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The Executions of Catherine Howard, Jane Boleyn, Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpeper

Posted By on February 13, 2010

Catherine Howard This post continues from “The Fall of Catherine Howard” and tells of how it was the Thomas Cupeper “affair” which was the nail in Catherine Howard’s coffins. I also give information on the executions of the men and of Catherine Howard and Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford.

The Thomas Culpeper Story

Baldwin Smith writes of how Culpeper’s name had been linked to Catherine’s “as early as 11 November” and that when Catherine was a maid of honour to Anne of Cleves she had mentioned a possible engagement to Thomas Culpeper. However, it was Francis Dereham’s statement “that Culpeper had succeeded him in the Queen’s affections” which brought the spotlight on to Culpeper.

After a series of interrogations, Catherine Howard finally admitted to secret assignations on the back stairs, to calling him her “little sweet fool” and giving him a cap and a ring; however, she denied a sexual relationship. She went on to implicate Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, accusing her of being what Baldwin Smith calls an “agent provocateur” by engineering the affair. Lady Rochford was then interrogated and she accused Catherine and Culpeper of contriving the affair themselves and forcing her to act as a go-between.

Baldwin Smith writes that even then the evidence was “inconclusive, dependent upon idle gossip”, but then Culpeper sealed his and Catherine’s fates by admitting that “he intended and meant to do ill with the Queen and that in like wise the Queen so minded to do with him.” Both Culpeper and Catherine Howard were therefore guilty of treason under the 1534 Treason Act which defined traitors as those who “do maliciously wish, will or desire by words or writing, or by craft imagine” harm to the King or his death. The Queen, Culpeper and Dereham were all found to be traitors by their ill intent, by their carnal desires and their intentions. I love Baldwin Smith’s comment:-

“Kings might breed bastards with impunity, but Queens could not allow the breath of scandal to approach their lives.”

Talk about double standards!!

However, this is understandable when you consider that the King needed to know that any royal offspring was his when the children were heirs to the throne.

Lacey Baldwin Smith goes on to say that “Catherine and her friends deserved death simply on the grounds that they had by their actions allowed adulterous rumour to touch the person of the Queen, and it made no difference whether those rumours were true or not. They still existed. Consequently, it made but little difference if the evidence on which the Queen was condemned was extorted by torture, or even if it was, strictly speaking not true at all.”

In other words, it didn’t matter if Catherine had committed adultery with Thomas Culpeper or not, her reckless behaviour and colourful past had ruined her reputation and this called into question the paternity of any future royal issue. Catherine was a traitor and had to go.

As someone who is shocked by Anne Boleyn’s trial and the fact that she was convicted when there was just no evidence to support adultery or incest, I find Lacey Baldwin Smith’s views on Tudor law in relation to Catherine Howard rather interesting. Baldwin Smith concludes that the truth or falsehood of any testimony was completely unimportant because the jury were not the ones that decided on the guilt or innocence of the defendant, everything was down to royal will, the wishes of the King, and the defendant was deemed guilty unless it was proved otherwise – no “innocent until proved guilty” in Tudor times, no sirree!

On the 14th November 1541, Catherine Howard was taken by armed guard to Syon, where she was imprisoned. On the 22nd November it was announced that Catherine “had forfeited her honour and should be proceeded against by law, and was henceforth to be named no longer Queen, but only Catherine Howard.” (LP XVi, 1366). On the 1st December Thomas Culpeper and Francis Dereham were arraigned at Guildhall for treason and sentenced to a traitor’s death. Both men petitioned Henry VIII to commute their death to beheading but only Culpeper was successful in his petition. On the 10th December 1541:-

“Culpeper and Dereham were drawn from the Tower of London to Tyburn, and there Culpeper, after an exhortation made to the people to pray for him, he standing on the ground by the gallows, kneeled down and had his head stricken off; and then Dereham was hanged, membered, bowelled, headed, and quartered [and both] their heads set on London Bridge.” Wriothesley, Chronicle, I, p. 131

Following their executions, many Howard relatives found themselves imprisoned: Lord William, the Dowager Duchess, Lady Bridgewater and many more. On the 22nd December, the Howards, with the exception of the Duke of Norfolk, were tried, found guilty and imprisoned. Fortunately, the Howard clan, apart from Catherine, were pardoned and released. On the 21st January 1542 the Bill of Attainder against Catherine Howard was introduced into Parliament and on the 11th February Catherine’s death warrant became legal. The Queen was to die.

The End

On the 10th February 1542, Catherine Howard was finally taken to the Tower of London by boat. Baldwin Smith writes of how Catherine’s flotilla would have had to have passed under the heads of Culpeper and Dereham , who were impaled on London Bridge – how awful! Catherine got out at Traitor’s Gate and was escorted to her prison. On the evening of the 12th February, she was told to “dispose her soul and prepare for death” because her execution would take place on the following morning, a Monday. Catherine then requested that the block be brought to her room so that she could practise, so that she could die in a dignified manner, as a Howard and as Queen.

At 9am on the 13th February 1542, Catherine was helped up on to the scaffold and Marillac’s report to the French King said that Catherine “was so weak that she could hardly speak”. However, Marillac was not present and an eye witness, Ottwell Johnson, wrote of her bravery, her “steadfast countenance” and her “constancy”. The executioner knelt in front of the Queen to ask for her forgiveness, which she gave him with her payment, and then Catherine knelt in prayer. Julia Fox, in “Jane Boleyn: The Infamous Lady Rochford”, writes of how Catherine then addressed the crowd, acknowledging her faults, stating her faith in Christ and asking everyone to pray for her. Contrary to myth and legend, Catherine did not cry out “I die a Queen, but I would rather have died the wife of Culpeper”, instead she was dignified and followed the usual convention of execution speeches.

As she finished her speech, her ladies stepped forward and removed her mantle and placed a linen cap on her head. A blindfold was then placed over her eyes and she was helped to place her head on the block and arrange her skirts. The masked executioner then took Catherine’s head off with one blow. She was gone. The woman who had taken away her husband’s image of youth and shattered his illusions was gone.

The Execution of Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford

Once Catherine Howard’s head had been taken off and her body taken to St Peter ad Vincula Chapel, the scaffold was prepared for “that bawd, the lady Jane Rochford” (the words of Chapuys). the woman who Chapuys felt had “aggravated the Queen’s misdeeds to the utmost” by encouraging Catherine’s secret meetings with Culpeper and acting as go-between. The scaffold was washed down with water and covered in fresh straw and then Jane was brought out to die.

Ottwell Johnson recorded how Jane faced death with composure, bravery and dignity. She climbed the scaffold, forgave the executioner and then faced the crowd. Julia Fox writes of how there is no transcript of Jane Boleyn’s speech but Johnson record’s give us enough information to reconstruct it. According to Fox:-

“she began by declaring her complete faith and trust in God. “I have,” she said, “committed many sins against God from my youth upwards and have offended the king’s royal Majesty very dangerously, so my punishment is just and deserved. I am justly condemned by the laws of this realm and by Parliament. All of you who watch me die should learn from my example and change your own lives. You must gladly obey the king in all things, for he us a just and godly prince. I pray for his preservation and beseech you all to do the same. I now entrust my soul to God and pray for his mercy.” Not once did she refer to the specific offences…neither did she have anything but praise for Henry.”

Neither did Jane confess to giving false testimony about her husband George Boleyn committing incest with his sister, Anne Boleyn.

