Queen Katherine Howard: The Royal Stepmother – Guest Article by Conor Byrne and Giveaway

Katherine HowardToday I’m delighted to be the first stop on Conor Byrne’s virtual book tour for his biography of Katherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Katherine Howard: A New History. Over to Conor…

Henry VIII’s children were accustomed to having stepmothers. Mary, daughter of Katherine of Aragon, had five stepmothers; Elizabeth, daughter of Anne Boleyn, had four; and Edward, son of Jane Seymour, had three. Katherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII, was their youngest stepmother by some distance. When she married the king in the summer of 1540, she had probably not yet reached her seventeenth birthday.1

The principal duty of the queen, as Henry VIII’s reign infamously demonstrates, was to bear sons, but his wives were unique in that all of them, except Katherine of Aragon, had stepchildren to contend with. The experiences of Henry VIII’s wives as stepmothers differed substantially. Anne Boleyn experienced a notoriously volatile relationship with her stepdaughter Mary, although most historians have dismissed the Spanish ambassador’s allegations that she poisoned her and desired to kill her.2 Jane Seymour’s queenship has been interpreted by historians as less active than that of her predecessor. She appears to have enjoyed warm relations with Mary, although her relationship with Elizabeth is less well-known. Anne of Cleves got on well with all of her stepchildren and became especially close to the two girls. The experiences of the queen as stepmother depended on several things: her age, her family, her religion, the circumstances of her reign and politics. The dissolution of her parents’ marriage and the religion and family of her new stepmother rendered Mary hostile to Anne Boleyn, while the circumstances of Jane Seymour’s rise to queenship may have placed her in an ambiguous relationship to her younger stepdaughter Elizabeth. As a foreign bride, Anne of Cleves’ situation was different to that of her two predecessors. Her tenure, lasting only six months, did not prevent her from enjoying warm relationships with her stepchildren.

A young Mary
A young Mary
Thus there were several factors at play affecting Katherine Howard’s status as stepmother when she became queen. Because Mary seems to have been close to Anne of Cleves, she may have initially responded negatively to Katherine. Historians have traditionally characterised the new queen’s relations with her eldest stepchild as being fraught with conflict. Twenty-four year old Mary was around seven years older than Katherine. Chapuys reported at Christmas that the queen intended to remove two of Mary’s maids as a punishment for her failure to treat Katherine with the same respect with which she had treated Jane and Anne of Cleves. Chapuys did record, however, that Mary had hastened to conciliate the queen.3 In The Tudors, Katherine is presented as an immature, wilful teenager who resents the respect accorded Mary, while for her part Mary snubs the queen and treats her with disdain. Historians have seized upon Chapuys’ evidence to characterise relations between Mary and Katherine as being difficult. Lacey Baldwin Smith explained that “it was almost inevitable that the two ladies should have clashed, for they were the antithesis of each other”.4 However, aside from Chapuys’ reports there is no other evidence that the two resented or disliked one another.5

The two treated one another cordially thereafter. At New Year 1541, Mary sent her new stepmother a gift, at which Henry was said to have shown great pleasure. In May 1541, Chapuys reported that Katherine had “countenanced… with good grace” her husband’s decision to allow Mary to reside at court.6 Katherine later gave her stepdaughter the gift of “a pomander with gold wherein is a clock enamelled with divers colours, garnished with xij small rubies, having a chain of gold hanging at it, containing viij pieces of gold of one fashion enamelled black, garnished with xvj small rubies and xvj small turquoises, xxiiij small pieces of gold, and xxxij pearls in links of gold of the same chain”.7 Relations with Mary may not have been, therefore, as negative as has been often believed.

By contrast, historians have often suggested that Katherine enjoyed a close and affectionate relationship with her younger stepdaughter, Elizabeth, who was related to her through her mother Anne Boleyn.8 The queen, as with Mary, bestowed upon Elizabeth gifts of jewellery.9 In May 1541, Katherine journeyed to Baynard’s Castle and Chelsea, possibly with the intention of supervising Elizabeth’s residence.10 At about this time, she also encouraged a visit to the household of Prince Edward at Waltham in Essex, accompanied by both Mary and the king.11 Aside from that, there is little evidence of interaction between Katherine and her younger stepchildren, although Denny’s speculation that Katherine behaved kindly towards Elizabeth in particular may be true.

Unlike her successor Katherine Parr, Katherine was at best a fairly marginal figure in the lives of her three stepchildren, which is something of a paradox given her status as queen of England. However, extant evidence indicates that, similarly to both Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves, Katherine’s influence was limited. It has often been argued that Jane Seymour supported the cause of Mary, but some historians have now called this into question, and Anne of Cleves, while enjoying close relations with Henry VIII’s children, did not exert a tremendous influence over their affairs. Anne Boleyn’s role in the life of Mary was exceptional, although sceptically assessing Chapuys’ vitriolic reports leads to the conclusion that she was possibly less concerned with Mary than he believed. With the exception of Katherine Parr, then, Henry’s wives were not hugely influential in their roles as stepmother. David Starkey is correct to assert that Katherine Howard sought to create and maintain a family atmosphere at court, but surviving evidence indicates that, as with her two predecessors Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves, any influence held by her as stepmother was not particularly significant, although she did seek to maintain good relations with the offspring of her husband.


Katherine Howard bookMadeGlobal Publishing is offering one copy of Conor’s Katherine Howard: A New History as a giveaway prize. All you have to do is comment below saying what interests you about Katherine Howard to be in with a chance of winning the book. Comment before the end of Friday 31st October. A comment will be picked at random and the winner announced here and on Facebook on Monday 3rd November. The giveaway is open to everyone worldwide.

