is certainly possible.

    At the end of the day, as with Anne Boleyn, I do not think there will ever be a clear consensus on Katherine Howard’s personality, her motivations and what really happened between her and Culpeper. This new book has put forward some ideas that need to be considered and debated, but ultimately, they are ideas. We cannot prove anything and one argument may be good as another. All we can say with certainty is that Katherine died a shameful death in the prime of her life and her reputation has tended to be negative since.

    1. That’s the whole problem with Katherine Howard, much of what we do know regarding her early life comes from her testimony, given during a time of distress and fear, which is one of the reasons it is so hotly debated. As historians we have to shift through the available evidence, plus try to solve riddles and all too often make deductions. So historians like Lucy Worsley and Professor Wilkinson plus Conor Bryan have all, building on each other’s work plus suggestions from Joanna Denny, have all proposed that her sexual history, all of her life is one of child abuse. They have also made her date of birth younger than previously accepted to fit with this theory. Professor Garath Russell has dismissed this theory through a fresh look at the evidence and a look at criminal evidence and attitudes of the time. He has taken the evidence that Katherine gives herself, the testimony of her dorm fellows and the men, all of which, even under possible torture contradict her claim that Katherine was raped by Dereham. I completely agree that her experience with Mannox was abusive, I have never said otherwise. However, I don’t accept that her relationship with Dereham before her marriage was anything but consensual and all of the available evidence confirms this. He may have become a nuisance after he followed her to court, boasting of his knowledge before the marriage, even bribing her, but that doesn’t mean he raped her. His actions are consistent with a husband reclaiming his rights over his property, however, only to find married to the King. (Before you all get annoyed of the use of the word property to describe Katherine, that is what she was, her husband’s property by the law of her time). Francis could go to a church court and summon both parties and have his claim of marriage tried in normal circumstances, but not here. For one thing you would come up against serious difficulties taking the King to court, although it had been done before, but this was extremely dangerous. Henry Viii had better lawyers and power than either the Howards or Dereham. For another thing, Dereham and Katherine were not actually married, they had only playfully called each other man and wife. Francis saw this promise as being more serious and extracted a promise to regard him as a husband on his return to England from Ireland, but his long absence caused Katherine to move on. Katherine gave him leave to call her wife, they exchanged tokens and had regular sex for a time. Although Katherine denied any contract of marriage, their use of terms of marriage would, following or followed by sex would constitute more than common law marriage, it was a binding promise under canon law, recognised by the church and the couple could be given a penance before being blessed. A church court could have ordered Katherine back to live with Dereham and upheld his claims.

      The Howards on the other hand could have argued that no such relationship existed, told Katherine to deny any promises and that Dereham had anything to do with her. Witnesses would then be called and there seems to have been a lot of them. To lie under oath put the immortal soul in danger, it was also perjury and carried severe penalties so it is entirely possible that Katherine would have confessed her relationship and been given penance. A church court had gotten to the bottom of more complex cases and the couple been given a ruling regardless of how noble their families were as a look at their exhaustive records will show. In the case of taking on the King, however, this was a completely different and dangerous matter and one that even the boastful Dereham would not want to risk. His silence could easily be gained by one means or another. However, he could try to ruin Katherine if he could not press his claims and that is what this cad did.

      Yes, it is only an interpretation of the evidence to say that Katherine and Culpeper were in love, but numerous historians have said the same thing and she was definitely obsessed by him, her conversations show this, plus her demanding to sed him. There are many different views on her one doe eyed letter, but one interpretation would have been it was a love letter and that is as valid as the interpretation it was that of a friend or courtesy. It was only one piece of evidence used, his own testimony, plus other testimony and their long talks, all suggest a love affair. Besides, Katherine and Culpeper were lovers before she married the King, if you read Wilkinson in detail. Katherine had fallen in love even before him, her behaviour was following the same pattern and Culpeper could be charming and persuasive. We don’t know for certain, yes, but why id my interpretation of the evidence less valid than yours?

