A tragic tale of plotters and a naive little girl from the Howard clan.

Katherine Howard and Lady Rochford

Who let out the secret?

Mary Hall
By Henry Tudor
Oh! Mary Hall what have you done!
Your letter read, by now has un-spun.
The lies and plots of Howard clan
So many lives did that paper span.

The King did cry from your cruel word
The Queen has shame! Seemed quite absurd.
Francis, Thomas do head for the block
Bloodthirsty crowd all there to cry mock.

The Howards now with bowed heads and shamed
Thomas, Henry and Agnes all guilty named.
Your letter has broke their world apart
The Tower now holds their traitorous heart.

The Queen will die upon that feared green
A once friend of yours, though not often seen.
Your crime of envy surely never cures
A stricken conscience “Yours as long as life endures”

A serious note: A love letter was found in the house of Thomas Culpeper from Katherine Howard. She ends with these fatal words:
“Yours as long as life endures”

The Katherine Howard story
by Henry Tudor

Alas a sad tale to tell you all, about the girl with the world at her feet but many enemies at the gate.
To be the daughter of the impoverished brother of the richest man in Norfolk is not an easy title to live with. She may have Lady as her title but with no money to back it up it was worse than being poor and being seen to be poor. Threadbare clothes from cousins and sisters, hand-me-downs of more than one share is the way she was brought up and expected little from the Duke, her Uncle. Too many children in this clan, just another number on the roll call to breakfast. Lady Katherine Howard, wonderful title at least, maybe one day she will marry well and get some rich man who wants the Howard link. An ambitious man who see’s Katherine as a way up the social ladder.
Now take care young master out there, not all eligible girls out there arrive without excess baggage. Some have inherent problems and can cause serious errors of future judgement. Take Francis Dereham for an instance, here is this ambitious fellow who not only focuses his attention on the young Katherine Howard, he actually likes what he sees. There she is amongst the Howard enclosure, sleeping dormitory fashion to save on expense and she has no beau to woo her. The others all have men and can be seen and heard most nights entertaining them, but Katherine being young and scared, stays to herself. Prime target then. It is Dereham who becomes Katherine’s first beau, he shows her kindness and makes her feel more adult and womanlike, not a silly little girl anymore, he become her man and she become his woman.
Now the plot is hatched, the Duke of Norfolk is mindful that the King is not happy with his fourth wife from Germany. What did he call her? “A Flanders mare”, that cost him a lot in paying the lucky girl off. Not much chance of looking pretty though after sitting on a smelly horse for six weeks and then being sick on the boat crossing. Being late and behind schedule meant arriving with matted hair, bow-legged and bent-backed, not a pretty sight. Now add to this calamity the picture painted by Master Hans Holbein was done full face-on, the King should have realised that Holbein never paints full face-on unless there is something to hide, like the size or shape of a nose. It must have been quite a shock for the King and his knightly escort to see her for the first time, poor girl, or should I say lucky girl. Even Henry cannot cut her head off for being ugly, being ugly is not treason because if it was there’d be a lot of heads lying about. Now she is to be divorced and receive a great settlement to make her a very wealthy woman in her own right, to be the Kings official sister with her own court, wow what a great nose,
Back to the plot, The duke has plans to put a Howard on the throne, not just the Queen’s throne, but one day, the King’s. This will bring the Yorkists back into power and rid England of the Tudor reign forever. Obviously this is a secret plan. What if the King marries a Howard next, has a child boy as a spare to Edward and if Edward should die, be ready to take the throne! What if the King should be incapable of fathering a son! What if the Queen still has a son and the King thinks it is his and will not let the people know any different even if he suspects it is a set up! I’m not saying the Howard’s are devious enough to produce such a plot, but what about the death of Henry Fitzroy, lost in his youth whilst married to Mary Howard and him being the illegitimate heir to the King’s throne. I’m not saying he was killed by the Howard’s but it does make one think about the coincidence. What should I know? I’m only the narrator.
So the plot thickens and a young, pretty Howard clan girl is needed to be paraded in front of the King, to grab his disappointment and turn it into a glorious rebound. Off they went looking at the clan, lots to choose from but most with notorious backgrounds and not suitable Queen material. Into the frame pops Katherine Howard, sleeping in a dormitory, no money, no visitors seen and so perfect material for the plot to move to centre stage. Katherine is overcome and curious why she is being fitted out with the best materials she has ever seen, jewellery as good as the Duchess has, not going there, as you all know the Duchess has been sent away whilst the Duke flings with his lady love.
The little girl with chubby cheeks and cheeky smile, suddenly becomes the little princess and she loves it. The journey to the palace to see the King’s court was exciting to Katherine, she did not know she was on the menu and she was to be promoted to the King as future wife material only this time he was going to have a good look and test the product first, no pictures this time. Well the plan worked, so well that the King declared he had at last found true love after the loss of his beloved Jane Seymour, the Duke was over the moon as he saw a Howard’s throne on the plinth. The King was suddenly invigorated with youthful energy, his bad legs seemed to stop ailing him, he danced, sang his own songs again and even went out hunting again. Young Lady Katherine Howard had succeeded in reaching the heart of the most feared man in England, besides her own Uncle that is. Lady Katherine now became Queen Katherine but her troubles now started. Yes, she had lots of gifts bestowed upon her by the court and her husband, yes, she had people to listen to her now instead of brushing aside the silly girl in the threadbare dress, but now she had her own household.