Book blurb:

In this new full-length biography of Katherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Conor Byrne reconsiders Katherine’s brief reign and the circumstances of her life, striping away the complex layers of myths and misconceptions to reveal a credible portrait of this tragic queen.

By reinterpreting her life in the context of cultural customs and expectations surrounding sexuality, fertility and family honour, Byrne exposes the limitations of conceptualising Katherine as either ‘whore’ or ‘victim’. His more rounded view of the circumstances in which she found herself and the expectations of her society allows the historical Katherine to emerge.

Katherine has long been condemned by historians for being a promiscuous and frivolous consort who partied away her days and revelled in male attention, but Byrne’s reassessment conveys the mature and thoughtful ways in which Katherine approached her queenship. It was a tragedy that her life was controlled by predators seeking to advance themselves at her expense, whatever the cost.

Katherine Howard: A New History is available from Amazon.com, Amazon UK or your usual bookstore.

Tour Schedule

Here’s the schedule for Conor’s virtual book tour for the rest of the week, with 4 more chances to win a copy of his book:

Amy Licence Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to Julia Stent who has won a copy of Amy’s book The Six Wives & Many Mistresses of Henry VIII: The Women’s Stories.

Notes and Sources

  1. Katherine seems to have been born in 1523, probably in the latter half of that year. See C. Byrne, ‘Katherine Howard’s Birthday’ (2014); accessed online at http://onthetudortrail.com/Blog/2014/08/01//katherine-howards-birthday-a-guest-post-by-conor-byrne.
  2. For example, Eric Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn: The Most Happy (Oxford, 2004), and Retha M. Warnicke, The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Politics at the Court of Henry VIII (Cambridge, 1989).
  3. LP XVI 314
  4. Lacey Baldwin Smith, A Tudor Tragedy: The Life and Times of Catherine Howard (London, 1961), p. 141.
  5. Conor Byrne, Katherine Howard: A New History (Made Global Publishing, 2014), pp. 129-30.
  6. LP XVI 835
  7. LP XVI 1389
  8. For example, Joanna Denny, Katherine Howard: A Tudor Conspiracy (London, 2005).
  9. LP XVI 1389
  10. David Starkey, Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII (London, 2004), p. 660.
  11. LP XVI 835

Related Post

136 thoughts on “Queen Katherine Howard: The Royal Stepmother – Guest Article by Conor Byrne and Giveaway”
  1. I simply don’t know much about Katherine Howard, but would like to learn. I am also always looking for new historical writers to enjoy.

    1. I would very much like to know what the life of a typical teenager was like to those enjoying literacy and a “royal” birth such was Katherine’s station in Tudor England.

  2. I do not know that much about Katherine Howard beyond what I was taught at school and several books that differ on what sort of a woman she was.
    New author, new book would give me the opportunity to learn more.

  3. Hi Conor,

    I have read your book at last – you should be very proud of your achievement, and thanks for the mention in the acknowledgements.

    Do you think Katherine had any particular advice or tuition on how to deal with certain potentially difficult people, for example how to behave when her former mistress Anne of Cleves turned up at Court and they danced together?

  4. It would be nice to find out that Katherine wasn’t the person history made her out to be. Would love to read the book.

  5. I do not know much of her and would find the book a great read. I do find it interesting how young she was and what place in power she was given.

  6. I have always felt sorry for Katherine. She was so young and had been treated much as a pawn all her life, with no motherly guidance. To be tied to a lecherous, ailing old man could not have been pleasant or much fun. No amount of trinkets make up for that!
    Looking forward to reading this book.

  7. I am most interested in how the English people felt about having such a young lady as queen after all of the drama that had taken place. They adored Katherine of Aragon, reviledAnne Boelyn…loved Jane Seymour…I have never read anything about how Katherine Joward was accepted as queen.

  8. I have read a few novels about Katherine Howard with conflicting perceptions. I would very much like to read this book to get an objective picture of what Katherine might actually have been like and what factors in her life contributed to her tragic end.

  9. I’m a huge history buff with an interest in the Tudor Era. I’d like to know if Katherine Howard was as much of a flirt and a pawn of her family as she’s been portrayed in film. I don’t know very much about her and am curious to know more.

  10. I am interested in Katherine Howard because she is the youngest of the wives and she had a lot of courage at the end. I also am interested in how she thought knowing her cousin died the same way for “presumably” the same thing.

  11. Katherine Howard has always interested me because of her family ties to Henry’s other doomed queen, Anne Bolelyn. It’s as if her fate was set the moment he decided he would marry her.

  12. i stare a lot of her personality traits, therefore I find her fascinating. We both are ruled by passion and lust. I’m an American that fell in love with all things Tudor after reading The Other Boelyn Girl. From there it snowballed. Lived in EU for 3 years and was fortunate to visit London with its many Tudor places. Can’t get enough. I truly feel a kinship for this Queen. She didn’t stand a chance.

  13. What I find interesting about Katherine Howard are her early years and the way she handled herself when she became Queen. I woule like to understand what she was thinking and I she thought she was in danger when flirting and meeting with Culpeper.

  14. I would like to know how importantly her upbringing played in her downfall. Was she the naive clueless girl or did she actually have some wits about her and chose not to use them.

  15. I’ve always been the most curious about her life.
    She had to be so brave to become his wife. You
    always hear about the affairs she had, would be
    interesting to learn more about her.

