Anne of Cleves, 4th wife of Henry VIII Catherine Howard, 5th wife of Henry VIII Henry VIII

CATHERINE HOWARD, Queen of England (12th GG Aunt)

CATHERINE HOWARD (1520-1542). Fifth queen of King Henry VIII of England. Lithograph, French, 19th century.

Queen Catherine Howard, m. Henry VIII (no children) (12th GG Aunt)


BIRTH 1521 • Durham, Durham, England

DEATH 13 FEBRUARY 1542 • Tower of London, London, England (beheaded)

(12th Great Grand Aunt & wife of 13th GGF Henry VIII)

Catherine’s Father:

Lord Edmund de Howard, Father of King Henry VIII’s fifth Queen Katherine Howard. (13th GGF)


BIRTH 1478 • VERIFIED- Tisbury, Wiltshire, England -A large village and civil parish abt 13 miles west of Salisbury. The parish includes the hamlets of Upper Chicksgrove and Wardour.

DEATH 19 MAR 1539 X • VERIFIED- Tisbury, Wiltshire, England -A large village and civil parish abt 13 miles west of Salisbury. The parish includes the hamlets of Upper Chicksgrove and Wardour.

13th great-grandfather

Henry VIII is my grandfather through Henry Carey:

Sir Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hudson Patron of Lord Chamberlain’s Men, Lord Hunsdon, “illegitimate Tudor” (11th GGF)


BIRTH 4 MARCH 1526 • Hengrave (Suffolk) England

DEATH 23 JULY 1596 • Somerset House, Strand (Middlesex) England

11th great-grandfather

I have a vivid past-life memory of being Catherine Howard. My memories differ slightly from some “historical facts”. Rather than try to decide between fact and fiction, I’ll include both sides of the discussion and let the reader interpret as they may.

I did not know my relationship with Catherine Howard until I started doing my genealogy. I had my past-life memory of Catherine in 1991. I went to a weekly meditation class plus meditated nightly after work at the same time every day for about a year. Suddenly, one night, I had a night-long dream where I remembered 4 of my most relevant past lives. I may have remembered more but the alarm went off and I had to get ready for work. In that dream, I relived intense memories and feelings of each past life.

I remembered having sex with Henry and hoping to get pregnant. But he was unable to perform so I faked it and convinced him that he was successful in copulating with me.

I remember my lover. My lady-in-waiting arranged our coupling. My lover was not Culpepper but a bastard son of Henry’s. Culpepper loved me and agreed to step up if we got caught so Henry’s bastard son could escape unharmed. Henry’s son was close to my age but not exactly. I believe he was younger, so that made it fun as I taught him about sex. I didn’t really think it was cheating as Edward was sickly and Henry needed a male heir. I felt that I was doing my duty to the king and country and the fact that his child would in fact be his grandchild was irrelevant to me.

Henry needed an heir and obviously, that wasn’t going to happen as he was old, sickly, obese, drunken, and stunk to high heaven. But I did love Henry and cared about him. I fell in love with him because he was charismatic, rich, and powerful. I had daddy issues, so at the beginning when he wanted me, he fulfilled my conscious and unconscious desires. Our marriage was logical to me as we could both get our needs met. But, Henry was not very attractive out of his clothes. In fact, he was gross.

Cuckolding was common in the courts, so I wasn’t doing anything different than what was normal. Plus Henry would have my head if I didn’t get pregnant, so I was saving my own life. Plus, I would make a wonderful mother and would raise an awesome son who would rule the world as a fair and loving person.

I remember the horror of getting caught. I remember practicing. I wanted my hair up so that the executioner would not botch my beheading. My lady-in-waiting helped me prepare. I laid my head down. I said, “Thy will be done”, as I prayed and the ax fell and removed my head from my body.

Catherine is my 12th great-great-aunt and was married to Henry VIII (who is my 13th great-great-grandfather through a bastard son). Her father, Lord Edmund de Howard is my 11th great-great-grandfather. Catherine is probably my cousin as well as I am related to her through her aunt Lady Elizabeth Howard (13th GGA), the mother of Anne Boleyn (who was Catherine’s cousin). I am related to many of the royals of that time. Henry VIII is not one of my favorites. He murdered many. He was a sick, evil man.


Lewis, Jone Johnson. “Biography of Catherine Howard, Queen of England.” ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020,
Katherine Howard
The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

Catherine Howard (c. 1523–February 13, 1542) was the fifth wife of Henry VIII. During her brief marriage, she was officially the Queen of England. They beheaded Howard for adultery and unchastity in 1542.

Fast Facts: Catherine Howard

  • Known For: Howard was briefly the Queen of England; her husband Henry VIII ordered her to be beheaded for adultery.
  • Born: 1523 in London, England
  • Parents: Lord Edmund Howard and Joyce Culpeper
  • Died: February 13, 1542 in London, England
  • Spouse: King Henry VIII (m. 1540)

Early Life

Catherine Howard was born in London, England, sometime around 1523. Her parents were Lord Edmund Howard and Joyce Culpeper. In 1531, through the influence of his niece Anne Boleyn, Edmund Howard obtained a position as comptroller for Henry VIII in Calais.

When her father went to Calais, Catherine Howard was placed in the care of Agnes Tilney, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, her father’s stepmother. Howard lived with Agnes Tilney at Chesworth House and then at Norfolk House. She was one of many young nobles sent to live under Agnes Tilney’s supervision—and that supervision was notably loose. Howard’s education, which included reading and writing and music, was directed by Tilney.

