Get Out of Jail Free Cards: The Many Annulments of Henry VIII (Guest Post)

By Jillianne Hamilton

Everyone knows Henry VIII was unlucky in love. Not nearly as unlucky as many of his wives, of course, but Henry would certainly have considered himself the most unfortunate man in England when it came to his married life.

The excuses he used to get out of his marriage varied from wife to wife. But he and his advisors were able to come up with excuses that never put the king at fault. Ever.

His first marriage was the most complicated to end because of a few factors. Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, daughter to Fernando and Isabel of Spain, was permitted in the first place because of a special dispensation written up by Pope Julius II. Catherine had previously been married to Henry’s older brother, Prince Arthur, the young man everyone assumed would be the next king of England. However, fate intervened and he died of illness a few months into the marriage.

So what was the problem? The Bible states that if a man marries his brother’s widow, it is sinful, bordering on incest. The punishment of this union would be childless. Julius II, God’s spokesperson on earth at the time, said it was fine so Catherine’s marriage to the newly created King Henry went on as planned. However, after years of unsuccessful pregnancies, no male heir showed up and Henry decided Julius had been wrong to allow the marriage to go further. God was not pleased with his choice of wife and this was his punishment.

After years of fighting with papal delegates sent from Rome, and with the new pope, Clement VII, Henry took matters into his own hands and cut ties with the traditional Catholic Church, making himself Supreme Head of the Church of England. Finally, with this move, Henry’s marriage to Catherine was decreed to be invalid and his marriage to his second wife was named valid.

Of course, we all know his second wife, Anne Boleyn, was not meant long for this world. Henry, once again, had his marriage dissolved quickly and easily. Days before Anne’s sad end, her marriage to the king was ended but the reason for it was not given on official court documents but it was likely because of Anne’s pre-contract to Henry Percy or because of the king’s relationship with Mary, Anne’s older sister.

The pope had previously given a dispensation stating that Henry could marry Anne (once Catherine had passed away, of course), even though Henry admitted to having a sexual relationship with Anne’s sister. It was basically the exact same situation as Catherine and Arthur except there was no marriage. Again, it was probably decided the pope was wrong to give that dispensation in the first place. Again, God was displeased with his marriage and was punishing him by not giving him a son. Again, the marriage wasn’t ended by divorce, it was annulled. It was like it had never happened. Again, Henry was free to take another wife.

New reasons for dissolving marriages came into play for Henry’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. Henry and Anne slept in the same bed at least a few times but never had sex. Henry tried, but it just didn’t happen. Again, Henry and his advisors found ways out of the marriage without calling into question Henry’s manhood. The marriage was eventually ended on the grounds of non-consummation (because Henry found Anne so unattractive) and pre-contract. Anne had previously been betrothed to Francis, the son and heir of the Duke of Lorraine back in Germany. However, the pre-contract had ended years before Anne’s arrival in England.

The annulment of Henry’s union to Anne of Cleves as not the last time pre-contract would be used as a way of saying a marriage had never happened because it wasn’t legal. During the catastrophic downfall of Katheryn Howard, Henry’s fifth wife, whispers and rumors about the young, vivacious queen reached the ears of Archbishop Cranmer. Cranmer investigated these rumors and interviewed Francis Dereham, a former lover of Katheryn’s. Dereham claimed they had agreed to marry but there is little evidence that suggests Katheryn made such an agreement. Still, pre-contract was once again used to annul the marriage, soon before Katheryn was sent to the executioner’s block.

However, if she really was pre-contracted to Dereham, then Katheryn hadn’t actually been unfaithful to the king with Thomas Culpepper. She’d been unfaithful to Dereham. But reason and logic weren’t really part of the equation at that point, as Henry was so heartbroken and angry, he considered ending Katheryn’s life by his own hand.

Getting rid of wives became infinitely easier for Henry once he named himself Supreme Head of the Church even though many of his excuses weren’t religion based at all. If pre-contract, non-consummation and Bible passages weren’t available excuses, I’m sure Henry’s advisors would have come up with other ways of getting Henry out of his unfortunate situation.

Jillianne Hamilton is the author of The Lazy Historian’s Guide to the Wives of Henry VIII, now available on paperback and ebook. Check out her blog, The Lazy Historian, for more information.


Get Notified

Facebook no longer shows our posts to a majority of our followers - Don't want to miss out on new articles? Get notified! Subscribe to email updates from Tudors Dynasty.

Join 5,012 subscribers.

Katheryn Howard: Part Four

Along the way Ive discovered that Katheryn Howard had a more interesting life than I had expected – very similar to what happened when I researched Jane Seymour. Once you go back and learn about Katheryns childhood, and understand her relationship with men, it gives you a better idea of how she got herself into hot water later on. She was too young to be queen – her lack of education and her immaturity were what made her reckless. I fear that even if she had only been a lady-in-waiting at court that she would have eventually created drama. As weve discovered so far it seemed to be in her nature.

Miss the first three parts? Listen now!

Become a Patron!

Quick Recap

In Part Three of this series we ended with some of those closest to Katheryn Howard being interrogated. Things were not looking good. We hadnt even started with Katheryns confessions, yet.

The dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk had returned to court to take part in private meetings regarding the investigation. Nobody at court realized it was all about the queen.

Her Crime Comes to Light

At this point in time Katheryn had no idea what was happening. She was confined to her rooms and she no longer got word on the activity at court. There was no more music and dancing as there always had been. She also realized it had been forever since she saw her brother Charles, who had been a staple at court, and even a secret love interest for the Kings niece, Margaret Douglas. Little did Katheryn know but her brother had been banished from court – without reason.

On the very day that King Henry wept after hearing the evidence against his wife, Katheryn had begun to understand what was happening around her. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, informed Katheryn that she was to meet with a delegation of men to discuss a topic that had been brought to their attention – her possible pre-contract with Francis Dereham. You may wonder what Katheryns reaction to this would have been, well, she was defiant, denied everything and refused to talk about it. The men left but it was Archbishop Cranmer who came back several times in the next 24 hours to get a confession out of Queen Katheryn.

Image of unknown woman once believed to be Katheryn Howard

A Queen’s Confession

Cranmer appears to have been a rather likeable guy. People seemed to trust him, maybe it was his comforting brown eyes that pulled one in and made them relaxed enough to tell their deepest secrets. But Cranmer had his work cut out for him with Katheryn – her mood swings were out of control, to the point of hysteria and Cranmer needed the right approach.

A quote by Cranmer to the King, At my repair unto the Queens Grace, I found her in such lamentation and heaviness, as I never saw no creature, so that it would have pitied any mans heart in the world, to have looked upon her.

The Kings pleasure was for Katheryn to be treated mercifully…as long as she spoke the truth. Those words calmed the Queen and left her telling Cranmer that she didnt deserve the Kings kindness.Katheryns guilt over the Kings kindness was evident when she said, Alas, my Lord, that I am alive, the fear of death grieved me not so much before, as doth know the remembrance of the Kings goodness, for when I remember how gracious and loving a Prince I had, I can not but sorrow; but this sudden mercy, and more than I could have looked for, showed unto me, so unworthy, at this time, maketh mine offenses to appear before mine eyes much more heinous than they did before; and the more that I consider the greatness of his mercy, the more I do sorrow in my heart, that I should so misorder myself against His Majesty.

In her second confession she was much less dramatic in delivery but still denied a pre-contract with Dereham. She admitted that he talked about marrying her but that she didnt believe she had ever agreed to it, and never spoke of it.

When she spoke of the carnal knowledge between herself and Derham she didnt come right out and say, yes, we slept together, many times. She beat around the bush, so to speak, and said that many times he laid with her, sometimes with his doublet and hose and a few times naked, but not so naked that he was completely naked…he may have had his hose pulled down. That seems pretty naked to me, but I believe she was trying to minimize what had happened between them.

Most things in Katheryns confessions sound like she was desperate not to look guilty. She also wasnt afraid to throw everyone under the bus to save herself. She even changed her story – she now stated that Dereham took her against her will and that she was not a willing participant.

In the next letter that Katheryn wrote to the King she admitted her faults and looked for forgiveness, or maybe leniency. In the letter she says, Now the whole truth being declared unto Your Majesty, I most humbly beseech you to consider the subtle persuasions of young men and the ignorance and frailness of young women. I was so desirous to be taken unto your Graces favor , and so blinded by desire of worldly glory that I could not, nor had grace to consider how great a fault it was to conceal my former faults from your Majesty, considering that I intended ever during my life to be faithful and true unto your Majesty ever after. From this letter we can see that Katheryn was merely talking about her time as a ward in the dowager duchess home, nothing to do with Culpeper…yet.

She left her fate in the Kings hands.

Image of unknown woman once believed to be Katheryn Howard

The Queens normally noisy apartments were noisy no more. While she still had her staff on hand to assist her she was still favoring Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, above all others…after all, she knew all her secrets about Culpeper. Rochford promised to be torn with wild horses rather than betray the Queen. Unfortunately, Katheryn was not so loyal. When the opportunity presented itself she threw Rochford under the bus to make herself look like the victim.

A couple of days later there were discussions on when to remove the Queens staff from her service. Katheryn was ordered to be sent to Syon Abbey where she wouldve been given the respect and service required of a queen.

The Privy Council noted that she shall have four gentlewomen and two chamberers at her choice, save that my lady Baynton shall be one, whose husband shall have the government of the whole house and be associated with the Almoner. Katheryns half-sister, Isabel Leigh was Lady Bayton, and would be there until the end. Some have suggested that Isabel and her husband may have sent reports of the Queens behavior back to the Privy Council, because Isabel was later granted land by Henry VIII, for unknown reasons. The gift is deemed suspicious because it was unusual for a family member of one under suspicion to receive gifts – Katheryns brother was merely sent away and banished from court – he received no land. The question remains, why would Isabel receive a gift when all others in her family were disgraced?