  16. Im interested in kathrines youth and innocence, another woman dead because of mens ambitions, and why henry had a new law put implace as adultry itself was not illegal why not just divorce her? Everything about this women dead to young interests me

  17. I also interested in Katherine Howard. So little is
    really known about her life. I can’t imagine the children
    Enjoying her much as a stepmother, maybe a
    fun older sister.

  18. Katherine is the least favorite to me. I think its because of how young she was. But I still find the whole subject of Henry VIII and his wives fascinating.

  19. Thank you for this giveaway. I feel such compassion for Katherine Howard. I think she was badly abused and used by men.

  20. What interests me is her background. My limited understanding of Katherine Howard, gleaned from The Tudors, suggests she was a destitute girl, used for her beauty and the councils ability to control her. I would like to know more about where she came from, and how she was “selected” to be Queen. I think the poor girl was manipulated into being Queen. In an impossible position to say “No” but couldn’t control her heart or desires, despite the show, Henry was an ugly fellow.

  21. I find her interesting because she was by far the youngest of henry’s wife, and I don’t think she was totally prepared for what she was getting herself into. And also very interested in the relationship she had with the kings children, would love to learn more about her.

  22. Interesting article. I have always wondered why Katherine Howard would have drawn the King’s attention. I suppose it would have helped him remember his youth. It just seems a shame that she had such trouble as queen.

  23. I am interested in Katherine Howard’s early life. From what I’ve read and seen it seems very different from most noble girls, including her cousin Anne Boleyn, who had more structured upbringings. I’m interested to know if her less courtly childhood inhibited her understanding of life at court and the queen’s position within it. I’ve read some sympathetic arguments for her being forced into marriage with the king without knowing what was required from her aside from a son, so she may have not known how drastic the consequences of adultery were.

  24. Thank you so much for this giveaway! I have always been interested in Katherine Howard. Her youth at the time of her becoming queen was so fascinating to me. I always wondered how close she was to her stepchildren and what she thought of them. Especially Mary. Mary was actually older than her. It must have been a bit awkward to have your stepdaughter to be an older age than you.

  25. Katherine Howard seems to be a very misunderstand figure. What interests me about her is discovering the truth. Who was she really as opposed to the rumors and half truths spread about her and her character?
    Very good article!

  26. Her age. And ability to play the King, in the beginning of course.

    All of her personal relationships are fascinating and I would love to know more.

  27. Katherine Howard fascinates me because she became queen at such a young age. I have seen the show The Tudors, but have not learned anything about her really. I would love to actually learn about her life before becoming Queen.

  28. As careless as she was in the activities that led her to the block, she still had the presence of mind to request that it be brought to her cell so that she could practice how to die with dignity. That has always fascinated me about her.

  29. Katherine Howard is a interesting person, and being related to Anne Boleyn. I wonder why she married Henry she had to be aware of Anne’s fate. Also why did Henry seem to always date within the same family line? I have so many questions regarding Katherine and Henry. I have read henry was depressed after her execution so he must of cared for her. Since katherine married him why did they not have any children? I wonder who brought her to Henry’s eye in court? She is rather fascinating character in the Tudor times.

    1. Henry’s depression could have been because he was humiliated in front of the whole court by her actions, or even because his pretty toy turned on him, in his view.

  30. I think Katherine Howard would have loved to be close to both Mary and Elizabeth. As a young girl younger than her step daughter Mary I feel she would have wanted guidance and support from her. As Elizabeth’s stepmother I feel she would have felt more of a sisterly relationship. One way or the other it was certainly a difficult and strained feeling for Katherine. Henry would never be able to understand her feelings and would possibly try to give her support and guidance but no doubt failed miserably .

  31. I know she was very young for the king. He was old enough to be her father. Used as a pawn for Henry’s entertainment. I would like to know more about her and see the Tudor Court/ her life from her point of view. This would be quite interesting. as mainly the novels i read are from her ladies in waiting and Henry’s courts views. Anyhow. I most certainly hope i win. Thank you for the chance to enter

  32. I would love to gain more insight into Katherine Howard and the circumstances that made her Henry’s fifth queen. She has been unfairly portrayed through out history and I would love to learn more about who she really was.

  33. I’ve gone through periods where I’ve been fascinated by Katherine Howard for many reasons. The way Henry tried to erase her face from history – the question of if she actually did have an affair and if her relationship with her first lover was consentual in the way we (in modern times) consider consent.

  34. I am most fascinated by Katherine’s actual age; the extreme ranges of possible age put a very different light on the situation. Circumstances which occurred when she could have been 15 or 18 would be interpreted vastly differently depending which age she was!

  35. What I’d most like to learn about Katherine Howard is her personal relationship (if any) with her Boleyn cousins. Also – if that familial relationship was ever noted as being commented upon by Henry VIII after learning of her infidelity(ies) and her subsequent execution.

  36. I just finished my Master’s Degree, and Katherine Howard was the subject of my MA thesis. She has been treated quite poorly by historians, for the most part, so I presented a feminist reinterpretation of her life in my work. I would be very interested to see what someone else who is attempting to rehabilitate her image has come up with, and if we have similar arguments!