      The evidence does not support the theory that Katherine and Culpeper had a sexual relationship during her marriage, there is very little to support her and Culpeper committing adultery. This is a fact supported by every modern historian and research has not yet found anything to prove adultery. I believe she did sleep with Culpeper, because of the time factor and the late night visits. Her ladies believed this, but that is evidence, not proof. Hearsay evidence was accepted in Tudor and Medieval trials. Secondary evidence was very important. Circumstantial evidence was given greater weight than today. It is one thing to believe that a lot of evidence supported the charges of adultery, it is another as a historian to claim it as s fact. Every recent history I have read is careful to stress that there is little actual evidence of adultery and I have been careful to say this also. Yes, I believe that she did sleep with him, but I also say that the evidence is lacking. It leaves the question wide open and we can merely speculate, but it would be academically unacceptable to state Katherine Howard slept with anyone during her marriage as a proven and given fact. Yes, other historians have, but it is wiser to be neutral in this matter as research has shown that the evidence does not as yet support the theory. Marilyn Roberts, an expert in the history of the Howards has made extensive searches of the family and other archives and has NOT as yet found anything to prove that Katherine Howard committed adultery. So, while you may find such a statement laughable, it is academically correct. I believe many things I cannot prove, but that does not validate anything. As long as you state that the evidence has not yet been forthcoming, such a belief is fine. Just why such a statement is laughable is beyond me. What is your expert opinion about the alleged adultery of Katherine Howard and what reliable source evidence that the rest of her modern biographies have missed can you please share with us to prove otherwise?

      It is also noted above that Katherine was not condemned for adultery, neither were the men, but for intending to commit criminal adultery. Adultery was still regarded as a sin, but intending to sleep with the Queen, plus their rather reckless comments that they would do so if the King was not here, led to a more serious charge of presumption of treason. The charge that they intended to do something could be used to imply a conspiracy to imagine the King’s death, which was treason. Any product of adultery, that is a child, for Katherine would make her guilty of a more serious crime, as it would mean that she intended to pass of her child as royal and place her lovers seed in the line of Succession. It was treason to put the succession in danger. All of this was presumption of treason, thought crimes, also an option available under new treason laws. Katherine’s alleged colourful past was used against her in an effort to shock. This was an intensely religious age, female purity was paramount. If Katherine could be shown to be of poor moral fiber, she could more easily be shown to be capable of far worse crimes, even plotting to kill her lord and husband, the King, if the prosecution chose. The deaths of the two men had made it impossible for Katherine to get a fair hearing. By them being found guilty, it followed under the law that Katherine was guilty and vice versa.

      As I have stated on numerous previous posts, Katherine was not an idiot, but her behaviour was foolish and reckless. Even if she didn’t have sex with Culpeper, inviting him to her room late at night on several occasions was dangerous and bound to lead to conclusions that would harm her. Although Katherine Howard did not have the political enemies that Anne Boleyn had, there were factions at court who could and would use any means to bring her down, so her behaviour played into their hands. Elizabeth Wheeler has argued for a conspiracy, and, even though I may not agree, her interpretation is a valid and persuasive one. I don’t believe that Katherine was forced to keep seeing Culpeper as he had no right to be in her chamber or cause to be there save by royal command or her invitation. He was rebuffed and told to keep his hands to himself on one occasion, so Katherine certainly knew that she could use her power to ruin him. Katherine had used her queenship for her own benefit before. All Katherine had to do was raise her voice and claim she had found him there uninvited and he had attacked her. She had a voice, scream luv if you don’t want him there. Culpeper may have used his charms and persuasive powers, but in reality Katherine didn’t have to have him there and if he tried to bribe her, she could still ruin him. Much of what happened with her and Culpeper is speculation, but historians sometimes need to be detectives and speculate. Biographies would be extremely short and boring if they just repeated bland facts. However, all of the inquisitors in her case had to go on were conflicting testimonials, so they too had to dig and investigate and form conclusions from what was said. Unfortunately for Katherine, Dereham and Culpeper and Lady Rochford, their investigation led them to conclusions which condemned them.