It wasnt long before Francis Dereham was desperate to make himself look more innocent – in order to clear his name or receive a more lenient punishment, he told the men that Thomas Culpeper had succeeded him in the Queens affections. This statement opened a can of worms that I dont believe any of the Council members expected. At this point, the Privy Council was only aware of her past aggressions, now they would learn what she had done since becoming queen.

A few days later the Queen was visited by Cranmer, Norfolk, Southampton, Sussex, Hertford, Lord Russell and five other men of the Privy Council who quizzed her on three late night meeting she allegedly had with Thomas Culpeper during the summer progress. Katheryn responded by placing all the blame on her loyal servant, Lady Rochford. She claimed that Rochford had instigated the entire thing and wouldnt let it be.

Image of unknown woman once believed to be Katheryn Howard

Eventually the Queen did admit to late night meetings with Culpeper at Lincoln, Pontefract and York. That didnt stop her from saying that she wished Rochford to more closely chaperone the meetings with Culpeper, at one point telling Rochford, For Gods sake madam, even nearer us.

The walls were beginning to close in around Katheryn and her naughty doings…Jane Boleyn, Katherine Tilney and Margaret Morton were some of the most important women yet to be questioned.

What Happened at Lincoln

On the 13th of November Katherine Tilney was questioned whether the Queen went out of her chamber, late at night while at Lincoln, where she went, and who went with her. Tilney said that the Queen went two nights to Lady Rochford’s chamber, which was up a little pair of stairs by the Queen’s chamber. She explained that she and Margaret Morton went with the Queen to Rochfords chamber, but were sent back. Margaret went up again soon afterward while Tilney went to bed. When Margaret came to bed, about 2 o’clock, Tilney said, Jesus, is not the Queen abed yet? She replied, Yes, even now.

The second night the Queen sent the rest to bed and took Tilney with her to Rochfords chamber. Tilney was not allowed inside the room but sat in a little place with Lady Rochford’s woman and stated she could not tell who came into Lady Rochford’s chamber.

Tilney also explained how she had been sent with strange messages to Lady Rochford that she knew not how to utter them. She also said that at recently at Hampton Court she bade her go to the Lady Rochford and ask her when she should have the thing she promised her; and she answered that she would bring word herself the following day.

The story was beginning to unfold for those involved in the investigation. They were beginning to get a glimpse into what was happening when nobody was paying attention.

On the same day that Tilney was questioned, so was Margaret Morton. Morton said that she never mistrusted Katheryn until she saw the glance the Queen gave Culpeper while at Hatfield. She claimed that the look was one that she believed there was love between the two of them.

While on the summer progress, the Queens behavior had become more and more suspicious to the ladies that served her. It wasnt just notes without seals and glances at young men and cryptic messages, but also the fact that she had begun to lock her bedchamber to everyone but Rochford.

Lady Rochford, when examined said she had not heard or seen anything from the other end of the room when she chaperoned the Queen and Culpeper. She did, however, mention that night at Lincoln that she and the Queen were at the back door waiting for Culpeper, at 11 p.m., when one of the watchmen came with a light and locked the door. Shortly after Culpeper came in, saying he and his man had picked the lock. Rochford eventually said that she thought Culpeper had known the Queen carnally during the progress.

Thomas Culpeper

When Thomas Culpeper was eventually interviewed he recalled both the Queen and Lady Rochford as equal partners in the crime. He claimed that he understood the late night meetings they had would not appear with the purest intent, but that he had not committed treason – he had not slept with the Queen, however, he did say that he intended and meant to do ill with her and that likewise the Queen was so minded with him.

Now, you may ask, why it was considered treason to sleep with the Queen – well, the easiest answer is that it would throw a wrench in the Act of Succession. If she became pregnant there would be no way to know if the child was the Kings, or her lovers. What Culpeper admitted to was misprision of treason – he intended to commit the act but had yet to follow through. After hearing Culpeper speak, Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford said, That is already too much and Thomas was sent to the Tower and his house was inventoried – a good sign that he would not be leaving the Tower other than his execution.

Lady Rochford

Now, back to Lady Rochford – Rochfords story had changed too many times for the men to know the entire truth, but when compared with the testimonies of the Queen and Culpeper they felt they had enough evidence to arrest and later convict of treason.

After being placed in the Tower of London, Lady Rochford had a mental breakdown. No wonder, this was the place that those closest to her went to die. Her husband, her sister-in-law and many others she knew from court. After her mental break, Rochford was removed from her cell and placed in the care of Anne, Lady Russell at Russell house – a beautiful mansion located on the Strand. This was done because executing the insane was illegal at the time.

A Secret to Be Kept

This time at court, and in England for that matter, was a very delicate time. The council members had to keep as much secret as possible as to not embarrass England in the eyes of the governments abroad. If one of the ambassadors heard whispers of the Queens infidelity it would reflect poorly on King Henry as a man.

Loss of Her Title

Eventually, on the 22nd (some say the 23rd) of November a proclamation was made from Hampton Court that declared Katheryn stripped of her royal title as Queen – henceforth she would only be referred to as Katheryn Howard.

Culpeper and Dereham

Her counterparts, Thomas Culpeper and Francis Dereham entered their trial at the great Hall of Guildhall on the 1st of December 1541. Both men pleaded not guilty.

During the trial Katheryns deposition was read aloud. The confession that was chosen was the one where she stated she was coerced by Dereham and that she did not have a physical relationship with Culpeper.

Culpeper claimed that he did not have a physical relationship with Katheryn but that he intended and meant to do ill with her. Those words were enough to condemn him.

After the jury deliberation they returned and stated that there was sufficient and probable evidence against the pair to warrant death. They were sentenced of treason and would be hanged, drawn and quartered because of their low status. In the end, Culpeper was guilty of planning to sleep with the Queen while Dereham was guilty of joining the Queens household in hope of knowing her carnally once again, and for withholding the Queens treasonous conduct from the authorities prior to her marriage to the King.

In the meantime, while Katheryn awaited her trial, fourteen people she knew were charged with misprision of treason and sent to the Tower. They were: Agnes Tilney, dowager duchess of Norfolk, Countess of Bridgewater, Lord William Howard (and his wife), Katherine Tilney, Alice Restwold, Joan Bulmer, William Ashby, Anne Howard, Margaret Benet, Lady Malyn Tilney, Edward Waldegrave and Mary Hall, formerly Lascelles – the person who opened pandoras box.

For Culpeper, the sentence of being hanged, drawn and quartered had been commuted to beheading, whereas Dereham was not so lucky. Both mens executions were carried out at the Tyburn gallows on the 10th of December.

Portrait most likely to be Katheryn Howard, but unlabeled.

Wriothesley writes in his chronicle that, Culpeper and Dereham were drawn from the Tower of London to Tyburn, and there Culpeper, after 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. Culpepers body was buried at St. Pulchers Church by Newgate, their heads set on London Bridge.

The End of Katheryn’s Days

At some point after Christmas…after the Kings divorce from Katheryn was finalized, word came down from the Commons that Katheryn Howard and Jane Boleyn would be sent to the Tower.

When Katheryn was informed that she would have a trial she politely declined the offer. She confessed that she was sinful and deserved death.

On the 10th of February, a barge arrived at Syon Abbey to bring Katheryn to the Tower, as was expected. Also in the Tower was her partner in crime, Lady Rochford, who appeared to have regained her sanity.

The night before her execution, Katheryn Howard made her final confession to a clergyman by the name of John White. She took God and His angels to be her witnesses, upon salvation of her soul, that she was guiltless of that act of defiling the sovereigns bed. Afterward she requested the block be brought to her room – you see, Katheryn had heard the stories of Cromwells botched execution as well as Lady Salisburys – she wished to make sure she did everything right so her execution was swift. That night she practiced over and over again.

On the chilly morning of the 13th of February 1542, Katheryn was escorted to a scaffold that was on the same site as her cousin, Anne Boleyns in May 1536. She did not receive the private execution she had requested, but it was held within the Tower walls to reduce the number of spectators.

Katheryns final words were not fully recorded, however, a London merchant by the name of Ottwell Johnson, reported aftewards that she died well. What IS known is that she spoke of Christs redemption to all who believed and urged the onlookers to learn from her mistakes. There was no talk of love, nor did she admit to being an adulterer. Her death was swift – one swing of the axe and it was all over.

Unknown woman, formerly believed to be Katheryn Howard

Author Gareth Russell debunks Katheryns final words, I die a Queen, but I would rather die the wife of Culpeper by pointing out that it came from a fictitious account that also claimed she was interrogated by the dead Thomas Cromwell.

Chapuys wrote in a letter that the King has wonderfully felt the case of the Queen, his wife, and that he has shown greater sorrow and regret at her loss than at the faults, loss, or divorce of his preceding wives. In fact, I should say that this Kings case resembles very much that of the woman who cried more bitterly at the loss of her tenth husband than she had cried at the death of the other nine put together, though all of them had been equally worthy people and good husbands to her: the reason being that she had never buried one of them without being sure of the next, but that after the tenth husband she had no other one in view, hence her sorrow and her lamentations. Such is the case with the King, who, however, up to the is day does not seem to have any plan or female friend to fall back upon.

From very humble beginnings as the daughter of the not so successful Edmund Howard to her end as Queen of England. Katheryns life is told like a childrens story – teaching the reader to learn from the mistakes of others. As Ive said before, Katheryn Howard was too young and too immature to be thrust into a life she was ill-prepared for.

