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 debt.
Catherine frequently had clandestine liaisons with
men, but was a member of the second-most powerful family in Tudor
England and therefore she was 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 Howard.
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.
When in late autumn 1541 Thomas Cranmer, the archbishop
of Canterbury, a religious reformer who was opposed to the influence of
the Howards, received explosive information of the queen's past
relationship with Dereham, he wasted no time in using it. He passed
to Henry letters from John Lascelles, a zealous Protestant whose
sister Mary had shared the dormitory with Catherine, and he detailed