Elizabeth, Queen of England (Part Five)

Missed the previous parts in this series? You can find the previous four articles HERE and the podcasts HERE

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Elizabeth, Queen of England – Elizabeth’s Ladies

By mid-January 1559 Elizabeth had her household set, rightfully so, she was officially crowned Queen of England. Her group of tightly knit ladies were referred to as the “old flock of Hatfield”.

Instead of the Catholic ladies in Queen Mary’s household like Wharton, Waldegrave, Cornwallis, Babington, Dormer and Southwell, Elizabeth replaced them with her cousins, the ladies Carey, Knollys and Ashley; As well as the daughters and wives of those men who served her, such as the ladies Cecil, Throckmorton, Warner, Cheke and Benger.

Loyal Servants

Of course, those ladies who had served her throughout her life would stay involved now that she was Queen. Kat Ashley and Blanche Parry to name two. Blanche has been reported to have served Elizabeth from the time she was in the cradle until she died in 1590.

Ashley was almost immediately appointed her Chief Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber – this position was the most prestigious post within Elizabeth’s household because it gave her complete access to the sovereign. Kat was nearly always by the Queen’s side, even at night she was right there sleeping on a pallet bed in Elizabeth’s bedchamber. Not only was she responsible for the care of the Queen but she was also responsible for overseeing all the other ladies of the privy chamber.

Blanche Parry was appointed second Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber and was also (due to her fondness for literature) the keeper of the Queen’s books.

There were two other ladies from Elizabeth’s time at Hatfield that found a place in her household as Queen, they were: Lady Elizabeth Fiennes de Clinton, who was appointed Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber and Elizabeth St. Loe or “Bess of Hardwick. Hardwick, who, at the age of thirty-one was one of the oldest member of the Queen’s household.

Lady Anne Russell was one the youngest ladies to serve the Queen, she was merely ten years old when she was appointed Maid of Honor.

Elizabeth didn’t only show favor to the women who had served her in the past but also some of the women who had served her stepmother, Kateryn Parr. Mrs. Eglionby was appointed mother of the maids and Elizabeth Carew was also given a noteworthy position as well.

No Women Allowed

Interestingly enough, if you were a woman and were not a member of the Queen’s household you were not welcome at court. Male courtiers were discouraged from bringing their wives to court because this would ruin the image that Elizabeth wanted as the most attractive and desired woman at court. This would explain why Amy Robsart was not at court with her husband Robert Dudley – it wasn’t only that the Queen was jealous of her relationship with her favorite, she felt that way about all the ladies except for the ones who were her servants.

Elizabeth even decreased the number of women who normally served the queen from twenty to only eleven. There were now only six maids of honor – the lowest number of female attendants in nearly forty years.

Various Positions in the Queen’s Household

I’ve had a few of you ask me on Facebook about the different positions that women held in the Queen’s household and what they were responsible for – here is an idea:

The ladies of the privy chamber attended the queen’s daily needs such as washing, dressing and serving at the table.

The queen’s chamberers would perform more menial tasks such as arranging bedding and cleaning the queen’s private chambers.

If you were a maid of honor to the Queen this meant that you were unmarried and attended the Queen in public and would carry her long train. A maid of honor was also responsible for entertaining her by singing, dancing and reading to her. These girls were supervised by the Mother of Maids.

The ladies in waiting to the queen were women who were sometimes connected to the privy chamber and held their position due to their experience or their husband’s position at court.

When these women joined the queen’s office they had to swear the ceremonial oath. This oath was used to form a bond of allegiance between the ladies and their queen.

Queen Elizabeth was very concerned about matters of personal cleanliness by the standards of the day. She was known to take regular baths in a tub that was specially made for her. This tub would travel with her from palace to palace – Elizabeth clearly liked to be clean. If for some reason her tub was unavailable, or time did not allow for it, her ladies would clean her with wet cloths that were soaked in pewter bowls. As far as dental hygiene I covered this in an article once and author Tracy Borman states that Elizabeth would clean her teeth with a concoction of “white wine and vinegar boiled up with honey which would be rubbed on with fine cloths.”