Thank you so much for joining me in this four-part series on Katheryn Howard. Im hoping this helped to open your eyes to who Katheryn was as a person and help you understand her a little better. Throughout this series Ive referenced Gareth Russell, several times – this is because I have only recently read his book from 2016 called Young and Damned and Fair about the life of Katheryn Howard. This book was a real eye opener for me. His research on her was so thorough that I was able to come to my own conclusion on who I believe she was. Other books out there tend to push their viewpoint on Katheryn, while Id rather decide for myself. Wouldnt you?


Hall, Edward; Halls Chronicle

Wriothesleys Chronicle: A chronicle of England during the reigns of Tudors, from A.D. 1485 to 1559, Volume 1; page 132

Russell, Gareth; Young and Damned and Fair (2016)

Further Reading:

Russell, Gareth; Young and Damned and Fair (2016)

Loades, David; Catherine Howard – The adulterous wife of Henry VIII (2012)

Byrne, Conor; Katherine Howard – A New History

Want to read up on Katheryn Howard? Here are some options at your disposal:


Katheryn Howard – Part Three

The last article in the series covered Katheryns wedding night through Easter, or end of March 1541. It was at this point in time that Katheryn began to show favor to Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford.

Find Part One Here

Find Part Two Here

Katheryn Howard – Part Three

It was around the same time as Margaret Poles unexpected execution at the end of May 1541, that Queen Katheryn had become noticeably upset about her relationship with the King. Rumors had been floating around Tudor court that the King wished to take back the Lady Anne of Cleves.

When the Queen’s behavior came to the King’s attention, Henry located his young wife and informed her that she was wrong to think such things – that if he were ever in the position to marry again he would not choose the Lady of Cleves. But I suspect that the reason Katheryn was so paranoid about her relationship was because there was a rumor circulating. The rumor was that Anne of Cleves being pregnant by the King. The Queen had not yet given the King a son.

Queen Katheryn left Greenwich Palace merely four days after the execution of Margaret Pole and was headed to Westminster. Greenwich was in need of a cleaning, a task that could take weeks to complete. Once it was clean she would return.

Upon her return to Greenwich Palace, the Queen was informed that her cousin, Sir Edmund Knyvet had been arrested for “shedding blood” in the precincts of the court. The punishment for said offense was for Knyvet to lose his right hand. As a right-hander, Knyvet begged to have his left hand removed instead – he insisted that it was so he could still yield a sword for the King. The Queen must have put in a good word for her cousin because not long after he was fully pardoned. He was also warned that if it were to happen again there would be no reprieve.

After unpacking Katheryn’s things the Queen’s household got back to their normal activities. Entertainment continued as always as there was much music and dancing – two things Katheryn thoroughly enjoyed. It was this atmosphere that would unleash a chain of events that would inevitably bring down the Queen of England.

Whether it was Margaret Douglas secret affair with the Queen’s brother Charles, or Dorothy Bray sneaking afound with the already married, Lord William Parr, Queen Katheryn was not performing her duty as guardian of her ladies reputations, to the extent that she was expected.


The recklessness of her ladies spilled over into Katheryn’s life when she eventually forgave her former flame, Thomas Culpeper. Apparently, the two had had a disagreement on Maundy Thursday and did not speak again. Something changed with the Queen to at this point open up her reputation to a fling with Culpeper. Was it that she wasn’t receiving the attention from the King that she desired? Was it because her husband was old enough to be her grandfather?

What exactly happened after they reconciled is unknown, but we do eventually come across evidence of Katheryn’s feelings for Thomas Culpeper. Queen Katheryn sent one of her page boys to bring several dinners to Culpeper when he was sick. This, at the time, was not seen as inappropriate but she walk walking a very delicate line.

The progress of 1541

Everything changed during the summer progress of 1541. Henry and Katheryn’s itinerary on the journey included twenty-seven stops in just over three and a half months on the road. In addition to traveling they also had many public appearances along the way. It was as this journey progressed that Katheryn Howard began plotting to be with a man who was not her husband.

A few hours after their departure from London, the royal retinue stopped in Enfield.A progress in the summer was not uncommon for the court – London was known to be unbearable in the summer. The heat and smell of the Thames would often chase away the King. This timing of this progress was perfect for Henry to get to the north and meet many of his subjects who had never seen him before – this was his first time in 32 years that he ventured past Boston, in Lincolnshire.

After stops in Enfield and St. Albans, the court rested in Dunstable. It was at Dunstable that Katheryn Howard became the first Queen consort of Ireland. Something that must have been very exciting for her.

As they continued along their way, the King and Queen enjoyed themselves immensely. The King was having such a great time that he sent the Mayor of London a great stag and two bucks that he had killed on the 14th of July. This shows that there was no shortage of meat along their journey. It was only a week later that it was noted that the Queen was in a great mood – she had never traveled to Northampton before and it made her happy to experience this new city.

A Note

Two stops later in their progress, while at Loddington, Katheryn gave her chamberer, Margaret Morton, a note that was to be delivered to Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford. This letter was missing a seal and was not addressed to anyone, this often meant that the sender wished to be kept anonymous. When Morton delivered the message to Rochford, she was informed that the Queen would have her response in the morning.

The following morning, Morton went to retrieve the answer from Rochford and was greeted with a warning, to tell her Grace to keep it secret and not lay it abroad. Morton would not forget this strange interaction.

As their progress continued, a stop at Collyweston was in order. Collyweston was the former residence of Margaret Beaufort, the King’s grandmother. It then belonged to the King’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, until his death in the summer of 1536. While no one had lived there since the death of Fitzroy, it was considered to be in great condition. Katheryns apartments at Collyweston overlooked the garden and she had access with a private staircase to her rooms.

Grimsthorpe Castle

A short three-day stop at Grimsthorpe Castle was next for the royal couple. This castle belonged to the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk and the Charles Brandon was there to greet the group when they arrived.

As the Queens chamberers finished unpacking for their short stay, Katheryn asked her former bedmate, Katherine Tilney to fetch Lady Rochford and ask if she had followed through on the Queens request. Rochford told Tilney that she would bring word herself when it had arrived. Yet another strange interaction that would never be forgotten.

The Queen and Lady Rochford had discussed Culpepper throughout the lengthy progress. At one point Rochford mentioned to Katheryn that another privy chamber gentleman, Thomas Paston had also showed interested in the Queen. If Rochford was trying to find more men for Katheryn, the Queen was not interested. The only person on her mind was Thomas Culpeper.

The group left Grimsthorpe on the 7th/8th of August and headed to the small market town of Sleaford. The manor house in Sleaford, where they stopped briefly, had previously been owned by Lord Hussey. Hussey was a man who was beheaded after supporting the Pilgrimage of Grace. A common theme while in the north.

Treason at Lincoln

The following morning they were on the move once again. Roughly 10 miles outside of Lincoln, while the royal cortege ate, messengers were sent to Lincoln to inform those in charge that the King and Queen would arrive shortly.

Henry and Katheryn’s entrance into Lincoln must have been quite the site – as they rode toward the city wall, a group of men in red robes gathered. As Katheryn (also wearing red) approached the men, they quickly bowed to their new Queen. A tent had been erected nearby so the royal couple could change out of their riding clothes.Henry changed into an outfit made of cloth of gold and Katheryn wore a silver dress.

Throughout the progress, she carried out her public duties perfectly. Accounts of the tour written years later, referred to her as Henrys fair and beloved queen. Katheryn was a flawlessly behaved consort – content to dazzle as a supporting player, cloth of silver next to Henrys cloth of gold, never pulling focus or openly pursuing her own agenda. Her first few months as queen had been considered a success.

With all that being said, it was during their stay in Lincoln that Katheryn began her late night chats with Lady Rochford. Both Katherine Tilney and Margaret Morton (two ladies who were already suspicious) were assigned to escort the Queen to Rochfords room. When they arrived at Rochford’s door, the Queen dismissed both Tilney and Morton. This behavior was very suspicious. The fact that the Queen went to a servants room instead of inviting the servant into her own was unusual by social standards.

Once Katheryn and Lady Rochford were alone they snuck down the stairs to the back entrance of the apartments. It was there they waited for the arrival of Thomas Culpeper. As they waited that a guardsmen noticed the door was unlocked. Without assessing the situation he locked the door. Katheryn and Rochford had narrowly missed getting caught. Lucky for them, when Culpeper arrived he wasn’t concerned – he picked the lock and was there to calm a panicked Queen.

The three of them returned to Lady Rochfords lavatory. The the size of the room wasn’t small by any means – Lady Rochford could sleep in the corner and not know what was going on between Katheryn and Culpeper.

In a room lit by candlelight, Thomas and Katheryn shared their darkest secrets with one another. Katheryn spoke of her history with Henry Manox and Francis Dereham. While Thomas Culpeper listened intently and appeared amused by her stories. The conversation became more intimate when Katheryn bragged about her skills as a lover to the attractive young man sitting across from her.

As the hours ticked away, the Queens household became suspicious of the relationship of Katheryn and Lady Rochford. Margaret Morton, who was already suspicious, decided to checked if the Queen was back in her bed – when she returned Katherine Tilney asked, Jesus, is not the Queen abed yet? At which Morton replied, Yes, even now, and went to bed.

The Queen and Culpeper talked for hours – they finally went their separate ways at around two or three in the morning.

The following morning, after only getting a few hours of sleep, the Queen had the energy to show her generosity to a woman called Helen Page. Page was a local spinster who had been condemned for several minor felonies. Page’s sentence is unknown, but was pardoned by the King on the Queen’s request.

I Love You

That evening, the Queen and Thomas Culpeper met again. This time she charged Katherine Tilney to escort her to Rochford’s room. She knew Tilney could keep a secret. Katheryn told Tilney to wait outside. This meeting would be the first time that Katheryn Howard, wife of Henry VIII, Queen, told Thomas Culpeper that she loved him.He reciprocated her feelings by saying he felt bound to her because he did love her again above all other creatures. As Culpeper left he kissed Katheryn on the hand because he could not allow himself to go further.

