Catherine Howard, 5th wife of Henry VIII My Past Lives

Memories of My Life as Catherine Howard


In the early 90s after a year (or so) of solid meditation every night at the same time every day, I had a night of spontaneous recall of four of my most relevant past-lives. I first remembered a life where I was working with the group that followed Jesus as he was on his mission back in Jerusalem and the surrounding area. I died rather young. When I passed, I saw myself and the roads where my life would have taken me had I not made the choices I made that led me to my early demise. After that life review, I immediately made my way into the body of Catherine Howard where I was to become the fifth wife of Henry VIII.


My soul’s origin is primarily Anunnaki, and the Anunnaki created human beings. I identify as a thread of Ninmah, the Mother Creator Goddess who created human beings (along with her brother Enki and with assistance from Ningishzidda-her nephew). I often reincarnate in royal families.

My DNA and my soul essence are both Anunnaki. Souls and bodies have a harmonic resonance with one another so souls tend to reincarnate in certain families or bloodlines. That does not make any soul group or bloodline better than others. Nor does it mean one will never deviate from one’s soul group or bloodline. At the planetary level, all humans are related to one another. One can and does reincarnate where the soul will maximize lessons it wishes to learn that lifetime or can best accomplish its missions and goals.

When I remembered my pastlives, I questioned why so many were “famous” or on the verge of famous or relatively important. My answer is that’s because who I am as a soul and that I am in a certain place in my personal evolution that I tend to position myself in my various lifetimes to areas of significance and where the action is happening.

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


After Miriam (the incarnation I had with Jesus), I found myself going about my life as Catherine. It was as though I had been inserted inside of a movie of my life, and I was literally walking and caught myself joining with my past self mid stride walking down the halls of the castle where I lived with my husband Henry VIII.

I was full of regret. I knew I had to get pregnant by Henry and in quick order or I may suffer the same fate as my late cousin, Anne Boleyn. I had already slept with Henry and he was having difficulty performing.

My “nanny” had come to court with me and was my best friend and confident. She became one of my Ladies in Waiting. I told her of my fears that I would never get pregnant by Henry. I explained how I made him believe that he was successful in copulating with me. But he could only lay there and I climbed on top of him. He had become so obese, I could not arouse him. So I manipulated his penis between my legs and rode him like a wild woman, as if my life depended on it (and it did).

I pretended to orgasm over and over again. Eventually, I would collapse, acting as if he had exhausted me and that he had successfully orgasmed inside of me. He was often so drunk or drugged (I’m not sure what. His doctors were always giving him things), I don’t think he knew what actually happened. He had a festering wound that stunk to high hell. His physicians would make smelly remedies which added to the stench. He also drank a lot of ale and wine. His breath was often rancid.

But I told my Lady and she knew how to get ahold of one of Henry’s bastard sons. We became lovers. I want to say he was younger than me. At the very least he was close in age. I delighted in feeling “naughty” and felt aroused having illicit sex and our deception that we were getting one over Henry. At the same time, I justified my actions for Henry need a male heir.

I remember thinking that Edward was a sickly child and my son would be much stronger and have a better chance to survive to manhood. I also thought with Henry’s ill health, he would not be around much longer and if I had a son, I could rule through him and greatly influence the course of history. I had suffered much as a young child then later when I was barely a woman then I was discovered by Henry and whisked into a leadership position in the world.

I had altruistic thoughts that I could somehow right all the wrongs of our world and lead the people into a golden age of enlightenment. Since I had experienced and known such cruelty, who would be better suited to right such wrongs? Also, since I rose from obscurity at such a rapid rate and against all odds, then my advancement must certainly be divine will and I would only be fulfilling my destiny by creating a better world for all of humanity.

Such thoughts came with me into my Catherine incarnation because I am an emanation of Ninmah. Ninmah had such authority and power. And I, as a thread of Ninmah kept my original form in the Halls of Amenti and sent my consciousness down into form as a fractal, a thread of myself into my human avatar Catherine Howard.

On a soul level I knew that Henry was Enlil. We had discovered that we could experience life as humans in our avatars. The only difficult part was in order to participate in the human game, one must agree to go unconscious and have our memories repressed. But, since we are more advanced Anunnaki souls, we could and often did remember who were truly are and would wake up before we died and be better able to influence the course of human existence. But that was not always the case

After I died I realized the higher dynamics of what we had created. Enlil and I have much karma and in coming together in that lifetime, we had hopes of resolving our issues. Instead, we created even more negative karma between us. But, on some level despite all that’s happened, on the highest level as souls eternally connected to Source and the Creator of All, we love each other (as do all of us everywhere always loves every other fractal of existence).

My young lover did indeed succeed in impregnating me. I felt it immediately and was overwhelmed with a sense of love. I actually felt such incredible love for my lover and Henry, who would leave behind a legacy in the child I bore, who was in actuality his grandson. My child would rule England, one of the most powerful nations in the world. And with my love, guidance and influence, I would turn England into one of the most powerful nations that ever existed.

While I did not succeed, my second cousin Elizabeth I did. I met her during my lifetime as Catherine and I like to believe I somehow influenced her in setting a course of grandeur for the world. While her rule was like the others in many way, full of death, intrigue and violence, she was seen as one of the most powerful Queens that ever existed.

But Culpepper agreed to take the blame. He was doomed anyway, so he helped protect the young man who was my lover. He loved me. I loved Culpepper. I was not raised to be monogamous. Neither was Henry for that matter. Many of the royals were not of a monogamous mindset. Most got away with it. My biggest failure was that I got caught.

I loved being with my lover so much, that I wanted more and should have quit while I was ahead. I knew I was pregnant. I talked my Lady into arranging one final tryst for us. But he was seen sneaking through secret passages and corridors. And since it was dark and full of shadows, Culpepper took the blame rather than out my lover. For that I am most grateful.

I remember the trip to the Tower of London where I saw the heads of Culpeper and another past lover (I will research and see if I can discover his name). My naivety led to the demise of them, my “nanny” and myself. I feel a level of regret and guilt. Yet it was so long ago and we’ve all moved on as souls and lived many other lives in the past 400 to almost 500 years, such emotions seem silly. The more I research my past lives and facilitate others in regressions or on radio shows as they remember their past lives, the more I realize all time is now. When one accesses and gets in touch with those things from “the past”, the emotions often feel as real as if they were happening now.

I was caught, imprisoned, shamed, renounced. All titles were removed. My family was also shamed, punished, lost titles, lost property and status.

When I was in the Tower of London awaiting my execution, I reflected upon my short life, what I did right and what I had done wrong. I had heard stories of other executions, how they could go wrong, how the axe would not always cut clean the first swipe, so I wanted to make sure when the executioner aimed at my neck, he had a clear view of where he could make the cleanest cut.

I practiced laying my head across the block so it would be angled in just the right way so the cut would be clean and I would die in one swipe.

