22 December 1541 – The trials of the Howards and Tilneys

Posted By on December 22, 2016

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.

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Also on this day in history, 22nd December 1534, an imprisoned John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, wrote to Thomas Cromwell. Click here to read his letter.

5 thoughts on “22 December 1541 – The trials of the Howards and Tilneys”

  1. Clara says:

    Has anybody been watching Lucy Worsley’s programme about how Catherine Howard may have been a victim of sexual abuse and possibly being blackmailed/forced into a relationship with Thomas Culpepper? It’s definitely food for thought and makes her already tragic story so much worse, poor child.

    1. CB says:

      Hi Clara, indeed Lucy has based her theory on current research into Katherine Howard. There is, however, some debate about whether Culpeper was blackmailing her into having an adulterous affair with him (as Lucy suggested), or whether he was merely pressuring her to grant him favours in the form of gifts and influence. Both admitted that they had not committed adultery. Culpeper’s testimony was contradictory; he claimed that Katherine was dying of love for him, but he also stated that she showed him little favour. Lucy makes the excellent point that, ultimately, he was a dangerous man with a bad reputation, for he had been accused of raping a parkkeeper’s wife and murdering a would-be rescuer. Lucy also pointed out that Katherine was possibly as young as fifteen when she became queen; Josephine Wilkinson has recently published an essay on her blog setting out the evidence for Katherine’s date of birth, and it does seem evident that she was born after 1523, perhaps in 1525. She was undoubtedly vulnerable at court, in view of her youth, inexperience and naivety.

    2. Banditqueen says:

      Yes, but there are difficulties with Worsleys theory. There is no evidence whatsoever that Katherine was forced into a relationship with Thomas Culpeper. There are numerous theories about their relationship, but the evidence is too sketchy to come to definate conclusions.

      There is evidence that Katherine was abused by Henry Manox, she was young even by the standards of the day and he abused his position over her as her teacher.

      There is contradictory testimony that Francis Dereham may have abused her, but the balance of this points to a consensual relationship, which would have been In canon law, deemed to have been a marriage. This was a sexual relationship between a girl in her mid teens with a young man that she liked and desired. It was a courtship and it was a lively relationship, with wine and strawberries and parties, not abuse. At this point in her life she was no longer a child and 21st century sensibilities are not relevant here. Girls of 13 or 14 were considered ripe for marriage and old enough to have children. Yes, today we would look in horror at this, but we cannot remove from the context of the day an age of consent which remained 14 until the 1860s.

      Katherine was probably warned to keep Dereham a secret however, because girls were property in Tudor times, that of a guardian or father or brother, then of their husband, so her late night romps should be repressed as she was expected to be a virgin and beyond reproach. Katherine Howard can also be viewed within the misogynistic language regarding women at the time and for this I would recommend Conor Byrne book on Katherine. Her past had to be kept under wraps, so it is plausible that Dereham later bribed her. There id evidence that she owed him money, but could these be bribes? Dereham behaved with disrespect and in an appalling manner as he wanted his claim on Katherine after her marriage, but it is likely that this was firmly refused. Katherine may have feared her early life coming out, but she still accepted his service as her Secretary, a move that was later interpreted as an intention to commit treason and adultery.

      Her relationship with Thomas Culpeper was not abuse, this is only ghis historians theory and without proof should not be accepted as fact. The episode last night sold this idea as fact and the public probably lapped it up because the historian saying it has a reasonable reputation. That is the dangerous thing about documentaries were one voice only is heard. For a better debate read Dr Wilkinson book which I have recently finished.

      The argument that Thomas Culpeper was a sexual preditor is disputed as well. Why? There WAS another Thomas Culpeper and which one was accused of rape is not actually clear, so our Culpeper may or may not be guilty. He may have had an unfortunate reputation as a womanizer. That makes him a cad, not a rapist. George Boleyn was also portrayed in the Tudors as a rapist and homosexual, for which there is no evidence, just because of an assumption about him being a womanizer. A man is as much entitled to protect his honour and reputation as a woman and as researchers, seekers of truth, people interested in learning more or historians we should never assume that a reputation is deserved. We are only too ready to defend the reputation of a Queen of Henry Viii, but we never stop to think that a man may also not be all he is rumoured or reputed to be. I am not saying Culpeper was not a bit predatory, I am saying based on what reliable evidence?

      Could there be a mistake in the two identities?