Youthful Indiscretions

About 1536, while living with Tilney at Chesworth House, Howard had a sexual relationship with a music tutor, Henry Manox (Mannox or Mannock). Tilney reportedly struck Howard when she caught the two together. Manox followed her to Norfolk House and tried to continue a relationship.

Manox was eventually replaced in young Howard’s affections by Frances Dereham, a secretary and relative. Howard shared a bed at the Tilney home with Katherine Tilney, and the two were visited a few times in their bedchamber by Dereham and Edward Malgrave, a cousin of Henry Manox, Howard’s former love.

Howard and Dereham apparently did consummate their relationship, reportedly calling each other “husband” and “wife” and promising marriage—what to the church amounted to a contract of marriage. Manox heard gossip of the relationship and jealously reported it to Agnes Tilney. When Dereham saw the warning note, he guessed it had been written by Manox, which implies that Dereham knew of Howard’s relationship with him. Tilney again struck her granddaughter for her behavior and sought to end the relationship. Howard was sent to court, and Dereham went to Ireland.

At Court

Howard was to serve as a lady in waiting to Henry VIII’s newest (fourth) queen, Anne of Cleves, soon to arrive in England. This assignment was probably arranged by her uncle, Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk and one of Henry’s advisors. Anne of Cleves arrived in England in December 1539, and Henry may have first seen Howard at that event. At court, she caught the king’s attention, as he was quite quickly unhappy in his new marriage. Henry started courting Howard, and by May was publicly giving her gifts. Anne complained of this attraction to the ambassador from her homeland.


Burchett, Richard; Preparatory Sketches of Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard; Parliamentary Art Collection;

Henry had his marriage to Anne of Cleves annulled on July 9, 1540. He then married Catherine Howard on July 28, generously bestowing jewelry and other expensive gifts on his much-younger and attractive bride. On their wedding day, Thomas Cromwell, who had arranged the marriage of Henry to Anne of Cleves, was executed. Howard was publicly made queen on August 8.

Early the next year, Howard began a flirtation—perhaps more—with one of Henry’s favorites, Thomas Culpeper, who was also a distant relative on her mother’s side and who had a reputation for lechery. Arranging their clandestine meetings was Howard’s lady of the privy chamber, Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, widow of George Boleyn who had been executed with his sister Anne Boleyn.

Only Lady Rochford and Katherine Tilney were permitted into Howard’s rooms when Culpeper was present. Whether Culpeper and Howard were lovers or whether she was pressured by him but did not acquiesce to his sexual advances is unknown.

Howard was even more reckless than to pursue that relationship; she brought her old lovers Manox and Dereham to court as well, as her musician and secretary. Dereham bragged about their relationship, and she may have made the appointments in an attempt to silence them about their past.


On November 2, 1541, Cranmer confronted Henry with the allegations about Howard’s indiscretions. Henry at first did not believe the allegations. Dereham and Culpeper confessed to their part in these relationships after being tortured, and Henry abandoned Howard.

Cranmer zealously pursued the case against Howard. She was charged with “unchastity” before her marriage and with concealing her precontract and her indiscretions from the king before their marriage, thereby committing treason. She was also accused of adultery, which for a queen consort was also treason.

A number of Howard’s relatives were also questioned about her past, and some were charged with treasonous acts for concealing her sexual past. These relatives were all pardoned, though some lost their property.

On November 23, Howard’s title of queen was stripped from her. Culpeper and Dereham were executed on December 10 and their heads displayed on London Bridge.


On January 21, 1542, Parliament passed a bill of attainder making Howard’s actions an executable offense. She was taken to the Tower of London on February 10, Henry signed the bill of attainder, and she was executed on the morning of February 13.

Like her cousin Anne Boleyn, also beheaded for treason, Howard was buried without any marker in the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula. During Queen Victoria‘s reign in the 19th century, both bodies were exhumed and identified, and their resting places were marked.

Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, was also beheaded. She was buried with Howard.

Why was Catherine Howard not beheaded with a sword, like Anne Boleyn?

Anne Boleyn had been a crowned and anointed Queen of England. The coronation was thought of along the lines of taking holy orders — it separated the person from mere mortals and made them accountable to God alone (and their husbands, in the case of queens!)

After Anne’s conviction, she was asked to surrender her crown and titles, which she did by symbolically handing her judges the crown that had rested on a pillow beside her during the trial. But apparently there was some recognition of what Shakespeare would later write, that: All the waters of the rough, rude sea cannot wash away the balm of a king’s anointing. She was still referred to as “the late queen” in the records of the era, a courtesy not extended to Henry’s other discarded wives.

Anne herself seems to have silently spoken to this reality in her choice of clothing the morning of her execution. She walked to the scaffold in an ermine cloak. Ermine was a fur reserved for royalty. She also wore a gable hood, an exclusively English style. Together, her outfit said, “Here dies a queen of England,” not just a woman of gentle blood, as she’d supposedly been reduced to.

The swordsman had been summoned before her trial began. Again, it was due to her rank as an anointed queen. It would be an execution which only required her to kneel, not to bow over a block, and it would be certain to be over in an instant and not run the risk of turning sympathy toward the condemned woman if the ax struck badly the first time.

