Catherine Howard: Wikis



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Catherine Howard
Portrait miniature of Catherine Howard, by Hans Holbein the Younger. The manner of dress and jewellery suggest the subject's identity as Catherine.
Queen consort of England
Tenure 28 July 1540 – 23 November 1541
Spouse Henry VIII of England
Father Lord Edmund Howard
Mother Joyce Culpeper
Born c. 1521
Wingate, County Durham
Died 13 February 1542 (aged 20–21)
Religion Catholic

Catherine Howard (c. 1521 – 13 February 1542), also spelled Katherine or Katheryn,[1] was the fifth wife of Henry VIII of England, and sometimes known by his reference to her as his "rose without a thorn".

Catherine's birth date and place of birth are unknown (but occasionally cited as 1521 or 1524, possibly in Wingate, County Durham). She was the daughter of Lord Edmund Howard, a younger son of the 2nd Duke of Norfolk. This made her a first cousin of the King's second wife, Anne Boleyn. Catherine married Henry VIII on 28 July 1540, at Oatlands Palace in Surrey, almost immediately after the annulment of his marriage to Anne of Cleves was arranged. However she was beheaded after less than two years of marriage to Henry on the grounds of treason, meaning adultery committed while married to the King.



Early life

Catherine Howard was the fourth child of Lord Edmund Howard and Joyce Culpeper. Catherine's exact date of birth is unknown, although the year has been estimated as being between 1521 and 1525. She was the niece of Elizabeth Howard, who was the mother of Anne Boleyn, George Boleyn and Mary Boleyn.

Catherine, as the granddaughter of the Duke of Norfolk, had an aristocratic pedigree. But her father, a younger son, was not well-off owing to primogeniture and the large size of his family, and he often begged for handouts from his more powerful relatives. His niece, Anne Boleyn, Catherine's cousin, got him a government job working for the King in Calais in 1531.[citation needed]

At this point, young Catherine was sent to live with her step-grandmother, Agnes Tilney, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk.

At Lambeth, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk ran a large household that included numerous female and male attendants, along with her many wards, usually the children of aristocratic but poor relatives who could not afford to support their families. While sending young children to be educated and trained in aristocratic households other than their own was common for centuries among European nobles, supervision at Lambeth was lax. The Dowager Duchess was often at Court and took little interest in the upbringing and education of her wards and young female attendants.

Consequently, Catherine was not as well educated as Henry's other wives, though her mere ability to read and write was impressive enough for the time.[2] Her character is often described as vivacious, but never scholarly or devout. The casual upbringing in the licentious atmosphere of the Duchess' household led to Catherine's music teacher, Henry Manox, starting a sexual relationship with her around 1536, when she was between the ages of 11 and 16. When she became Queen, Manox was appointed as a musician in her household. He later gave evidence in the inquiry against her.

Manox and Catherine both confessed during her adultery trial that they had engaged in sexual contact without intercourse: "At the flattering and fair persuasions of Manox, being but a young girl, I suffered him at sundry times to handle and touch the secret parts of my body which neither became me with honesty to permit nor him to require" she said.

This adolescent affair came to an end in 1538, when Catherine was pursued by a secretary of the duchess's household, Francis Dereham. They became lovers, addressing each other as "husband" and "wife". Dereham also entrusted Catherine with various wifely duties, such as keeping his money when he was away on business. Many of Catherine's roommates among the duchess's maids of honor and attendants knew of the relationship, which was apparently ended in 1539 when the Dowager Duchess caught wind of the matter. Despite this disapproval, Catherine and Dereham may have parted with intentions to marry upon his return from Ireland, agreeing to a "precontract," as it was then known. If indeed they had exchanged vows of their intention to marry before having sexual intercourse, they would have been considered married in the eyes of the Church.

