Katherine Howard


Katherine Howard,

5th wife of King Henry VIII



1524 or earlier, the daughter of Lord Edmund Howard and Joyce Culpepper Leigh


28 July 1540, Henry VIII, at Oatlands Palace, Surrey


not crowned


13 February 1542 in the Tower of London (executed)


St. Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London

ively, pretty, petite Katherine Howard was a younger first cousin of Anne Boleyn. Her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, introduced her into Henry’s court to catch the king’s attention. She succeeded. Seeking release from his unhappy Cleves marriage, Henry fell hard. He married Katherine, doting on her, lavishing her with dresses and jewelry, and indulging her caprices.

Unfortunately, Katherine’s earlier life began to catch up with her. Katherine had been raised by her step-grandmother, the dowager Duchess of Norfolk. She had instruction in reading, writing, flirtation and seduction. Katherine became involved with Francis Dereham, a young gentleman of her grandmother’s household, who would sneak into the maiden’s dormitory for secret lovemaking. An anonymous letter to her grandmother ended the relationship.

Shortly thereafter, her (unknowing) uncle brought her to court. Once Katherine was queen, her old dalliances surfaced. Katherine gave them positions in her household, whether as rewards for friendship or bribes for silence is unknown. In 1541, she appointed her former lover Francis Dereham as her secretary.

A new young man, Thomas Culpepper, a member of the king’s privy chamber with a reputation for lechery and violence, now began to seek her favors. With the contrivance of her lady-in-waiting, Jane Boleyn, Katherine and Culpepper began to meet. While on progress with the king in the north, she allowed Culpepper access to her chamber.

News about Katherine’s past was now filtering out. Henry, sure the allegations were untrue, ordered an investigation to clear her name. Instead, her meeting with Culpepper was discovered.

Henry VIII left Hampton Court broken-hearted and disillusioned. He never saw Katherine again. Culpepper was beheaded. Dereham was hung, disemboweled and beheaded. Katherine Howard, now deprived of her queenship, and her accomplice, Jane Boleyn, were condemned as traitors and beheaded.

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