The duty of preparing the Queen each day would take hours – from bathing to dressing and hair, all had to be just right.

Elizabeth, like her father Henry VIII, did not handle illness well. In her lifetime, it had been noted that stress caused Elizabeth to suffer from headaches, breathlessness, stomach aches and insomnia. She was also known to rail against her ladies and doctors insisting she was fine because she perceived illness as weakness. This must have been hell for Elizabeth when she contracted smallpox in 1562.

It was at Hampton Court Palace on the 10th of October 1562 that Elizabeth began to feel unwell. After immersing herself in a bath and taking a walk outdoors (which resulted in a chill) Elizabeth took to her bed with a fever. A German physician by the name of Dr. Burcot was summoned to examine the queen. His diagnosis was smallpox even though she had no tell-tale spots on her skin. Elizabeth called him a fool and dismissed him.

Smallpox and Sickness

By the 16th of October the Queen was gravely ill. She was incapable of speech and would appear to pass out for stretches up to twenty-four hours. The royal doctors feared she would die and sent for Cecil.

The Queen’s cousin, Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon persuaded the humiliated Dr. Burcot to return (some reported by dagger) to the Queen’s side. The doctor ordered that Elizabeth be wrapped in red flannel, laid on a pallet bed by the fire and be given a potion that he had created. Merely two hours later Elizabeth was alert and speaking. Clearly Dr. Burcot was no fool.

By her side through it all (until she became ill herself) was Robert Dudley’s sister, Mary Sidney. Sidney’s case was much worse than the Queen’s and she was badly disfigured by her illness. Her husband, Sir Henry Sidney said:

When I went to Newhaven I left her a full fair lady in mine eye at least the fairest, and when I returned I found her as foul a lady as the smallpox could make her, which she did take by continual attendance of her majesty’s most precious person (sick of the same disease) the scars of which (to her resolute discomfort) ever since hath done and doth remain in her face, so as she liveth solitary like a night-raven in the house more to my charge then if we had boarded together as we did before that evil accident happened.

Mary Sidney is listed a one of Queen Elizabeth’s Gentlewomen of the Privy Chamber and makes one wonder if she was the one who attended to the Queen because of her closeness to Robert. Surely, in the big picture, this did not benefit Mary at all. She and her husband served the Queen for many, many years and felt this deserved more rewards than they received.

The Queen’s Activities

When Elizabeth’s health was good her favorite past time was dancing. She loved to show off her skills by performing such beautiful and complicated dances such as the galliard and volta. Elizabeth would spend long hours with her ladies rehearsing the steps until they were performed to perfection.

In the evenings, when Elizabeth retired to her private apartments, her ladies would attend to her every need. They would carefully unpin her hair, undress her and remove her makeup. The Queen undone was something only her ladies were allowed to see. This is why it was such a big deal years later when the Earl of Sussex (Lettice Knollys son) burst into the Queen’s bedchamber to witness her in this state.

Compensation and Treatment of her Ladies

To serve the Queen was not a lucrative career – it was mostly for the prestige and favor by the Queen. Their pay was considered moderate. Maids of honor and ladies of the presence-chamber were seldom paid at all, while ladies of the privy chamber and bedchamber receive an annual salary of roughly 33 pounds or the equivalent of around 7,000 pounds today.

Not only did they lack pay, or receive very little pay, but their meals usually consisted of leftovers from the Queen’s meals.

While most of the women in her household were unpaid or little paid they were regularly receive clothing, jewelry and other gifts from their mistress.

Their living quarters were also very cramped and uncomfortable. While sanitation was poor there were no bathrooms or flushing toilets available to them like there was to the Queen. The court, as a result, would have had a foul smell. When this would happen the Queen and her entourage would regularly move or travel to allow for a thorough cleaning of the palace to have the human waste disposed of before they returned.

Elizabeth was also noted as treating her ladies very similarly to how her mother had – if any of her ladies failed to perform any of their duties properly the Queen would fly into a rage and punish them with slaps or blows. Author Tracy Borman says in Elizabeth’s Women, “When one poor lady was clumsy in serving her at table, Elizabeth stabbed her in the hand” and that one foreign visitor to court observed: “She is a haughty woman, falling easily into rebuke…She thinks highly of herself and has little regard for her servants and Council, being of opinion that she is far wiser than they; she mocks them and often cries out upon them.”