  37. I think Katherine had a great deal of love to give, and certainly had a very caring attitude towards people, that side was very much evident as not only did she plead with Henry to spare the life of Margaret Pole (which sadly as we know failed) but she sent many little gifts to Margaret during her imprisonment, so that at least her prison wasn’t quite so dreary and cold.
    Katherine also gave her ladies many little gifts so that they too could share in her happiness.
    Sadly these traits, although today would be seen as kindnessetc. were in those times seen as a sign of weakness and therefore exploitable. Put simply she was simply not worldly wise enough to cope with the intriques and ever changing plots to gain power within Court.
    I think the Duchess has a lot of questions to answer, because for someone, who was supposed to be a mentor/teacher/governess to Katherine and these other girls placed in her care, she simply didn’t do enough to teach them the courtly decorum and the courtly love plays that were evident.
    I also feel that she was wrong to send Dereham to court, granted I can see her reasoning to a point, but she knew that before Katherine went to court there was something more going on between Dereham and Katherine then just drinking beer and playing skittles. She herself caught them in a pasionate embrace, boxed Dereham’s ears and perhaps gave Katherine a clobbering as well.
    The maiden’s chamber was just a joke, because she rarely checked if the door had been locked and very often the key to this chamber had gone missing. If she had any thought of making sure these girls were kept pure until they were married then I personally think she would have done her upmost to see that the maidenly virtue was protected and honoured.
    Katherine was simply thrown into the lion’s den and swallowed whole.
    She was just a young girl in a world that she simply couldn’t cope with.
    She was wrong to employ Dereham, and the woman she knew at the duchess’s, but you can understand why she did, these people were like a safety blanket to her. I don’t believe she and Culpepper had a sexual relationship but it was a relationship of a very close nature. She didn’t deserve to die, but Henry couldn’t take the risk to leave her alive. I have my own theory about this, so I won’t mention it here, although I have mentioned on the forum here.
    I also feel that the supposed letter written by Katherine to Culpepper is a cobbled together forgery to make sure Henry didn’t back out of executing her. Again I have mention why I think this in the forum.

  38. Great excerpt! I’m really interested to read this account of Katherine Howard’s short reign as I feel I know so little about her in comparison to the other wives. I have always felt quite sorry for her and it sounds like the author may offer a more refreshing view of her than the existing ones out there.

  39. Katherine Howard has deserved attention for quite some time, and I am thrilled that you have given her the fair treatment she deserves.Historical fiction has been particularly unkind to Katherine, I hope that your book goes a long way to restore some dignity to a queen whose story is more complex, and interesting, than her one dimensional portrayal in novels.

  40. I have often wondered about the relationship between Henry and Katherine. She was so young. Was her charges trumped up by people who wanted rid of such a young queen, or was there really some truth to it. Why could they not consider her age and let her remove herself somewhere where Henry never had to see her again. There is so much to her story I would love to learn.

  41. I feel almost a bit maternal toward Catherine Howard. She was so young. Obviously times were very different then and people were as well. A 17 year old female was certainly of marriageable age then. But when I see and interact with girls that age even girls in their early 20 ‘ s it’s hard not to imagine Catherine thinking and acting as they do as though they are immortal, infallible, and with no though given whatsoever to responsibility or repercussions. I find myself when reading about her wishing that someone would have been there to give her some much needed advice.

  42. Katherine Howard is one of Henry’s more interesting wives. She was so young, and Henry was old and unattractive when they married. What could possibly go wrong? Though she may not have been innocent, I think she was very naive. She probably had little choice in the matter, at any rate, having been pushed forward for the advancement of more powerful relatives, who cared nothing for her happiness or well-being.

    I think, young as she was, she tried to make the best of it and failed. Her tragic story is one that inspires curiosity as to how she felt, what her motives were, how much freedom of choice did she have. This book promises to provide those insights and more. I’d love to read it.

  43. I wonder if her formative years were as licentious as has been portrayed or if that was another propaganda tactic used by Henry to gain support for his decision to execute her.

  44. I’d love to read Conor’s book about Katherine Howard because she is the wife of Henry VIII who I know the least about. She was so young and wasn’t queen for very long, so she seems to get lost in all of the information that we know about Henry’s previous wives.

  45. I always felt sorry for Katherine (and all of Henry’s wives!). I wondered how much choice she actually had in the matter. With his track record you would think a girl would stay as far away as possible. It would be interesting to see how closely the real Katherine resembles her television counterparts. What kind of parents would allow their daughter to marry Henry??

  46. I love any and all history involving the Tudor reign. I myself am named for Queen Victoria as my mother loved this era also. I would love for a chance to own and read this book. Thank you for the opportunity.

  47. There’s not a single wife of Henry VIII, or aspect of history during that period or before, that doesn’t interest me intensely. However, I find Katherine to be of interest to me given her age compared to all the others on top of the fact that there are many things stated about her life before, and after, becoming Henry VIII’s wife which at times feel circumspect to me. The only way to learn more though is to read more, and I devour what I am able to get my hands on.

  48. I’ve always felt sorry for Katherine, young, pretty, a bit daft (we’ve all been there!), pawned off to marry this now huge, much older, stinking (his wounded leg) king and what’s more, having to pretend she loved it to feed his ego!

  49. I find Katherine’s story sad and interesting, particularly because it reflects how society’s view on age and gender has evolved since the 16th century: there was nothing odd in a young woman (like Katherine) marrying a much older man (like Henry), which today is regarded as child abuse. Katherine (a minor or a very young adult depending on when she really was born) was also executed without any concern about her age, which also shows that society’s care for children and teens is a modern phenomenon.

  50. I’m very interested in reading this book. There is so little out there about poor Katherine Howard as opposed to the other wives. I eagerly devour any books on the Tudor era I can get my hands upon, and to read about the young girl, married to the old king would be amazing!