I remember my young Lady in Waiting who came with me to the Tower and attended to my needs. She was with me when I instructed her to tie my hair up. She sobbed the entire time crying “My poor queen. My poor, sweet, beautiful queen”.

Before I died, I made a statement to those who gathered to witness my execution. Some say I evoked Culpeper. The movie version showed Catherine wore a cap.

After I died I reviewed my life. I also saw other timelines and what would have happened had I made different choices along the way. I looked at my mistakes and how they influenced things so that I ended up with Henry and ended up losing my head. I saw that had I been smarter, had I played it differently, I would have lived to give birth to my son. Henry would have believed it to be his son, when in fact it was his grandson. The child looked enough like him that most who saw him would believe he was Henry’s son.

Henry was happy. I kept him sexually satisfied and doted on him, made him feel special like the royal he is. I kept up my relations with my lover, Henry’s son. We had more children. I gave birth to a daughter and another two sons.

Henry was happier and lived longer. He lived long enough to see that his eldest son, Edward, died. But he felt relieved as his second son by me was more suited to run the world at that time. Henry lived about 10 years longer than he would have and went to his grave knowing that he had 4 healthy children by his last wife, Catherine.

The world was a different place. Elizabeth never became queen. My son, influenced by me, initiated laws and protocols that liberated humanity and gave them more equal rights. Everything was changed. I put the world on the path of at least a thousand years of enlightenment. The United States never rebelled as there was no need to rebel against King George and a corrupt world as everything was changed and to this day (2021) we are still in a golden age.

But, since I screwed up and died, I had to correct the timeline back to the age of enlightenment, so I came right back as the illegitimate daughter of Queen Elizabeth I. Let’s hope I do better this time.



Catherine Howard (c. 1523[2] – 13 February 1542) was Queen of England from 1540 until 1541 as the fifth wife of Henry VIII.[a] She was the daughter of Lord Edmund Howard and Joyce Culpeper, cousin to Anne Boleyn (the second wife of Henry VIII), and niece to Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. Thomas Howard was a prominent politician at Henry’s court, and he secured her a place in the household of Henry’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, where she caught the King’s interest. She married him on 28 July 1540 at Oatlands Palace in Surrey, just 19 days after the annulment of his marriage to Anne. He was 49, and she was still a teenager, at about 17 years old.

Catherine was stripped of her title as queen in November 1541. She was beheaded three months later on the grounds of treason for committing adultery with her distant cousin Thomas Culpeper.

Family life

Catherine was one of the daughters of Lord Edmund Howard (c. 1478 – 1539) and Joyce Culpeper (c. 1480 – c. 1528). Her father’s sister, Elizabeth Howard, was the mother of Anne Boleyn. Therefore, Catherine Howard was the first cousin of Anne Boleyn, and the first cousin once removed of Lady Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth I), Anne’s daughter by Henry VIII. She also was the second cousin of Jane Seymour, as her grandmother Elizabeth Tilney was the sister of Seymour’s grandmother Anne Say.[3] As a granddaughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk (1443–1524), Catherine had an aristocratic pedigree. Her father was not wealthy, being the third son among 21 children and disfavoured in the custom of primogeniture, by which the eldest son inherits all his father’s estate.

When Catherine’s parents married, her mother already had five children from her first husband, Ralph Leigh (c. 1476 – 1509); she went on to have another six with Catherine’s father, Catherine being about her mother’s tenth child. With little to sustain the family, her father was often reduced to begging for handouts from his more affluent relatives. After Catherine’s mother died in 1528, her father married twice more. In 1531 he was appointed Controller of Calais.[4] He was dismissed from his post in 1539, and died in March 1539. Catherine was the third of Henry VIII’s wives to have been a member of the English nobility or gentryCatherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves were royalty from continental Europe.

Early life

Catherine was probably born in Lambeth in about 1523, but the exact date of her birth is unknown.[5][6] Soon after the death of her mother (in about 1528), Catherine was sent with some of her siblings to live in the care of her father’s stepmother, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. The Dowager Duchess presided over large households at Chesworth House in Horsham in Sussex, and at Norfolk House in Lambeth where dozens of attendants, along with her many wards—usually the children of aristocratic but poor relatives—resided.[7] 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 both Chesworth House and Lambeth was apparently lax. The Dowager Duchess was often at Court and seems to have had little direct involvement in the upbringing of her wards and young female attendants.[8]

As a result of the Dowager Duchess’s lack of discipline, Catherine became influenced by some older girls who allowed men into the sleeping areas at night for entertainment. The girls were entertained with food, wine, and gifts stolen from the kitchens. Catherine was not as well educated as some of Henry’s other wives, although, on its own, her ability to read and write was impressive enough at the time. Her character has often been described as vivacious, giggly and brisk, but never scholarly or devout. She displayed great interest in her dance lessons, but would often be distracted during them and make jokes. She also had a nurturing side for animals, particularly dogs.[9]

In the Duchess’s household at Horsham, in around 1536, Catherine began music lessons with two teachers, one of whom was Henry Mannox. Mannox’s exact age is unknown; although it has recently been stated that he was in his late thirties, perhaps 36, at the time, this is not supported by Catherine’s biographers. Evidence exists that Mannox was not yet married, which would be highly unusual for someone from his background at the time to have reached mid-thirties without being married – he married sometime in the late 1530s, perhaps 1539, and there is also some evidence that he was of an age with two other men serving in the household, including his cousin Edward Waldegrave (who was in his late teens or early twenties from 1536-8).

These pieces of evidence indicate that Mannox too was in his early to mid-twenties in 1538.[10] This is, however, guess work, based on interpreting fragmentary surviving details about Mannox, since there are no baptismal records for him. Subsequently a relationship arose between Catherine and Mannox, the details and dates of which are debated between modern historians. The most popular theory, first put forward in 2004 by Retha M. Warnicke, was that the relationship between them was abusive, with Mannox grooming and preying on Catherine from 1536-8, and this is expanded upon in detail by Conor Byrne.[11] Other biographers, like Gareth Russell, believe Mannox’s interactions with Catherine took place over a much shorter period of time, that Mannox was of roughly the same age as her, but that “their relationship was nonetheless inappropriate, on several levels.” He believes Catherine was increasingly repulsed by Mannox’s pressure to lose her virginity to him and was angered by his gossiping with servants about the details of what had gone on between them.[12] Mannox and Catherine both confessed during her adultery inquisitions that they had engaged in sexual contact, but not actual coitus. When questioned Catherine was quoted as saying, “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.”[13][14]

