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Archive for Katherine Howard

Does the Jewellery Make the Sitter?

More Tudor goodies, this time meshing an inventory of Katherine Howard’s jewels with the above portrait which is oftentimes labelled as her (and probably dismisssed as such nearly as often). Thanks again to Bendor Grosvenor for indulging our Tudor lust!

It was 1st published for David Starkey’s “Lost Faces” exhibition but today is the 1st time it’s being published online. One thing’s for sure: the items described were to die for.


Be My Guest, Claire Ridgway! Part 2

I hope you all enjoyed Part 1 of Claire Ridgway’s guest post on Alison Weir’s “Tudor women” talk (click here if you missed it). Let’s go to Part 2!


Henry’s Queens:

Obviously King’s wives were not like the average Tudor woman, but even though they were in charge of large households and budgets, Alison pointed out that the decisions were still made by the King. The queen’s role was to produce heirs and be the perfect model wife for the court.

But, what was the model wife? Here, Alison used Catherine of Aragon’s words when she pleaded with Henry VIII at the divorce hearing, saying that she was his “true, humble, obedient wife.” This summed up what a wife should be and her accepted role in the divine order. Even Catherine Parr applauded this ideal in her book Lamentations of a Sinner, writing that young women should be “sober-minded.” Alison pointed out the mottoes of Jane Seymour and Catherine Howard – “Bound to Obey and Serve” and “No Other Will but His” – these women accepted their role!

Alison emphasised that on marriage a woman became a man’s property and that it was even a man’s legal right to kill his wife on the spot if he caught her in the act of adultery. An adulterous woman brought shame on her family. Here, Alison mentioned Catherine Parr’s brother, William Parr, and his call for his unfaithful wife to be put to death. Fortunately, a divorce was granted instead! But look at Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, both accused of adultery and both executed. The man’s word was law and although Weir stated that Anne was the “victim of a bitter court struggle” and was “framed by her enemies,” the adultery charge stood and Anne lost her life. After Catherine Howard was executed, a law was passed that it was high treason for a woman of dubious past to marry the king.


In Medieval times, people believed that women should not be taught to write unless they were nuns and that the only education they needed was in home-making, to make them fit to be a good wife. However, the Renaissance made education for women more acceptable and Alison gave the examples of Margaret Roper (Sir Thomas More’s daughter), Catherine of Aragon, and Catherine Parr as models of educated and virtuous women. Too much learning could get a woman into trouble though–take the example of Catherine Parr, who was plotted against.

Mary and Elizabeth:

Alison pointed out that the only experience England had had of a female ruler was Empress Matilda in the 12th century and she didn’t last long. Mary I was England’s first real female monarch and she had many difficulties to contend with. For example, she couldn’t even do the ceremony of the Knights of the Bath because she couldn’t get into a bath with a bunch of men! Then, there was the question of marriage because of the traditional roles of husband and wife, with the woman being submissive to the man, yet she was Queen of England!

Alison spoke of how it was Elizabeth I who proved that a woman could rule successfully, but she wasn’t afraid of using her femininity to her advantage and using her feminine wiles to get her own way. The marriage issue was still a problem for Elizabeth though, but she solved it by remaining single while encouraging suitors to gain political advantage. Alison quite rightly noted that Elizabeth paved the way for future queens and that she was “one of the most important women to wield power.”

Final Words:

Alison Weir concluded her talk by stating that although 16th century women were seen as second to men, they still managed to rule countries and run businesses and estates. Life certainly was not easy for Tudor women, but, according to Alison, it did have its compensations and many marriages were loving relationships.

It really was a joy to hear Alison speak and to talk to her afterwards. She has so much knowledge and is happy to share this and answer questions. It was a great night and it raised £600 for the Mary Rose Appeal too.


Claire Ridgway writes The Anne Boleyn Files (blog here, Facebook page here) and the Elizabeth Files  (blog here, Facebook page here).  Thanks again, Claire, for your fantastic article!

