Katherine HowardMarilyn Roberts, who has been working on a book on Norfolk House, has been kind enough to share the following article with us to tie in with the anniversary of the interrogations of the Howard family in December 1541.

Katherine Howard, the Duchess and Norfolk House

by Marilyn Roberts

It is 470 years ago this week that Katherine Howard’s step-grandmother, amongst others, was being interrogated as to the behaviour of the young Katherine at Lambeth before her marriage to Henry, and the part she, Duchess Agnes, had played in it. In the book Trouble in Paradise (which I hope to finish before the end of the year) I go through the interrogations on a daily basis, and 4th and 5th December are particularly significant. I thought your readers might be interested in a few of my notes.

Other news is that after studying excavation reports and other, very elusive, sources, I think I now know what Norfolk House in Lambeth looked like, and the archivist at the Museum of London I have been working with on the research on and off for the past couple of years is in agreement. So, in the New Year all will be revealed!

4th December 1541

Interrogators Sir Thomas Wriothesley and the Earl of Southampton require Sir Ralph Sadler to inform the King that they and Mr. Pollard ‘went this day to my lady of Norfolk, as if only to visit and comfort her. Found she was not so sick as she made out, but able enough to go to my lord Chancellor’s and so told her my lord Chancellor had some questions for her, and advised her to go… At that she began to be very sick again, even at the heart, as she said.’

Duchess Agnes boards her barge at Lambeth Stair, probably for the last time ever, and as soon as she passes Wriothesley’s house Mr. Pollerd (Pollard, an official of the Crown) leaves from there to put her Lambeth house in order; the same evening a Mr. Peter sets out for another of her mansions, this time at Horsham. Wriothesley ominously adds to his records that ‘tomorrow morning they will examine her’.

Foundations of the Duchess’s mansion lie below Norfolk Row, the Bell Inn, the Novotel and the headquarters of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain on Lambeth Road. There has been a Bell Inn here since Katherine’s time.

Is she aware, one wonders, that on 1st December Dereham and Culpeper had been brought to trial at London’s Guildhall accused of treason? Judgement on the two men, ‘To be taken back to the Tower and thence drawn through London to the gallows at Tyburn, and there hanged, cut down alive, disembowelled and (they still living) their bowels burnt, beheaded and quartered.’ They are to be kept alive a few more days for further ‘questioning’. Does the Dowager know this? Does Queen Katherine herself have any idea of what has taken place?

Guildhall, where Culpeper and Dereham were tried and convicted on 1st December 1541

Based on statements already extracted from others, thirty-seven questions are to be put to the Duchess: in what sort [of way] she did educate and bring up Mistress Katherine, and what change of apparel did she give her yearly? Who had told her that ‘the King’s highness did cast a fantasy to Katherine Howard the first time that ever his Grace saw her? What apparel and advice had she given the girl once she realised Henry was so besotted? What had she taken from Francis Dereham’s coffer [trunk] apart from the ballads to which she had confessed? (There were several different questions about the trunk, bringing the total to more than 37, and some of them she was asked several times in different contexts). Had she ever struck Mistress Katherine for her behaviour with Manox and Dereham? Had she rebuked Dereham? Had she asked her step-granddaughter to find him a position at Court (this is what the Queen herself had said already.) Had she ever said he could be found in the future Queen’s chamber? Had she caught Dereham and Katherine kissing? Did she know of a pre-contract between them? On and on it went, over and over the same old ground.

December 5th

The Earl of Southampton notes,
All things here proceed well…; my lady of Norfolk… hath so meshed and tangled herself that I think it will be hard for her to wind out again.

When they came for 64-year-old Agnes, ‘my lady of Norfolk’, where was she in that great house of hers with its fashionable glossy diaper-patterning in the red brickwork and the imposing mullioned windows with their leaded-lights? What part of the Novotel on Lambeth Road now lies where her valuable tapestries adorned the walls and her fine belongings were displayed? Wriothesley must have taken note of those on his visits! When had she last been for her stroll with her attendants in what amounted to her private kingdom that was Norfolk House and its environs, or busied herself in the kitchens supervising preparations for a banquet? Had she lately had the stamina to check on the laundrywomen, including the mysterious Besse who had apparently witnessed young Katherine’s wayward antics? How long was it since she last made preserves with fruit from her own gardens and orchards, or brewed her famous soothing concoctions so gratefully received by her poorly neighbours? Had she had the strength to cross the street to pray in the Howard Chapel in St Mary’s Church on this dreadful day? Or was she, after almost a month of persecution, already a mere shadow of her once great self and had suddenly become a frail old woman, truly sick at heart?

The small public recreation ground behind the Novotel is the only surviving part of the Duchess’s lovely gardens and extensive orchards where the young Katherine once strolled with her paramours; since her times it has also served as a burial ground.

P.S. Remember to check out day 6 of our advent calendar – click here

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