14Feb

Vain. Vacuous. Vamp.

Posted by by Janet Dooley on 4 January 2012 in category in Henry VIII - 0 0 Comments

Poor Katherine Howard. Contemporary historians were very harsh, calling her all of the above and more. But they had nothing on her husband, Henry VIII, who had the poor girl executed, all because he was a sickly, impotent old man--oh, and that bit about her having an affair. She was executed on February 13, 1542. Happy Valentine's Day indeed.

Catherine Howard miniture painted by Hans Holbein the Younger

Katherine Howard may have been all that she was accused of...but all she was accused of was being a silly, empty-headed girl. And she was that: a girl. Historians put Katherine's age anywhere between 15 and 19 when she married King Henry. He was a man in his 50s, already lame and probably impotent.  While his furs and gifts and lavish attention certainly turned her head for awhile, it did not satisfy her sexually. And she seems to have been a girl with a healthy sexual appetite. 

Raised by a permissive grandmother who paid little attention to her, Katherine was sexually active at a very young age; First having a physical relationship with her music tutor and later being secretly engaged to her grandmother's secretary. Both these men fell to the side when Grandma Howard secured Katherine a position at King Henry's court.

Her curse it seems, was being beautiful. But there was nothing to match that beauty. She had not been educated. She was not religiously devout. And nothing in her background had prepared her for the role or duties of queen. It's not surprising that she failed spectacularly. Not understanding the gravity of being the king's wife, and therefore possible mother to the future heirs of England, Katherine began yet another affair. This time it was with fellow courtier Thomas Culpepper. When their love was discovered, it meant the end for both of them, as well as Jane Boleyn, Viscountess of Rochford, who arranged their secret meetings.

Modern historians are a bit more kind to Katherine, allowing that much of the fault in her relationship lies with the king, however vain and vacuous she might have been. Read More about Katherine Howard and her brief appearance in the Tudor universe.

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