The Six Wives of
Henry VIII
Catherine aragon.jpg Catherine of Aragon
Anne boleyn.jpg Anne Boleyn
Hans Holbein d. J. 032b.jpg Jane Seymour
AnneCleves.jpg Anne of Cleves
HowardCatherine02.jpeg Catherine Howard
Catherine Parr from NPG cropped.jpg Catherine Parr

Arrival at court

Catherine's uncle found her a place at Henry's court. As a young and attractive lady-in-waiting to Henry's new German wife, Queen Anne of Cleves, Catherine quickly caught the eye of the King, who had displayed little interest in Anne from the start. Catherine's relatives privately doubted that the young woman was mature and intelligent enough to handle the responsibilities of being the King's mistress, as she had arrived at Court a few months earlier and was minimally educated and not particularly bright; but other factors were at play. The memory of Anne Boleyn's execution for supposed adultery had marred the standing of the Howards (a family proud of their grand lineage) in Henry VIII's court, and the mostly Catholic Howard family (Anne Boleyn was the only Protestant member of the Howard family) saw Catherine as a figurehead for their determination to restore the faith to England. As the King's interest in their relative grew, so did their influence. Within months of her arrival at Court, Henry bestowed gifts of land and expensive cloth upon Catherine.

Marriage (1540)

Catherine Howard's arms as queen consort[3]

When Henry had his marriage to Anne of Cleves annulled on 9 July 1540, rumours swirled that Catherine was pregnant with his child. Their quick marriage just a few weeks after the annulment from Anne, in July 1540, reflected Henry's lifelong urgency to secure the Tudor succession by fathering healthy, legitimate sons, since he had only one, Edward (later Edward VI). Henry, nearing 50 and expanding in girth, showered his young bride with wealth, jewels, and fantastically expensive gifts. War with France and the English Reformation had cost Henry the goodwill of his people, and he was suffering from a number of ailments. The presence of a young and seemingly virtuous wife in his life brought him great happiness. Her motto, "Non autre volonté que la sienne" or "No other wish but his", supposedly reflected her desire to keep Henry, an ailing man 30 years her senior, content.

Despite her newly acquired wealth and power, however, Catherine found her marital relations unappealing. She was not pregnant upon marriage and was repulsed by her husband's obesity. (He weighed around 21 stone, about 136 kilograms (300 pounds), at the time, and had a foul-smelling, festering ulcer on his thigh that had to be drained daily.) Early in 1541, she embarked upon a light-hearted romance with Henry's favourite male courtier, Thomas Culpeper, whom she had initially desired on her arrival at court two years earlier. The couple's meetings were arranged by one of Catherine's older ladies-in-waiting, Lady Rochford, the widow of Catherine's cousin George Boleyn (brother of Anne Boleyn and Mary Boleyn).

Henry and Catherine toured England together in the summer of 1541, and preparations for any signs of pregnancy (which would have led to a coronation) were in place, indicating that the married couple were sexually active with each other. However, as Catherine's extramarital liaison progressed, people who had witnessed her indiscretions at Lambeth began to contact her for favours. In order to buy their silence, she appointed many of them to her household. Most disastrously, she appointed Henry Manox as one of her musicians and Francis Dereham as her personal secretary. This miscalculation led to the charges of treason and adultery against her two years after her marriage to the King.

Downfall (1541)

Catherine Howard by Hans Holbein the Younger

By late 1541, the "northern progress" of England had ended, and Catherine's indiscretions rapidly became known thanks to John Lascelles, a Protestant reformer whose sister, Mary Hall, was a chambermaid to the Dowager Duchess; she had witnessed Catherine's youthful sexual liaisons. Lascelles presented the information to Thomas Cranmer, then Archbishop of Canterbury and one of Henry's closest advisors.

Cranmer, aware that any precontract with Dereham would invalidate Catherine's marriage to Henry, gave Henry a letter with the accusations against his wife on 2 November 1541, as they attended an All Souls' Day Mass. Henry at first refused to believe the allegations, thinking the letter was a forgery, and requested that Cranmer should further investigate the matter. Within a few days, corroborative proof was found, including the confessions of Dereham and Culpeper after they were tortured in the Tower of London, as well as a love letter to Culpeper in Catherine's distinctive handwriting, which is the only letter of hers that still survives.[4]

Catherine was charged with treason, but she never, even to her confessor just hours before her death, admitted to infidelity. She did, however, admit that her behaviour prior to her marriage had been unbecoming of a lady of her rank, let alone a Queen of England.

