Did Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard Ever Meet?

Jun4,2024 #Catherine Howard

Thank you so much to my YouTube channel member Sarah Fellows for inspiring this video.

Sarah asked if there’s any evidence that Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife, and Catherine Howard, his fifth wife, ever met. They were, after all, cousins.

I answer this question and explore the links between Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard in the video below. You can also read the transcript.

Transcript:

Thank you so much to channel member Sarah Fellows for the question that inspired today’s video. Sarah wanted to know whether there’s any evidence that Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife, and Catherine Howard, his fifth wife, ever met. They were, after all, cousins.

The short answer to this question is “no”. Sadly, there is absolutely no evidence that the cousin queens met. But let me tell you a bit more about the links between them.

Anne Boleyn, who was married to King Henry VIII between January 1533 and her execution in May 1536, was the daughter of Elizabeth Boleyn (née Howard), who was, in turn, the eldest daughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, by his first wife, Elizabeth Tilney. Catherine Howard, who was married to the king between July 1540 and her execution in February 1542, was the daughter of Edmund Howard, third son of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, again by his first wife, Elizabeth Tilney. He was Elizabeth Boleyn’s older brother, making Anne and Catherine first cousins.

However, Anne was born in the first decade of the 16th century, with historians arguing over 1501 and 1507 as potential birthdates, whereas Catherine wasn’t born until 1522/1523, so there was quite an age gap between the cousins.

Anne was on the Continent between 1512 and late 1521, but she was certainly back in England by March 1522, so she may well have attended Catherine’s baptism, which likely took place at St Mary’s Lambeth, a church which would later be the resting place of Anne’s mother, Elizabeth. Anne had been appointed to serve Queen Catherine of Aragon, so would have crossed paths with Catherine’s father, Lord Edmund, who was brought up at court, having served as a page to King Henry VII.

By Catherine’s birth, Edmund was heavily in debt, and things just got worse and worse for him. I think historian Gareth Russell is quite kind to him when he refers to him as “hapless”. He seems to have been a bit of a walking disaster when it came to money. And it was actually Anne Boleyn, his niece and the king’s sweetheart, who stepped in to help him. In 1531, she was able to get Edmund the office of Comptroller of Calais, following the death of the previous office holder, Sir William Hussey. This was a huge help for Edmund. He left for Calais and his household in England was broken up, as Catherine’s mother was already dead. Catherine was only 8 or 9 at this point, so she was sent to live with her step-grandmother, Agnes Tilney, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, who split her time between Lambeth and Horsham.

Catherine remained in the Dowager Duchess’s household until late 1539, when she was appointed to serve as a maid of honour to Anne of Cleves, who would marry the king on 6th January 1540. So Catherine wasn’t at court during her cousin Anne Boleyn’s time as queen. The Dowager Duchess is recorded as carrying Anne’s train at her coronation procession and was a godmother at Princess Elizabeth’s christening, but there is no record of her taking Catherine to either event. Perhaps Catherine was a spectator at Anne’s coronation procession, she would have been about ten at the time, so it’s quite possible she was taken, particularly as the dowager duchess was involved, but she would only have seen her cousin from afar.

There’s also no record of the dowager duchess taking her household to court for any other festivities, and Catherine’s father was in Calais the whole time that Anne was queen, so she wouldn’t have gone to court to see him. He returned to London for his sister Elizabeth Boleyn’s funeral, as he was chief mourner, and Catherine probably attended that, but that was in April 1538, nearly two years after Anne’s death. By the way, Edmund died a year later.

When Anne was executed in May 1536, Catherine would only have been about 13/14, and was safely away from court, but she must have overheard conversations about it. It was all shocking and her uncle, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, presided over Anne’s trial. Who knows what Catherine thought of it all, though?

There ARE links between Anne and Catherine, for example,

  • Their blood relationship
  • The fact that Anne helped Catherine’s father and so caused Catherine to be sent to the dowager duchess’s household
  • The fact that they both married King Henry VIII
  • And that they were both condemned for high treason and executed, and share a resting place, the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London

But it is unlikely that they ever met. Well, not properly, anyway. Sorry!

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One thought on “Did Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard Ever Meet?”
  1. It would be nice to think that they did meet but the difference in ages, Anne’s birth date if we believe was c1500, would have made her over twenty years older than Catherine, and though first cousins, they moved in different circles, whilst Anne was abroad and later, when she returned to court became heavily involved with the king, Catherine lost her mother Jocasta Culpeper as a baby and her father Lord Edmund Howard became quite impoverished, here we have Anne using her influence to help her beloved mothers brother, maybe at Elizabeth Boleyn’s request and Anne later did help many of her relations and friends, he was fortunate to become governor of Calais, so Edmunds departure meant young Catherine was thus sent to live with her grandmother where her unconventional upbringing sadly was to have dire consequences for her future, her father later re married and had several other children, whilst Catherine grew into a pretty fun loving girl with auburn hair and Anne Boleyn was steadily rising in favour with King Henry V111, eventually becoming his queen, had Catherine been born much earlier maybe she would have become one of queen Katherine’s ladies as was the lot of the daughters of the nobility, and they may well have become close but sadly it appears there are no records that tell us their paths ever crossed, Anne also had Irish cousins on her paternal side who she possibly never met either, although at one time plans were made for her betrothal to her cousin, and may well have become Countess of Kilkenny Castle, it is strange to know that Henry V111 did fall for these two cousins and later married them, although not so strange we suppose when many men and women do sometimes become attracted to their partners relatives, but it was strange and terrible that they both shared the same horrifying fate, there would have been talk in hushed whispers maybe that Catherine could not help to overhear when her cousins arrest and trial and particularly that her uncle presided over took place, her grandmother the dowager Duchess of Norfolk had indeed carried the queens train being a member of the premier family in the land after the king, but this she had to do as the Duchess of Norfolk had outright refused, Elizabeth nee Stafford Howard was no favourite of Anne as she was a friend of Katherine of Aragon, known for being a bad tempered hot head of a woman, Anne later gave her husbands mistress a place in her household, we can assume all this gossip young Catherine would have overhead and would have found it scintillating, as she grew older preparations for her also was to go to court where she confessed, everyone knew how much she desired it, sadly the fickle and cruel and merciless kings eye fell upon her and thus became the beginning of the end for Henry V111’s fifth queen, though Catherine Howard and Anne Boleyn never did meet, it seems their lives were inextricably linked first by blood, then by Anne awarding her father the post at Calais which meant his daughter was sent to live at Lambeth, had her father had her upbringing she may not have turned out the way she did with a certain lack of morals, their doomed marriageis to the same king and finally, sharing the same fate and resting place, Henry V111 cursed ever meeting them both and must have harboured resentment towards the Boleyn family and definitely the Howard’s who were incarcerated in the Tower for some time after.

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