Tower of London
Tower of London

On this day in 1541, members of the Howard and Tilney family, plus their staff, were tried for misprision of treason for covering up the “unlawful, carnal, voluptuous, and licentious life” of Queen Catherine Howard while she lived with the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk at Lambeth.

The people listed in the trial documents included Lord William Howard and his wife, Margaret; Katherine Tilney, Alice Restwold, Joan Bulmer, Anne Howard, Robert Damporte, Malena Tilney, Margaret Benet, Edward Waldegrave and William Ashby. They were all found guilty and sentenced to “perpetual imprisonment and loss of goods”. They were imprisoned in the Tower of London. The ill and aged Agnes Tilney, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, was named, but not tried.

Here is the record from the Baga de Secretis Pouch XIII., Bundle 2 of the indictments and the trial, entitled “Trial and Conviction of Lord William Howard and Robert Damporte, Katherine Tylney, Anna Howard, Malena Tylney, Margaret Bennet, Margaret Howard, and othersConcealment of the Criminal Conduct of Queen Katharine Howard, &c. – Special Sessions of Oyer and Terminer, Guildhall, 22 December, 1541. 33 Hen. VIII.” I have just quoted the parts applicable to the Howards and Tilneys, rather than those about Catherine Howard, Dereham and Culpeper.

“[…] That after the Royal marriage, Queen Katharine and Dereham were so intent upon continuing their criminal intercourse that the said Katharine as well of her own mind as at the instigation of Dereham and several of his friends, contrived that he, Dereham, and a certain Katharine Tylney, who was the procuress between them, should be in her service at Oatland and being at Oatlands, 29th November, 32 Hen. 8, retained the said Katharine Tylney in er private chamber to be one of her chamberers, and she the Queen kept Dereham and Katharine Tylney in high love and favour, gave them various gifts, and employed Dereham in her secret affairs […]

[…] And the Jurors further find that the said Katharine Tylney, Alice Restwold, wife of Anthony Restwold, of the same place, Gentleman; Joan Bulmer, wife of William Bulmer, of the same place, Gentleman; Anna Howard, wife of Henry Howard, late of Lambeth, Esq.; Robert Damporte, late of the same place, Gentleman; Malena Tylney, late of the same place, Widow; and Margaret Benet, wife of John Benet, late of the same place, Gentleman; knowing the wicked life of the Queen and Dereham, and also knowing the Queen before the said marriage with the King to be unchaste, &c., and also knowing that the King intended to marry her; also knowing that the Queen after the marriage between her and the King retained Dereham in her service, and continued her illicit intercourses as well before the Royal marriage as after such Royal marriage, did conceal the same from the King and all his Councillors.

And that the said Agnes Duchess of Norfolk, with whom the Queen had been educated from her youth upwards; William Howard, late of Lambeth, uncle of the Queen and one of the King’s Councillors; Margaret Howard, wife of the said William Howard; Katharine, Countess of Bridgewater, late of Lambeth, otherwise Katharine the wife of Henry Earl of Bridgewater; Edward Waldegrave, late of Lambeth, Gentleman; and William Asheby, late of Lambeth, in the County of Surrey – knowing the loose conduct of the Queen whilst she was in the mansion of the Duchess, as well by many evil tokens, as by the intimation of divers persons, and also having vehement suspicion of an unlawful intercourse between her and Dereham; and also knowing that the Queen after her marriage retained Dereham in her service, and employed him in her affairs as well between her the Queen and the Duchess as between other parties, concealed the same from the King for the purpose of promoting the said Katharine to the Royal Estate: and did at Lambeth, 20th July, 32 Hen. 8, as well in the presence of the King as in the presence of other persons, falsely commend and praise the said Katharine for her pure and honest condition, by which the King was deceived, concerning her, &c.”

The record goes on to state that Agnes Tilney, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, and William Asheby were also accused of breaking “open certain chests of them the said Dereham and Asheby, in the keeping of the said Duchess, at Lambeth, 14th November, 33 Hen. 8” and taking out “various chattels, writings and letters, being in the said chests, and concealed and detained the same from the King for four days and upwards.”

The Baga de Secretis records that Sir Edward Mountague and Sir John Baker were “appointed Justices and Commissioners for the trial of the said Lord William Howard, Margaret Howard, Katharine Tylney, Alice Restwold, Joan Bulmer, Anna Howard, Robert Damporte, Malena Tylney, Margaret Benet, Edward Waldegrave, and William Asheby.” Those charged were brought to the bar on 22nd December by the Constable of the Tower of the London. Katharine, Alice, Joan, Margaret Benet, Margaret Howard, Edward and William Asheby all pleaded “guilty”. The judgement was recorded as “That they shall be severally taken back by the Constable of the Tower, and in the same Tower or elsewhere, as the King shall direct, be kept in perpetual imprisonment, and that all their goods and chattels shall be forfeited to the King, and their lands and tenements seized into the King’s hands.” Later that day, Lord William Howard and Robert Damporte were tried, pleading first “not guilty” and then Howard changing his plea, “after sufficient evidence had been given by the Crown”, to “guilty”. They were also punished with “perpetual imprisonment, and forfeitures of goods and chattels”, exactly like the others.1

A letter from the King’s Council to “the Lord Admiral and the rest of the Council with the King” recording the trial stated:

