8 November 1541 – Catherine Howard and “the grievousness of her demerits”


catherine-and-cranmerAfter abandoning the idea of interrogating the hysterical Queen Catherine Howard on 7th November (click here for more on what happened), Archbishop Cranmer returned to the Queen’s apartments at Hampton Court Palace on 8th November 1541 to interrogate her.

Cranmer reported to Henry VIII that he had intended to question her severely, “first, to exaggerate the grievousness of her demerits; then to declare unto her the justice of your grace’s laws, and what she ought to suffer by the same”, but that she was in such a state that “the recital of your grace’s laws, with the aggravation of her offences, might peradventure have driven her unto some dangerous ecstasy, and else into a very frenzy.” He therefore changed tactics and treated her more gently.

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Also on this day in history, 8th November 1528, King Henry VIII made a public oration to “the nobility, judges and councillors and divers other persons” at Bridewell Palace to explain his troubled conscience regarding the lawfulness of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Click here to read more.

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3 thoughts on “8 November 1541 – Catherine Howard and “the grievousness of her demerits””
  1. Katharine was clearly very upset but she still made a moving and frank confession. It is clear that her relationship with Francis Dereham was wholesome and consensual. It was that of a young woman and a young man courting, having fun and enjoying a lot of parties and late night suppers with their friends. Katharine had a different take on what Francis meant by calling her wife, but it seems he believed that their innocent pillow talk equalled a promise to marry. At this point the Confession only concerns her pre marital sex, there are no charges of infidelity at this point as Culpeper has not yet been put in the frame.

    The letter to Henry, while very humble and frank, seems to have been prepared by Cranmer for Katharine to sign or copy and sign. She was not in any state of mind to write such a long, full letter, she was not very calm, had to be comforted, was confused and afraid. She was crying. Cranmer could fo little with her but assure her of mercy.

    1. I completely agree with you. I know that some people have the theory that Dereham raped or abused Catherine, but her bedfellows and other dorm mates did not suggest that, it sounds like Dereham and Catherine were lovers and expected to marry. Their sexual relationship was based on that intention, I think.

      1. I wonder if they would have married in secret had Dereham not left for Ireland. I agree, Claire, he hoped that she would be waiting. Instead Katharine gained the greater prize when she became Queen. I don’t quite know what she saw in Henry but she found that he was kind to her, offered her and the Howard family power and prestige and he could still look magnificent and impressive. Henry cared for Katharine, courting her and showered her with gifts. She did not do too bad a job as Queen, but alas some people could not leave things alone and she also fell in love with someone else. We don’t really know if she had a sexual relationship with Culpeper, but meeting in strange, secret places late at night, very suspicious. Wine and strawberries in the dorm sounds more like fun than rape, I completely agree.

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