Meet the Wives Handbook: Catherine Howard


Before Henry had even married Catherine, rumors circulated that she was pregnant. The king, of course, wanted more sons and in a time of high infant mortality, one son was not enough to secure the throne. The rumor, however, proved false and in the coming months, though Henry would visit Catherine's bedchamber regularly, his youthful queen did not conceive. (This fueled earlier speculations, first voiced at the trial of Anne Boleyn, that Henry suffered from impotence.) Plans for Catherine's coronation, which were contingent on her providing an heir, languished. Ultimately, she would not bear Henry any children.

Catherine's relations with Henry's existing children were largely ceremonial. Henry's oldest child, Lady Mary, did not approve of this new queen, who was nine years younger than herself. Catherine complained that Mary did not pay her the respect she had bestowed on Henry's previous queens, Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves, and, to assert her status, ordered the dismissal of two of Mary's maids. Though Mary reportedly took Catherine Howard's demise in stride, her younger half-sister, nine-year-old Elizabeth, was profoundly affected. Upon hearing the details of Catherine's death, Elizabeth reportedly swore never to marry -- a vow she would not break.

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