      Sorry, the term new age was not what I was intending, modern age would be more broadly descriptive, but I was posting after a long day at a wedding, baptism and 18th birthday doo. Yes, there are earlier suggestions, but it is only recently that any real attention has been given to the possibility of abuse and reassessment of Katherine Howard in light of that research. However, apart from her terrible and inappropriate experience at the hands of Mannox, who at the very least took advantage of her, her later relationships do not show convincing evidence of abuse. Lowering her age to sixteen or even fifteen at the time of her marriage is also an atttempt to fit her into a pattern of abuse. There is no reliable evidence to support this theory either, just as making her far more mature can be dismissed as well. The truth is we simply don’t know, so her age can only be guessed at. However, as with Anne Boleyn, some analysis of the supporting circumstantial and internal communications and testimony of those who knew her well, plus the experts who have stated it for years, it is estimated that the most reliable date for her birth is 1523 or 1522. Her date of birth has been claimed as anywhere from 1518 to 1527, but the last date is far too late as her younger sisters were born by then. The ages of her contemporaries who joined her at court in 1539 indicate that at the time of her marriage she was 17 or 18 years old, not 15. This in itself puts her relationship with Dereham in a completely different light, especially as girls were considered sexually mature and ready to have children before the age of fifteen, as early as 13_or 14. The age of consent in Britain did not come up to 16 before 1860, through the work of Josephine Butler and protests by the Female Purity League, aimed at ending child and female prostitution. Our modern world view does not apply. Besides Katherine and Dereham had a sexual relationship that they consented to, a wild teenage fling that became more intense as it went on. Katherine was not to know she was going to be queen, but it was expected that she remained pure as she was prepared for a good match while in her grandmother establishment. Katherine may have been defying conventional ideas but well, we can hide that later on, can’t we?

      Katherine Howard was supervised in the household, but found a way around being caught. The girls stole the dorm keys. Katherine was actually given a very conventional education. It was normal for girls from good families to be sent away from home to live with other relatives. Even had her mother been alive, Katherine probably would have seen very little of her. Wilkinson spends quite some time on her upbringing and education. She learned statecraft. how to run a large household, music and dance, the moral conduct expected of her, all the usual religious education of the age, how to supervise and do tasks so she could instruct her servants and from her external decorum as Queen, she learned that as well. Unfortunately, she also learned how to be sexually active and enjoy young male company, fancy gifts and midnight feasts with wine and strawberries. Katherine was not a ninny, she could be generous and help people. She could also be indifferent and loved rich clothing and being spoilt. She lacked political saviness and was easily influenced by others. However, Katherine was aware of who she was marrying and that Henry was powerful in every way. She warned Culpeper not to confess their relationship as Henry had the power to know all the secrets even of the confessional. She knew that meeting with him was a great risk but she carried on as she had been at times left to her own devices. Katherine enjoyed his company. Again, this does not prove adultery, but it does show that she was reckless and perhaps even foolish, for she was bound to be found out sometime. Ironically it was her alleged past that revealed her unqueenly and dangerous present behaviour.

      1. Hi BanditQueen, thanks for your long and detailed response.

        “Just why such a statement is laughable is beyond me. What is your expert opinion about the alleged adultery of Katherine Howard and what reliable source evidence that the rest of her modern biographies have missed can you please share with us to prove otherwise?” – I don’t really know what you’re referring to here, I wasn’t making any such claims. My point was that these individuals lived almost five hundred years ago, their culture was markedly different from our own, and it is impossible to trace with certainty subjective experiences, attitudes and feelings. That is why I always suggest caution when we are considering one individual’s relationship with another, especially at the court where elaborate language was used, where social rituals took precedence and where elaborate tropes and figures of speech were used in everyday expression.

        I agree with you re Katherine’s age, but I would recommend that you read Josephine Wilkinson’s essay on her blog, I think it was published last year, about Katherine’s age. “Lowering her age to sixteen or even fifteen at the time of her marriage is also an atttempt to fit her into a pattern of abuse” – I just want to say that the Spanish chronicler, who is generally thought to have written during the reign of Mary I, specifically stated that Katherine was about fifteen when she became queen, so it is not an idea that originated in modern times, it is actually contemporary with the period he was writing about. However, I agree with you that 1525 is probably too late. I personally believe that she was born in 1523, and was therefore about seventeen when she married Henry, and probably not yet nineteen when she was executed. A birth date of 1520 or earlier is probably impossible, and I am glad that historians are now demolishing that theory.

