The Tudor Society

Was Catherine Howard guilty of treason?

As this week has been the anniversary of the execution of Catherine Howard, I thought I'd look at the bill of attainder against her and also whether she was guilty of high treason.

Notes and Sources

  • Warnicke, Retha (2004) ‘Katherine [Katherine Howard] (1518×24–1542)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press.
  • Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 17, 28 ii Acts printed in the Statutes at Large, but not entered on the Parliament Roll, C21 - see
  • Hansard, Thomas Curson (1821) The Parliamentary Debates, Volume 3, Great Britain. Parliament, p754.

  • Indictment found at Doncaster, Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 16, 1395. See
  • LP xvii. 28 xv c. 20, o.n. 33 of the year 37 Hen. VIII.
  • ed. Wharton, Thomas I., Esq (1842) The Law Library, Volume 38, John S. Littell, p.230.
  • The Treasons Act 1534 (26 Hen. 8. c. 13), Tudor Constitutional Documents A.D. 1485-1603: With an Historical Commentary by Joseph Robson Tanner.
  • Baldwin Smith, Lacey (2009) Catherine Howard: The Queen Whose Adulteries Made a Fool of Henry VIII, Amberley Publishing.
  • Russell, Gareth (2017) Young and Damned and Fair: The Life and Tragedy of Catherine Howard at the Court of Henry VIII, William Collins.

There are 20 comments Go To Comment

  1. M

    Very good and thought provoking topic Claire! My first thought, and you had the same one, was what were she and Culpepper doing for hours? Since she was “experienced”, I really don’t think she wanted or needed to get to know him. I think she had sex with him. With that said, even if they were only talking, it was an incredibly stupid move on her part as the king’s wife, as was bringing Dereham into service. Lady Rochford probably had no choice but to comply with the queen’s wishes, and I feel sorry for her as she must have lived a very sad adult life only to have it end in a very terrible manner. At least it wasn’t as awful a death as Dereham experienced.
    As far as Catherine’s past-once Henry set his mind to having her, who, in their right mind, is going to tell him about her past?? It’s not past imagining that Henry would imprison anybody who “slandered” the young waif he wanted to wed and bed (or vice versa).
    I have also wondered why Catherine never became pregnant. If she was sexually active, how did she manage not to conceive?

    1. C

      Probably because Henry was impotent, so there was no likelihood of conceiving a child with him. I personally believe that Henry had accepted his impotence by the time he married Katherine Parr in 1543. Note that in almost four years of marriage there seems to have been no expectation that Katherine would conceive.

      Just because a woman is ‘experienced’ Margaret – and by that I mean initiated into sex at twelve or thirteen – doesn’t necessarily mean that she cuckolded the king.

      1. M

        I agree with you regarding Henry’s impotence. I’m still not convinced about her meetings with Culpepper though. Claire stated in her video that there was evidence of consensual relations with Dereham. Catherine was young and vibrant, and trapped in a platonic marriage with a much older, morbidly obese man, with a nasty, ulcerative leg. She may have been starved for the attentions of a man capable of giving her the pleasure she desired. Even the great Eleanor of Aquitaine was guilty of that. Unfortunately for Catherine, Henry VIII was no Louis VII.

      2. L

        Possibly although I believe that H8 had a case of wishful thinking if it can be called that, when he made up his will.
        We all know how the succession was worded, but I believe there was also a clause in there, that stated after Edward, if there was a child born to H8 and K.P after his death, this child would in inherit, before Mary and Elizabeth.

      3. R

        Russell makes an interesting observation about Henry and impotence. He observed (actually it’s obvious really) that even if Henry was only impotent part of the time or infrequently, that Katherine or any other Queen would be foolish to have a sexual affair because she risked being caught out if she became pregnant as the King would know the child was not his, even though legally he or she was. The resulting pregnancy would be proof of adultery, but the question is would the King admit it wasn’t his as that meant an admission of not being able to perform. Katherine could not take that risk. Doesn’t mean she didn’t, but it is an interesting twist as many people say she did sleep around because he was impotent, when actually that would make her less likely to do so.

