Saturday, 9 February 2013

Katherine Howard

Queen Katherine Howard (1520-5?-1542)  BeheadedKatherine Howard was the daughter of Lord Edmund Howard and Joyce Culpeper. She was the cousin of Henry's doomed Queen, Anne Boleyn. Due to Lord Edmund Howard's bad finances, Katherine was sent to be brought up at the household of the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk.
But the young people living with the Dowager Duchess never received a proper education and consequently Katherine was one of the least educated wives of Henry VIII. The young Katherine Howard is described as vivacious and beautiful but without any interest in studies or religion.



As a young girl, Katherine had two lovers. The first was Henry Mannox - her music teacher - whom she later admitted having a sexual relationship with (though not fully intercourse). But this little love affair ended when Katherine fell in love with Francis Dereham in 1538. They addressed each other as "husband" and "wife" and Dereham would leave Katherine with duties normally belonging to a wife when he left. Katherine's room mates knew of the affair that came to an end when the elderly Dowager Duchess found out.

Katherine Howard was placed as a lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves by her uncle the Duke of Norfolk. Katherine soon caught the eyes of the ageing King Henry and was captured by the young and beautiful woman. Within a year of her stay Henry had given her land and expensive pieces of cloth to Katherine.

Since Henry's marriage to Anne of Cleves ended very soon, the King found himself able to marry again. So, Katherine became the fifth Queen of a man who had already beheaded one and divorced two. There were rumours that she was pregnant with his child but it turned out not to be true. Henry showered Katherine with jewels, gowns, horses, everything she wanted - and Katherine had always loved material goods.

But being married to a man of fifty that weighed 140 kg or 300 pounds and had a smelly ulcer on his leg was not easy for a rather superficial girl like Katherine. She soon engaged in an affair with Thomas Culpepper - their meetings being arranged by none other than Lady Rochford who had been the wife of George Boleyn and the sister-in-law of Anne Boleyn. Henry took Katherine with him on his northern progress and kept an eye on her for any sign of pregnancy - she would not have a coronation until she had given birth to a son. But Katherine was in a dangerous position.

People who knew about her affairs with Francis Dereham and Henry Mannox was seeking her out to ask favours or positions of the King's new wife. And since she desperately wanted to keep her two former lovers a secret she had to give them what they wanted. Even Francis Dereham came to court and was offered the position of her personal secretary to keep his mouth shut.

Catherine Howard was blindfolded by Gage and knelt at the block. A single blow from the axe was all it took to end her life.   Jane Boleyn, the one-time sister-in-law of Anne Boleyn, was brought up to the block which was now soaked in her teenage mistress's blood. Jane Boleyn's historical reputation has not been kind. It is she who is traditionally blamed for having provided the evidence needed to condemn her husband to death on a charge of incest with his royal sister was also beheaded.
Execution of Katherine Howard
By 1541 Thomas Cranmer was told of the Queen's affairs with Dereham and Mannox through the wife of a Protestant reformer who had shared Katherine's rooms at the Dowager Duchess' estate. Thomas Cranmer knew that the affairs would mean that Katherine's marriage to Henry was invalid and left a letter explaining the accusations. Henry refused to believe it but still ordered Cranmer to investigate the matter further. Dereham and Mannox was arrested and probably tortured which led them to confess. Cranmer also found a letter from Katherine to Thomas Culpepper that made their affair clear.

Katherine was charged with treason and ordered not to leave her room. Katherine managed to escape her guards and run down what is now the Haunted Gallery at Hampton Court Palace where she saw Henry and desperately tried to make him listen. But she was dragged screaming and pleading down the corridor and to her rooms. Had she admitted to the affair with Dereham she could have been divorced and disgraced but kept her life. But instead she claimed that Dereham had raped her.

On November 23rd Katherine was stripped of her title as Queen of England and imprisoned in Syon Abbey. Meanwhile her former lovers, Culpepper and Dereham, were executed at Tyburn. When Katherine was taken to the Tower she passed the heads of her former lovers - now on spikes. A bill of attainder was passed making it illegal for a Queen Consort to conceal her sexual history to the King - which meant that Katherine was guilty. Her execution was planned to take place on February 13th. She spent her last night practising placing her head on the block.

When she walked to the scaffold she is said to have been composed but looking pale and terrified. She made a short speech, saying her punishment was just and worthy, before she sat down to put her head on the block for the last time. She was beheaded with one stroke and buried in an unmarked grave near the grave of Anne Boleyn.

Motto: No Other Will But His

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