Catherine severed contact with Mannox in 1538, most likely in the spring.[15] It is not true, as is sometimes stated, that this was because she began to spend more time at the Dowager Duchess’s mansion in Lambeth, as Lambeth was Mannox’s home parish and where he married, perhaps in later 1538-9. He was still living in Lambeth in 1541.[16] Shortly after, Catherine was pursued by Francis Dereham, a secretary of the Dowager Duchess. They allegedly 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 Dowager Duchess’s maids of honour and attendants knew of the relationship, which apparently ended in 1539, when the Dowager Duchess found out. Despite this, Catherine and Dereham may have parted with intentions to marry upon his return from Ireland, agreeing to a precontract of marriage. If indeed they exchanged vows before having sexual intercourse, they would have been considered married in the eyes of the Church.[13]

Arrival at court

Catherine’s uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, found her a place at Court in the household of the King’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves.[17] As a young and attractive lady-in-waiting, Catherine quickly caught Henry’s eye. The King had displayed little interest in Anne from the beginning, but on Thomas Cromwell‘s failure to find a new match for Henry, Norfolk saw an opportunity. The Howards may have sought to recreate the influence gained during Anne Boleyn‘s reign as queen consort. According to Nicholas Sander, the religiously conservative Howard family may have seen Catherine as a figurehead for their fight by expressed determination to restore Roman Catholicism to England. Catholic Bishop Stephen Gardiner entertained the couple at Winchester Palace with “feastings”.

As the King’s interest in Catherine grew, so did the house of Norfolk’s influence. Her youth, prettiness and vivacity were captivating for the middle-aged sovereign, who claimed he had never known “the like to any woman”. Within months of her arrival at court, Henry bestowed gifts of land and expensive cloth upon Catherine. Henry called her his ‘very jewel of womanhood’ (that he called her his ‘rose without a thorn’ is likely a myth).[18] The French ambassador, Charles de Marillac, thought her “delightful”. Holbein’s portrait showed a young auburn-haired girl with a characteristically hooked Howard nose; Catherine was said to have a “gentle, earnest face.”


The Six Wives of
Henry VIII

Catherine Howard’s arms as queen[19]

King Henry and Catherine were married by Bishop Bonner of London at Oatlands Palace on 28 July 1540, the same day Cromwell was executed. She was a teenager and he was 49. Catherine adopted the motto, Non autre volonté que la sienne or “No other wish but his” using the English translation from French. The marriage was made public on 8 August, and prayers were said in the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace.[20] Henry “indulged her every whim” thanks to her “caprice”.[20]

Catherine was young, joyous and carefree; Mannox had taught her to play the virginals. She was too young to take part in administrative matters of State. Nevertheless, every night Sir Thomas HeneageGroom of the Stool, came to her chamber to report on the King’s well-being. No plans were made for a coronation, yet she still travelled downriver in the royal barge into the City of London to a gun salute and some acclamation. She was settled by jointure at Baynard Castle: little changed at court, other than the arrival of many Howards. Every day she dressed with new clothes in the French fashion bedecked with precious jewels. With ominous foresight the motto adopted read Non autre volonté que la sienne (No other will but his/hers), decorated in gold around her sleeves.[21]

The Queen escaped plague-ridden London in August 1540 when on progress. The royal couple’s entourage travelled on honeymoon through Reading and Buckingham. After the Queen’s Chamberlain got drunk and misbehaved, the King was in a bad mood when they moved on to Woking, when his health improved. The King embarked on a lavish spending spree to celebrate his marriage, with extensive refurbishments and developments at the Palace of Whitehall. This was followed by more expensive gifts for Christmas at Hampton Court Palace.[22]

That winter the King’s bad moods deepened and grew more furious. Undoubtedly the pain from his ulcerous legs was agony, but did not make relations any easier at court. He accused councillors of being “lying time-servers”, and began to regret losing Cromwell. After a dark depressed March, his mood lifted at Easter.

Preparations were in place for any signs of a royal pregnancy, reported by Marillac on 15 April as “if it be found true, to have her crowned at Whitsuntide.”[23]


Catherine may have been involved during her marriage to the King with Henry’s favourite male courtier, Thomas Culpeper, a young man who “had succeeded [him] in the Queen’s affections”, according to Dereham’s later testimony. She had considered marrying Culpeper during her time as a maid-of-honour to Anne of Cleves. Culpeper called Catherine “my little, sweet fool” in a love letter.[24] It has been alleged that in the spring of 1541 the pair were meeting secretly. Their meetings were allegedly arranged by one of Catherine’s older ladies-in-waiting, Jane Boleyn, Viscountess Rochford (Lady Rochford), the widow of Catherine’s executed cousin, George BoleynAnne Boleyn‘s brother.[23]

During the autumn Northern Progress, a crisis over Catherine’s conduct began to loom. People who claimed to have witnessed her earlier sexual behaviour while she was still a ward at Lambeth reportedly contacted her for favours in return for their silence, and some of these blackmailers may have been appointed to her royal household. John Lascelles, the brother of Mary Lascelles, claimed that he had tried to persuade his sister to find a place within the Queen’s royal chamber. However Mary had allegedly refused, stating that she had witnessed the “light” ways of Queen Catherine while they were living together at Lambeth. Supposedly after hearing this John Lascelles reported such news to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, who then interrogated Lascelles’s sister. Under the Archbishop’s interrogation, Mary alleged that Catherine had had sexual relations while under the Duchess’s care, before her relationship with the King.

Cranmer immediately took up the case to be made to topple his rivals—the Roman Catholic Norfolk family. Lady Rochford was interrogated and from fear of being tortured agreed to talk. She told how she had watched for Catherine backstairs as Culpeper had made his escapes from the Queen’s room.[25]Letter from Catherine Howard to Thomas Culpeper

During the investigation a love letter written in the Queen’s distinctive handwriting was found in Culpeper’s chambers. This is the only letter of hers that survived (other than her later “confession”).[26][27][28]

On All Saints’ Day, 1 November 1541, the King arranged to be found praying in the Chapel Royal.[29] There he received a letter describing the allegations against Catherine. On 7 November 1541 Archbishop Cranmer led a delegation of councillors to Winchester Palace, Southwark, to question her. Even the staunch Cranmer found the teenaged Catherine’s frantic, incoherent state pitiable, 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.”[30] He ordered the guards to remove any objects that she might use to commit suicide.

Imprisonment and death

Establishing the existence of a precontract between Catherine and Dereham would have had the effect of terminating Catherine’s royal union, but it would also have allowed Henry to annul their marriage and banish her from Court in poverty and disgrace instead of executing her, though there is no indication that Henry would have chosen that alternative. Yet Catherine steadfastly denied any precontract, maintaining that Dereham had raped her.