Elizabeth had the temper of her father and all the charm and charisma of her mother.

Going Against the Queen

The downside of being a close servant to the Queen was that she controlled your fate. I’ve discussed this several times – that I find it completely selfish and unnecessary for Elizabeth to hate when her ladies married. One of the ladies who served Elizabeth learned the hard way to not cross the Queen – Elizabeth Throckmorton.

In 1584, at the age of 19, Elizabeth “Bess” Throckmorton went to court and became a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth. Eventually she became Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber. She was responsible for dressing the Queen. A very intimate job, indeed.

Bess and her younger brother, Arthur were both courtiers during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. “Bess” had been described by her contemporaries as “intelligent, forthright, passionate, and courageous”.

After six years at court (roughly 25 years old) the still single “Bess” met Walter Raleigh who was quickly becoming one of the Queen Elizabeth’s favorites. As a lady to the Queen it was necessary for “Bess” to get permission to be courted. The Queen must also give her approval of any man who wished to court one of her ladies because they were supposed to be seen as extremely virtuous women. Throckmorton and Raleigh clearly believed they would not get permission and began a secret and intimate relationship.

By July 1591, Bess Throckmorton was pregnant – she secretly wed Raleigh and understood the seriousness of getting married without permission from Elizabeth. If she did not marry then her child would be considered a bastard. So really, at that point, she didn’t have a choice.

“Bess” must have been aware of the danger in having the Queen discover she was pregnant AND married that she somehow obtained permission to leave court to stay at her brother Arthur’s home in London. It is there that she gave birth to a son in March 1592.

Not long after she returned to court only to have the Queen discover all that had happened behind her back. Both Throckmorton and Raleigh were thrown in the Tower of London. In October, at only six months old, the couple’s son died of the plague and Queen Elizabeth chose to release the couple from the Tower. She never forgave “Bess” Throckmorton for her betrayal and Raleigh was ordered not to be seen at court for one year.

The fate of “Bess” Throckmorton mirrors that of Lettice Knollys after her secret marriage to Robert Dudley. Both women fell in love with the Queen’s favorite, married secretly and fell from favor. However, both women appear to have found love despite the loss of favor from their Queen. This is something that the Queen would never have.

Anne Vavasour was Lady in Waiting to Queen Elizabeth and the mistress of the Earl of Oxford, by whom she had an illegitimate son – Edward. Both Anne and the Earl of Oxford, for their offences, were sent to the Tower by the Queen’s orders. Later she became the mistress of Sir Henry Lee of Ditchley, by whom she had another illegitimate son – Thomas. This affair happened shortly after she had married her first husband, John Finch, a sea-captain. The Queen apparently was not as displeased with this affair as Anne and Lee entertained the Queen together at Ditchley.

Interestingly enough, Anne was charged with bigamy when she married John Richardson after she had already married (in c.1590) John Finch, who was still living. Her fine was Ł2,000 and she was spared from performing a public penance.

Frances Walsingham was Lady in Waiting to Queen Elizabeth and the wife of Sir Philip Sydney. She was the daughter of Francis Walsingham, who was a trusted adviser of Queen Elizabeth. He is best known as Elizabeth’s “spymaster.”

In 1590, Frances married her second husband, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex. The match caused great displeasure to the Queen Elizabeth, partly because Essex was the son of Lettice Knollys and partly because Elizabeth herself had a crush on Robert Devereux herself.

Then we look at Catherine Carey, cousin (or possibly sister) to the Queen. Catherine and her husband Francis Knollys were both loyal servants to the Queen. Francis was always at the will of the Queen, even when his wife was on her deathbed and he begged to be by her side – the Queen would not allow him to come home. Even Catherine requested her husband to be by her said, to no avail.

