The Tudor Society

Catherine Howard and the Interrogations of 1541

Our expert speaker this month is Claire Ridgway, founder of the Tudor Society, who is currently working on a book about the events of 1541 and early 1542 - The Fall of Catherine Howard: A Countdown. Find out who did what and who said what in this talk.

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  1. L

    Thanks, Claire for this assessment of Katherine Howard.
    I feel sorry for her. Young and very foolish. In love with a handsome, young man who could have provided her with a suitable marriage. Pushed into marriage with glittering promises of Queenship and places for her family and friends. Can you imagine? That sex must have been less than fantastic? Can’t cover that with diamonds and rubies.

    1. C - Post Author

      Thank you! I feel sorry for her too, and for Jane Boleyn and the men involved. It’s hard to know how she felt about the king, he spoilt her and perhaps she was fond of him, it’s difficult to know. If only she had actually married Dereham!

  2. R

    Thanks for your wonderful and very detailed presentation of the inside story of the downfall of Katherine Howard.

    My sympathy is limited as she brought about her fall through her own idiotic fault. I do have sympathy about her past impacting on her marriage as she wasn’t a Princess destined to marry Henry Viii, she just happened to attract him as a lady to his Queen, Anne of Cleves. Now bare with me, because yes I do sound harsh, but as Queen she knew you don’t have love affairs as a married woman, especially if you are married to King Henry Viii or invite them to your rooms late at night, for claimed chit chat and a quick fondle. You are meant to be virtuous, without blame or suspicion and you are not meant to act like a fool. It doesn’t matter that your husband is 51 and obsese and your sex life is not great or regular, tough, nobody forced her to marry Henry, that would make the marriage invalid, she was well treated by the King and she had a very good time of it. She was young, but she wasn’t a foolish, innocent, lily white child, she was a noble woman and well passed the age for consent. She was raised in a normal noble household, she was left to have sexual relations because she stole the keys and let men into the Maids Chamber when she was in her mid teens. I feel sorry for her with Mannox because her abused her. However, her other relationship with Francis Dereham was a teenage love affair and she had a sexual relationship with him willingly. Katherine and Dereham could be seen as a contract of marriage but Katherine denied it was a promise. She was not betrothed to Henry Viii until after Dereham moved on to Ireland and she had no reason to reveal it to anyone. She thought she was free to marry Henry. Her past catching up to her was a great shame and Mary Lassells is a meany and jealous and as a Protestant she did it on purpose. I feel sorry for Cramner who was put into a difficult position. He could not keep it all quiet because he had an overriding obligation to Henry Viii and had to bring it to his attention.

    I have a different opinion about Katherine and her alleged adultery. Here I lose sympathy for her. I concede there is not enough evidence to prove that she and Culpeper had sexual intimacy, but her sending Jane Boleyn to find places for meetings at night on the northern progress was the most stupid thing I have ever heard of any Queen. Katherine was not the innocent dummy of the Tudors, she could be a bully and very malicious and manipulate people. She probably used birth control or even abortion while married to Henry, something speculated by Karen Lindsey, she was very careful about who she employed until Dereham partly bribed his way into her household. A number of people from the old household served with her under Anne of Cleves and also KH, many witnesses also served her. Thomas and Katherine planned to commit treason and adultery and JR followed her orders and brought Culpeper to her. As Claire said there is a blame game and all three tried to get out of the whole sorry mess. Poor JR was blamed and went mad. I do feel sorry for her, although as the most senior member of the Queens household and as an older mature woman she should have known better.

    Did KH and Culpeper have adultery? Well, as there isn’t enough evidence to answer that, people will have to use their historical imagination.

    Did KH and either Dereham and TC commit treason? Well if the talk and accusations that they wanted to marry if the King died is true, yes, and they presumed treason because of their future intentions.
    Did Francis Dereham have relationship with Katherine as Queen?
    He denied, even under close interrogation, which may be code for some form of torture, that they did, but he had the type of behaviour and character which showed he wanted a relationship. Culpeper had taken his place, however and Henry probably executed him out of spite for spoiling KH, as it was put. There appears to be no evidence of his adultery with the Queen.
    If Katherine had slept with her alleged lovers then she put the succession in danger and any children passed off as the King’s would obviously have been illegitimate. This would have been treason. So Katherine was very foolish and should have been more discreet as a Queen and knew she took a risk, but probably didn’t care very much. She only cared when she got caught. Then she wept and howling made everyone feel sorry for her and was afraid as naughty children are when caught misbehaving. She was afraid, she lied and kept changing her story. A command performance followed.

    I feel some sympathy for the gathering up and many interrogations of the Howard women, who found much terror over several months. I do feel some sympathy for Katherine at the end and for Jane and also for the men. However, I also believe that if Katherine had not been meeting with Culpeper after marriage late at night, that she would have lived and been sent away in disgrace, but not found guilty by Act of Parliament and executed.

    Good luck with your book.

    1. L

      Nicely put Real Tudor Lady.

  3. M

    This was awesome, Claire, I really enjoyed this talk.

    1. C - Post Author

      Thank you, Michelle.

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Catherine Howard and the Interrogations of 1541