7 November 1541 – The queen is confined to her chambers
Posted By Claire on November 7, 2017
On this day in history, 7th November 1541, Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard, received important visitors in her apartments at Hampton Court Palace.
The visitors were Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and Catherine’s uncle, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, and they hadn’t come to exchange pleasantries or pass on a message from the king, they had come to interrogate Catherine and to arrange that she should be confined to her chambers. The investigation into John Lassell’s claims that Catherine had engaged in two sexual relationships during her time in the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk’s households at Lambeth and Horsham had proved them true, and now they needed to question the queen.
A heartbroken Henry VIII had left the palace the previous day and would never see Catherine again.
The queen was now under house arrest, with the doors to her chambers guarded and her jewels seized. Catherine burst into tears and became so hysterical that it was impossible to interrogate her. Archbishop Cranmer recorded in a letter to the king:
“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 […]”
He would have to return the next day.
Notes and Sources
- Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 16, 1540-1541, 1328.
- The Remains of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, Volume 1, p307-308.
7 thoughts on “7 November 1541 – The queen is confined to her chambers”
I can’t imagine the abject terror she felt as her entire world collapsed around her. I wonder if at this stage she truly thought her life might be spared or if she really knew what Henry was capable of.
She was acutely aware that she was in danger as she was told she was not allowed to leave her rooms on the express command of the King, according to several sources she was told it was no time for music, and music was what she was good at, she had burst into the court like a butterfly, dazzling the King with her joviality her love for life, her very youth had enchanted him, now she was in dire danger of losing everything because of what had happened in her past, she was never to see Henry again as Anne Boleyn before her, she must have felt doomed but Cranmer on questioning her was quite gentle as this was just an investigation but her very hysteria betrayed a guilty mind, when Cranmer informed the King of her state of mind he was unrepentant and although he must have wished to see her he could not allow himself to weaken, this was a serious charge against the queen and he was doing what he believed as a king was right, for now the investigation was in its early stages and there was a chance of having the queens name cleared, but the more people they spoke to, those who had been in the service of her grandmother and then Dereham, more dirty laundry was aired, Henry was hoping that it was just idle gossip, malicious tale telling but in face it was all true, devastatingly for Henry and he felt ill used, he said why was it his misfortune to have such ill conditioned wives, Norfolk was trembling in his boots and tried to distance himself from his neice whose abominable behaviour he abhorred as he told in a sycophantic manner to the King, the wheels were set in motion for the destruction of another queen, this one in her innocence had given fuel to her enemies the anti catholic faction, poor Catherine was so distressed yet she knew Henry had loved her and adored her and must have prayed she would overcome this, but sadly it was not to be Henry discovered that his wife had lied to him had deceived him, and when Culpeper was known to have met with her in secret he could not forgive, Lady Rochford was found to have encouraged her and they both put the blame on the other, both desperately trying to save their own skin, they all paid with their lives and Derehams death was dreadful but Henry hated him for ruining Catherine for him in the first place, that was his sin.
She was an abused child, she never even reached 20, Desperately sad
The evidence for Katherine Howard being abused is debatable. There is the case of her music teacher when Katherine was very young, about twelve or thirteen or possibly fourteen, as again the evidence of her date of birth does not help as it is unknown, but there are theories, which make her seventeen or fifteen when she married the King. Henry Mannox certainly abused her or at least groomed her by our standards, but there is still debate about this.
Her relationship with Francis Dereham may not have lasted very long but she was at least in her mid teens, not a child and she was well past the age of consent and marriage age for a sixteenth century young woman. This relationship was consensual, all of the evidence and other testimony agree with this.
When Katherine married the King she was not an innocent child and she was trained to run a large household. While there is no conclusive evidence that Katherine committed adultery with Thomas Culpepper, hiding a man in your room or meeting him late at night was not smart, it was dangerous. I don’t believe Katherine deserved to die and yes, as a young woman of nineteen or twenty at most it was tragic, but she wasn’t a child and more discretion would have been expected of her. This shows she was immature, even by the standards of the day, but certainly no empty headed fool as she is often shown, let alone a loose moralled temptress.