Catherine was stripped of her title as queen on 23 November 1541 and imprisoned in the new Syon AbbeyMiddlesex, formerly a convent, where she remained throughout the winter of 1541.[29] She was forced by a Privy Councillor to return Anne of Cleves’s ring that the King had given her; it was a symbol of her regal and lawful rights. The King would be at Hampton Court, but she would not see him again. Despite these actions taken against her, her marriage to Henry was never formally annulled.[31]

Culpeper and Dereham were arraigned at Guildhall on 1 December 1541 for high treason. They were executed at Tyburn on 10 December 1541, Culpeper being beheaded and Dereham being hanged, drawn and quartered. According to custom, their heads were placed on spikes atop London Bridge. Many of Catherine’s relatives were also detained in the Tower with the exception of her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, who had sufficiently distanced himself from the scandal by retreating to Kenninghall to write a grovelling letter of apology.[32]

The Duke of Norfolk’s son Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, a poet, remained a favourite of the King. The Duke, knowing his family had fallen from grace, wrote an apology on 14 December to the King, excusing himself and laying all the blame on his niece and stepmother.[32] All of the Howard prisoners were tried, found guilty of concealing treason and sentenced to life imprisonment and forfeiture of goods. In time they were released with their goods restored. The King sank further into morbidity and indulged his appetite for food and women.[33]

Catherine herself remained in limbo until Parliament introduced on 29 January 1542 a bill of attainder, which was passed on 7 February 1542.[34] The Royal Assent by Commission Act 1541 made it treason, and punishable by death, for a queen consort to fail to disclose her sexual history to the king within twenty days of their marriage, or to incite someone to commit adultery with her.[35][36] This measure retroactively solved the matter of Catherine’s supposed precontract and made her unequivocally guilty.[37] No formal trial was held.

When the Lords of the Council came for her she allegedly panicked and screamed as they manhandled her into the barge that would escort her to the Tower on Friday 10 February 1542, her flotilla passing under London Bridge where the heads of Culpeper and Dereham were impaled (and remained until 1546). Entering through the Traitors’ Gate she was led to her prison cell. The next day the bill of attainder received Royal Assent and Catherine’s execution was scheduled for 7:00 am on Monday 13 February 1542.[37] Arrangements for the execution were supervised by Sir John Gage in his role as Constable of the Tower.[38]

The night before her execution Catherine is believed to have spent many hours practising how to lay her head upon the block, which had been brought to her at her request.[39] She died with relative composure but looked pale and terrified; 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 no eyewitness accounts support this, instead reporting that she stuck to traditional final words, asking for forgiveness for her sins and acknowledging that she deserved to die “a thousand deaths” for betraying the king, who had always treated her so graciously. This was typical of the speeches given by those executed during that period, most likely in an effort to protect their families, since the condemned’s last words would be relayed to the King. Catherine was beheaded with a single stroke of the executioner’s axe.[40]

Lady Rochford was executed immediately thereafter on Tower Green. Both bodies were buried in an unmarked grave in the nearby chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula, where the bodies of Catherine’s cousins Anne and George Boleyn also lay.[41] Other cousins were also in the crowd, including the Earl of Surrey. King Henry did not attend. Catherine’s body was not one of those identified during restorations of the chapel during Queen Victoria‘s reign. She is commemorated on a plaque on the west wall dedicated to all those who died in the Tower.[42][43] Upon hearing news of Catherine’s execution Francis I of France wrote a letter to Henry regretting the “lewd and naughty [evil] behaviour of the Queen” and advising him that “the lightness of women cannot bend the honour of men”.[44] Replying, Sir William Paget told King Francis, “She hath done wondrous naughty”.[45]


Catherine has been the subject of contention for modern biographies, A Tudor Tragedy by Lacey Baldwin Smith (1967), Katherine Howard: A Tudor Conspiracy by Joanna Denny (2006), Katherine Howard: Henry VIII’s Slandered Queen by Conor Byrne (2019), and Young and Damned and Fair by Gareth Russell (2017). Each is more or less sympathetic, though they disagree on various important points involving Catherine’s motivations, date of birth and overall character.

Her life has also been described in the five collective studies of Henry’s queens that have appeared since the publication of Alison Weir‘s The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1991)—such as David Starkey‘s The Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII (2003). Several of these writers have been highly critical of Catherine’s conduct, if sympathetic to her eventual fate. Baldwin Smith described Catherine’s life as one of hedonism and characterized her as a “juvenile delinquent“, as did Francis Hackett in his 1929 biography of Henry. Weir had much the same judgement, describing her as an “empty-headed wanton”.

Other writers, especially those studying historical trends larger than Catherine’s life, have been much more critical towards her. In his book Tudor Queens of England, which profiles fourteen consorts and sovereigns, David Loades described Catherine as a “stupid and oversexed adolescent” who “certainly behaved like a whore,” and wrote that her denial of a precontract was “a measure of her stupidity”; however, he also said that she died when she was “just twenty years old, a mere child”. In her book Elizabeth’s Women, profiling the rise of Queen Elizabeth I (Catherine’s stepdaughter), Tracy Borman wrote that Catherine was “as much a sexual predator as [Francis] Dereham” and blamed Catherine almost entirely for her own fate.

Loades’s and Borman’s characterizations are unusually harsh, however. The general trend has been rather generous to Catherine, particularly in the works of Antonia Fraser, Karen Lindsey, Joanna Denny, Conor Byrne, Josephine Wilkinson, and Gareth Russell.


Portrait of a Lady, perhaps Katherine Howard, c. 1540
(Royal Collection)[46]Portrait Miniature of Katherine Howard, c. 1540
(Buccleuch Collection)[47]

Painters continued to include Jane Seymour in pictures of King Henry VIII long after she died, mainly because Henry continued to look back on her with favour as the only wife who gave him a son. Most of the artists 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. Debate continues about the identity of the sitter(s) for these portraits, and there is no portrait conclusively known to be of Henry’s fifth queen.[48]


Two portrait miniatures by Hans Holbein the Younger, one in the Royal Collection[49] and another in the Buccleuch Collection,[50] may be the only surviving depictions of Catherine painted from life (in the case of the Royal Collection version at Windsor). The historian David Starkey dated it (from details of her dress and the technique of the miniature) to the short period when Catherine was queen.[51] In it, she wears a pendant jewel that is similar to that shown in Holbein’s portrait of Jane Seymour at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, and identical to that shown in the portrait of Henry VIII’s third queen, in the MauritshuisThe Hague.[52][53] Records show that these jewels belonged to the Crown, not to any queen personally, and there is no record that they were 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.[54] There are no other plausible likenesses of her to compare to. Both versions have long been documented as of Catherine Howard, since 1736 for the Buccleuch version and 1739 (or at least the 1840s) for the Windsor version.[48]

Other portraits

A Holbein drawing (below) is also traditionally identified as being of Catherine Howard, but this is widely disputed.[55][56]

  • An unidentified woman c.1532–43, Hans Holbein the Younger[55]
  • Unknown woman engraved as Catherine Howard, 1797, Francesco Bartolozzi after Hans Holbein[55]

