30 June 1541 Henry VIII and Catherine Howard Set off on Progress

Catherine Howard and CulpeperOn this day in history, Henry VIII and his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, set off on their royal progress to the North, the aim being to meet Henry’s nephew, King James V of Scotland, at York in September and also “to emphasise the extent of his defeat of the Pilgrims [from the Pilgrimage of Grace] and the Percy interest, and to humiliate utterly all but the most clearly loyal elements”1.

The progress was successful in showing the people of Yorkshire that Henry VIII was their King and their master, but the Scottish King stood Henry up and it was on this progress that Catherine Howard decided to amuse herself by having secret assignations with a member of her husband’s privy chamber, Thomas Culpeper. Julia Fox, author of “Jane Boleyn: The Infamous Lady Rochford”2, writes of how the lovers were able to meet at night in Lincoln, Pontefract and York, and how they were nearly discovered when Anthony Denny arrived at Catherine’s room to fetch her to the King but found her door locked – Catherine was otherwise engaged!

It was Catherine’s infidelity with Culpeper which sealed her fate after the King found out about her colourful past, her escapades with Henry Manox and Francis Dereham at Lambeth. Perhaps the King could have forgiven her past but he could not forgive her for cuckolding him and making a fool of him. Catherine was executed on the 13th February 1542 at the Tower of London.

You can read more about Catherine Howard in the following articles:-

Notes and Sources

  1. “Henry VIII’s Progress Through Yorkshire in 1541 and its Implications for Northern Identities”, Tim Thornton, 2009. Northern history: a review of the history of the North of England., 46 (2). pp. 231-244.
  2. Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford, Julia Fox, p293-295 of UK paperback version.

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28 thoughts on “30 June 1541 Henry VIII and Catherine Howard Set off on Progress”
  1. Thanks again Claire… I think CH was a tragic figure from the standpoint of my 20th/21st
    century eyes. Taking into consideration how different attitudes and expectations were back then, psychosocial development still applies. CH had an unstable childhood, and as I said in another post, I believe her behavior reflected that…what do you and others think?


    1. This is just my personal opinion on your question Rosina. I agree with you in regards to Catherine Howard’s unstable childhood. I find it very unfortunate and I firmly believe our childhoods have a huge bearing on the type of adult we become. But I don’t at all see Catherine as a tragic figure. I am pretty sure she knew what she was doing with Culpepper was very dangerous with an outcome that could be very bad. Despite the messed up childhood she new right from wrong. If she gave birth to a child fathered by Culpepper I am sure there would have been some serious trouble in the English kingdom because some way and some how the drama would have come out it always seems to anyway. I can’t say getting her head chopped was the best remedy but she was seriously playing a deadly game of Russian Roulette and lost. Being the cousin of Anne Boleyn she surely knew of her fate and the type of man Henry could be if wronged. In my opinion Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour were the tragic figures as far as Henry’s wives. Katherine was thrown aside, Anne was unjustly accused and pretty much murdered and Jane died after giving birth to Edward. Anne of Cleves was well taken care of despite the divorce and Catherine Parr she survived the storm so to speak. But Catherine Howard she was a victim of her own wrong doings and met the fate that all who done King Henry wrong met.

      1. I am sure catherine did know what she was doing was wrong, but like alot of immature adolescents they dont think about the consequences of their actions until they are faced with them, only then they realise there seriousness, in her case it was fatal. As for knowing what happened to Anne, there are very few that learn from other people mistakes, but the real fault lays with her family using her for their own gain, they sent a young girl, ill equipt in the knowledge she needed to be Queen. So I feel she became a victim twice over, firstly through her power hungry family that used her for self gratification, and secondly as you said though her own wrong doings, but to me the first is the greater crime.

  2. But did Catherine actually commit adultery with Culpepper? According to Starkey’s re-reading of Culpepper’s examination they didn’t do anything other than talk. Catherine was guilty because the act of attainder, which said anyone who had had illicit relations before they married the king and hadn’t confessed it, was applied retrospectively. Culpepper did admit that if the meetings had continued they probably would have done the deed but at the time of their arrests they hadn’t. I’m still trying to work out whether it was the verdict against Anne or the verdict against Catherine that sees Henry at his absolute worst.

    1. We will never know whether Catherine and Culpeper actually committed adultery but the intention was definitely there and the circumstantial evidence suggests that they were lovers in the full sense of the word. At Lincoln Culpeper and Catherine were together from 11pm until 3am and although Culpeper said that they were just talking I’m not so sure. Both were sexually experienced and so in love that they risked being caught to be together, would Culpeper have done that for a chat? Lady Rochford, who had helped the couple and been the look-out when they met, was sure that the couple were sexually intimate: “She thinketh that Culpeper hath known the Queen carnally considering all things that this deponent hath heard and seen”.

      1. I must admit I always assumed Culpepper and Catherine did commit adultery so I was really surprised when I saw the transcript of his examination. You’re right, the intention was definitely there and we’ll never know for sure. All that time talking sounds a little far-fetched. But the bit that does make me think they might not have gone the whole way is Catherine’s terror of their meetings being discovered and she seems to have believed that as head of the church Henry knew everyone’s confessions.