        As for Katherine being ‘obsessed’ with Culpeper, we could say the exact same about him, and we should not forget that it was Katherine who eventually put a stop to their meetings and sent him a message, via Lady Rochford, that she would not meet with him again. She also requested that Rochford act as her chaperone during their meetings, they were never alone, just the two of them. As I mentioned in my first comment, this idea advocated in Gareth Russell’s book – and which was also put forward by Lacey Baldwin Smith – that Katherine and Culpeper were lovers and probably guilty of adultery is exactly that: an idea. There are other theories, that she was being blackmailed by an experienced and unprincipled daredevil, that she was cultivating Culpeper’s friendship, and that the couple merely flirted using the courtly language of the time. This last idea was put forward by David Starkey.

        At the end of the day, I don’t believe that Katherine deserved to die for the simple reason that the crimes for which she was convicted and executed were not actually crimes at the time they were committed: namely, concealing her virginity from Henry. Kyra Kramer has written a powerful post on this very website about Katherine’s non-virginity being the reason for her execution, and I agree. The emphasis in the indictments was on the Dereham affair and her unchaste childhood, it was not on the Culpeper liaison. Do I think that Katherine committed adultery with Culpeper? In the fullest sense of the world, no, but they may have flirted. They were found guilty of intending to do the deed, but they only had Culpeper’s word for it; nowhere and at no time did Katherine admit that she wanted to sleep with him (unless further evidence comes to light in the future). As for Lady Rochford, the fact that she facilitated Katherine’s meetings, having served at court for twenty years and having seen her own sister-in-law go to the scaffold for her reckless conversations that were twisted into evidence of adultery, that suggests to me she may have been unhinged from the very beginning. Why else did she go along with Katherine’s meetings – was she being blackmailed, was she being given gifts to keep her silence? I cannot think of any other explanation for why a mature, experienced woman who had been at court since the days of Katherine of Aragon and was well aware of Henry VIII’s unstable behaviour, would have gone along with and actively encouraged Katherine’s secret meetings. Even Katherine’s ladies testified that Rochford had been the cause of the queen’s folly.

        So in summary, perhaps Katherine was ‘obsessed’ with Culpeper, perhaps they were lovers, perhaps they flirted, perhaps they merely talked, perhaps Katherine was a frightened girl being blackmailed by a cunning seducer, perhaps Culpeper had learned of her past and was using it against her – at the end of the day, these are all suppositions and we can publish book after book, but the truth will never be known with certainty. The same is true for virtually all of Henry’s queens, we can find so many different motivations for their behaviour, actions and choices. The only one who is perhaps an exception is Katherine of Aragon, for whom there are enough sources to make sound explanations of her actions. This is why there are so many biographies about Anne Boleyn and the reason why academics have argued against one another in journals, this is why we have so many varying explanations for Anne’s downfall, her true religious beliefs, even her personality. We lack a lot of evidence, much of it was destroyed, much of it is open to interpretation and much of it doesn’t make sense. I don’t believe we will ever know with certainty what happened between Katherine and Culpeper, but it is interesting to debate and it is interesting to read different explanations.

        1. I agree, caution is always needed when analysing the ideas, people, culture, relationships and so on from 500 years ago. It is even more important when you look at ancient sources, most of which have some agenda, as a lot only record events sparsely, may be hostile or self congratulatory, one sided if the other side don’t have a known written language, the type of source is well worth thinking about and the origins. Asking numerous questions is always encouraged to fully interrogate the source…that is internal evidence, is it an official source or a grassroots eye witness, is it independent, are there clues from the form of language used, how long after the event was it written, who and why and so on. How seriously can we take take details in the source? Is the event described verified elsewhere? Can we get help from elsewhere…archaeology for example? What is the agenda of the author? Is he contradicted? Is the author male or female? Are the ideas conveyed influenced by external cultural norms or expectations, personal beliefs or religious or political influences? Has anything been lost in translation? There are so many gaps in history you could drill a hole and leap through them which is why I take pains to be careful about evidence. That doesn’t preclude authors from speculation and debate, nor should it. We would be very boring humans if we merely repeated alleged facts as fact without interpretation and theories.

