Moonday’s Heroic Hunk in History: Henry & Katherine Howard

     Moonday’s Heroic Hunk was to have been short this week. I’m doing NaNoWriMo and am unfortunately behind (read that WAY behind). Also, this is another of Henry VIII’s very short marriages but I got too involved with the story. Henry was almost fifty when, in July of 1540, he annulled his marriage to Anne of Cleves and married Katherine Howard who was twenty or so. Their marriage lasted less than two years and ended with the beheading for treason (read that adultery against the king) of a silly young girl.

Katherine Howard

      Katherine Howard, the daughter of a poor younger son of the Duke of Norfolk, had been sent to live with the Dowager Duchess as her ward. The Duchess, however, was often busy at court and provided little supervision for her wards. Consequently, Catherine was neither intelligent nor well-educated like her first cousin Anne Boleyn and she did not possess the skills or maturity to make her way at court.
     Catherine apparently had two affairs in her very early youth while with the Duchess. Her first affair was actually a dalliance with Henry Manox , her music teacher. Her relationship with Frances Dereham was far more serious—they called each other “husband” and “wife.” Their actions may have constituted a precontract of marriage which should have prevented Catherine’s marrying King Henry.
      The fall of this particular bride was especially poignant. When the Duchess discovered Katherine’s misbehavior, she removed her from her household and sent her to Court as a lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves. The downfall of her first cousin, Anne Boleyn (Queen #2), had placed the Howard family out of favor.   They didn’t care who they threw into Henry’s path to regain favor and restore the Catholic faith—and Katherine had caught the King’s eye. As the King’s courtship of Katherine progressed, so did their influence.

Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk

  Katherine’s motto “No other wish but his” was ill-chosen. On her arrival at Court, she and the handsome and popular Thomas Culpepper had hooked up briefly. After Katherine married the King, Lady Rochford (the widow of George Boleyn, Anne’s brother who was unjustly accused of and executed for incest with Anne) assisted the couple with their assignations. (Rita’s Note: One wonders at her motivation.)
      Imagine young Katherine’s predicament. Henry, still convinced of his appeal to women, weighed in at about 300 pounds. While married to Anne, he had fallen during a joust and injured his leg. Ten+ years later the festering wound had ulcerated and the foul-smelling discharge had to be drained every day. Katherine not only had to submit to Henry’s frequent efforts to secure an heir but her fertility was monitored by the whole Court. It is not surprising that she turned to Culpepper.
      Unfortunately, her past caught up with her. In addition to folks from her past who knew about her indiscretions, both Manox and Dereham appeared at Court and demanded and were given positions in her household. By November of 1541, Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, presented Henry with evidence of her adultery. A substantial part of the evidence against her was obtained by torturing Culpepper and Dereham. In December, both men were executed for treason (Culpepper by beheading and Dereham was hung, drawn, and quartered) and their heads were placed atop London Bridge.

 Poor Katherine’s family had deserted her, Cranmer was after her head, and the King had spurned her. In January, Parliament passed the bill of attainder against her and by February she was imprisoned in the Tower. The hours before her execution on February 13th were spent practicing placing her head on the block.
     She required assistance to climb the scaffold. Facing execution, she asked for mercy for her family and prayers for herself. The executioner took her head with one stroke of the axe and she was buried in the same chapel as her Cousin Anne. A plaque commemorates her death. She never confessed to infidelity.
      Two stories are connected with her death. Her last words were reported to be: “I die a Queen, but I would rather have died the wife of Culpeper.” The other relates to her ghost wandering in Hampton Court to the Chapel where she tried unsuccessfully to reach Henry who was in the Chapel. On a personal note, when I visited Hampton Court the area outside the Chapel was icy cold. It was May. Next week, we bid Henry VIII goodbye. ‘Til Moonday, Rita Bay

7 Responses

  1. What an exaggerated, self-serving sense of entitlement Henry VIII must have entertained. Disposable people left and right. I shudder to think what Katherine Howard endured as an obese Henry tried for an heir.

    Thank you for sharing your personal experience outside the Chapel. An intriguing end to another fascinating post! I always look forward to Moondays with RitaVF!

  2. Thanks so much, Runere. I really felt sorry for the silly young girl whose family, rather than caring for her, used her for their own power. The Howard family was so arrogrant, they thought they could get away with anything. One Howard woman actually poisoned a man who was trying to keep her from marrying a lover when she had a husnamd. (She got off)
    If it makes you feel better, several of the Howard Dukes of Norfolk were executed until they were finally attainted. They weren’t restored to the title until James took the throne in 1603. There’s an anti-hero, Lord Henry Howard who would make a REALLY interesting Moonday post.
    As you know I am a interested sceptic about paranormalI stuff but have had some unexplainable things happen on occaasion and chalk them up to unexplainable. I visited Hampton Court years ago before I was really into the Tudors. So I didn’t know about the “ghost.” The other hallways were perfectly normal and the weather in May was rather warm for England. Whoooo knows? RitaVF

  3. Enjoyed it Rita. I too feel for the poor girl. The Howard men were a bunch of jerks – the way they used their daughters and nieces was abominable.

    Love that you had such an experience at Hampton Court-

    • Thanks, sfcatty. You described the Howards well. They are kind of like cockroached–can survive anything. The Howards attained in Elizabeth;s time and several dukes and a duke-in-waiting lost their heads. They were restored by King James. RitaVF

  4. I love your Monday stuff. I decided a long time ago Henry VIII was not a very nice guy. You have confirmed it a couple of times. What a shame, though, that the middle ages were full of “Marriages of Convience”. Thank the lord we get to choose today.

    I really like my choice. (grinning)

    • Thanks so much, Allison. Henry VIII was a jerk also. Anne went after Henry and broke up a 20 year marriage, Jatherine was thrown into Henry;s path. RitaVF

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