My Opinion of the Queen

Throughout my years of researching the Tudors I’ve always said that Elizabeth is my least favorite Tudor monarch and this article, in my opinion is the perfect example of why. I understand those of you who love her because she was a strong female ruler, or because she brought peace and prosperity to England. My response to that is: Sure, yes, she was all those things, but that does not mean she was a nice person. In my opinion, she was just like her father. She was selfish, moody and unjust.

The next article on Elizabeth will be my last in this series and I haven’t quite figured out where I’m going to go with that one yet. Stay Tuned!

Read Part Six HERE / Listen to Part Six Here


Borman, Tracy. Elizabeth’s Woman (Bantam Books, 2009)
MacCaffrey, Wallace T. The Shaping of the Elizabethan Regime – Elizabethan Politics, 1558-1572 (Princeton University Press, 1968)
Weir, Alison. The Life of Elizabeth I (Ballantine Books, 1998)

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The Tudor Society - Tudor History at your Fingertips

Katheryn Howard (Guest Post)

Katheryn Howard

Guest post by Lissa Bryan

Of all of King Henry VIII’s queens, Katheryn Howard is viewed with the least sympathy. If not technically guilty of adultery, she’s 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 Henry’s queens has changed as historians re-interpret the records and old myths are debunked. Anne Boleyn has her fierce partisans; perhaps it’s time we also swept away the layers of cobwebs from Katheryn’s 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 doesn’t 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, Katheryn’s uncle secured her a position at court as Queen Anna von Kleefes’s 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 king’s 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 couldn’t 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 Katheryn’s 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 wasn’t 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 wouldn’t 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. She’s also noted as having sent the princess small gifts from time to time.

She also reached out to Princess Mary, who reportedly didn’t 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 Katheryn’s 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 she’d been at the dowager duchess’s 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 she’d 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 she’d ever experienced pleasure in her lover’s 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 she’d 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. It’s interesting to speculate about what Norfolk knew of his niece’s sexual history when she came to court. Surely his mother, the dowager duchess, told him about the difficulties she’d 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 Katheryn’s husband would be the king. Did he panic at the thought of how the king might react when he discovered his bride wasn’t 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 he’d 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 history’s 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 wasn’t queen long enough to make a delible mark. She wasn’t 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 Boleyn’s 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 world’s 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 bride’s sexual history not to reveal it within 20 days of the king’s 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 through The Writer’s Coffee Shop, AmazoniTunes, and KoboThe End of All Things is available through TWCS, Amazon, and iTunes. Under These Restless Skies is available through AmazoniTunesBarnes & Noble, and directly from the publisher.

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.

Find Lisa on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/LissaBryan.Author

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LissaBryan

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Did Elizabeth of York Love Henry Tudor? (Guest Article)

Did Elizabeth of York Love Henry Tudor?

Guest Article By: Samantha Wilcoxson

Historians and enthusiasts of the Tudor era have debated the thoughts and emotions of Elizabeth of York through the tumultuous events that placed her on the throne as the mother of the Tudor dynasty. This young woman had clearly learned her lessons as a princess well, keeping her thoughts private and her public face serene. She has left us few clues as to her inner thoughts when her father died, brothers disappeared, uncle usurped the throne, and mother betrothed her to Henry Tudor. Each of these events has been rich historical novel material, including for my own Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen.

If you have read it, you know that I promote a vision of Elizabeth who is a strong, yet quiet, force behind her husband’s throne. Her devout faith led her to see her marriage as God’s will, and she therefore devoted herself to him and a peaceful future for their kingdom. Reviewers have stated happy surprise that Henry Tudor and his marriage to the beautiful Elizabeth is favorably portrayed.

I believe that the objective of the historical novelist is to bring events and people to life as accurately as possible, so when I made the decision to demonstrate love between this royal couple it is because I believe it truly existed. While some decisions in my storytelling are made for their dramatic impact where the truth is not known, this one is backed up by research that reveals a strong bond between Henry and Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth met Henry Tudor, it was shortly after his defeat of her uncle, Richard III, on a field near Bosworth. Elizabeth’s feelings toward Richard are much more mysterious than those for Henry. Did she plot against him to aid Henry? Was she in love with Richard and devastated by his death? Maybe she had simply become resolved to accept his rule and make the best of it. Though it is the source of many debates and novels, I do not believe we can say with certainty how she felt toward Richard. Whatever she felt, there is no evidence of an inappropriate relationship between them.

