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.


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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)

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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)

Mary Howard: Too Wise for a Woman

In this article I will be discussing one of my favorite women at Tudor court – the fearless Mary Howard, Duchess of Richmond and Somerset. Mary had the bravery that wasn’t often shown by a woman during this time period. She wasn’t afraid to stand up for what she thought was right.

It was her father who was quoted as saying that Mary was, “too wise for a woman” – one of the reasons I love her so much.

This post was originally a podcast that was transcribed into an article – if you’d rather listen to it you can do so here:

Family Ties – The Howards

Mary Howard was born around 1519 to Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey (later to be Duke of Norfolk) and his second wife Lady Elizabeth Stafford.

You might recognize the name Elizabeth Stafford – this Elizabeth Stafford was the daughter of the ill-fated Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham.This means Mary had both Norfolk and Buckingham blood in her veins.

Mary was the only daughter of Thomas Howard and received an education that was appropriate to her standing. It’s been said that she was both beautiful and smart. A double threat – both traits are something that we’ll see come into play a little later.

A Marriage Arranged

In December of 1529, when Mary was ten years old, Henry VIII asked her father, now the Duke of Norfolk to allow his son (Mary’s older brother) Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey to become a companion of his illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy at Windsor Castle. At the same time a marriage was arranged between Mary and Fitzroy.

Mary Howard

While many have said the marriage was Norfolk’s niece Anne Boleyn’s idea, it had always been maintained by Norfolk that it was the idea of the King, however, the marriage between Fitzroy and Mary Howard had definitely been promoted by Anne to help strengthen her ties to the throne.

Like the later marriage of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves there was no dowry expected with this marriage, which was unusual for the time. This may indicate the influence that Anne Boleyn had over the king.

Elizabeth Stafford, Mary’s mother, was totally against the marriage. Whether she blamed Anne Boleyn for the breakdown of her marriage with Norfolk or was disgusted with the amount of control she had in the negotiations, she was not happy and made it known. Because of this conflict she was banished from court.

Marriage to Fitzroy

When King Henry and Anne Boleyn went to Calais in October 1532, they brought with them Fitzroy, Mary Howard and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. Fitzroy and Surrey both stayed in France after the English monarch’s departure – Fitzroy was a member of King Francis’ Privy Chamber and Surrey was also a member of his entourage.

While Fitzroy and Surrey were away in France, Anne Boleyn and King Henry were married – Anne was now Queen and Mary Howard was one of her ladies in waiting. The young men were called back to England in August of 1533 and merely three months later Henry Fitzroy and Mary Howard were married at Hampton Court Palace. She was was fourteen and he was fifteen years old.

Because of their youth the couple was not allowed to live together. Instead they went back to their respective homes. Henry VIII believed that his late brother Arthur’s death may have occurred because he had intercourse at too young an age. This was also believed to be what caused the death of Katherine of Aragon’s brother, Juan.

Henry Fitzroy

An interesting note: A few months before the marriage of the young couple, Pope Clement was proposing the marriage of the Earl of Surrey with Lady Mary, the king’s daughter. The Pope was hoping that the Howard clan would help promote the cause of Katherine of Aragon.

Mary Becomes a Widow

Unfortunately, Mary and Fitzroy would never be able to consummate their marriage – in July 1536, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset and only male child of Henry VIII died.

Since the marriage had never been consummated, King Henry denied his 17 year old widowed daughter in law the vast estates she should have inherited as the widow of the Duke of Richmond and Somerset. Mary, still young, could not remarry until her jointure was settled. King Henry decided to keep it all for himself instead.

Because of the King’s greed, Mary was forced to live off the hand-outs of her father, the Duke of Norfolk and to sell her jewels in order to have money to live.

Expecting her powerful father to help her with his connection to the King, Mary was disappointed by his efforts and had threatened to confront the king in person, herself.

Feeling desperate, Mary wrote a letter to Thomas Cromwell asking him to intercede. Cromwell brought Archbishop Cranmer into the fold and Cranmer confirmed that the marriage had been valid even though it had not been consummated. This was exactly what Mary needed, progress was being made in her case.

This matter of Mary’s jointure was not resolved until 1540, after the dissolution of the monasteries – Mary finally received some property and income to live on.

An Accomplice to Love

Around the same time that Mary was fighting for what was rightfully hers, she was helping Margaret Douglas in her clandestine love affair with her uncle, Lord Thomas Howard. Mary was present, as possibly a look-out, when these two lovers were able to have some quiet time together. All that came to an end when the king discovered the couple had a pre-contract to marry. Both Thomas and Margaret were sent to the Tower and Mary was saved because the couple insisted that she never knew of the pre-contract.

