November 6 – Henry VIII abandons his fifth wife, Catherine Howard

On this day in Tudor history, Sunday 6th November 1541, King Henry VIII abandoned his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, at Hampton Court Palace. Henry would never see Catherine again.

Also on 6th November 1541, a delegation of men from Henry VIII’s council visited Catherine at Hampton Court Palace and informed her of the allegations concerning her past that had been made against her.

Let me tell you more about what happened on this day in 1541…


On this day in Tudor history, Sunday 6th November 1541, Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife, was abandoned by her husband the king at Hampton Court Palace. She would never see him again.

Charles de Marillac, the French ambassador, recorded how Sir Thomas Audley, Lord Chancellor, and the Duke of Norfolk, who was, of course, Catherine’s uncle as well as being a prominent member of the king’s council, were at Hampton Court Palace that Sunday morning and that the king had “dined at a little place in the fields” near the palace “on pretext of hunting”. That night, he returned to London and met with his council from midnight “until 4 or 5 a.m. on Monday”. Marilliac went on to write that “These lords have been ever since in Council morning and evening, the King assisting, which he is not wont to do; and they show themselves very troubled, especially Norfolk, who is esteemed very resolute, and not easily moved to show by his face what his heart conceives. These things must be due to some object of great importance…”

Marillac explained how it was rumoured that the council and king were meeting regarding bad news from Ireland or news that Scotland was about to make war on England or even that “certain lords who have managed the finances” were about to get in trouble. He concluded that it must actually be about the king wanting to change his wife as he had heard that “the Queen is newly accused of being entertained by a gentleman while she was in the house of the old duchess of Norfolk, mother of lord William, and because physicians say she cannot bear children”. Marillac also recorded how Queen Catherine’s brother had been banished from court without reason and that men had been ordered to guard the queen and her ladies at Hampton Court.

By this time, the claims of John Lassells and his sister, Mary Hall, regarding Catherine Howard’s past relationships with Henry Manox and Francis Dereham had been confirmed. Dereham had confessed to knowing Catherine carnally many times. Her husband the king was devastated and certainly did not want to see his wife.

On the same day that the king abandoned his wife at Hampton Court Palace, Catherine received a visit from Archbishop Cranmer, Lord Chancellor Audley, her uncle the Duke of Norfolk, Charles Brandon Duke of Suffolk and Bishop Stephen Gardiner. They informed her of the allegations that had been made against her, but Catherine denied everything and would not be drawn into a discussion on it. It would be the next day that she would make a confession to Archbishop Cranmer.

According to legend, before Henry VIII left Hampton Court Palace bound for Whitehall, his wife managed to escape from her chamber and ran down the gallery to try and speak to the king who was hearing Mass in his chapel. The legend goes on to tell of how she was caught before she had chance to explain herself to the king and she was taken back to her chamber screaming. That is apparently why a ghostly form is seen drifting down the gallery, now known as the Haunted Gallery, with a “ghastly look of despair” on its face and making “the most unearthly shrieks.” In reality, as David Starkey points out in his book on Henry’s six wives, Catherine was unaware of her husband’s departure from the palace and what was going on. It’s a great ghost story, though!

Book recommendations: “Young and Damned and Fair” by Gareth Russell; “The Remains of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury”, collected and arranged by Rev. Henry Jenkyns, Volume 1 available at

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One thought on “November 6 – Henry VIII abandons his fifth wife, Catherine Howard”
  1. Poor little Queen Catherine, it must have been a very worrying ordeal for her when she saw the guards posted outside her door, as like in the case of that other tragic queen of Henry V111 she knew nothing of what was going on, and when she was confronted by the elderly kind archbishop the following day, she tried to bluff her way out of the accusations against her by indignation and a refusal to comply, they were mere rumours she must have said, she must have tried to sound convincing she was pretty and lively there were many who had found Catherine desirable, it was mere rumour, yet the day after, and she must have had a sleepless night, she decided to confess the truth about ‘ her past’ at her grandmothers house in Lambeth, she had been romping with Henry Manox, it was nothing just a mild flirtation he had been her music master, but she had slept with Francis Dereham they had called each other husband and wife, in Tudor times of course this meant that the couple had a legally binding contract and therefore she should never have married the king, her past made her unsuitable to be his queen and yet he had been unaware of this knowledge, she had deceived him, this according to the standards of the day rendered her to be a wicked immoral creature but in reality she was just an ignorant young girl, Sir Charles Marillac whom we have to thank for his information writes that the king was closeted with his council for long hours, having suddenly left his queen at Hampton court and folk wondered what was going on, threat of war maybe from England’s northern neighbour, trouble in Ireland , later he was to mention the rumours surrounding the queen which of course turned out to be correct, the chancellor Sir Thomas Audley who had also been responsible for the handling of Anne Boleyn’s trial and had also officiated at it, was along with Catherine’s perplexed uncle the Duke of Norfolk in deep discussions with the king and we can guess what form these discussions held, Henry V111 must have been shocked as when he was first handed the note from Cranmer about his wife’s goings on in her youth, he had then done what any king would have done, and ordered a full investigation, now he must have still been in a kind of denial, and the duke had had no idea about the laxity of his stepmothers household and must have thought that Catherine had acted like the well brought up lady she appeared to be, he had no idea of the midnight feasts that had occurred, the casual sex that had taken place between the young men and women who had been in the duchesses care, yet now he was in a very difficult position, and the memory of his other niece must have haunted him, what if Catherine was to go the same way?He must have tried in vain to convince the king that his niece was virtuous, as yet the meetings with Thomas Culpeper we’re unknown, the note found in his apartments had not been found which proved beyond doubt, of an association with him although adultery had yet to be proved, her death the following year was very sad and really one could argue caused by immorality, when Henry V111 left Hampton Court the sixth day of November 1541 and rode with his entourage back to London his heart must have been heavy, before he had not even dined at the palace but in a little lodging further away, as if he had wished even then, to distance himself from his queen, to us today it seems strange that a man confronted by rumours surrounding his beloved wife, would not wish to confront her himself and hear her explanation, maybe he was afraid of weakness, he did not wish her charms to bewitch him so that he might soften? They had had a triumphant tour of the north and everything in the kings life was rosy, now he had to come to terms with the fact that his fifth queen was not the person she had appeared to be, husband and wife were never to meet again, November sixth 1541 was effectively the day Catherine Howard’s reign as Henry V111’s fifth queen ended.

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