Famous Last Words

Well, Showtime did it! They kept alive the myth that Katherine Howard “would rather die the wife of Culpepper” just before her beheading. That is untrue, and that rumor needs to die (so to speak). Last night’s episode of “The Tudors” didn’t help matters any, but there are also scores of websites and other sources which continue to perpetuate this falsehood.  

On that cold and still day, 13 February 1542, Kitty’s actual last words were that she deserved a thousand deaths for so offending the king who treated her so well. She prayed for Henry, asked the crowd to follow suit, and called upon God to take her soul.  Then –whack! — with one stroke. Next up on the wet, bloody block: royal meddler Lady Rochford. Come on down, you drama-loving nitwit!

♪ I Enjoy Be-ing A Girl! ♫

Belle (Disney)

Image via Wikipedia

If you are watching Showtime’s history lesson, you may be getting sick of seeing Katherine Howard gush and coo over every gift and display of royal hoopla by now. She does tend to act like a six-year-old who has just been prettied up and sprinkled with glitter at Disney World’s Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, doesn’t she?

And yet, Kitty really did revel in this stuff! She was thrilled each time she was lavished with some bezaddled whoozit or whatzit, and lit up when she was treated like a pretty, pretty princess. But I can’t blame her, because the poor girl came from nothing and could have never imagined a life such as this.

Her father, Edmund, was one of 23 children in a noble family. He lost everything, but kept his hand out for, well, a hand-out. In his final years, he was reduced to an incontinent. His third wife hit him when he’d helplessly wet their bed, and humiliated him with taunts that only children did such things.

Motherless Kitty had meanwhile been growing up in the home run by her step-grandmother. She was poor, uneducated, and lost in the shuffle. So when she eventually came to live in palaces and receive horses and jewels and such ( as a teenager, no less), she could hardly believe her luck! Go easy on her; she simply reached her I-enjoy-being-a-girl stage a bit late.

A Not-So-Sweet Spot

Tower of London

Image via Wikipedia

Nestled on the inner grounds of the Tower of London is a darling little stretch of grass called the Tower Green. Today it may strike you as a cozy place to get a fresh air break during your tour of the Tower, but in the Tudor period it played host to a handful of beheadings.

Most of the poor souls who were beheaded at that time met their fate on Tower Hill, just northwest of the Tower of London and a place that today is…well, the Tower Hill tube station. But a few very special prisoners were given the gift of a private execution on the secluded spot within the Tower walls. “Private” was a relative concept, as there could have been a hundred or so people present. The seven “priviledged” victims of a private Tower Green beheading were:

  • William, Lord Hastings in 1483 (two years before the Tudor dynasty began)
  • Anne Boleyn in 1536
  • Margaret, Countess of Salisbury in 1541
  • Katherine Howard in 1542
  • Jane, Viscountess Rochford (Anne Boleyn’s brother’s wife, and royal busybody who arranged for Kitty Howard to get a bit on the side) in 1542
  • Lady Jane Grey in 1554
  • Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex (a former Liz I fave who became too big for his britches) in 1601

Today a plaque marks the spot where the Famous Seven lost their heads, the only grisly reminder in an otherwise sweet and seemingly-peaceful spot.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Wedding Band

Six wives (queens consort) of King Henry VIII

Image by cliff1066™ via Flickr

The Six Ladies of Henry VIII were part of a fraternity that fascinates history buffs as well as those who just plain love a good, juicy soap opera. While it may have seemed the Massive Monarch blew through the line quickly, the amount of time he was married to each may surprise you. Here’s how long each gal wore that traveling wedding band:

1. Catherine of Aragon  About 24 years, not together for the last few (June 1509 – May 1533)

2. Anne Boleyn   3 1/2 years(January 1533 – May 1536)

3. Jane Seymour   1 1/2 years (May 1536 – October 1537)

4. Anne of Cleves   A measley six months (January 1540 – June 1540)

5. Katherine Howard  1 1/2 years (July 1540 – February 1542)

6. Catherine Parr 3 1/2 years (July 1543 – January 1547)

♥ A Very Tudor Valentine’s Day ♥

Out of Henry VIII’s six wives, who do you think was his true love? Get a quick rundown of all the Real Housewives of Tudor Court here, and cast your vote below!