        As for Lady Rochford, she was so frightened she obviously suffered some kind of breakdown. Chapuys says she ‘went mad’ and Henry sent his doctors to cure her. She also admitted to being asleep during one of Catherine and Culpepper’s meetings – so while that was the perfect opportunity for them it also means she can’t really have known. I don’t think Catherine and Culpepper would have been found guilty today. (Obviously the legal tests were rather different as far as Henry was concerned!)

  3. I agree with you Rosina. Catherine was like a wayward child, as a child would be without parental guidance and love. I was just as saddened by her execution, as I was with Anne’s, although Anne was innocent most likely. Catherine was almost 17 when she was executed. So sad that her naivety cost her her life. Why didn’t Cranmer tell her all she needed to say to save her life? Surely he still could have brought down the Howard family without killing her. Just so heartbreaking.

  4. Interesting choice of words for the historian quoted, who said the purpose of this Progress was “to humiliate utterly all but the most clearly loyal elements”, when that Progress visited upon Henry one of, if not THE most humiliating episodes in his life.

  5. I agree Rosina, she came from a large brood of siblings 15 altogether, then sent to her stepgrandmother after she was ophaned, who had a large house hold that was lax in the running and was really left to her own devises, a part from a basic education. I think she became what we would say now as ‘street wise’, but had little common sense.
    Therefore when she was being used as bait to attract the King she was ill equipt to deal with the situation she found herself in, even though she had had a short time at court as one of Anne of Cleeves ladies. Probably never having much individual attention in the past, to be thrust into the lime light and then becoming Queen would have been too much for her to deal with in the way that was expected of her. It would be like putting a child into a sweet shop and saying help yourself, over indulgence is a natural reaction. I heatily sympathise with that poor young girl. She really was a lamb to the slaughter. Innocent, not in a sexual way, but definately in the politics of the court and the protacol of being Queen. Bless her.

    Can anyone remind me where they stayed in Lincoln, as I used to live close by, went to De Montford University there and shopped there on a regular basis. It is a beautiful old city seeped in history. The cathedral is magnificent.

    1. They stayed at Lincoln Castle, and Katheryn met Culpeper in the very unromantic surroundings of the Queen’s stool room, that is, her lavatory.The Grand Jury sitting at Lincoln also accused them of meeting secretly at Gainsborough Hall a few miles away, where Katherine Parr had lived with her first husband not that long before.

      1. Thanks, lived only 8miles from Gainsborough Old Hall and went there often too. It is a typical tuor building black and white timber framed, its a picture. It is in a strange setting all the land around it has grown into a small town, so it seems so out of place, but when you go inside it makes you forget all that. Well worth a visit if you ever get to that part of the country. Henry visited there himself, not 100% sure, will have to check guide book, but isnt he meant to have proposed to C.Parr there?

        1. Hi Dawn

          I agree that Gainsborough Old Hall is something special – unfortunately off the beaten track so not nearly as well known as it should be.

          Henry didn’t propose to Katherine Parr here – she was maried to the heir of the (Burgh) family for only a short time & then to Lord Latimer for several years and lived at Snape Castle in Yorkshire; it was after Latimer’s death that Henry proposed.

          Katheryn Howard and Henry stayed there for 3 days in great splendour during the Northern progress, accompanied by Thomas Culpeper, and the Lincoln Grand Jury seems to have got its wires crossed between what had gone on in Lincoln Castle and at Gainsborough, which doesn’t say much for the so-called ‘evidence’, so to be on the safe side they accused her of misbehaviour in both places; an example of why some of the evidence against her should be taken with a pinch of salt .

          At this stage in his life Henry was so overweight and lame he couldn’t make it up the stairs to his chamber and slept in the room at the foot of the tower that is now used as the teashop. I used to be the Lecture Secretary for the Friends of Gainsborough Old Hall and suggested a few years ago the the cafe be named ‘The Culpeper Tea Rooms’, both as a nod to Thomas and also to Culpeper the famous herbalist, as GOH has developed a pretty Tudor garden in recent years.Nothing came of the idea, though.

        2. Thanks Marilyn for the ‘memory jog’. Lucky you having that post, wish I had met you, only lived at Sturton-le Steeple, from 1990-2001, oh well. Your idea on the name of the cafe was brilliant, a little tongue-in cheek, with a diversity to another part of history, the developement of medicine through herbs and flowers, I studied horticulture at De Montford. Its a shame some people can’t think ‘out of the box’.And I totally agree Gainsborough Old Hall is not out there with the other well know buildings, it should be, because it is as worthy, lovely to know that the Hall has a tudor garden again, must have been after I left the area because can’t remember seeing one. As for the grand jury, well, where the King was concerned, it was wise to ‘edge your bets’

  6. I must admit that I would love to ask her “What were you thinking? Did you really think that no one was going to tell the king or that no one was spying around the place?

  7. I agree with Rosina. CH’s backround and childhood really affects her actions. She is a very tragic figure in Henry VIII’s world.