After her death, her ladies instantly dashed forward to throw a cloth over her severed head to protect her dignity. They helped to wrap her body in cerecloth and place it into a bow stave chest, which functioned as her coffin. She was buried next to the altar, the place of highest honor within a chapel.

Katheryn Howard, by contrast, only held the title of queen as a courtesy of her marriage to the king. It could be, and was, removed as soon as he ordered it. She was “merely Katheryn Howard” again. She asked for a private death inside the Tower itself and it was granted, but that was all she was given in terms of courtesies.

After her head was stricken off, her body was dragged aside and covered in a black cloak. They didn’t hide her head from view. Her body was buried in the chapel, under the chancel floor, but not beside the altar, and it’s likely her body was put directly into the earth. Lime used heavily in her grave to hasten decomposition; who gave this order or why is unknown, because hers and Lady Rochford’s graves were the only ones where it was found.


Historians and scholars have struggled to reach a consensus about Howard, with some describing her as a deliberate troublemaker and others characterizing her as an innocent victim of King Henry’s rages. Howard has been depicted in a variety of plays, films, and television series, including “The Private Life of Henry VIII” and “The Tudors.” Ford Madox Ford wrote a fictionalized version of her life in the novel “The Fifth Queen.”


  • Crawford, Anne. “Letters of the Queens of England, 1100-1547.” Alan Sutton, 1994.
  • Fraser, Antonia. “The Wives of Henry VIII.” 1993.
  • Weir, Alison. “The Six Wives of Henry VIII.” Grove Weidenfeld, 1991.

Cite this Article 

Watch Now: A Look at the Life of King Henry VIII 0% 



While Catherine was enjoying her life as Queen, Thomas Cranmer and members of the Privy Council were investigating secrets into her past. Many of Catherine’s former roommates came forward to snitch Catherine out about her former “lovers”. One of the first men interrogated was Francis Dereham. While Catherine was taking her dance lessons, they confined her to her bedchambers with only Lady Rochford to serve her while the matters were being invested. She was not told why she was confined, and a short time later Dereham was arrested and taken into interrogation.

Shortly before Dereham’s interrogation, Catherine had hired him as her personal secretary. She did this because Dereham may have blackmailed Catherine to expose their past relationship if she would not hired him. While being interrogated, and possibly tortured, Dereham openly admitted to engaging in sexual contact with Catherine when she was living at her grandmother’s academy. He also claimed that they only consummated when they agreed to marry each other. Dereham, however, denied engaging in sexual conduct with Catherine after she came to court and became Queen.

On November 23, 1541 Catherine was stripped of her title as Queen and was placed under arrest. Before being arrested she escaped the guards in hopes of reaching Henry to beg for his mercy. When Catherine caught eye of the King as he exited mass, the guards got hold of Catherine and dragged her away as she screeched and whaled at the King hoping to get his attention. With Henry turning a blind eye to her, that was the last time she would ever see him.

While Catherine was being interrogated by Thomas Cranmer, she continually changed her stories. Pressured by Crammer, she wrote a full and explicit confession. Despite the mounting pressure, she never admitted to precontracting with Dereham. If Catherine admitted to promising herself to Dereham, her marriage to the King would’ve been declared invalid and she would’ve been spared execution. But she would’ve also been banished from court, disgraced by her family, and likely reduced to prostitution in order to make a living. It is likely that Catherine denied precontract because she was hoping that Henry would forgive her and allow her to remain his Queen, or she may have thought death would’ve been more suitable than being impoverished. It is also possible that Catherine was indeed telling the truth and never actually promised herself to Dereham. Because Catherine never admitted to precontract with Dereham, Henry could not divorce her.

While being interrogated, Lady Rochford confessed that she aided Catherine in concealing a secret relationship with the Kings most trusted servant, Thomas Culpepper, who was a distant cousin to Catherine. Culpepper was soon arrested, and a conducted search of his room recovered a love letter to Culpepper from the Queen. This evidence was enough to convict Culpepper of treason. Dereham too was tried and convicted of treason for concealing his precontract to Catherine from the King, which would’ve made any children Henry had with Catherine illegitimate had they had any. This would’ve affected the succession of the throne and was considered an attempt to over throw the King thus an act of treason.

The two were sentenced to be hanged (almost to the point of death), drawn (castrated, disemboweled, then beheaded), and quartered (dismembered) alive. Both men pleaded to the King for mercy. Henry only granted mercy to Culpepper, possibly because of his former relationship to the King, and reduced his execution to a single beheading. Henry did not show the same affections for Dereham. The two were executed on December 10, 1541 at Tyburn, a notorious village where most traitors where executed in England. Their heads where put on display in the public after their executions.

The Execution of Katherine Howard & Jane Rochford


16 Comments Wow, February is just chock full of Tudor executions, isn’t it? We had Mary Queen of Scots a few days ago, Lady Jane Grey the other day, and yesterday we remembered Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Queen Katherine Howard, who was beheaded in 1542. She is certainly not the most popular of Henry’s wives, but she has an interesting story to tell, and I certainly think she is a woman who deserves more sympathy than most people give her. Likewise, I think the other woman executed along with her, Jane Rochford, deserves more respect – as I’ve written about before. Let’s take a look at both of these women and the actions that brought them to this horrible and bloody end on Tower Green.

