Thank you to my dear friend Teri Fitzgerald for writing this guest article on Katherine Howard and her portraiture. Here is an excerpt and you can read the rest if you open or download it as a report using the links at the bottom. Over to Teri…

In his meticulously researched and thoughtful biography of Katherine Howard, Young & Damned & Fair (2017), Gareth Russell brings to life Henry VIII’s young queen: she is attractive, likeable and at the same time startlingly reckless.

In July 1540 when Katherine Howard, niece of the Duke of Norfolk, gave her hand in marriage to Henry VIII, she was already pledged to another man. It would come as a devastating blow to the king, by now well past his prime, to discover that his lovely young bride was not the jewel of womanhood he believed her to be and that his marriage was invalid.

In late 1541 an investigation established that the Queen had been involved with three men both before and after the royal marriage: first with her music master, Henry Mannock followed by Francis Dereham in the household of the dowager Duchess of Norfolk, then Thomas Culpeper, a gentleman of the privy chamber, replaced Francis Dereham in the Queen’s affections.1

[Dereham] “kept the lady from the time he violated her at the age of 13 until 18.”

From his despatch to Francis I in December 1541, it appears that although the French ambassador, Charles de Marillac, had been informed of the queen’s age, the time frame of her alleged misconduct, as well as the involvement of Dereham and Culpeper, he was apparently oblivious to the ‘furtive fondling’ of Henry Mannock when Katherine was, in her own words, ‘but a young girl’.2

Click here to carry on reading and to download Teri’s report as a PDF.

Click here to see the List of Figures which gives more detail on the portraits and images.

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19 thoughts on “Katherine Howard (1524-1542): A Queen’s Jewels”
  1. It is actually debated whether Katherine was pledged to another man when she married Henry VIII. Some historians have suggested that she did not willingly consent to Dereham’s advances and this meant that, according to canon law, the two were not in truth man and wife. The Church required both partners to freely consent to the vows. If Katherine did not consent to Dereham’s sexual advances, then she would not have regarded herself as his wife. I am not saying I necessarily agree with this, but I am saying that it is a question of debate and we can only speculate.

    I myself have written an essay about Katherine Howard’s probable date of birth that can be read on the On the Tudor Trail website. I personally believe that she was born in about 1523. The Chronicle of Henry VIII is not a reliable document and, moreover, it conflates Katherine’s arrival at court with the death of Jane Seymour, that is it dates her liaison with Henry to about 1537-8. Therefore, in identifying Katherine as being about fifteen, the writer was surely suggesting that she was born circa 1522-3.

    Moreover, Katherine could have been born on, or near, St. Katherine’s Day, which falls on 25 November, and have been named for the saint (although this is purely speculation). There is also evidence that she began receiving music lessons from Manox and Barnes at the end of 1536, which could have coincided with her thirteenth birthday – but again, speculation. Either way, a birth date of earlier than 1522 is probably impossible, and it is almost certain that she was not born as late as 1525.

    My book discusses Katherine’s portraiture in detail. The Toledo portrait, with versions at Hever Castle and The National Portrait Gallery, probably depicts Lady Elizabeth Cromwell, but Gareth Russell also makes an interesting suggestion that the sitter could be one of the Brandon sisters, perhaps Frances. The portrait at the Metropolitan Museum of Art could be of Katherine, because it dates to c1540-45 and depicts a highborn, wealthy and attractive young woman in lavish costume. There were few women at court of the required status to be depicted thus.

    1. Conor., I think we’ll all be debating about this for some time! That Mannock took advantage of Katherine is debateable. With Dereham, there were too many witnesses in the maiden’s chamber who knew what was going on.

      Completely agree with you about her year of birth: 1523/4 is most likely: 1522 is too early and 1525 too late. Yes the Spanish Chronicle is often unreliable, but every now and then he gets it right. I read his comments as meaning she was fifteen when the king first set eyes on her and precisely when that was is open to interpretation.

      I’ve read your fine articles on Katherine’s age and her possible portraits as well as your book and found them well researched and helpful although we disagree on some details including the MMA portrait. I’m writing an article on the Toledo portrait at the moment

  2. Great article!

    I will point out that the necklace Jane Seymour wears in the Kunsthistoriches Museum is actually not the same as that worn by the sitter (commonly identified as Katherine Howard) in the 2 Holbein miniatures.

    The necklace that Jane has on consists of diamonds, seen as black colored stones, set in gold quatrefoils. Medieval and Tudor diamonds were cut differently from those of today and reflected light less brilliantly. The diamonds match those in her IHS (that is ‘Jesus’) brooch, and those in her collar and in her gabled good.

    On the other hand, Katherine wears red rubies set in gold between the quadruple pearl clusters.

    As well, the pendant hanging at Jane’s neck is of a ruby and a diamond (again depicted as black). Katherine’s pendant is of ruby and an emerald. This is almost certainly the one described in her inventory of jewels as ‘an ooche (pendant) of gold enameled, containing one very fair Balas (a ruby that is) and one emerald with a very fair pearl hanging at the same’. (‘Lost Faces’ exhibition catalogue, pg. 113, item 9).