I believe children grew up quickly in those days as they were expected to marry and have children in their mid teens, today in school there’s love affairs but they are usually innocent with just a twelve or thirteen year old girl and boy calling one another girl and boyfriend, was Catherine abused by Henry Manox it’s very hard to say, Wilkinson in her biography says Manox himself could well have been just an immature lad himself without much sexual experience and that was why he was able to manipulate her, if he deed indeed do that, young boys are more sexually mature than girls yet lag behind in the behaviour department, I think Manox was just a daft braggart as young boys are and Catherine was just led astray, I get the impression she was too loving and as we have seen the women who shared her dormitory always had their lovers with them, drinking wine and eating strawberries which they bought with them, it does sound exciting when you imagine midnight feasts, little Catherine joined in as she would and thought it was ok to act like that, but that behaviour was storing up trouble for the future, she was a member of a noble family, one of the highest in the land and it was not acceptable in those days for a young girl of her background and breeding to behave like that, Dereham really was her downfall he had been a pirate in Ireland and when he joined her grans household he immediately took an interest in Catherine, her painting shows that she was an attractive girl with heavy lidded brown eyes and dark eyebrows with a wide possibly passionate ? mouth, her face is pointed and her colouring is auburn, it’s easy to believe she was the sort of girl who attracts men and she appeared to have a good personality to, she was fun loving and adored dancing, I don’t think she felt very strongly about Dereham but who can say, he could have just been a pleasant diversion when Manox left, I doubt even though they called themselves husband and wife it was just a game she was playing, Dereham could have taken it more seriously as I believe he was an opportunist, it would have bought him great advantages marrying a member of the Howard family but I doubt that would have been allowed, Catherine herself was aware of her noble birth she wanted to make a grand match, I doubt she seriously considered marrying Dereham who was far below her in station, I’m not sure about the abuse theory as noted, young girls did marry and have children at a very young age, Margaret Beaufort for one, whose pregnancy caused by her selfish husband when she was still only twelve ruined her health, now that’s a case I would call child abuse absolutely disgusting.
Yes, the abuse theory is very much a question of perspective. It is not, I believe a new theory, although of course it has been revived and revisited by Conor in his book and Wilkinson and Lucy Worsley virtually stole it and sold it as her own new research in the documentary earlier this year on the Six Wives. Henry Mannox was a blaggard, yes, good description, who took advantage of his young pupil. He was employed by her grandmother as her music tutor, one of two and he betrayed that trust. Yet it was Katherine who got the blame and she was chastised. Mannox was later dismissed but followed Katherine to the new house. He was a pest. He pressurised young Katherine into giving up favours and letting him touch her intimately and agree to meet him, but she did so reluctantly, according to her testimony. This was abusive and inappropriate. Katherine could have helped herself by reporting him, but she was somehow under his power and wanted to please him, which is what happens when children are groomed. Child abuse was recognised and prosecuted even then, but Katherine was just past childhood so this may have been different, I don’t know, but this was still an abuse of his position.
The relationship with Francis Dereham was very different. However, the information about this comes mainly from Katherine’s confession. There is no evidence that her confession was forced but there are signs that some of her response is as a result of stress, fear, hysterical justification, a need to explain and even hide what may be a guilty secret. In fact, to the contrary, her story was teased out of her after much reassurance due to the state Katherine was in, sick with fear. Henry had confined her to her apartments, restricted her movements and now he had abandoned her and the palace. She was given basic information about her new position but she was only confronted by Archbishop Cranmer and the members of the Council above afterwards, after a week in fact. She must have been thinking ‘what is this all about?’ Eventually Katherine gave her full version of the days back in her old household, which are also contradictory. When faced with the truth of her relationship with Dereham she claimed at first, as a first reaction, that he had constrained her, that yes, they had sex, but he forced her. This doesn’t follow when you read the rest of her testimony. She claimed that they had many encounters, that he brought her gifts, that they had parties and then consensual sex. She was with him for several months, they called each other husband and wife and Dereham believed they had a promise under canon law. Katherine for some reason, maybe because she no longer cared for him or due to his status and now that she was Queen she didn’t want him, denied any contract. She hadn’t seen their relationship in the same light. However, what she described was a gentleman courting a young lady with gifts and happy times in the maidens dormitory. It was not rape and this is born out by the witnesses of the other girls and that of Dereham. I don’t believe her relationship with Dereham to be anything but consensual. The problem was now she was Queen and she believed it to be over years ago.