Katherine was born sometime in the 1520s, though the exact year seems hard to pin down for sure. She was a member of a very powerful noble family in England – the Howards – which made her Anne Boleyn’s cousin. However, despite being noble and powerful, Katherine’s immediate family was not rich, and her family frequently depended on handouts and help from the wealthier members of the family. During her childhood, Katherine lived in the household of her step-grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk at Lambeth. This seems to be where Katherine learned the art – or game – of love, as there were many girls and boys in the household and supervision was relatively lax. It is popularly thought (though not proven) that her music teacher Henry Mannox engaged in a sexual relationship with her during that time, when she was between the age of eleven and sixteen. This may or may not have been Katherine’s first intimate encounter with a man, and it would have a great impact on the rest of her life. 

Katherine was never described as pious or scholarly, as some of Henry’s other wives were. She was, according to most reports, the least educated of his wives, but her charms were in other departments – her beauty, her vivaciousness, and her lively personality. These are the things that attracted the aging Henry VIII to the young woman after his failed marriage to Anne of Cleves – but these attractive features would prove troublesome later on. 

Katherine had been one of Anne of Cleve’s ladies-in-waiting after her upbringing at the Dowager Duchess’s home. Within months of Katherine’s arrival at court, however, the king was paying her a great deal of attention – spending lavish amounts of money on gifts for her, writing love letters, and showing her off to other men at court. The Howards were quickly rising, and this was very reminiscent of the early days of Anne Boleyn, when Henry was so enamored with her that he scarcely saw anything else. 
By August 1540, Henry had married his fifth wife, and the teenaged Katherine Howard was now Queen of England, and the wife of a forty-nine-year-old man. Henry affectionately referred to his new, beautiful bride as his “rose without a thorn.” In his mind, Katherine could do no wrong. She was innocent, pure, and beautiful – and in his mind, she was head over heels in love with him. In reality, it is more likely that Katherine was enjoying the attention and gifts that her husband showered on her, but there is no evidence to suggest that Katherine truly loved him. In fact, there is evidence 

The happiness of the marriage did not last long, though. At least, not for Katherine. It is thought that in early 1541, Katherine had engaged in a relationship with Henry’s favorite male courtier and personal friend, Thomas Culpeper. Cue Jane Rochford’s arrival on the scene – she was one of Katherine’s older ladies-in-waiting, and she apparently helped to arrange the secret meetings between the two lovers. (For those who haven’t read about Jane Rochford in the past, she was the widow of George Boleyn). 
In the summer of 1541, Henry and Katherine toured England together, and everyone was anxiously awaiting the announcement that Katherine was pregnant with England’s heir. This never happened, however, which caused slight tension in the royal marriage. Henry desperately wanted another son (a spare), and his love for Katherine only made his desire for a son stronger. 

Unfortunately, the summer of 1541 proved to be a terribly difficult time for Katherine. Suddenly, people and “friends” who had witnessed Katherine’s bad behavior years ago at Lambeth were contacting her and asking for royal favors. In return, they would be silent about what they knew of her. If she refused, however, they had the power to destroy her, and she knew it. For this reason, Katherine accepted many old acquaintances into her life and her household once more. Arguably, the worst decision Katherine made at this time was appointing a former lover, Francis Dereham, as her personal secretary. Having all of these people around her meant that Katherine needed to exercise a great amount of trust – and it was a recipe for disaster.

By late 1541, details of Katherine’s previous indiscretions were seeping out, and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer became aware of a possible pre contract for marriage between Katherine and Dereham, that had been made years earlier. Knowing that such a thing would invalidate her marriage to the king, Cranmer took action quietly and left a letter for Henry on his seat in the chapel at Hampton Court Palace – detailing the accusations against the queen. 

Although Henry initially did not believe the accusations against his beloved wife, he insisted that Cranmer should investigate the matter thoroughly. Within no time at all, confessions from Katherine’s “friends” and former lovers were given, as well as Thomas Culpeper’s own confession that he was currently sleeping with Katherine – (this may have been given under torture at the Tower of London). Among these pieces of evidence, Cranmer also found a love letter from Katherine to Culpeper, which still exists today. (A picture of that letter is shown above!)

Katherine was immediately charged with treason. Although she denied infidelity, she admitted that she was “most unworthy to be called [Henry’s] wife or subject.” While under house arrest in her private rooms, Katherine managed to escape passed the guards while Henry was at mass one afternoon. According to onlookers, she ran through the corridor screaming for Henry – but as he was in the chapel, he either ignored her or didn’t hear her. She was then recaptured and placed in her rooms once more. (It should be noted that the validity of this episode is questionable, and some consider it strictly rumor!) In any case, one of the most popular ghost stories at Hampton Court is the story of Katherine’s ghost still running through that corridor – now known as the “Haunted Gallery.”

Katherine certainly would have known what might happen to her once she was charged. After all, being the cousin of Henry’s second queen, Anne Boleyn, Katherine would have heard the story of Anne’s execution – on tramped up charges of adultery. If Katherine’s adultery was real, the surely she would have to fear the same fate! On 7 November 1541, Cranmer was sent to question her and took pity on her, saying, “I found her in such lamentation and heaviness as I never saw no creature, so that it would have pitied any man’s heart to have looked upon her.”

On 23 November, Katherine was stripped of her title and imprisoned in Middlesex throughout the winter.On 10 December, Culpeper and Dereham were executed on Tower Hill – (Culpeper was beheaded, and Dereham was hanged, drawn, and quartered). Many members of Katherine’s family were also imprisoned in the Tower of London and sentenced to life-imprisonment, save for Katherine’s uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, who had written a pleading letter to the king, explaining his innocence in the matter. Katherine’s family members would later be released. 