Bigger than her Aunt’s this household would be run by her cousin Lady Rochford, the appointment of the Duke that would bring stage three of the plot into play. But, the newly promoted Queen was besieged by requests from the girls in the dormitory from her murky past, not actually requests but actual blackmail. “I’ll tell the King about Dereham unless I become one of your ladies-in-waiting”, this and other wording meant Katherine was surrounded by enemies. Lady Rochford, sly, manipulative widow of Anne Boleyn’s brother, George whom she lied about to Cromwell about being his own sister's lover. Would you trust her? No way, this woman was acid. But the silly little girl in the Queen’s dress accepted her confidence to her cost. She even believed her Lady's would be loyal, now that's what I call naive.

The Honeymoon progress had many goals, obviously the honeymoon was for the couple to enjoy each other’s company but for the King it was also to show the Yorkists that they now have a Yorkist, Catholic Queen, so stop thinking any other way but forward. To the Duke it was perfect for the conception of the child bearing Howard credentials and also to show the Yorkists that something was afoot. To Francis Dereham it was a good chance to see the new Queen and remind her about their affair, hoping of course to gain royal favour in return for a closed mouth. To the evil Lady Rochford it was perfect timing to introduce the dashing Thomas Culpeper to the giggly Queen whilst her husband was hunting or drinking with his young friends. Culpeper was in fact not a nice man, he had assaulted a farmer’s wife and killed her, but had got away with it after pulling rank and paying the distraught man off to stay quiet at the farce of a trial, which Culpeper easily won. This cad fitted into the King’s inner circle of friends perfectly, reminding the King of the antics of his old friend and brother-in-law, Charles Brandon who had the morals of an alley cat.
Katherine was delighted with her new friend Thomas Culpeper, he even danced with her in front of the King waving as they passed Henry at his top table, the King was pleased that Thomas reduced the girl’s energy as he was tiring more these days.

The friendship turned into love, well it did on her side and she thought it also did on his side, though one has to assume that to be rather hopeful and more like impossible. Lady Rochford would bring Thomas to Katherine and make sure they had enough time to get well acquainted, the King in his quarters drinking, playing cards or out chasing the spaced out deer arranged for him to hunt. It worked perfectly, until the wild card is drawn. Back home there was the girl with the knowledge of Katherine’s background with Dereham but whom had been overlooked when the Queen’s household was being formed. Not having used the knowledge by way of blackmail, she thought it would come automatically, but it didn’t and that got her mad. Now she informed the Kings Chancellor, Thomas Cranmer of the Queen’s affair before marriage with Francis Dereham, no spite like that of a woman spurned, even if by another woman! Thomas Cranmer was now in a very delicate position, should he tell the King and bring his happiness to an end, or should he keep it to himself? The latter would lose him his head if the King found out he knew, so he didn’t think about it for a long time and made the decision to inform his majesty of the questionable background of his new, young wife the Queen. His method was carefully thought out, not to be verbal as the fear of enraging this King was very much to be avoided if in the vicinity. No, he would write it all down, place the note in a sealed envelope and place the envelope on the King’s seat in his private chapel so he can read it in private and Thomas Cranmer can be there as his priest for comfort.
Upon returning from the success of the Honeymoon progress, the King found the letter, and cried out loud with burning tears of heartache heard down the corridors to this day. You all should know by now that when the King decide you are through in his court, he will avoid any contact and let the matter be investigated by those capable of getting results.

