Interrogatories to be ministered to the Duchess of Norfolk concerning her and the Queen

Thomas Wriothesley
Thomas Wriothesley

On 4th December 1541, Thomas Wriothesley and William Fitzwilliam, Earl of Southampton, wrote to Sir Ralph Sadler, Henry VIII’s principal secretary, regarding a visit they had made to Agnes Tilney, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk and step-grandmother of Queen Catherine Howard. They reported that “she was not so sick as she made out, but able enough to go to my lord Chancellor’s” so they advised her to go to Sir Thomas Audley, the Lord Chancellor, because he “had some questions for her”.

The next few records in Letters and Papers are various drafts of “Interrogatories to be ministered to the Duchess of Norfolk concerning her and the Queen” and the questions to be put to the Dowager Duchess included:

  • “Upon what occasion she took Dereham to her service?”
  • “In what place he served, how long, and for what wages?”
  • “What reward she gave him, when, and for what respect?”
  • “Whether she ever showed herself openly angry with him for any matter?”
  • “Whether she rebuked Derham for haunting the company of Mrs. Katharine, when, where, how often, and why?”
  • “Whether she ever saw any evil behaviour or light fashion in Dereham towards Mrs. Katharine?”
  • “Whether any of her house reported familiarity between Dereham and Mrs. Katharine, and of what sort, and whether she heard that he lay in or upon the bed with her?”
  • “Whether she ever said, when asked for Dereham, “You shall find him an you look in the gentlewomen’s chamber,” and why?”
  • “Whether she knew of Dereham’s going into Ireland, by whom, and when?”
  • “Whether before going he made a testament and delivered or sent it to her?”
  • “Whether it declared Dereham’s affection for Mrs. Katharine?”

Thomas Audley
Thomas Audley
  • “How soon after returning from Ireland he resorted to her, and whether she asked where he had been and why he departed without, her knowledge?”
  • “Whether he sued to her to get him into the Queen’s service?”
  • “Whether she sued to the Queen to take him?”
  • “Whether Dereham since his coming to the Queen’s service has reported to her the Queen’s goodness towards him?”
  • “Whether Dereham has carried any letter or token between her and the Queen, and how often?”
  • “What communication she has had with Damporte concerning Dereham and the Queen?”
  • “What communication she has had with the Queen, since her marriage, concerning Dereham?”
  • “What word she has spoken or heard in the Queen’s chamber concerning Dereham’s departure to Ireland, or touching him or the favour the Queen bore him; especially whether she heard by any belonging to the Court, then or before, that Dereham went into Ireland for Mrs. Katharine’s sake?”
  • “To whom, and by whom, she has sent to know the cause of Dereham’s apprehension, and the answers she received?”
  • “Whether anyone told her that a precontract should be proved between Dereham and the Queen “and so the matter should do well enough”; and what she answered?”
  • “Whether she reported such matter of the precontract, and to whom?”
  • “Whether she has taken advice of learned men as to the force of the last General Pardon?”
  • “How long has she had that pardon in print, who brought it to her, whether she read it, when she read it, who was present, and what communication took place at the reading of it?”
  • “Was Dereham’s coffer opened with the key, or picked, or broken?”
  • “Who opened it?”
  • “Who was present, was it opened more than once, and who kept the key?”
  • “What was taken out?”
  • “How much money was found in it”?
  • “What writings?”
  • “What was done with them?”
  • “Whether all the papers were searched over at one time or more, and by whom, and what was the effect of them?”
  • “Why was the coffer opened, and the writings searched?”
  • “Was it locked or nailed up again?”
  • “At what time of the day or night was it opened?”
  • “How many coffers of Dereham’s were in her house, and how long?”
  • “Who kept the keys of them?”
  • “Whether she knew Dereham was accused for a traitor before she opened the coffer, and when and by whom she knew it.”

The Duchess must have been terrified!

Twenty-six questions were also put to Katherine Daubeney, Lady Bridgewater (the Duchess’s daughter), and Francis Dereham was also interrogated, although he and Culpeper had already been found guilty of treason at a trial at London’s Guildhall on 1st December 1541.

You can read more about the Duchess’s interrogation in Marilyn Roberts’ article “Katherine Howard, the Duchess and Norfolk House”

Notes and Sources

  • LP xvi. 1408, 1409

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7 thoughts on “Interrogatories to be ministered to the Duchess of Norfolk concerning her and the Queen”
  1. These are very detailed questions and I can only assume she must have been terrified by it all. I wanted to know, as I am not so sure about it as I don’t know enough of Catherine Howard’s early life, only by some fictional novels I have read. I am certain that some of it may be true and some not in these novels. If the Duchess was completely oblivious as to the conduct and behaviour of Catherine Howard during her time at the house. Also how aware was Catherine that her behaviour might cause her trouble? Was it a case of experimenting but naively thinking it wasn’t anything to worry about? I hope the above questions do not seen silly ones!!

