28 July 1540 – Henry VIII Marries Catherine Howard

Posted By on July 28, 2011

Katherine HowardOn the 28th July 1540, the same day that Master Secretary Thomas Cromwell was executed, Henry VIII married his “rose without a thorn”, Catherine Howard, at Oatlands Palace. His marriage to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, had been annulled just a few days before so the wedding was a low key affair, hence we do not have any details of who attended. All we know is that on the 8th August 1540 Catherine Howard appeared in public as Queen at Hampton Court Palace1 and then the couple spent a short honeymoon at Windsor before going on progress2. The Victorian historian Agnes Strickland writes of how “the king had exhausted his treasury when he married his Flemish bride [Anne of Cleves], so he could not honour Katharine Howard with either a coronation or a marriage festival” – poor Catherine!

It’s good that Henry VIII did not go to the expense of a lavish wedding and coronation seeing as the marriage was rather short-lived. Just a year after the wedding, Catherine was having secret assignations with Thomas Culpeper while on progress to the North and in November 1541 a letter from Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, informed the King of Catherine’s rather colourful past, her sexual history with Henry Manox and Francis Dereham. Henry’s rose without a thorn had suddenly developed some rather nasty thorns!

Henry VIII had got a new lease of life when he married his much younger fifth wife but his happiness and hopes were dashed when an investigation into Catherine’s life not only proved that the information regarding her past was true, but that Catherine may have been betrothed to Dereham, that she had employed Dereham in her household and that she was also having an affair with Thomas Culpeper, a member of the King’s privy chamber. The King was devastated and Catherine and the men had to pay for his humiliation and their betrayal of their King. On the 10th December 1541, Thomas Culpeper and Francis Dereham were drawn from the Tower of London to Tyburn. Culpeper was then beheaded while Dereham had to suffer the true traitor’s death: being hanged, drawn and quartered. Their heads were then displayed on London Bridge and they were still there on the 10th February 1542 when Catherine Howard was taken from Syon to the Tower of London. On the 13th February 1542, Catherine and Lady Jane Rochford, the lady-in-waiting who had helped Catherine and Culpeper with their secret assignations, were both beheaded at the Tower of London and then buried at the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula. You can read more about Catherine Howard and her fall in the following articles:-

Notes and Sources

  1. Hall’s Chronicle, Edward Hall, p840
  2. The Queens of England, Volume III, Agnes Strickland, p424

23 thoughts on “28 July 1540 – Henry VIII Marries Catherine Howard”

  1. emma says:

    It’s ironic that Henry was cheated on by Katherine when he had used that as an excuse to get rid of Anne.

  2. Conor Byrne says:

    I don’t have sympathy for Henry I’m afraid after his treatment of Anne Boleyn and especially Katherine of Aragon.

    And why blame Katherine? She was a silly child who should never have been queen, she was the victim in the end, not Henry.

    1. Claire says:

      I do feel sympathy for him in that his illusions were completely shattered by Catherine’s behaviour and his age and mortality suddenly became very real to him. He was besotted with her and his whole world came crashing down around him. People may say that Catherine’s betrayal was karma, after all he had treated many people in a brutal manner, but I just can’t judge him.

      Catherine was not innocent or blameless, she did conceal her past and it does sound as if she was married to Dereham, in that they had made vows to each other and their relationship was consummated. I think that a confession of that to Cranmer could well have saved her. We will never know what happened between her and Culpeper during those secret, night-time assignations but it was evidently a romantic relationship. She may well have been manipulated by Culpeper but she surely knew that her behaviour was not fitting for a wife and queen. I am certainly not saying that she deserved her fate and I view her as a victim of her times and her need for love and recognition. Henry failed her, as did her family and those around her. She should never have been queen.

      1. Eliza says:

        I agree with you, Claire, Catherine was not ready to be Queen. She wasn’t queen material in any sense- at least at this time of her life.

  3. Dawn says:

    As I have said on another post ‘there’s no fool, like an old fool’, and thats exactly what Henry made of himself, with the help of her scheming relatives.