The Seymours and Howards

In the meantime, Mary was being linked with Thomas Seymour for a possible marriage alliance. If she accepted this proposal she would not get what she had been working so hard for. Mary was not interested in marrying Seymour – it was merely her father’s way of creating ties with the new queen’s family. Her brother the Earl of Surrey was even more upset about the match – he saw the Seymours as ‘upstarts’ and didn’t want them associated with his noble line.

Interestingly enough, the Earl of Surrey had the hots for Anne Stanhope, wife of Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford. Stanhope had rebuffed Surrey. When Hertford found out he was furious and it caused a lot of friction between the men.

It’s been said that in 1537, Surrey was imprisoned at Windsor Castle because he punched Edward Seymour in the face – the reason? Because Seymour suggested that Surrey favored the rebels in the Pilgrimage of Grace. Surrey wasn’t imprisoned long.

Mary and the Queens

When Anne of Cleves became queen it was thought that Mary would have a place in her household, however, Anne had brought ladies of her own and did not have room for her.

Mary’s cousin, Katherine Howard, when she became queen, made Mary a Lady of the Privy Chamber…under the supervision of get this, Margaret Douglas.

After the execution of Queen Katherine, the Howard clan was once again lacking favor with the King. Both Mary Howard and Margaret Douglas sent away from court for seventeen months.

Seymour Again

Again in 1546, Norfolk discussed the marriage of his daughter to Thomas Seymour. Around this time he had also proposed a few marriages to further bind together the Howard and Seymour families. In addition to the proposed union of his daughter to Thomas Seymour he also negotiated some of his grandchildren as matches for three of Edward Seymour’s children. On 10 June 1546, Henry VIII gave his permission and approval to the proposal.

The Fall of the Howard Men

Once again, Mary was not interested in marrying Thomas Seymour. She discussed this problem with her brother (Surrey) who suggested she discuss it with the King and use her charm to become a mistress to the king – this would help in advancing not only her interests but that of the Howards as well.

Mary was insulted and disgusted by her brother’s plan and said she would rather cut her own throat than go along with it. Mary and Henry Howard’s relationship would never be the same again and this would mark the beginning of Surrey’s downfall.

When her father and brother were arrested in December 1546, Mary did nothing to save them. She even gave testimony against her brother.

Mary told the council that her brother had such a distaste for men who were “made” and not of royal birth and he said “if God called away the King they should smart for it.” She went on to tell them that he replaced the coronet with a crown on his coat of arms.

When Surrey’s home was searched they found more evidence against him – a plate with the arms of Edward the Confessor, even though the only person in the kingdom who could claim that was the king.

She also told them about the conversation her brother had with her about becoming the king’s mistress.

Both her father and brother were charged with treason and sentenced to death. Only her brother would make it to the block because eleven days later King Henry VIII was dead. Norfolk’s sentence was halted and he remained in prison until the reign of Queen Mary.

In the End

Mary raised her brother’s children after his execution and apparently was granted money by Edward VI for doing so – he said that he knew of no finer place for the children to be educated.

The date of death varies for Mary Howard – what I do know is that she most likely died in December. It’s the year that varies – some reports say 1555, others 1556 or 57.

In her three decades of life, Mary Howard witnessed a lot of drama at Tudor court. Especially during the reign of her father-in-law.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII, by Alison Weir

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Katheryn Howard (Guest Post)

Katheryn Howard

Guest post by Lissa Bryan

Of all of King Henry VIIIs queens, Katheryn Howard is viewed with the least sympathy. If not technically guilty of adultery, shes at least seen as having deserved her fate because of her immoral lifestyle. One recent historian referred to her as an empty-headed slut. Others have described her as a good-time girl or a frivolous young woman only interested in pretty dresses and boys.

Down through the centuries, our view of many of Henrys queens has changed as historians re-interpret the records and old myths are debunked. Anne Boleyn has her fierce partisans; perhaps its time we also swept away the layers of cobwebs from Katheryns memory, too.

Katheryn had a terribly neglected upbringing. In the Tudor age, the only value a woman had was in the alliances her marriage could bring her family. Though high in bloodline, Katheryn was from the poor side of the Howard family, and had little to no dowry. No one expected much of her.

