November 6 – Henry VIII abandons his fifth wife, Catherine Howard
Posted By Claire on November 6, 2022
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 https://archive.org/details/remainsthomascr01jenkgoog/page/n5