        1. C - Post Author

          Henry mustn’t have been completely impotent because Catherine did think she was pregnant at one time and told him she was. I think perhaps that he was attracted to Catherine and she have him a new lease of life. Of course, he may have had on-off problems with it, but it clearly wasn’t a permanent issue.

          Yes, it’s the same with the idea that Anne Boleyn slept with her brother because of the king’s sexual problems, that doesn’t make sense either.

          1. R

            Hi Claire, yes, I agree, I doubt Henry was permanently impotent, especially in the first months as Katherine did think she was pregnant and then there was a time in March 1541 when Henry kept away from Katherine as he was depressed and had problems with his leg. In fact he was away so completely that the poor girl thought he had left her for Anne of Cleves, about whom there was a rumour that she was having his son or had even had a son as Henry was visiting her at home. It was more gossip of course but his poor young wife must have wondered what on earth she had done wrong.

            I completely agree with regards to Anne as well. People then didn’t think how illogical that all sounded any more than some may do now. And why her brother, anyway? If Anne was going to sleep with someone she wouldn’t choose her brother. Not that she cheated anyway, but it’s an argument which thinking about it makes no sense.

    2. L

      This is something I have wondered as well Margaret, I reckon she used some sort of birth control, there were many tried and tested methods which may have actually worked.
      Some of them are pretty gross as well, so I will spare you the details.

  2. R

    In one of the transcripts of her interrogations, Katheryn claimed to know how to ‘meddle with a man’ (or words to that effect), but not conceive.

    In other words, she was knowledgeable about birth control.

    1. C - Post Author

      Either she knew about Tudor-style birth control, or as Gareth pointed out in his book (I think I read it in Gareth’s), she was referring to pleasing a man in another way!

      1. M

        Ah, but I don’t think Henry would go for wasting his seed in that manner since he was so Hellbent on getting more sons. Or he was incapable of doing the deed. With his health issues, I can imagine him being too exhausted to perform.

  3. R

    The intention to commit treason or presumption of treason rests soley on the foolish admissions of Katherine Howard and Thomas Culpepper to go further and as said not on actually doing anything. Further foolish talk about if the King died Culpepper or Francis Dereham fancied their chances could be interpreted as imagining the King’s death and under Henry the interpretation of this law seems to be very loose. Anne and her five lovers were accused of the same thing. Adultery wasn’t even treason, not yet, it was a sin, a religious court should deal with it, not the high treason courts.

    Henry was well and truly shaken by this as he was very much in love with his young Queen, who was pure and perfect to him and she had tricked him. He called her “his perfect bloom of womanhood” and had given thanks that after so many ” matrimonial accidents ” that she had come along and he was blessed by her as were his children. Henry obviously saw such a young woman as being the future mother of probably a few children and he was given a new lease of life. She was a fresh spring of fresh air and he had even danced again since she came along. Now he had been told his little Katherine was not pure, she had a past, more than one man had slept with her, although her relationship with Henry Mannox was more abusive or about power than anything Katherine wanted and her only other lover was Dereham, but Henry was also told that he had come to claim his prize and they had all lied to him. He had found that her family knew Katherine wasn’t a virgin, that members of her household had come into royal service, that Katherine had met late at night several times with a trusted personal attendant and she was plotting to go further with him. Yes, I can imagine how the King felt, hurt and humiliated.

    There is, however, very little evidence that anyone committed adultery let alone treason. Meeting at night in odd places must have looked odd to say the least but did they have sex? Katherine hadn’t just met Culpepper. They had an affair before she married Henry for a brief time, so she knew him well enough. She found his intentions flattering, exchanged gifts, toyed with him in April 1541 and then sent him a letter, which is debatable as a love letter from a love sick woman or a concerned one, then wanted to see him again during the progress to the North, but she almost always had Lady Rochford close by as a chaperone. Both parties denied actual sexual contact but both wanted to go further. This is what the Bill and Indictments hinged upon.

