9 December – Agnes Tilney, Catherine Howard’s step-grandmother, was detained and Sir Edward Neville was beheaded.
Posted By joelridg on December 9, 2021
In this day in Tudor history, 9th December 1541, sixty-four-year-old Agnes Tilney, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk and step-grandmother of Queen Catherine Howard, who was being detained at the Lord Chancellor’s home, was questioned regarding the location of her money and jewels.
Why? What was all this about?
Find out about this, why the dowager duchess ended up in the Tower, and what happened when she was indicted for misprision of treason, in this talk…
Also on this day in Tudor history, 9th December 1538, courtier and gentleman of the privy chamber, Sir Edward Neville, was beheaded on Tower Hill.
He had been condemned to death for treason, accused of conspiring against the king in the Exeter Conspiracy of 1538, along with members of the Pole family.
He was also accused of saying “The King is a beast and worse than a beast”, which is not a wise thing to be overheard saying in Tudor England.
Find out more about Neville’s life and downfall in this video…
2 thoughts on “9 December – Agnes Tilney, Catherine Howard’s step-grandmother, was detained and Sir Edward Neville was beheaded.”
Oh dear poor Agnes Duchess of Norfolk, she was an old lady and had seen her granddaughters great good fortune in marrying the king and becoming his consort, her family was bursting with pride they were now the most powerful in the kingdom, but with the deadly conversation of one member of her household to her brother, regarding the behaviour of her granddaughter the queen, now her family were being dragged into the mire with the frightening charge of treason hanging over their heads, Culpeper and Derham were dead, the queen was in the Tower and it looked like the duchess might soon follow, her rummaging through Derham’s coffers did not look good because it was obvious she was searching for something, and what exactly? Was she trying to hide evidence, misprision of treason was as deadly a charge as treason itself, had she known of the queens light living yet had ruthlessly pushed the queen into marrying the king, Lady Rochford was being attained for misprision of treason and the king was not in a very forgiving mood, in his anger he could readily decide to have Agnes charged herself, as it was she was extremely lucky, Audley reported back to the king that she was very poorly, he may have had some compassion for her and the old duchess was not to be convicted but she was sent to the Tower along with her stepson, at this point the grim old fortress was bursting with so many Howard’s in her cellars it was said there was not enough rooms for them all, Agnes was ruthlessly interrogated at the chancellors house, which must have been very frightening and stressful for her, she probably did fall genuinely sick, as sheer worry affects ones health, Audley wanted to know had Agnes known of the queens dissolute living, members of her household reported she had caught them romping once, and she had beaten them, but Agnes denied she had known of the nightly visits in the dormitory and to what extent Catherine’s and Derham’s relationship had taken, she was probably telling the truth, the duchess would not have known of the nocturnal feasts and love affairs that had taken place under her very roof whilst she slept, the ladies and men of her household had gone to great lengths to make sure she did not, and Agnes would not have stood for that and would have sent the women back to their own households, her sojourn in the tower must have been dreadful but she was released eventually along with other members of her household. the king was furious however with all of them, the Duke of Norfolk had tried to placate the king by criticising his niece and had left the court hoping his anger would cool, as for Agnes she must have thought of the old countess of Salisbury who had been the kings own relative, and who had been ruthlessly done to death because of his anger with her son, age did not deter him from carrying out due punishment, as it was Agnes on being released returned to her home where she lived quietly till her death, but she must have been haunted by the memory of her niece all her days, and how near she herself had come to following in her grim footsteps.
You have to feel sorry for old Agnes Tilney, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, yet you also get the feeling that the sneaky old lady was hiding something. It was thought that she had knowledge of the relationship between Kathryn and the men of the household, which she did. It was also thought that she had kept that from the King. Of course she had. Nobody knew Kathryn was going to be married to Henry Viii.
Yes as the head of the Howard clan, it was the duty of the present Duke of Norfolk to find Kathryn a place at Court. She would get to know people and find a suitable husband that way. It was both him and the Duchess who would have prepared Kathryn for Court and she had an opportunity in 1537 to join the household of Jane Seymour. Unfortunately, Queen Jane died and Kathryn had to wait nearly three years before a new Queen came along.
Kathryn and several of her relatives from the Duchess household where taken to Court in 1539 to join the new household of the Queen to be, Anna of Kleves. No, Norfolk was not plotting go put his niece on the throne, no the household did not resemble a brothel and no Kathryn wasn’t forced into the King’s bed. All of that is fiction. Now this doesn’t mean that once it was realised that Henry was attracted to Kathryn, that the Duke didn’t take advantage but he didn’t put her on the throne, Henry did.
Once it became clear that Henry may have other plans for Kathryn other than her being his mistress as it may have done in May or June 1540, when Henry was taking a night boat across the Thames in disguise, the family must have faced a fearful dilemma. I don’t believe for one minute that Norfolk knew anything about Kathryn’s past or he would have removed her from Court. You can’t be putting a little hussy in the royal bedroom as Queen, he would’ve thought. Norfolk wasn’t reckless. He was led to believe that Kathryn was pure and so she should have been. However, the Dowager Duchess knew what was going on. She had dismissed Henry Mannox and was glad to get rid of Francis Dereham. However, as the affair with Dereham was well and truly over before Kathryn came to Court, it didn’t appear to be an issue. Henry fell for Kathryn and then there was suddenly an issue. At this point it’s totally unclear as to what people knew and if Norfolk did know he then should have spoken up.
The old Duchess had a dilemma. Say something about the relationship with other men and she would ruin the chances of Kathryn being Queen. Say something afterwards and she was slandering the Queen, which was treason. Keep quiet and she might put the inheritance of heirs at risk, depending on the nature of Kathryn’s relationship with those men. The relationship with Dereham was problematic. Dereham felt as if he still had a claim on Kathryn and that they were promised in marriage. That would render any marriage to Henry invalid. However, Kathryn didn’t see it that way and as Dereham had gone to Ireland, that was the end of the matter. Why rock the boat? So the household pretended that nothing happened and that Kathryn was a lily white rose. Of course it all came back to haunt them.
Now with Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpepper arraigned and condemned, about to die, the Council and the King wanted to know if there was a conspiracy against him. If the old Duchess knew about Kathryn and Dereham, did she know if he intended to commit treason and adultery with Kathryn by going to live in her royal household? The poor Duchess was frail and in poor health. She was questioned on several occasions and had to be nursed into better health. Agnus admitted to removing money and things from one of the confiscated trunks of belongings but they wanted information on letters between the accused parties and if Agnus knew about the alleged adultery after marriage. It was a terrible ordeal and frightening. It went on all day and the poor Duchess was in some distress. She was key to building a case against Kathryn and so her interrogation continued, despite her poor health.