Francis Dereham was a cad and he hoped to take up were he left of, but Katherine wanted none of it. He made a nuisance of himself in the company of Katherine, her ladies and gentlemen by boasting how he knew her and trying to flirt with her. He may or may not have attempted to bribe her about his knowledge but he was definitely an unsavoury character. He got into the face of another gentleman and ended up hitting him when the gentleman told him to be more respectful around Queen Katherine. He admitted he wanted to take up with her again but she had replaced him with another, not the King, but Thomas Culpepper. Now it is possible that Dereham was trying to protect his own skin and that it was a desperate outcry under extreme interrogation, but it shows that Dereham still had hidden feelings for Katherine and wasn’t too pleased that her heart belonged to another. Despite this, there is no evidence that he took up with Katherine as Queen and his place in her household is ambiguous.
The testimony of several ladies in her two households gave evidence that Katherine and Francis Dereham had a consenting relationship. Some of the same women knew also of her meetings with Culpepper during the Northern Progress and before, but they didn’t arrange those meetings. It was Jane Rochford who took most of the blame and she too was executed with her mistress.
Katherine had the capacity to be generous and to be a good Queen and a good friend, but she also had the capacity to be sly and to make threats. It was this latter unfortunate quality which she used on her ladies if they questioned her late night stupidity. It is possible that she tried to use this deceit and slyness in order to avoid her possible fate and the consequences of hiding her past. At this point it was unclear just what was going to happen but Thomas Cranmer assured her that Henry intended to show mercy. Until her alleged adultery came to light this was, I believe, a genuine offer.
Yes I believe he would have shown her mercy had she agreed there had been a pre contract between her and Dereham, as that was not a sin but what looked dodgy was when after investigation it was found he had joined her household, that inferred that she could well have had feelings for him, although the reality was she thought he was a pain, and being the type of man he was he mentioned Culpeper, Dereham was hoping to carry on with the queen where he had left of I reckon, I think the Tudors portrayed him well, immature rude and thought himself something special, when he discovered Culpeper was in the queens favour he out of sheer spite and jealousy mentioned him, Catherine should have agreed to Cranmer there was a contract between her and Dereham but as I said before, she possibly was just playing a game, and she had outgrown him and moved on, it was in the past and she hoped it was buried, now she was queen she did not want to lose that high position although I believe she found her royal duties stifling at times as a young merry girl would, she loved the prestige it bought her, and being feted and so forth, she could not have enjoyed sleeping with Henry but I think she was a good actress and hid it well, then when it was found she had met with Culpeper in secret that was the end as far as Henry was concerned, adultery in a queen was unacceptable, it endangered the royal succession and although there was no actual proof of it meeting in secret in the dark alone was what lovers did, poor poor Catherine, maybe they hadn’t actually slept together but she was young and hot blooded and Culpeper was just a man, today we would think the same what Henry and his councillors thought and what the whole court thought five hundred years ago, we would come to the same conclusion, they were attracted to each other and they had slept together, then there was the note she had written him which was found in his apartments, it sounds like it was written from a lovesick girl, no matter how many times she pleaded she had done no wrong her very behaviour implied otherwise, and then Culpeper who sounds a right idiot like Dereham actually stated they meant to have an affair, he was in a highly favoured position with the King, being groom of the stool and Henry was known to be fond of him, I think we do tend to sympathise with Catherine’s predicament more than Henrys because she was a young woman and she lost her life when so young, we know in her youth she had not had proper guidance and been led astray, wether or not she was abused is open to question but she was painted as an evil vile woman who had openly deceived the King her Lord and master, in order to manipulate him into marrying her, she was painted as a wanton seductress and had not respected her position by indulging her filthy lusts even after she was married, all of which was not true, she was foolish yes but not evil and it sees to me she genuinely loved Culpeper, I believe she was very fond of Henry who had always treated her well and she knew this, as Bq mentions she was a good queen and tried to do her best for those less fortunate than herself, she had parcels of food and warm clothing taken to the Countess of Salisbury who was in the Tower and this shows a caring nature a generosity of spirit, her death whilst she was not quite twenty was dreadful but here we have to take Henrys feelings into the equation to, he was the injured party and was devastated when he learnt of his queens behaviour, he was depressed for a whole year after her death and although with his previous queens he acted shamefully maybe we can reserve a shred of sympathy for the old Bluebeard in this, his fifth queens tragedy.