After Lincoln

A day or two later the court moved on to Gainsborough, which was eighteen miles from Lincoln. Its unclear where Katheryn and her household stayed during this visit but author Gareth Russell believes it could have been Gainsborough Old Hall, the home of the old Lord Burgh. Local legend says that the King and his Queen slept in the upper bedchamber of Gainsborough Old Halls tower. While its likely that the Queen stayed there it is highly unlikely that the royal couple shared a room.

After spending a few days in Gainsborough they were off to Scrooby and then Hatfield. It was at Hatfield that Katheryns lady, Margaret Morton later stated that she saw her look out of her chamber window on Master Culpeper after such sort that I thought there was love between them. Morton did not report what she had seen and instead made another mental note of the Queens behavior. The court stayed at Hatfield for roughly five days before moving on to Pontefract Castle – which would be their longest stop on their progress.

Nearing the end of August, the royal couple had been on progress for over two months. The Queen, at this point, was not adjusting well to all the traveling – Im certain shed never experience anything like it in her lifetime. She was tired and jumping. Whether it was her tiredness, or the excitement of seeing Culpeper we don’t know, but she was not acting herself and treated her ladies poorly.

At one point at Pontefract the paranoid Queen yelled at Margaret Morton and Maude Luffkyn after suspecting they were spying on her.

Things didn’t get any easier for Katheryn either. On the 25th of August, Francis Dereham showed up at Pontefract, unannounced. Dereham was there to get what was his. He had just had an agrument with the dowager duchess of Norfolk. Norfolk threw him out. He had lost everything. What more did he have to lose? He asked for a position in the Queen’s household.

Katheryn had to think on her toes – she needed to find a way to appease this ticking time bomb…but her household was full.

After having a private meeting with Dereham she introduced him to the rest of her staff as her gentleman usher.

Being the thorn in her side that he was, Dereham continued with his boasting and bad manners – something that would haunt them all later and cost Dereham his life.

It All Changed

During their long stay at Pontefract, Thomas Culpeper spent an increasing amount of time together with Katheryn in her rooms, until he had to leave to undress the King at night – at which he would, some nights, return.

A new habit formed for the Queen while at Pontefract Castle – she began to lock her the doors to her bedroom at night, only giving access to Lady Rochford.

Maude Luffkyn got in trouble with the Queen again when she attempted to enter the Queens bedroom one night. She either forgot the door was locked, or was suspicious of the Queens behavior. Katheryn was so upset with her that she threatened to remove both Luffkyn and Morton.

It wasnt only Maude Luffkyn who tried to get into the Queens room but also a servant to the King. He had a message for Katheryn from Henry. The servant found the door locked and left – he hadnt thought twice about it. That is until later.

In mid-September, the King required Culpeper’s service for his trip to inspect the northern port of Hull. One can imagine Queen Katheryn heartsick over the distance between them.

Upon his return from Hull, Katheryn was quick to restart their late-night meetings. At one meeting she begged Culpeper not to confess what they had been doing to a priest, because, she believed her husband, as head of the Church of England would hear his confussion. Culpeper promised her he would not tell a soul, not even a priest.

End of the Progress

After the long progress Katheryn returned to Hampton Court Palace on the 28th of October 1541. In only a couple of days her world would begin to change.

Katheryn continued to take risks in order to see Thomas Culpeper, after arriving back at Hampton Court. Her infatuation with the man was causing the Queen to make terrible decisions. Before too long she would never see him again.

The Archbishop of Canterburys (Thomas Cranmer) official London residence was Lambeth Palace. It was there that he accepted the audience of a man called John Lascelles. What came from this conversation was not what Canterbury had expected.

Lascelles came with news that he had heard from his sister, Mary Lascelles – now Mary Hall about Queen Katheryns behavior. Hall was once a servant of the dowager duchess of Norfolk and lived in the same household with Queen Katheryn when she was a ward there. John Lascelles stated that he had recently encouraged his younger sister to petition for a position in the Queens household, but Mary Hall said that she would not feel comfortable having a mistress whose morals were lacking and who was light, both in living and conditions.

When Lascelles naturally pressed his sister for more information she told him of the Queens past romances with both Henry Manox and Francis Dereham. To prove that this was true he repeated what his sister had told him, but possibly in a more delicate way. She had approached Manox (as we covered in the last podcast) and informed him that he could not have a future with Katheryn due to his status. This is where Hall told her brother that Manox informed her that he had seen a very private part of Katheryns body and would recognize it easily.

After John Lascelles heard this story from his sister he chose to discuss with friends to help decide what he should do with the information. The consensus was to bring it to the Privy Council. This was when Lascelles paid visit to Canterbury at Lambeth Palace.

The entire matter was extremely delicate for anyone near the King who may have known of the Queens past. It would all have to be dealt with very carefully. Cranmer decided, most likely for fear of the wrath of the King, to leave a note for him to read after the mass for All Souls.

After reading the note, King Henry did not have the initial reaction that was expected of him. His biggest concern was in finding the truth in the story – not to lock up his Queen, who remained in her apartments, utterly clueless, for the rest of day. The King either hoped or believed it was all a big misunderstanding.

It did not take long before the Privy Council began to interview witnesses. At the top of the list was John Lascelles and his sister Mary Hall. The Earl of Southampton, a member of the Kings Privy Council began with John Lascelles, and the following day the Earl of Sussex stopped at the home of Mary Hall.

To stop rumors from spreading back to court where those involved in the accusations could find out, Sussex and some other men disguised their stop at the Hall residence as a place to rest on their journey from hunting. Eventually, Sussex was able to get Mary alone to inform her that the hunting trip was a ruse – to keep this matter as private as possible. He asked Mary if she would stand behind her words at which she declared she would.

After the confession of Mary Hall, Wriothesley and Canterbury examined Henry Manox at Lambeth. Manox said that he was appointed to the service of the dowager duchess of Norfolk about five years earlier. He fell in love with Katheryn, and she with him. Unfortunately their so-called fairy tale was interrupted when the lady of the household found them alone together.

Canterbury and Southampton proceeded to ask Manox if he had any displeasure with Francis Dereham. Manox stated that Dereham also loved Katheryn, and Edward Walgrave, who loved a maiden named Baskervile, used to visit her there until 2 or 3 in the morning.; so he wrote an anonymous letter to the Duchess, warning her that if she would rise half an hour after going to bed and visit the gentlewomen’s chamber she would be displeased. The Duchess did as he said and was furious with the girls.

Sometime afterward, Katheryn had become suspicious of the letter that informed the duchess and stole it from her room. She showed it to Dereham, who suspected Manox to have written it, and called him knave.

Manox during his interrogation also said that Joan Bulmer, who was Katheryns bedfellow had also been entertained by Dereham.

Manox continued on by listing more witnesses to the happenings in the dowager duchess household: Dorothy Dawby, then chamberer, Katherine Tylney, now chamberer with the Queen, Edward Walgrave, servant to Prince Edward, Mary Lascelles (or Hall) and Malyn Tylney, widow, can speak of the misrule between Dereham and Katheryn.

After the Manox interrogation, the men moved on to Francis Dereham, who was already in custody. They were careful about removing Dereham from the Queens household without causing suspicion. Dereham was told that he would be questioned about earlier claims of piracy during his time in Ireland. Once behind closed-door, he would learn it was even worse than piracy. It was treason.

Francis Dereham was questioned by the men about his doings in Ireland. What brought him there in the first place? Why did he choose now? Dereham’s new position in the Queen’s household was known and was considered suspicious as well. Francis told his interrogators that he had been invited to the Queens chambers, was given gifts and was told to take heed what words you speak.

He also confessed to have known Katheryn carnally many times during their time at the dowager duchess home. He went so far to recall a time that he was in his doublet and hose between the sheets with Katheryn, and there were witnesses to their love-making.

It hit very close to home when Katheryn’s aunt, Margaret Howard and her former bedmate, Katherine Tilney were both taken in for questioning. Katheryns aunt slyly told the men that she had suspected a relationship between Dereham and her niece but thats as far as she went with it. Margaret knew better than to incriminate herself.Katherine Tilney, on the other hand, confirmed the words of Mary Hall and Francis Dereham during her interrogation.

On the 6th of November, Canterbury and Southampton paid visit to the King. This meeting filled the King in on the intelligence collected. This moment would have been nerve-wracking for them as well, to displease the King was terrifying and they wouldnt want to be punished for telling him what had actually happened. Once all the evidence was revealed, Henry sat there quiet for a while, until eventually he began to cry.

Not long after, the King ordered both the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk back to court. Once the men had arrived secretive council meetings took place, not to cause alarm at court. Unfortunately it did not take long for gossip to start after Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk was seen leaving a meeting noticeably shaken. At this point nobody had suspected that this was all related to the Queen.

Read Part Four

Further Reading:

‘Henry VIII: in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 16, 1540-1541, ed. James Gairdner and R H Brodie (London, 1898)

Byrne, Conor;Katherine Howard: A New History(2014)
Fraser, Antonia; The Wives of Henry VIII (1994) Loades, David; The 6 Wives of Henry VIII (2014)
Licence, Amy; The Six Wives and Many Mistresses of Henry VIII (2014)
Russell, Gareth; Young and Damned and Fair The Life of Catherine Howard, Fifth Wife of Henry VIII (2016)
Weir, Alison; The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1991)

Would YOU like to become on a patron on my blog?

Become a Patron!

Facebook no longer shows our posts to a majority of our followers - Don't want to miss out on new articles? Get notified! Subscribe to email updates from Tudors Dynasty.

