Part 6: Catherine Howard
Catherine Howard was petite, pert and pretty. She liked men, and
men liked her.
From the age of ten Catherine was brought up in the household of
her step grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. Her mother had
died young and her father, though a nobleman, was constantly in
Catherine frequently had clandestine liaisons with men, but was
a member of the second most powerful family in Tudor England and
thus a young woman with prospects.
Catherine's uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, was head of this
ambitious, largely Catholic clan. He had already seen one of his
nieces, Anne Boleyn, rise to queen of England and in late 1539 he
secured places at court for two more nieces, Mary Norris and
Catherine became lady in waiting to Anne of Cleves. Catherine
loved the music, dancing, beautiful clothes, huge banquets and
eligible young men. Henry fell for her at first sight.
Norfolk and his conservative allies spotted the opportunity to
use her as an unthinking pawn in a big political game that would
deliver Henry from his unwanted queen, Anne of Cleves, under whom
their Catholic influence had been attacked.
Two weeks after Parliament ratified the annulment of Henry's
marriage to Anne of Cleves, the teenage Catherine married him in a
secret ceremony at Oatlands Palace in Surrey. He thought she was his
pure Tudor flower.
Although the ageing king was rejuvenated by his young wife, he
was slowed down by an abscess on his leg. Young Catherine loved to
dance and Henry would sometimes have to watch as she performed with
the pick of his young gentlemen.
Catherine's behaviour was under close scrutiny. When she was not
pregnant after six months of marriage, the king fell into a
depression and shut her out of his life for a week.
After this, although it appeared that the marriage continued,
gossip exploded. One rumour centred around a new appointment to her
staff of a handsome young man from her youth, Francis Dereham.