21 January 1542 – Catherine Howard and Lady Rochford’s attainder

Catherine HowardOn 21st January 1542, just over two and a half months since Catherine Howard’s colourful past had come to light, a bill of attainder against Catherine and her lady, Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, was introduced into the House of Lords. According to this bill, the women were guilty of treason and could be punished without there being any need for a trial.

The bill of attainder was passed by Parliament on 11th February 1542 and the two women were executed on 13th February at the Tower of London.

Click here to read more about the bill of attainder.

Also on this day in history, 21st January…

  • 1543 – There was trouble in London. A group of half a dozen young men, including ringleader Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (the famous, Tudor poet, courtier and soldier), and Thomas Wyatt the Younger (son of the poet Thomas Wyatt, and the future leader of Wyatt’s Revolt) went on a five hour rampage smashing windows, shooting prostitutes using stonebows, and shouting obscenities. Click here to read more.
  • 1556 – Death of Eustace Chapuys, imperial ambassador at the English court from 1529-1545, at Louvain. He was laid to rest in the Chapel of Louvain College, the college he had founded. Click here to read more about Chapuys.

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3 thoughts on “21 January 1542 – Catherine Howard and Lady Rochford’s attainder”
  1. I am ashamed to be descended from nearly all these people, especially Henry VIII, my uncle.
    Dying is enough punishment for anyone and I believe for the excessive cruelty and humiliation many of these people suffered, they will not be resurrected.

    1. I assume you mean collateral uncle many times removed. Just how does being treated cruelly and suffering preclude you from resurrection? In Peter Chapter One we are actually told that people who have suffered much have let go of sin and will be in heaven. In any case your comment is very strange.

  2. The Act of Attainder points out that Katherine Howard led an inappropriate life before marriage and claims she was wanton or brazen because she was sexually active. This may not be good, but it certainly wasn’t treason, so it is twisted into treason by claiming that her life was also dishonest and she used this dishonesty to trick the King into marriage. It further claimed that Katherine continued her wanton life with Francis Dereham by placing him into her household so as she could do so.

    This is not all. Katherine is not satisfied and seeks out and seduces Thomas Culpepper, the King’s chamber servant and then the usual salacious details follow and the aiding and abetting of these men for the Queen by the chief Lady, Jane Rochford, who is also condemned in the Bill. The usual list of places and dates are inserted for evidence.

    O.K. Well, first of all this is a disgrace as Katherine is denied a trial and the legal apparatus merely reads out the charges and alleged details and the accused is declared guilty and the members of Parliament consent. However, this Bill is different. The members were not content. A delegation went to the King who agreed to the Council talking to the young Queen. This doesn’t happen and three weeks later a delegation do go to the Queen, but only to read the incitement to her and prepare her move to the Tower.

    Katherine Howard was not found guilty of treason but of presumption of treason. In other words as she confessed that she intended to sleep with Thomas Culpepper, already tried, condemned and executed, she was intending to commit adultery. Any children from her sexual encounters would be passed off as royal so she intended treason or even imagining the death of the King. The same applied to Francis Dereham who it was assumed had taken back up with his former lover, who was now Queen. Dereham was condemned out of his own mouth because of his boasting about life with Katherine before marriage. However, he had also claimed that he was contacted to Katherine as husband and wife. Katherine saw the relationship as a game that ended before she came to court. She denied any promise to marry Dereham and there is no evidence, beyond him being a nuisance that they revived their previous relationship. In fact Katherine seems to have done everything possible to keep him at bay and was offended by his full on loutish behaviour and bad language.

    Thomas Culpepper was different. He was associated with Katherine in a romantic way before marriage but nothing more than that. He found her attractive and she enjoyed his company. He gave her a bit more flattery than he should and Katherine gave him gifts. Culpepper became bold and although some historians claim he bribed her, the evidence suggests that she was giving him encouraging gifts and became a little too flattered. She had secret meetings and she gave him the wrong impression. There were more gifts and he imagined he was in love. Katherine played with Culpepper, called him her little fool and sent notes to him.

    During the progress to the North of England Katherine asked Jane Rochford, the widow of George Boleyn, to find places in which she could meet with Culpepper after the King went to bed. Jane’s role and motivation are strange and controversial and we cannot be absolutely certain why she became involved in such a dangerous enterprise. Katherine was the Queen and could be a bit nasty if she wanted her own way and you said no and she could be very persuasive. Jane was a very experienced Lady who had served four previous Queens. She should have known her duty wasn’t to go along with this, but maybe she felt she had to obey and protect her young mistress. By acting as chaperone Jane could keep an eye on Katherine and hope nothing happened. However, Katherine stayed up late into the next morning and Jane fell asleep. We don’t know if anything more than talking and the odd kissing and hand holds took place, but these meetings were in some pretty odd places, like the Stool closet, various rooms, were very late at night and between two young people who found each other attractive. There is no evidence for a sexual relationship and both parties denied any sexual contact. However, Culpepper said he intended to go further with the Queen and it was all her fault and she also indicated she too would have gone further, if possible. The question of did they or didn’t they can never be answered and historians are very divided on this one. While there may have not been any evidence, the late night meetings would make any couple look guilty, in secret and in the Queens room or Jane’s were he had no right to be, as he wasn’t a member of her household and unless Henry sent him on an errand, Culpepper should have been in bed, his own that is.

    The condemnation of Culpepper and Dereham made it almost impossible for the Queen to have a fair hearing, but for her not to have any hearing was a denial of her rights as Queen and as a noble woman. Henry was rather angry and hurt because he felt betrayed and lied to by a young woman that he loved. He was also fond of Thomas Culpepper who was his personal servant and helped him with his leg and at night. He had been in his service for a few years and Henry saw him as a son. He had reduced his sentence to beheading because of this and his gentleman status. Culpepper had been given a trial with Dereham so to deny this to Katherine and Jane made no sense. (Jane had a break down and was being nursed as she was now insane and could not legally be executed). However, recalling the humiliation he had received when Anne Boleyn was tried, perhaps, Henry chose an Act of Parliament to legally accuse and condemn the two women instead, also making Parliament pass a new Bill to allow an insane person to be executed for a capital crime. There was no reprieve or hope for Katherine or Jane who after the Bill was read again, were condemned and Katherine was moved to the Tower. Jane followed the day before their execution inside the Tower on 13th February 1542.

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