    The Statute says that Katherine used her wiles as deception, tricked the King and was going to use her status and affairs in order to put a lover in his bed and intended to go back to living an unholy and life as a whore as well as to twist everything to her evil purpose. In other words, Katherine is called a whore and seductress who tricked the helpless King into intended to trick him by getting pregnant and passing her illegitimate child off as an heir to the crown. Indeed if Katherine did have a child by a lover then she was putting an imposter on the throne. This was treason. It is also not so odd because we now know that more than one royal lady has done this in the past because DNA has proved it. Henry did not have DNA and no woman had reproductive rights over her own until 1925, so before DNA in the 1990s a man who was the husband was presumed to be the father, unless he declared otherwise. The children of a Queen belonged to the state so the Statute is correct in one aspect, had Katherine and her alleged lovers really intended to or had sex and she became pregnant, they did impugn the King’s honour and threatened the Succession.

    The other part of the Bill makes Katherine out to be some kind of bewitching hussy, a Devil woman, sleeping her way around and planning from the start to entice the King into her bed. Note it’s never the man who seduces the woman and in any event, nothing could be further from the truth. Katherine had one relationship as a very young girl, which was more abusive than her choice by her music teacher and her lover when she was fifteen or so was a man she called her husband. Francis Dereham and Katherine had a sexual relationship that was consensual and he obviously saw more into it than she did. We don’t know how long it lasted but for argument sake lets say at least a few months on an almost nightly basis and involved gifts, kissing, sex, courtship, parties in the dormitory and an exchange of some promise of marriage. This relationship appears to have been over when Dereham left for Ireland and when Katherine came to court. Now he was back and being a nuisance. Katherine did not want him anymore and he boasted about her in the servants quarters and even while Katherine was around. Dereham I believe wanted to reclaim Katherine as his wife, something which would make Henry a bigamist (which he had been before) but he now saw she had a thing for Culpepper and backed off, if reluctantly. He may have wished the King dead, which if true is treason, because even thinking something or saying something like this was made treason. It may be a stretch of the treason laws but they had been stretched before. It may be no more than boasting, but it was enough to condemn him and Henry took revenge because he saw Dereham as the one who had spoiled Katherine and caused the trouble. I doubt his words were more than that because I think Dereham was a cad and an idiot who was bullied until he gave up Culpepper in order to save himself. It was enough rope to hang himself with and it was foolish. He didn’t deserve the terrible death and if Katherine was his “wife” then how can Henry be married to her? Well Katherine denied the contract and lost a vital chance to escape further punishment. Even though she said Dereham raped her, this was not believed and the other testimony contradicts her claim as does most of her own confession.

    The part that Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford played is controversial but it could be said that once it was clear that Katherine was determined to meet with Thomas Culpepper, that her main concern was to act as a chaperone. Yes, Jane could have reported Katherine, that was her sworn duty to her King, but she also had another duty to Katherine, having taken an oath to her as Queen which includes protection of her honour and keeping her secrets. Jane didn’t commit high treason, she knew about the meetings and helped to arrange them. Misprison was held as serious and the sentence was usually imprisonment, but it could lead to death. Sir Nicholas Carew was executed on the charge of misprison because he was believed to know about a treason plot, treasonous words and did nothing about them. He was implicated therefore and executed. Jane aided and abetted potential adultery, aided and abetted potential treason. She did more than just hear or know something, she procured. That is how the Bill reads and by bringing Culpepper from the King’s rooms to the Queens side or her own rooms, seeking out the actual places to meet, she did more than anyone else so bore the brunt of the King’s anger. However, her role may actually have been exaggerated and she really had little choice beyond getting Katherine into trouble by reporting her actions. Jane believed that the pair had sex but she wasn’t that certain. She also had a breakdown and should have been spared but the law was changed to allow a mad person to be executed. This was unjust and Jane does not deserve her terrible reputation. In fact out of everyone it is for her I have the most sympathy. Jane Rochford was used as a scapegoat. What she did was foolish, but I believe Katherine could be spiteful and insisted, giving her little choice but to obey and act as a chaperone. The Statute that allowed an insane person to be executed under these conditions was repealed by the Treason Act 1554, under Mary I, because it was unjust.

