Did Thomas Culpeper have a brother called Thomas and was Catherine Howard pregnant?

May5,2021 #Thomas Culpeper

Thank you so much to Sarah from the UK for her questions regarding Thomas Culpeper’s brothers and sisters, and whether he really had a brother called Thomas Culpeper.

Sarah also asked whether Catherine Howard had got pregnant before her marriage and whether she got pregnant during her marriage to Henry VIII. Could she even have been pregnant on the scaffold?

Back in 2012, I started a book on Catherine Howard’s fall – which I will finish one day – so I’ve done a lot of research on Culpeper and Catherine. Hear my answers to Sarah’s questions, as well as hearing more about the two Thomas Culpepers and rumours of Catherine’s pregnancy in 1541, in this video:

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2 thoughts on “Did Thomas Culpeper have a brother called Thomas and was Catherine Howard pregnant?”
  1. It was quite common for siblings to have the same name, especially if one of them had died when little, and names do tend to run in families, with the Boleyn’s Anne was a particular favourite and other families have favoured certain names, that is why in one family you may get the eldest son called George or Edward, and this may continue for several generations, with Elizabeth 1st it is believed she was named after her paternal and maternal grandmothers, with the Culpeper family there were two branches and they shared a distant ancestry in another Thomas, so it was a popular name, but the men this family produced were not exactly of an admirable nature, Thomas the younger died through his association with the luckless Queen Catherine Howard after foolishly meeting her in the dead of night, and who declared he intended to do ill with the queen and she with him, we can see young Culpeper was not exactly blessed with brains, and he is said to have been confused with his brother who may have raped a gamekeepers wife, charming people! Aside from the two brothers exploits I have never heard rumours that Catherine may have been pregnant by Thomas or when she was condemned to die, but there is the tale that she believed she may have been pregnant not long after being wed to Henry V111, this turned out to be a false alarm, however after she was condemned to die, she would not have been executed if there was any inkling she was carrying a baby, it was strictly against the law and Catherine would have known because of the symptoms, even for a first time mother, the nausea the tender breasts the cessation of periods, and Catherine would have been aware because of talk amongst other mothers, those she mixed with when growing up and in her household, the reason why adultery amongst queens is a crime is because it endangers the royal succession, she could produce half a dozen bastards and pass them of as her husbands, in those days without blood testing and more importantly DNA, which was a medical breakthrough in the twentieth century, all people had to go on were family resemblances, and characters and maybe medical histories, there were some children Henry V111 was said to have fathered, one was a very handsome man called James or John Perott, tall and with a remarkable resemblance to the king he declared he was actually Henry V111’s offspring, he is also said to have fathered a daughter on a laundry woman, this child was called Ethelreda and she served the young Princess Elizabeth in the Tower, she was never acknowledged however by the king and neither was Perrot, the only bastard he acknowledged as his was Henry Fitzroy, Fitzroy used since ancient times means ‘Son Of The King’, Henry 1st in his lifetime fathered thirty children out of wedlock, all kings had bastards but queens had to be above reproach, pure virginal and a spotless reputation, Catherine Howard sadly failed in this respect, but she was not brought up to be the queen of any king and her family merely thought one day she would make a good marriage amongst the nobility at the court, the romping in her youth would not have seen so scandalous then, we have to consider her behaviour with Thomas Culpeper after she became queen, she was the highest lady in the land and chose to behave like a silly kitchen wench, meeting with her lover at night, all very well for a kitchen maid but not for a queen, she chose Lady Rochford as a go between to arrange the meetings, why she chose Jane is anyone’s guess whether it was because of the family connection, but Jane herself could not have been very happy, she had seen her husband and sister in law executed, she had been long at court, she knew how dangerous Henry V111 was and what Catherine was planning to do was totally reckless and in disrespect towards her husband, we will never know if Catherine did consummate her relationship with Culpeper but knowing her history, I believe she did, she had had a sexual relationship since very young and could have been highly sexed, she met with him many times and sent him a letter when he was unwell, in one of the lines you can clearly read the depth of her feelings towards him, ‘it makes my heart to die to think I cannot always be in your company,’ the plaintive longing is there and this note was found when Culpeper’s apartments were searched, Catherine if we are to believe she had full sex with her beau, must have been using some form of contraception, she herself said she knew of many ways how not to get pregnant, as sexually experienced women do, I think she would have been most careful so as not to fall pregnant, Henry V111 had a poor fertility record as he grew older, Jane Seymour only became pregnant after about a year, he was by the time he married Catherine on a downward decline in his physical health, though he was very happy with her and was said to have even lost some weight, they must have been sleeping together quite frequently, but he had periods when his legs pained him dreadfully and he absented himself from his queen for several weeks, during this time the queen really was left to her own devices and I believe she welcomed the break from her husband who quite possible repelled her, being about thirty years her senior Henry had long lost the charms he possessed in his youth, he was by now very overweight balding with wisps of white hair, the age difference was at fault in this ill matched marriage, although Catherine was obviously sleeping with Henry when he felt better, and he was noted as being very amorous towards her, she still did not fall pregnant so the king was finding it much harder to father children, and of course there was Jane Seymour who took a whole year to get pregnant, then of course she began meeting with Culpepper, who was possibly very fertile being young around her own age and healthy, so she would not have dared risk an unwanted pregnancy with him, so poor Henry V111, he would have loved a son by Catherine but in order not to get pregnant she was possibly taking contraception, because she was sleeping with her young lover, this is what I believe anyway, but the methods they used in Tudor times were very crude and maybe did not always work, but say Catherine and her beau were not having sex merely chatting kissing and cuddling, maybe with a few goblets of wine for fun, and after all they both denied going all the way, which of course they would have, why on earth did Culpeper then declare they both intended to sleep with each other? That was as tantamount as to saying they had already, was he so foolish as to think it did not matter, he effectively condemned them both, because the law decreed that intention was as bad as actually doing the deed, Catherine was not the kitchen maid but Queen of England, he appeared to have no respect for both her or the king who he served, he was extremely lucky that he escaped the awful death of hanging drawing and quartering, master Francis Dereham however her old love, was not so fortunate.

  2. A lot of things seem odd back then to us but for some reason we do indeed have two Thomas Culpeppers as brothers and either of them could have been the rapist and murderer. There is evidence to support both of them and we really don’t know for certain which one was the criminal.

    I personally doubt Kathryn was ever pregnant, certainly she didn’t say anything in her confession and she said she knew how to meddle with a man so as not to get pregnant. In other words she knew about contraception, oral sex and natural rhythm. She didn’t mention being pregnant before her marriage and the only time that she may have been pregnant was in May 1541 when Henry had neglected her. She announced it by running into a Council meeting and telling Henry in front of everyone. However, she was soon no longer pregnant and it may be that she was mistaken, acting in a spoilt manner or that she had a miscarriage. We simply hear no more than a comment that she was not pregnant after all.

    If Kathryn knew or believed that she was pregnant between November 1541 and her execution in February 1542, when she lived away from the King, then she certainly said nothing. She could have pleaded her belly and neen reprieved as it was against the law to kill an unborn innocent child. There are said to be some cases when it happened by accident but normally her execution would have been postponed. Kathryn hadn’t lived with Henry since 2nd November 1541 until 13th February 1542 and the last time she could have shared a bed with her husband may be October 1541. It was usually common knowledge for the King to visit the Queen and its not recorded. Kathryn may well have been inspected as this also might provide proof of adultery, but again we don’t really know. Its highly likely that by the time she was about to be executed, Kathryn would be showing an unlaced. I therefore doubt that she was pregnant at the time of her execution.

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