    He took a wild, young girl, who was uneducated in the ways of court and what was required of her, apart from the producing of sons, dressed her in fine clothes and expensive jewellery, and expected her to be automatically transformed into a paragon of Queenship….then had to suffer the humiliation of being cuckholded with one of his favourites of the privy chambers. So what he really ended up with is a wild, young girl with the fine clothes and expensive jewellery, and a battered ego. Some one had to pay, and those young men and Catherine did.

    As for the grief and heartbreak that the King nursed, I think it was more like humiliation and self pity. A bitter pill to swallow..a dose of his own medicine.

    Those poor young men, and poor silly little Catherine, it is so tragic.

    1. Baroness Von Reis says:

      Claire,I must totally agree with she had very poor judgment in her goings on in private affairs,because dealing with the KING NOTHING WAS EVER PRIVATE.Also making a King looking like a cuckhold as I said he must of been in a fury.You don’t take his manhood and make him look the fool.So of croase he had his pity party ,and hence again Henry moved on. Tim and Claire a big congrat’s to Tim and you hope I get a chance to read Tim’s book.

  4. lisaannejane says:

    Too bad Catherine had not told her uncle or Henry that she called Dereham husband and was in a relationship with him, even if he was not around. Her family should have realized that secrets like that have a way of coming out.

    1. Dawn says:

      You are so right lisaannejane, but I suppose it was because she would be in it up to her neck and probably sent to a convent, can you imagine, a ‘free spirit’ like Catherine in a convent, the poor lass had no proper grooming, but a lot of fun by all accounts, up until being caught. And I think even if she did tell Uncle, he more than likely would have told her to keep it shut, and continue to encourage her to trap the King, greed and power over took common sense so many times then. Unbelievable considering the penalty when your secrets were found out…..

    2. That’s a very good point. Her family should have known better if Kathryn didn’t.

      1. Dawn says:

        My knowledge is nooo where near as indepth as alot of the well read people on this site impish impulse, but the the books I have read her family took Catherine and held her under the nose of the King, like the carrot/donkey trick, not just for the power and greed, but to get he catholic faith back in favour, tell me if I have got it wrong anyone… By the way, I have just bought the book from Ebay, called TUDOR WOMEN Queens and commoners, by Alison Plowden, has anyone read it, would be interested to know your views on it before I read,cos still reading book on Jane Boleyn by Julia Fox, and although well writen, I haven’t read anything new as it is well padded with events of the time, just seems to say that Jane was there.

        1. Marilyn R says:

          Hi Dawn
          Do you think you could let me have the sources for the claims you have read about -i.e. that the family paraded her in front of Henry & were using her to fight religious reform. I have been researching the background to her family life in Lambeth for a couple of years and, as I have said before on this site, putting aside the inventions and suppositions of authors like Agnes Strickland, there is little actual evidence of this. That is not to say there is not some element of truth, and it would certainly be advantageous to have a pretty young relative at Court. But the fact is, once Henry had decided to make this girl his wife there would be little she, or her family, could do about it.

