Full disclosure: I had a few margaritas tonight. So this should be interesting.
Catherine Howard (wife numero fivo) is unofficially considered by historians to be the consort with lowest IQ. Here’s why:
- She might have had an affair with one of H8’s “favourites” during their year-long marriage.
- The guy she had an affair with was her cousin. I know it’s normal for the time. But EW.
- While at finishing school, she slept with at least 2 men (and probably more and maybe a couple of girls).
- She trusted corrupt, shady and borderline cray-cray people to help her with love-affair-related activities.
- She got caught.
- (SPOILER ALERT) She got her head chopped off.
Here are the reasons why Henry should have fucking known what was coming to him:
- Catherine was Anne Boleyn’s goddam 1st cousin.
- She was really fucking good at giving head and Henry, like a doofus, was like, “WOW!! I wonder how my virginal new wife is so good at blowing me especially when she’s never seen a ding-dong before.” (Like I said. Doofus.)
- When they met, she was sixteen and he was forty fucking nine. (MATH LESSON: 49-16= WAY TOO FUCKING BIG OF AN AGE DIFFERENCE, PEOPLE.)
But listen. As I gathered from reading Starkey, girlfriend has sort of been misrepresented in historical accounts of the period. Mainly because her reign was first interpreted and written about during England’s strictly moralist Victorian era where any talk of sex was immediately poo-pooed. Since a big part of Catherine’s story (let’s be honest-all of it) has to do with her fondness for pleasure (who can blame her!), Victorian historians weren’t big fans of her’s. But we’re past that now and some historians like Starkey are starting to look at her as a lighthearted bitch who understood sex as something that was fun and awesome but also as a valuable and powerful social tool.
I imagine that Catherine Howard was a lot like the Mandy Moore type of girl at your high school. But a little sluttier. You know, some girl who was like really pretty and skinny who got boobs before everybody and was the first girl to get a straightener, and she was really good at school and was all the teachers’ favorite. And you wanted to hate her because she was so fucking popular, but you couldn’t because she was also really nice and awesome. THE POINT IS you would have wanted to be friends with Catherine Howard because I bet she was just like that. She was full of energy, always looking out for her main bitches, always down for a partay. She probably loved doing the Electric Slide. And body shots.
But let’s contextualize shall we? And I’ll pretend like I didn’t just go off for a whole paragraph about how much I want to be BFFs with Mandy Moore/Catherine Howard.
So Catherine’s mommy, Joyce Culpepper (REMEMBER THAT NAME!!) died when she was young, so she grew up without a close female role model who could tell her that boning a bunch of dudes before you marry the king of England is the worst idea ever. She was sent off to finishing school at her step-grandmother, the Dowager Duchess’s house. From the Starkey book, I gather that Chesworth House was a lot like summer camp. Lots of virile young men and women in a confined space where the main events of the evening were (1) figuring out how to get into the girls’ bunk (2) learning how to give handies (3) testing how long you could stay and play without getting caught by the counselors. Since our little minx was related the Duchess, she was the ringleader of all of the mischief and got away with everything.
It was also because of her relationship with the Duchess that she was allowed private music lessons with a guy named Henry Mannox. Now, what about letting your adolescent step-granddaughter who’s already been caught having “midnight banquets” in her dormitory have private lessons with a smoldering hot (probably) music teacher sounds like a good idea to you? None of it. When Catherine got in trouble with King H8 in 1541, Mannox was questioned and it came out that while they never consummated their love affair (which happened when she was like 11 or 12), she had let him touch her vag in the house’s chapel!! Slluuuuut! Mandy would never have done that.
While at Chesworth, she met the household’s secretary, Francis Dareham and the two fell in love. HARD. They entered into a two-year long relationship and precontracted themselves to one another. As in they promised to marry each other which was as good as married in the eyes of the church and meant it was kind of OK that they boned before he put a ring on it. And everyone at Chesworth knew about it (since all the girls slept in the same big room with each other and they were practically having sex in front of a ton of other people on a regular basis) but no one said anything about it once Catherine arrived at court and caught the eye of the King.
