Katherine Howard

Before the issue of Anna of Cleves was settled, Henry was falling passionately for one of Anna’s attendants, a young girl of uncertain birth date, and a poor relation of the powerful Howard family, in fact first cousin to Anne Boleyn. Despite her family in general having wealth, Katherine’s parents did no. She was brought up in the household of her step-grandmother, with very little education and with even less supervision of behaviour. Whereas it was highly questionable whether Anne Boleyn had misbehaved with anyone other than Henry, there seems little doubt that Katherine came to marriage with substantial prior experience.

In July 1540 when the annulment of marriage to Anna was brought about, it was thought Katherine might already be pregnant, and they were married three weeks later, July 28th. Thomas Cromwell was executed the same day.

No child arrived, not really to be wondered at since Henry now weighed 300 pounds, and had a septic leg ulcer. Armour made for him at the time shows a 54 inch waist and 57 inch chest.

By 1541 Katherine was involved in a relationship with Thomas Culpeper, a young man she had been fond of before her marriage, and was carelessly indiscrete in her behaviour in a court filled with malicious eyes and vicious tongues. Henry at this time was confined to bed and did not wish Katherine to visit him.

She failed to get pregnant. The unpleasant task of advising Henry of her misalliances fell to the Archbishop Cranmer, those involved were “racked” (stretched out on a frame, the mediaeval equivalent of today’s favoured water boarding) and unsurprisingly confessions were obtained. While Henry was attending mass in Hampton Court, All Souls’ Day, November 2nd Cranmer put a piece of paper in his hand with the details of the forced confessions. Henry in love with his Katherine refused to believe what he read, and no open action was taken. However, other persons “put to the question” gave further details of Katherine’s misbehaviour after her marriage as well as before it, and Henry became so angered he wanted to kill her himself. Henry left Hampton Court November 5th and never again saw this wife. There is a corridor in Hampton Court that might have run between the rooms in which Katherine was held, and the chapel. Katherine is said to have escaped her captors, run screaming down this passageway trying to get to Henry before she was restrained and dragged back. Her white clad ghost now roams this “haunted gallery.”

Cranmer was required to question the Queen who broke down completely. He developed a scheme to show by “pre-contract” that Katherine was married “in the eyes of God” before she married Henry, and therefore that marriage could readily be annulled. Further revelations of ill-behaviour were obtained by intimidation or torture. Katherine was taken from her apartments in Hampton Court and put into the nunnery of Syon, where she still had reasonable accommodation and servants. On November 22nd she was stripped of the title of Queen, and in November multiple members of her family were taken to the Tower on the grounds they should have admitted Katherine was “damaged goods” before allowing the King to marry her. Katherine herself was sent to the Tower the second week in February, but was housed in the Queen’s apartments. On February 13th, 1542, six years after the execution of her cousin Ann Boleyn, Katherine Howard was decapitated by axe.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our Newsletter