Catherine Howard

, queen of England, and fifth wife of Henry VIII. was daughter of lord Edmund Howard (third son of Thomas duke of Norfolk, and grandson of John first duke of Norfolk), by Joyce, daughter of sir Richard Culpepper, of Holingbourne in Kent, knight. Her mother dying while she was young, she was educated under the care of her grandmother, the duchess dowager of Norfolk; and when she grew up, the charms of her person soon captivated the affections of Henry VIII, who, upon his divorce from Anne of Cleves, married her, and shewed her publicly as queen, Aug. 8, 1540, But this marriage proved of the utmost prejudice to the cause of the reformation, which had begun to spread itself in the kingdom. ‘ The queen being absolutely guided by the counsels of the duke of Norfolk, her uncle, and Gardiner bishop of Winchester, used all the power she had over the king to support the credit of the enemies of the protestants, In the summer of 1541, she attended his majesty to York, to meet his nephew the king of Scotland, who had promised to give him an interview in that city, but was diverted by his clergy, and a message from the court of France, from that resolution; and during that progress she gained so entire an ascendant over the king’s heart, that at his return to London, on All-Saints day, when he received the sacrament, he gave public thanks to God for the happiness which he enjoyed by her means and desired his confessor, the bishop of Lincoln, to join with him in the like thanksgiving. | But this proved a very short-lived satisfaction, for the jiext clay, archbishop Cranmer came to him with information that the queen had been unfaithful to his bed. By the advice of the lord chancellor and other privy counsellors, the archbishop wrote the particulars on a paper, which he delivered to the king, being at a loss how to open so delicate a matter in conversation. When the king read it, he was much confounded, and his attachment to the queen made him at first consider the story as a forgery, but having full proof, the persons with whom the queen Jiad been guilty, Dierham and Mannoch, two of the duchess dowager of Norfolk’s domestics, were apprehended, and not only confessed what was laid to their charge, but revealed some other circumstances, which placed the guilt of the queen in a most heinous light. The report of this struck the king so forcibly, that he lamented his misfortune with a flood of tears. The archbishop and some other counsellors were sent to examine the queen, who at first denied every thing, but finding that her crime was known, confessed all, and subscribed the paper. It appeared likewise, that she had intended to continue in that scandalous course of life; for as she had brought Dierham into her service, she had also retained one of the women, who had formerly been privy to their familiarities, to attend upon her in her bed-chamber; and while the king was at Lincoln, by the lady Rochford’s means, one Culpepper was brought to her at eleven at night, and stayed with her till four next morning; and at his departure received from her a gold chain. Culpepper being examined, confessed the crime: for which he, with Dierham, suffered death on the 1 Oth of December.

This unfortunate affair occasioned a new parliament to be summoned on Jan. 16, 1541-2, in which the archbishop, the duke of Suffolk, the earl of Southampton, and the bishop of Winchester, were appointed to examine the queen; which they did on the 28th of that month. Their report is recorded only in general, that she confessed; but no particulars are mentioned. Upon this the parliament passed an act in the form of a petition, in which, after desiring the king not to be grieved at this misfortune, they requested, that the queen and her accomplices, with her procuress the lady Rochford, might be attainted of high treason; and that all those, who knew of the queen’s Vicious course before her marriage, and had concealed it, | as the duchess dowager of Norfolk her grandmother, the countess of Bridgwater, the lord William Howard her uncle, and his kidy, with the four other men and five women, who were already attainted by the course of common law (except the duchess of Norfolk and the countess of Bridgwater), might be attainted of misprision of treason. It was enacted also, that whoever knew any thing of the incontinence of the queen for the time being, should reveal it with all possible speed, under the pains of treason: and that if the king, or his successors, should incline to marry any woman, whom they took to be a virgin, if she, not being so, did not declare the same to the king, it should be high treason; and all, who knew it, and did not reveal it, were guilty of misprision of treason: and if the queen, or the prince’s wife, should procure any person, by messages or words, to have criminal conversation with her; or any other, by messages or words, should solicit them; they, their counsellors and abettors, were to be adjudged guilty of high treason.

This remarkable act being passed, the queen and the lady llochford were beheaded on Tower-hill on the 12tli of February, about seventeen months after she had been married to the king. The queen confessed the miscarriages of her former life before marriage, which had brought her to this fatal end; but protested to Dr. White, afterwards bishop of Winchester, that she took God and his angels to be her witnesses, upon the salvation of her soul, that she was guiltless of the charge of defiling her sovereign’s bed. Yet the unbounded looseness of her former course of living inclined the world to believe the most scandalous things that could be reported. But all observed the judgment of Heaven upon the lady Rochford, who had been the principal instrument in the death of queen Anne Boleyn, her sister-in-law, and that of her own husband; and her appearing now so enormously profligate tended much to raise their reputations again, in whose fall her malice and artifices had so great a share. It was thought, however, extremely cruel to shew such extraordinary severity against the queen’s kindred for not discovering her former ill life, since the making such a discovery would have been a very hard instance of duty. The duchess dowager of Norfolk being her grandmother, had educated her from a child; and it was said, that for her to have acquainted the king with her grand-daughter’s | lewd behaviour, when he intended to marry her, as it was an unheard-of thing, so the not doing it could not have drawn so high a punishment from any but a prince of the king’s temper. However he pardoned her, and most of the rest, though some continued in prison after others were discharged. That other proviso, which obliged a young lady to discover her own frailties, if his majesty should please to make love to her, seemed likewise a strange piece of tyranny; since if a king, especially one of so imperious a disposition as Henry VIII, should design such an honour to any of his subjects, who had failed in, their former life, they must either disgrace themselves by publishing so odious a secret, or run the hazard of being afterwards attainted of high treason. Upon this, some persons, who were inclined to rally the sex, took occasion to say, “that after such a regulation, no one, reputed a virgin, could be induced to marry the king; and therefore it was not so much choice as necessity, that caused him to marry a widow two years after.” But this part of the act was afterwards repealed in the first parliament of king Edward VI. 1


Hist, of England. Herbert’s Life of Henry VIII. Birch’s Lives.