According to legend, after being ordered to keep to her rooms, Catherine briefly escaped her guard's clutches to run to the chapel where Henry was hearing Mass. She banged on the doors and screamed Henry's name, and her ghost was said to reenact this ever since. Eventually, she was arrested by the guards and taken to her rooms in Hampton Court, where she was confined, accompanied only by Lady Rochford. However, this tale has been proven as false, since Catherine was not fully aware of the charges against her until Cranmer and a delegation of councillors were sent to Hampton Court to question her on 7 November. Her pleas to see Henry were ignored, and Cranmer interrogated her regarding the charges. Even the staunch Cranmer found Catherine's frantic, incoherent state pitiable, saying, "I found her in such lamentation and heavyness as I never saw no creature, so that it would have pitied any man's heart to have looked upon her."[5] He ordered the guards to remove any objects that she might use to commit suicide.

While a precontract between Catherine and Dereham would have had the effect of terminating Catherine's Royal marriage, it also would have allowed Henry to annul their marriage and banish her from Court. Catherine would have been disgraced, impoverished, and exiled, but ultimately spared the grisly fate of Anne Boleyn. However, she steadfastly denied any precontract, stating that Dereham had forced himself upon her.

Imprisonment and death (1541 - 1542)

Catherine was stripped of her title as queen on 23 November and imprisoned in Syon House, Middlesex, through the winter of 1541. Culpeper and Dereham were executed at Tyburn on 10 December 1541 — the former beheaded, the latter hanged, drawn and quartered — for treasonous conduct.[6] As was customary, their heads were placed atop London Bridge. Catherine's relatives were also detained in the Tower, except her uncle Thomas, Duke of Norfolk, who had sufficiently detached himself from the scandal. All of the Howard prisoners were tried, found guilty of concealing treason, and sentenced to life imprisonment and forfeiture of goods. In time, however, they were released with their goods restored.

Catherine herself remained in suspension until Parliament passed a bill of attainder, on 21 January 1542, that made it treason – punishable by death – for a queen consort to fail to disclose her sexual history to the king within 20 days of their marriage, or to incite someone to have adultery with her.[7] This solved the matter of Catherine's supposed precontract and made her unequivocally guilty. Catherine was taken to the Tower of London on 10 February 1542. On 11 February, the bill of attainder received the Royal Assent, and Catherine's execution was scheduled for 7 a.m. on 13 February.

The night before her execution, Catherine is said to have spent many hours practising how to lay her head upon the block. She died with relative composure but looked pale and terrified, and she required assistance to climb the scaffold. She made a speech describing her punishment as "worthy and just" and asked for mercy for her family and prayers for her soul. According to popular folklore, her last words were, "I die a Queen, but I would rather have died the wife of Culpeper." However, this final declaration of love did not occur; its invention was an attempt to give Catherine's story some mark of distinction.[2] She was beheaded with one stroke, and her body was buried in an unmarked grave in the nearby chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, where the body of her cousin, Anne Boleyn, also lay. Henry did not attend.

Catherine's body was one of those identified during restorations of the chapel during Victoria's reign, and she is commemorated on a plaque on the west wall dedicated to all those who died in the Tower.

Francis I of France wrote a letter to Henry upon news of Catherine's death, regretting the "lewd and naughty behaviour of the Queen" and advising him that "The lightness of women cannot bend the honour of men". When Sir William Paget informed Francis of Catherine's misconduct, he exclaimed "She hath done wondrous naughty!"[8]



Catherine is not regarded as a particularly important character, in terms of long-lasting historical significance. Dr. Diarmaid MacCulloch of the University of Oxford compared her with her cousin, Anne Boleyn, in a 2004 review: "Katherine Howard, another royal wife to die on adultery charges, mattered only a little longer than it took Henry to cheer up after he had her beheaded: by contrast, Anne triggered the English Reformation." [15]

Catherine has been the subject of two modern biographies - A Tudor Tragedy by Lacey Baldwin Smith (1967) and Katherine Howard: A Tudor Conspiracy by Joanna Denny (2006.) Both of them are more or less sympathetic, although they disagree on various important points - including Catherine's motivations, date of birth and overall character. Treatments of her life have also been given in the five collective studies of Henry's queens which have appeared since the publication of Alison Weir's The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1991) to David Starkey's Six Wives (2004.)

