2nd Duke of Norfolk, Anne Boleyn, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, Executed, Joyce Culpeper, King Henry VIII of England and Ireland, Lord Edmund Howard, royal wedding, Thomas Cromwell, Thomas Howard
Catherine Howard (c. 1524 – February 13, 1542) was Queen of England from 1540 until 1542 as the fifth wife of Henry VIII.
Catherine had an aristocratic ancestry as a granddaughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk (1443 – 1524), but her father, Lord Edmund Howard, was not wealthy, being the third son of his father – under the rules of primogeniture, the eldest son inherited all of the father’s estate.
Catherine’s mother, Joyce Culpeper, already had five children from her first husband, Ralph Leigh (c. 1476 – 1509) when she married Lord Edmund Howard, and they had another six together, Catherine being about her mother’s tenth child. With little to sustain the family, her father often had to beg for the help of his more affluent relatives.
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.
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.
As a young and attractive lady-in-waiting, Catherine quickly caught Henry VIII’s eye. The King had displayed little interest in Anne from the beginning, but Thomas Cromwell failed to find a new match, and 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.
King Henry VIII called her his ‘very jewel of womanhood’ (that he called her his ‘rose without a thorn’ is likely a myth). 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.”
King Henry VIII and Catherine Howard were married by Bishop Bonner of London at Oatlands Palace on July 28, 1540, the same day Thomas Cromwell was executed. Cromwell was an English lawyer and statesman who served as chief minister to King Henry VIII from 1534 to 1540
Thomas Cromwell fell from power, after arranging the king’s marriage to German Princess Anne of Cleves. Cromwell had hoped that the marriage would breathe fresh life into the Reformation in England, but Henry found his new bride unattractive and the marriage was a disaster for Cromwell, ending in an annulment six months later.
Cromwell was arraigned under a bill of attainder and executed for treason and heresy on Tower Hill on July 28, 1540. The king later expressed regret at the loss of his chief minister, and his reign never recovered from the incident.
The new Queen Catherine was a teenager, since her exact date of birth is unknown she was approximately 16 and the King was 49. Catherine adopted the French motto “Non autre volonté que la sienne”, meaning “No other will but his”.
The marriage was made public on August 8, and prayers were said in the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace. Henry “indulged her every whim” thanks to her “caprice”.
Catherine was young, joyous and carefree. She was too young to take part in administrative matters of State. Nevertheless, every night Sir Thomas Heneage, Groom 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, decorated in gold around her sleeves.