  51. Id love to know more about Katherine, its like she was a young lovely socialite Butterfly that attracted the kings attention-only to be discarded by him later for basically the same reason-poor kid the smell of his leg alone must have been horrendous!

  52. A poor girl becomes the queen of England. Having it all only to risk it for a love affair or was it love. I often wonder if she realized all that she had in her grasps. Did she know what was at risk? Her story interest me. Did she love the king at all. I guess the love stories are what I Would like to know about.

  53. A very misunderstood queen and treated very wrongly.
    The age gap between the two of them was ridiculous and maybe
    she did have her head turned by some younger guys at court, who
    could blame her sh was so young.
    she also probably would have liked to have formed a good relationship with the princesses but wasn’t given the chance.

  54. Great article Conor, you are a very eloquent writer, so it would be a pleasure and an education to read your book. Can’t wait to read the rest of the tour’s pieces by you.

  55. she was bubberly, loved to dance and always wanted to impress, i feel sorry for her as she was so young compared to henry and she had a hard life

  56. Katherine’s life interests me as being the young bride of Henry viii. I seem to have a lot more knowledge of katherine of Aragon and anne Boleyn, I would love to extend my knowledge on Henry’s other brides and this book seems like a great read.

  57. Katherine Howard is an enigma. A young girl who married a much older man – the most powerful man in the kingdom. She was surrounded by all worldly luxuries and I’m sure as the queen had all manner of people including young attractive men paying her compliments and court. It takes a mature grounded person to deal with superficiality and in/sincere fawning. I think she was more to be pitied than condemned. I would love to know more about her and her circumstances and her relationships with the kings children.

  58. I don’t know much about Katherine but would love to win this book and find out more about her life. xxxxxxxxxxx

  59. I find Kathryn Howard, a tragic soul. She was forced to marry, Henry VIII, to better her uncle’s standing. I would love to win this book!

  60. I love everything that has to do with the time period, and this is one queen more needs to be known about. Would love to read this book.

  61. I’m fascinated by Katherine Howard. I always wonder what she really thought about becoming queen to Henry VIII I always think she was a victim by others greed.

  62. I want to learn more about Katherine Howard… Her upbringing both at her family home and with the Dowager Duchess. Her feelings on the marriage to Henry? Did she know the deadly ramifications for her actions, she should have since Anne Boleyn was her cousin, so did she not understand it as wrong? careless? foolish?

    There must be more to her than just the pretty airhead…

    Thanks for the giveaway.


  63. What interests me about Katherine is her extreme youth and how so young a girl coped (or did not) with the complex politics and schemes of the circle she had married into at a time when she was still developing an understanding of an adult world.

  64. I would love to win this book. It sounds very interesting. There is so little written about Queen Katherine Howard. I’m really looking forward to learning all about her. Thank you.

  65. Looking forward to learning more about Katherine.I can’t wait to read this and hoping to gain more insight into her character.

  66. Honestly, what I am most interested in when it comes to Katherine Howard is that, in most circumstances, she would be considered a victim but when many people consider her actions (mostly based on unprovable assumptions and rumours) they give her the title of ‘slut’ or ‘whore’. But, in the most basic of terms, she was a sexually abused child who did everything in her power to make the best of a bad situation but was too niave to understand how her actions looked.

    She seems to have been manipulated by almost every man in her life (husband, former lover/abuser, friend) but still showed herself to be a happy, sweet and caring young woman. With actions like sending a gift of clothes to the imprisoned Margaret Pole, she was evidently more merciful than any previous Queen had been.

    So in conclusion, based on what we know, she was a very capable and sweet-natured woman who, while proving that she was in all respects, a good Queen with a (somewhat) checkered past. Katherine Howard was not a whore, but she wasn’t a saint either. That is why she is so interesting.

    Thank you for giving me the chance to enter this competition, because if I won this book it would make my year. 🙂

  67. I am such an Anglophile, love visiting and reading about all things Tudor. I have a nice collection and would love to add another book about Katherine Howard to my library. Enjoy reading about all wives of Henry VIII.

  68. I think both Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard have had not only the most conflicting things said about them as well as the least said about them as well. Anne of Cleves is largely portrayed as being a woman who was totally undesirable to Henry, but other reports suggest that he did indeed find her attractive, but disliked her manners and how she addressed him. By contrast, Katherine Howard was viewed as being a very attractive proposition for Henry as she was a beauty and was frivolous and fun. She also seems to be portrayed as quite promiscuous (suggesting she was not a virgin before marrying the king) and flirtatious – was she really like this or was she a victim of negative male attention owing to her supposed beauty? Or the fact that she was constantly being used as a pawn to raise the hopes of her male counterparts? The fact that she was so young is something I find fascinating also. It is obvious that Henry was preoccupied with having sons, so going for a woman of childbearing age would make sense, but why someone as young as Katherine Howard? I can only imagine that they must have been worlds apart with very little in common. In some ways, such an environment must have been quite daunting for her and yet, despite what happened to Anne Boleyn, she still had a close relationship with Culpeper (and we all know what the outcome of that was). I am not entirely sure if the relationship between Katherine and Culpeper was ever a sexual one, but it was clearly too close for the King’s comfort. The person I feel for (as well as Katherine) is Francis Dereham as he was not thought to be part of her infidelity, but got brutally punished anyway. It is believed that he and Katherine were once promised to each other but, by the time she was married to the king, any relationship she may have had with Dereham had ended. I certainly don’t think it warranted all the torture and the manner of his death, to say this was a harsh punishment would be an understatement. Had he not been accepted at court, he may have escaped such a tragic end himself. It wasn’t the wisest decision to hire him at court, but then we don’t really know how much he coerced her into it. In thinking he could use their previous attachment against her, he was unwittingly playing a very dangerous game indeed. Katherine was unfortunately a victim of those around her who were willing to put her at risk to raise their fortunes and luck.