Henry had pledged himself to Elizabeth in the cathedral at Rennes on Christmas day 1483. He made good on that promise on January 18, 1486. The ceremony was designed to convince those watching of Henry’s magnificence, and draw the kingdom together beneath the rule of the couple that united the York and Lancaster factions – what was left of them, anyway. The hope of peace that they shared was one of the key elements creating a bond between Henry and Elizabeth.

Elizabeth bore Henry seven children over the following seventeen years. Only three of them outlived both parents: the infamous Henry VIII and his sisters, Margaret and Mary. Margaret put her mark upon the intertwining family trees of European royalty with her marriage to James of Scotland. Mary briefly enjoyed the title Queen of France before she scandalously married Charles Brandon. However, these were events that Elizabeth would never see.

While children are not necessarily proof of a happy marriage, they are a piece of evidence. The way Henry and Elizabeth clung to each other when their children died is a further piece of evidence. The death of their heir, Arthur, in 1502 is particularly documented, as is his parents’ reaction. Both were crushed by the news, and they sought comfort in each other’s arms. Shortly after this, they conceived the child that would be their last, whose birth led to Elizabeth’s death.

We know that Henry and Elizabeth called upon God for comfort and grace when grieving for their children. Faith was an important element of their marriage, and one can only guess what their reaction would have been to their son’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. Henry prayed Psalm 43 when he landed in Wales to begin his conquest. “Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause.” Their devotion to each other is further evinced by the lack of royal mistresses and favorites.

Henry and Elizabeth spent a significant amount of time together for a busy royal couple. Even through uprisings that Henry had to deal with, he was never far from his wife. In an age when it would have been simple to avoid each other were that their desire, these two stayed together through thick and thin. They gave each other gifts and celebrated Christmases together with their children.

If you are still struggling to see the romantic side of Henry VII, consider his final tribute of love to his bride. When Elizabeth died after a complicated childbirth on her 37th birthday, Henry publicly demonstrated his love and grief in an elaborate and expensive funeral. Those who called him a penny pincher would not do so on this occasion. He further honored her by not remarrying, despite his status as a father of a new dynasty with only one son. Elizabeth’s tomb, which is shared with her husband who died six years later, is elaborately crafted in bronze with an inscription referring to her as “his sweet wife was very pretty, chaste and fruitful.”










About the Author:

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Samantha Wilcoxson is the author of the Plantagenet Embers Trilogy. An incurable bibliophile and sufferer of wanderlust, she lives in Michigan with her husband and three teenagers. She lives in Michigan with her husband and three children. You can connect with Samantha at SamanthaWilcoxson.BlogSpot.com or on Twitter @Carpe_Librum.

Purchase her newest book, Queen of Martyrs: The Story of Mary I (Plantagenet Embers Book 3) on Amazon.com

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Rise & Fall: Katherine Howard


“Rose without a Thorn”

On 28 July 1540, Henry VIII married Katherine Howard at Oatlands Palace (see image). The ceremony was performed by Bishop Bonner in private.

Outlands Palace - Surrey
Oatlands Palace – Surrey

Their nuptials were kept secret for ten days before returning to the insanity of court life. The king, who was infatuated with his new bride, wanted to spend quality time alone with her before returning to his courtly duties.

In Katherine, Henry found what represented the qualities that he admired most in a woman: Beauty, charm, a pleasant disposition, obedience and virtue. All of which were much like his mother, Elizabeth of York. Was Henry always chasing after a woman just like his mother?

The marriage of Katherine Howard to Henry VIII brought the Howard family back to the great name and power they once had. The beheading of Anne Boleyn had tainted their name for a few years since Anne’s mother was Elizabeth Howard – sister to Thomas Howard,  the 3rd Duke of Norfolk.  The Duke of Norfolk was also uncle to Katherine Howard through her father Edmund (his brother) and was responsible for assisting in the rise, and the fall, of his niece Anne Boleyn.