H8 was not Catherine’s first love at court, however. He was her second. Her first little affair was with a man named Thomas Culpepper. Remember that name? It’s her mom’s maiden name. As in this guy was her cousin. He was really hot, really fun, the king’s favorite man, had a ton of girlfriends all over court – he was the guy version of Catherine, pretty much. So no wonder they were so into each other. They hung out for a while, probably did it a couple of times, and a lot of people (although H8 was apparently oblivious to all of this) thought that they would get married. But then they had a little tiff or something and stopped talking.
Then, she caught Henry’s eye and the rest is history. Or maybe you’re not too familiar so I’ll irreverently summarize, shall I?
She and Henry entered into a whirlwind Romance that was almost assuredly consummated time and time again before they got married. (RED FUCKING FLAG, HENRY!!) But he was blinded by his love for her. And why wouldn’t he be? She was 17 or so and he was almost 50!! She was history’s ultimate trophy wife and Kingy was loooovin’ it as much as a McDonald’s commercial. His friends wrote that he was simply smitten with her. He really believed that after getting rid of his Spanish brother-fucker, all his bad luck with Boleyn, the “tragic” death of Jane, and the unfortunate portrait debacle of Man of Cleves, he had finally found his true Queen.
Spoke too soon, dude, spoke too soon.
Henry and Catherine and the rest of the court went on progress in the summer of 1541. This means that they went on a tour of northern England where they slept in tents (which were pretty much inflatable castles) or in rich people’s houses. These houses were much smaller than the palaces that the court was used to staying at, so it would have been really fucking stupid for the queen to rekindle an affair with her former lover in one of these houses while on progress. But she did.
It was during the summer progress of 1541 that she and Culpepper started doing it again with the help of Catherine’s lady-in-waiting, Lady Rochford. Lady Rochford was George Boleyn’s wife. Let’s review:
- George Boleyn.
- Brother of Anne.
- Beheaded for treason, incest, and sodomy.
Don’t you think Lady Rochford/Jane Parker might be a little effed up from all of that and maybe not someone to trust with your top-secret romantic trysts? Yeah. Instead of saying, “Hey Catherine, this is a bad idea,” she was more like, “Pshhhh, he’ll never find out, did you want me to take your handkerchief or something over to Tommy? Maybe a love letter?” Great influence, Lady. A lot of historians think that she might have been, like, certifiably insane and was acting out all of her psycho issues with her own failed marriage on Catherine. It seems likely to me.
This post is getting long so I’ll sum up the end with a list shall I?
- Most women who end up at court had been at finishing schools and boned dudes before they got there. But people kept their mouths shut about it because it was NBD.
- But some bitch went to Thomas Cranmer, the archbishop of Canterbury, and told him about Catherine’s shady past.
- He liked Catherine, but thought that her lack of religious conviction and her (supposedly) papist Howard family were a threat to the English Reformation.
- So he told Henry.
- Henry was like, “Nawwww! She’d never cheat on me. She’s totally into this!” (And then grabbed his junk. I imagine.) But then he had some people investigate the whole thing anyway, just for safesies.
- When it became clear that she was guilty, H8 peaced out of Hampton Court in the middle of the night and Catherine never saw him again. (The legend about Catherine running down the halls of Hampton Court to beg him to believe in her innocence isn’t really true.)
- She was convicted of treason, along with Thomas Culpepper and Francis Dareham.
- Francis Dereham definitely got the fuzzy end of the lollipop — he was hanged, castrated, drawn, and quartered. OUCH.
- Culpepper was beheaded. LUCKY!
- After being told she was just going to have to go to a nunnery, Henry changed his mind and decided he wanted her beheaded.
- She made a really nice speech and then fucking lost it and started sobbing and saying “I don’t want to die!!” right before she got her head chopped off.
- Lady Rochford got the axe right after her lady.
Moral of the story: What’s tragic is that all Catherine needed to do to survive was keep other guys’ weiners out of her vag bun. But she wasn’t able to do so. And that’s why a lot of people think she was the dumbest of the 6 queens. But I would like to posit that she was very mature for her age and handled her short tenure as queen pretty well, as far as family/diplomacy/being queenly goes.
And as for the whole sleeping with other people thing, let’s not forget that she was also A FUCKING TEENAGER, a Teenage Queen if you will! So who can blame her for wanting to canoodle with a hot little number who was her age? Not me. Sure, it was stupid. She made a big mistake, but ultimately, she was the victim of religious ambitions at court in the midst of the Reformation.
And her pubescent libido.