    So, as Claire asks did anyone commit high treason. I would say the answer is an open one, it is not clear in black and white and I cannot actually say yea or nay. Personally I don’t believe Katherine intended to have a child with Culpepper and she saw both him and Francis Dereham as below her as far as serious lovers were concerned. Any talk of marriage if the King died I think we can put down to men boasting as they do when they don’t get their own way or are drunk. Certainly more should have been done to shut Dereham up, like dismissing him perhaps and it wasn’t a good idea taking him into the household in the first place. This has led to speculation about bribery and Katherine was inexperienced and didn’t stand her ground. Her relationship with Culpepper was over two separate periods, a few meetings in April 1541 and at least six occasions during the Northern progress. I do believe they had a sexual relationship, but my belief is not evidence and there is nothing directly to support adultery. This may in fact be recognised by the Act of Attainder because they aren’t accused of it, but their treason is presumed as is any other purposes coming from their meetings, such as conspiracy and any potential pregnancy. I don’t believe either of them intended anything beyond the foolish meetings and the risk of the chase. However, that was how it appeared and once Culpepper was found guilty, Katherine was condemned by his guilty pleas. Neither Katherine or Jane had a trial and even the Parliament questioned bringing an Act of Attainder against the Queen, asking if what she had done was actually treason. It took three readings but in the end the two women were found guilty of these very strange charges. A few days later they were beheaded. The King could not afford the embarrassment of the trial as he did with Anne Boleyn and we can only scratch our heads at such an ambiguous affair.

  4. C

    “Meddling with a man” does not necessarily refer to birth control. Most historians (including Lacey Baldwin Smith) believe that Katherine was referring to a form of contraception, but other historians have proposed that Katherine’s comment was actually a veiled reference to Dereham’s unwanted advances. According to contemporary lore, a woman had to enjoy sexual intercourse in order to conceive a child. Both partners had to release seed, contrary to our understanding in the twenty-first century. If the woman did not release seed, then she could not conceive. That was the medical way of thinking and it appears to have permeated all layers of society.

    If Katherine did not enjoy Dereham’s sexual advances, as seems likely from the recorded remarks, then it would explain her comment that she would not conceive a child. If she did not enjoy the experience, probably because it was not consented to, then she would not conceive.

    This episode reminds us of the multilayered readings possible in examining Tudor documents. Historian after historian has unquestioningly accepted Baldwin Smith’s hypothesis in 1961, but now other scholars are beginning to challenge his interpretation of this conversation.

    1. C - Post Author

      I think Gareth Russell might be right in his idea that meddling with a man could actually be referring to oral sex, it makes sense.

      I don’t believe it “seems likely from the recorded remarks” that Catherine did not enjoy Dereham’s sexual advances. None of the witness testimonies back up the idea that the sexual relationship was non-consensual or unwanted, and these testimonies were from those present, actually in the same bed in one case.

      1. C

        Well I tend to agree with Retha Warnicke’s interpretation of the events, and from my studies in sixteenth-century social, cultural and sexual history, it is the interpretation that makes most sense to me. I agree to disagree with Russell, Weir, Loades, Baldwin Smith and other authors who have written about the episode. Most historians who have spent years researching the extant evidence do not suddenly change their mind because their theory isn’t the popular or unanimously accepted one, and I’m going to stand by my interpretation when I believe it is the most convincing one and makes the most sense according to the contemporary sexual, social and medical context in which the events took place.