Join 5,012 subscribers.

Katheryn Howard: Part Two

In Part One of this series, we ended with Katheryn Howard…married, and Thomas Cromwell…executed. If you missed it, Id recommend going back and reading or listening to it – this series is the life story of Katheryn, to grasp her as a person you’ll need to hear her whole story.

Read Part One – Click Here

After weeks of reading and researching Katheryn Howard Ive come to my own conclusion on who she was as a person. Often we hear her called naive, or abused, but Ive come to my own conclusion – Katheryn was merely immature and reckless. She made many mistakes in her life, ones, that if she had the maturity to think through would not have been committed.

As a queen of England Katheryn is mostly remembered as the fifth wife of Henry VIII who was his second to be executed. If it wasn’t for her scandalous downfall, and said execution, we would not have as much interest in Katheryn as we do today.

In an alternative history setting one can imagine Katheryn as the last wife of Henry VIII – she had inevitably given birth to a prince or princess, because lets be serious…if she didnt, then her ending would be the same. Its also possible that she, like Jane Seymour could have died of childbed fever. All these options are possibilities.

But we know Katheryn’s sad ending. For me she will forever be, the young Howard girl who was reckless and immature and loved too quickly.

The Recap

King Henry VIII and Katheryn Howard married at Oatlands Palace on the 28th of July 1540. Oatlands Palance was one of the King’s favorite hunting spots.

Leading up to the royal affair, Katheryn did not see much of her future husband. Henry remained in London for most of July 1540 on business matters which also included ending his marriage to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves.

The guest list for the ceremony was small, even smaller than that of the King’s previous wedding to the Lady of Cleves. Because of the setting of these nuptials as well as the smaller guest list, there were rumors that the Queen was already with child on their wedding day. This appears to have been only a rumor.

If her wedding night with Henry was the first time the couple slept together, Katheryn would have been greeted by a giant of a man who was thicker in the waist than he had been when he married her cousin, Anne Boleyn. The ulcer on his leg emitted an awful odor, which only became worse over time. Katheryn would have to overlook all the King’s imperfections and perform her wifely duty. Her number one job at that time was to consummate the marriage and birth a prince.

The couple couldn’t have looked more ridiculous standing next to one another. Katheryn has been described as petite, while Henry was a beast of a man.

As we have briefly skimmed over the wedding night of the King and Katheryn, there is one part of this story that we need to discuss. There are still those who believe Henry VIII had syphilis. This is untrue. Author, Gareth Russell in his book about Katheryn Howard, states the story originated in 1888 but was revived again in 1958 when a Danish historian wrote The Medical Problems of Henry VIII. The historians name was Ove Brinch and he argued that portraits of Henry show a ridge in his nose that is consistent with syphilitic gumma. There are no indications (in the medical records that survive) that Henry was ever treated with mercury, this was the most common treatment for syphilis. So…lets just drop that tall tale and move on.

After their honeymoon was over, Henry and Katheryn began their journey back to London. It is highly likely that they made a stop along the way at Nonsuch Palace. Nonsuch was still under construction at the time and wouldnt be finished for five more years. This palace was one of the Kings favorite hunting lodges and would have been a great stop on their way back to London.

While the royal couple and court were traveling around the countryside the plague was running rampant throughout England.It is believed the great drought and heat from that year caused the pestilence to grow and spread. This would have been another reason the court would move around so much. They were go where the plague was not.

The Queens Household

It wasnt until the 8th of August that a formal announcement was made about the Kings wedding. This announcement was made at Hampton Court Palace – itwasnt very long after that friends from the Queens past were looking for a job in her household. The first friend who appears to have reached out was Joan Bulmer. Joan was not enjoying married life and begged the new queen to safe her from her misery by giving her a prestigious position at court.

Katheryn appears to have been coerced into to doing so, but she gave Joan a position as one of her Chamberers…this has been confirmed by Kate Emerson’s list of ladies in the household. A Chamberer performed more menial tasks such as arranging bedding and cleaning the queens private chambers.

There were many others from Katheryns past who were able to obtain positions within her household. There was another woman by the name of Katherine Tilney who was also appointed as a chamberer. As well as a servant from the household of the dowager duchess, Alice Wilkes – she also held the same position. These women were all aware of Katheryns past and that she would want to keep it secret from the King and the court. Its probable that these ladies were offered jobs as a way to keep them quiet – that they were asked to fill the position instead of petitioning for a spot.

Katherine Tilney was especially dangerous because she shared a bed with Katheryn at Chesworth. Tilney was present one evening when Katheryn and Francis Dereham were being intimate.

The dowager duchess of Norfolk, and William Howard (along with his wife) were all too keen at this point to keep Katheryn’s past hidden. By the time they all realized the King’s plans for Katheryn it was too late to come clean. They would all be ruined and the Howard named tarnished once again. Little did they know what would lie ahead of them.

The household of the Queen also included family members – her grandmother, the dowager duchess of Norfolk was a Great Lady of the Household, while her half-sister, Isabel Leigh, Lady Baynton was a Lady of the Privy Chamber, and her other half-sister Margaret Howard, Lady Arundell who was a Gentlewoman Attendant.

Katheryn ended up having thirty-four women in her household in all. There were six great ladies, four ladies and four gentlewomen of the Queens privy chamber. There were also nine ladies of exalted rank, five maids of honor and as always, a mother of the maids.

These thirty-four women who served the Queen were: Lady Margaret Douglas (King’s niece), Mary Howard, Duchess of Richmond and Somerstet (King’s ex-daughter in law), Lady Margaret Howard (her aunt), Katherine Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk, Mary Radcliff, Countess of Sussex and heres a surprise – the Kings former mistress and mother of Henry Fitzroy, Elizabeth Blount, now Lady Clinton.

Katheryns privy chamber included: Her half sister, Isabel, Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, Katherine, Lady Edgecombe, Eleanor Paston, Lady Rutland, Anne Parr, Lady Herbert who was entrusted with the queen’s jewels, Elizabeth Tyrwhitt, Joyce Lee and Susanna Gilmyn.

It wasnt only women from Katheryns past that were looking for positions within her household, but also her ex-lover, Francis Dereham. We’ll have more on that later on.

Life as Queen

The curfew in place for the staff of the Queen was nine oclock. If there was anything Katheryn needed in the middle of the night she would have a lady in waiting who slept nearby to attend her when needed.

As soon as the 29th of August, merely a month into their wedding, that the Privy Council noted a man had been imprisoned for having words about the Queen. As I dug deeper to discover who that man was I came across a statement in the Annals of Windsor (since Windsor was mentioned in the Letters and Papers) that declared the privy council was held at Grafton on the 29th of August. That the Lord Privy Seal received letters which stated the dean of Windsor was the man who spoke out against the queen – he was discharged by the keeper of Windsor and sent to prison for speaking unfitting words of the queens grace. We don’t know what happened to him, but we do know that Henry VIIIs pleasure was to keep him imprisoned for his further punishment.

Katheryn was slowly working her way into the official role as queen in her first few months of marriage. This would be a whole new reality for the girl who spent time as a ward in her grandmothers household. After their initial stop at Hampton Court Palace to announce Katheryn as Henry VIIIs fifth wife Katheryn stayed away from London through most of the fall of 1540. During that time the newlyweds traveled from one household to another before returning to Windsor Castle on the 20th of October.

It was during their trip around the countryside that Katheryn chose her motto to be No other will but his.

In books and pop culture, Katheryn has been known as Henrys Rose without a Thorn, or The dazzling rose without a thorn.

Im embarrassed to say that I’ve repeated that nickname – actually wrote it in an article or made it a headline at least one time. I need to go back and edit that!

The phrase was actually referring to Henry himself and the Tudor rose. Here is a quote by Gareth Russell in Young and Damned and Fair: The Tudor rose was the flower without a thorn, a royal succession that would inflict no more wounds on the nation.There are no contemporary reports of the Queen being called by this nickname. There was, however, a coin made in 1526 that used the phrase…again, in reference to King Henry and the dynasty.

As queen, Katheryn had no clear agenda, whether religious or political. It appears that at the beginning of her reign she had restraint and self-preservation in mind at all times. She did, however, wish to shower favor on her servants. We can look no further than the letter she received from Archbishop Lee on the 7th of December 1540. This letter informed her that the request for her chaplain to fill the position of Archdeacon of York was declined – Lee only took orders from the King on this matter.

The Lady Mary

Its well known that the Lady Mary was not a big fan of her new stepmother. Katheryn was disgusted by the fact that Mary would not treat her with the respect due and threatened to take away two of her maids as punishment. This shows part of Katheryn’s Howard personality.

On the 5th of December 1540, Chapuys wrote a letter to the queen of Hungary where he mentions the Queens behavior toward the Lady Mary:

He informed that queen of Hungary that he told Lady Mary about the Queen of England’s threat to take away two of her ladies. That it was the princess’s fault because she treated the Queen without the respect that was due.

Somehow Lady Mary figured out a way to appease the Queen for awhile. The royal ladies got along for about two months before Katheryn had to make good on her threat against Mary. Two of Mary’s ladies were removed from her household – her punishment for not showing the Queen the respect that she had to her predecessors.

Sadly, one of Mary’s ladies who had been removed, died not long after from apparent grief. Mary’s ladies were very attached to her, evidently.

From the Past

It was while the royal couple were at Windsor Castle that Francis Dereham arrived in London from his time away in Ireland. If you recall, from Part One, Dereham still believed he and Katheryn would marry upon his return. Imagine his surprise when he found out she was married to another man. The King of England, of all people too.

When a servant of the Howard household heard of Derehams return, they told Margaret Howard,(Katheryns aunt) that If I were Dereham I would never tell to die for it. It was all too obvious that if Dereham wished to live, he would need to stay quiet. With that in mind that Dereham was impulsive and possessive, so his silence would need to be obtained, for all their sakes.