But Katherine wasn’t so lucky. On 7 February 1542, a bill was passed by Parliament decreeing that it was treason (and punishable by death) for a queen consort not to release her full sexual history to the king. Adultery, of course, was also punishable by death, so Katherine was absolutely stuck at this point. There was no hope for escape. She knew she was doomed. On 10 February she was taken to the Tower of London and her execution was scheduled for three days later.

According to Katherine’s ladies who were with her in the Tower, she spent the evening before her execution practicing how to lay her head on the block. She requested that the block be brought to her room so that she could practice – clearly very afraid of a botched execution. (Wouldn’t you be?)

Death and Aftermath
On the morning of 13 February, Katherine climbed the scaffold steps with relative composure, but onlookers could see her fear. She made a short speech to onlookers, declaring that her punishment was “worthy and just” and beseeching everyone to pray for her soul. One rumor states that Katherine’s final words were, “I die a Queen, but I would rather die the wife of Culpeper.” Katherine died by one single stroke of the axe, and her body was carted away to the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula. Directly following her execution, Lady Jane Rochford – Katherine’s accomplice – laid her head on the bloody block and suffered the same way. Both women were buried under the altar in the chapel near Anne and George Boleyn’s bodies. 

Upon hearing of the queen’s execution, King Francis I of France wrote a letter to Henry saying that he regretted the “lewd and naughty [evil] behavior of the Queen” and advising him that “the lightness of women cannot bend the honor of men” Harsh! 

Let’s remember that, although Katherine’s choices and behavior seems careless and stupid to us, we cannot possibly know what it would have been like for a young, beautiful girl to be married to a fifty year old (increasingly angry and tyrannical) king. There is no evidence to suggest that Katherine desired the life of Queen of England, so it wouldn’t be right for us to judge her and call her a silly, careless woman. In fact, I think there must be much more to it than that. In any case, we can pity the poor woman and queen who met her end too soon. 

Rest in Peace, Katherine Howard. 


Ashlie R. Jensenlink2/18/2013 10:05:18 am

The licentious Francis I had no right to comment on others alleged sexual behavior, don’t you think? I adhere to the school of thought that Katherine did not sexually consummate her relationship with Thomas Culpepper, (the evidence is sorely lacking) but even if she did, I feel great sympathy for her. She was just a girl, who was probably sexually abused in her youth and was later used by her male family members in order to secure advancement.

Thank you for another great article, Stephanie! Rest in Peace, Katherine Howard, indeed.

Semper Eadem,

Ashlie of BeingBess blog.

ReplyPat Walker10/19/2018 07:43:55 pm

I agree. Rest in peace Catherine. Henry knew he was too old for her and (his disease leg stunk on top of his own bad behavior) it made him feel much more powerful to have a teenager as his wife, the letch. She was younger and wanted a younger man, but almost everyone took advantage of her. R.I.P.

Replyroslink2/19/2013 09:41:27 pm

Sad this young girl died in such a terrible disgraceful manner. If she was committing adultery, then the king should have forgiving her and divorced her. KOA did forgive him many times he should have done the same. Adultery is adultery no matter what.

Replyaubreymonroelink8/29/2013 07:44:46 am

I had no idea it was so easy to create a free blog here at Weebly, thanks.

ReplyMarialink1/9/2017 12:59:44 am

My heart breaks for this poor young girl who was no older than my own daughter at the time of her demise. I think that the country in which she died, which is still under a monarchy, should publish apologies for all these unjust and horrible brutal executions.

ReplyTimothy Abbott2/3/2017 01:27:22 pm

It is so sad that so many young ladies were executed in them days and times. Many innocent people executed and then times just for political reasons.

ReplyPaul1/31/2017 02:07:00 pm

What happened to Catherine Howard was disgraceful. Today it would be termed child abuse. Just goes to show what happens when a person (Henry VIII) is given absolute power and not questioned.

ReplyMargaret3/17/2017 03:40:39 pm

Such suicidal behavior while married to this paranoid tyrant is difficult to understand. Still, whatever she did or didn’t do, i feel sorry for her. No one deserves that kind of death, and especially not as a 19 year old. I can’t imagine why all the ladies at court weren’t knocking their own teeth out and walking cross eyed just to avoid henry’ s attention.

ReplyTimothy D Abbott4/13/2017 01:29:54 pm

You are so right. He was no good for any woman.

ReplyBecky5/5/2017 09:30:56 pm

I blame King Henry. What kind of man was he to marry such a young girl? A pedophile perhaps? She was immature and young. I’m sure she enjoyed the attention and amenities she received being a queen. He was a mature man who really had no business with such a young bride. If he had stayed married to Anne of Cleves, things may have turned out completely different.

ReplyNita8/5/2017 07:37:12 pm

I agree thAt from all I’ve read about Anne of Cleve’s she and Catherine of Aragon seemed most suitable to be queens. Catherine Howard was a naive young woman who didn’t understand the consequences she would face from her actions. Very sad how many people were tortured and beheaded back then.