        1. C - Post Author

          We’ll have to agree to disagree then. I have been researching Catherine’s fall since 2012 and recently I’ve been going over and over the interrogations and testimonies and I can’t find anything that, in my opinion, backs up Retha Warnicke’s views or yours. Obviously, you believe that it is “the most convincing one and makes the most sense according to the contemporary sexual, social and medical context in which the events took place” but I completely disagree with that. I think the most convincing interpretation, the one that makes the most sense is that Catherine had consensual relationships with Manox, Dereham and Culpeper. I respect you and your work, and you know I do, but to paint Dereham and Manox as rapists or abusers is for me, and as Gareth Russell says, “twisting beyond recognition every comment made by most of the people who knew her.” For me, it just doesn’t fit with the evidence regarding those relationships and to suggest that Catherine’s comments regarding meddling with a man but not getting pregnant means that she didn’t orgasm because she was being raped is a real leap.

  5. M

    Great discussion and great topic! The one thing I think we can all agree on is that it’s sad that Catherine, Jane, and the men accused with them died in such a manner.

    1. R

      I agree that it is fair to re-evaluate the ideas of older historians, but it is not always older ones who believe that Katherine was not raped or even abused. Russell is a modern historian and he has done extensive research on Katherine, as has Conor, et al, but his long years as an experienced historian has not found the evidence that Katherine meant she didn’t enjoy her encounter with Francis Dereham and he dismissed the “rape” theory. The theory doesn’t fit with the other evidence, of eye witness statements from a number of women who heard and saw the goings on between Katherine and Francis in her step grandmother’s house. To meddle with a man according to various sites could have more than one meaning, including “oral sex” , helping a man to perform, faking an orgasm or the use of contraception. It is also possible that it may mean, failing to enjoy sex, or even stopping his advances, but the latter really doesn’t fit and there are more effective ways to ward off men, especially in a room filled with people. Katherine shared a bed with someone else as was normal and I can’t think of anything to put you of sex more than your bedmate telling you to keep still as you are trying to sleep.

      Older interpretations have been challenged, though by Josephine Wilkinson, Joanna Denny and in her Six Wives by Lucy Worsley, although the latter was only repeating the latest research and didn’t balance it out with opposed view points. These historians also believe that as a young woman and as Queen, Katherine was abused and was then blackmailed. While it is almost certain that as a young woman, (12 years old was a woman then so I will use that benchmark) of twelve or thirteen, fourteen at the most, one of her two music teachers, Henry Mannox controlled, coerced and was abusive in his treatment of her and demand for sexual contact. We don’t understand or know why Katherine said nothing but went to meet him but she must have been afraid, that she was a woman meant she may be blamed, later on when caught in an embrace, it was Katherine who was physically hit, but he used his power to groom her. However, all of the evidence does not support theories of abuse from Dereham during their brief but apparently passionate relationship, only noisy, regular, consensual sex. His later behaviour, however, was questionable.

      The big question, and it is a real puzzle, is did Francis Dereham in any way bribe his way into the household of Queen Katherine Howard or hold it over her for his silence? While there is no actual evidence, although she did give him money, which could in all fairness be used for anything, it has long been a real suspicion among historians. Money could be for debts, she asked him for loans, it could be for gifts, he was in her service, it could be for suitable clothing, but bribery is another potential reason. He also came with a letter of recommendation from the Dowager Duchess so obligation was also another key element and his own intentions are open to question. I actually do believe he hoped to claim Katherine as his wife when he came home from Ireland but found her at Court and now she was married to the King, going to a Church Court to say they are husband and wife, although his legal right, was not going to be his best option. You can take the crown to court now, no problem, but then, well, if you want trouble, go ahead. Dereham is often shown as hot headed, but he wasn’t that stupid. So he followed Katherine and became a nuisance instead.

