Catherine Howard 1521 (?) - 1542
formerly known as Catherine Howard. Oil on
panel, after Hans Holbein the Younger.
Click image to
Catherine Howard was wife number five of
Catherine's father was Lord
Edmund Howard. Her paternal
grandfather was Thomas Howard, the 2nd duke of Norfolk.
Catherine had nine siblings.
Meeting the King
January 6, 1540, was the day that changed Catherine
forever. It was the day of Henry VIII's marriage with
Anne of Cleves.
Catherine was one of the maids of honor and Henry gave her the royal eye.
Henry married Anne of Cleves for
political reasons, but he found it a challenge because Anne had
apparently little else to offer.
And so it happened that on July 9 the
marriage with Anne of Cleves was annulled and on July 28 Catherine attended Henry's
next wedding, this time as the bride. Catherine Howard was
officially confirmed and declared queen on August 8.
Losing Her Head
You would think that Catherine would
have taken the Anne Boleyn incident as a warning. Not so.
November 1541, King Henry found
out about Catherine Howard's previous lovers: Music teacher
Francis Dereham whom Catherine employed as
her secretary after she became Henry's wife, and Catherine's cousin
Thomas Culpepper. Thomas and Catherine had even been
One of the clues that served husband Henry
as an eye-opener was a letter
written by Catherine to Thomas. This letter is now in the British
National Archives and we read:
I hertely recomend me unto youe praying you to
sende me worde how that you doo. Yt was showed me that you was
sike, the wyche thynge trobled me very muche tell suche tyme that I
here from you praying you to send me worde how that you do.
For I never longed so muche for [a] thynge as I do to se you and
to speke wyth you, the wyche I trust shal be shortely now, the
wyche dothe comforthe me verie much whan I thynk of ett and
wan I thynke agan that you shall departe from me agayne
ytt makes my harte to dye to thynke what fortune I have
that I cannot be always yn your company. Y[e]t my trust ys
allway in you that you wolbe as you have promysed me
and in that hope I truste upon styll, prayng you than that
you wyll com whan my lade Rochforthe ys here, for then
I shalbe beste at leaysoure to be at your commarendmant.
Thaynkyng you for that you have promysed me to be so
good unto that pore felowe my man, whyche is on of the
grefes that I do felle to departe from hym for than I do
know noone that I dare truste to sende to you and therfor
I pray you take hym to be wyth you that I may sumtym
here from you one thynge. I pray you to gyve me a horse
for my man for I hyd muche a do to gat one and
thefer I pray sende me one by hym and yn so doying I
am as I sade afor, and thus I take my leve of you
trusting to se you s[h]orttele agane and I wode you was
wythe me now that yoo maitte se what pane I take
yn wryte[n]g to you.
Yours as long as lyffe endures
One thyng I had forgotten and
that hys to
instruct my man to tare here wyt[h] me still, for he
sas wat so mever you bed hym he wel do et and [...]
Catherine didn't need to worry any
longer about Thomas being sick. In December 1541 the good man was
first hanged, then beheaded, and to drive the point home, the rest of the body
was properly cut into 4
This gave Catherine a hint of what was in store
for her. On February 13, 1542, Catherine was
beheaded in the Tower of London. On the way there she had to pass by
her dead lover's head, which was on public display and really gross.
Henry took a deep breath and married
And here is Catherine's letter:
CATHERINE HOWARD'S LETTER
TO THOMAS CULPEPPER
British National Archives