This day in history for February 13

On this day in 1542, King Henry VIII's fifth wife, Catherine Howard, was executed on the charge of adultery.
Henry's "rose without a thorn" turned out to be a bit more prickly than originally thought. Raised by her aging grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, in a home where supervision was non-existent, she was highly influenced by the other young women wards in the home. These young women were far from virtuous, sneaking in men after dark and partying until daybreak. It is said that Catherine had her first sexual experience was between the ages of 11 and 16 with her music tutor, Henry Manox. This affair ended when Catherine met Francis Dereham, her first love. When this relationship became known to Catherine's grandmother, she was quick to nip it in the bud and sent her off to Henry VIII's court. Thus sealing her fate.

Henry's wooing of Catherine begins while he is in the midst of annulling his marriage to Anne of Cleves (lucky woman). Shockingly, Catherine did not return her lord's feelings...Henry was over 30 years her senior, he was morbidly obese by this time and the stench from his festering leg ulcer was atrocious. He sounds like a real catch right...what was she thinking?

People's Sexiest Man Alive - 1451

Shortly after her marriage to Henry, the relationship between Catherine and Thomas Culpepper (one of Henry's courtiers) was re-kindled (Culpepper and Catherine fell in love when she first came to court, before Henry got his grubby, fat hands on her). Eventually the affair was discovered and it fell to Thomas Cranmer to break the bad news to the King. Henry VIII was devastated and she was arrested at Hampton Court. Most of you know of the famous scene where Catherine breaks free of her captors, runs down the hall, screaming Henry's name and trying in vain to reach him. Culpeper and Dereham were also arrested and promptly executed. Poor Catherine had to witness the gruesome sight of seeing her lovers' heads spiked on London Bridge while being transported to the Tower of London.

Once at the Tower of London, Catherine suffered bouts of hysteria from time to time while awaiting for date with the executioner. How can you blame her though? I could not even imagine what it feels like to know you're going to die. Creepy. It is said that the night before her execution she had them bring in the block, where she practiced laying her head.
The next morning, she was led to the block - ironically the same place where her cousin, Anne Boleyn was exectuted. Catherine's last speech:
"Brothers, by the journey upon which I am bound, I have not wronged the King. But it is true that long before the King took me, I loved Culpeper, and I wish to God I had done as he wished me for at the time the King wanted to take me he urged me to say that I was pledged to him. If I had done as he advised me I should not die this death, nor would he. I would rather have had him for a husband than be mistress of the world, but sin blinded me and greed of grandeur; and since mine is the fault, mine also is the suffering, and my great sorrow is that Culpeper should have had to die through me."

At these words she could go no farther. She turned to the headsman and said,

"Pray hasten with thy office."

He knelt before her and begged her pardon.

She said wildly,
"I die a Queen, but I would rather die the wife of Culpeper. God have mercy on my soul. Good people, I beg you pray for me."

Catherine Howard was only 18 years old at the time of her execution.


  1. I'm pretty sure she didn't have a choice. If the king wanted to marry you, I don't think no was an answer he would take, particularly given she was only a teenager and was probably quite captivated by wealth. Poor girl.

    Where did you get that first picture from? It certainly makes her look cute, I've never seen it before!

  2. Poor young Catherine. She totally deluded herself if she thought she could have avoided the marriage with the king once Henry wanted her.

  3. Thanks for sharing this information Amy! I need to start reading more books from the time of Henry VIII.

  4. Jean Plaidy's book on her is sooo good. Even though Catherine was flaky and not too bright, she was somehow endearing...from the beginning it was unimaginable that she should be Queen. Thanks!

  5. I loved this post. Catherine Howard.. executed at 18.. man oh man..what a life... can you imagine practicing placing your head to be executed ugh... OMGosh the word verfication for this post is Forni ....ha!!! I have serious Friday giggles..

  6. Even though the Tudor England always fascinated me, I would not want to be born in that quite cruel time of history.

  7. Have you ever read The Fifth Queen by Ford Madox Ford? Ford has a different take on Catherine's tragedy and believes that she was deliberately set up because she was close to getting Henry to reconcile with Rome. It is true that she sent food and blankets to Catholics suffering in the Tower, such as the King's cousin Margaret Pole. Also, Ford portrays Catherine Howard as bright and very witty, which would make sense since Henry only fell in love with intelligent women. Catherine was Anne Boleyn's first cousin and had the red-gold hair of the Plantagenets, which Henry also seemed to like. There is no portrait of her which scholars are certain of, since all images of her were ordered destroyed when she died. Catherine was not executed for adultery but for not being a virgin when she married, for having a pre-contract. Hers is one of the most tragic stories in royal history that I know of. Thanks for the reminder of her death!

  8. I love Tudor history, thanks for the info. I have awarded you the blog friends award at my blog. Thanks for all the interesting reviews.

  9. She was so young--and to die so horribly! If there is an afterlife, I hope Henry VIII is ROASTING in hell for what he did to his wives.

  10. You ladies leave the best comments! Poor Catherine most certainly did not have a choice in the matter once King Henry set his beety little eyes on her! And yes, Lucy, the Plaidy's book The Rose Without A Thorn was fantastic! Catherine is very likable and it's easy to see how she's a product of her environment.

    I haven't read the Fifth Queen yet, Elena, but I'm going to look it up as soon as I'm done here!

    Thanks Trin for the award! You are too sweet!

  11. *snort* Love the Sexiest Man Alive comment, LOL.

    So much happened in women's lives so soon back then. 18 seems amazingly young and yet it wasn't to them. Fascinating woman, if you ask me.

  12. Tragic, like much of the history of that period.


Related Posts with Thumbnails

Passages to the Past
All rights reserved © 2013

Custom Blog Design by Blogger Boutique

Blogger Boutique