        2. Dawn says:

          Flipping heck Marilyn, I am talking stuff that I have been reading from being 14, which is 40 years ago. Now when I started reading about this period they were not as acurate as they can be now with their findings, and maybe I have been reading the wrong books, also there was,and still is, alot of what the researcher, being for factual or fictional writings, has their own interpetation on what they have found. Now I haven’t got all the books read, some were from libraries, some older ones I gave off, etc.So I am afraid I could not say which books, documentarys, I have lifted this knowledge from. As I am not a scholar/historian, and read only as a hobby I dont take notes and do reference work.
          Though what I will say that there is alot that can not be proven or unproven,theres a lot of suposition by historian and lay-person a like. But where there is no prove of fact, you can replace with how the powerful families around the court at that time would have worked.
          Correct me if I am wrong, I though the Howards were a strong catholic family, and were only to happy to see the back of Anne B, Anne C, and Cromwell, as they would lean the King towards the new learning and away from what they thought to be the true faith. There was an opening at court for a New wife. And they had the prime offering, a pretty,young girl with plenty of child bearing years in front, of the right faith and would give them the power, wealth and all the other benefits that came with being in favour, and hopefully a relative who would be King one day. I personally think, that she was put in the eye of the King, when he was on the look for victim 5. And as you say once he fixed on her that would be that.
          Though I did not say to fight the reformation, I did said to bring it back to favour, because as I see it that it would be a plus in the religious ‘war’ which ever side you are on if you was in Henrys good books.
          You have only to look how families worked before Catherine. Mary and Anne B, were encouraged and helped to keep the King, Jane S. too seems to be actively encouraged by family, so why would it be different with Catherine, all these families, disliked and mis- trusted each other even though they pledged friendship… so getting one of your women in the Kings bed was one up manship.
          Sometimes I think that sometimes when historians gather their reseach, they can lose the human element of the people. Things seem to be either black or white, no grey area, this is what I like about this site it gives these people their human side back to them and fills in the grey area a little.
          So at the end of the day, Marilyn, as I said I haven’t a clue which books I sourced my info from, I have read so many, so I can’t help you there, but just because there is little/ no evidence to prove what I have said, is there evidence to say otherwise, I would like to know if there is cos thats why I come to this site, to learn and correct any facts I may have wrong….

    3. Julie B says:

      I agree that it probably wouldn’t matter to her uncle if she told him of her past. Thomas Howard was a man who wanted to have power and stay in good with the king.

      Even if Catherine had been faithful during her marriage to the king, she would have been executed just for having a past, if and when he found out.

      I do not feel sorry for Henry, he created the events over the years that led up to his marriage with Catherine.

  5. David says:

    Poor Ms. Howard….what was she thinking???? She could of had it all but for some unknown reason, known only to her, she chose to continue her activities behind closed doors…I would like to be able to ask her, “Did you truly think you were going to get away with it?” She was not groomed to be Queen of England and I feel she was Henry’s Mid-life crisis so to speak but right from the get go, and before for that matter, she walked the wrong path….Why did she throw away such a life of luxury for a fling….Hummmmm. I think Ms. Howard had a death wish….and she got her wish

  6. Tracey says:

    How terrified Catherine must have been to be facing her brutal death at such a tender age, what she had with Culpepper must have been so strong that all thoughts of the consequences were banished from her mind when she embarked upon the affair, obviously we do not know all the facts but even as a silly, young girl she must have had some idea of the fate that she would face when she follwed the path that she did. It seems to me that henry was infatuated with “being in love” and his desire for sons was overwhelming, although ironically, his long for son tends to be forgotten in history whilst his female offspring became two of the most famous monarchs this country has ever had!

  7. Marilyn R says:

    Hi Dawn

    Your post had got me all excited in case you had recently read some new-found and reliable source on the plight of the Howard family at large that has passed me by! In truth, though, as far as young Katheryn is concerned, I can’t see all that much difference in what you and I were reading 40 years ago & what is in print now.

    I agree with what you say here,

    ‘Sometimes I think that sometimes when historians gather their research, they can lose the human element of the people. Things seem to be either black or white, no grey area.’

    What has struck me the most is that those involved in Katheryn’s sorry tale are still being treated and dissected like make-believe characters in a novel rather than assessed as flesh-and-blood human beings in fear of their lives. Like you say, nothing is ever just black-and-white.

    1. Dawn says:

      Aaaah sorry Mariiyn not found anything new, never mind.. going back to difference in books from when I started reading on this subject to newer books, I do find there are some subtle differences, apart from ‘new material’ that is being added on occassion, (not as often as we would like though, be great if something was discoverered unknown to add), when I was talking about the personalities of these fascinating people, I feel that some historians are begining to do this, going into the psychology of them, giving them a personality, which to me injects a different angle on how to look at them, and maybe understand their behavior a little better, and in some cases, not judge them as harshly. Now to me this is really interesting and refreshing, from some books that hit you with fact after fact, not knocking these books at all, its these books that give us the backbone of the time and the education we need, and I read as many as I can. But it is nice to read, also a well reseached novel to, where the characters are given voices, feelings, they come alive. And I personally think this is what some historians are beginning to do now, a cross between hard historial fact and a well researched novel, best of both words to me….

