Portrait of an unknown woman, possibly Catherine Howard
Portrait of an unknown woman, possibly Catherine Howard

On 28th July 1540, at Oatlands Palace, in Surrey, King Henry VIII married his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, daughter of Edmund Howard and Jocasta Culpeper, and niece of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. The groom was forty-nine years of age, and the bride may have been just sixteen1, and the wedding was a low-key affair, with Henry’s fourth marriage only just having been annulled. It was kept quiet for over a week, and Catherine did not appear in public as queen until 8th August.

The marriage appeared happy at first, with Henry doting on his young bride and having a new lease of life. Catherine’s biographer, Lacey Baldwin Smith, writes of how the King, who had previously felt “the weight of age close upon him”, was suddenly “filled with fresh vitality”, started getting up early (between 5 and 6am) to go hunting and that the French ambassador wrote of his “good spirits” and “good humour”.2 Henry VIII was happy, he had high hopes for the future, but, sadly, his hopes would be dashed just over 15 months later when he was made aware of Catherine’s sexual history and then her secret assignations with Thomas Culpeper, a groom of his privy chamber. Henry was devastated. Catherine Howard was executed for treason on 13th February 1542, after having been found guilty of treason by a bill of attainder.

Fifth time lucky? No!

You can read more about Catherine and her fall in the following articles:

Notes and Sources

  1. There is controversy over Catherine’s birthdate, with some historians dating her birth to around 1524 and others to around 1521.
  2. Baldwin Smith, Lacey (2009) Catherine Howard: The Queen Whose Adulteries Made a Fool of Henry VIII, Amberley, p. 134.

Related Post

9 thoughts on “28 July 1540 – Fifth time lucky?”
  1. This is my favourite portrait of Catherine( if it is indeed her) it shows a very young pretty girl with auburn hair and Catherine was said to have had that colouring, also she’s very opulently dressed the sleeves of her gown look like black satin, I’m sure only a queen would be so dressed, her headress appears to be trimmed with gold beads and the brooch on the bodice looks like a cameo, I notice all Henrys marriages were low key, hardly surprising really when you consider how many times he said ‘I do’!

  2. I have always wondered – how do the experts, whoever they are, go about authenticating paintings and determining the name of the person portrayed, if that person is unknown?

    Anne Boleyn is a rather controversial figure in this respect, as there are many, very different looking paintings purported to be her.

    After all, it was only very recently that a painting was definitively identified as Jane Grey-Dudley, the Nine Days Queen, who had no authenticated portraits or likenesses.

    I’d love to see an authentic likeness of Kathryn Howard – she is just as controversial as her cousin, Anne Boleyn, and like Anne, met an unpleasant end after marrying Henry.

  3. Iv often wondered that, maybe they go on the jewellery they wore, if that is recorded as having belonged to that person, or old accounts somewhere stating that this painting was commissioned by Henry, this is a beautiful painting though.

    1. Yes – Kathryn’s father and Anne’s mother were brother and sister, making Anne and Kathryn first cousins.

      Thomas Culpepper was related to Kathryn through her mother, Jocasta Culpepper-Howard.

    2. She was first cousin to Anne her father being Anne’s mothers brother, and she was a distant cousin to Thomas.

    3. She also shared a great-grandmother along with Anne, Mary and George Boleyn with Jane Seymour making them second cousins.

  4. I think Katherine Howard was the perfect antidote (in the royal mind) to Anne of Cleves, she was young, pretty, sexy, charming, flattered him, she was a rose bud, of a good English family, fun loving, danced, sang, played music and made him feel young again. Now, what did Katherine see in Henry, who by now was passed middle age, was well and truly over weight, had several affirmities, a reputation for now having a temper and mood swings, oh and had executed one wife? Well Katherine found him generous and charming, magnificent, was well dressed and impressive, he treated her right, he received her graciously and he offered her wealth, power, beautiful clothing, magnificent houses, a life of luxury, a way to escape from the household of the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, and as Queen she could play a role in the life of court, promote the family fortunes, intercede for mercy and favours, help people, be a helpmate to the King, a companion for his children and if she provided him with sons who knows what influence she could gain. The Howards probably saw Katherine as a means to bring back the Catholic faith, but Katherine saw it as one big chance to party. Katherine first came to court as lady to Anne of Cleves, so she was noticed by Henry at some point. We don’t know who introduced her to the King, but traditionally she was a guest at the banquet given by Stephen Gardiner and Henry took a shine to her. Soon he was visiting her at a house he gave her, his barge being seen making regular night trips across the river and soon Henry was besotted, in love and in lust. Katherine was probably flattered, Henry showered her with gifts, before and during his marriage to her, two houses, land, jewellery, the Queens estate, he treated her with respect and honour, he thought that she was perfect, he was clearly prepared to do anything for her.

    After their marriage Henry and Katherine seem to have had a good sex life, the marriage was good for a time, but in March 1541 Henry became ill and depressed, he left Katherine to her own devices, his leg was bad, things seem to have gone off in the bedroom. Katherine heard some rumours that Henry was visiting Anne of Cleves, that she was pregnant and Henry would return to his former wife. Henry had to put a stop to the rumours and his marriage seems to have picked up again. Henry describes Katherine as a jewel of womanhood. Katherine Howard was raised with enough of the Lady to play her public role as queen well, she was gracious and not a ninny. She was fond of luxury and the beautiful presents Henry gave her, but she also interceded for prisoners. Katherine seems to have brought out the best in Henry for a while at least. She was kind hearted and well received on the royal progresses. Unfortunately it was not to last, thanks to jealousy from former servants, boasting by a former lover and an investigation into her past. Henry may have also hoped that Katherine could give him more children, but this was not to be either.

  5. I do think that Katherine Howard was a vibrant young girl ! Who can blame her for being young? I dont think she deserved to be killed ! She was Certainly brave to marry such a man who had already beheaded Anne Boleyn his second wife !

Leave a Reply

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