          Thanks for your response and recommendations. I did read the article a few months ago, but I will certainly refresh my mind with another visit. I think Claire either gave a break down of the evidence for various ages in a response or an actual article on Katherine Howard’s age. When we live in an age when you can’t walk down the street (not literally) without being asked for ID or to prove how old you are (I am 50 plus and I still get asked by the odd shop assistant to prove I am old enough to purchase my annual bottle of whiskey), it really does seem strange that births were not properly recorded. Not even every baptism was accurately recorded or if it was it is lost, even though you had to be received in the local Christian family properly. Midwives were registered and took a special oath to baptise kids in an emergency, either in the birthing chamber or family chapel, but normally healthy children were baptized, being named and blessed outside the church, then emerged and baptized in the font. Compared to the nice but quick job on Saturday, it was an elaborate affair. Yet, despite all of this most people don’t seem to have left us an accurate record of even the year that they were born. We know about royal births because of all the witnesses, recorded items, celebrations and official records. Other verification may also exist such as Margaret Beaufort writing down Henry Viii birth in her prayer book which she gave to his mother. John More also recorded the birth and baptism of Thomas More as 1478. Katherine, however, was one of several children born to the tenth son of the Duke of Norfolk and a girl. I assume her parents knew when she was born. However, unfortunately, they didn’t anticipate us wanting to know over 500 years later, so no record was made or has been lost. However, analysis can give a likely date of birth…in this case 1522/3 is the most accurate date that most historians accept. I will certainly revisit the article by Professor Wilkinson as I am a fan of her work and enjoyed her book on Katherine which I also recommend. I can certainly appreciate good research, without necessarily agreeing with every conclusion. This is why bloggs like this are so valuable…you can express a variety of opinion and debate freely.


        2. I agree about Jane Rochford playing with fire regarding her complicity in arranging the meetings between Catherine and Culpeper, I cannot understand why she chose to get involved she seemed to have a death wish, I dont believe she was unhinged though, just as some people are born gossips I think she was just one of those women who found it thrilling being involved in something highly dangerous, maybe there was nothing much left in her life that was exciting or pleasing anymore? Her husband was dead and there was no offer of marriage extended to her, at least none we know of, when the Boleyns fell so did she, she was lucky in that she was back at court and in service to Anne Of Cleves and then to Catherine Howard, she should have counted her good fortune and kept her head down, the court of Henry V111 was a dangerous one, she was incredibly foolish that she decided to go down that slippery route instead of refusing to get involved, is it possible that the queen was blackmailing her, I don’t think Catherine was that sort of person, she comes across as a soft hearted little thing, she took food to the Countess of Salisbury in the Tower and generously gave two or one of her puppies to Anne of Cleves which had been a gift from the King, I think Jane was a not very bright sensible woman who just couldn’t keep out of trouble, her and Catherine appeared to encourage each other in their folly, when they were both questioned they each blamed the other, not a very admirable thing to do but they were both terrified, Jane should have advised Catherine against meeting with Culpeper, she should have made her realise it was a highly dangerous thing to do and reminded her of Anne Boleyn, who was after all Catherine’s own cousin, the trouble is you do something once, and you get away with it, that makes you over confidant you then do it again and so on, until one day your not so lucky, as the saying gos, ‘give a person enough rope he will soon hang himself’, it was Catherine’s heedless youth that set the pattern for the disaster that followed, was she more sinned against than sinning as some historians think, (the theory of abuse here), maybe and then she came to court and very unwisely took the erring Lady Rochford into her confidence.

  4. I have to say this – my sister AB Filers, you have started the new year ….. rocking!
    Another sweet big Thank You to all contributors. I’m happy and grateful.