Her mother died around 1528 when Katheryn was about five years old. She was eventually sent to the house of her grandmother, the dowager duchess of Norfolk, who fostered a number of young aristocratic ladies, as was common in that era for those of noble blood. Children would be sent to the home of another noble – preferably superior in rank – to finish their education and learn the social graces. Unfortunately, the dowager duchess does not seem to have taken her responsibility to the young ladies in her charge seriously, and their supervision was lax at best.

Katheryn was pretty, very small in stature, with the auburn hair that seems to have run in the Howard family. She was kind-hearted, and viewing her behavior from a modern psychological standpoint, it appears she had an understandable longing for attention and affection.

As a very young girl – possibly only thirteen or fourteen, she was touched inappropriately by her music teacher. Though today we would consider this sexual abuse, in that era it was considered a black mark against her character. The music teacher, Mannox, bragged about it to other members of the household in very crude terms. When the dowager duchess learned what had happened, she slapped Katheryn twice, and ordered her to never be alone with the teacher again. It’s somewhat chilling to imagine the poor girl having to continue lessons with the man who had groped her and bragged about it to others.

A few years later, Katheryn stole the keys to the young ladies dormitory from her grandmother and opened the door for young men who brought wine and cheer, for them. She engaged in a sexual relationship with Francis Dereham.


Though Katheryn later steadfastly denied a marriage to Dereham had taken place, she did admit to allowing Dereham to call her his wife in front of others and then having sexual relations with him, which constituted a legally binding marriage by church and civil law. Katheryn doesnt seem to have believed this was true. In her mind, they were just playing, young lovers having fun calling one another by pet names.

The dowager duchess knew about their relationship. She once slapped Katheryn and Dereham because she caught them kissing. When asked where Dereham was, the dowager duchess would say, I warrant you if you seek him in Katharine Howard’s chamber ye shall find him there.When she learned of the young men visiting the girls chamber, she lectured Katheryn that she would hurt her beauty if she spent late nights drinking.

(c) Walker Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

In November or December 1539, Katheryns uncle secured her a position at court as Queen Anna von Kleefess maid of honor, and Dereham decided to go off to Ireland to attempt to make his fortune. He gave Katheryn money to hold for him, and secured a promise from her that she would never swerve from her devotion to him.

The kings immediate interest in Katheryn was so obvious that ambassadors were commenting on it even before his marriage to Anna was annulled. By spring, the king was sending her a steady stream of gifts. Anna was a very intelligent woman and took the deal Henry offered in dissolving their marriage.


Henry was reportedly obsessed with Katheryn, more in love with her than any of his previous wives. He couldnt keep his hands off her, even in front of the court – notable behavior for the prim king who had always found public displays of affection distasteful.

The Howard family seems to have come to a silent consensus that no one would say anything about Katheryns relationship to Derham, or what had occurred earlier with the music teacher. Certainly many of them were aware that Katheryn was not a virgin and that the level of the Dereham relationship made any marriage to the king questionable without a dispensation being issued, but none of them said a word as Henry VIII married Katheryn Howard on July 28, 1540.

Katheryn Howard wasnt raised for the role like Katharine of Aragon, nor highly-educated like Anne Boleyn, nor ambitious like Jane Seymour, but she tried to be a good queen. Despite her youth, terrible upbringing, and lack of preparation, Katheryn took her role seriously, with the spirit of reconciliation in mind. She tried to make friends with everyone across religious divisions.

She tried to use her influence with the king for good purposes, and urge him toward mercy. Researcher Conor Byrne says in his biography of her that she interceded on behalf of at least four prisoners, including Thomas Wyatt and Countess Pole. It is interesting, because neither of these people were partisans or friends of Katheryn – she got no political or personal reward from trying to help them.

Katheryn also made it a point to show kindness to her neglected cousin Princess Elizabeth. Perhaps it was because she knew what it was like. Katheryn wouldnt really get any benefit from this generosity, since Elizabeth was currently still in disgrace with her father, and as an unfavored bastard, she had little dynastic value.

Katheryn directed that the Elizabeth be brought to court and seated directly across from her at the dinner table, the position of honor. Shes also noted as having sent the princess small gifts from time to time.

She also reached out to Princess Mary, who reportedly didnt think much of her new stepmother. Katheryn and Anna von Kleefes also exchanged gifts, and danced with one another when Anna was at court.

The king certainly lavished gifts on his pretty young queen, but Katheryns own expense books show she spent more on trying to help others than she did on herself. One of her biggest purchases was the fur-lined clothing she bought for the elderly Countess Pole who was suffering from the cold and damp during her imprisonment in the Tower.

