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Francis Dereham (died 10 December 1541) was most famous for his affair with Queen Catherine Howard, fifth wife of King Henry VIII of England. This affair lasted until Catherine was made lady-in-waiting to Henry's fourth wife Anne of Cleves. Dereham was made a secretary at Hampton Court, an appointment possibly engineered by Agnes Tilney, Duchess of Norfolk, to silence him about Catherine's previous indiscretions. When their past relationship was brought to the attention of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer by a member of the dowager Duchess's household, he reported them to the King in a letter, provoking an investigation which resulted in the arrests of the dowager Duchess of Norfolk, her stepson Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Culpeper and Queen Catherine herself.

Biography: affair and execution

Under interrogation, Dereham admitting a pre-marital relationship with Catherine, but claimed that they were never intimate after Catherine's marriage to the King. Furthermore, he claimed that he had been supplanted in her affections by Culpeper. Any incriminating documents are thought to have been burned by the dowager duchess of Norfolk, as it is documented that she raided Dereham's coffers and destroyed letters. However, Cranmer was faced with the rumours of a pre-contract of marriage between Dereham and Catherine, which was effectively as binding as marriage itself, especially if the couple sealed the agreement with sexual relations. If this was true (there is no evidence to either prove nor disprove the allegation), Catherine's marriage to Henry would have been unlawful. A supposed love letter from Catherine to Culpepper had been discovered, sealing her fate and all those implicated.

Dereham died a traitor's death at the Tyburn gallows, being hanged, drawn and quartered. Culpepper also died at Tyburn, but as he had been favoured by the King before his affair with Catherine, his sentence was commuted to beheading. Catherine was beheaded at the Tower of London on 13 February 1542. Agnes, dowager duchess of Norfolk was eventually released.

In a confession, in the form of a letter of 7 November 1541 to the King, Catherine wrote the following regarding her relationship with Dereham:

…Francis Derehem by many persuasions procured me to his vicious purpose, and obtained first to lie upon my bed with his doublet and hose, and after within the bed, and finally he lay with me naked, and used me in such sort as a man doth his wife, many and sundry times, and our company ended almost a year before the King's Majesty was married to my Lady Anne of Cleves [Henry's preceding wife] and continued not past one quarter of a year, or a little above…
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