  8. Poor Little Catherine, an immature child put into an adult’s role without any time to grow up and be a Queen. If she had not committed adultry and had given Henry a son, still she would have been too immature to be Queen. I don’t believe that her death caused Henry much grief; he seems to have been the sort of person who can turn emotions on and off and thus never really feel responsible for his actions.

  9. I don’t care if Catherine Howard was guilty of adultery or not, I don’t believe she deserved to be executed. If God can forgive our sins, why not King Henry? He was always trying to paint himself as a good Christian etc. But in reality he was a hypocrite. How could that fat bloated ugly man with stinking sores on his leg expect a girl as young as that to truly love and fancy him? I think he had unrealistic expectations from the start. Not to mention that only in England under Henry were Queens executed for adultery and other trumped up charges surrounding it. I read a very good book about adulterous Queens all through Europe and Russia and none of them were executed. The worst that happened was to be divorced, have their marriage annulled, sent to a nunnery or otherwise banished. But many of them kept their position, there often being no-one suitable to succeed them. Often they were widowed young but stayed on their thrones. The Queen once married to Ivan The Terrible was very promiscuous with many much younger lovers. No-one batted an eyelid, and she stayed Queen till she died.

    1. I don’t think anybody is suggesting that Catherine Howard deserved to be executed. A queen was expected to be faithful to her husband, she was supposed to be a model of virtue and it was her job to give the King and country a legitimate heir. If a queen was unfaithful then how would people know whether her children were in fact the King’s, an adulterous queen was impugning the King’s issue. We also have to remember that in Tudor times a wife became a man’s property on marriage and that a man actually had a legal right to kill his wife if he caught her in the act of adultery. Catherine Parr’s brother, William, called for his adulterous wife to be put to death, although a divorce was granted instead. It was acceptable for the King, on the other hand, to take a mistress when his Queen was pregnant and this was what Henry tended to do. I’m certainly not defending Henry or justifying Catherine’s execution, but we have to take into account the times and context. We might look on Henry at this time and think “how could anybody expect someone to love them when they were like that” but just because he had lost his looks and had become moody and intolerant it doesn’t give Catherine an excuse to commit adultery. I don’t think we can say that he had unrealistic expectations because a Queen was meant to behave herself.

      1. Thank you Claire. What you wrote was right were my previous commit in regards to Catherine Howard was pointed. I definetly don’t believe she should have been beheaded, but the times and the consequences back then were much different than now. The queen was suppose to me the model of a goodly woman and poor Catherine just wasn’t it.

    1. Oh yes,’ a simple beheading’….. because he was a favourite of the King he showed him mercy, instead of the hang, drawn and quartering that most low born traitors were sentenced to. Lucky him eh!!!

      1. Poor Dereham was hanged, drawn and quartered – condemned by the retrospective act of attainder because he slept with an unmarried woman who happened to catch Henry’s eye…

        1. He was, poor soul. It is beyond belief that a human being could devise such a form of execution, and that people went to watch…………..

  10. This is evidence that Catherine was up to no good; or why would she have the door barred to the King’s man. Catherine knew that Henry had decided to visit her rooms that night and she should have been waiting for him or been keen to get ready for him as her husband. That was her duty. The outer door to her rooms were not locked; they never were; her inner room may have been guarded but not locked; her safety depended on them not being. Someone also had to have bribed the guard outside her backstairs door and this made it easy to bring her lover into her room and they were able to hide here and to be taken out again safely and without being seen. The door was locked to the King’s representative and her lover was able to finish his visit to the Queen, escape or hide and she was able to pretend that she had been asleep and get ready for the king when he arrived.

    Joan Bulmer gave evidence of this action and she gave evidence that she witnessed the adultery as well. There is no assumption of innocence at this time and why would Joan put herself at risk, when she also covered up Catherine’s adultery and it is only as she admitted everything that she was spared, were Lady Rochford the main procurer of lovers for the queen was found guilty of hiding her treason and tried to deny it until she knew that she could do so no longer.

    I have no sympathy for either Catherine or her lovers. They are not innocent children, they are adults and they knew well what they were doing, and by the law of the time, deserved the fate that awaited them.

  11. Catherine chose her actions during her up-bringing and chose to be sexually active’; it was not forced on her and she was an idiot to think that she could get away with cheating on Henry VIII and as for her lovers, well they both got what they deserved. They knew what they were doing, sleeping with the Queen in her private closet and her rooms. I have no sympathy for Catherine Howard or her lovers.

  12. The reason given for her door being locked is that she was sick, and given that she had been sick on the progress already and her ladies had been called for to tend to her it could have been the case here. We have to entertain the possibility that they may have been telling the truth, at least sometimes. I don’t think that Catherine was stupid enough to commit adultery in the physical sense, but I’m sure we all agree that the desire was there.

    There is evidence that Catherine and Culpepper had been an item prior to her relationship with the King. Some even go as far as saying that they had wanted to marry eachother, but Culpepper backed off when the King became a contender and knew that it was a lost cause. So, it could have been two people who loved eachother meeting up to talk and commiserate with eachother. Catherine was a very fragile person and she wasn’t taken care of in the way she should have been. Unfortunately it was an unavoidable tragedy.

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