ReplyJulianna6/9/2017 04:21:46 am

Great article. I agree with this completely. The judgement of her by many is very harsh regardless of this era. No woman in modern era could even imagine living as a woman in this era much less during a time of this bloody reign. Add the fact, that this young, energetic, beautiful and vivacious woman gets thrown in to marry a tyrant King that murdered her cousin. Add on top of that fact, he was 30+ years older than her that by this time was progressively becoming obese with stenchy leg wounds… I wouldn’t put any doubt at all that she was scared of not producing and heir with Henry and possibly thought if she became pregnant by someone else it may help her through that awful fate she most likely already was in fear of. Not saying that was her only intention but I am sure it was heavily weighing in the back of her mind) . He already had a terrible reputation with his wives. Honestly, the irony (unfortunately for her sakeand others) is the fact that he accused Anne of doing this and she was innocent and here he gets what he asked for. As the Tudor show proclaims at the end, she was just another moth drawn to the flame. So young and vibrant and naive to be put to death like that. Could you imagine?

ReplyConfusedlady7/29/2017 04:13:21 pm

Through all the Tudor history how in anyones mind can king be greater than God they were worshiped as if God himself appointed them geez what insanity

ReplyVICTORIA8/2/2017 05:44:52 pm

It is unfair for us some 500 years later to pass judgment on the laws and customs of that time. What seems harsh and unjust to us was the law of the land then. We must remember that life was harsher then, and monarchs with absolute power existed. It took centuries for republics and democracies to evolve. Yet even today we have dictators and demagogues.ReplyFrank Johnson4/13/2019 07:10:27 pm

We also can’t project our concept of youth into that era. By that century’s culture, Catherine Howard wasn’t a “young” woman.ReplyKath3/5/2021 02:22:17 pm

I feel so sorry for her and Anne actually if i’m truthful because they went to their deaths purely through the whims of men who thought nothing of using them to get what they wanted without risking their own necks in the process (well most of them), Henry was an over sexed pervert in my opinion, and thought nothing of using a poor child as his plaything, mind you child brides and inbreeding was considered nothing strange or disgusting in those days was it?. And probably by their days standards Catherine was most possibly considered quite old, The only thing women in those days were useful for was to look pretty, make babies and have no opinions of their own (well not voiced anyway)and to be used, abused and discarded if a man saw fit. And who is going to be crazy enough to say they don’t want to marry a power hungry tyrant who had absolute power to do anything he wanted at the stroke of a pen or word unless they had a death wish that is. My daughter is now the age poor Catherine was when she met her death and the thought that Catherine never got a chance to become any more than she did makes me feel so sad for her


Catherine Howard is taken to the Tower of London


This day in 1542 was a particularly frightening one for Henry VIII’s fifth queen – the 18-or-19-year old Catherine Howard. It was on this day, after not even two years of marriage to the king, that she was escorted to the Tower of London after two months of imprisonment for adultery and treason. She would be beheaded three days later. Let’s take a brief look back at what led to this event…

The most well-known portrait of Catherine Howard (by Hans Holbein the Younger)Young Catherine Howard had married King Henry VIII on 28 July 1540, having caught his eye quickly after becoming a lady’s maid to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. Just weeks after the annulment of that marriage, Catherine wedded the 49-year-old king and adopted the motto ‘No other will but his’.

Catherine, a jovial, fun-loving, beautiful girl, had a past. She had grown up largely in the care of her grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk – where supervision of noble wards was notoriously lax. The Dowager Duchess spent much of her time away, which meant that the young teenagers in her care were afforded more fun and freedoms than they otherwise might have been. She, along with other girls, spent a good amount of time with young men – even entertaining them in their bedchambers late into the evening. They would play music, dance, eat and drink, and generally have the same kind of fun that teenagers of today might have, when allowed to run a little wild.

Around 1536, Catherine began music lessons with a man named Henry Mannox, and historians have debated the exact nature of their relationship in the few years to come – but they definitely shared a sexual relationship of some kind. Both of them would, however, later deny that they ever engaged in actual intercourse. Much later, during Catherine’s adultery inquisitions, she would confess, ‘At the flattering and fair persuasions of Mannox, 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.’ These words would indicate that the sexual encounters were not entirely consensual – but given the nature of this confession, one might question whether or not Catherine played the victim to preserve some innocence, as she was being questioned about her sexual misconduct., and her royal marriage was, at this point, in jeopardy.

Henry VIII and Catherine in Showtime’s ‘The Tudors.’ Once Catherine cut ties with Mannox in 1538, she became entangled with a man named Francis Dereham, one of the Dowager Duchess’s secretaries. They, too, became lovers, and referred to each other as ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ until the following year, when the Dowager Duchess found out. They did fully consummate their romance, and it has been debated whether or not they actually exchanged vows during this relationship – thus becoming married in the eyes of the Church. In any case, it is suspected that they at least had a pre-contract to marry before they were separated, and Catherine was sent to court to serve the new Queen Anne of Cleves – perhaps in an attempt to straighten out her loose behavior.

Her rise to queenship was swift, and when she married Henry in 1540, she likely felt that she had all the world at her fingertips. Henry absolutely doted on her – no doubt delighted that he, an overweight, old (for the time) man, had attracted such a lovely young lady to be his bride. He indulged and spoiled her, and his devotion to her was a stark contrast to his complete disinterest in his former wife. Guaranteed, he hoped for another son from Catherine, as his male heir, Edward (by his third wife, Jane Seymour), was three years old,  and the future of the dynasty would only be strengthened by a spare.

