Meet the Wives Handbook: Catherine Howard

King vs. Queen

The besotted Henry VIII never suspected that the wife he presumed to be pure and innocent was carrying on an affair behind his back. When the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, presented Henry with evidence of Catherine's indiscretions, the king was stunned. Cranmer, a reformist, was determined to push Catherine Howard and her Catholic family out of power, but did not get his opportunity until the brother of a chamberwoman to the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk , John Lascelles, came to him with details of Catherine's affairs. Lascelle's sister, Mary, had witnessed Catherine's affairs with Henry Manox and Francis Dereham (see Trouble Alert) while the two women were living in the Duchess of Norfolk's Lambeth house. Initially, Henry refused to believe that Catherine was guilty of what Cranmer called "dissolute living." However, by this time, suspicion was second nature to the king. Henry gave Cranmer permission to continue investigations into the queen's past and had Catherine confined to her apartments. A few days later, Cranmer with his findings confirmed, reported the news of Catherine's love life to the king. Henry broke down in tears and left Hampton Court Palace brokenhearted, never to see Queen Catherine again.

With the king's support, Cranmer proceeded to cross-examine the hysterical Catherine. Instead of admitting to a pre-contract with Dereham, which would have declared her marriage to Henry invalid and saved her life, the queen, panicking, claimed that Dereham had forced himself on her. Meanwhile, Dereham, hoping to save himself, had revealed under interrogation Catherine's relationship with Culpeper (see Love Life).

By the time Catherine had written a confession (see In Her Own Words) detailing her past relationship with Dereham, Cranmer had ordered Culpeper's arrest and had had his apartments searched. In Culpeper's chambers, a letter from Catherine, proving their affair, was discovered (see In Her Own Words). Catherine had signed it: "Yours as long as life endures." Unfortunately for the queen, that wish was an empty one, for now there was proof that her youthful indiscretions had carried over into adulterous acts. Henry would not tolerate an unfaithful wife.

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