  8. Shoshana says:

    So often I think people forget that first Catherine was a teenager when thrust into a role she was neither suited for or understood. You just have to look at teens her age today to understand she had the “I can’t be hurt” attitude; it’s that attitude that leads teens today into speeding, drugs, and other unwise choices. Medical and mental research has found that our brains do not completely mature until about age 25 and during the teen years it is not always capable of linking unwise decisions with consequences. If Catherine lived today, I am sure she would be the “wild” girl, willing to try anything, probably participating in drinking and sex and never thinking of the outcome shoudl something go wrong. Couple that with a man obviously trying to hold on to his youth, obsessed with having more sons, and demanding his court make him the center of attention in all things and you have a recipe for a truly sad ending. Posterity should look upon Catherine with kindness; she was a child thrust into a world that had to be confusing and frightening to her; never understanding her actions could bring about consequences unbeivable cruel. Henry had to execute her to salve his damaged ego; there was no other choice for him after Anne Boelyn’s execution. What was justice in Anne’s case, must also be justice in Catherine’s, no matter that Anne’s were untrue.
    One can only hope that all of Henry’s wives found their universal peace if not in this life, then in the next.

  9. Lara says:

    i’m pretty sure i’ve read something on this before but does anyone know how Mary I treated katherine howard? did she dislike her like in The Tudors?

  10. Anne Barnhill says:

    I’ve always felt this particular wife was a sad case and that Henry, too, is sad. He was so in love with her (probably because she was so very much younger and pretty) and so he was really hurt by her infidelity. What I can’t figure out is the mental state of Jane Rochford? She has to have known she was living dangerously, to put it mildly, to help this romance along. And I doubt she was particularly fond of Catherine, Anne’s cousin. She would have been older and should have known better. I just cannot figure out her motiviation. On the Tudors, they made her seem very strange indeed, sleeping with Culpepper herself and watching everytying. I don’t think she was THAT strange but I do wonder about her….

    1. Dawn says:

      It is really hard to work out Jane’s mental state isn’t it. She had property, enough money and was back in favour at court. And even is she didn’t assist Catherine in her liassions with Culpepper, she must have know, and knowing in those days implicated you as much as deeds, she would have faired better if she had told on her. Then how can you say not to do something to a Queen without risking reprocussions, especially one who’s youth would lead her to ingnore the consequences of her actions, thinking she was untouchable, as teens are still. By all accounts she had become ‘difficult’ to handle since becoming so spoilt by the all adoring King. Personally I would have cut and run, but thats looking at it with hind-sight I suppose. But surely even then I would have thought common sense would prevail, especially after all she had seen from Anne’s time… strange as you say

  11. Baroness Von Reis says:

    I truely think that Kate Howard was not paying attention to what Henry could do to anyone who got on his bad side, kate could not refuse Henry when ask to marryshe made some very hasty move’s ,but Hery made them aswell.When you cheat on a King,although I have’nt and never would ,she should have been smart enough to know the out come. lets not forget that , Henry was very vain and know women could say NO to this King. Kate basicaly called The King a cockhold and he was in a fury with his wife,there was know way she could or would escape the scaffold.But I am sad for her the parents new ,and should have put a end to this ,to little to late.

  12. Katie Peterson says:

    Thank you Shoshanna well said & I agree 100%. Some people on here are just plain harsh! I think Katheryn was an immature teen with no proper care or training & was definately “used” & abused with no real concern for her welfare. DISGUSTING
    In today’s day & age 50 yrs vs less than 18 would probably get you 20. It’s called RAPE on a minor. We should be grateful we live in a day & age where there are laws to help protect the children & innocent…she was a sexually molested child. Her continued wild behavior is not shocking at all…in fact the young girl appeared to be acting out like a child which is what she was a CHILD. Placed in an impossible situation trying to cope & do as she was told by filthy greedy men. Her brief life totally retarded by everyone surrounding her. Katheryn deserved & needed a hero but apparently NOBODY cared…unbelievably sad.

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