But while Catherine was certainly subjected to performing her marital duty for the king, her affections were apparently stolen by the courtier, Thomas Culpeper – a young and handsome man, with whom she was probably having an affair by the spring of 1541. He referred to her as ‘my little sweet fool’ in love letters that were discovered during her downfall. One of Catherine’s ladies-in-waiting, Jane Rochford (sister-in-law to the former Queen Anne Boleyn), arranged secret rendezvous between Catherine and Culpeper, and perhaps no one suspected a thing for several months… until autumn, when word reached the Archbishop of Canterbury regarding Catherine’s previous sexual behavior under the Dowager Duchess’s household.

Catherine’s arrest at Hampton Court in Showtime’s ‘The Tudors’With this new information, investigations began. Jane Rochford was questioned, and she confessed (due to fear of being tortured) that she had guarded the back stairs to Catherine’s rooms many times, so that Thomas Culpeper could pay the queen secret visits. Culpeper’s rooms were immediately searched, and a love letter from Catherine was found there – in which she had written ‘it makes my heart die to think what fortune I have that I cannot be always in your company’ (a rather incriminating line, making known her affections for a man who was not her husband).

This love letter was discreetly passed to the king while he was praying in the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court on 1 November 1541 – only a year-and-a-half after marrying Catherine. Six days later, Catherine was questioned at Winchester Palace, and Archbishop Cranmer reported that she was so frantic and panicked, that even he had to pity her for the place she now found herself in. As her cousin, Anne Boleyn, had known before her – it was not a good thing to cross the king.

During her adultery inquisition, Catherine claimed that her former lover, Francis Dereham, had raped her. She denied a precontract of marriage, but was nonetheless stripped of her ‘Queen’ title on 23 November. She was held at Syon Abbey while the king remained at Hampton Court, and within the next couple of weeks, both Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpeper were executed at Tyburn (Dereham was hanged, drawn, and quartered; while Culpeper was merely beheaded). As was custom, their heads were placed upon spikes on London Bridge, as warnings to London citizens that treason against King Henry VIII was no small thing.

Catherine was, no doubt, aware of these executions. She remained imprisoned throughout the winter and, on 7 February 1542, the Royal Assent by Commission Act 1541 was passed – making it treason and punishable by death for a queen consort not to disclose her sexual history to the king within the first twenty days of marriage, as well as to commit adultery against her royal husband. There was no need for a trial at this point – they stacked the evidence against her. They sentenced Catherine Howard to death.

Which leads us to this day in 1542. After over two months of imprisonment, Lords of the Council came to fetch Catherine from Syon Abbey on 10 February, and her reaction was (understandably) one of pure panic. Catherine knew what to expect at this point, as she was told she would be taken to the Tower of London. She allegedly screamed and fought them as they roughly carried her to the barge that conveyed her down the River Thames. In a cruel twist of fate, Catherine passed directly under London Bridge, where the rotting heads of her former lovers were displayed. Once she arrived at the Tower of London, she entered through Traitor’s Gate and was led to her prison cell. The following morning, she would learn that her execution was scheduled for 7:00 am on 13 February. She had just three more days to live.

Executions of Thomas Culpeper and Francis Dereham

On 10th December 1541, Thomas Culpeper and Francis Dereham, Catherine Howard’s supposed lovers, were executed at Tyburn. 


Dereham died a full traitor’s death at Tyburn, meeting a very gruesome end – they hanged, drawn, and quartered him. Culpeper also died at Tyburn, but they commuted his sentence to beheading at the king’s order because the king favored him before his alleged affair with Catherine Howard.


The Tudor chronicler Edward Hall writes about the downfall of Culpeper and Dereham:

“At this tyme the Quene late before maried to the kyng called Quene Katheryne, was accused to the Kyng of dissolute liuyng, before her mariage, with Fraunces Diram, and that was not secretely, but many knewe it. And sithe her Mariage, she was vehemently suspected with Thomas Culpeper, whiche was brought to her Chamber at Lyncolne, in August

laste, in the Progresse tyme, by the Lady of Rocheforde, and were there together alone, from a leuen of the Clocke at Nighte, till foure of the Clocke in the Mornyng, and to hym she gaue a Chayne, and a riche Cap. Vpon this the kyng remoued to London and she was sent to Sion, and there kept close, but yet serued as Quene. And for the offence confessed by Culpeper and Diram, thei were put to death at Tiborne, the tenth daie of December.”


Francis Dereham was arrested after a member of the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk’s household enlightened Archbishop Thomas Cranmer about Dereham’s past relationship with Catherine.

Cranmer immediately reported the shocking findings to King Henry in a letter, and soon the investigation into Catherine’s premarital life was launched, which resulted in the arrests of Agnes Howard, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, her son William Howard, Thomas Culpeper, Catherine herself, and eventually Jane Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford and one of Catherine’s ladies-in-waiting.


It came to the light that Catherine was liked by her music teacher Henry Manox. According to Manox’s admission, he fell in love with her and tried to seduce her while she encouraged his advances.

Catherine was supposedly more interested in Dereham than in Manox. According to Dereham’s confessions after his arrest, they had a secret affair and were even pre-contracted to each other before Catherine’s marriage to the king, which, however, cannot be proved.

We cannot be sure that Dereham was tortured, but most likely he was. He confessed that “he had known her carnally many times, both in his doublet and [hose between] the sheets and in naked bed.”


