Catherine (or Katherine, spelling was quite flexible back then!) Howard is not a new subject on this blog. She was the fifth wife of King Henry VIII of England and the second of his wives to be executed. The first being, of course, Anne Boleyn. They were even cousins. She is often painted as a simple-minded, perhaps even somewhat of a party queen. She was very young when she became queen, probably 17 or 18.
This is a new biography of Catherine Howard by Conor Byrne. It begins with building the situation before Catherine’s queenship. We explore the breakdown of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon and his marriage to Anne Boleyn and her subsequent execution three years later. Although I understand why it was necessary to include it, I found myself skipping through it a bit.
The book spends some time on Catherine’s upbringing in the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk’s household and also whether or not Catherine lost her virtue there. Most accounts of her time there are from when she was being investigated and can, therefore, be considered pretty biased.
Her short tenure as Queen is overshadowed by her execution, but it seems that even I overlooked the fact that she was quite a traditional queen. Even though her tenure was quite short, it seems she was rather a good traditional queen and not necessarily the party queen we all perceived her to be. For instance, she requested pardons, stood as godmother and was a patron.
The book tackles the letter Catherine wrote to Thomas Culpepper. At first sight, it seems like a love letter, but Conor Byrne puts it in such a perspective that it seems like a much more normal letter for the time. We all like to believe the story put forth in the Tudors TV series where Catherine says at the end ‘I die a queen, but I would rather die the wife of Culpepper’, but perhaps nothing sexual happened between them. The truth is, we’ll never really know.