The contemporary Hans Holbein the Younger portrait of a woman in black (Toledo Museum of Art),[57] was identified by Sir Lionel Cust in 1909 as Catherine Howard.[1][58] Two copies of Holbein’s original are extant: one at Hever Castle[59] and another owned by the National Portrait Gallery in London.[60] The portrait has long been associated with Henry VIII’s young queen; however, the identification of the portrait as Catherine Howard is widely but not universally discounted.[58][61][62]

  • Portrait of a Lady, probably a Member of the Cromwell Family c. 1535–1540
    (Toledo Museum of Art)[61][62]
  • Unknown woman, formerly known as Catherine Howard, late 17th century, after Hans Holbein the Younger[61][62]
  • Unknown woman, formerly known as Catherine Howard, 1902, after Hans Holbein the Younger[61][62]

The inscription on the portrait, ETATIS SVÆ 21, indicates that the sitter was twenty-one years old, an age Catherine Howard never reached. Herbert Norris notes that the sitter is wearing a sleeve which follows a style set by Anne of Cleves,[63] which would date the portrait to after 6 January 1540, when Anne’s marriage to Henry VIII took place.[64] The original Holbein is dated to 1535–1540,[57] but the National Portrait Gallery dates their copy to the late 1600s.[60] This would seem to indicate a sitter who was still a connection to be commemorated over a century later (unlike Catherine).[62]

Historians Antonia Fraser and Derek Wilson believe that the portrait is far more likely to depict Elizabeth Seymour.[65][66] Antonia Fraser has argued that the sitter is Jane Seymour’s sister, Elizabeth, the widow of Sir Anthony Ughtred, on the grounds that the lady bears a resemblance to Jane, especially around the nose and chin, and wears widow’s black. Black clothing, however, was expensive, and did not necessarily signify mourning: it was an indication of wealth and status. Derek Wilson observed that “In August 1537 Cromwell succeeded in marrying his son, Gregory, to Elizabeth Seymour”, the queen’s younger sister. He was therefore related by marriage to the king, “an event worth recording for posterity, by a portrait of his daughter-in-law.”[65] The painting was in the possession of the Cromwell family for centuries.[58]

The portrait shown on this page, attributed to Hans Holbein, dated circa 1535–1540, is exhibited at the Toledo Museum of Art as Portrait of a Lady, probably a Member of the Cromwell Family (1926.57).[57] Another version of the portrait, now located at Hever Castle, dating from the 16th century, is exhibited as Portrait of a Lady, thought to be Catherine Howard.[58][59] The National Portrait Gallery exhibits a similar painting, Unknown Woman, Formerly Known as Catherine Howard (NPG 1119),[60] which has been dated to the late 17th century.

  • Portrait of a Young Woman, ca. 1540–45, Workshop of Hans Holbein the Younger[67][68]
  • Portrait of an Unknown Lady, c. 1535, Lucas Horenbout (1490/95–1544)[67]

Most recently Susan James, Jamie Franco, and Conor Byrne have identified the Portrait of a Young Woman in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York as a likely portrait of the queen.[67][69] The painting is attributed to the workshop of Hans Holbein.

Portrayal in media

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On stage

  • In 1998 Emilia Fox played the title role in Katherine Howard at the Chichester Festival Theatre, in ChichesterSussex;[70] she would later play Henry’s third wife Jane Seymour in the 2003 ITV drama Henry VIII.[71]
  • The musical Six (first produced professionally on the West End, and later internationally) portrays Catherine as the victim of abuse and emphasizes her youth and playfulness. The role of Catherine was originated on the West End by Aimie Atkinson, followed by her understudy Vicki Manser, and then Sophie Isaacs and on Broadway by Samantha Pauly. On the Tour of the United Kingdom, Jodie Steele originated the role, and on the Australia and New Zealand Tour, Courtney Monsma.

In film and television

  • Catherine was first portrayed on screen in 1926, in the silent film Hampton Court Palace, when she was played by Gabrielle Morton.
  • In 1933, in The Private Life of Henry VIII, Catherine was played by Binnie Barnes. In this comedy of manners, Catherine ambitiously sets out to seduce the king, played by Charles Laughton, but ultimately falls in love with the debonair, devoted Thomas Culpeper, played by Robert Donat. Catherine’s story dominates the film.
  • In 1970 Angela Pleasence played Catherine in a 90-minute BBC television drama, as part of the series The Six Wives of Henry VIII, opposite Keith Michell as Henry VIII, Patrick Troughton as the Duke of Norfolk and Sheila Burrell as Lady Rochford. In this interpretation, Catherine is characterised as a selfish hedonist who uses the naïve Culpeper to try to get herself pregnant to secure her position.
  • Catherine Howard made a cameo appearance, played by Monika Dietrich, in the 1971 slapstick British comedy Carry On Henry, with Sid James as Henry VIII.
  • In 1972 Lynne Frederick portrayed a deeply sympathetic Queen Catherine in Henry VIII and His Six Wives (a film version made subsequent to the 1970 BBC series) opposite Keith Michell as Henry VIII, in a production that highlighted her youth and positive qualities.
  • In 2001 Michelle Abrahams played Catherine in Dr. David Starkey‘s television documentary on Henry’s queens.[72]
  • In 2003 Emily Blunt gave a more sympathetic portrayal of Catherine in the ITV television drama Henry VIII, which focused on Catherine’s sexual escapades. This production, once again, explained her adultery by her relatives’ desire for her to get pregnant. It shows Catherine crying and screaming with fear at her execution, although contemporary accounts suggest she died in a more dignified manner.
  • In 2009 and 2010 Tamzin Merchant played Catherine Howard in the third and fourth seasons of the Showtime series The Tudors.[73] Merchant portrays Catherine as being flighty yet sweet, sexually adventurous, fun-loving and unquestionably adulterous. She is willingly seduced into the affair with Culpeper (who nurses a lustful obsession with her) by Lady Rochford, whose motivations are somewhat murky. This interpretation also details Catherine’s blackmail at the hands of her former friends from Lambeth, a detail often omitted from modern retellings due to its deficit of historical evidence.
  • Elena Valentine played Catherine in the 2016 Henry VIII and His Six Wives TV mini-series by Oxford Film & Television.[74]
  • In 2015, an episode of Horrible Histories entitled “Horrid Henry VIII” featured Louise Ford portraying Catherine Howard.
  • Lauren McQueen portrayed Catherine in the 2016 documentary drama Six Wives with Lucy Worsley

In music


  1. ^ There are several spellings of “Katherine”. Her one surviving signature spells it “Katheryn”. Biographer Lacey Baldwin Smith uses the common modern spelling “Catherine”; other historians use the traditional English form “Katherine”, such as Antonia Fraser.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Catherine Howard.