  2. Recently read in a comment by one author that Tudor investigations were nothing if not thorough. It is not surprising that the poor old Duchess was ill and then regained some of her health and then was ill again; she must have been suffering from anxiety and stress and fear also makes you ill. You may make a brief recovery for a time, but if something happens to make the cause of the stress worse again, like being interrogated as above; then you will natrually be ill again, and her age would have made this even more acute. The number and the style of the questions are very searching; they are obviously looking for as much information to throw at the Queen, her lovers and the rest of the family as possible. The council seem very keen to find out if the Duchess knew anything more about the affair with Katherine and Dereham before her marriage to the King and if she had hid the girl’s past on purpose knowing of it. The terror would have been terrible and it is not surprising that the poor lady broke down and threw herself on her knees and admitted to having destroyed letters from Dereham. Even if she had done nothing and I think that she really was innocent in her dealings with Katherine who was a wild teenager who did as she pleased; under that pressure, with ill health and age and fear as factors, she would have admitted to anything; even if it was not relevant to stop the questioning. These three men where not the most gentle of men and there questioning probably would have gone on over and over again until they bullied the information they wanted from the Duchess and her family.

    The first few questions suggest that they did not have the evidence that they expected from Dereham and Culpepper and remind me of the sort of fishing expedition that police use when attempting to find out something that they have no real clue about. As they go on, however, they are more searching and it is clear they are acting on some form of information. Stating about the first early contacts between Dereham and Katherine while in the Duchess’s household and become more and more aggressive as they move onto the more recent and deeper relations with Katherine and how much did the Duchess know; did others also know and had she heard anything about his relationship with Katherine since. They are definately trying to get as much to use against the queen and justify their condemning Dereham as possible. They then get more and more hostile and it is terrible for the poor lady; having her papers and coffers looked into and her personal life and knowledge of things that she really had little idea about; asked of her whether or not she has any real information or not. A terrible ordeal; and this was only the start. The poor lady was eventually arrested, held and condemned and attainted for misprison of treason; faced with life imprisonment and was probably fortunate that Henry later related and she was released but only after several months when she did not really know what her fate was; heard of the arrest of other members of her family, and had to be told of the execution of her young (18/19) year old grand-daughter. And her health was greatly affected; she was after all in her 60s at this time; a good age for her times, her terror and grief must have been dreadful.

    1. That is not just some that is a lot! It must of taken a while inbetween question and response! They say that she was not so ill as she made out to be also! But she was quite old! Very interrogative! She must of felt like she was being interrogated and put on the spot with next to nothing a secret no privacy! I bet she felt releived when it was all over! Phew (sigh)

  3. That is not just some that is a lot! It must of taken a while inbetween question and response! They say that she was not so ill as she made out to be also! But she was quite old! Very interrogative! She must of felt like she was being interrogated and put on the spot with next to nothing a secret no privacy! I bet she felt releived when it was all over!

    1. It was terrible and the poor woman was genuinely terrified and personally I believe her illness was genuine. It was cruel and it was mean, but the state didn’t have time for sentiment when investigating treason, knowledge of treason and knowledge of crimes which could have been a threat. The Duchess was in charge of the household and she was an obvious target because Kathryn was her responsibility. That was why she was taken aside and questioned for so long but that was the ruthlessness of this regime. These men were under orders not to be kind and to do what it takes to get answers. The Tudors didn’t care, they put the state first and cruelty was the only way to get to the truth as they saw it. For example, did she know about Kathryn and her lovers? Why did she conceal this? Did she hide more than knowledge? It was a terrible experience for this old lady and I believe she was ill with fear, worry and stress. The interrogation would go on and on until she cracked so it was not just fear of the ordeal but of what came next and what happened if she was found to be hiding anything. In Tudor times you didn’t go to prison for perjury, you could suffer a much more severe, the same as a person who committed an actual crime. If you lied and condemned an innocent person you could serve their sentence, which may well be death. The King did intervene at times and reduce this to fines and flogging but more severe punishments awaited. Hiding something from the interrogation was also punished severely so the old ex Duchess and all of the women questioned had a lot to be in terror of. Her illness was taken seriously as she was taken and nursed before being questioned again. The state was cruel, the state was callous, the state was efficient and didn’t care.

  4. When the right to rule passes from father to son, it is essential that paternity should be unquestioned, so the moral character of the Queen must be unquestioned. Recall the fate
    of “La Beltraneja”, daughter of Henry IV of Castile, whose legitimacy was successfully contested by Isabella, and Edward, son of Henry VI of England, whose legitimacy was called into question by the Yorkists. Henry needed another son, one who would be unquestionably legitimate, as was Edward. Marrying Katherine off to Henry, knowing she was not a virgin, would be a serious situation. The old lady may have intended the best for her family, but she did poorly for the country when she allowed the marriage to go forward. Her position was unenviable and self inflicted – she failed to supervise the girl, and then warned no one about her situation before sending her to Court, nor did she speak up when it would have meant risking the King’s wrath once his fancy was taken with Katherine. None of the Howards behaved well, though it is possible the Duke was unaware of Katherine’s past.

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