Dereham said that Thomas Culpeper who “succeeded him [Dereham] in the queen’s affections”. As a result, Culpeper was apprehended on 12th November 1541 and was taken straight to the Tower.

As he was a gentleman, Culpeper was protected from torture, although not from the threats his interrogators could have used to make him talk. Culpeper gave a long and nuanced tale about his affair with Catherine, stressing her initiative to commence their relationship and declaring that his own feelings for her were strong and genuine.


We will never know for sure whether Catherine Howard did really had affairs with Dereham and Culpeper. There is a huge element of gossip in Catherine’s tragic story, which is why we should take the existing facts with a pinch of salt.

In any case, the fates of Dereham and Culpeper were sealed – they were doomed to be executed for high treason. Catherine Howard and Jane Boleyn were executed on 13th February 1542; the Dowager Duchess and several other people were eventually released.

Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpepper Executed for Treason as Kathryn Howard’s Lovers

Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpepper were executed for treason on December 10, 1541, but were they really the men people believe them to be?

December 10, 1541, the people of London stopped their day to watch the execution of two men who had committed treason against their King Henry VIII. These men were ‘lovers’ of Queen Kathryn Howard, the fifth wife of the King of England, and were Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpepper. When they were convicted of their crimes on December 1, they were both of be hanged, drawn and quartered. However, Culpepper was given the more merciful death of beheading.

For those who have seen The Tudors, you may have a view of these two men. Culpepper was portrayed as a rapier and murderer, while Dereham was shown as a ruthless, blackmailing, arrogant man. Are these portrayals true, or was artistic license taken since they were going to be shortly killed off?

The Truth About Francis Dereham

Francis Dereham knew Kathryn Howard from before she was Queen Consort of England.

Kathryn Howard had a relationship with Francis Dereham in the past.

Francis Dereham was a member of Agnes Tilney’s staff. Tilney was the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, and step-grandmother to Kathryn Howard. Since the young Howard girl was living with her step-grandmother, the two had the chance to meet. However, Dereham was definitely not her first interest. Kathryn had already shown an interest in her music teacher, Henry Mannox.

It was her relationships with Mannox and Dereham that caused the initial search into her background. Henry VIII believed that his fifth wife was a virgin when he married her, but it turned out that at least one other man had carnal knowledge of her—Francis Dereham. Doing the right thing, Dereham admitted to the treason, but he made it clear that there was a promise of them being husband and wife. Dereham had left for Ireland for business, but he promised Kathryn that he would marry her upon his return. They had already called each other husband and wife.

When Dereham did return, Kathryn Howard was already married to the King of England. He was not going to tell the King about the pre-contract! Unfortunately for him, Kathryn denied the pre-contract but did admit to calling him her husband and lying with him. Had she admitted to the pre-contract, all their lives may have been saved.

Rumours spread that she wanted to rekindle her romance with the man, and that was her reason for making him her personal secretary. There is no proof of this, and it is possible that she simply wanted to care for her friends. The Tudors shows Dereham blackmailing the Queen, but this is unlikely. While she would have had a long way to fall, he would have also fallen by sharing the news of their previous relationship with the King of England.

Thomas Culpepper Gets Involved in the Fall of Kathryn Howard

Francis Dereham was not going to fall by himself, and involved Thomas Culpepper.

A love letter between Kathryn Howard and Thomas Culpepper

Thomas Culpepper seemed to get away with everything at first. However, Dereham opened his mouth and explained to those questioning—and possibly torturing—him that he was no longer an interest for the Queen. Culpepper had surpassed him in that position. Eyes turned on the member of the King’s Privy Chamber, and he was arrested.

Culpepper admitted that he planned to do “ill things with the Queen” and that she wanted to do the same. He never elaborated on those ill things, but it was certainly treason. Many historians believe that he found someone who could help him gain power after the King’s death. A dowager queen was a wealthy woman. Of course, even thinking about the King’s death was treason.

Some historians believe that Culpepper may have conspired to rape the queen. They believe that he was the Thomas Culpepper who raped the game keeper’s wife and murdered the man who caught him. However, that may have been his older brother, also called Thomas.

To try and weaken the blow, Culpepper dragged one more person into the plot; Jane Boleyn. Jane had previously been under interrogation five years ago when her husband was accused of incest with Anne Boleyn. She lost everything when he was executed, but Thomas Cromwell found her a place in Jane Seymour’s household, where she remained until her execution on February 13, 1542.

A Portrait of the Execution Site for TraitorsA Portrait of the Execution Site for Traitors

The Executions of Thomas Culpepper and Francis Dereham

Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpepper were convicted of treason on December 1, 1541, and executed nine days later.

Both men were convicted and sentenced to the death of a traitor, and both petitioned to have their sentenced reduced to beheading. Only Culpepper was given that right, but there is nothing to explain why. The Tudors has Henry VIII state that Dereham would die a traitor’s death because he knew Kathryn intimately first. Henry was a jealous man, and it is possible that this was his reasoning.

Kathryn Howard would later see the heads of her ‘lovers’. They were placed on Tower Bridge, which she would pass on her way to her own execution on February 13, 1542. There was a two month delay for her execution, since parliament needed to pass a bill so that she was guilty of a crime. There was no proof that she ever had an affair with Thomas Culpepper, but Henry VIII wanted to see her pay for her past.

A Fan Made Video of the Henry VIII/Kathryn Howard/Thomas Culpepper Love Triangle

You may also like...