Several of these writers have been highly critical of Catherine's conduct, if sympathetic to her eventual fate. Lacey Baldwin Smith described Catherine's life as one of "hedonism" and characterized her as a "juvenile delinquent". Alison Weir, in her 1991 book The Six Wives of Henry VIII, had much the same judgement, describing her as "an empty-headed wanton." The general trend, however, has been more generous - particularly in the works of Lady Antonia Fraser, Karen Lindsey, David Loades and Joanna Denny.

Portraits of Catherine Howard

The Windsor version of the Holbein miniature

Painters continued to include Jane Seymour in pictures of King Henry VIII years after she was dead, because Henry continued to look back on her with favour as the one wife who gave him a son; most of them copied the portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger because it was the only full-sized picture available. After Catherine Howard was executed, even the Howard family removed her picture from their family portrait gallery, because Henry never forgave her for her perfidy. Nobody dared make another portrait of her after she was dead.

A portrait miniature (see above) existing in two versions by Holbein (Royal Collection and Duke of Buccleuch) is now believed by most historians to be the only image of Catherine painted from life (in the case of the Windsor version). It has been dated (from details of her dress and the technique of the miniature) to the short period when Catherine was Queen. In it she is wearing the same large jewel as Jane Seymour in Holbein's panel portrait in Vienna. These were jewels the records show belonged to the Crown, not to any Queen personally, and there is no record of their having been removed from the treasury and given to anyone else. The pearls may tie in with a gift to Catherine from Henry in 1540, and she is the only Queen to fit the dating, whose appearance is not already known. For female sitters, duplicate versions of miniatures only exist for Queens at this period. There are no other plausible likenesses of her to compare to. Both versions have long been known as of Catherine Howard, and are so documented since 1736 (Buccleuch) and 1739? or at least 1840s for the Windsor version.[16]

For centuries, a picture by Hans Holbein was believed to be a portrait of Catherine. (The image, NPG 1119, is owned by the National Portrait Gallery in London, titled as "Unknown woman, formerly known as Catherine Howard.") Some historians now doubt that the woman in the picture is Catherine. Historian Antonia Fraser has persuasively argued that the above portrait is of Jane Seymour's sister, Elizabeth Seymour. The woman bears a remarkable resemblance to Jane (especially around the chin) and is wearing the clothes of a widow, which Catherine never had occasion to wear. Furthermore, the age of the sitter is given as twenty-one -- but Catherine may never have reached her twenty-first birthday (even if we accept the earliest possible date for her birth, 1520/21, Catherine would not have turned twenty-one until late in 1541 or 1542, by which time she was either imprisoned or dead). The other possibility is that the portrait shows Henry's Scottish niece, Lady Margaret Douglas, the mother-in-law of Mary, Queen of Scots. So, whilst it is almost certain that the full portrait is not Catherine Howard, but rather Henry's sister-in-law Elizabeth Seymour, the miniature shown above right is very likely to be Henry's fifth Queen.

