7 November 1541 – Queen Catherine Howard is in trouble

Portrait of an unknown woman, possibly Catherine Howard
Portrait of an unknown woman, possibly Catherine Howard
On 7th November 1541, Queen Catherine Howard received important visitors to her apartments at Hampton Court Palace, and they weren’t welcome ones. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and Catherine’s uncle, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, had been sent to interrogate the Queen and to arrange that she should be confined to her chambers.

Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, reported to the Queen of Hungary:

“On the evening of the 6th the Privy Councillors returned and stayed nearly all night deliberating in the King’s apartments, and then the day after, night and day, at the house of the bp. of Winchester, where it was resolved to discharge most of those who were at Hampton Court with the Queen, all coffers and chests being sealed and the doors guarded. Among others who remained inside the palace was the abp. of Canterbury, who has charge of everything.”1

As I mentioned in my previous articles on this event, Cranmer and Norfolk did not confiscate Catherine’s keys to her apartments, so she could move between her chambers and she certainly wasn’t confined to one room. However, it was ‘house arrest’ and that, combined with the fact that her jewels were seized, shows that Catherine was in big trouble. Realising this, Catherine burst into tears and became hysterical. Archbishop Cranmer recorded in a letter to Henry VIII:

“I found her in such lamentation and heaviness, as I never saw no creature; so that it would have pitied any man’s heart in the world to have looked upon her: and in that vehement rage she continued, as they informed me which be about her, from my departure from her unto my return again […]”2

The hysterical queen could not be interrogated and so Cranmer arranged to visit her the next day.

Notes and Sources

  1. Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 16, 1540-1541, 1328.
  2. The Remains of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, Volume 1, p307-308.

Related Post

11 thoughts on “7 November 1541 – Queen Catherine Howard is in trouble”
      1. Everyone in her family around her played, but she was the only one who paid. Those were the days of good Christians.

  1. Oueen Katherine Howard must have been worried, especially as Norfolk certainly was not known for his gentleness or tact, finding herself confronted by the council, her movements restricted, servants and jewels removed, not even knowing the reasons for such a state of affairs. However, if the accusations against her, which arose from the later investigation were true, she must have guessed that she had been rumbled. Even if she only worked out that someone had revealed her past to the King, she had cause to be afraid, wondering just what had been said and why she was not given a chance to explain. I find the taking of her jewellery the most significant, it was her demotion from Queen to commoner, not a good indication of the future.

  2. Yes I agree she knew that there was a likelihood of her trysts with Culpeper being known about, and her very hysteria revealed to Cranmer the extent of her guilt, if you know you have done nothing wrong your demeanour is calm even of course you know you are in a precarious position, the confiscation of the jewels does show the danger she was in I believe Cranmer felt very sorry for her and I think had Henry seen her also he would have been moved, I find it significant that he never did see her after her arrest just as he never saw Anne Boleyn again, did he fear he would succumb to pity and pardon these two Queens of his? He was King and could show no mercy this is what I think he believed, he could not afford to lose faith in front of the rest of Europe, but there’s also strength in showing mercy and had he shown any towards her I don’t think he would have appeared weak, but the personality change that occurred in Henry as he grew older had already taken root and of course, Catherine was doomed.

    1. I find Henry’s early attitude to be one of taking care in the investigation, he seems to have been sceptical of the accusations against Katherine Howard to do with her pre married life. He acts with caution, taking advice and getting Cranmer to find out the truth. Katherine was too upset to even speak, he has to visit her a few times before she talks about her lovers. Had this been all, she may have been set aside, shamed but a way out could have been found. Henry’s demeanour changed when it all came tumbling out in the wash, when Dereham accused Thomas Culpeper and Katherine of adultery, something which surprised everyone. Katherine must have been petrified, her life by then would be over, even if at this early stage, she is merely accused of mischief before marriage.

      1. Yes had she only been found of having a bit of a past before she married Henry he may have been ok with that as after all she was single and Henry may have realised it was due rather to the lax upbringing she had received, but after more probing a whole can of worms was opened and then the affair with Culpeper came tumbling out in the open, Henry couldn’t forgive that if we believe he thought that Anne Boleyn had genuinely betrayed him we can understand a little of his feelings in this matter of Catherine Howard as he must have felt he had been betrayed again by another well loved wife, his hurt and anger was terrible and even called for a sword to slay her who he had loved, I cannot understand this John Lassels coming forward in the first place and telling Cranmer about Catherine’s past, she hadn’t done anything to him but maybe it was his sister who was jealous of Catherine, maybe she had slighted her in the past and John Lassels was horrified by what she had told him, maybe he thought he was doing the right thing but in the end all it led to was another senseless butchery of a young woman and more men.

    2. I don’t think her “hysteria” can generally be taken as a sign of guilt. I’ve seen innocent people go mad with terror; in fact, I’ve seen more innocent than guilty people react that way, especially if they think they have no chance to clear their name.

      The myth that the innocent are calm is just that – a myth, and a potentially damaging one at that.

  3. Well she certainly was no innocent we can agree on. I think she knew exactly what she had done and that’s why she got hysterical. I still say she was too young to take her marriage vows seriously and didn’t take her “flirtation” with Culpepper any more seriously. When you combine that with being abused sexually at a young age I think it spells real trouble. Whether she and Culpepper actually engaged in intercourse or not, any pregnancy afterwards would have been suspect. So either way she was doomed. I feel both sad for her and understanding where Henry was coming from

    1. Women far younger than Katherine married and took their marriage vows seriously. You could marry at twelve and you were expected to be faithful as a woman. Youth was no excuse. Having said this, Katherine wasn’t meant to be Queen and when she had her consensual relationship with Francis Dereham there was nothing in her future to indicate she would marry Henry Viii. However, she would have married someone important and therefore technically she should have been a virgin as expected. A lesser husband may have overlooked this but Henry could not and any previous contract was valid if it was agreed and could make her marriage to Henry invalid. There is no evidence of abuse by Dereham, but by Henry Mannox certainly this was grooming behaviour.

      There was also no physical or eye witness evidence which confirmed any adultery, although Katherine and Thomas Culpepper acted recklessly and with a declaration that they intended to go further, well that was enough. This intention put the succession at risk as any child conceived could be passed of as an heir and that would be treason. The investigation had only revealed Katherine’s past, which doesn’t amount to much, but because women had to live like nuns, it did in the eyes of those around her.

      Katherine was young yes, probably immature as well, but it was not considered an excuse as other young women married from the age of twelve onwards and the same standards were expected of them. Henry could have acted better by informing his wife about the investigation, before sending Cranmer to question her. She was even more afraid because she had no idea and she knew what had happened to her cousin, Anne Boleyn. Cranmer had to reassure her several times and Henry ran away. I can see things from his point of view as he was sold a pure, high born, Howard bride and now the truth was out, but he seems incapable of understanding. I don’t believe he wanted to harm Katherine at this point as there was no accusations of adultery, but he must have felt as if he had been made a fool of and thus embarrassed and angry.

  4. Good mothers would have shown their daughters the secrets of the back door, rather than letting entrance through the front door, That gate should have been always closed and only opened with the blessing of the church.

Leave a Reply

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