Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Nov. 9, 1541, Queen Catherine Howard imprisioned in London Tower

Can you believe on this very day, November 11th, Henry VIII's fifth wife, Catherine Howard was imprisoned in the London Tower.

Catherine Howard, who was a first cousin to Anne Boylen, was raised in the country in the home of the Dowager Duchess. When King Henry VIII married Anne of Cleves, Catherine was placed in Anne's household as a lady-in-waiting. Once the King saw Catherine he immediately fell in love with her. Some writers believe that the King was pathetically infatuated with her and that he truly did love her. There was an astounding age difference between them. Catherine was only 15 or 16 when they met and Henry was well into his 50’s and he no longer looked like the dashing King he once was.

It was no hidden secret that King Henry VIII despised Anne of Cleves. He once stated that she looked like a “horse.” So it did not take long for Henry to seek to divorce Anne and in order to take Catherine Howard as his wife. Cromwell was beheaded on July 28, 1540. It was on that very same day that Henry married Catherine. This shows how torn up Henry was about executing his once trusted advisor.

As a result of never being coronated, Catherine was never Queen in her own right, however, she was called the Queen Consort. To this day, there is much debate as to why Henry never crowned Catherine. Some believe that he did not want to put Catherine in the public’s eye since she had been raised always having her own privacy.

Many believed Catherine was feeding her Uncle secret information about the King; therefore she was always treated with suspicion by many people of the court. It did not take long for Catherine’s past to haunt her. Mary Lascelles, who was once a servant for the Dowager Duchess, brought Catherine’s past to the attention of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cranmer. She told Cranmer about Catherine’s love affair with Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpepper. It was Cranmer who informed the King of Catherine’s indecencies and current involvement with Thomas Culpepper. The King did not want to believe, what he thought to be, lies about his young wife.

It was a little later that Henry was shown letters addressed to Culpepper, supposedly written in Catherine’s own hand. What makes this interesting is that Catherine was known to be illiterate.

It was actually Catherine’s own uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, who sealed Catherine’s fate by turning against her in order to save himself. Does this sound familiar? It was also Anne Boleyn’s uncle who turned against her, which helped seal her fate of being beheaded. It was also Catherine’s uncle who visited her room reading aloud her Charge Papers.

"My Lady Catherine Howard. You have been charged with treason. The grounds for this charge is that you entered into marriage with His Royal Highness, King Henry VIII having knowledge of a previous betrothal to both Henry Mannox and Frances Dereham. It is also stated that you employed these persons, here at the Palace, with the full intention of continuing this sordid lifestyle. You have, not only brought shame upon your name, but have grievously sort to destroy His Majesty the King. It will be in your best interest to admit to these crimes and plead for his mercy".

Catherine's reply.

"I am innocent of all charges and will never admit to these lies. If there is any ground of truth in these statements, then it is because of childish ignorance and the evil companions with whom I was formally surrounded. I also seek to state, that I am faithful to the King and would never wish harm upon him. I will seek his mercy, but not by admitting to these treacherous lies".

It seemed for a while that Catherine’s charges were going to be dropped but like always there were evil people lurking around who ended up sealing her fate. So on November 11, 1541 Catherine was arrested and taken to the Tower of London where she was held until she was beheaded on February of 1542.

If you would like to read the Story of Catherine Howard, I highly recommend Jean Plaidy's novel Murder Most Royal.


  1. New follower! Happy to find this blog as I enjoy historical fiction.

    I have not read the Plaidy book although it does sound interesting. I liked Philippa Gregory's "The Boleyn Inheritance" although it was a fictionalized account of the Henry/Howard marriage.

  2. Lori, I appreciate you following my blog! If you like historical fiction, I recommend ALL Plaidy's books, which are currently being republished by Random House Publishing.

    Philippa Gregory's books are what got me hooked to HF! I'm currently reading her book The Wise Women. So be on the look out for my review in the next week or so.

  3. The King's Rose by Alisa M Libby, is a fantastic read. Marketed as a YA, but I thoroughly enjoyed it (and I have read more than my fair share of Tudor HF).


  4. I've never heard of Alisa M. Libby, thanks Amanda for the suggestion.

    Yes, I think all HF enthusiests have read their fair share of Tudor HF. I've actually given the Tudor's a rest for a while despite how much I love them!