In film

In fiction

  • Catherine's story is fictionalized in the young adult novel The King's Rose by Alisa M. Libby.
  • Catherine's story is fictionalized in the novel Murder Most Royal and Rose Without a Thorn by Jean Plaidy.
  • Catherine is a main character in the book The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory.
  • Catherine's story, along with that of Anne Boleyn, is told from the viewpoint of Lady Rochford in the novel Vengeance Is Mine by Brandy Purdy.
  • Catherine is a character in Sovereign by C. J. Sansom (the third novel in the Matthew Shardlake series).
  • Catherine's life at court is told in the trilogy The Fifth Queen by Ford Madox Ford.
  • Catherine's story is related in the song "Catherine Howard's Fate" by the Minstrel band Blackmore's Night.
  • Catherine's life was told in the new play commissioned by Shakespeare's The Rose (theatre)., Bankside in 'Rose without A Thorn' in 2008 written by Harry Denford.
  • Catherine's two years at court prior to her death are retold from her point of view in the fictional novel "The Queen's Mistake" by Diane Haeger.


  1. ^ There are several different spellings of "Catherine" that were in use during the 16th century and by historians today. Her one surviving signature spells her name "Katheryn" but this archaic spelling is no longer used. Her chief biographer, Lacey Baldwin Smith, uses the common modern spelling "Catherine"; other historians, Antonia Fraser, for example, use the traditional English spelling of "Katherine".
  2. ^ a b "Letter of Queen Catherine Howard to Master Thomas Culpeper - spring 1541". Primary Sources. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  3. ^ Boutell, Charles (1863), A Manual of Heraldry, Historical and Popular, London: Winsor & Newton, pp. 278–279 
  4. ^ Farquhar, Michael (2001). A Treasure of Royal Scandals, p.77. Penguin Books, New York. ISBN 0739420259.
  5. ^ Eleanor Herman, Sex with the Queen, William Morrow, 2006. ISBN 0-06-084673-9. See pages 81-82.
  6. ^ Primary Sources: The fall of Catherine Howard, 1541
  7. ^ 33 Hen.8 c.21
  8. ^ B Alison Weir, Six Wives of Henry VIII, Grove Presws, 2000. ISBN 0-8021-3683-4. See page 475.
  9. ^ Lord Edmund Howard, Catherine Howard's father, was the brother of Lady Elizabeth Howard, mother of Anne Boleyn (second wife of Henry VIII of England), making Catherine Howard and Anne Boleyn first cousins.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Lundy, Darryl, thePeerage,, retrieved 2007-10-28 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Lundy, Darryl, thePeerage,, retrieved 2007-10-28 
  12. ^ Lundy, Darryl, thePeerage,, retrieved 2007-10-28 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g Lundy, Darryl, thePeerage,, retrieved 2007-10-28 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g Lundy, Darryl, thePeerage,, retrieved 2007-10-28 
  15. ^ Daily Telegraph review of E.W. Ives's The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn (18/07/2004) (
  16. ^ Strong, Roy: Artists of the Tudor Court: The Portrait Miniature Rediscovered 1520-1620,p. 50, Victoria & Albert Museum exhibit catalogue, 1983, ISBN 0905209346 (Strong 1983.


  • Katherine Howard by Jessica Smith (1972)
  • Divorced, Beheaded, Survived: Feminist Reinterpretation of the Wives of Henry VIII by Karen Lindsey (1995) (ISBN 0-201-40823-6)
  • Six Wives : The Queens of Henry VIII (reprinted 2004) by David Starkey (ISBN 0-06-000550-5)
  • The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir (1993) (ISBN 0-8021-3683-4)
  • A Tudor tragedy: The life and times of Catherine Howard by Lacey Baldwin Smith (1961)
  • Katherine Howard: A Tudor Conspiracy by Joanna Denny (2005)
  • Sex with the Queen by Eleanor Herman (2006) (ISBN 0-06-084673-9)

External links

English royalty
Title last held by
Anne of Cleves
Queen consort of England
28 July 1540 – 22 November 1541
Title next held by
Catherine Parr
Lady of Ireland
1541 - 22 November 1541
Henry VIII is declared King of Ireland

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CATHERINE HOWARD (d. 1542), the fifth queen of Henry VIII., was a daughter of Lord Edmund Howard and a granddaughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd duke of Norfolk (d. 1524). Her father was very poor, and Catherine lived mainly with Agnes, widow of the 2nd duke of Norfolk, meeting the king at the house of Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester. Henry was evidently charmed by her; the Roman Catholic party, who disliked the marriage with Anne of Cleves, encouraged his attentions; and after Anne's divorce he was privately married to Catherine at Oatlands in July 1540. Soon afterwards she was publicly acknowledged as queen. Before her marriage Catherine had had several lovers, among them being a musician, Henry Mannock, or Manox; her cousin, Thomas Culpepper; and Francis Dereham, to whom she had certainly been betrothed.