  69. I’d like to know whether Katherine Howard regarded Henry VIII as fully human, or if she saw her spouse as a super-human being who was capable of reading her thoughts?

    She seems to have feared that Henry could penetrate even the confessional, so I wonder if Katherine had an unrealistic perception of Henry’s power.

  70. Poor Katherine. I’ve always wondered how she felt going from being Henry’s “rose without a thorn” to being cast aside so abruptly. The child didn’t have hope. What could have been had she stayed alive? Was Henry simply embarrassed by his own old age? Would love to read the insights!

  71. I’ve long been fascinated with why Katherine Howard, even though she was so very young, endangered herself by sleeping around with the courtiers. After Henry VIII had issued the order for Anne Bolelyn’s execution, I would have been way too frightened to do anything that could bring around the same end for me. Great contests, by the way. Your geneorisity is very much appreciated by all of us!

  72. Looking at the evidence against her, under the present US legal rules of what is admissible in court, I find the evidence almost completely lacking, yet most people still assume Katherine was guilty. I am anxious to read this book. From what I can tell, you have a letter allegedly written by her, which alludes to “love” and a possible future meeting, not necessarily an assignation. Then you have testimony coerced by fear, unkept promises, or torture. Without another example of her handwriting that was acknowleged previous to the allegations, the letter is inadmissible or at least one must consider that it was forged. Cranmer had definite fear that he might go the way of Cromwell. Katherine had enemies among her former friends whom she had not placed at court. Dereham was jealous and foolhardy. Culpepper was tortured. So there is little real evidence of adultery after marriage. It is probable and ordinary that she had sex with Dereham before marriage and that they considered themselves wed under common law. I don’t think it was Katherine’s idea not to tell Henry of this, or that she was even included in the decision. This was NOT illegal at the time, and Katherine Parr was certainly not a virgin. Dereham had essentially abandoned Katherine at the time she married Henry, and she may have thought him dead, since she spent the money he left with her. The big mistake was not going to Henry with this information, and allowing him back into her presence. However, the charge that killed her was the retro-active “must be a virgin” law passed so Henry could indeed kill her. I wish she had gone to Parliament to plead her own case, but I understand why she did not. It makes no sense that Katherine, or moreso Jane Rochford would arrange for adultery. So it may not have happened. If the letter was a forgery it would indeed drive Lady Rochford insane.

    1. Ooh, good points! I hadn’t considered that the letter, or even maybe just the incriminating bits, might have been forged.

      1. Sorry, just had a few more thoughts. If the letter, or parts of it were forged, it was almost certainly a trap; not just for Kathyrn, but also Culpeper. Someone who knew his ego? I was always struck by him arrogantly telling his questioners that the Queen was sighing and dying of love for him, and that although they hadn’t yet been intimate, he confidently expected that they would be shortly. Kathryn denied all of this, but wasn’t believed. Did someone know Culpeper well enough to know that if he received such a letter from the queen, he would become even more bold in his actions and get caught? That he would corroborate the charges against Kathyrn?

  73. The general view seems to be that Anne Boleyn didn’t commit adultery but Katherine Howard did. It amazes me that, knowing Anne Boleyn’s fate, she would have been willing to do anything so foolhardy.

  74. I first learned about Katherine in my AP English class in high school; mainly that she had an affair with her cousin. I think, in spite of all the hype, she is the least-known of the wives, and I’m exceedingly interested in learning. more!

  75. I wonder why she and Henry did not have a child. I feel as if he married her for a good time, and if she had a son so much the better. Did she feel pressure to bear a son, it doesn’t seem as if she did, or was she just too silly to care? There are a lot of unanswered questions about Katherine Howard. By the way I really like the illustration of Katherine on the cover of Conor Byrne’s book.

    1. Personally, I think it was the King’s fault. He didn’t start out being incredibly fertile, and I think his health issues just made things worse as he aged. He couldn’t keep his hands off her, but was he having full intercourse with her regularly, or was there a lot of fooling around that didn’t go further due to his impotency?

  76. I find Katherine intriguing. I have family ties to Henry and most of his wives and his mistresses too as far as I have been able to determine. Katherine Howard is fascinating to me…her age and her upbringing have led me to some theories that need more research into before I open up about them. I love history and love being able to read all the fascinating articles on this site. I was really excited to see this one come up so had to read it right away. There is so much conflicting information and theories regarding Henry and all of his women and I enjoy reading others work on any of them as it helps me form my own thoughts and challenges me to dig further into the matter to get some idea of what may truly have happened. So much controversy and uncertainty keeps me interested in Katherine!!

  77. Katherine Howard fascinates me beyond belief and I would love to know more about her. The question of whether she was very brave or incredibly stupid rings almost daily in my mind; I think her situation is very sympathetic – can you really blame her for looking elsewhere? – and yet history has condemned her for being a stupid little girl.

    I have been trying like mad to get a copy of this book but unfortunately it hasn’t gotten to New Zealand yet. This would be the most amazing prize!!