After Henry and Katherine’s marriage they moved to Hampton Court. On the 8th of August Katherine Howard appeared as Henry’s queen at Hampton Court dining with her husband the king. This was her first appearance as Queen of England. Katherine was never crowned queen – some say it’s because Henry wanted to see if she would produce an heir first. Katherine was treated as any queen would, given extravagant gifts from her husband who absolutely adored her, and members of court took notice of their affections. She was but a child by today’s standards and undoubtedly made Henry feel youthful again – something that was waning from him.

Katherine would have enjoyed all the attention that Henry gave her, for she was raised nearly an orphan in Lambeth Palace. Her grandmother the dowager Duchess of Norfolk raised her there. Katherine’s father, Edmund Howard was the third son of the 2nd Duke of Norfolk, this meant he was not a rich man. Lord Edmund Howard and his wife Joyce (Jocasta) Culpeper had many children (including Katherine ) who they could not afford. Because of these circumstances, Katherine had to be raised in the household of her grandmother. Katherine’s grandmother, the dowager Duchess, complained often about the expense of supporting numerous grandchildren. She was able to provide a comfortable home for them to live. She did not however, provide strict supervision, a fact which would have dire consequences for the entire Norfolk family after Katherine’s rise to queen of England.

Katherine’s education was not an intellectual one and her days were spent passing the time in the most pleasant manner possible. She always lacked self-control and this continued after she was queen when her past indiscretions came back to haunt her.

Thomas Higham © Museum of London

It was at Lambeth Palace that Katherine was introduced to Henry Manox, her music teacher. Katherine enjoyed the attention he gave her. She was only 15 years old and the teacher seduced her. She later swore that the relationship was never consummated. “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.

In 1538 Katherine Howard fell in love with Francis Dereham. He was a gentleman pensioner in her grandmother’s household. This relationship was consummated and there may have been an understanding they would be married one day.

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.

Francis and Katherine were known to address one another as husband and wife. Manox, still in the dowager Duchess’s household, grew jealous and furious of their relationship, 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 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 Katherine’s through her Mother, Joyce/Jocasta Culpeper. His position in court was considered very important since it allowed him personal access to the king. Katherine fell deeply in love with Thomas.

Eventually, Katherine 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 that she caught the eye of the King Henry VIII. 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.

On 24 April 1540 Henry gave Katherine 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. The marriage was not ended until 9 July 1540.

In August 1541, after they had been married for a year, while at Pontefract castle, a man from Katherine’s past returned. It was none other than Francis Dereham. Francis was sent to court by the dowager Duchess and she had highly recommended him to be placed within court. Little did she know that Francis had a ulterior motive to come to court.

When Katherine was brought face to face with Francis she feared there was a reason that had prompted Dereham’s appearance at court. Francis possessed information that could greatly harm Katherine’s reign as queen. He immediately requested employment with the queen – she could hardly refuse him. This was a big mistake and could be called the beginning of the end for Katherine. When the king later asked her why she had employed Francis Dereham she replied with, The dowager Duchess of Norfolk had asked her to be good to him, and so she would.

Having Francis Dereham at court was indeed bad news for Katherine as he could not hide his indiscretions with the queen in the years earlier.  He made statements in front of other men which led investigations to begin.

On 2 November 1541, while Henry attended the All Souls Day mass he received a letter from Archbishop Cranmer telling him that Queen Katherine had taken two lovers before their marriage. Henry was shocked and did not believe the allegations. Four days later he changed his tune and left Katherine at Hampton Court –  only two days after that she had admitted she was guilty to Cranmer.

The news continued to get worse with her admissions of guilt. Katherine could have easily saved herself by pleading ignorance regarding her relationship with Francis Dereham. If she had only said that there had been a verbal agreement to an arranged marriage with Francis Dereham she may have saved her head, However, the atrocities with Thomas Culpepper could not save her. However, at this time Thomas Culpeper was not yet on the radar when it came to the queen’s indiscretions. That is, until Francis Dereham mentioned that he knew of a man who has laid with the queen by the name of Thomas Culpeper.