“In the forenoon, lady Howard and the rest were arraigned and submitted to the King’s mercy. They are so sorrowful and changed that some cannot live long unless they have some liberty within the Tower. Desire to know the King’s pleasure in this; for the lord Privy Seal and Wriothesley are to go tomorrow morning to the Tower to give them some further hope and cause Mr. Lieutenant to give them some liberty and let honest friends visit them. In the afternoon they had lord William and Damporte. Lord William first pleaded Not guilty, but when the jury were charged (names herewith), he confessed in such lowly and repentant sort, with advice to all men to beware by his example, that, the jury never passed upon him. He cried mercy for his offences, and for his light demeanour when committed, in words much to the King’s honour, and all the Council promised to intercede for him. When he had his judgment, Damporte, who stood thoroughly to his trial, was condemned; with such declaration of his offences as made all bystanders detest both the man and the matter.”2

The answer from the king was to give them thanks and “As to the sorrow of the women, his Majesty, though he seems to intend to show them mercy, thinks they should not be so soon restored to liberty within the Tower, and desires the lord Privy Seal and Wriothesley to forbear going thither tomorrow for that purpose.”3 Henry VIII obviously wanted to teach these women a lesson. They were eventually pardoned in February 1542, the same month that Catherine Howard was executed:

“Pardons of misprision of treason committed before 14 Feb. 33 Hen. VIII., to :—
Anne wife of Hen. Howarde, Alice wife of Ant. Restwold. Joan wife of Wm. Bulmer, Malena Tylmey, widow, and Wm. Assheby. all of Lambeth, Surr. Pat. 33 Hen. VIII., p. 6, m. 32.
Also to :—
Margaret wife of lord William Howard, Kath. Tylney, Marg, wife of John Benet, and Edw. Waldegrave. Pat. 33 Hen. VIII., p. 7, m. 24.
Privy seals for each of the above persons, dated Westm., 25 Feb. 33 Hen. VIII. Del. 28 Feb.”4

If you ask me, they had a narrow escape!

Notes and Sources

Image: Tower of London copyright Tim Ridgway, 2014.

  • Baga de Secretis Pouch XIII – Bundle 2 in Third Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records (February 28, 1842), p. 264-266.
  • Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 16, 1540-1541, 1471.
  • Ibid., 1472.
  • LP xvii. 137:68.

Related Post

3 thoughts on “22 December 1541 – The Howards and Tilneys tried for misprision of treason”
  1. First of all – Merry Christmas, Claire!

    Hoping to pick up the Katherine Howard research again, but something always turns up and I have to put it off. Currently working on a short book about the origins of the Battenberg/Mountbatten family, which needs to be on the market before the start of the 2016 tourist season, then hope to get back to Katherine and the relatives.

    How’s your research on KH going? Have you heard anything about the new biography by Josephine Wilkinson?

  2. I have recently read the book by Josephine Wilkinson, which is very impressive, which gives a lot of detail of these trials and I felt very much for all the women, especially the elderly Duchess. Even if she did break open the chests, her concerns I believe were genuine to protect her granddaughter. It must have been terrible, rounded up, interrogated over and over, sentenced to be in prison forever, especially at her age. She must have worried as she perhaps recalled Margaret Pole, put in prison and recently executed with no trial. Her daughters all in jail, her daughter in law, sisters, cousins, grandchildren, her granddaughter. the Queen, everyone. Even a little assurance of mercy from the zKing cannot have been much comfort, especially as Henry had said as much to Katherine and then turned on her and executed her, again with no proper trial, just an Act of Parliament which gives ti evidence and then declares you guilty. Terrible state of affairs.

  3. Henry really did have it in for the Howard family this time and rounded everyone up, regardless of their involvement or not. Most of the charges above refer to what the family members knew about the love affairs and behaviour of Kathryn and Francis Dereham while in the Howard homes before her marriage to King Henry. Although this wasn’t treason, in hindsight it becomes misprison of treason because it was this knowledge which put his marriage to Kathryn in jeapardy because the couple had lived as common law husband and wife which could make Henry and Kathryn’s marriage unlawful. Any Royal children from the marriage would then be illegitimate as Kathryn knew this, even though she denied she was the promised wife of Dereham. He saw the relationship with young Kathryn as one in which they were contracted as husband and wife and when he came to Court it was partly with the intention of claiming Kathryn but of course that changed in the face of reality. Kathryn wasn’t interested and she had replaced Francis with both her husband and the new love of her life, Thomas Culpeper.

    The women of the Howard family had been badly interrogated over and over again and asked for details of the relationship between Kathryn and Dereham and were blamed for allowing it to happen. The Council of course believed that Dereham had intended to have an affair with Kathryn and that she had intended to commit adultery because she appointed him into her household as Queen. There was no evidence that any of this was true and although he boasted and acted as a cad, Dereham was really executed because he had “spoiled” the Queen for Henry, in an act of revenge.

    The poor women were ill and terrified and they were now locked up for life if Henry chose as well as many of the Howard men in the Tower, but there was not enough high ranking rooms for them all and some had to be placed elsewhere. What is telling is that Henry intended this to be a show trial and then to be benevolent to the women in particular, by showing mercy and eventually pardoning them. It is more likely to be that he could hardly wipe out an entire noble family and he still needed the Howard support for the Crown, whether he admitted it or not.

    The Howards must have been wretched and miserable as they spent Christmas and the first six months of 1542 in prison, not knowing if they would ever be free or not. A terrible time for this once great family. A time of fear and unknown fate and the other families must also have trembled, because the anger of the King means death.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *