In this latest edition of my Questions about Anne Boleyn series, I consider whether Anne Boleyn and her cousin, Catherine Howard, were pawns of their families and whether the Boleyns and Howards deserve to be blamed for their subsequent executions.

Did Thomas and Elizabeth Boleyn, and Elizabeth’s brother, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, force Mary Boleyn and Anne Boleyn into their relationships with the king to win favour?

Did the Duke of Norfolk push Catherine Howard at the king to tempt him away from Anne of Cleves and to help bring down Thomas Cromwell?

Find out what history tells us about Anne Boleyn, Mary Boleyn, Catherine Howard and the Boleyns and Howards.

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16 thoughts on “Were Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard pawns of their families”
  1. Anne Boleyn certainly was not a pawn of her family, she knew what she wanted and went out to get it, even though initially she wanted nothing to do with the king, and historians are derived wether she was the one who told the king she would not sleep with him unless she was his wife, or wether it was the king who proposed marriage to her having failed to coerce her into bed with him, these tantalising questions are something we will never know the answer to, but what is clear is that after Henry V111 pledged marriage to her she became hell bent on achieving that end, Anne was no wallflower, and both her parents knew that if thwarted like people of a similar strong character, it only determined her resolve to stand beside Henry as his queen, she saw a chance of a glittering future and seized it with both of her long elegant hands, the sources tell us that her father was not happy about her involvement with his lord and master, so possibly he had felt similar about his eldest daughters involvement with him also, it certainly puts to bed the picture of him rubbing his hands with glee at the thought of both daughters in the kings bed and the thought of untold riches coming his way, this is a view so often depicted in historical novels and on film to, the likelihood is that, the cautious man he was, and knowing his masters fickle nature, he could well have sensed doom for both daughters, we have to remember he had given all his children an excellent education, which tells us he had high hopes for all of them, George had gone to Oxford and was employed in the diplomat service same as his father, both Anne and Mary had gone to France with Princess Mary, before that Anne had been in the household of Margaret of Savoy, one of the most sophisticated courts in Europe, why would he be pleased that both daughters became mistress of the king? He knew that all that happened with mistresses were that they were often discarded could be two years down the line or two months, Elizabeth Blount was discarded after a few years when she became pregnant with her son and yet the king was said to be quite in love with her, he feared for both Mary and Anne, Mary’s affair we know nothing of, when it started and for how long it endured and when it ended, yet a husband was found for her and all that affair had caused Thomas was no doubt a certain amount of sniggering and gossip, he probably found it unendurable, he could well have been a man of high moral standards, and so we can understand his distaste at the knowledge of both his daughters sharing the kings bed, with Anne she bedazzled the king so much that he was determined to put aside his queen of over twenty years and split the country in two, and split it he did, the country became divided and many good people died as a result of his obsession with Anne Boleyn, no she was not a pawn of her family, her father and possibly her mother to who could well have been a gentle soul tried to stop her marriage with the king, which irked Anne so much one can imagine the atmosphere in the Boleyn household that month, little Catherine Howard was different, but like her tragic cousin she too caught the eye of the king and he became completely besotted with her, it must have been something in the Howard blood that made Henry V111 fall for both sisters and cousin, Catherine’s portrait shows a young fresh faced girl with a round face large hazel eyes and a strong nose, so many novels and films depict her as a giggling uneducated Miss who spent her time laughing dancing and doing nothing remotely constructive, yet here too her character rather like Anne’s has been maligned, she was born the daughter of a great house, it was her tragedy that she lost her mother in infancy and her feckless father sent her to live with her grandmother, the dowager Duchess of Norfolk whose household was not exactly run with the moral standards expected of the House of Howard, or indeed any other noble house, Catherine as she grew up ran wild with the young people she shared her dormitory with, she had no guidance and in those halcyon days she allowed certain liberties with young men, it must have all seemed so much fun to her, there was picnics in the dormitory late at night, yet during the day she was taught dancing and deportment, she was taught how to distill herbs and run a great household, she was taught needlework and she knew one day she would go to court and make a great marriage, all these skills she was being taught for when that day came, and being a Howard whose matriarch of the family was Earl marshal she would expect her husband to be of another great noble house, she herself declared later everyone knew how much she longed to go to court, she must have dreamt of the balls and masques and entertainment and if lucky as the video explains, she could well be chosen to serve in the household of the new queen Anna from Cleves, when she did come to court Henry V111 noticed her, and yet possibly he was to wrapped up in the marital mess he was trying to extricate himself from to pay much attention to his wife’s charming new maid of honour, however Catherine appears to have been a lively little thing and he possibly heard her laughter before he saw her, when he started courting her in ernest her uncles and grandmother must have must have been delighted, yet it is just possible he saw her as a potential mistress first of all like Anne Boleyn years before, but no, like with Anne he was already married and trying to end it, he saw Catherine as a potential queen and this is what has often mystified writers, why marry her when she probably would be content to be his mistress? She was sexually experienced and riches would have been hers and no doubt a few honours would come her families way, it is not possible that she was a pawn of her ambitious family, in fact the way her uncle is depicted I find rather dreadful, he is often shown bullying the family into following his orders on how to deal with the king, what to say to him and so on, in Wolf Hall he was shown swearing when Percy of Northumberland had declared he was not married to his wife because he was affianced to Anne, is this what really happened ? We know Anne did not get on with him and this could have been because she found his interference overbearing, yet by all accounts he was an affable friendly man, although his wife claimed he abused her, he had seen both his niece and nephew fall because of Anne’s association with this king and the sad deaths of both his sister and brother in law, he may not have wanted his other niece to get involved with the king, we cannot know what is said behind closed doors but we do know this duke was not aware of his nieces rather unconventional upbringing, the sources tell us how Henry V111 was so enamoured of little Catherine Howard he was determined to set aside his German sow and marry her, once this king was determined on something he would see it through, and dare anyone to try and stop him, so no I do not believe that Catherine was a pawn of her family anymore than Anne Boleyn was of hers, in both cases King Henry V111 was deeply in love with them and determined to make them his queen, Sir Thomas Boleyn was not very happy about this as he probably had a sixth sense that all would not end well, he maybe thought that Anne would not be suited to queenship and he was right, Catherine’s Howard relatives probably did not share the same misgivings as he had although Anne had lost her head, they possibly thought everything would be rosy in the garden for little Catherine, they did not know of her murky past and when it was divulged their world came crashing down, like the Boleyn family years before.

  2. Anne Boleyn definitely wasn’t the pawn of the Boleyn family, the evidence is very clear on that point. In fact daddy may have even disapproved. However, the case of Katherine Howard isn’t as clear. I doubt she was forced to marry Henry as this would render the marriage null and void. However, I think Norfolk saw the opportunity to bring Henry round to favouring the Howard family and really did at least persuade Katherine that she had a duty to promote their cause and let the King become attracted to her. He might have hoped for her to be his mistress as Henry was looking to get out of his political marriage with Anna of Kleves and she wasn’t absolutely against the idea. Katherine was a maid placed in the household of Anne of Cleves with other family members, mostly cousins, in 1539 by her powerful family and she was a guest of Bishop Stephen Gardiner at one of his famous banquets when it is believed Henry possibly noticed her. We can’t pin down when Henry became attracted to Katherine but by May 1540 it was noticed that he was taking a boat across the river to a house he had granted her and was paying court to her. Anna noticed as well and complained to her contacts from home. Henry’s marriage was now inconvenient because of political problems in Germany and the Emperor wanted to take over the disputed territory of Guelders and Henry was told by his Ambassadors abroad that he was in danger of being dragged into war, something he couldn’t afford. Hence the nonsense which followed about her beauty and Henry’s aversion to her.

    No doubt Norfolk saw an opportunity here and Katherine was promoted as a mistress or potential wife. Henry became enamoured of her and couldn’t wait to make her his. She was charming and made him feel young, he offered her wealth, power and security. Whether or not she was on the same page as him, Katherine wasn’t forced to accept, she wasn’t a pawn as such, but she recognised her duty and accepted.

    1. It must have been extremely difficult when the king asked you to marry him and you were about thirty years his junior, not only that but she had a fancy for Thomas Culpeper a young man in the kings household and a distant cousin of hers, no doubt she was thrilled and excited at the thought of being queen but she was probably only thinking of the riches and power that would be hers, in fact if she was thinking along those lines she was to be bitterly disappointed, queens were servile to the king their husband and was expected to behave in a much different fashion than a young girl running wild and free in her grandmothers household, no escaping to the dormitory this time, no snatching bitter sweet cuddles with her handsome mucus master, queens were watched every minute of the day, and by this time Henry was not the handsome love god of his youth who had charmed his first queen and Bessie Blount, Mary Boleyn Jane Popinjay and possibly, Anne Boleyn herself, instead Catherine’s would be bridegroom was an overweight balding man who limped when he walked, and any trace of the golden prince had long since vanished, but to be queen consort was an incredible honour and so she dutifully accepted, her family must have been so proud but we do not know how Catherine really felt about Henry, it is possible she respected and revered him but attracted to him, no I do not believe so, temptation soon came her way and alas she succumbed, her downfall was to be her families downfall and many ended up in the Tower under misprision of treason, she was only a very young girl whose only crime was to fall in love but sadly, it was to cost her her very name and reputation, her position as queen and ultimately her life.

  3. As the video points out Thomas and Elizabeth Boleyn had been in the service of the King for a number of years and didn’t need Anne or Mary as a meal ticket. His Service began in around 1497 for Henry Vii and he helped put down the Cornish Rebellion. His wife was a lady to both Elizabeth of York and then Katherine of Aragon and as a retainer of the then Earl of Norfolk, son of the late John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk, but reduced in status by the new Tudor King, Thomas Boleyn was a good match for his daughter, Elizabeth Howard and they probably married in 1498/9. Thomas Boleyn was one of six primary gentlemen chosen to escort Princess Margaret Tudor to her husband, James iv of Scotland in 1503. His marriage to Elizabeth was successful and fertile with approximately five children at least being born between 1500 and 1507. Thomas was very talented, he spoke a number of languages, including French and Flemish and served on a number of overseas embassies, was the resident Ambassador in France and he rose quickly at Court as well. He became Controller of the Royal Household and then Lord Privy Seal which meant he was trusted with extremely inside and private information. He was clearly growing more wealthy as well because he was able to own Hever and several smaller properties. Anne and Mary came to Court in 1520 and 1522 and served Katherine of Aragon. Like others they were in a position to become the object of the King’s affection, at least on a temporary basis. Anne stood out for a number of reasons, her whit and intelligence and her charm and Henry was smitten sometime in 1525. Anne refused him and Henry decided to write to her until she agreed to let him court her. Sometime in 1526 Henry and Anne began a mutually agreeable relationship and fell in love. Henry by now could offer Anne more than her family could ever have dreamt of, the potential of becoming his wife.

    Henry had questioned his marriage to Katherine for some time and he was looking to the possibility of an annulment from her so as he needed a son and he believed his marriage to her to be cursed because she was previously married to his brother, Arthur, this being forbidden in Leviticus. Anne coming along sharpened his focus and she offered him the opportunity of a second wife. He would have sought another Princess if not but now he loved Anne he was determined nothing would stop him from the aim of ending his first marriage. While its true that Elizabeth and Thomas Boleyn did benefit from Anne’s rise to Queen, were ambitious, they didn’t push Anne towards the King, they were no different than many families at Court and so they can’t be blamed for what happened either. In Anne’s case it was both the misfortune of fate and Henry’s desire to quickly move on to another wife for a son which led to Anne’s downfall. Henry and Cromwell together were to blame for her downfall and execution, not Anne who was innocent of all charges, nor her parents.

  4. The situation with Kathryn Howard was different to that of Anne Boleyn. Kathryn was intended to have a decent husband as was Anne, but she didn’t have her cousin’s advantages. Not that Kathryn was a dummy or an empty headed bimbo as she was in the Tudors, she was a gentle woman, no a noble woman and her training was meant to prepare her for the household she would lead as a wife of a noble man. She might not have had the most ideal start, losing her mother young and being sent to her step grandmother for raising and learning, but this wasn’t unusual either. Many other family members were in this massive household. Her step grandmother had very little help but was still no idiot and did stop things when she heard about Henry Mannox. Kathryn for some reason experimented as a young lady and Mannox got away with petting his charge sexually when she was about twelve or thirteen which I would go with a degree of abuse. However, later on Kathryn went on to meet with him which was foolish and dangerous and said nothing. Her grandmother had to catch them kissing before Mannox was dismissed. Kathryn didn’t confide in her and we don’t know why not. She was young so was she afraid, excited, confused, under his spell, compliant but being controlled as young girls are, flattered or even besotted? Mannox was dismissed and Kathryn blamed which is unfair and tells us much of the double standards of the day.

    Kathryn moved on to another gentleman, this time one more her type and one with whom she had a fully consensual sexual relationship. Between the ages of 15 and 17,_for an unknown period, Kathryn had a relationship with one Francis Dereham who was a bit of a rake. She wasn’t raped by him as she later claimed but she had sexual union with him on several occasions and her roommates testified to this as well. In fact Dereham understood that he was promised to Kathryn and by canon law this may have been so. Kathryn learned everything she needed to run a large household and was literate, although how good at reading and writing she was we don’t really know but she could certainly write letters well enough. Running a large household wasn’t the same as being a modern housewife, she would need to understand accounts, how to make medicine, make and store food and provisions, give orders to domestic staff, to order everything the household needed regularly, to supervise people, the relationship with her husband’s tenants in his absence, to represent him in his absence and many other things. Kathryn was sent to Court to finish that education and meet a suitable husband or for one to be chosen for her. Her grandmother knew off her past as did others, but the Duke probably had no idea. Whilst her grandmother might remain quiet, Norfolk could not take such a chance. It might be possible with another man but for her to be wedded to the King, having a sexual past was dangerous. Kathryn wasn’t intended for Henry but she still should have been a virgin, it was expected. Kathryn caught the King’s eye and I have no doubt that her family encouraged her. Henry was attracted to her, she wasn’t forced to marry him, but her family would have persuaded her of the benefits of his interest and such a match. Kathryn doesn’t seem to have had any problems with being Queen, although she did have a couple of suitors at Court, including Thomas Culpeper and Edward Redgrave. She was keen to preserve her good name once she was Queen and we know that she tried to break old ties, although they caught up with her. It was important that Kathryn now behave as a Queen, the wife of the King and one who had gone through four wives, even beheading one of them. She appeared to do that and Henry was besotted with her. It was March 1541 when things started to go wrong when an exhausted, depressed and ill King Henry withdrew to his rooms for a month. Kathryn was left to entertain herself and she did. She had her first meetings in secret with Thomas Culpeper. Later she would see him regularly on the Northern Progress and then her past came to light. Henry ordered an investigation and it was several days before the horrible truth came to light. Kathryn had lovers before and during her marriage to the King. She was seeing them in her room and although there is little evidence of a sexual relationship with Culpeper or Dereham after her marriage, she looked guilty and claimed she wanted to go further. She intended treason. Kathryn wasn’t sent to the Tower but Syon House and was treated mildly. However in January she was indicted by Act of Attainder in Parliament with the lady who had helped her, the unfortunate Lady Jane Rochford. They were both beheaded on 13th February 1542, the two alleged lovers having been executed on 10th December 1541. All of the Howard family were rounded up, indicted and imprisoned. Only Norfolk walked away after a real begging letter, in which he denounced his niece and her family. For once I don’t even blame Henry for the death of Kathryn, save that he gave the order. Kathryn’s own behaviour contributed to her own demise. She couldn’t do anything about her life before Henry but she could afterwards. Kathryn acted recklessly by seeing a man in her rooms late at night who had no right to be there and in carrying on with him in secret. The King and his Council had reason to believe she was committing adultery and had discussed the death of the King which was treason. Now it’s possible Kathryn didn’t have sexual intercourse with Culpeper but I doubt it. Her end was tragic and she deserves some sympathy, but at the same time, here she should have known one doesn’t give Henry Viii room for even the hint of suspicion. The tragic loss of a young and pretty, if reckless young woman.

  5. I always have believed that Catherine and Culpeper were intimate with each other, no matter their pleas of innocence, she was attracted to him right from the start and when he had a liaison with another woman she became very jealous, two young attractive people do not meet alone at night just to talk – what about anyway, how she loved her husband the king and how he was enjoying his duties as groom of the stool? Nightly meetings always look suspect and it was totally inappropriate for a noble woman, let along a queen to thus conduct herself, at the time the king and his council did not believe their pleas of innocence and today people are still debating wether they did actually have full sex or were just enjoying a platonic relationship, the note that was found in Culpepers lodgings was damning, and Culpeper himself when questioned on his activities with the queen sealed both their fates when he declared they had not done anything yet but planned to go further in their relationship, he must have had a death wish but he should have thought of Catherine, no man could be expected to live after that, it was a wildly foolish thing to say, I agree Catherine’s grandmother was aware of a certain laxity in her household but I don’t think she knew about the men visiting the ladies late at night, they would have all been dismissed and sent home in disgrace to their families, but yes she knew about Manox and tried to stop it, he was dismissed from her service, Catherine here was very young, although in those times young girls were often married they were not considered old or mature enough to sleep with their husbands, he abused his position being in a position of trust, he sounds a charming rogue to me and he was obviously Catherine’s first love, he did not take her virginity he was not foolish enough to do that but cuddling and kissing went on, however it was still inappropriate behaviour, Catherine then had a liaison with a Francis Dereham who was nothing but a noisy braggart as his later behaviour at court shows, he also engaged in piracy and so Catherine’s choice of companion was a poor one, but all girls love a bad man and she must have found him exciting like Manox, however these liaisons came to haunt her years later and because of them, her nocturnal meetings with Culpeper looked highly suspicious, it showed her to be a woman of loose morals, all very well for a kitchen maid but not for a queen, Henry was incensed, the more probing his council did the more they found out, Dereham was interrogated and maybe in hurt pride and jealousy mentioned Culpeper, nothing could save Catherine now, I agree it is very very tragic that this young woman lost her life, I have always thought her the most tragic of Henry V111’s wives, for her behaviour was due to youthful ignorance, no one had a bad word to say about her, she was known to be kind and generous, she was a slave to her own passions and yes, she should have tried to control them more as she was married to a very dangerous man, a man who had already beheaded one queen and many men throughout his reign, the world must have looked on in horror as he sent another queen to her death, the death of Lady Rochford to was dreadful as he had a law passed in parliament enabling him to execute the insane.

  6. Yes, Culpepper wasn’t very discreet about his intentions. I know its possible that he was threatened with torture but that was usually to get names or if you didn’t talk. Culpepper was all too willing to talk. The letter might be interpreted in a couple of ways, but I think it was only one of many love letters, the others lost or destroyed. I would love to know what one might have found if Katherine had a smart phone with social media. Young people record everything on their phone. I am sure they were just as daft back then.

    I am also surprised Culpepper wasn’t discovered earlier. It was Francis Dereham who dropped him in it. He was under interrogation as Katherine’s former lover before her marriage. Nobody knew anything about her post marital activities. Culpepper was the King’s most intimate servant and had to attend on him all the time. Even when Henry went to bed he was on call because if the King needed the stool closet he had to accompany him. If Henry had leg troubles Culpepper assisted him. It was only when Henry slept that he was free. On one occasion the King’s Chamberlain found the door locked to him and Henry came unexpected to sleep with his wife. Thomas was in there and had to be rushed out the back door. Katherine was in a panic but said she was getting ready. She said that she had been asleep. Henry was besotted with her and obviously thought nothing about it. She could easily have been caught through. What a carry on.

    1. Yes it reminds me of a scene from the carry on films, the husband coming home and the wife trying to get the plumber or the milkman out of her bed, he hastily shins down the drainpipe only half dressed, her ladies who kept watch for her notably Lady Rochford must have all been in a state of panic, scrambling about bumping into each other, looking back it does have a comical element to it, and it must surely at the time have impressed on all parties what a highly dangerous game they were playing, yet the attraction between both Catherine and Culpeper was obviously too strong for them to stop, here Lady Rochford has taken a knocking because many believe she enjoyed aiding the queen in her shenigans, Chapyus referred to her as a bawd, and another contemporary thought there was little good to say of her, which really is unfair, because through the stress of it all she endured a mental collapse, proof that she could not have participated in the queens affairs with much glee, there were as mentioned other of the queens women who were privy to the queens doings at this time, but only Lady Rochford was called to account , maybe the king realised it was too unwise to shed too much women’s blood, but here he should have been more sympathetic towards Lady Rochford who after all, was merely following her mistresses commands, his treatment of her I feel was vindictive and not kingly at all, yet the queen was merely the kings consort who after all was the master in his kingdom, therefore Janes first loyalty should have been towards him and divulged Catherine’s behaviour to Cranmer if she was too frightened to speak to the king, but no one likes a snitch and here I feel Lady Rochford felt some sympathy for her young and silly mistress, or it just could be Catherine bullied her, she could be imperious when she chose to be but Lady Rochford should have tried to advise her of the dangers she risked, maybe she did but Catherine was besotted and thought she would not be discovered, you get away with something once and then you think how easy that was, so you do it again, this it continues till as the saying goes, you have enough rope to cover yourself, Catherine’s tragedy was she attracted the eye of the king whilst being so absolutely unsuitable to be his consort, he was scarred by her deceit and it took him quite a long time to recover, hardly surprising his next choice of queen was totally different to her in behaviour and character.

  7. Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford always gets unfairly treated by history here. A bawd was a brothel keeper, the Madam, if you wish. I don’t think that’s exactly fair. Kathryn as far as we know only entertained one man in her rooms or those of Lady Rochford. Kathryn put a lot of trust and pressure on her because she dismissed her other ladies and only had Lady Rochford attending on her so as she could be alone. The others did know, or at least some did, but they were pardoned blame because they didn’t take charge of helping Kathryn, Lady Rochford did. You are correct Lady Rochford should have gone to Cranmer or the Council but her duty was also to the young Queen, whom she sought to protect by acting as a chaperone. Ehen the parties were all questioned the blame game followed, Culpepper blamed Kathryn for leading him on, Kathryn and he blamed Lady Rochford and so on. Not that she could very well do much once she had helped as she had to obey Kathryn. She had covered up treason so she was already in the net with her mistress. I can’t imagine a more terrible situation. She must seriously have been worried. I don’t think Kathryn even thought of the danger after a while. It was dangerous and part of the fun.

    Yes it is like a Benny Hill scene, running around getting Culpepper out of the room and down the stairs and helping Kathryn make herself presentable and composed to admit the King. Yet it was a very close call. The danger must have been very real. Her other ladies wondered what she was up too sometimes asking in the early hours why the Queen wasn’t in bed.

    Ultimately this was a fatal attraction, her marriage a blood vow as four people lost their lives. Henry truly loved and adored Kathryn and he must have been totally stunned by her behaviour. He had just given thanks for “this perfect jewel of womanhood” and that after so much marital bad luck he had finally found a woman to be grateful for. Henry thought Kathryn Howard was perfect. She was his rose without a thorn. Kathryn probably respected her husband and did her duties and found him kind but he wasn’t a picture of health, youth or vigor anymore. I don’t believe that gives her any excuse if she did have a relationship with Culpepper, no matter the attraction between them. Mind you if Henry wanted a nurse and constant companion he shouldn’t have married a teenager. Naturally she wanted to party and Henry indulged her. That was a mistake. He took his eyes off the ball and Kathryn played away. She was also a decent Queen who successfully interceded for various prisoners and was kind hearted. Her public role she played to perfection. However he was devastated and extremely angry when the truth emerged. Had the problem been with her earlier relationship with Dereham before her marriage and nothing afterwards found, then Henry may have pardoned her. However, adultery, although not a crime, put the future of the Dynasty in danger because any child Kathryn had might belong to her lover. That was treason. Tradically it cost the lives of two women and two men.

  8. Yes Catherine did try to help others she was a kind soul, she had food and other comforts sent to Lady Salisbury while in the Tower, she must have been devastated at her terrible ending, had Catherine’s fault as you say been merely her involvement with Dereham, whilst she was living with her grandmother, she may have escaped with her life, her reputation maybe would have been a little soiled and her Howard relations been berated for not disclosing her behaviour to the king, they had called themselves husband and wife and slept together so the law stated they were bound together in matrimony, that would not merit the charge of treason or a death sentence, had she not met with Culpeper and her first mistake here was not him but by allowing back her old love into her household, some speculate that Dereham was blackmailing the queen but I feel she maybe felt pity for him and agreed to his request, he obviously hoped the queen would rekindle their old love affair and somehow he heard about her interest in Culpeper, Catherine must have rejected him because he became bold and insolent in her presence, he must have heard some gossip surrounding Culpeper, maybe he was around when the queen requested her latest beau into her presence, people automatically know when others are attracted to each other, and knowing Catherine of old, he would have noticed the long languishing looks she cast in Culpepers direction, he must have noticed the gleam in both their eyes when they gazed at each other, Dereham was dangerous and it was not long before he put two and two together, then it was discovered through him that the queen was enjoying midnight trysts with her husbands handsome groom of the stool, that was not treason as such but tantamount to it, as adultery was inferred there and it became difficult, in fact well nigh impossible for both parties to prove their innocence of any wrongdoing, queens had to be above suspect and like the blessed mother pure, the mystique of royalty placed them above others, her behaviour was disrespectful towards her husband the king, although she was not attainted with the charge of adultery, she was attainted with the intention to commit adultery which was the same in Tudor law, Culpepers declaration that he intended to sleep with the queen made this charge stick, and the discovery of the note she had written, Catherine was only all to aware now that what had once seemed like a thrilling nighttime adventure, had been an incredibly foolish thing to do, she became hysterical as the seriousness of her situation sank in, she was confined to her apartments with guards outside her door, the sound of the key turning in the lock must have been a terrible sound, her jewels were confiscated and she was told the king did not wish to see her, she must have tried to shut out the memory of her cousin Anne Boleyn who after that fateful May Day years before, had never been allowed to see her husband either, she had not been allowed into his presence to plead her cause and had been taken to the Tower and had died there, Catherine’s agony is embedded in the ghostly tales of Hampton Court, the source that tells us she broke free from the guards and desperately tried to reach the king whilst he was at chapel is an enduring tale, the haunted gallery she fled along is said to be haunted with her ghostly wraith, her cries are still said to reverberate in the dark and a disembodied hand has been seen in the area, hardly surprising she is said to haunt this building still which was the scene of both her triumph and tragedy.

  9. Kathryn was probably pretty annoyed when Francis Dereham turned up and although she could easily have refused him a place, obligation was the thing back then. He had a letter from the old Duchess and I am sure he would have found a place in via the King if not. He acted badly around her, making jokes which were vulgar, boasted about how he knew her and yes, probably did attempt to blackmail her. It’s plausible that when he came back from Ireland, before he found out that Kathryn was married, that he intended to claim her. He might have entertained foolish notions about going to the Church Court but realised it was folly. There is no evidence that Kathryn and Dereham had an affair after her marriage but hee hiring him was seen as an intention to carry on her former life. His own big mouth didn’t help. He also implicated Thomas Culpeper as his replacement. I personally do think she met with him and seduction of the Queen was treason for the man. I also think she could have gotten rid of him but for unknown reasons didn’t. She could have dismissed him and its unlikely he would complain as he would frame himself. Here Kathryn showed her insecurity and her lack of experience. She was a young Queen and she felt vulnerable on a number of occasions. A more experienced woman trained to be Queen would have had him removed the moment he tried to blackmail her. She appointed her own household from a list recommended to her and she could dismiss them from her service. Dereham didn’t have a particular place in her household, he wasn’t her secretary, that’s a myth, so he wasn’t essential to her household. I think she was foolish not to dismiss him.

    On the other hand theories of Culpeper black mailing Kathryn are without substance. She gave him gifts, talked and teased him and met him without provocation. She was attracted to him and saw him only too willingly. She had him brought to her from the King’s household to her own after his duties were over for the night. Had he tried to blackmail her she could complain to Henry. She was fond of him. Just how far she went with him, we will never know. However, Kathryn played dangerous games with him and Dereham knew about it. That gave him even more reason to blackmail her.

    Ironically the one person who could help her was gone. Thomas Cromwell would have had some kind of resolution I am certain if the Queen was being blackmailed or even acting foolishly. Jane Boleyn had nobody to go to for help and that condemned herself as well.

  10. I agree Thomas Cromwell would have sorted Dereham out, as lawyer and the kings private secretary he did assist a lot of women with problems, he helped Mary Boleyn when her first husband died and Lady Rochford after her husband’s death, wether it be financial or personal, Catherine was in a sense on her own, and as you mention was inexperienced when dealing with this young mouthy lout who seemed to delight in winding her up, he was a troublemaker, because he had known her intimately I think he reminded her about that mole she had on a certain part of her body, just imagine what the king would say if he knew Dereham knew where it was and so on, yes Catherine should have dismissed him immediately he could not have done anything, he was probably all hot air yet the fact he had engaged in piracy shows he was bold and reckless, he could well have said something had the queen dismissed him from her service but he would have suffered to, he would have been thrown in a cell in the Tower and could well have been put to death for slandering the queen, he did implicate Culpeper later so he did ignite the fire that cost him his life, on one occasion he got into a scuffle with another gentleman of the queens household who berated him for talking insolently in front of her, really Catherine’s choice of men was poor, the only man who treated her well was the king, and she deceived him, no that’s nonsense the theory that Culpeper was blackmailing the queen, the note she wrote to him shows the depths of her feelings towards him, it was not the kind of note one writes to ones blackmailer, Culpeper was foolish he was in one of the top positions at court, being groom of the stool was highly sought after as you were with the king in his most intimate moments, it was a sacred position to be in and he must have been well paid with gracious apartments at court, the king was very fond of him he was in his inner circle of friends, yet he threw all that away because of the lure of the flesh, there was talk that he had raped a gamekeepers wife whilst his companions held her down, there was an investigation and because of the kings favour towards him he was not charged, one source said it may not have been him but a relation of his, there where two branches of the Culpeper family so there may have been some confusion, but his meetings with the queen shows he lacked the respect and loyalty that he should have felt towards deceiving his lord and master, he may have been in love with Catherine but he appears to me to be something of an opportunist, he probably thought the queen would shower riches on him, and I think Dereham thought that to because of his old acquaintance with her, the pair of them were just foolish and immature, but they did lose their lives and in this I feel more sorry for Dereham because of the two, he died the most horrible death, because of the kings malice, simply because he had known Catherine before he did.

    1. Francis Dereham was a rake, a trouble maker, not the sort of guy you brought home to meet your mother but the manner of his death was terrible. Yes, of course the law stated the punishment for high treason was to be hanged, drawn and quartered, but generally nobles and gentry were spared that. However, it wasn’t automatic and it was up to the King to grant the mercy of beheading. I remember the graphic screen in the Tudors and it was horrible. It’s ironic that out of the two men condemned that its possible that Dereham was the least guilty. He claimed Culpepper had taken his place but he wasn’t believed. The Government found both men guilty and the fatal punishment was death in the manner described. However, you are quite correct. Henry chose to commute the full horror of the execution for Tom Culpepper because he was fond of him. He chose to let Francis Dereham suffer the fullest severity of the law because he had known Kathryn carnally before their marriage or as Henry put it Dereham had “spoilt her for him”. In other words because Dereham had taken her virginity he was going to be punished more severely out of Henry’s malicious revenge.

      Nobody can ever really know if Kathryn slept with Culpepper or Dereham after her marriage to Henry. To be honest I think she wanted to get rid of Dereham but he was too dangerous. The probability that she slept with Culpepper is raised by the amount of time she spent with him in her rooms. She even met him in the loo! I just can’t imagine it. Having said that people do it there even today. There is hardly any mention of her having secret meetings with Dereham but again we don’t really know. No matter, that doesn’t mean he deserved that terrible death.

      Henry even avoided the public embarrassment of a trial by having poor Jane Boleyn who was mentally ill at this time and Kathryn condemned by a Bill in Parliament. She was accused of living a base life and intending to carry on living it when a former lover came into her services. Jane was called a Bawd which means a brothel keeper. The language in the Bill is very insulting and the two women’s reputations were really dragged through the mud. It was more the language of Covent Garden or Soho in the eighteenth century. In case you don’t know, that’s where the top London brothels were situated. Kathryn has always been assumed to be guilty as well and yet the evidence is merely based on the presumption of adultery and treason, not on any real eye witness testimony or confession. Perhaps we can afford her a little bit of doubt when it comes to guilt.

      The entire Howard family fell with Kathryn, her grandmother and her cousins were rounded up, imprisoned and interrogated over a number of weeks. They were tried and found guilty of misprison or knowledge of Kathryn and her lifestyle and hiding evidence. However, although sentenced to perpetual imprisonment, they were released by the following Spring or Summer. Norfolk wrote a letter begging for mercy and denouncing his family and both nieces, Anne Boleyn and Kathryn Howard. So perhaps he did have a hand in her fate. However, really only one person had the power to execute a Queen, her husband, the King. Guilty or not, it was Henry who signed the arrest and death warrants. Maybe he could have chosen another fate for them, but in the end he had the power and there was nothing their family could do to save them, no matter how much they pleaded.

      Nor can we blame the Boleyn family for returning to Henry’s service. If they wanted to eat it was their duty to serve the King. They had a position in their county and as gentry they had high positions at Court. They mourned in private but for the sake of remaining family members they had to accept an invitation back to Court and attend the baptism of the King’s heir. This was what most people did or they denounced their family and like Norfolk sought the King’s favour for themselves. This was their only realistic choice.

  11. It was said at the time that the Tower was so full of Howard relations there was not enough room for them all, Catherine herself had many sisters I’m not sure about brothers but she had plenty of cousins to, I’m wondering wether the young Earl of Surrey was also sent to the Tower, we know he later was to tread the same path as his cousin several years down the line, it seems unfair that the younger members of the Howard family should suffer because after all, they had no say in Catherine’s lifestyle, the fault really lay firstly with her grandmother, the ageing dowager Duchess of Norfolk, in whose care Catherine was during her growing and formative years, her uncle the Duke of Norfolk did not either how she had behaved with the other young people in his stepmothers household, to be fair to the dowager Duchess, she had given Catherine a home and she had bed and board, she ate of silver plate and slept in a feather bed, she had the proper tuition that a noblewoman of that era decreed, she had music lessons, it was not her fault Manox abused his position, she thought Catherine was properly looked after with the right guidance, she was old and like old people mostly slept all day after she had seen to the running of her household, seen to the accounts and so forth, she knew nothing of her ladies nighttime excursions and yet she and her family was dragged into this unholy mess, this horror with her granddaughter and duly escorted to the Tower where she must have quacked with fear, Henry V111 did not let age deter him from what he considered as seeing justice done, if a person was seventeen or seventy, if they had been hiding something from the king then to the Tower they shall go, Lady Salisbury’s blood probably still stained the grass, treason was a dreaded word in Henry V111’s England, to be charged with it and condemned meant the death sentence which was as we have discussed, the awful death of hanging drawing and quartering, that was the sentence for men, for the woman the equally horrific death of burning yet Henry never allowed women to suffer in this way, his two queens were beheaded and Lady Salisbury and Lady Rochford were beheaded, Anne Askew was different the heresy law decreed death by burning for men and women, the misprision of treason carried the death sentence too, for withholding knowledge of it was just as grave as committing it, the poor old duchess must have shivered not only with the cold in her prison but with very real fear, and the rest of her family, the kings fury was dreadful and at one point he even called for a sword to slay her whom he had loved so much, there was no point in pleading for mercy with this king, he had none to give, he had loved his child bride, he had deserted his fourth wife to be with her, he felt alive once again which being in love does, he even lost a little weight, he could not believe that he had this perfect jewel of womanhood, he had even given thanks to God the day before, ironically the note was handed to him, which sent his world crashing down around him, he had let once again, like in the case with Anne Boleyn sheer lust to override his common sense, Catherine sent him a letter in which she described herself as a poor unworthy wretch, it did not move him and I believe in his heart of hearts, he wished to pardon her, but he believed she had to die and after her sad death it was noted he rarely laughed again, he was depressed and put on weight, there were only two queens out of his six Henry V111 really mourned for and one was his third wife Jane Seymour, the other was I think little Catherine Howard, Lacey Smith described her as a blazing comet that lit up the Tudor sky, she was a fun loving pretty teenager whose real attraction I believe was more in her effervescent lively character than real beauty, her desire to help others her love for and zest for life, her kindness towards others less fortunate than herself, she befriended her former mistress Anna from Cleves and shared her presents of two puppies from the king with her, she gaily danced with her one Christmas, she no doubt felt somewhat guilty at supplanting her? She was sympathetic towards the Countess of Salisbury during her imprisonment and made sure she was well looked after, maybe her generosity of spirit was the reason she hired Dereham at court, he could well have pleaded poverty and she felt sorry for him, but it was a dreadful mistake, little Catherine was the second queen of Henry V111’s whose blood stained the grass at Tower green, a life taken too soon, she was probably not yet twenty when she died, and for all her detractors who declare she was this brazen hussy who got what she deserved, they must acknowledge at least her brave and dignified ending.

  12. Even if Kathryn behaved in a manner unbecoming of a 16th century noble lady, she was certainly no brazen hussey. She had one sexual affair as a teenager and indulged in petting with her music teacher, who probably groomed her to do it. She had a couple of flings at Court but we don’t know if they were sexual or not. Given that she was in service to the Queen, they probably were not. One of those two gentlemen was Thomas Culpeper. She had an affair after her marriage which meant she was unfaithful, because married women should not even kiss other men. She may or may not have carried on her relationship with Francis Dereham, although she appears more likely to have wanted to get rid of him, and this certainly doesn’t equate to a brazen hussey.

    Many of the Howard women were questioned for long hours and they must have all been terrified. Only a few people came out of the Tower again. I don’t know about Surrey. I am not certain if he was home from France or not. I would have to look that up. The children of the Duke don’t seem to have been affected. However, many others were, her sisters and several cousins, including one Richard Leigh who complained later that he was caught up in it all and he had nothing to do with the entire affair. Granny Howard had gotten into trouble for opening a sealed trunk confiscated as evidence or for the inventory of goods. She was vigorously questioned on a couple of occasions because she was suspected of hiding money and letters. She was certainly involved, having found Kathryn in compromising positions and visited the dormatory and found out the truth. Granny Howard was also very ill and her interrogation was actually stopped because she was so ill and distressed.

    At the end of the day, Kathryn and Jane both died with dignity and bravery. On a particularly cruel note, Lady Rochford should have been spared the chop because she had mental health issues at the time and it was illegal to kill her. Henry, however, in one of his capricious moments, had Parliament pass a new law to allow Lady Rochford to be executed. Queen Mary I did away with this law. It was a terrible thing to do, a personal act of revenge. It was a horrible thing to do and yet another example of Henry’s descent into madness.

    1. Yes that one act when he was determined that Lady Rochford should suffer also shows how brutal he could be, he vented his anger on a lot of people, it was Queen Mary’s good grace and humanity that made her repeal that law, out of all his fury and cursing at Catherine and her Howard relatives, it was quite surprising that it was just Catherine her maid and Dereham and Culpeper that suffered, I agree Catherine was no hussy, many young women indulged in love affairs and people have been the same throughout history, it is the age that determined how they should behave, the Victorians were hypocrites because of the double standard they imposed, in Catherine’s day for noblewomen and queens especially they had to be virgins when they married unless widowed, and Catherines romping happened when she was free and single, but her conduct after her marriage was just not acceptable for a queen, Catherine merely had a flirtation with Manox and a quite serious love affair with Dereham, there are no mention of other men, yet history has painted her as a foolish immoral girl who disrespected her husband the king, she was not immoral she fell in love with Culpeper, love and hate are the two strongest emotions of a human being, she was married to an ageing king who she did not love, he had long since lost his handsome looks and vigorous body, he was old enough to be her grandfather, he was very fat and in poor health, physically he could have revolted her which seems unkind, but we can only conjecture how Catherine Howard felt about her husband, she revelled in being queen yet she must have found sleeping with him distasteful, he chose the wrong woman for his wife because she preferred men her own age which is understandable, Culpeper was said to be very handsome, if only Catherine had not decided to meet with him then I believe she would have been pardoned, because her only crime then would have been her prior engagement to Dereham, Henry V111 could have decided to divorce her or pardon her, he could well have decided that it was in the past and he wanted her still for his wife and queen, whatever his decision she would have kept her head intact, her foolish decision to meet Culpeper after her marriage shows how strongly she was attracted to him, she made a mistake in sending him that note, she pleaded with Culpeper to destroy it but he did not, that was another error, they really were playing with fire, and as such got their fingers burnt, the Howard’s were released from the Tower eventually, but I doubt they were in much favour at court after the queens execution, the Duke must have decided to lie low for a couple of months, as for Agnes Tilney the old dowager duchess, she could only wring her hands in despair and lament over the loss of her two granddaughters.

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