      His boasting around the other household members of his knowledge of the Queen got him into a fight and he insulted her with his bad language and suggestions. He knew he had been replaced by Thomas Culpepper, although the latter may or may not have been her lover, again, they were not tried for adultery but for saying they intended to go further, he had to take a step back and his blaming of Culpepper put them all in the pot. I don’t think Katherine was forced or bribed to meet with Culpepper and agree with Russell that her giving him encouraging gifts and so on and her ease with him, is more her flirtation than appeasing a man blackmailing her. There is no evidence for it either. Katherine if she wanted to use it had complete power over Culpepper. He was from the King’s side not hers and she could refuse him access at any time. She could make certain her room was crowded if he came, as he did from the King and she didn’t have to use Jane to fund places to meet with him or chaperone them or bring him to her. If he made threats she could have him removed and accuse him on the spot of assault. She could scream and have him arrested and dragged off. He would not dare make good on his threats if he made any as it was treason to slander the Queen. I believe she wanted to meet with him, she did have sexual contact and she enjoyed his company. There is no direct evidence of adultery, but she was also in a position to use him and then dump him. I doubt she had any interest in having a kid with him and she did understand contraception which did exist at the time. I don’t believe either future events were in any of their minds such as plotting to put the Succession at risk. Henry and Katherine had a reasonable sex life for a time and then Katherine found herself excluded from his life and Culpepper at first was company for a lonely young Queen. She knew him from before, so he was an easy choice. He also paid her high compliments and she was flattered. She was probably used to risk so took the risk during the progress like a young woman playing exciting games. I very much doubt she was plotting anything more than the next meeting. They were not plotting high treason, but certainly it is easy to see how it may have looked that way.

      I agree, Margaret, the death sentence was cruel and ruthless, but that was the sentence for treason, even though it was twisted and stretched to make it fit as a thought crime. The two men were tried, the two women painted as temptresses and whores by a dodgy Tudor legal trick in Parliament, that also found them guilty of the same, implicated by the men’s guilty conviction. The double standard is very obvious here. Where is the justice in that? Even by the standards of the day it was missing.

      1. C - Post Author

        Yes, re-evaluating the ideas of older historians is always good to do. Each generation of historians and researchers should revisit the sources and interpret them for themselves with fresh eyes.

        Gareth did extensive research on Catherine’s household which then led him to his work on her fall. We’ve had quite a few conversations on her fall and the various theories on her relationships with the men and we both agree that Catherine was not raped or abused. I think there is a danger of looking at the Manox/Catherine relationship with modern views. We conclude from our 21st-century perspective that because he was her music teacher, and therefore in a position of power, and Catherine was just 13/14, that he preyed on her and that the fondling was him abusing her. Yet, as Gareth points out in his book, it is likely that Manox was also young, five years older than her at the very most, and there was another teacher present at their lessons. Their romantic liaisons were outside of the lessons, the couple exchanged gifts and they were discovered once by the Dowager Duchess kissing in an alcove. Nobody who knew about the relationship thought that it was a case of Manox molesting Catherine and Catherine did not complain about it. While Manox may have put pressure on Catherine to go all the way with him, there is absolutely no evidence that he molested her against her will.

        It’s the same with Dereham. If he was raping her then it surely would have been noticed by those in the room, especially poor Alice Wilkes who had to share a bed with them and who actually insisted on swapping with someone so that she’d be able to get some sleep. Their lovemaking seems to have been a bit of a joke, regarding how noisy and energetic it was. And again, gifts were exchanged and we also know that they called each other husband and wife. Francis spoke to Margery Benet about how he knew how to make sure that Catherine did not get pregnant, and Catherine spoke about knowing how to “meddle” with a man and not get pregnant. I wonder if they were talking about the withdrawal method or, as Gareth points out, Catherine may have been referring to oral sex.