  78. I’ve always Tudor history, particularly about Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard. Both were used by their family to gain a better standing and I felt horrible for them. I would love to learn more about Katherine and would enjoy adding another book to my growing collection of Tudor history. Thank you for a very informative article! ^_^

  79. When I think of Katherine Howard, the word that comes to mind is YOUNG. Not an innocent, but so young and naive to think she could get away with affairs behind Henry’s back. She was a pawn and was willingly used to her own detriment. I am always looking for a fresh perspective and a book to make me see her in another light.

  80. Katherine Howard interests me for many reasons; namely what I see as misconceptions surrounding her life and death. She is always portrayed as the ‘dumb slut’ but she was really just a kid. I want to understand more about her because from what I can see she was mostly just a young, naive girl. It would be great to add nuance to her story.

  81. Everything about Katherine Howard’s life is fascinating. Trying to piece together who this person was from what vague or scandalous evidence is left behind, is so full of mystery and I could ponder on it endlessly. I’m incredibly intrigued by her character, I think she is a far more complex person than she is usually given credit for.

  82. I’m looking forward to reading your book as the more I read regarding all Henry’s wives help me to see each one as a very special individual and not just a stero-type. I wonder if Katherine Howard actually loved Henry? I could see how a young girl could look up to a King , a man glittering with welath and power and certainly that is attractive. It is said that Henry could not keep his hands off Katherine and we know she pleased him in bed. I do believe that she had some true feelings for Henry. He was very kind and indulgent towards her and that had not come easily to her. A very sad afffair for both sides and I would love to know what the ‘truth’.

  83. Looks another very interesting book. You can learn more things about this woman of whom most just know the name and wwho she was

  84. I have long been fascinated by the Royal machinations of men to further their cause through the women. I look forward to hearing another point of view!

  85. I would love to read this book. Having read a couple of novels on Katherine Howard, I am keen to get to know Katherine from a different perspective.

    Fingers crossed!!!

  86. I’ve been dying for a book about Katherine Howard for ages, as she is probably my favorite of Henry VIII’s wives. Most of the books I have read about her paint her rather unfairly, and do not take in her inexperience, or age. Books about all six of the wives kind of gloss over her, saying she slept around and blah blah, her chapter usually the shortest and most uninteresting. So to find a book like this, where the excerpt says so much of what I had been wondering about, makes me want this book something fierce.

  87. How daring she was. Cheating on Henry VIII would not have been an easy thing to do and definitely not the safest, especially having other people knowing it. Also how similar her story is to Anne Boleyn. It’s so interesting how the cousins who both ended up marrying the same man had such similar fates.

  88. My only knowledge of Katherine Howard is from watching ‘The Tudors’ and from reading ‘The Boleyn Inheritance’. I have always felt that there was something misunderstood about her, that there was a vulnerability to her that was missed in these representations. I also feel that this vulnerability potentially led to her demise and it seems your book rings similar tones. I would love to read your ideas on this complex and misunderstood Queen from our past.

  89. young. Vivacious. Perhaps even careless. I can’t say I admired or thought much of Katherine Howard in part of the Tudor history except for having been a fool. And I’m quite ready to admit it is a biased view I hold. Would be interesting to read a different view to convince me on a different perspective.

  90. I have always wondered why Henry did not just divorce Katherine and send her on her way rather than executing her. Male ego I suppose, enhanced by ultimate power as King. It is too sad that she didn’t enjoy the same longevity that Henry enjoyed. She was a kid.

    1. It was a completely different world then, with different views of life and death and the power of the king. I think it would be a mistake to apply modern viewpoints to the situation. Considering that he executed friends for challenging him (Thomas More springs to mind), how much more would he punish someone for humiliating him? He probably thought he was being merciful for not having her burned at the stake for adultery.

  91. I would very much like to know what the life of a typical teenager was like to those enjoying literacy and a “royal” birth such was Katherine’s station in Tudor England.

  92. Katherine intrigues me as she was so young.As intriguing as to why Henry chose her. Was he just on the “rebound” after being disappointed by Anne of Cleves.?

    1. Michael, I’d say yes. He was getting older and touchy about his “virility”. He was angry and humiliated when Anne Boleyn told someone he was lousy in bed (not a direct quote). It took nearly a year for him to get Jane Seymour pregnant, and he was desperate to blame Anne of Cleves for his inability to consummate that marriage. So, how better to prop up his image and stroke his ego than with a new young wife? And THAT really blew up in his face, didn’t it? LOL

  93. I’ve always thought Katherine Howard was the most tragic of Henry VIII’s queens, being young and seemingly having no control in what was happening to her. I’m interested in seeing if my view has merit.

  94. I would love to learn more about her. I am a historical reenactor who loves the Tudors and any information is helpful.

  95. I have admiration for Katherine Howard. I feel deeply for her. I truly believe she did not want to marry Henry VIII, i cannot see a teenage girl wanting to marry someone not only much older then them, but with the reputation of being tyrannical. It has also been documented that because of the ulcers on Henry’s leg, you could smell him from three rooms away. How could anyone marry off a beautiful teenage girl most likely against her will to a overweight, smelly old man and expect her to stay faithful. She was most likely pushed into the match by her Uncle, Thomas Howard and even if she had protested the match, Henry would have forced her hand like he did with Anne Boleyn and Henry Percy. I do not blame her for having a affair with Thomas Culpepper, nor do i blame him. Henry’s mindset was that he could have his own way, all the time, but no one King or otherwise can force someone to love them.

  96. Conor Byrne hints, that there is way more to Katherine, than the usual books, that gloss over her brief time as queen. I would like to read, what his research has discovered about her life. Thank you for the giveaway.