Francis was smart…or dumb, depending on how you look at it. He knew that Katheryn would want to keep their past a secret and so he requested a job in her household. He most likely approached his former employer, Agnes Tilney, dowager duchess of Norfolk to obtain a post. Tilney then approached the Queen about it the matter.

There were only a handful of people included in the decision to bring Dereham onboard – Katheryn herself, the dowager duchess, the Countess of Bridgewater, William Howard and his wife Margaret Howard. Whatever they decided would inevitably affect them all, one way or another.

From the moment Francis Dereham showed up in London it caused great anxiety in the Queen, and those near here who were familiar with their past.

As part of their plan, William Howard brought Dereham with him to court sometime before Halloween 1540. This would be the perfect opportunity to have what would look like a spontaneous meeting with her uncle and his male companion, but really it had all been planned.

Katheryn is quoted as saying, My lady of Norfolk hath desired me to be good unto him, and so I will.

Unlike it is often portrayed, Francis Dereham was not made the Queens private secretary. The position of the Queen’s Private Secretary was held by a man called Thomas Derby – followed by a man named John Huttoft. Huttoft served the Queen until she lost her title.

It seems that the group was not certain what role would best fit Dereham’s situation. They knew better than to grant him a position with great power because that would look very suspicious. What he was given is not clear, but whatever it was kept him close enough to be watched but not so close to be deemed suspicious.

The Privy council noted that the King and Queen left Windsor on the 23rd of November for Woking Palace. This was another of Henrys favorite hunting spots. The location was small so the royal couple only brought with them a small retinue. This trip was needed for the aging King and he was quoted as saying that he feels much better than when he resided all winter at his houses at the gates of this town (London).

The couple’s next stop, merely two weeks after they arrived at Woking, was Oatlands Palace – the place they were married roughly five months earlier. They stayed at Oatlands for eleven days while continuing their hunting and hawking.

At this point in time, Henry VIII and Katheryn Howard were married merely five months. Katheryn had already had bad words spoken of her by the dean of Windsor, dismissed two of Lady Mary’s attendants and was left worrying about whether or not the people from her past would speak of it.

Defining Her Role

On the 18th of December, Queen Katheryn arrived back at Hampton Court Palace and was ready to completely embrace her position as Queen.

It was three days later that she met ambassador Chapuys for the first time. Chapuys would undoubtedly report what he saw and experienced to his master, Charles V. He stated that the queen was most magnificently dressed – and was decorated with jewels. Other than that he didn’t have much to say. Some have declared that this means Katheryn was more attractive than Jane Seymour because Chapuys had much more to say about Jane’s appearance.

There is no doubt that Henry lavished gifts on his new bride. Being the Queen of England and having a husband who would give you the world left Katheryn Howard very fortunate during the Christmas season. It was reported that she received a pearl necklace with 200 pearls, a necklace with six large diamonds and five rubies as well as pearls and more diamonds to accent – these were among the most awesome gifts received. She also received a black velvet muff which would keep her delicate hands warm in the cold winter months. The list of gifts went on and on. It must have been an amazing time for Katheryn.

On the 31st of January 1541, it was noted in Letters and Papers that the King gave Katheryn, a plethora of lordships and manors as well as castles and a couple of forests and parks. The list of items received is quite unbelievable. Katheryn was now a very wealthy woman.

A couple of months later, we get a hint at the generosity of the young Queen, when on the 1st of March 1541, it shows up in the council notes about the Countess of Salisbury: A letter sent to the Queens tailor to make a night gown furred (actually two), a kirtle of worsted (or woollen kirtle) and a petticoat furred and four other items. (a bonnet, four pair of shoes, four pair of hose and a pair of slippers). Margaret Pole had made complaints about the cold at the Tower – now, this would give her what’s due to someone with her rank.

The Kings tailor also received a letter and was informed to make a large gown of damask furred with black cony as well as nine other items for his relative, Arthur Plantagenet, Lord Lisle who was also in the Tower of London at the time. Now, scholars have said that this made Katheryn the generous party, however, after reading the excerpt it makes me wonder if it was all Henrys idea after all – that Katheryn only suggested he do the same for Margaret Pole as he would for his half-uncle, Lord Lisle. It is quite possible that Katheryn was attempting to make a mark in her role as queen by finding causes that were worthy to her.

In January 1541, Sir Thomas Wyatt was arrested and sent to the Tower of London on suspicion of treason, and on the following day Sir John Wallop was arrested. Katheryn’s role in their freedom has been noted by history, because, three months later (in March), while the royal couple were staying at Greenwich, Henry VIII announced his intentions to free both Wyatt and Wallop – he said he couldn’t refuse his queen’s request.

On the 26th of that month there was also a note from the Council to William Howard that mentions the Kings pardon. William Howard had been named Wallop’s successor as ambassador to France, and so he was kept in the loop. A great intercession was made for him (Wallop) and Wyatt by the Queen, the King has pardoned him and holds him in no less estimation than ever. Wyatt acted in the same way, and at the great suit of the Queen, the King pardoned him.Their pardons have been delivered and they sent for hither to Dover to the King.”

Ambassador Chapuys wrote a letter to Charles V the following day that discussed Henry and Katheryn’s reason for being at Greenwich stated – it was the Queen’s first entrance into London. He stated: It was the first time since her marriage that she had passed through London by the Thames, the people gave her a splendid reception, and the Tower guns saluted her.”

In his letter to Charles V, Chapuys also mentioned the fate of Wyatt and Wallop: From this triumphal march she took occasion to ask the release of Wyatt, which the King granted, though on hard conditions, that he should confess his guilt; and that he should take back his wife from whom he had been separated upwards of 15 years, on pain of death if he be untrue to her henceforth. On the same day full pardon and release was given to Mr. Wallop, who, since his return to England, had been detained a prisoner in the house of my lord Privy Seal.”

Soon rumors were abundant that the Queen was with child – ambassador Marillac, the French ambassador, wrote that this Queen is thought to be with child, which would be a very great joy to this King, who, it seems, believes it, and intends, if it be found true, to have her crowned at Whitsuntide. Already all the embroiderers that can be got are employed making furniture and tapestry, the copes and ornaments taken from the churches not being spared. Moreover, the young lords and gentlemen of this Court are practising daily for the jousts and tournaments to be then made.

By Easter that year, some of the ladies of the Queens household had begun to notice the preferential treatment Lady Rochford received. As with any setting that contains a bunch of women, jealousy began to set it. This decision on the part of Katheryn Howard may not have been the moment that she made a fatal mistake but it definitely did not help her cause.

Continue on withmore of Katheryn’s story in Part Three!


‘Henry VIII: December 1540, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII,ed. James Gairdner and R H Brodie (London, 1898).British History Online

Russell, Gareth;Young and Damned and Fair(2016)

Further Reading:

Russell, Gareth; Young and Damned and Fair The Life of Catherine Howard, Fifth Wife of Henry VIII (2016)
Loades, David; The 6 Wives of Henry VIII (2014)
Licence, Amy; The Six Wives and Many Mistresses of Henry VIII (2014)
Fraser, Antonia; The Wives of Henry VIII (1994)
Weir, Alison; The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1991)
Byrne, Conor;Katherine Howard: A New History (2014)
Kizewski, Holly K.; Jewel of Womanhood: A Feminist Reinterpretation of Queen Katheryn Howard (Thesis 7/30/14 University of Nebraska Lincoln)

Facebook no longer shows our posts to a majority of our followers - Don't want to miss out on new articles? Get notified! Subscribe to email updates from Tudors Dynasty.

Join 5,012 subscribers.

Katheryn Howard: Part One

The story of Katheryn Howard intertwines with many other notable figures of the time but none more than Anne of Cleves and Thomas Cromwell. We’ll start with Katheryn’s childhood and attempt to chronologically move through time until her execution in 1542. After writing Part One, I realized her story deserves multiple parts. Part One, will start from Katheryn’s childhood up to her marriage to King Henry VIII. Part Two will cover her downfall. That part of her life definitely deserves a lot of attention.

There isn’t a whole lot of information about Katheryn’s childhood, so I’ll tell you what we do know. Katheryn Howard, according to author Gareth Russell was born around 1522 at Lambeth to Edmund Howard and Joyce Culpeper.

Joyce Culpeper

Joyce Culpeper was married twice, first to Ralph Leigh when she was twelve years old – the couple had five children together. When Joyce’s husband died around 1509, Joyce became a wealthy widow. She also inherited either land or money from her father after his death, but I do not have a date for that.

Joyce’s second husband was Edmund Howard – the couple were about the same age when they married. What it came down to was the fact that Joyce had money and Edmund Howard needed it. Joyce’s mother never trusted her son in law and they tried everything in their power to make sure Edmund didn’t have access to their money or land. We’ll delve more into Edmund in a moment.

The five half-siblings Katheryn had by her mother’s first marriage were: John, Ralph, Isabel, Joyce and Margaret Leigh. We’ll hear about Isabel a little later on in this story.

Katheryn’s full siblings were: Henry, Charles, Margaret and Mary.

Joyce died around 1528 or 1529 and left behind a husband and ten children.

Edmund Howard

Edmund Howard was the third surviving son of the 2nd Duke of Norfolk. He wasn’t always the pathetic man he later became, at one time he was said to have the athletic abilities of his brothers but that he lacked their social intelligence.

As a young boy, Edmund spent time at the court of King Henry VII as a page boy – a great place for the third son of the Duke of Norfolk to start his career.

At forty years old Edmund married Joyce Culpeper -this was his first marriage and as we’ve already discovered, Joyce’s second.