  5. Jane Rochford may have been the chief helper of the Queen to enable her to meet with Culpeper, but I have always thought that the way Culpeper and Katherine put all of the blame on her, deflecting blame from themselves. Jane was more mature than either of them, had a long expensive of royal service, so yes, definitely you would think she would know better. She would certainly have been aware of the danger that even talking to a gentleman who had no official business after hours, in her private rooms, particularly from her knowledge of what had happened to Anne Boleyn who had been much more careful, even during innocent visits from her brother, making sure she was not entirely alone. He was never smuggled in for example. There was nothing in the accusations against Anne, but Jane’s husband had been accused of incest with Anne. I must emphasise here that Jane had nothing to do with her husband’s fall and sent him letters of support in the Tower. Jane was then a faithful and effective lady in the service of Queen Jane Seymour and one of the chief ladies of Anne of Cleves. None of this points to the foolishness of aiding Katherine to meet Culpeper in her privy rooms or in her own rooms. So why did she do it?

    For one thing, after their first meeting, Katherine rambled on and on about how and where she could see him again. I am sure Jane attempted to dissuade her mistress, but went along with it as she was under her command. I also believe that Jane, as a more mature lady, tried to act as chaperone, to make sure nothing went too far. It was a physically draining task on Jane Rochford and the younger ladies, who had to keep watch, give warning, open back up locked doors, were woken up and had to attend Katherine so all could finally go to bed. On one totally ridiculous visit, Katherine saw Culpeper in her stool chamber or loo room. Jane kept watch in the corner, but she fell asleep as this meeting went on from 11 to 3 a.m with various ladies asking questions about why the Queen wasn’t in bed. Another time a royal official found the door bolted to stop the couple being disturbed. He had gone to announce that the King was coming to sleep with his wife. It was only a bit of quick thinking to get Culpeper down the backstairs and claim that Katherine had been indisposed that prevented a disaster. Jane had to escort and evade the watch in order to bring Culpeper to Katherine, making either her own rooms or the Queens safe for his visit. Jane was putting herself in grave danger but she may have done so out of sympathy for her young mistress, who she wished to please. Just why she did so is a thousand guesses and we don’t really know. Even if she did try to persuade and advise Katherine not to see Culpeper, fearing the worst for her, in reality Jane was in a difficult position. It is beyond belief that she agreed, but I really don’t think she had much choice or only a choice which would put Katherine in even more danger. Jane could have refused and risked abuse or dismissal or worse from her over excited mistress, or she could find someone she trusted and report the matter, putting Katherine under suspicion and facing accusations of adultery anyway. It was her own misprison of the late night secret meetings that led to her own unfortunate downfall and death, as both Katherine and Culpeper turned on her, because it was she as the most senior lady involved who was seen as the more guilty. Jane was seen as failing go protect her mistress and guard her morals. This is ironic as Jane possibly saw herself as attempting to do that by being present or close by when the meetings took place. Whether Jane willingly facilitated these events or whether she acted out of compassion, fear, loyalty or duress, she didn’t really have much choice. Yes she could advise Katherine, but in the end if she wanted to remain in her service, Jane Rochford had no choice but to obey Katherine. At the end of the day, Katherine was Queen and Jane her servant. It would have been wiser to report Katherine, but that too would lead to the Queens downfall.

    Was Jane Rochford mad all along? There is no evidence of that, but it is entirely possible. When Katherine and she were arrested, Jane suffered more than stress and guilt, more than distress and fear, she had a complete mental breakdown and was removed from Syon to be cared for. It was, even then, illegal to execute an insane person, but Henry saw her as being the architect of the whole sorry affair and refused to show her any mercy. As soon as she had been nursed back to health, like Katherine she was removed to the Tower to await execution. Henry ordered his lords to ensure a new law was passed to make it legal to execute insane persons. This may reflect the revulsion Henry now felt about his perfect jewel and the lady who had allegedly helped her to betray him or it may simply reflect the reversion of Henry to a darker, more tyrannical, crueller frame of mind. When love turns to hate people are capable of all kinds of cruelty and revenge against their ex wives/husbands, lovers, partners. Again, we can only guess at the motivation of all parties and shake our heads in bewilderment.