11 facts about Catherine Howard

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How much do you know about Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard? How did she meet Henry VIII, and is she related to Anne Boleyn? How did she die, and does her ghost really haunt Hampton Court Palace? Here, we bring you the facts…

Portrait of Catherine Howard

By Elinor Evans

July 20, 2020 at 4:30 pm

Catherine Howard was the fifth wife of Henry VIII. They married on 28 July 1540, just three weeks after the king’s brief marriage to Anne of Cleves was annulled.

The union between Henry and Catherine ended in tragedy when Henry discovered Catherine’s sexual past – and she was charged with treason. She was executed at the Tower of London on 13 February 1542.

So how much do you know about Catherine Howard ? We bring you the facts about Henry VIII’s fifth wife – and the truth about her adultery and death…

When was Catherine Howard born?

Catherine Howard is thought to have been born sometime between 1518 and 1524, but the exact date is unknown.

Catherine Howard’s birth date is unknown

Born into an aristocratic family, Catherine Howard was the daughter of a younger brother of the 3rd Duke of Norfolk and was first cousin to Anne Boleyn. Little is known about Catherine’s early life, but historian David Starkey describes it as “a scrabbled childhood, with a dominant, providing mother, and a weak debt-ridden and… hen-pecked father”.

Catherine’s mother died when she was a child, so at the age of around 10 or 12 Catherine was sent to live with her step-grandmother, Agnes, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, in the countryside near Horsham in West Sussex. The young Catherine “had few prospects”, says historian Josephine Wilkinson.

Catherine Howard: a brief guide

When was she born? Unknown

When did she die? 13 February 1542

When did she marry Henry VIII? 28 July 1540

Why was she executed? Catherine was accused of adultery and treason

What was Catherine of Howard’s childhood like?

Historical novelist Philippa Gregory describes the Dowager Duchess’s household as being “full of her young wards and companions” and says “they received little supervision”. Catherine and her friends were allowed to entertain male admirers in their large shared dormitory – Catherine herself was “young, merry and vivacious” and “was not scholarly or devout”.

The household has been likened by David Starkey to “a slackly run boarding school”.

Catherine Howard

The household in which Catherine Howard drew up was likened by David Starkey to “a slackly run boarding school”. (Photo by The Print Collector/Getty Images)3

Was Catherine Howard sexually abused?

When Catherine was around 13 years old, she is said to have had a relationship with her music teacher, Henry Mannock (aka Manox or Mannox), who had been employed to teach her to play the virginals, a keyboard instrument. When later questioned about it (in 1541, when Catherine was charged with treason), both denied ever having had intercourse.

Catherine had a longer, sexual relationship with a young noble, Francis Dereham, who was a secretary in her grandmother’s household, between 1537 and 1539. The pair “almost certainly became lovers, addressing each other as ‘husband’ and ‘wife’; Francis even entrusted her with his money whilst he was travelling,” says Philippa Gregory. But the jealous Mannock informed the Dowager Duchess, who quickly put an end to the relationship.

Writing for BBC History Magazine in 2016, the academic historian Josephine Wilkinson claimed that Catherine Howard’s relationships with Mannock and Dereham had been non-consensual.

“While living with the duchess [of Norfolk], Catherine was sexually exploited by two men of the household,” she said. “Both men took advantage of their position of authority in the household – and Catherine had no means of defending herself.”

The historian Lucy Worsley echoed Wilkinson’s claims. Writing in The Telegraph, Worsley highlighted the “queasy fact that the girl at the centre of [this] was quite possibly still in her early teens.”

Historian Lucy Worsley

When writing about Henry VIII’s fifth wife Catherine Howard, historian Lucy Worsley highlighted the “queasy fact that the girl at the centre of (this) was quite possibly still in her early teens.” (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)

She added: “It’s all very well to describe [Catherine’s] ‘easy charm’ and her ‘abundant store of good nature’, but it is questionable to do so about a girl who, from the age of 11 or 12 onwards, had older men coming into her bedroom. Especially when Mannock was placed in a position of responsibility towards Catherine as her music teacher.”

How did Henry and Catherine meet, and why did Henry marry her?

Catherine met Henry through his wife, Anne of Cleves. The young and reportedly beautiful Catherine Howard was maid of honour to Henry’s new queen, Anne of Cleves. Henry and Anne were married for just six months, making her the shortest reigning of all his queens. Henry had only entertained the idea of a match with Anne because “he desperately needed new allies,” says Tracy Borman. “An alliance with Cleves would provide a major boost to the Reformation in England, and it was for this reason that Henry’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, championed it so enthusiastically.”

After the collapse of the relationship, Henry was adamant he would choose his next bride for himself. Historian Josephine Wilkinson explains: “Henry fell head over heels with [Anne’s] new maiden of honour. Within a matter of weeks – in what was a truly spectacular rise from obscurity to the seat of power – Catherine Howard had become his fifth queen.”

Did you know?

Catherine Howard might otherwise have been ‘Mrs Culpeper’

While at court Catherine Howard had a relationship with a Thomas Culpeper, a gentleman of the king’s privy chamber, and rumours abounded that the pair were to be married. But it was Henry who secured Catherine’s hand: having fallen in love with Catherine and sent her gifts and love letters, on 28 July 1540 –  just three weeks after the king’s marriage to Anne of Cleves was annulled – he married Catherine at Oatlands Palace in Surrey, making her his fifth queen. For Catherine it was “a truly spectacular rise from obscurity to the seat of power,” says Josephine Wilkinson.

A portrait of Anne of Cleves

A portrait of Anne of Cleves by Hans Holbein the Younger. (Photo by © Historical Picture Archive/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)5

What was Henry VIII and Catherine Howards age gap?

Henry was nearly 50 years old when he married the teenage Catherine – at least 30 years older than her – and he was in failing health. “Incapacitated by an ulcerated jousting wound in his leg, Henry’s girth had increased at an alarming rate,” says historian Tracy Borman. “When he became king he had been a trim 32 inches around the waist; by the time he met Anne of Cleves it was closer to 52 inches.”

But, Wilkinson explains, Catherine “restored to [Henry] the youth and vitality he thought he’d lost. After an extended honeymoon they settled into married life and Catherine showed every sign of becoming a good queen.”

Henry VIII, from a painting by Hans Holbein the Younger

Henry VIII, from a painting by Hans Holbein the Younger, c1520. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)


Did Catherine Howard have a child?

Catherine had been married to Henry for just 18 months when she was executed at the Tower of London on 13 February 1542, and in that time did not bear Henry any children.

It has been speculated that Henry, who was nearly 50 years old when he married Catherine, was impotent. Examining Henry’s marriage to his previous wife, Anne of ClevesTracy Borman writes: “Henry’s inability to consummate the marriage to Anne of Cleves has been traditionally assigned to his revulsion at his new bride. But it is at least equally possible that he was impotent. He was nearly twice his young bride’s age and had become increasingly immobile in recent years. There had been no talk of a mistress for some time.”

