6 November 1541 – Henry VIII Abandons Catherine Howard at Hampton Court Palace

Posted By on November 6, 2013

Hampton Court Palace On Sunday 6th November 1541, Henry VIII abandoned his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, at Hampton Court Palace. During the day, he “dined at a little place in the fields” near the palace “on pretext of hunting”, and then that night returned to London and met with his council from midnight “until 4 or 5 a.m. on Monday”.1 Catherine never saw her husband again.

Legend has it that Catherine managed to escape from her chamber and ran down the gallery to try and speak to the King who was at Mass in his chapel. She was caught before she had chance to explain herself to the King and she was taken back to her chamber screaming. That is apparently why a ghostly form is seen drifting down the gallery, now known as the Haunted Gallery, with a “ghastly look of despair” on its face and making “the most unearthly shrieks.”2 In reality, as David Starkey points out, Catherine was unaware of her husband’s departure from the palace and what was going on.3

Charles de Marillac, the French ambassador, writes of Henry VIII’s reaction to the news that Francis Dereham had confessed to knowing the Queen “carnally many times”:

“On learning this the King’s heart was pierced with pe[nsiveness, so that it was long] before he could [utter his sorrow]; “and finally, with plenty [of tears, (which was strange] in his courage), opened the same.” “4

The King was distraught that his wife was not the “rose without a thorn” he believed her to have been.

Notes and Sources

  1. LP xvi. 1332
  2. Ghosts at Hampton Court Palace
  3. Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII, David Starkey (2003), p671
  4. LP xvi. 1334

21 thoughts on “6 November 1541 – Henry VIII Abandons Catherine Howard at Hampton Court Palace”

  1. Diane WIlshere says:

    I remember touring Hampton Court Palace in 1994 and being told by the guide that the legend of Katherine’s ghost haunting the gallery could not be true because the Queen’s apartments were not located in such a fashion where she would have had to go through the gallery to get to the Chapel Royal.

  2. Daniela says:

    I have visited Hampton Court Palace and when told this story by the tour guide, I must admit it gave me goosebumps. In the film Henry VIII and his six wives with Keith Michelle in the role of the King. Katherine Howard is shown being dragged by her hair while screaming down the haunted gallery!

  3. Leslie says:

    Every time I read how devastated Henry was after he found out about Catherine’s infidelity, it really makes me realize how cold and calculated the plot against Anne really was. When true infidelity had occurred, he was crushed.

    1. The Rose Crowned says:

      I agree with you Leslie!

      1. Was he, I wonder, reduced to tears because of love for Katherine,or through the humiliation at the thought of of becoming a laughing-stock on the European royal stage?

        Also, there was no question of infidelity as yet : it had happened before her marriage, and Henry had yet to learn about Dereham having subsequently been taken into her service and of Culpeper’s involvement – whatever that was.

        He snatched her young life away without lifting a finger (as far as we know) to help this girl he was supposed to love so greatly. I know there are all sorts of arguments as to why she had to go, but was there really no alternative to chopping off her head?

        1. Dawn 1st says:

          I agree with your first comment Marilyn completely.

          I do think Henry was enamoured with Katherine, she was so young and alive, I think she made him feel invigorated and youthful again, but when this news was broken to him, I feel after the first flood of tears of the ‘broken-hearted’, these soon changed to tears of his own self pity and personal humiliation, with the possibly of the realization that he was an old, sick, unattractive man, not the young, fit handsome one he was in by gone days. For the first time I think he saw the true reflection of himself in the mirror, not the self deluded ideal that was backed up by the sycophantic flattery that came out of the mouths of his courtiers.

          One thing you can say about Henry though, is that he was true to form with the way he ditched his wives, riding off without a backward glance.

  4. The Rose Crowned says:

    How different he acted indeed to the “Anne” situation to the “Katheryn” situation totally! That is most probably because Anne was innocent and he knew it whereas Katheryn was guilty and he also knew it. They were both accused of the same charge and both got found guilty of the same but the method of choice of weapon at execution was different and what I had mentioned earlier previously and last but not least the previous had been a reformer where as the latter had been catholic. Did you know that if all proved untrue he the “King ” was going to renew their relationship as well as their vows where he initially got wed to her at Oatlands? But sadly this was not going to be the case!

    1. Dawn 1st says:

      No, I have never heard that before, Rose Crowned, where did you read it? Sounds interesting.

      1. It certainly does. Do you remember the source?

  5. mrsfiennes says:

    I’ll have to watch the David Starkey program.I assumed some of that legend was true.