This open coldness was the most feared of all actions the King could make. House arrest was next, Katherine did not know what was going on, how did they know about Culpeper, who told on her? Well they did not know about Culpeper yet, but she did not know that, nor did Lady Rochford who was running about like a mad hen screaming that her end is nigh. Culpeper suddenly went away upon an excuse, the Duke of Norfolk went back to his stately pile, everybody was looking to see who would be arrested next. It was Francis Dereham the one implicated in the letter, then it was the ladies of the court whom had shared the dormitory with Katherine. They all soon cracked with the shadow of the Tower behind them, Dereham told his interrogators that the affair had been before she had met the King and never after, in other words he admitted it but had not told the King himself before he married an unchaste woman. Trouble is the wording Dereham spoke was very interesting to his gaolers, “Someone else has taken my place in Katherine’s affections”, not the King? No, not the King. Lady Richford and Thomas Culpeper were arrested and delivered to the Tower, soon it was all over for the plot, the King knew all the facts and was not in a forgiving mood, he had decided that all would die for this Treasonable crime against his actual person and family. All the fancy dresses, jewels that Henry had given his adored wife were taken back, even her gifts to others were redeemed back to the King, the little Queen was being reduced back to the pauper lady and that hurt telling Katherine that all was lost.
Thomas Culpeper died on Tower hill to the cheers of the crowd, Francis Dereham was publicly hung drawn and quartered in the lower rank fashion, Lady Rochford went insane though she still died alongside Katherine on Tower Green as Henry had got his Parliament to allow the execution of an insane person if they were traitors. It was true that Katherine accepted her fate quickly, she had tried to get to Henry to beg forgiveness and divorce her instead, but guards had dragged her back screaming to her quarters. This being the ghostly apparition in Hampton court to this day. It is true that Katherine asked and received the block in her cell in the Tower, to practice a good death. It is true the plotter Howard got his comeuppance and was sent to the Tower himself. It is also true that the whole affair broke King Henry VIII’s heart and he turned more vicious than he was ever before, but soon he was wining and dining the ladies again to cheer himself up, and of course look for his next wife, only this time one who is thought well of and already a widow who had nursed sick husbands before they died with a smile on their face.

The Plotters Queen
By Henry Tudor
Ugly and smelly poor Anna cannot win
The trip took the toll on her beauty within.
But Henry was blinded by appearances first
Suggesting a horse-like in his famous outburst.

Now over in Norfolk the Duke rubs his hands
Maybe he’ll divorce her and give her some lands.
Leaving her throne open to possible gain
Find him a new girl, with York in her name.

Young Katherine the Howard a most likely stooge
Wash and a brush up a little dab rouge.
A new dress and jewels fit for this King
Plenty more promised from this King of bling.

Offer this girl to brighten his day
Maybe he’ll love her and take her away.
The plot thickens lovely, the girl turned his head
Not Lady Howard lately but Queen Katherine instead.

Select her court wisely, make sure that they all know
Just who the boss is now, or they’ve got to go.
Find a beau most likely, to create some mystique
Get them together, ‘not take a week.

Honeymoon up in Yorkshire, all tented to hunt
Culpeper enters from back, the King leaves from front.
Rochford is watching to let them create
A Howard in Kings clothes before it’s too late.

But, as always there’s something bound to go wrong
Some bird has whispered a shattering song.
The Bishop must act now before the King hears the tune
Write him a letter, private, leave in his room.

All is now lost for the plotters and Queen
Guilty all fall down and never are seen.
Queen Katherine reduces to lady again
Prays all day for forgiveness, Rochford now insane.

Practice on block to make a good death
Rochford in trance like goes down in one breath.
Now it is your turn, dear Katherine once proud
The plotters all dead now cheered on by the crowd.

The Plotter, old Howard arrested, held long in the Tower
Awaiting the King’s pleasure for his final hour.
But Henry is now broken and fails to respond
Lost the youngest, the cutest, the one he was so fond.

Another will grace the side of his throne
A nurse and a writer they’ll talk there alone.
Another dear Katherine but Parr now the name
Not so naive and so clever, so never the same.