Here is Katherine’s plea for forgiveness:

I, your Grace’s most sorrowful subject and vile wretch in the world, not worthy to make any recommendations unto your Majesty, – only make my most humble submission and confession of my faults. And where no cause of mercy is given on my part, yet of your most a accustomed mercy extended to all othe men undeserved, most humbly on my hands and knees so desire one particle thereof to be extended unto me, although of all other creatures most unworthy either to be called your wife or subject. My sorrow I can by no writing express, nevertheless I trust your most benign nature will have some respect unto my youth, my ignorance, my frailness, my humble confession of my faults and plain declaration of the same, referring me wholy unto your Grace’s pity and mercy. First at the flattering and fair persuasions of Mannox, being but a young girl suffered him at sundry times to handle and touch the secret parts of my body, which neither became me with honesty to permit, nor him to require. Also 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 use me and such sort as a man doth his wife, many and sundry times, and our company ended almost a year before the King’s Majesty was married to my Lady Anne of Cleves, and continued not past one quarter of a year, or a little above.

She continued by saying, I was so desirous to be taken into your Graces favor, and so blinded with the desire of worldly glory, that I could not, nor had grace, to consider how great of fault it was to conceal my former faults from your majesty, considering that I intended ever during my life to be faithful and true until your Majesty after, nevertheless, the sorrow of my defenses was ever before mine eyes, considering the infinite goodness of your majesty towards me from time to time ever increasing and not diminishing. Now I refer the judgment of all of my defenses with my life and death wholy unto your most benign and merciful grace to be considered by no justice of your Majesty’s law but only by your infinite goodness, pity, compassion and mercy, without the which I acknowledge myself worthy of extreme punishment.

When Henry read Katherine’s plea he was happy. He believed the plea stated that his wife had not been unfaithful to him after all. But Bishop Cranmer, unfortunately had bad news to inform him that in his opinion the queen had been in fact been pre-contracted to Dereham and that her marriage to the king was therefore invalid. It seemed an annulment of their marriage was inevitable.

In the meantime, Cranmer continued to look for evidence against Katherine of adultery. It’s almost as if he knew she was guilty and he had to prove it to the king to show his loyalty.

Finally, evidence came forward to prove Katherine’s guilt of adultery. While searching the belongings of Thomas Culpeper they found a letter signed by the queen which confirmed what everyone had suspected, that she had indeed been conducting a love affair with her distant cousin and servant to the king.

Katherine's letter to Culpeper
Katherine’s letter to Culpeper

The letter read as such:

Master Culpeper,

I heartily recommend me unto you, praying you to send me word how that you do. It was showed me that you was sick, the which thing troubled me very much till such time that I hear from you praying you to send me word how that you do, for I never longed so much for a thing as I do to see you and to speak with you, the which I trust shall be shortly now. That which doth comfortly me very much when I think of it, and when I think again that you shall depart from me again it makes my heart die to think what fortune I have that I cannot be always in your company. It my trust is always in you that you will be as you have promised me, and in that hope I trust upon still, praying you that you will come when my Lady Rochford is here for then I shall be best at leisure to be at your commandment, thanking you for that you have promised me to be so good unto that poor fellow my man which is one of the griefs that I do feel to depart from him for then I do know no one that I dare trust to send to you, and therefore I pray you take him to be with you that I may sometime hear from you one thing. I pray you to give me a horse for my man for I had much ado to get one and therefore I pray send me one by him and in so doing I am as I said afor, and thus I take my leave of you, trusting to see you shortly again and I would you was with me now that you might see what pain I take in writing to you.
Yours as long as life endures,

One thing I had forgotten and that is to instruct my man to tarry here with me still for he says whatsomever you bid him he will do it.

On 10 February 1542 Queen Katherine Howard entered the Tower and three days later she was executed.

Katherine’s quick rise to Queen of England was almost as quick as her fall from the throne. Her marriage to Henry VIII lasted less than two years.  Her story is a tragic one of a young girl whose life was cut too short. We must do all we can to tell her story and keep it alive.

Reference Material: The Sixth Wives of Henry VIII, by Alison Weir; EnglishHistory.net