  6. It is not hard for a middle aged man to fall in love with a teenage vivacious girl who gives him plenty of attention and makes him feel young again. The fact that vivacious teenage girls seldom feel the same way about over weight middle aged men is also not too surprising, but Catherine evidently hid her feelings very well from the King. There has been a suggestion that by the time he married her King Henry was incapable of properly consummating the marriage which may well be the reason Catherine never became pregnant. In English law it is a treasonable offence for the wife of the King or his successor to commit adultery because it is important to know that the children of that union are truly heirs to the throne. Hence the punishment whilst harsh was legal. English law in those days was hard and children as young as 12 years were hanged for offences which we today would consider trivial. We need always to judge previous generations by the values of their day and not ours.

  7. It is not hard for a middle aged man to fall in love with a teenage vivacious girl who gives him plenty of attention and makes him feel young again. The fact that vivacious teenage girls seldom feel the same way about over weight middle aged men is also not too surprising, but Catherine evidently hid her feelings very well from the King. There has been a suggestion that by the time he married her King Henry was incapable of properly consummating the marriage which may well be the reason Catherine never became pregnant. In English law it is a treasonable offence for the wife of the King or his successor to commit adultery because it is important to know that the children of that union are truly heirs to the throne. Hence the punishment whilst harsh was legal. English law in those days was hard and children as young as 12 years were hanged for offences which we today would consider trivial. We need always to judge previous generations by the values of their day and not ours.

    1. There was no proof that Katherine committed adultery. True, she confessed to having a sexual relationship before her marriage, but that can’t be classed as adultery. She would not confess to anything having happened afterwards, neither would Dereham or Culpeper; the case against Katherine was not proven.

      1. margareto says:

        hi Marilyn that’s interesting ,I did not know about no confessions from any of them and what about jane parker ,what happened there?

    2. margaret says:

      very true trevor.

      1. Margaret

        Jane said she THOUGHT Katherine did have sex with Culpeper, yet she also claimed to have been asleep when the two were together; I have no idea what she was all about!

        Culpeper admitted he thought he and the Queen would eventually become lovers, but that so far he had only touched her hand. It was assumed that because Katherine had taken Dereham into her service they had taken up where they had left off at Lambeth, but there doesn’t appear to be a confession to that effect.

        The behaviour of the Grand Juries that condemned them is the most sickening of all to me – but it’s easy to criticise from the distance of more than 450 years , and I wonder what I would have done in their unenviable situation, knowing the accused were a lost cause and my lone voice could do nothing about it – except make trouble for me..

        1. Dawn 1st says:

          Did Jane say that I wonder, because she thought this what they wanted to hear, or it make her look more favourable. I can never understand why Jane would sail this close to the wind concerning Katherine, considering what happened to her family, maybe she had become unstable in the down fall of the Boleyns. She too, must have been petrified.
          Culpeper too, what made him think he would ever get away with becoming the Queen’s lover, when you couldn’t even sneeze in that court without it being reported to someone. Was he so arrogant and cock-sure he thought he was untouchable, do you think, or plain stupid, its hard to fathom which.
          Maybe he was an adrenaline junkie, like the young ‘uns that do extreme sports today, because that’s as an extreme a sport you could get then I think, thinking he could climb into bed with a Queen, Henry’s Queen at that!! and survive…it’s baffling.

  8. Karen says:

    I really don’t think we should compare Anne’s and Henry’s relationship with Henry and Katherine’s. The situations that led to Anne and Katherine’s downfalls were different. Henry, while besotted with Katherine up until he discovered her indiscretions, had become disillusioned with Anne. I don’t think that because Henry reacted one way when he found about the charges against Anne and another way when he found out the charges against Katherine that he didn’t think they both were guilty. I believe based on what I have read that Henry did indeed believe Anne was guilty of the charges against her. The “partying” he did afterwards probably had to do with him feeling “cuckholded.”

    1. margaret says:

      agree with you Karen.

    2. Maya says:

      Very good point. Also, at the time of Anne’s downfall Henry was already in love with Jane Seymour and looking forward to marriage with her, whereas with Katherine there was no woman “waiting in the wings” for his consolation.

  9. BanditQueen says:

    When we visited in the 80s with the school, told all about the ghost and legend and so on, then went back in mid 90s and told as above that her escape could not have been as told due to placement of her chamber and that she did not know what was going on so it was not possible. In 2009 is not even mentioned and dismissed if you ask as just a legend. Catherine was locked in her rooms but that Henry had left and she just did not know anything for a few days. There are some photoes on YouTube I have heard that claim to be of Catherine’s ghost but they are most likely faked for a laugh and gor the tourists. I think it was mean not to tell her what she was being held for and to prepare her for the questions she would face. At this point it was not alleged adultery but about her past and she could have gotten out of it when asked about her promised marriage to Dereham.

    But, I do believe that when the full truth came out that Henry was genuinely devastated and wept for Catherine. He may also have felt a fool, but his wife was very young and he much older; and he cared for her. When faced with the seemingly growing evidence and accusations that she had slept with others, yes, I think he must have been both upset and humiliated.

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