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2nd November – On this Day in History…

Posted By on November 2, 2011

Katherine HowardOn this day in history, 2nd November…

1541 – Archbishop Thomas Cranmer left a letter for Henry VIII in the Holy Day Closet at Hampton Court Palace detailing Catherine Howard’s colourful past and how she had “lived most corruptly and sensually”. Cranmer had been persuaded by Chancellor Audley and the Earl of Hertford to relate the story told by Mary Hall to her brother, John Lassells. Hall, who knew Catherine from her time in the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk’s household, had told Lassells:-

“There is one Francis Derrham, who was servant also in my lady of Norfolk’s house, which hath lien in bed with her [Catherine] in his doublet and hose between the sheets an hundred nights. And there hath been such puffing and blowing between them, that once in the house a maid which lay in the house with her, said to me, she would lie no longer with her, because she knew not what matrimony meant.”

Hall also went on to say that Catherine’s music tutor, Henry Manox, “knew a privy mark on her body”.

Cranmer consulted Audley and Hertford and it was decided that the King really needed to know about the allegations concerning his fifth wife, the woman he called his “rose without a thorn”. Cranmer decided the best course of action was to tell the King by letter and the note was left for the King to find when he went to mass. Henry VIII “conceived such a constant opinion of her honesty, that he supposed it rather to be a forged matter, than of truth”, and ordered an investigation to clear it up. Of course, the investigation was to show the King that the Queen’s past indiscretions were the least of his worries!

Notes and Sources

  • LP xvi. 1334
  • “A Complete Collection of State Trials and Proceedings for High Treason and Other Crimes and Misdemeanors”, compiled by T.B.Howell, p446-448

18 thoughts on “2nd November – On this Day in History…”

  1. miladyblue says:

    Cranmer probably rightly felt that Henry MIGHT take it into his head to kill the messenger.

    The mind boggles – would Henry have trusted this intel from anyone else?

  2. Anne fan says:

    I always wondered why Cranmer did it. Why he’d disturb the past to ruin the kings present. Cranmer is one of my favorite Tudor people, but I cannot. Understand why ??

    1. Emma says:

      I think that since other people knew about Catherine’s past and now knew that he did too he didn’t really have a choice. Imagine what Henry would have done if he had found out that Cranmer had known about Catherine and not told him.

      1. Esther Sorkin says:

        Also, Catherine was a Howard, allied with the “religious-conservative” faction at court that was opposed to Cranmer’s “religious-reformist” faction.

  3. Angelina says:

    I have always viewed Catherine HOward as a foolish child, I do pity her. She was a simple country girl -howard or not – when he uncle decided to use her as he had with Anne. The difference was that Anne had YEARS of court education, wheras Catherine did not. I wonder if they’d given Catherine afewmore years what might have she become.

  4. Eliza says:

    The beginning of the end for poor Katherine..

  5. lisaannejane says:

    I am glad I am not the only one confused by Cramner doing the dirty work. A few stories could be ignored and no harm would have happened. Maybe is was his religious sense of duty but surely her know it would lead to Katherine’s death. Anne of Cleaves did have some connections to another country. Something I just wonder about.

  6. Ann says:

    To reply to Emma — the King had to be confident of the Queen’s chastity because of the succession. It is possible — certainly not unlikely — that Henry hoped to have children from his fifth marriage. A Queen’s adultery was a crime of treason . . . lest the succession of the Crown be adulterated.

    By this logic, anyone concealing information on a Queen’s unchastity was guilty of misprison of treason, so Cranmer had every reason to be sure Henry was informed, preferably without the messenger being shot — hence the anonymous note in the church pew, where a scene could not really be made.

    1. Claire says:

      I agree, Ann. Also in Tudor times women were expected to be virgins at marriage and sexual sin was seen to have major consequences. These were times when things like birth deformities, stillbirths and miscarriages were put down to the woman’s sin.

  7. Anne fan says:

    True. I can’t believe I overlooked all those reasons!!

  8. Ashley says:

    In my opinion Catherine was guilty of the charges of adultery but in a way I feel bad for her because at the time she married Henry she was like what 17 and I am 18 and to think if I was one of Henry’s wives something like this could have happened to me and of course it didn’t help when her uncle decided to use her the same way he used Anne.

  9. Emma says:

    One of the nice things about Catherine was that although she was indentified as part of the catholic faction she never had any interest in intriguing against anyone. When two gentlemen of the court, one conservative and one reformist, where imprisioned for faction based fighting Catherine asked for mercy for them both. Despite her foolish actions she was apparently a sweet, kind young woman.

    1. Nancy says:

      I’ve also read that Catherine sent warm clothing to Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, when Margaret was in the Tower suffering from the cold. I don’t believe that this was because Margaret was Roman Catholic, but more as an act of compassion and kindness for another human being.

  10. Lara says:

    I’ve been wondering for a while now about relationships back in the 16th century and the issue of virginity. Did husbands not know back then about how to tell if their wife was a virgin when they first had sex??

    1. Dawn says:

      I suppose, Lara, that Henry was so infatuated with his ‘Rose without a Thorn’ and ecstatic that he had regained his potency (or so its said) that he probably never noticed, self gratification and all that; she was quite knowledgable about the ways of men, and what they expected, from what we have read of her so a little beguiling on her behalf could have had him fooled…

  11. Angelina says:

    I am sorry but he married his Mistress… what did the man really expect?! He married a seventeen year old whod been raised very laxally by the Doweger Duchess of Norfolk in the country, She carried herself with great pride of her ability to capture the attention of men, even if she was foolish about it.

  12. Anne Barnhill says:

    I agree that once Cranmer found out the facts, he had no choice but to tell to the king. It was a matter of national security in a way. To have concealted this info would have been treason. Poor Cranmer…no wonder he did it in a letter! I think there are ways to fool a man about one’s viginity–I suspect women have known aobut such tricks for ages. A little pin stuck in the hem of one’s gown to produce the ‘evidence’?

  13. Dawn says:

    Silly question maybe but was Henry sleeping with Catherine before they were married?

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