Dereham got the shock of his life upon returning to England, expecting to take Katheryn as his wife, but discovering she was now Queen. Katheryn made a terrible mistake in appointing him to be one of her secretaries. It would later be alleged that she had done so with the intent of continuing her “sordid life” with him.

By the time Dereham returned, Katheryn’s attentions were taken up by another of the king’s courtiers, Thomas Culpepper, whom Dereham thought had “succeeded him in her affections.” But some historians have theorized that it’s entirely possible that Katheryn was being blackmailed by Culpepper into meeting with him to keep quiet about her past.

That past came to light when a proposed lady in waiting refused to serve Katheryn because shed been at the dowager duchesss home and had seen that Katheryn was light in living and condition. The comment triggered an investigation, at first dismissed by the king as vicious gossip, but when confronted with evidence shed been sexually active before her marriage, the king screamed and cried, demanding a sword be brought to him. He vowed she would suffer more in death than shed ever experienced pleasure in her lovers arms.

Only a few days prior, he had given a public prayer of thanksgiving that he had finally found such a perfect wife. He had long held himself up as an expert on women, able to determine whether or not a woman was pure just from looking at the firmness of her body. Katheryn had not only broken his heart, she had made a fool of him, as well.

Katheryn’s meetings with Culpepper would be investigated, but she was doomed for death as soon as Henry discovered she’d been “impure” when she came to his bed. Both Katheryn and Culpepper would swear that the relationship never became sexual, but Culpepper admitted he would sleep with the queen if shed been willing. One of the major pieces of evidence against her was an undated letter Katheryn had written to Culpepper in the florid language of the day. Adultery was never proven despite the intense efforts put into the investigation. All the indictment could allege was intent.

The Imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, spoke to Katheryn’s uncle, the Duke of Norfolk. Its interesting to speculate about what Norfolk knew of his nieces sexual history when she came to court. Surely his mother, the dowager duchess, told him about the difficulties shed had with her ward when they discussed sending Katheryn to court.

Did Norfolk decide it was best just to pretend none of it had happened in the interest of finding Katheryn a husband? Of course, he never imagined that Katheryns husband would be the king. Did he panic at the thought of how the king might react when he discovered his bride wasnt a virgin?

Now that the secret was out, Norfolk was eager to disavow this second niece who had married the king and fallen from favor. Chapuys says that Norfolk told him hed liked to see Katheryn burned at the stake. The French ambassador also wrote of it and said, “Norfolk says she shall die, and specially because the King could not marry again while she lives.”

Ultimately, Katheryn was guilty of nothing but having sexual experience before she married the king. Adultery was never proven, only the possibility of intent. Katheryn was being punished because her husband was heartbroken that his “perfect jewel of womanhood had been touched by others before him. His condemnation of her became historys judgment.

Perhaps had her reign been longer, we would have seen more of Katheryn’s kind spirit in action and her historical reputation would be different. But it was not to be. Katheryn wasnt queen long enough to make a delible mark. She wasnt a passionate advocate for education like Katharine of Aragon, nor a religious reformer like Anne Boleyn, but it appears she took her role seriously and attempted to be a good queen to her people. But her sexual experiences cast a large enough shadow to blot out the good she had done, and history would dismiss her as an empty-headed and sexually voracious girl who deserved what she got.

Katheryn would spend her last hours in her chamber with the execution block, practicing laying her head on it so she would bring no further disgrace to her family by fumbling it. Her last words are not recorded as Anne Boleyns were, but witnesses were impressed that the pale, frightened young girl made such a godly and Christian end that ever was heard tell of (I think) since the worlds creation.

Her legacy would be a new law which made it treason for a woman to conceal her sexual history from the king if he expressed an interest in marrying her, and treason for anyone who knew of the brides sexual history not to reveal it within 20 days of the kings marriage.

About the Author:

Lissa Bryan is an astronaut, renowned Kabuki actress, Olympic pole vault gold medalist, Iron Chef champion, and scientist who recently discovered the cure for athlete’s foot … though only in her head. Real life isn’t so interesting, which is why she spends most of her time writing. She is the author of three novels. Ghostwriter is available throughThe Writer’s Coffee Shop, Amazon,iTunes, andKobo.The End of All Things is available through TWCS, Amazon, and iTunes. Under These Restless Skies is available through Amazon,iTunes,Barnes & Noble, and directly from thepublisher.

She also has a short story in the Romantic Interludes anthology, available from TWCS, Amazon and iTunes, or can be purchased separately from Amazon. A short story collection featuring the characters from The End of All Things is also available from Amazon.

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