8 November – A king’s troubled conscience and a queen is interrogated

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

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On this day in history, 8th November 1541, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer returned to Hampton Court Palace to interrogate Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife and queen. He had wanted to interrogate her the previous day, but she had been hysterical.

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One thought on “8 November – A king’s troubled conscience and a queen is interrogated”
  1. Katherine Howard made a full and frank confession, although her letter to Henry is obviously prepared for her. Thomas Cranmer showed compassion and common sense when Katherine became hysterical and could not take what he was saying about the severity of the trouble that she was in. He realised that kindness would have more of a result and he was authorised to offer mercy if she told him the truth. Rather than threats he used assurance and a gentle tone to calm Katherine’s fears and she opened up. Her confession is moving and tender and we get a rare glimpse into the life she had at Horsham and Lambeth. From this confession we gain most of our information about Katherine and Francis Dereham and her late night parties. It is a window into a happier time, but one which messed up her future.

    Katherine had no idea that she was going to be Queen and all of this must have appeared inconsequential to her and her fellows. In the normal course of events a marriage would be arranged and she could hope to put all this behind her. However, when the King became that husband hiding even a meaningless relationship was dangerous and impossible. By having some of her earlier contacts in her household, Katherine always ran the risk of gossip and her former relationship coming to light. There is always someone who cannot keep their big mouth shut and once Mary Hall informed her brother, John Lascells it was his duty to come forward. Henry needed the truth and here we hace it from Katherine herself.

    One of the interesting things is the mention of Thomas Culpepper. Now she was not talking about her relationship during marriage but the fling she had with him before she married Henry. They knew each other well and they were related. Katherine was attracted to him, but of course she tried to put that to one side early in her marriage to Henry. However, the time spent away from her husband was too much and as Culpepper offered a shoulder to cry on she enthusiastically responded. It must have been a head rush, finding the place to meet, bringing him there, taking him back, hiding him when Henry sent his Chamberlain to announce he was on his way, almost getting caught. It’s a wonder that Katherine had any energy left for dancing and life at court. She may not have been having sex but she was certainly acting with reckless disregard. The interesting thing here is the mention of Culpepper opened up a new line of enquiry. When Francis Dereham also cried out that he had been replaced by Culpepper, the man to link everyone, it was suddenly realised that Katherine may have been up to more than premarital sex. Up to now nothing she had confessed was a crime and it all happened before her marriage to the King. However, it may mean her marriage was not valid.

    I honestly believe Dereham felt more about his relationship with Katherine than she did. Katherine was a Howard and there was no way she would marry him. They called each other husband and wife, but Katherine thought of it more like a game. Dereham believed they had a contract under canon law to live as husband and wife. He came back from Ireland to claim her, but Katherine had moved on, this time to Culpepper. The movement of Dereham into her household and her two previous relationships now made it look as if both men wanted to take up with Katherine. A deeper investigation was called for.

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