But while Catherine had no children of her own, she was, however, stepmother to Mary Tudor and the future Elizabeth I…

Did Catherine Howard have a relationship with Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I?

Catherine, who was at least two and possibly even seven years younger than Henry’s elder daughter, Mary, found the role of stepmother difficult.

According to historian Anna Whitelock, relations between the two “were initially fraught”. In her 2010 book Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen, Whitelock details how, on 5 December 1540, Eustace Chapuys [Spanish ambassador to Henry VIII’s court from 1529 to 1545] told the emperor Charles V’s sister that the young queen Catherine “had tried to remove two of Mary’s attendants because she believed that the princess was showing less respect to her than to her predecessors.”

A portrait of Mary Tudor, c1530

A portrait of Mary Tudor, c1530. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

But relations between the two women eventually began to settle down, and they treated one another cordially. In May 1541, Chapuys reported that Catherine had “countenanced… with good grace” her husband’s decision to allow Mary to reside at court. The queen later gave Mary a gold pomander bejewelled with rubies and pearls as a gift.

Meanwhile, Catherine found herself a fan in her younger stepdaughter, the Princess Elizabeth, who is thought to have been seven years old when Catherine married Henry VIII. Related by blood (Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn, was Catherine’s first cousin), the pair are said to have enjoyed one another’s company during the few occasions on which they met.

Illustration of Princess Elizabeth, the future Elizabeth I

An illustration of Princess Elizabeth. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/Mansell/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)


Did Catherine Howard have an affair?

Catherine Howard’s biggest mistake, many have argued, was continuing her affair with Thomas Culpeper after she had married Henry VIII. It is thought that Catherine’s maid – Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, (who had previously testified against her husband, George Boleyn, and her sister-in-law, Anne Boleyn) – helped Catherine to meet Culpeper in secret while the king was away from court.

But it was Catherine’s earlier liaisons that ultimately sealed her fate. In the summer of 1541, as Henry’s court embarked upon a royal progress to the north country, “rumours of Catherine’s previous indiscretions continued to haunt her and she was forced to give favours and positions in return for silence,” says Philippa Gregory.

News of Catherine’s indiscretions eventually reached Thomas Cranmer – Archbishop of Canterbury and close friend of Henry VIII. Cranmer was told that Catherine’s music teacher, Henry Mannock, had boasted that he knew Catherine’s “privates from all others by a privy mark”, while Francis Dereham was so familiar with Catherine “afore her marriage to the king that he did lie with her a hundred nights in the year in his doublet and hose abed between the sheets.”

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. (Photo by Culture Club/Getty Images)

Catherine’s relationship with Francis Dereham, whom she had supposedly called ‘husband’ and had sex with, would have invalidated her marriage to the king, because Catherine and Francis would technically have been married according to the canon law enforced by the church.

Knowing this, Cranmer detailed the allegations in a letter addressed to Henry. It is thought that when the court returned from progress, Cranmer left the letter in Henry’s pew in the Chapel Royal for him to find.

Investigations into Catherine’s past quickly followed: Dereham, who was arrested and tortured, confessed and named Culpeper, who was also arrested and confessed under torture, says Philippa Gregory. Mannock, meanwhile, was released.


Why was Catherine Howard charged with treason?

Catherine – who always denied a pre-contract of marriage with Dereham – was charged with treason and was exiled to Syon House (formerly Syon Abbey), which is now in West London (then, it was within the parish of Isleworth, in the county of Middlesex). The former lovers found themselves accused of malicious intent under the 1534 Treason Act, “under which anyone could be judged a traitor”, says Josephine Wilkinson. “It was thought Catherine had intended to commit adultery with Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpeper – so while she was innocent of any actual crime, the terms of the 1534 Treasons Act allowed Henry to condemn her for presumptive treason.”

Both Dereham and Culpeper were tried and, their guilt being predicated on the presumption of Catherine’s, they were condemned to death for treason. Dereham was hung, drawn and quartered, while Culpeper was beheaded. The heads of both men were displayed on pikes on London Bridge.

Illustration of Catherine Howard

Catherine Howard was “condemned to death by an Act of Attainder, signed by her own husband’s hand”. Illustration taken from Henry VIII by AF Pollard, 1902. (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)

Catherine, meanwhile, would not face trial, but instead would be “condemned to death by an Act of Attainder, signed by her own husband’s hand,” says Wilkinson. Catherine was beheaded at the Tower of London at 9am on Monday 13 February 1542 along with Lady Jane Rochford. Catherine had been married to Henry for just 18 months.


How old was Catherine Howard when she was executed?

“Received opinion – inspired by the guesswork of the French ambassador Charles de Marillac – has it that [Catherine] was born in 1521, and so was 21 when she went to the block,” says Josephine Wilkinson.

“While it isn’t possible to pinpoint Catherine’s exact age, the wills of two of her relatives place her year of birth between 1523 and 1527, suggesting that she was significantly younger than 21. The Spanish Chronicle goes further, asserting that Catherine was born in 1525, which would have made her no more than 17 when she died.”

The wills of two of her relatives place her year of birth between 1523 and 1527, suggesting that she was significantly younger than 21.

Catherine Howard is buried in the Chapel of St Peter Ad Vincula at the Tower of London.

Catherine Howard is buried in the chapel of St Peter Ad Vincula at the Tower of London

Catherine Howard is buried in the chapel of St Peter Ad Vincula at the Tower of London. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)11

What were Catherine Howard’s last words?

According to legend, Catherine’s last words as she stood on the scaffold at the Tower of London on 13 February 1542 were: “I die a queen, but I would rather die the wife of Thomas Culpeper.”

But is this true?

Historical novelist Susan Higginbotham explains: “The story that Katherine Howard said the words above comes from the anonymous Chronicle of King Henry VIII, better known to us as the Spanish Chronicle, which was translated from Spanish and edited by Martin Hume.

“As John Schofield notes in The Rise and Fall of Thomas Cromwell, however, the Spanish Chronicle ‘is far too cavalier with facts, dates and details to be a credible witness’… The words the chronicler attributes to the queen, then, have to be viewed with great skepticism.”

Meanwhile Claire Ridgway, creator of The Anne Boleyn Files website, says: “Contrary to legend and The Tudors, Catherine did not utter the words ‘I die a Queen, but I would rather die the wife of Culpeper’, although I so wish she had!”

Did you know?

Catherine’s ghost is said to haunt Hampton Court Palace

When Catherine Howard was arrested at Hampton Court Palace in November 1541, it is thought she broke free from her guards and ran, screaming, down the corridor to the private Chapel Royal, where Henry was believed to be at Mass. “She screamed to the king for mercy, to no avail,” says the Historic Royal Palaces website. 

Today it is said that Catherine’s ghost can be seen – and heard – running and screaming along what is now known as the ‘Haunted Gallery’. The palace’s chief curator, Lucy Worsley, says: “I have never see the ‘ghost’, but there genuinely is one peculiar spot at the turn in the gallery where, with no obvious explanation, you can feel the temperature drop.”

