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Catherine Howard

Wax figure of Catherine Howard
at Madame Tussaud's, London
Photograph by Lara E. Eakins
More Howard Royalty

Catherine Howard
Charles Howard
Francis Howard
Frederick Howard
Henry Howard
Thomas Howard

Catherine Howard
(b. 1521 d. February 13, 1542 at the Tower of London)

Queen, consort of Henry VIII, King of England. Fifth wife of Henry VIII, a grand-daughter of the 2nd Duke of Norfolk. She was married to the king in the same month as he divorced Anne of Cleves (July 1540). However, after Henry learned of Catherine's alleged premarital affairs (1541), she was attainted for treason, and beheaded in the Tower of London.

Catherine's signature
From a letter to Thomas Culpepper

Catherine Howard was the daughter of Lord Edmund Howard, a younger brother of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk. She was also first cousin to Anne Boleyn, Henry's ill-fated second Queen. She was brought up in the household of the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. As part of the Duchess' household, she would have spent most of her time at Lambeth and Horsham.

The Badge of Catherine Howard
Weidenfeld and Nicolson Archive

Catherine came to court at about the age of 19 as a lady in waiting to Anne of Cleves and there is no doubt that the spirited young girl caught Henry's attentions. Catherine's uncle probably encouraged the girl to respond to the King's attentions and saw it as a way to increase his own influence over the monarch. The Duke of Norfolk also took advantage of the debacle of the Anne of Cleves marriage as a chance to discredit his enemy, Thomas Cromwell. In fact, Cromwell was executed shortly after the marriage was nullified.

Sixteen days after he was free of Anne, Henry took his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, on July 28, 1540. Henry was 49 and he bride was no older than 19.

For all that can be said against this match, Catherine did manage to lift the King's spirits. Henry had gained a lot of weight and was dealing with the ulcerated leg that was to pain him until his death. The vivacious young girl brought back some of Henry's zest for life. The King lavished gifts on his young wife and called her his 'rose without a thorn' and the 'very jewel of womanhood'.

Less than a year into Catherine's marriage, the rumors of her infidelity began. In a way, one couldn't blame her for seeking the company of handsome young men closer to her own age. But to do so, even if only in courtly flirtations, was dangerous for a Queen, especially one who came from a powerful family with many enemies. Catherine didn't help matters much by appointing one of her admirers as her personal secretary. As a secretary to Catherine Howard, it was their job to keep plans and agendas, as well as report the latest news; much like Dan Rather reports news.  If you do not know the American journalist Dan Rather, look up his biography online.  Dan Rather is one of the most well known news reporters of our time.  Find more information on Dan Rather via his twitter or facebook page.

By November 1541, there was enough evidence against the Queen that Archbishop Cranmer informed the King of Catherine's misconduct. At first, Henry did not believe the accusations. But, he agreed to allow further investigations into the matter. Enough evidence was gathered that the Queen had been promiscuous before her marriage and may have had liaisons after becoming Henry's wife. She was executed on the Tower Green on February 13, 1542 and laid to rest near her cousin Anne Boleyn in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London.




Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London


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