When Katheryn Howard was born her father, Edmund could not have been thrilled to have another daughter – another dowry to provide for a marriage. You see, Edmund had a problem with money….he didn’t have any. He often borrowed from friends and didn’t pay them back.

When Joyce died Edmund didn’t have the money to support this large household – the elder daughter’s of his late wife, Isabel and Margaret as well as his own children, Charles, Henry ,George, Katheryn, Margaret and Mary were all still living in his house. Katheryn’s eldest half-brothers, John and Ralph had moved out when Katheryn was a small child. John had inherited a manor in Stockwell from his grandfather and Ralph had a trust fund to help pay for his schooling to become a lawyer in London. Katheryn’s half-sister Joyce was also married and out of the house.

Keeping all of this in mind, when Edmund Howard wrote a letter to Wolsey asKing for financial assistance he mentioned that he had ten children to support, when we now know that he definitely did not. As author Gareth Russell states, “debt seldom stimulates a compulsion toward honesty”. Isn’t that the truth.

Edmund Howard, being of the Howard clan, behaved as though he resented being from such a notable family. He claimed that his money problems could not be solved by getting another  job. The thought of doing so would bring great reproach and shame to him and his blood. So Edmund believed getting another job to help pay for his expenses would bring shame on his family. Interesting – like being in debt wouldn’t bring a greater shame on your family name.

After the death of his first wife Joyce he married again to the not so kind, but wealthy widow Dorothy Troyes – we know she wasn’t so kind when we look back at the letter that Edmund wrote to Honor Grenville, Lady Lisle during his time in Calais – if you follow my website and Facebook page you already know this story, but for the rest of you, get ready to laugh.

“Madame, so it is I have this night after midnight taken your medicine, for the which I heartily thank you, for it hath done me much good, and hath caused the stone to break, so that now I void much gravel. But for all that, your said medicine hath done me little honesty, for it made me piss my bed this night, for the which my wife hath sore beaten me, and saying it is children’s parts to bepiss their bed.

Okay, so let’s talk about his wife Dorothy and the fact that Edmund states in the letter that she beat him and scolded him for wetting the bed….the poor guy had kidney stones and accidentally wet the bed. What kind of wife would treat him that way? On the other hand….I get the impression that Edmund liked to play the victim in his life, especially if we look at all the times he complained about being a Howard and how hard it was to be part of such a prestigious family.

Luckily for Edmund, his marriage to Dorothy did not last long since there is evidence that she made out her will in 1530.

Later, when Edmund’s niece, Anne Boleyn was Queen of England she was able to assist her hapless uncle by getting him a position as Comptroller of Calais. The timing was perfect for Edmund to leave the island and cross the channel to get away from his debt-collectors.

It was at some point after Edmund got the position in Calais that his household was broken up in England and his daughter Margaret was married to Thomas Arundell while his step-daughter Isabel was married to Sir Edward Baynton. The rest of the children who were still in his household were at the age where they could continue their education in another family’s household – Katheryn and her brother Henry were invited to become wards of the dowager duchess of Norfolk.

Edmund Howard died in 1539 before he could see his daughter become Queen. Imagine how his life would have improved…or maybe he would have gotten himself into hot water and been executed. We’ll never know.

Here is another quote by Edmund that sums up his life: “If I were a poor man’s son, I might dig and delve for my living.” Instead, Edmund found himself with few friends and ‘beaten by the world,”

Ward of Dowager Duchess

Katheryn arrived at Chesworth House south of Horsham in 1531 – her life would never be the same.

Most have assumed that Katheryn was not educated in the household of the dowager duchess, however, it does appear that she was able to read and write – Katheryn was most definitely better educated than most English women but because she could read and write does not mean she was educated. Especially not like her cousin, Anne Boleyn.

The dowager duchess had many young women in her household. If you compare to today’s standards it would be similar to having a handful or two of teenage girls together in a large room. The girls were actually housed in an attic dormitory or maiden’s chamber, as it was called. While the young men were housed in a separate area. It would only be a matter of time before trouble ensued. Such was the case in this household.

There were also young men in the household – we all know what teenage hormones are like so it understandable that at night one of the girls, whether it was Katheryn or another, would sneak into the bedroom of the dowager duchess and steal the key to the dormitory – once they received it they could unlock the door the allow the young men to enter their room. Now, before we go too far into that part of the story that’s discuss Katheryn’s so called relationship with her music tutor, Henry Manox. Manox and Katheryn were flirtatious with one another and it is believed that the two had secret meetings with one another. There was kissing between the two and Manox later said that they had not slept together but that he had seen her private parts.

It is believed that Manox fell in love with the young Howard girl who was much above his own standing and that others had noticed. For Katheryn, being with Manox made her feel grown-up and protected, she thought she loved him as well. Unfortunately, for the couple one of Katheryn’s roommates, Mary Lassell approached Manox and told him his relationship with Katheryn was inappropriate. What she didn’t say is that she also had a crush on him – so there may have been some jealousy on her part. Mary warned Manox that he would never be able to marry Katheryn because she came from such a noble house and the marriage would never be approved.

Manox, the pig he was, responded by saying,“Marry her? My designs are not quite so honorable. And from the kisses the girl allows me, I shall soon achieve my purpose.” 

Mary quickly informed Katheryn of what he had said and Katheryn was disgusted. Katheryn confronted Manox and he responded by smoothing her over with something to the effect that he can’t control his feelings around her. Katheryn, surely flattered, continue her so called relationship with Manox. Eventually the relationship ended – we don’t know what happened but I’m sure Katheryn realized there were other men in the household who wanted her attention and she liked it. It’s possible that the relationship ended after the dowager duchess caught the two alone. Katheryn received two or three blows from her grandmother and the couple were told that they should never be alone together again.

Later in interrogations Katheryn said this about Manox: At the flattering and fair persuasions of Manox being but a young girl I suffered him and sundry times to handle and touch the secret parts of my body which neither became me with honesty to permit nor him to require.

It wasn’t long after the relationship with Manox ended that Katheryn fell in love with Francis Dereham, a more serious candidate for her hand since he, unlike Manox, had sufficient status and wealth to marry Katheryn. Dereham was an usher for the dowager duchess, and like Manox was older than Katheryn. Dereham frequently visited the girl’s dormitory at night and most definitely consummated his relationship with young Katheryn.

Dereham always claimed that he considered them married or precontracted – they called one another husband and wife. This by the standards of the 16th century was enough – other’s had heard them call each other by those titles and were aware that they were sleeping together.

Author David Loades believes the couple’s relationship lasted from 1537 to 1539. While contraception at the time was primitive, Katheryn clearly had a good grasp on how to prevent pregnancy.

Henry Manox became very jealous of the couple and wrote an anonymous letter to the dowager duchess to inform her of the goings on at night in the dormitory. After reading the note the dowager Duchess caught the lovebirds together and was furious. Dereham departed shortly after to Ireland with an understanding that he would wed Katheryn when he returned to England.  Little did he know that by the time he returned everything would have changed for the couple.

While Francis was in Ireland Katheryn Howard moved closer to court staying at her uncle’s house (Duke of Norfolk). This is when she met Thomas Culpeper. Thomas was a gentleman of the King’s privy chamber and he was also a distant cousin to Katheryn’s through her mother. His position in court was considered very important since it allowed him personal access to the King. Katheryn fell deeply in love with Thomas.

Eventually, Katheryn was welcomed to court as a lady in waiting to the queen.  It was  while she was a lady in waiting to Anne of Cleves in March 1540 that she caught the eye of the King Henry VIII. The King had be invited to dinner at the home of Bishop Gardiner on the River Thames and he graciously accepted. It was while the King was watching the dancers that he noticed the young, auburn-haired Katheryn Howard smiling, laughing and dressed in the french fashion. It wasn’t long after the event that Henry began showing more interest in Katheryn.

Once the King eyed you there was no going back. There was nothing she could do but accept his advances. At this time she was still in love with Thomas Culpeper, but adored the attention that the King gave her…along with the prospect of becoming queen of England.

The King was attracted to Katheryn’s beauty and youthfulness – and of course, he believed she was a virgin, unlike his current wife, Anne of Cleves .

Henry and Anne of Cleves continued playing the part of husband and wife for the first few months of their marriage with only the King’s closest advisors knowing his true intentions. Thomas Cromwell had been Henry VIII’s closest advisor since the downfall and death of his predecessor, Cardinal Wolsey. Cromwell had the King’s ear in all matters and pretty much was running the show. When the Cleves marriage backfired Cromwell was rightfully concerned about his position with the King, however, in April 1540 Henry raised Cromwell to the earldom of Essex. He also created him Lord Great Chamberlain. From an outsider’s perspective this looked as though Cromwell was safe from the wrath of the King.

A plan was already in motion because Henry wanted out of his marriage with Anne so he could be with Katheryn Howard, and if Cromwell could not do it, then he would find someone who could, but in the meantime he’d make Cromwell believe he was still his closest advisor – this is how Henry VIII worked.

By the 24th April 1540 Henry gave Katheryn Howard lands seized from a felon and a few weeks later she received an expensive gift of quilted sarcanet. It is possible that their relationship was consummated around this time because this is when Henry was urgent to annul his marriage to Anne of Cleves.

With Katheryn, the King believed he was getting all her couldn’t have with Anne of Cleves.

Thomas Cromwell

The end of favor came for Cromwell when was arrested, on the 10th of June 1540. The scene played out as Cromwell was leaving the parliament building to head to dinner – a sudden gust of wind blew his hat from his head and it fell to the ground. Normally, when a gentleman lost his it was customary for everyone to remove their hats as a sign of respect. When Cromwell bent down to pick up his hat, no man showed him the respect that was warranted. At which Cromwell replied dryly: “A high wind indeed must it have been to blow my bonnet off and keep all yours on.” The men around him pretended not to hear what he had said and carried on to dinner.