    Despite the differences in the gemstones used, the 2 necklaces and the 2 pendants were probably conceived together because of the similarity of their design.

    1. Thanks Roland!

      The point about the necklaces was that the design was the same: quatrefoils of pearls alternating with diamonds and/or rubies set in gold. By the way, thank you so much for posting the portrait of Katherine of Aragon wearing the necklace on your blog and drawing my attention to it!

      My comments about Jane Seymour’s ruby and emerald pendant referred to fig. 27, the Mauritshuis portrait.

      The necklaces my have been designed for Henry VIII’s first wife and the pendants for Katherine Howard.

  3. About the 2 Holbein miniatures, Susan James (who has written extensively on Queen Katharine Parr) wrote an article in ‘The Burlington Magazine’ a few years ago claiming that the sitter was actually Margaret Douglas, the mother of Henry, Lord Darnley.

    Her argument, essentially of an apparent resemblance between the Holbein sitter and pictures of Margaret, has not gained much acceptance.

    The 2 miniatures are still – probably correctly – identified as most likely being of Henry VIII’s 5th Queen.

    1. If there is any resemblance between the youthful sitter in the miniatures and portraits of Margaret Douglas, I don’t see it. Wasn’t Margaret Douglas twenty-five in 1540?

      1. There was no queen between October 1537 and January 1540, as Susan James points out: a gap of two years. This portrait could have been painted during that time, and I believe that James argues that it may have been painted in the winter of 1538, when Margaret Douglas’ hand was sought in marriage by a foreign power. She argued that the nature of the costume suggests that the portrait was painted in the winter.

        Mary, Lady Monteagle has also been suggested as a possible candidate, because queens did lend jewellery to their ladies, and Jane Seymour is known to have lent some of hers to Mary.

        So: is the miniature a portrait of Katherine? Probably it is, but we do not have much else to go on, and there are no contemporary descriptions of Katherine’s appearance apart from the suggestion that she was small and slender. We do not know her hair colour, her facial structure, her eye colour; so any portrait attribution is likely to be speculative.

  4. Thanks for the download. I have only had time to view the portraits very briefly but it is wonderful to see an article that also looks at the status and jewellery of Katherine and other highborn ladies.


  5. Just to say that Teri has edited her article to clarify some things so I’ve updated the PDF that you can download, so do download it again.

  6. The sitter in the portrait has light chestnut hair and possibly hazel eyes, Catherine has often been referred to as having auburn hair and brown or hazel eyes, also she has been described as a ‘very little girl ‘ the Tudors were shorter than the modern person by several inches and therefore for Catherine to be described as such means that she must have been shorter than average, possibly she was only about four foot twelve to five foot, wether it is Catherine or not the sitter is very richly dressed and the jewels are sumptuous befitting of Royal status, the face has a slightly cheeky expression and there seems to be a smirk on the lips, a young girl who looks aged around sixteen to twenty in my view anyway.

  7. Figure 18 is the famous portrait once identified as a Holbein used to argue that Katherine was born in 1518 as the sitter, once identified as Katherine and I know this as it was an art project I had to look at in 1980. Annoyingly art was compulsory as an option, so my drawing of Katherine from the Holbein in a book by Neville Williams, was not the best attempt you have ever seen. ( Mythology and horrible green masks which my tutor displayed as a central feature on open night, maybe). My Katherine Howard was passable at best…but fortunately that wasn’t the point of the exercise. Even then, studying it closely you can see it’s not like other alleged portraits, the sitter is far too mature and is at least 23 years old. The lovely drawing of Katherine by Holbein dates from 1540 at the time of the marriage and if it’s disputed, then sorry, I beg to differ….although this is not an expert view its mine and as I am not a qualified art historian with 16 phds as well the art world would think my view nonsense. However, it has long been held to be Katherine and only disputed recently.
    I know that there are many papers on Katherine and her date of birth but 1523 is the most acceptable due to evidence about her sisters, her own testimony and her education. 1522 I believe to be another possibility, but 1524 and 1525_are out of the question. I don’t believe her liaison with either Mannox or Dereham lasted more than six months at the most and the evidence of the Ambassador is questionable. For one thing he believed her relationship with Dereham was from 13 to 18, unless he means between those dates and this includes her possibly reviving her relationship after her marriage. This time span is not possible as Francis Dereham broke it off and went to Ireland for some considerable time. The same Ambassador also identified Anne of Cleves as 40. He did identify Katherine as 18 when he knew her best and her household, which is far more accurate as he did know Katherine well. A portrait in the Cromwell household has been dismissed as being Katherine because why would you have a portrait of someone other than your family…so it has to be Elizabeth Seymour, wife of Gregory Cromwell. Well, yes, but it shouldn’t preclude the possibility. At the time it was painted 1539 Katherine was going into service with Anne of Cleves and Henry was attracted to her. Even if the family were falling out of favour, why not have a portrait of the future Queen in your collection? The shape of the face is very different, however, plus it does seem more likely to be Elizabeth Cromwell. I have to point out that two others identified as from the workshop or possibly by Holbein are close to his drawing. The portrait in the Metropolitan Museum, although very possibly Katherine aged 17, arrayed richly as a lady about to be Queen, especially with that set of full rich lips, pouty mouth and wealthy clothing, again her facial shape is totally different to identified Holbeins long believed to be Katherine. The age and dress and eyes, however, do look like a young woman preparing to become Queen. In any event, the jewellery and wealthy costumes show women of very high status and family wealth at the time of sitting. It’s a fantastic subject matter and wonderful article. Thank you Terri for such excellent research and this beautiful article.