  97. This book sounds intriguing. The only other book I have read which took Katherine Howard seriously and portrayed her in a good light was “The Fifth Queen” by Ford Madox Ford. I’m looking forward to reading yours too.

  98. Although there are aspects of the book that are controversal, namely the ideas about why Katherine had the sexual relations in her youth being equated with child abuse, the author has made an effort to rescue the young Katherine from the shadow of hostility and obscuriyy created by other authors more anxious to set a historical scene rather than to look at the young girl herself.

    Conor has also brought forward from behind the glitter of the King, Katherine the Queen consort and stepmother. Yes, Katherine had an unusually active sex life for a gentlewoman, yes she was flirtatious and may have been guilty of the crimes of which she was accused but that should not deminish the person or the Queen in her status as such.

    Conor offers the controverial idea that Katherine acted out because of her earlier abuse and this is a theory worth investigation, but much also depends on her age and the restraints of gender norms of the day. That also is discused in the book and I recommend this discourse with an open mind.

    Here Conor reconstructs the role of Katherine as a Queen, something often forgotten when looking at her 18 months in the role as much attention is often given to her so called adultery and her two alleged lovers Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpepper. Little attention is given to her ability to play the role of Queen, which even David Starkey admits she did to perfection. She was afterall a gentlewoman, raised in a noble household, she must have had some training for her high station in life; she knew what was expected of her in public and I do not agree that she made a fool of herself in public as shown in the Tudors. She also seems to have been a genuinely warm person and have made efforts to get on well with her two stepdaughters.

    Mary, naturally, being about 24 at the time of the marriage, some 4-6 years older than Katherine, was not going to accept her as another mother, and her idea of the new Queen must have been influenced by Katherine’s youth compared to that of her father and her own age. Just what she disliked about the new Queen is not really clear, but she did not take to her at first and even criticised her; giving in no doubt once her father had allowed the removal of her maids. But Elizabeth was almost seven when she was presented to the new Queen, an age that could allow more acceptance and she was also anxious to please her father. Elizabeth has been described as a charming child and she most likely found it easier to accept Katherine as such. They had a good relationship from the start, and Katherine appears to have been loving and gracious. I think also that she found in herself an ability to love that came out of her own neglect as a child; a need to express that love and to be loved in return. It must have been a relief when Mary accepted her and they became better friends by the New Year.

    Katherine is also revealled to have played the ceremonial role of Queen and the traditional role that all Queens were expected to play, that of intervening for mercy for convicts well and with a natural grace and desire. She seems to have taken a personal interest in the plight of those in the Tower and have shown genuine concern for the wellbeing of Margaret Countess of Salisbury, in the Tower as her family were under suspician of treason. The Poles had been rounded up after the writings of Reginald Pole, her son against the divorce of Henry and Katherine, calling Henry a bigamist and an adulterer; and encouraging the northern risings. Katherine tried to get Henry to free her and to make her more comfortable; taking to her bedding and clothine and warm furs. Henry did not free the poor lady, but had her executed in 1541, without even a trial. Her son and son in law were also executed and her grandson vanished without trace; perhaps poisoned or dying in the Tower. Katherine also played a part in the pardon of Sir Thomas Wyatt and another man who was accused of hitting another courtier inside the court, and was about to have his hand removed. Katherine had him pardoned and released. She was kind hearted; a young woman with a great desire for love and to be loved; she had never really known it in her youth from her family; and her husband could not give her that love fully. Katherine may have also have had a desire for sexual fulfillment that ultimately led to her adultery and death; although this has also been challenged by some recent historians; but she was also in some ways a victim of that loveless upbringing. There was one exception: I believe that Katherine had fallen in love with Francis Dereham; but he did not believe her to be worthy of anything more than a sexual relationship. He was a cad, and he used Katherine; before her marriage to the King and afterwards; using his charm to get his own way, boasting about it and being the sort that would have gone further given the opportunity to do so. I also believe that she fell in love with Thomas Culpepper; another cad; a murderer and a rapist; whose desires for her were nothing more than what he could also get to advance himself with the Queen. Poor Katherine, however, fell in love with him; he made her feel that he loved her; but again I think he was a cad, whose only desire was to bed the Queen and boast about it.

    From behind the myth of Katherine the adulteress wife we meet Katherine the warm stepmother and Katherine the concerned woman, and Katherine the Queen consort; restored here by Conor; even if one does not agree with some of his conclusions about her sexual life; we see that she was far more than the ninny headed flirt and was a woman who deserves some sympathy and re-evaluation.

  99. Kathryn is such an interesting character! I definitely don’t believe she was the mindlessly promiscuous woman she is often portrayed to be. I’d very much like to read different viewpoints of her character and actions as queen. I do feel somewhat sorry for her. I know teenagers were expected to be fully responsible for their actions, but remember the stupid things I did as a teenager and sympathize. I wonder when and how she got in over her head. I think the political climate at court had just as much to do with her downfall as anything. Factions wouldn’t have hesitated to have a fairly harmless woman killed to achieve their goal of manipulating the king with regard to religious reform, which was impossible to separate from politics then. To a certain extent, she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  100. What interests me is that there is this image of KH of this not so bright,.a little promiscuous and quite the flittergibit, but then she goes to her execution with bravery and dignity.

  101. I think Kathryn Howard along with Anne of Cleeves are the wives that I know least about and want to learn more.

  102. Nothing I have found indicates that Kathetine had any substantial intellent but she must have been “street smart ” to get by as she is to have done. I’d like to see if there is anything that shows that she was more than a frivolous teenager and if there was anything she wanted to do as Queen.

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