During dinner no man spoke to Thomas Cromwell. Once dinner was over all the lords proceeded to the council chamber where they would carry out their daily business. When Cromwell finally reached the chamber all the men were already seated, at which he said, “you were in a great hurry, gentlemen, to get seated.” Once again his words were ignored – and as he went to sit in his chair Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk yelled out – “Cromwell, do not sit there; that is no place for thee. Traitors do not sit amongst gentlemen.” At this point Cromwell was furious with his treatment said, “I am not a traitor.” And as he spoke those words the captain of the guard entered the chamber and arrested him. The arrest of Thomas Cromwell was a shock to many – he had been the King’s closest advisor for many years.

Unfortunately for Cromwell his downfall was greeted with much happiness all over England, for there were those who believed the absence of Rome in their life and the dissolution of the monasteries were solely his fault. They felt he finally got what was coming to him. For Henry VIII it allowed him to continue to move forward with his divorce from Anne of Cleves – the awful marriage that was Cromwell’s idea. Now Henry was a step closer to being with Katheryn Howard.

End of Marriage for Anne of Cleves

In the early hours of the 6th of July 1540, the King sent a messenger to inform Anne of Cleves of his concerns about their marriage. The following day, after they were summoned to Westminster, the convocations of York and Canterbury among other leading clergy, declared the marriage null and void after hearing Gardiner speak against the validity of the King’s marriage.

That very day a group of men appointed by the King went to Anne to inform her that her marriage was no more and that henceforth she would be called, “the King’s sister”.

Henry Was Free to Marry

Now that his marriage to Anne of Cleves was over, Henry VIII was free to marry Katheryn Howard. On the 28th of July at the mildly obscure Oatlands palace, Henry and Katheryn were married. Some believed that the location of the wedding and the smaller court presence was due to the fact that Katheryn was pregnant. This was most definitely untrue. Katheryn was very petite and her small frame would have made a pregnancy obvious. Those who dressed her would have noticed and most definitely gossiped – it seems that’s all most of the ladies did at court. 😉

King Henry was obsessed with his young bride. He was so turned on by Katheryn that he could barely keep his hands off her. After the failed consummation with Anne of Cleves this is exactly what Henry needed. Now he behaved as a teenage boy obsessed with his girlfriend. This would prove to the court that he was the same young Henry he always was….or so he believed.

How had Henry not noticed that his wife was not a virgin? This is something I’ve often wondered. Clearly Katheryn had experience in the bedchamber, was she smart enough to “act the part” of a virgin or was Henry so enamored that he overlooked such an obvious thing. He believed Katheryn to be his “Rose without a Thorn” so my guess is that he was ignorant to the truth.

On the same day that Henry and Katheryn married, Thomas Cromwell was executed.

I’ll end this article with some of Thomas Cromwell’s final words (very fitting for this article) and return here next week for the rest of Katheryn Howard’s story – see you next week:

Gentlemen, you should all take warning from me, who was, as you know, from a poor man made by the King into a great gentleman and I, not contented with that, not with having the Kingdom at my orders, presumed to a still higher state. My pride has brought its punishment.

Continue with Katheryn Howard: PART TWO


Further Reading:

Russell, Gareth; Young and Damned and Fair – The Life of Catherine Howard, Fifth Wife of Henry VIII (2016)

Loades, David; The 6 Wives of Henry VIII (2014)

Licence, Amy; The Six Wives and Many Mistresses of Henry VIII (2014)

Fraser, Antonia; The Wives of Henry VIII  (1994)

Weir, Alison; The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1991)

Kizewski, Holly K.; Jewel of Womanhood: A Feminist Reinterpretation of Queen Katheryn Howard (Thesis 7/30/14 – University of Nebraska – Lincoln)

Hutchinson, Robert; Thomas Cromwell (2007)

Katherine Howard: The End of Her Story


Most are drawn into the story of Katherine Howard because of her age and supposed naivety. She was the youngest of Henry’s wives who made the aging King feel young again. Unfortunately, Katherine had a history with older men that Henry was not aware of when he married his “rose without a thorn.”

There were others involved that were aware of Katherine’s past and did not inform Henry before their marriage. Today we look at those who knew and those who lost their heads…and then some. This is the end of their story.

Katherine Howard

Edward Hall described the events around Katherine Howard at the end of 1541 until her death in February 1542. He describes how at the time Queen Katherine Howard was accused of “dissolute living, before her marriage, with Francis Dereham.” He also states it was common knowledge to many close to the King.

*The main quotes in this article are taken from Hall’s Chronicles, unless otherwise noted.

And since her marriage, she was vehemently suspected with Thomas Culpeper, which was brought to her chamber at Lincoln, in August last, in the progress time, by the Lady of Rochford, and were there together alone from eleven o’clock at night, til four o’clock in the morning, and to him she gave a chain and a rich cap. Upon this the king removed to London and she was sent to Sion, and there kept close, but yet served as Queen.

Culpeper and Dereham

While living with the dowager Duchess of Norfolk, Agnes Tilney, Katherine and Francis Dereham were known to address one another as husband and wife. Dereham’s rival, Henry Manox was still in the dowager Duchesss household and grew jealous and furious of the relationship between Katherine and Dereham, and sent an anonymous note to the dowager Duchess informing her of their relationship. After reading the note the dowager Duchess caught the lovebirds together and was furious. Dereham departed shortly after to Ireland with an understanding that he would wed Katherine when he returned to England. Little did he know that by then everything would have changed.


While Francis was in Ireland Katherine Howard moved closer to court staying at her uncles house (Duke of Norfolk). This is when she met Thomas Culpeper. Thomas was a gentleman of the Kings privy chamber and he was also a distant cousin to Katherines through her Mother, Joyce/Jocasta Culpeper. His position in court was considered very important sinceit allowed him personal access to the king. Katherine fell deeply in love with Thomas.

Katherine Howard confessed: Francis Dereham by many persuasions procured me to his vicious purpose and obtained first to lie upon my bed with his doublet and hose and after within the bed and finally he lay with me naked and used me in such sort as a man doth his wife many and sundry times but how often I know not.

And for the offense confessed by Culpeper and Dereham, they were put to death at Tyburn, the tenth day of December (1541).

Thomas Wriothesley writes in his chronicle that, “Culpeper and Dereham were drawn from the Tower of London to Tyburn, and there Culpeper, after 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. Culpeper’s body was buried at St. Pulchers Church by Newgate, their heads set on London Bridge.”


Arraignment of Others Close to the Queen

And the twenty and two day of the same month (22 December), were arraigned at Westminster the Lord William Howard and his wife, which Lord William was uncle to the queen, Katherine Tilney which was of council of her having to do with Dereham, Elizabeth Tilney (Katherine’s grandmother), Joan Bulmer, Alice (Wilkes)Restwold, the queen’s women, and Edward Waldegrave and William Ashby, and William Damport gentlemen and servants to the old Duchess of Norfolk, and Margaret Bennet a butter wife, all indicted of misprison, for counselling the evil demeanor of the queen, to the slander of the king, and his succession: all they confessed it and had judgement to perpetual prison, and to lose their goods, and the profit of their lands during their lives: howbeit shortly after, diverse of them were delivered by the King’s pardon.

Definition of “misprison”:It is committed by someone who knows a treason is being or is about to be committed but does not report it to a proper authority.


William Ashby was a servant of the dowager Duchess of Norfolk, Agnes Tilney. He revealed how Agnes had searched Dereham’s coffers (box/chest) and removed all his papers. He said she would ‘peruse them at her leisure, without suffering any person to be present’. He also stated that she then declared that ‘she meant not any of these things to come to revelation‘. Ashby said that Agnes had been ‘in the greatest far‘ that her son William Howard would learn from her servants of the familiarity between Katherine Howard and Francis Dereham. Eventually, Ashby informed the Duke of Norfolk that the dowager Duchess had done the above. The image Ashby presented was of a very frightned old lady who had a heavy conscience and who was most certainly guilty of that same crime – that she knew of the relationship between Katherine and Dereham.

The sixteenth day of January (1542) the Parliament began, in the which the Lords and Commons assented, to desire of the King certain petitions. First, that he would not vex himself, with the Queen’s offense, and that she and the Lady Rochford, might be attained by Parliament.


Also, that Agnes Duchess of Norfolk, and Katherine Countess of Bridgewater her daughter, which were for counselling the said offense committed to the Tower, indicted of misprision, and the Lord William and other, arrainged of the same, might be likewise attained.

Also that whosoever had spoken or done any act, in the detestation of her abominable living should be pardoned.

To the which petitions the king granted, saying, that he thanked the Commons, that they took his sorrow to be theirs.

Whereupon the Queen and the Lady Rochford, were attained by both the houses. And on Saturday being the eleven day of February (1542), the King sent his royal assent, by his great Seal: and then all the Lords were in their robes and the Commons house called up, and there the act read, and his assent declared. And so on the thirteenth day, these two ladies were beheaded on the green, within the Tower, with an ax, and confessed their offenses, and died repentant.


Hall, Edward; Hall’s Chronicle: containing the history of England the reign of Henry the Fourth, and the succeeding monarchs, to the end of the reign of Henry the Eighth, in which are particularly described the manners and customs of those periods. Carefully collated with the editions of 1548 and 1550; page 842-843

Wriothesley’s Chronicle: A chronicle of England during the reigns of Tudors, from A.D. 1485 to 1559, Volume 1; page 132

Facebook no longer shows our posts to a majority of our followers - Don't want to miss out on new articles? Get notified! Subscribe to email updates from Tudors Dynasty.

Join 5,012 subscribers.

Become a Patron!