    1. In her testimony, Katherine stated that her relationship with Dereham began in late 1538 and was over by the spring of 1539 (in her words, almost a year before Henry VIII married Anne of Cleves in January 1540). So their relationship probably lasted four or five months, but evidently it was serious enough that there were rumours that they were precontracted to one another. The liaison with Manox is open to debate but he was appointed her music master probably in late 1536. Whether they became involved only the following year, we do not know.

      Gareth Russell has suggested that the Toledo portrait, of which three versions survive, might be a portrait of Frances Grey, mother of Jane. Other proposed sitters include Mary Tudor (the future Mary I), Margaret Douglas and Elizabeth Cromwell.

    2. I don’t think a birth date of 1525 is completely out of the question. The evidence of family wills indicates that Katherine was not yet born in the summer of 1523, but was definitely born by the spring of 1527. The first will did not refer to either herself or her sister Mary, but the later one did. To me, this suggests that both girls were born after 1523 but before 1527. Contemporaries did refer to Katherine as a ‘young girl’ and maidens could serve at court from the age of thirteen. Thus Katherine could have been only fourteen or so when she was appointed to serve Anne of Cleves, although I tend to believe that she was probably sixteen.

  8. The Toledo portrait is certainly of a lady a few years older than Katherine, but her rich clothing point to a high born lady. Mary Tudor and Elizabeth Seymour are about the same age if the latter’s dob is correct and Cromwell was the most important official in England at the time of the sitter being painted between 1535 and 1540. In 1535 Frances Grey was 18. She was also married and as the daughter of the current Duke of Suffolk and granddaughter of Henry Vii, she was one of the highest status women in the country. Frances has been misidentified before, but was a tall and elegant, sophisticated woman, qualities conveyed in this beautiful portrait. All three ladies would be excellent candidates, but it probably isn’t Katherine Howard as Gareth Russell confirms because it was used to make her birthday much earlier and was painted in circumstances that push her out of the ratings. Gareth also points out interestingly that looking for a portrait of Katherine is like looking for a needle in a haystack….impossible. I am not sure I agree that Katherine never had her portrait done, because as Queen she would certainly have been painted. The question is one of survival. Did a portrait of Katherine Howard survive? It was assumed that all the contemporary images of Anne Boleyn were destroyed on the orders of Henry Viii, but two may have survived, a medallion and a sketch. Henry was pretty infuriated after Katherine as well, so it’s not unreasonable that he may have destroyed all of her portraits. But what about private collections? Prestigious reputation could dictate who you had in your collection. As Gareth Russell has said today we romantically may want a portrait of Katherine Howard rather than the lesser known Elizabeth Cromwell or Duchess of Suffolk. However, at the time you wanted to be associated with rising stars, people who had the most status, present and future King or Princess or with people of beauty and reknown as well as family members. Even if you owned a Katherine Howard, once she fell from grace, unless to put it in the family vault, you may well remove it. Of course miniatures or certain artists were sought after by the seventeenth century, so its not surprising that a miniature by Holbein thought to be Katherine came up for auction in 1632. Of course we could not use modern analysis back then so romantic thinking may have identified numerous portraits incorrectly. The Victorian era and early romantic era of the 20th century have identified portraits as Anne Boleyn or Katherine Howard or Lady Jane Grey because we need to do so.

    Up until two years ago no true portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie had been identified. Even the ones in the National Gallery of Scotland and England have been misidentified. They are actually of his younger brother, Henry. A portrait was traced to a private house in Aberdeen and in the archives they found a portrait and its long history. The portrait was identified by four leading experts and is now officially on show as Bonnie Prince Charlie. David Starkey recently gave us a very different portrait of Lady Jane Grey. Portraits of Jane Grey are now said to be Katherine Parr. Gareth calls it Tudor Stuart musical chairs as far as identified likeness of them goes. Who knows, Henry Viii may turn out to be Francis I lol. At least he made certain we know what he looks like, at least in his 40s. The portrait of Henry aged 17 looks more like his 15_years old brother Arthur. This was an era when portraits were meant to be as good as a modern photograph. How have we gotten everyone so mixed up? So much for using portraits as evidence.

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