Jane Boleyn then removed her cloak, had her hair bound up out of the way, prayed and then knelt blindfolded. Her head was taken off with one blow and that was the end of “the infamous Lady Rochford”.

Lacey Baldwin Smith’s View of Catherine

Lacey Baldwin Smith is quite harsh in his summation of Catherine Howard:-

“Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Anne of Cleves all had their champions, but Catherine Howard had none. It may have been because she was shallow and brittle, arrogant in success and servile in distress. Her actions can be excused on the grounds that she was an ignorant child of nature, but the evidence does not point that way. Catherine was just as well-educated as most of her contemporaries of an equivalent position; she certainly had enough sense to conceal as long as possible the affair with Culpeper; and she appears to have had something resembling a guilty conscience since she warned Culpeper not to mention their meetings, even in the confessional, for fear that the King, being head of the Church, would in some mysterious and mystical fashion come to hear of it.”

Lacey Baldwin Smith concludes his biography of Catherine Howard by saying:

“Here in a twisted, obscure sort of way lies the essential failure of Catherine Howard’s life: although she was caught up in the game of politics and was never a free agent, the Queen never brought happiness or love, security or respect, into the world in which she lived. She enacted a light-hearted dream in which juvenile delinquency, wanton selfishness, and ephemeral hedonism, were the abiding themes. Who is to say whose fault it was – Catherine’s or that of her age.”

But isn’t this rather harsh? Was she even guilty of adultery?

Was Catherine Howard Guilty?

I watched Jonathan Rhys Meyers on Martha Stewart last week and he mentioned that Catherine Howard was guilty of all that Anne Boleyn was charged with, and that is the traditional view of Catherine – Anne Boleyn was innocent but Catherine Howard was guilty – but was she?

David Starkey, in his book “Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII” claims that although Catherine may have fallen in love with Culpeper she may not actually have committed adultery. Yes, she fooled around with her tutor Manox and had a sexual relationship with Dereham, as her “husband”, but these were before her marriage and she may not have gone as far as sleeping with Culpeper. So, she may have been guilty of bigamy but not adultery.

David Loades, in his book “The Six Wives of Henry VIII”, writes:-

“There was no proof in the modern sense that either of them [Catherine or Jane Rochford] had committed any offence worse than extreme indiscretion and stupidity.”

To me, Catherine Howard was simply a naive girl who felt that her past had no bearing on the present and who felt that Henry, as head of the Church, knew of her past anyway. She was a young attractive girl who probably did not want to be saddled with an older man well past his prime and she was a girl who enjoyed flirtation, the attention of young, attractive men. Should she have known better? Yes! She certainly should not, as a married woman and Queen, have encouraged Culpeper, but I don’t think she let things go too far. Perhaps she thought that Henry would not live much longer and then she’d be free to marry Culpeper – who knows! Did she deserve death? No!

What Catherine was guilty of was shattering Henry’s illusions and making him look like a fool; for that she could not be forgiven. As Loades says:-

“Two factors elevated her indiscretions to the level of high politics. The first was that she inflicted serious psychological damage upon the King, and the second was that she was the instrument of a powerful aristocratic faction. As Lacey Baldwin Smith pointed out thirty years ago, Henry would have grown old anyway, and Catherine could hardly be blamed for that. However, that was not the real point. The King had fortified himself with illusions of virility for many years, and like many such men in middle age he had made a fool of himself over a pretty girl. The virility of a King was a part of the well-being of the realm, and Henry’s disillusionment sapped the vitality of England…Catherine deprived Henry of the chance to grow old gracefully.”

Sources

I’m so glad that we’ve got to the end of a rather “bloody” week! I’m surprised that I haven’t been having nightmares about heads flying! I’m relieved that I didn’t live in Tudor times and I think that we should all pause in our daily life and think about these people who came to such horrific ends.

74 thoughts on “The Executions of Catherine Howard, Jane Boleyn, Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpeper”

  1. Louise says:

    Hello Claire,
    Like you I have strong reservations as to whether Catherine was guilty of adultery following her marriage with Henry. Both she and Culpepper were found guilty of treason by intent, not the actual act.
    There were ten days between the trial of Culpepper and his eventual execution. During that time he was obviously ‘induced’ to admit to the act but he never did. To admit to a crime you have not committed would, to the Tudors, have meant condemning the soul. Hence Anne Boleyn’s concern for Smeaton who she believed had failed to withdraw his false confession prior to death.
    Catherine and Thomas were little more than children who lived in fear of a domineering father figure; namely Henry. I think they were innocent of everything except fancying one another, and what a terrible price they paid for it.

    1. Hannele says:

      If a young woman who is not sexually inexperienced meets a man she is in love with alone in the middle of night and not once but many times, it is really hard to believe that their relationship would have become sexual. It is another matter if they had full intercourse or had sex in some other way.

      As for Culpepper refusing to confess, he had the best reason to do: to protect Catherine. If a man can save the life of his loved one, a man with any honor would chose to do, even by damning his soul.

      Of course, there is no evidence that Culpepper loved Catherine as she loved him, or that he had any honor otherwise. He was anything but innocent for he had been close to Henry for years. What kind of man betrays his master with his wife? And he certainly knew the risks better than Catherine.

      1. Maybeth says:

        I agree completely with your last paragraph. I think it took a low level of self control and a high level of arrogance to think he could indulge himself and stay alive. I don’t recall that he tried to use Catherine’s past to excuse himself after he was arrested but did that mean he cared about her life or just that he knew it would sully his reputation among men? I’d also like to know the real reason for Lady Rochford’s involvement. Did she think she could bring down a second queen in Henry’s reign and not be punished too? I feel very sorry for the Catherine portrayed in the Tudors. If she was like that it’s too bad she didn’t get pregnant right away and too bad Lady Rochford didn’t protect her.

      2. Stacey Van Adder says:

        I tend to agree with you. People may comment on their ages, but in Tutor times when people were married off extremely young (look at Henry VIII’s grandmother, the self-titled, “My Lady, the King’s Mother,” who, gave birth to Henry’s father at the tender age of 13!! This traumatic event for a child that age, cost her the chance to have others, undoubtedly). There was also the question of “pre-contract,” which would’ve annulled the marriage, yet saved her life. What on earth would she have gotten by denying it? The fact that all these people showed up at her door, including that Dereham, looking to blackmail her & her giving in was her first mistake. This occurred during the height of her power. If it had been me, I would’ve made up a story, ANY story & convince Henry they were slandering her good name & to further drive the point home, I would tell him he
        admitted that he would tell everyone that they were lovers. They planned to do her wrong & blackmailers are parasites, asking for more, more, & more still, leaving the Queen or anyone with no peace. Hadshe done that, they would’ve been both beheadedflr treason & anyone wishing to try to profit off her past would’ve thought twice. As for the thing with Culpepper-wtf???that deserved punishment for the possibility of putting the wrong child on the throne, such as the rumors of Edward IV’s parentage

  2. Eliza says:

    I agree with your views on Catherine, Claire. I believe she was really naive… It’s like she didn’t learn anything from Anne Boleyn’s story and end. The same goes to Jane Rochford with the difference that the latter doesn’t have the excuse of youth and inexperience.

  3. Jill says:

    Much of what is written here has not changed in almost 500 years. Consider the politicians nowadays who have affairs, humiliate their spouse (only it seems that the fairer sex is much more discreet in allowing scandals come to public light), or do drugs ad infinitum. I believe that Catherine Howard although well educated was yet another victim of be careful what you do or say as it will be held against you in a court of law. I had hoped that she said what she did about being a queen but would have rather been the wife of Thomas Culpepper. But it was not. She was simply young and saddled with an aging ill husband she had little choice but to accept. I’m not saying that the women were the only victims and I see that what with More, Wolsey, Pole were also victims as well. II seem to think sometimes that Henry was a victim of his time, his power and his wealth and the attitudes of the age. have to remember sometimes that Henry’s policies changed the course of history and he did a LOT of good for England. I guess the means really do justify the ends. I’d like to think that he was not without compassion if I’m to believe “Anne of a Thousand Days” in that if she would only relinquish her role as queen and allow her child to be declared illegitimate she would be spared. But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

  4. Louise says:

    The means never justify the ends if the means perpetuate evil. Did Henry do a lot of good for England? If so, what? He broke with Rome and created the Church of England, but that was purely for selfish reasons. As for Henry’s compassion, Anne of a Thousand Days was fiction. Irrespective of Anne’s submission to agreeing an anullment, which she did, she still died. Compassion! I don’t think so.

  5. Candice says:

    Claire,

    A wonderful article examing the fall of Catherine Howard. Her rise and fall has too often been neglected by historians. While she was young, her importance in history should be argued for. Lacey Baldwin Smith does take a rather harsh view of Catherine and, for too long, she has been associated as stupid and naive. For her to win the heart of a King, like her cousin Anne Boleyn before her, she must have exhibited intelligence and ambition. I find Catherine Howard an interesting figure whose life and death, I hope, will be explored more fully in the future.
    For people who want another view of Catherine’s life, I recommend Joanna Denny’s “Katherine Howard: A Tudor Conspiracy.” While her take is less harsh than Baldwin Smith, she does not make Catherine a sympathetic character without agency. Catherine comes alive in Denny’s book where she explores her life with kindess and consideration. Denny also wrote a fantastic biography on Anne Boleyn which I highly recommend.
    Keep up the great writing, Claire.

  6. Angelina says:

    I am of the same opinon of Catherine Howard. She was innocent I am sure of it, as was her cousin, and I agree she was niave. She was only 15 for heavens sake, though, and though she’d been a little wild at Lamberth she knew NOTHING of the world. Jane Boleyn knew that, so did the Duke of Norfolk. I suppose they both may have tired to teach her, but the Duke was far more concerned with advancing the Howard line than keeping an eye on his teenage neice.

  7. Louise says:

    Hello Claire.
    There were two comments which I forgot to mention in my above post. Firstly, thank you for clarifying the position with regards to Lady Rochford’s scaffold speech. The myth that she admitted to lying about Anne and George has been treated as fact for far too long.
    Secondly, I am glad you made no reference to Culpepper’s supposed rape of a woman and murder of a farmer who went to her rescue. The evidence for this is very sketchy, and I have always treated it with causion. Maybe he was a murderer and rapist, but it is impossible to say for certain and I am glad you haven’t treated it as fact.

  8. laura says:

    Thank you Claire, this was an excelent article. As much tudor fan as I am, I’ve not read that much about Henry’s “rose without a thorn”. Its a very interesting story. I do bealive she might be inocent and that she was only part of his uncle’s game. RIP Queen Katherine Howard.

  9. julie b. says:

    Yes, for sure a lot of Catherine Howard’s behavior had to do with her young age and the fact that she was married to a much older man who probably wasn’t in the best shape either. She most likely enjoyed the attention of men who were closer in age to her. I wonder if Catherine and Henry had a sexual relationship? In the move Henry Vlll, there is a scene where Henry is apologizing for not being able to “perform”. Any truth, who knows.
    Still, I would imagine Catherine did not act on any of her flirting acts. So, this letter that Henry read about her cheating, was it legitimate?

  10. Carolyn says:

    Louise, were you thinking the rumor was altogether false, or were you thinking it was actually committed by his older brother (also named Thomas Culpeper)?

  11. Norma Dalziel says:

    Catherine Howard was very young when she was staying with her grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, she was apparently allowed much freedom and being young took advantage of it. Was she pushed my her great relatives towards the king, probably, I suspect all glittered before her and in any case she had no chance to say no. There are, though perhaps not thoroughly well documented parts of the evidence against her that show she was at night behind locked doors, in my town in Lincoln whilst on travels with the King being one occasion, this was unheard of for the Queen and lends some weight towards her affair with Culppper. Poor Catherine you can only feel for her youth and terror of her end.

  12. Louise says:

    Hello Carolyn.

    Yes I was thinking that as a possibility. In fact there were a number of Thomas Culpepper’s in addition to Catherine’s Thomas and his brother. When you try and sort out Thomas’s history it gets very confusing.
    The only evidence I have come across is a letter written by a English merchant to a friend five months after Thomas’s execution, when he tells his friend of the rape and murder. However, I can’t trace any official document to confirm the story. If anyone knows of any, I would be grateful if they would let me know. It could simply have been rumour and innuendo following the death of a traitor?

  13. lisaannejane says:

    I feel very sorry for Catherine. I can’t imagine being 15 and married to an old fat dude who easily could be my grandfather! I think I would have lost it on the wedding night. No amount of money or power can make up for some things.

  14. julie b says:

    Love it :), Lisaannejane!
    Did Henry and Catherine have a sexual relationship? Was he capable???

  15. lisaannejane says:

    Does the U.K. get the Dr. Oz show? According to the doctor, the amount of belly fat a man has can actually cause his body to produce estrogen and that’s not a good thing for his sex life! I’ll bet he and Catherine weren’t too close in any way LOL!

    1. Erin Alexander says:

      Oh goodnbess is that true ? I should be more forgiving and less jealous to my husband who is rapidly approaching Henry the VIII dimensions as he too gets older! Good to know! Testosterone supplements here we come!

  16. Hi Claire,
    I was wondering if Jane Boleyn new in advance of her death sentence? From what I have read I understand that she was unaware. Do you have any insight on this matter? Regards Alison Morton.

    1. Susan Tegner says:

      I love the Tudors and have studied all of them and their dynasty to great lengths. From everything that I have read and gathered, Jane Rochford was bordering on madness at the end. It is written more than once that she was informed of her impending death and managed to break free of her psychological horror long enough to prepare herself and her speech.

  17. Tina says:

    I tend to agree with you all on the historical Katherine. I believe she was probably innocent of any carnal acts against the King.

    Unlike Anne, Katherine was a VERY young girl (even for those days) who was plucked out of a virtual nowhere of living almost anonymously with her grandmother and shoved under the King’s nose. She was probably told EXACTLY what to say and how to say it until she got the crown.

    After that, what do you think a 15 year old would do when she realized she was Queen of England, probably spoiled rotten by her aging (and proably *still* immature) husband? She was 15, she was Queen and she was a “grown woman”. It probably wasn’t a pretty picture.

    The unfortunate thing is that she wasn’t the sharpest pin in the cushion. She, plain and simple, was an idiot with unstable hormones. She allowed handsome men to flirt with her, probably pouted when she didn’t get her way, and because she was so young, she probably couldn’t get pregnant to save her life, especially with her husband in such poor health. And she didn’t see any of it coming.

    I feel sorry for Katherine, because was a victim of her time and circumstances. The wrong wife at the wrong time. If *she* had been second instead of Anne, the story might have gone far, far differently.

    1. Stephanie says:

      Actually, it’s easier to get pregnant when you’re younger.
      Just saying. That’s why we women married young in an age when fertility was a goal.
      It would more likely have been King Henry’s fault.

      1. Charlene says:

        Not really, actually. A woman’s peak fertility occurs about six to eight years after menarche – when she begins menstruation. The average age of menarche in Katherine’s day was about 14. This of course doesn’t prove that she was only one year out from menarche – some put her age at marriage at twenty, after all.

        Also, it’s incorrect to assume that girls got married young in those days. Upper-class girls were married young, it’s true, but the overwhelmingly vast majority of girls were not aristocratic; they had to work for years, as servants or doing manual or farm labour, to save money for their future home. The average age at first marriage for women in the 1560s was about 25 from the evidence we have – the same as it was in the 1960s.

  18. carol says:

    much has been written about catherine howard, today if a 50 year old man entered into a relationship with a 16-17 year old he would be referred to as a dirty old man! what was henry, wether or not catherine had an affair with culpepper, who could blame her?and what a tyrant, to execute her because his pride was hurt, how hurt was anne of cleves? should have stayed with her!

    1. Angelina says:

      After just watching The Tudors, I am wondering if the quick annulment from Anne of Cleves was due to Henry not being able to “perform.” From all accounts, she was a very pretty, demure woman and he certainly seemed to love and respect her. Wouldn’t it be just like Henry to declare to his people that she was simply not attractive enough for him when in fact he was simply unable to perform. Judging from his younger days, he would have been able to have sex with just about anyone, whether they were attractive or not. My other thought was that his marriage to her was just too soon after the death of Jane Seymour, who died shortly after bearing his son.

      1. Julianna says:

        I agree with the latter but the former not at all. I do not think King Henry was in love with Jane when she died and certainly not because he married to soon after death. Albeit,, Jane gave birth to a son and died, Henry knew all to well that this one son could die just as his other children born by CoA soon passed and just as Henry Fitzwilliam (his bastard) died 1 month after Anne’s execution as his own brother died around the same age. Henry knew he needed another heir.

        Henry was not worried with Jane’s death. I personally believe Henry was searching for that same love passion he shared with Anne Boleyn and feel Catherine Howard was the closest he got with it though not even close to the same. In the end, Henry I believe had some shameful emotions about his past love life. Catherine Howard embarrassed him and I’m still not quite sure what honestly happened with Anne Boleyn. Did Henry through his anger, jealousy, blindness, passion and the ups and downs with Anne’s actually believe in the beginning that she may have been guilty of some or part of what she was executed for? Why would the King embarrass himself in this way? Only for it to actually turn around and happen to him with Catherine Howard and make him look like a cuckhold. I just wonder if Henry being so impulsive may have actually believed some of what all her enemies were feeding in his ear. Did they have a huge fight or were having problems in their marriage and her enemies see the perfect time and opportunity to strike her down. It just seems a perfectly orchestrated plan of her enemies (Jane being included) that brought Henry to actually believe part of,it about her. Maybe things she said through anger were construed and twisted about by the courtiers and repeated to Henry so much that he believed part of it true. He was getting crazier as the years went by anyway. After all, the day she was committed to the tower Henry broke down in tears and rage with Henry Fitroy claiming it was good that she was arrested because she may have had the opportunity to hurt him and Mary . I don’t remember the exact words but remember them being said by a letter from Chapyuis. I don’t feel it was faulty either because it including Fitzroy and not just Mary. Anyhow, maybe Henry had mixed emotions about it all and acted on his psycho impulse in the beginning.

        I believe in the end Henry was ashamed of his lack of heirs and his many wives and wanted to make it look as if it was the fault of the women but never him. After all, he was the mighty king and would never be Henry’s fault, right? I just feel Henry was fickle and cared a lot about what his image looked to everyone else and in the end tried to make Jane look the *perfect* wife because he was not even married or dated her but of maybe 18 months to 24 months. Never do I feel he ever loved this woman especially to the point where it would have been “too soon” to remarry to be the cause of his divorce to AoC. In all reality, Henry was out hunting and miles away from the castle while Jane was on brink of death. They had to call for him to get back as soon as possible when they feared she wouldn’t make it through the night. Had Henry cared any for this woman at all he would have been by her bedside while she was dying much less at least in tbe castle itself and not out hunting miles away. Especially being she was dying after delivering him a boy after he waited all that time. No he wasn’t though. He obviously got what he wanted out of the marriage and fate got rid of her for him. Now he was free to take the next woman and get another heir. There was a letter by Chapyuis indicating Henry never wanted to marrt a foreign princess because it would be harder to dipose of her as he saw fit and wished. It was just fortunate that AoC most likely wanted out of the marriage as well so she confirmed to the annullment and proceedings.

  19. Nicole says:

    People tend to blame Katherine Howard’s stupid actions largely on her youth. But if we believe in the 1507 date for Anne Boleyn’s birth and that Henry VIII noticed Anne in 1526 then that would have only made Anne 19 at the time. In a previous article it is stated that Katherine was around 20 at the time of her marriage to the King. Now I realise to compare Katherine and Anne is comparing apples to oranges. Anne obviously would have had more exposure to the world and be more mature, but she still was very young. Katherine also must have heard about Anne’s death and what it was supposedly due to, so she also had the wisdom of another women’s experience to learn from. Anyone with even a half a brain in their head would know that the Queen of England could not court scandal. It may just be that Katherine Howard wasn’t very bright.

    1. Hannele says:

      Anne was probably born in 1501, as is shown her letter to his father from France.

      In any case, Anne had years’ experience in the French and English court before the her romance with Henry, whereas Catherine had been in the country.

  20. Nicole says:

    The above comment was not to say that Katherine Howard deserved to die, she didn’t. But if people continue to excuse her actions or bemoan her death because of youth, they should all also consider that Anne was only 29-35 when she died, hardly old. Just wanted to compare and contrast and perhaps force people to look outside of her age for the reasons Katherine Howard behaved as she did.

  21. Anne Barnhill says:

    Hmm, Catherine’s guilt. Well, I do sort of believe she and Culpepper did the deed–she had shown no hesitancy with Dereham and, now she was Queen, so…why not? At her age, even then, I don’t think she quite grasped the gravity of her circumstances. Too young for Henry, that’s for sure.

    1. Angelina says:

      Yes, way too young and Henry could have shown her an ounce of understanding since she was young enough to be his granddaughter. If he had shown just a bit of empathy, he would have understood that she was just a silly young girl stuck with a much older man and that he himself may have been the cause of her infidelities.

      I don’t now how King Henry VIII didn’t go mad with GUILT.

      1. Angelina says:

        Oops…meant to type: “I don’t KNOW how King Henry….”

  22. bethany.x says:

    Just to point it out- in the sources shouldn’t the last one be Starkey and not Loades?

    1. Claire says:

      No, it’s from David Loades’ book on the six wives, not David Starkey’s. I have Weir, Starkey, Fraser and Loades. The Loades book is excellent.

      1. ryan says:

        you are correct it is from him

  23. Conor Byrne says:

    I agree with you in some ways, Nicole, but I think it’s much more likely that Queen Katherine WAS only 15 or 16 when she married King Henry. However, I do agree with you on the point of age. Had Katherine been, say, 24 or 25 when she was executed, we wouldn’t excuse her adulteries or behaviour on her youth, and would say that she acted stupidly and should have known better. One’s actions cannot be excused by one’s age.
    We should remember though that she did die at the age of only 17-18 and should never have been made queen in the first place. I think her story is too often forgotten, she is perhaps the most neglected of all Henry’s wives and deserves our pity and understanding.

    1. Angelina says:

      Agree, and anyone who lost their head because of her should also be pitied. Man, he was a gruesome, psychotic man. I wonder if he had himself witnessed all of these horrible executions, he would have stopped some of them, especially those related to Queen Katherine and Anne Boelyn. Geez.

  24. Lyn-Marie says:

    I am convinced of Catherine Howard’s guilt with Culpepper as she wrote the sort of stupid love letter that a love sick teenager would write. But it is more than than; she more of less tries to hide everything in her various confessions and her story changed several times. If she was innocent, why did she not deny it from the start and why become hysterical? Yes, fear plays a part and the torture of Dereham also puts some doubt on the veracity of his story, but she took into her service a man that she had had sexual intercourse with and saw as her husband prior to marriage. What an idiot! I believe she had an affair with him while she was married to Henry. Had she merely been guilty of bigamy, Henry was prepared to divorce her, had she confessed everything, but at first she denied the pre-contract. This would have saved her life. We do not really know what evidence if any that finally condemned Katherine, but the testimony of Jane Boleyn and of Mary Lascals and Jane Bulmer condemn her. She also invited Culpepper to her bed chamber in the one letter she is known to have written, and this is the strongest evidence against her. The king, on a visit to Pontefract was on his way to visit her bed chamber when he was kept from entering by the ladies for some time. Why? Culpepper was in the bed with his wife and this was not the first time. She also had plenty of opportunity to have more than one affair, for example in March 1541 when Henry closed his bedroom door to her, and had depression for about six weeks.

    She claimed at her execution that she died the Queen of England but would rather die the wife of Thomas Culpepper. And Henry was fond of Culpepper; rogue and possible rapist and murderer as he was, because he had been for many years in his personal service and held several public offices as well. He was trusted by the King. The news that Culpepper had betrayed him broke Henry’s heart. Is it any wonder that he called for a sword to kill Katherine himself?

    No; little evidence or no; I believe that Katherine Howard was a whore before her marriage and delighted in being one after marriage. I think that she was too stupid to be anything else and she was past caring after the first few encounters. I do not believe she had as many encounters as in the sex obsessed Tudors but she certainly had a few of them. Even the intent to sleep with Culpepper was enough to accuse her of treason. Had she conceived a child and it was not clear if the king was the father or not, then she would have put the royal bloodline in jeapardy by passing off a child that was not the kings as an heir to the throne. Remember this is the time before DNA and it was usual, even when an affair had taken place to assume that the husband was the father and that was a legal assumption.

    The belief that someone is innocent until proven guilty is a modern concept and even today, most societies still assume guilt and not innocence.

    Henry did not believe the accusations and he started a full investigation because he believed that she was innocent and he wanted to stop the rumours. He was shocked enough to find that she had several sexual encounters prior to her marriage but was prepared to forgive or divorce her. When the investigation continued and evidence of her adultery came to light; there was no other choice; she had to be arraigned for treason. A full and frank confession may have saved her; but she refused to give it. Henry had no choice; Katherine had to die. And as for the rest of the Howards?

    Well arresting the entire clan was probably an over reaction and Henry did release most of them. But the Duchess could have known about the girls past and concealed it and this would make her guilty as well and he had to be sure. The Duke was the canny one here; stating that he had brought the truth to light and denouncing his entire clan and his niece; yes, very clever and it worked. Norfolk was just sent to his estates for a time.

    As to Jane Rochford. I have often wondered what even made her be part of such a stupid and dangerous activity as helping the Queen to meet her lovers. By bringing them to the Queen and ensuring all was clear Lady Rochford did more than just observe the activities of the young Queen, she facilitated them. She knew the truth and she did nothing to stop it or to report it to the King. She was guilty of misprisim of treason, or concealing the treason from the king. She, under the law also had to die and she was not insane as in the Tudors.

    Jane Bulmer; she may have been only a little less guilty, but she could claim that she was acting under the direct influence of Jane Rochford and she also told all that happened in Lambeth Palace and gave testimony in the case against the Queen. She was pardoned and rewarded by the King.

    As to the Lassels, the man and wife team who came to Archbishop Cramner to report the activities of Katherine in the Maidens Chamber. Well, yes they were both reformers, as was Cramner, but that does not mean that they were not telling the truth. However; a modern defence lawyer would probably have torn their testimony apart, had poor Katherine had a trial. But this is the sixteenth century and they are more likely to be believed. It is interesting however to note that Henry Lassells was executed as a heretic a few years later.

    The only sympathy that I have for Katherine Howard is the fact that to some extent she was a pawn in the ambitions of the Howard family. Henry was 49 when they were married, Katherine no more than 17 or 18 and she was younger in the head. Yes, girls are normally more mature at this age, but she had the brain of a dizzy teenager of 15. She was not raised to be Queen and she did not have the benefit of a long spell at court prior to her marriage. Yes she was in the train of Anne of Cleves, but again not for long. Anne Boleyn was better educated and more sophisticated and her family more than prepared her for the King. Jane Seymour was also more sensible and older and she also had more morals. She was also prepared to know what to expect. Howard and the Duchess prepared her to act a certain way and do this and that, but the mind of a Queen, no that she did not have. She learnt to play the great lady and she carried herself well apparently and in public learnt to act as a Queen, but behind the scenes she clearly lacked any common sense.

    She seems to have had a reasonable sexual relationship with Henry but she did not have the intellect to be a companion to him. He grew fed up with pampering her every whim and she must have also been put off when his leg burst and by his obesity and age. She wanted young men her own age and she was trapped in a marriage that she had more or less been forced to accept.

    Again I have sympathy as she was not given a chance to be heard by her peers before a trial as Anne Boleyn had been given and this is a worrying development late in Henry’s reign.

    But she was given every opportunity to come clean and she never did, not until she realised that it was already too late.

    The final thing that I do not understand, however, is why her lovers were executed on 10th December 1541 and Katherine and Jane Rochford not until over two months later on 13th February 1542.

    This is a long gap and they were not even moved from Syon House until four days before this.

    Was Henry giving her a final chance or was her having second throughts about killing her or was he just too upset to know how to proceed? Well, some things are best left as mysteries.

    In any event, Katherine was executed on 13th February; and please note the date here; the day before Valatine Day. In Tudor England at the court they had a feast on this date with all of the dishes died pink and all of the decorations covered in pink. Sweetmeats were pink and hearts were everywhere. Henry had the feast, but it was not a joyful occassion and all was gloomy. It is said that he even saw a vision of his late wife and spoke to her ghost at the feast. Guilt? Shame? Fear? Parania?
    Depression?

    Who knows?

    But yes, Katherine Howard was guilty, and by the law of the day, deserved to die.

    1. Hannele says:

      That a woman had sex with a man before marriage but after a promise to marry, was not a whore according the values of the 16th century. On the contrary, this was a practice which the law accepted as valid and even more, they could not marry any other.

      Besides, we don’t even know the circumstances. Les liaisons dangereouses tells how easy it is to seduce an innocent girl. Who would have believed her, if she had cried for help? Her reputation would have gone in any case.

      Why do we assume straightaway that was is a young girl who is responsible if a man seduced her? Today this man could be charged in some countries, even a rape as the girl was underage.

      That Catherine changed her confession, is no wonder, because she had no legal counsel and it seems that she had no knowledge, if what she told would benefit or harm her which is clearly shown in it that she denied the pre-contract.

  25. Jillian says:

    I doubt if Katheryn was totally innocent – it is difficult to believe that she invited Culpepper to her room to read the Bible or watch her do her embroidery…

    Katheryn’s comment that she ‘knew how to meddle with a man’ without becoming pregnant suggests to me that she could have had a rather warped view of what constituted adultery – she may well have thought that anything short of full sexual intercourse in the missionary position didn’t really count. Whatever they were up to, she was stupid to think that she could get away with it in the tiny world of the Tudor Court.

    However, I think that some posters to have been rather harsh in commenting on her past. She seems to have considered herself betrothed to Dereham, and it wasn’t that unusual at the time for a sexual relationship to develop in such circumstances without a formal marriage. And Henry Mannix was an older man who took advantage of her.

    The saddest thing is that if Katheryn had not got involved with Culpepper, she might have saved her head. Henry initially appeared willing to overlook her past on the basis that she had been young and badly supervised. It was the fact that she obviously preferred Culpepper to him that he couldn’t forgive.

    1. Lyn-Marie says:

      I agree with the last post: Katherine may have saved her life had she said plainly that she was pre contracted to Francis Dereham. Even his own confession that he wanted to go further with Katherine being presented as ‘presumptive treason’, may not have been enough to condemn her.

      It was clear, however, that having secret meetings with Thomas Culpepper made her a scape goat for her enemies. They had all of the evidence that they needed and they could fill in the blanks, so to speak.

      Taking Thomas Culpepper as a lover was not just stupid and dangerous by itself; it was an insult to her husband the King, because he was his personal groom. He had a very intimate and highly trustworthy position as a gentleman of the Privy Chamber and he was close to the king. He slept in the kings chamber at night and he nursed his leg and helped him to dress and other private actions. Henry was fond of him and he had been in the royal service for a number of years. Finding out that someone you have looked on as a son is sleeping with your wife is like getting a slap in the face. Henry is meant to have lost it when he heard that the man she was seeing behind his back was Thomas Culpepper.

      An affair with Dereham was bad enough, but Henry did not know Dereham and he was a foul mouthed character to begin with. Thomas Culpepper was no angel either, having been pardoned for rape and murder, but he was close to the king and had a good living in the kings household. Henry must have been heart broken to find that his wife had been accused of adultery with one of his closest servants.

      And love and hate are two sides of the same coin; so when she was found to have been entertaining Culpepper at night, Katherine’s fate was sealed.

  26. Kate says:

    Claire,

    I very much liked your article about the execution of Catherine Howard, Jane Rochford, Thomas Culpeper and Francis Dereham. It is the latter character who interests me most at the moment as here was a man ‘more sinn’d against than sinning’ (to quote King Lear). It seems that Dereham did little more than ‘sow his wild oats’ in his youth. Is there any evidence to suggest that he really did blackmail Catherine into employing him or is this merely dramatic licence?
    It has finally stopped raining so I am just off to Crimplesham (8 miles down the road) to visit Dereham’s birthplace. he was, by all accounts, a country gentleman so there should be some access to information about his family within the church records. Does anyone know, perchance, what became of Dereham’s body after his hideous execution? Was it just left to the crows (as might be supposed) or was he permitted a Christian burial? Any information would be gratefully received as I’m hoping to write an article about Dereham and Howard for a local history magazine.

    1. Claire says:

      Hi Kate,
      David Starkey writes of how “looking after one’s own was a moral imperative in the 16th century” so when the Dowager Duchess gave Der eham a reference and pretty much fixed his job at court, Catherine agreed. Alison Weir, on the other hand writes of how Dereham obviously possessed information that could be harmful to Catherine and that was why “she dared not refuse” his plea to be taken into service. Lacey Baldwin Smith writes of how pressure was exerted on Catherine by the Dowager Duchess to find a position for Dereham and that Catherine had to agree. She wrote to her aunt “my lady of Norfolk hath desired me to be good unto him, and so I will” (LP xvi. 1416). I would say that the Dowager Duchess pressured Catherine into taking Dereham on and that Dereham was not blackmailing Catherine. What do you think?

      As far as his resting place is concerned, I’m not sure. Culpeper was laid to rest at St Sepulchre without Newgate, London, but there doesn’t seem to be any information on where Dereham was buried. The heads of Culpeper and Dereham were still visible on London Bridge in 1546 – yuck!

      1. Raul Peña says:

        Sorry Claire, What is the source where you found that both head were still visible on london Bridge at 1546?

        Thaks in advance 🙂

        1. Claire says:

          Hi Raul,
          Antonia Fraser mentioned it in her book “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” and cites Nicander Nucius who saw their heads in 1546 on his visit to London. She gave a reference so I have checked. It’s p48-49 of “The second book of the travels of Nicander Nucius of Corcyra” – see https://archive.org/stream/secondbookoftrav00nuciuoft#page/48.
          Hope that helps!
          Claire

  27. Tracey says:

    Another fascinating article, my own personal view is that Catherine was a very naive young girl flung into the position she was because again the Duke of Norfolk had ideas of furthering the Howards, what girl wouldnt be over awed by being plucked from relative obscurity to the highest position in England, to be given everything she desired? Unfortunately at that young age girls finding falling in love easy and maybe this is what happened with Thomas Culpepper, by all accounts he was a rather charming, handsome young man, quiet the opposite to Henry, it would be so easy for Catherine to believe that she could handle the situation, As for never admitting to a pre-contract with Dereham, I believe she may have been simply frightened to admit her past life, even though this might have saved her life. Whatever really happened we will never know but one things for sure Catherine Howard left her mark on english and tudor history however tragic and short her life was.

  28. Bobbienob Curtis says:

    this was good. well done. bravo.

  29. Ana says:

    What a wonderful article loaded with some great facts and seasoned with personal opinion. The truth is Kathryn Howard was not killed very nicely infact she was killed with a very cruel ax. Anne Boleyn had a swordsman but Kathryn had an ax man. Kathryn was no more guilty of imorality than the king. She should have known better than to be so flirty but the king was just as guilty.Sje was used by her family to put them in a position of favor and power with the king. Kathryn was a gorgeous and gracious young women, but she lacked intelligence. We remember her as the wife that made Henry young one more time. She left us a legacy too. Be corageous and own your mistakes but let what is in the past be buried. Maybe she did have a closer relationship with God than what she knew.

  30. Staci says:

    I was looking for an article on Kathryn Howard and I found this one. I like how fact was weaved together with personal opinion.
    I think I only spotted one thing I disagree on. According all the historical texts I have read, Kathryn ended up facing a grim death and the ax wasn’t sharp enough. According to those notes it took two times to hit her because her head didn’t come off the first time. Everything else was brilliant.

    Kathryn was a lovely women and fascinating in history but she was guilty in some areas. However the point must be that Henry the 8th was just as guilty of imoral conduct. We should pity this queen. Kathryn was a young girl but she was responsible for her actions. It may be said though that she was used by her family to gain power and control over the king. I am sure it wasn’t her idea.

    Kathryn I think we have to salute as a brave women. She faced death but her last words left a legacy. She was bold for a young women and she was the Queen of England that made Henry young just one more time. Let’s remember her legacy to us. Live your mistakes and move on. Ask forgiveness but if you are not forgiven commend yourself to God.

    This women is one of my role models.I remember her as a girl with beauty and courage but not shrewd or intelligent.

    ANA

  31. Ruth says:

    It is good to keep alive the horrors of the past so our society never repeats them. Giving the royals and church so much power led to great injustices. The gruesome deaths horrified people back then as well as today. INDIVIDUALS from any background should never be given such power in a free society ever again. The sight of the people on their knees, full of disease and poverty at the gates of the king’s castle was disgusting and we should be ashamed of that history. Henry’s daughter Mary became known as ‘bloody Mary’ because she had more people burned at the stake in her very short reign than most other monarchs. Catherine Howard was a young girl who wanted to enjoy life. The series seemed to imply Henry knew about the indiscretions long before that letter. Also the last queen didnt want to marry Henry either but knew she had to. Howard was given no justice in the past and those hard hearted contemporary people who want her described as a whore in the history books are clearly misogynists. We would do well to look at the real criminal – Henry the V!!!. And I see the word ‘murderous’ is used by many on the net when referring to the Tudors…I wonder why??!.

  32. April says:

    If you know anything about Henry, you know that he fancied women who were serious Christians. But that didn’t stop him from sullying their names when he found them to be an inconvenience. For example, Catherine of Aragon was a strict Catholic. Henry was very pleased with this at first and fancied himself a “most Christian king” who would set the example by showing perfect fidelity. This, of course, he failed to do, and a more notorious sexual predator would be hard to find.

    The fact is, though, Henry admired intelligent women who studied the Bible and who were committed to living the principles therein. That is the reason he pursued Anne, even more so when she told him clearly she would never commit adultery and he was not free to marry her. He knew quite well she genuinely meant it; unfortunately for her, this increased his ardor. It’s obvious that, after extended efforts to divorce his wife, Henry succeeded in convincing Anne that they were lawfully married, for he certainly went through a marriage ceremony with her. There can be no doubt that Anne was convinced of the validity of the marriage or she would have never allowed Henry to consummate it. It’s quite likely that Anne was persuaded that Henry was a new man, ready to repent and submit his will to Christ. No doubt Henry made many, many protestations of this, so many, in fact, that Anne became convinced of Henry’s genuine religious conviction.

    But so much for Henry’s fidelity again. Jealous of the fact that Anne’s wit allowed her to freely converse with those whose minds were more well-trained than his, he allowed her enemies to convince of him of what he knew was false. Of course, this is the same man who allowed himself to believe Catherine of Aragon had consummated her marriage with his brother Arthur when he full well knew it was not the case.

    I admit I don’t think much of Jane Seymour. She may have been but a pawn in her family’s schemes, but she appears not to have had much backbone. After all, she pretty much discarded her chastity while knowing full well Henry was still married to Anne. If she had not died on her deathbed, it is quite likely that she would have failed to keep the king’s attention long, seeing as her moral innocence was so easily discarded, admittedly on him, but Henry’s mind was acute enough to recognize that he had seduced Jane and she had allowed it.

    Nobody much knows why Henry rejected Anne of Cleves. Perhaps she was too shy and modest for Henry’s taste at the prospect of the wedding night. At any rate, she made a lucky escape by not having to consummate the marriage and having it annulled. Henry was displeased with her, which was more fortunate than not, as it turned out.

    As for Kathryn Howard, though not the serious Christian that her cousin Anne was, she certainly was raised to uphold Christian principles. Tales of her supposedly promiscuous childhood were exaggerated for political gain. But they reveal one thing: obviously Kathryn expected to be married before she would ever consummate a marriage (which was typical of that age). Henry was quite satisfied with her chastity. He ought surely to have known the difference between a Christian virgin and an adulteress, having himself been an adulterous partner to many women.

    At any rate, Kathryn was delighted with Henry as her husband. Obviously she had no experience with marriage or she would have found many flaws in Henry. But Kathryn was genuinely in love with her husband, and must have been convinced that he knew it. Unfortunately, she did not pay sufficient heed to his jealous streak. In Kathryn’s position, it was not wise to allow the typical courtly attentions that were often disposed on queens’ “admirers.”

    Traitors to the realm who were interested in controlling the kingdom arranged to have Kathryn go the way of Henry’s other wives. After all, it was quite an unpleasant prospect to have Henry possibly feel a renewed vigor and interest in the affairs of the kingdom under the influence of a young wife who thought he was wonderful. Power might shift out of their hands as a result. Pretending to be acting in Henry’s best interest, these political schemers were really acting against it.

    Henry did not keep his promises to protect Kathryn from harm, but destroyed a marriage that was in every way to his benefit by allowing his enemies to persuade him to execute her on charges that were just as contrived as the ones against her cousin. Henry himself knew better than anyone else that she was innocent. He was privy to the true state of affairs; but for Henry, ego and prestige were above honor.

    After Kathryn, what did Henry do but pursue Katherine Parr, a widow who was known for her piety. All of his wives were women who fully understood the ramifications of breaking the laws of God except possibly Jane. Jane appears to have been pretty easily persuaded by Henry to ignore the fact that the Lord would never endorse a marriage forged in adultery, but none of his other wives were that idiotic.

    Clearly, Kathryn Howard was a young virgin who believed Henry’s protestations of love and fidelity. More pity for her that she was not astute enough to recognize the false promises of a hypocrite who not only failed to be a “most Christian king,” but never even bothered to check with the Lord before he acted rashly and unjustly in murderous acts that will forever condemn his soul.

    In comparing Henry to King David, it could be said that they differ in one very large respect. David would have been brought up short if Bathsheba said, “If you will not refuse to commit such a heinous offense against the Lord, I certainly will refuse. Utterly.” That would have been the end of David’s intentions of committing adultery. But not if Henry were the recipient of such a refusal. A protest like that would have increased Henry’s passion and he would have pursued Bathsheba even to her own house.

    Henry had no real regard for the laws of God. He thought he was above them.

    1. Anon says:

      I believe you are on the right track, as I had a similar impression. Young women of those days were generally much more sheltered than young Western women today. Being sheltered, young and innocent and lacking the background to deal with intrigues, jealousies and false accusations did not make Katherine stupid or naïve as is popularly expressed. She simply lacked the experience for deal with courtiers’ attention. Also, I did have the impression that exaggeration and trumped up charges were involved with all accusations against Henry’s wives. These accusations might make juicy material for movies and novels but may not have much to do with the real persons involved and disrespect the memories of at least some of them. Whenever Henry needed excuses to kill, divorce or annul his marriages with any of his wives, he and his advisors attempted to find evidence in their past or president for immorality, projecting onto them what he himself was guilty of. Tudor England was definitely a paternalistic society and in such it was easy to convince anyone of a woman’s guilt even when she was innocent. Henry was also running an autocracy, facilitating such behaviour even more.

    2. Hannele says:

      As Jane Seymour was a Catholic and a supporter of Katherine of Aragon, to her Henry’s marriage with Anne was not valid. So after KOA died, Henry was free to marry again.

      In general, being a Christian is no guarantee that one cannot have sexual urges, staying a virgin before marriage or commit adultery.

  33. WilesWales says:

    I have to totally agree with Lyn-Marie on this one. I am also so very glad to see that Lacey Baldwin Smith cleared up what Katherine did say on the scaffold, as I have known for years she did not say, that she would rather die the wife of Culpepper. Thank you! WilesWales

  34. Rachel says:

    What I find incredible is that she was able to be married to the King and to become Queen of England with no one apparenlty bothering to look into her past and background more thoroughly than they did. I know when Henry saw something he wanted, he didn’t like for anyone to get in his way, but as King, wouldn’t he have been interested to know if she was actually a virgin, or if she had anything sordid in her past that would badly affect him?

    She wasn’t marrying just any man, for crying out loud, but the King. You would just think his advisors and whomever was responsible for his welfare would have prodded and poked around more before he married her.

    I’m surprised he didn’t insist..by the time she came along, he was already all too familiar with marriage, and what could make it invalid..what could make your children bastards, etc..and I’m sure he hoped for a son with her as every King liked ‘a spare’.

    Whether or not she committed adultery, I blame Henry and his staff. With just some simple investigation into the girl and her past, it all could have been avoided. Henry could have had her as a mistress and married someone more suitable.

  35. joseph says:

    You have to admire King Henry… He had it right when he beheaded his adulterous wives. If only it were that simplistic nowadays, life would be void of so many scandalous antics.

    1. Stacey says:

      What a horribly hypocritical statement! What about adulterous husbands? Henry was having affairs from the beginning. Let’s have him beheaded and save all the murderous plots he conceived of in his lifetime.
      Only disgusting, misogynistic, cowardly men would admire Henry for murdering his wives. I will continue to admire the person who showed true grace and dignity: Queen Katherine of Aragon.

      1. Christine says:

        Yes your right Stacey, I’m a distant cousin of Anne Boleyn but iv always admired Katherine she was born a princess and knew how to conduct herself properly, out of all his wives she alone deserves the respect that came with the title, Catherine Parr was an admirable woman but Katherine Howard was not worthy to be queen consort, she acted like a tavern trollop, but maybe she couldn’t help herself, she was just a silly little girl and couldn’t even write properly. Shocking that he killed her tho other queens have committed adultery and not died for it, he could have had her just imprisoned since her lovers were both executed, history would have looked on him a lot more kindly I think, one wife executed was shocking, but two? No wonder he’s seen as the Bluebeard of English history.

      2. Helen RuthDavis says:

        I am 99 percent sure the above comment was a joke. But i do agree Henry was the bad guy.

    2. Hannele says:

      Other queens have had affairs, but only a lover was executed whereas the queen was divorced and sent to the nunnery or later exile. F.x. the Danish Queen’s affair with Struensee in the 18th century.

      Sometimes, if there was no scandal and the succession was secured, the king even allowed the affair (Marie Antoinette and Fersen).

      1. Christine says:

        Just seen your reply, i think in France they were more lax about affairs, Henry expected women to be virtuous although he certainly wasn’t and I think he expected to much really, all people particularly the young act reckless when their strongly attracted to some one, sadly in Catherine’s case she was Queen Of England and Henrys wife, they were all so stupid, Catherine, Lady Rochford, that woman seemed to have a death wish, and Derham and Culpeper, and if he did rape and murder then he certainly deserved to die, can’t believe that all thought they could get away with it.

    3. Banditqueen says:

      Joseph, perhaps you have been watching too much of The Handmaid’s Tale, but promoting beheadings for adultery is hardly something which is respectful to women or a very sensitive remark. Yes, of course adultery is wrong for both sexes but putting people to death is not the answer. In the case of Anne Boleyn, she was innocent of the charges against her and in the case of Kathryn Howard, the case is not that black and white. Anyway, adultery wasn’t a capital crime, which is why treason or presumption of treason was added, saying that the Queen and her alleged lover conspired to plan the death of the King, wanted to pass any children off as a legitimate heir or wanted to marry after his death. Had they really been guilty of that then you could argue for him being right to condemn them to death as that was the law. However, as we don’t have enough evidence on this point either, let alone their guilt of adultery, his decisions remain highly contentious.

  36. rorie says:

    Whilst I do agree that the punishment was harsh Catherine and Thomas Culpepper should have known better. In those days the king did as he wanted without question. she had guts. these things always come out….someone always sees or hears something. They should have learned from Anne Boleyn’s misfortunes.

  37. Richard dawson says:

    A lot of people do not realise that the event of Katherine Howards execution set a precedent which today is used to enable the Royal Assent by commission to be given to Bills in Parliament to become Acts of Parliament whereby the queen does not have to go to Parliament. This is to be found in (33 Hen VIII cc 20 and 21) although the practise was declared illegal by an Act declaing the Pretended Act of Attainder of Thomas duke of Norfolk to be void. As to the present topic, it should be remebered that the confessions of Culpepper and Dereham were extracted by torture in the Tower of London so the question of Katherine Howard and others guilt remains a mystery insofar as to whether she was guilty of adultery or not? Alswo there waqs no trial and her guilt was to be assumed on the confessions of Culpepper and Dereham.

  38. NicoleK says:

    The thing to consider is, which is more likely… that a King known for bringing false charges against and mistreating his many wives brought charges against this one, or that this one was stupid enough to do something as rash and suicidal as actually committing treason?

    Given his track record, it’s far more likely that he tired of her and wanted to get rid of her. Remember, even Katherine Parr had a warrant for her arrest against her!

    Henry’s general pattern seemed to be arrest his English wives, put aside his foreign ones.

  39. NicoleK says:

    I know she didn’t say she would rather be the wife of Culpepper, but oh! Don’t you wish she had? It’s such a great line! Take THAT Henry!

  40. Hannele says:

    Many say that Catherine was stupid. Anne would have been if she had had affairs, for she was an ambitious woman whose position, and that of Elizabeth, depended wholly on Henry and there is no evidence that she loved with any of her “lovers”. But Catherine was head over heels in love with Culpepper, and as her letter shows she could not be apart from him, she simply did not think about the risks.

    Henry’s reaction is interesting. First he did not believe the charges, the investigation was quite long and Catherine was interrogated many times. I cannot help thinking that in Catherine’s case Henry really wanted to know the truth, but Anne’s fate was decided beforehand by Henry and/or Cromwell.

    Of course, also the accused men were of different class (apart from Smeaton). In Anne’s case, it rises suspicion that the real cause was not adultery but political purge, ordered by Henry and/or Cromwell.

  41. Nicki says:

    Did this so called head of England every attend either wives executions No of course not he was too busy eating himself stupid and engaging in fornications with other females even males who knows perhaps rumors should have been spread in his time about his sexuality, anyway no more can be expected from a Genocidal and Syphilis infected Maniac at the end of the day it was all about pathetic Henry VIII a disgusting individual and it would have been disgusting to have lived in Tudor England

  42. Brandy says:

    I believe Henry VIII was a self serving tyrant. Death is permanent. He ended the lives of his friends, family, and wives- all because he wanted what he wanted when he wanted it. He doesn’t get a pass from me.

  43. Terri Adams says:

    Since a young child, I have read everything I could about the royalties of Europe. None more interesting that the time of HenryVIII; however as much as I have read, historical and fiction, I have never formed more than a cursory opinion of the acts or intentions of these persons of history. I am amazed at the strong convictions formed by people so far removed from the time and culture. Writers haven’t changed since before Biblical times. Everything is written to the slant of the author. It is impossible to write fact, especially when there is none, without even defining adjectives. I also find it strange that I hadn’t seen this article before this. It was a good addition to my many previous delves into the royal tree and its many branches. I am glad there are people out there that do this research for me. Although I love reading it, I couldn’t include such deep delves into the subject. Thank you.

  44. Anne says:

    You’ve spelled the word “blindfolded” incorrectly a few times in the article.

    1. Claire says:

      Thank you for spotting that! Only twice, but thanks!

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