      I believe that the evidence points to Katherine wanting a relationship with Thomas Culpeper, but just how far that went, this is were we have to be careful. Whatever it was, it was not abuse, it was consensual. For one thing, even if Culpeper wanted to press his luck a bit more, there is nothing he could do without Katherine’s consent. There is no evidence to support the claim that Katherine was fifteen, it is trendy to lower her age to paint her as s victim of child abuse. There is nothing to indicate how old Katherine was, anything from 15 to 20 has been suggested, but a consensus of historical opinion believes that she was 17 at the time of her marriage and the best evidence probably supports this.

      The evidence that we have regarding Culpeper and Katherine is

      He was a member of the Kings privy chamber, his very close companion and slept in his chambers.

      Culpeper and Katherine were related.
      Culpeper and Katherine probably had a relationship before her marriage to the King but it may not have been sexual as she was a maid of honour at court at the time and forbidden to be that involved without the Queens permission. She would have been chaparoned and required to be modest. See Wilkinson on this.
      Culpeper was sent as a messenger to give Katherine gifts as Queen but she would never have received him alone.
      Culpeper other than above had no right to be in her royal apartments unless Katherine had him brought to her.
      Katherine had him brought via her chief lady, Lady Jane Rochford, possibly to act as chaperones. Culpeper could not even touch her, even in private, save by her invitation or permission. To do so would mean the loss of his hands or/and life at her say so.
      Culpeper was not a member of her household, he should have been in the Kings room after lights out.
      Culpeper was brought more and more to Katherine, they formed a close bond, spent hours, they claimed talking, although it was probably more than that. Her ladies were close by. Had Culpeper forced himself or touched Katherine as Queen without her permission, all she had to do was scream. No, her letters show she was fond of him and desired him. There is no clear evidence of adultery, both claimed that they talked and exchanged gifts. Both denied the allegations, both blamed each other, both also blamed Jane Rochford, who was guilty of misprison of treason, but was also just acting as her mistress bid her. However, there is nothing to support the theory that Culpeper was forcing Katherine. As Queen, she had the power, if she wanted him gone, why not use it as he should never have been there in the first place?

      Theories are all well and good, but they need to be based on sound evidence. Here we have two pieces of evidence, a confession, which is problematic, plus a love letter. These two things have received a lot of scrutiny but many different interpretations. I don’t believe Katherine was a flussy who loved sex and could not care less, or that she was a helpless child abuse victim. Her relationships differed from one another and her last two were mature, adult relationships. Katherine knew her duty as Queen, she was educated to run a great household, she knew she would have to make a good match as a noblewoman, but something in her rebelled against that. She was not as closely supervised as she should have been and this led firstly to an abusive relationship, then later to a young woman having parties and sex with a partner that she enjoyed. With Culpeper she sought companionship, friendship and someone to talk to. She probably ignored the dangerous situation, although she was aware of it, which is why took precautions not to get caught.

      Katherine saw the King as her protection and she was treated well by him. There is no evidence that she did not feel something in return and the crown gave her prestige and power. She accepted that Henry was good to her. She accepted the luxury that he lavished on her but she also used her Queenly power well. Katherine was not adverse to using her position as Henry’s wife when she felt slighted by Princess Mary so there is no way she would stand for a servant making advances to her unless she said yes. Katherine used her power to ask favour for traitors and felons, with some success, so why not get Culpeper dismissed for being in her room without permission? Katherine and Henry also seem to have had a fairly active sex life. Henry did withdraw from her for a time, even visiting Anne of Cleves, but there is evidence that he suppressed rumours he would return to the latter and soon after Katherine thought she was pregnant. Katherine could manipulate the King, just as well as it is accused that she was manipulated. Wilkinson believes that Henry was genuinely in love with Katherine Howard. I believe that Katherine fell in love with Culpeper. Their own words and those of Dereham condemned them of imagination of the Kings death, as it was suggested that Katherine and Culpeper wanted to go further and even marry after Henry’s death. Again, even if we believe that she slept with Culpeper, there is no evidence to support this, but it has to be said that allowing and inviting him into her rooms late at night was both reckless and thoughtless. It should have been no surprise to either of them that Henry and his council would pressume the worst.

      1. Globerose says:

        Lovely overview BQ – measured and fair – a real christmas gift to those of us who like thoughtful debate. Big thank you from me and I’ll take the opportunity of wishing you and everyone a jolly merry Christmas & New Year!!

        1. Banditqueen says:

          Thanks Globerose, plus a Merry Christmas to you and Happy New Year. To Claire, Tim and family, plus everyone on the ABF, Tudor Society a very big wish for the holidays. Cheers.

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