        From what we know of Dereham and things he said, I think it’s fair to say that he was hot-headed and impulsive and those who knew about his relationship with Catherine, or who at least suspected it, would have been concerned on his return to England and making sure that he kept his silence. It is incorrect that he became her private secretary in 1540 but, as Gareth points out, the Howards “decided to keep him close enough to control him through apparent acts of favour […] but not so close as to provoke speculation about his friendship with the queen.” Obviously, in 1541, Dereham then visited Catherine at Pontefract after being thrown out of the Dowager Duchess’s house. He requested a position in Catherine’s household and it was important for Catherine to keep him happy and on side. Did he blackmail her? We can’t know.

        As for Culpeper, I think Catherine fell in love. The evidence does not support Culpeper preying on her in any way or blackmailing her. I suspect that Culpeper thought that the king was not long for this world and that he could marry Catherine after the king’s death and I think Catherine was in love with him. She’d been upset when their relationship had fizzled out prior to her marriage with the king and I think she was happy when it was re-ignited. The exchange of gifts, her concern at his illness, their secret meetings… none of that points to a courtier preying on a queen.

        1. R

          Yes, I agree. The Mannox affair is a difficult one, probably because today we would not tolerate a relationship of any kind between a pupil and student, even at University. It is just one of those power status things we see as being used to influence the younger party. But as you say that’s a modern take and probably it shouldn’t be transferred to the sixteenth century. I doubt Katherine was all that into Mannox but it is possible that she found him an exciting experiment, although I do feel he was pushing her for favours. A very difficult one to really work out.

          Katherine was definitely caught up with Francis Dereham and normally their exchanges of calling each other husband and wife would constitute a marriage of some form. Katherine was a Howard, and I can’t remember which one she or her friend told this to, but they were told that if he married her, the Howard blood was too strong and would kill them. What a put off!! I believe that relationship was consensual but Francis took it far more seriously than Katherine. When he couldn’t have her once she was married, he then acted like a jilted twit, boasting that he knew all of the Queens secrets. Katherine must have wished he had just stayed away. His place in the household seems undefined, certainly not her Secretary as she had two female ones and I can’t see him being discreet enough to be a Secretary, a position of trust. He was a fool with his boastful talk, but he had given Katherine up because she was married and when he noticed she was intimate with Thomas Culpepper. I don’t think he became Katherine’s lover.

          I think she found Culpepper friendly, affectionate, flattering and certainly returned his affectionate advances. She enjoyed his company and had known him as a boyfriend before marriage. She possibly was in love, although her letter to him has been analysed to death and is subject to much debate as to whether its a love letter or one from a concerned patron who has heard he is unwell. Her heart was dying because she couldn’t see him, but a lot of other bits are less tragically romantic. I have a hunch that other notes existed but this was the only one Culpepper kept. They didn’t meet all that often but certainly often enough to form a bond and attachment and possibly fall in love. We don’t have enough evidence to say they had a sexual relationship and both of them denied much happening. Lady Rochford was a chaperone most of the time and thought sexual contact took place, but didn’t know, never witnessed any. If Katherine was a noisy lover, there may not have been anyone left in any doubt. I don’t believe Katherine was justified in cheating on Henry, who had dine her a great honour in marrying her. Not everyone gets to marry the King, and, regardless of him being fat, middle aged and having sour legs, he was wealthy and offered prestigious power and status. Until the very end, when Henry thought Katherine had been cheating and even plotting with one of his favourite grooms, he had not abused or mistreated her in any way and had been totally devoted to her. She made him feel like a new man. Henry thought she was perfect and he had found happiness at last. No doubt he hoped for more children and thought of Katherine as the future mother of healthy sons and daughters, but his dreams had been shattered. I think the way everything was twisted to make her look bad and a slut who had tricked him was terrible, her death was as well, but I really believe Henry had his heart ripped out and this time he really was affected by the alleged crimes of his young, perfect wife. Nothing can be proved when it comes to treason or adultery, but I am not certain that Katherine was even thinking of how things looked, even when she tried to break things off for a bit. Katherine was into Culpepper and missed the warning signs and the prying eyes.

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Was Catherine Howard guilty of treason?