After becoming queen she occasionally met Dereham and Culpepper, and in November 1541 Archbishop Cranmer informed Henry that his queen's past life had not been stainless. Cranmer had obtained his knowledge indirectly from an old servant of the duchess of Norfolk. Dereham confessed to his relations with Catherine, and after some denials the queen herself admitted that this was true; but denied that she had ever been betrothed to Dereham, or that she had misconducted herself since her marriage. Dereham and Culpepper were executed in December 1541 and their accomplices were punished, but Catherine was released from prison. Some fresh information, however, very soon came to light showing that she had been unchaste since her marriage; a bill of attainder was passed through parliament, and on the 13th of February 1542 the queen was beheaded.

See A. Strickland, Lives of the Queens of England (vol. iii. 1877).

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Simple English

[[File:|thumb|Catherine Howard painted by Hans Holbein the Younger. Historians think this portrait probably is of her, but they are not certain.]] Catherine Howard (between 1520 and 1525 - February 13 1542) was the fifth wife of Henry VIII of England.



Catherine Howard (also spelled Katherine) was born in about 1521.[1] She was the tenth child of Lord Edmund Howard and Joyce Culpepper. Her father was the second son of the Duke of Norfolk. She was a cousin to Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII.[1]

Catherine's family was poor so they sent her to live with her step-grandmother, Agnes Tilney.[1] Agnes Tilney, the Duchess of Norfolk, had a large household, but it was not very strict. Catherine could read and write, but she was the least educated of Henry VIII's wives.

Catherine was taught music by Henry Manox when she was 15 years old. Catherine later confessed that, being "but a young girl", she had let him "handle and touch the secret parts of my body". Catherine then fell in love with a gentleman at her grandmother's court. He was called Francis Dereham.[1] She slept with him, and they became lovers. They called each other "husband" and "wife".

Arrival at court

Catherine became a lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne of Cleves in 1539 or 1540, when she was about 18 years old.[1] Anne of Cleves was the fourth wife of Henry VIII. The king did not like Anne, and said she was not as pretty as he had hoped for. He soon fell in love with Catherine.

In July 1540, after Henry had annulled Anne of Cleves, Henry and Catherine got married at Oatlands Palace in Surrey.


Henry VIII loved his young bride and gave her lots of rich presents.[2] He called her his 'rose without a thorn' and the 'very jewel of womanhood'.[2] Her motto was "Non autre volonté que la sienne" or "No other wish but his".[2] However, Catherine was not happy in her marriage. Her husband was very fat (he was about 300 pounds at the time), much older than her, and had a ulcer on his legs. She began falling in love with a man named Thomas Culpepper.


Rumors that Catherine was unfaithful began to be repeated at court. Then Francis Dereham told people about the affair he had had with Catherine, and officials started to ask questions about what she was doing in private. Catherine then, in 1541, was arrested and charged with high treason. Henry was very upset. He cried. However, he grew angrier and angrier and later said he would kill Catherine himself with his sword. At last, he made up his mind that Catherine was to be executed, just like her cousin, Anne Boleyn.


In February of 1542, Catherine was told that she was to die. She was being kept a prisoner at Hampton Court Palace. She was so fearful she grew filled with hysteria, crying as if she was a madwoman.[3] She asked to see the executioner's block so she might know how to put her head on it. She practiced laying her head on the block all night long before her death.[4][3]

There is a popular story that before Catherine died, she said, "I die a Queen, but I would rather have died the wife of Culpepper." This is not true.[5]

The executioner chopped her head off with one blow. She was buried in St. Peter Ad Vincula, the parish church of the Tower of London.


Citable sentences

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