    1. P..S Lady Rochford did seem to be attracted to a bit of intrigue. She had a slight tendency to meddle and gossip. She had been involved in lesser court nosiness when she enquired if Anne of Cleves was pregnant or not. To be involved to this degree, however, even after Katherine took her into her confidence, was to throw all caution to the wind, but again, it was probably more about her not really being able to talk Katherine round, as a servant she had to obey her even in this and accepting her role as chaperone and go between in order to moderate the Queens reckless behaviour. Katherine was confident enough to rebuke Culpeper and argued with him on enough occasions, telling him not to be so ungrateful for her gifts; she could definitely have laid her authority down hard on Jane to make her comply.

    2. No I don’t believe she was mad just not very sensible, possibly she did try to talk Catherine out of meeting with Culpeper but if you fancy someone you just go along and do it, a bit like today when your friends tell you your latest boyfriend is up to no good, you dont want to listen to them, Catherine had not the maturity of an older woman, she found it thrilling meeting with him, it could have reminded her of the secret visits in the dormitory when she was at her grandmother’s house, for those past events she would have got a stinging rebuke and maybe a beating, but this time she was not deceiving the Duchess of Norfolk but the King of England, entirely different scenario, I also read that on the occasion Culpeper had to be hastened down the back stairs because Henry was on his way to see his queen, what drama and so Jane and the others who were involved, possibly Jane Bulmer who had known Catherine in her Grans house had to make the rooms ready for him, as you say mentally draining, Jane has been referred to as a bawd, some sort of procuress who edged the queen on and she was involved in a plot to get rid of Henry’s mistress when she was in service to Anne Boleyn, possibly because of the family connection Catherine felt close to her and confided in her, like Anne did maybe Jane was very friendly and so both women thought she was one to be trusted, I find Jane a bit of an egnima actually as we will never know what part she played in Catherine or Annes downfall, yes she did send notes to her husband in the Tower which disproves the theory they were not really on friendly terms and she did get on well with Anne though some writers believe she was jealous of her closeness with her husband, as for Catherine I think it was just a case of her doing what she could to help Catherine endure a rather unsatisfactory marriage with a very dangerous man, there could have been a certain amount of sympathy there, what teenage girl would want to be saddled with an obese old man and then I think she possibly because of her very nature found it quite exciting to help plan the illicit trysts, the danger of it all she could well have found stimulating the way a woman does when she hasn’t a love affair of her own, it was wrong of both the queen and Culpeper to implicate her though, as you say if she was merely following orders, they were both old enough to know the danger they were in, and Culpeper was a favourite of the King, his first loyalty should have been to him, but as we know he wasn’t exactly of an admirable character.

      1. Hi Chris, yes, I definitely think that family connection is important, even if Katherine didn’t know her very well before she came to court to serve Anne of Cleves….a bit like the cousins and great aunts you meet every ten years at weddings. Jane of course was a Parker, who were related to the Boleyn’s and lived close to the Boleyn’s, plus she was the widow of George Boleyn and the Boleyn’s and Howards are cousins through the marriage of Elizabeth Howard, sister of the Duke of Norfolk and Thomas Boleyn, Anne and George ‘s father. I need to breath after working out that sentence. This relationship has been raised as a possible reason for her being closer to Katherine and gaining her confidence. It certainly raised a degree of hostility towards Lady Rochford among the younger members of Katherine’s household and this is evident in their testimony against her. Naturally they must have wondered why their young mistress, who had been formerly their friend and housemate and who was their agr, more or less did not confide in them so much. Katherine may have thought an older woman less likely to gossip and give her away than her age contemporaries.

        I also agree with your point about the thrill of the chase. The danger and excitement of sneaking through the corridors must have really got the adrenaline and hormones pumping. No wonder it makes for good novels. The idea of trying to get Culpeper out of one door as the King was at the other must have caused quite a commotion and called for good timing. Imagine it….Henry comes in just as Culpeper is being bungled through the door and Katherine is hastily rearranging himself. I can imagine someone hiding the wine glasses and straightening the drapes, cushions, handing him any discarded items of clothing and physically hurrying him out. O.K.just imagining, but you can certainly see them all running about like in some comedy scene. What a carry on!!!!

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