Emma Mason is the Digital Editor at HistoryExtra

To find out more about Henry VIII and his six wives, click here.

5 Fascinating Facts about King Henry VIII’s son, King Edward VI

King Henry VIII is one of the most legendary kings of England – for many of the wrong reasons. He gained a fearsome reputation among his subjects. Nevertheless, his break with the Papacy in Rome established the Church of England and began the English Reformation – which ultimately helped lead to the foundation of the United States. His two daughters would gain unforgettable legacies during their respective reigns as well. Yet, little is known about the male heir Henry had sacrificed three wives and national stability for. In his unfortunately short reign and life, King Edward VI of England still managed to stamp his own mark on history before being overshadowed quickly by his two half-sisters.

Casey Titus explains.

King Edward VI of England as a child.
King Edward VI of England as a child.

1.     Edward was King Henry’s only legitimate son

Henry VIII was famously known to have had six wives, two divorced, two executed, one died in childhood, and the last that outlived him. Along with six wives came innumerable mistresses. His first wife, Katherine of Aragon, bore him five stillborn children and one surviving daughter, Mary I. His second wife, Anne Boleyn, miscarried two sons and birthed one living daughter, Elizabeth I. His third wife, Jane Seymour, gave birth to one surviving son, Edward VI. Henry acknowledged one illegitimate child, Henry Fitzroy, the son of his mistress Elizabeth Blount, and granted him a dukedom. At least six others are suspected of being his illegitimate children, including Catherine and Henry Carey, the children of Anne’s sister, Mary Boleyn.

2.     Edward grew up coddled and educated

From the age of six, Edward was educated in philosophy, theology, the sciences, French, Spanish, and Italian. He was even said to have a high intelligence and a firm understanding of monetary affairs. Visitors spoiled Edward with toys and luxuries that included his own troupe of musicians. Both of Edward’s sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, doted on their younger brother. Edward wrote to Mary in 1546 that he “love(d) her most,” and Elizabeth had gifted him a shirt of her own working. Henry demanded his son’s household be strictly secured and cleaned, as little Edward was “this whole realm’s most precious jewel.”

3.     Prince Edward was betrothed as a young boy

In July 1543, Henry VIII signed the Treaty of Greenwich with the Scots which would not only unite the two kingdoms but the betrothal between six-year old Edward and seven-month old Mary, Queen of Scots. In a turn of events, the Scots renounced the treaty six months later to renew their alliance with France. Henry was furious and ordered Prince Edward’s uncle, Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, to attack Scotland in possible the most brutal military assault launched by England against the Scots. This war, known as “The Rough Wooing”, would continue into Edward’s reign.

4.     Edward ascended to the English throne at just nine years old

King Henry VIII died on January 28, 1547 and was laid to rest beside Edward’s mother, Queen Jane Seymour, at his request, possibly for the sole reason of having bore him the son he desperately desired. Since Edward was still young at the time Henry passed away, he arranged a council of regency that would rule on Edward’s behalf. This was overridden by Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, who took power and named himself protector. Nine-year-old Edward VI was crowned at Westminster Abbey on February 20, 1547 the first English Protestant King. At his coronation service, Thomas Cramner, a leader of the English Reformation, even referred to Edward as a “second Josiah” and would urge him to propel the reformation of the Church of England as the focus of young Edward’s reign.

5.     Edward had quite the busy 6-year reign

An English Prayer Book was published in 1549 with an Act of Uniformity to ensure it was used across the country. Peasants in the West Country rebelled against the Book. Simultaneously, Kett’s Rebellion from Norfolk responded to the enclosure of land, concentrating on economic and social injustices. In addition, the French declared war on England. Kett’s Rebellion was suppressed by John Dudley, Earl of Warwick. Dudley would unexpectedly use this victory to engineer the downfall of Edward’s uncle, Edward Seymour. The 14-year-old Edward wrote of his uncle’s execution plainly and coldly: “The Duke of Somerset had his head cut off upon Tower Hill between eight and nine o’clock in the morning.” By this time, Edward was writing on subjects such as military campaigns and currency reform and was being briefed by advisors selected by him. He was beginning to resemble his father; when his Lord Chancellor refused to accept a document signed by King Edward because it had not been countersigned by his advisors, Edward reacted forcefully: “It should be a great impediment for me to send to all my council and I should seem to be in bondage,” he wrote. Like Henry, Edward VI believed the king was free to use his powers any way he felt was necessary.

In 1553, Edward was rapidly dying from a lung infection, most likely tuberculosis, and composed a “Devise” for royal succession. The “Devise” was the most puzzling document of Edward’s reign, a trick of the elusive and shrewd boy-king.

Edward compelled the judicial and political establishments of his kingdom to sign the “Devise” while ignoring the lawful, legitimate claims of Mary (first) and then Elizabeth (second) to the throne. Edward recognized them both as illegitimate, especially Mary for her Catholic faith and her threat to dismantle Protestant efforts in England.

Edward named his first cousin once removed, Lady Jane Grey, as his successor.

In Conclusion…

On July 6, 1553, Edward whispered his last prayer and died at the age of 15 at Greenwich Palace at 8PM. His last words were: “I am faint; Lord have mercy upon me, and take my spirit.” He was buried in Henry VII Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey on August 8, 1553 with reformed rites performed by Thomas Cramner. Lady Jane Grey would only be queen for nine days before Mary took the throne with overwhelming popular support.

Many historians have judged the legacy of King Edward VI. One school of thought stamps him as weak and sickly, never likely to survive to manhood. Another is Edward being a puppet, manipulated by powerful revolutionaries around him. The third remembers Edward as a brilliant intellectual and ruler. Less commonly known is that Edward was Protestant England’s hero in their fight against the Pope and the Catholic Church.


Vincent Gormley 3 weeks ago · 0 Likes  

Amazing to reflect on the fact that the great Queen Elisabeth’s mother, Anne Boylen, was murdered by her father. One wonders what Elisabeth thought of Henry V111, a serial killer of women !
Such a tragedy that the wars of religion released such a period of intolerance throughout England. The remnants of same are still to be seen in Scotland and Northern Ireland. It took Daniel O’Connel decades to bring some reason to bear on the religious question through his lengthy campaign in the House of Parliament.
I suspect Edward V1 was manipulated by many surrounding his short reign. Did he really think that he would be able to disinherit his sisters from the throne ? Naive I think is the word.

Linda Williamson 7 months ago · 0 Likes  

In those days Catholic priests lived within the palace and were paid by their friends to lead English rulers to pass laws that benefited themselves. With Protestant rule religious leaders were removed from the palace and king or queen could make their own decisions not based on religion. This led many years down the road to the new forms of government later formed in the democracy of America

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