Pagina principale Young and Damned and Fair: The Life of Catherine Howard, Fifth Wife of King Henry VIII

Young and Damned and Fair: The Life of Catherine Howard, Fifth Wife of King Henry VIII

Written with an exciting combination of narrative flair and historical authority, this interpretation of the tragic life of Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII, breaks new ground in our understanding of the very young woman who became queen at a time of unprecedented social and political tension and whose terrible errors in judgment quickly led her to the executioner’s block.

On the morning of July 28, 1540, as King Henry’s VIII’s former confidante Thomas Cromwell was being led to his execution, a teenager named Catherine Howard began her reign as queen of a country simmering with rebellion and terrifying uncertainty. Sixteen months later, the king’s fifth wife would follow her cousin Anne Boleyn to the scaffold, having been convicted of adultery and high treason.

The broad outlines of Catherine’s career might be familiar, but her story up until now has been incomplete. Unlike previous accounts of her life, which portray her as a naïve victim of an ambitious family, this compelling and authoritative biography will shed new light on Catherine Howard’s rise and downfall by reexamining her motives and showing her in her context, a milieu that goes beyond her family and the influential men of the court to include the aristocrats and, most critically, the servants who surrounded her and who, in the end, conspired against her. By illuminating Catherine's entwined upstairs/downstairs worlds as well as societal tensions beyond the palace walls, the author offers a fascinating portrayal of court life in the sixteenth century and a fresh analysis of the forces beyond Catherine’s control that led to her execution—from diplomatic pressure and international politics to the long-festering resentments against the queen’s household at court.

Including a forgotten text of Catherine’s confession in her own words, color illustrations, family tree, map, and extensive notes, Young and Damned and Fair changes our understanding of one of history’s most famous women while telling the compelling and very human story of complex individuals attempting to survive in a dangerous age.
Anno:
2017
Editore:
Simon & Schuster
Lingua:
english
Pagine:
464
ISBN 13:
9780008128272
File:
EPUB, 2.33 MB
Download (epub, 2.33 MB)

You may be interested in Powered by Rec2Me

 

The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn

Anno:
2010
Lingua:
english
File:
EPUB, 1.63 MB

The Six Wives of Henry VIII

Anno:
2000
Lingua:
english
File:
EPUB, 639 KB

Most frequently terms

 
 
You can write a book review and share your experiences. Other readers will always be interested in your opinion of the books you've read. Whether you've loved the book or not, if you give your honest and detailed thoughts then people will find new books that are right for them.
2

Milk and Honey

Year:
2015
Language:
english
File:
EPUB, 1.28 MB
  
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gareth Russell read Modern History at St Peter’s College, Oxford and completed his postgraduate in Medieval History and Queen’s University, Belfast with a study of Catherine Howard’s household. He is the author of two novels set in his native Belfast and several books on royal history. He divides his time between Belfast and New York.






  ILLUSTRATIONS

Portrait of a Young Woman, by Hans Holbein the Younger (style), 1540–45 (© 2016 The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource/Scala, Florence) Portrait of a Lady, Probably a Member of the Cromwell Family, by Hans Holbein the Younger, c.1535–40 (Toledo Museum of Art/Photography Incorporated, Toledo) Portrait of a Lady, a miniature by Holbein which may be a portrait of Catherine (Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016) Framlingham Castle across the Mere (© Adrian S. Pye 2015, licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence) The former Church of Saint Mary-at-Lambeth (The Garden Museum, Lambeth. Author’s collection) Catherine’s childhood guardian, Agnes Howard. Detail from Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk; Agnes Howard (née Tilney), Duchess of Norfolk, lithograph by William Henry Kearney, printed by Charles Joseph Hullmandel (© The National Portrait Gallery, London) Anne Boleyn, English School, 16th century (Hever Castle, Kent, UK/Bridgeman Images) Portrait of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, by Hans Holbein the Younger (Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016) Portrait of William Howard, 1st Baron Howard of Effingham, English School, 16th Century (Private California Collection) Unknown woman, known as Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, artist unknown (© The National Portrait Gallery, London) Portrait of a Woman, probably Catherine Carey, Lady Knollys, by Steven van der Meulen, 1562 (Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection) Portrait of Anne of Cleves, by Bartholomæus Bruyn the Elder (by kind permission of the President of St. John’s College, Oxford) Thomas Cromwell, Ear; l of Essex, studio of Hans Holbein the Younger, c.1537 (© The National Portrait Gallery, London) Portrait of Henry VIII, by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1540 (Palazzo Barberini, Rome/Bridgeman Images) Portrait of a Lady, formerly identified as Lady Jane Grey, attributed to Lucas Horenbout (Yale Center for British Art, the Paul Mellon Collection) Eustace Chapuys, Foundateur du college d’Annecy, housed at the Lycée Berthollet, Annecy, France (Reproduced by kind permission of Lauren Mackay) Sir Thomas Wyatt, after Hans Holbein the Younger, c.1540 (© The National Portrait Gallery, London) Grimsthorpe Castle and Gardens, Lincolnshire, UK (Dave Porter/Alamy Stock Photo) The ruins of the Bishop’s Palace, Lincoln (Author’s collection)

The Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lincoln (Author’s collection) Pontefract Castle, by Alexander Keirincx, c.1620–40 (Wakefield Museums and Galleries, West Yorkshire, UK/Bridgeman Images) Ruins of apartments in the Queen’s Tower at Pontefract Castle (Author’s collection) James V of Scotland, by Corneille de Lyon, c.1536–37 (Private Collection/Photo © Philip Mould Ltd., London/Bridgeman Images) Hampton Court Palace, London (Universal Images Group/Getty Images)

Thomas Cranmer, by Gerlach Flicke (© The National Portrait Gallery, London)

Catherine Howard being conveyed to the Tower, 1542, by Henry Marriott Paget (Private Collection/Bridgeman Images) Traitors’ Gate entrance, Tower of London (Jeff Gilbert/Alamy Stock Photo)



  PICTURE SECTION

[image: 001.jpg]

Currently housed in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, this portrait of a seventeen-year-old courtier may depict Catherine Howard.

 

[image: 002.jpg]

Identified as Catherine Howard in the early twentieth century, the lady in this portrait by Holbein is far more likely to be Thomas Cromwell’s daughter-in-law, Elizabeth, or Jane Grey’s mother, Frances.

 

[image: 003.jpg]

A miniature, also by Holbein, showing a lady wearing jewels from the royal collection. It may be a portrait of Catherine, painted around the time of her marriage.

 

[image: 004.jpg]

The ruins of Framlingham Castle, the Howard family’s one-time seat in Suffolk.

 

[image: 005.jpg]

The former Church of Saint Mary-at-Lambeth, the site of many Howard burials and, almost certainly, Catherine’s christening.

 

[image: 006.jpg]

Catherine’s childhood guardian Agnes Howard, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. One of the wealthiest women in the country, Agnes’s love of gossip and intrigue brought her close to total ruin.

 

[image: 007.jpg]

Catherine’s glamorous but divisive cousin, Anne Boleyn, who was executed in 1536. The two women shared a sense of elegance and confidence, but Anne was substantially more intelligent.

 

[image: 008.jpg]

The influence on her life of Catherine’s uncle Thomas, 3rd Duke of Norfolk and head of the Howard family, has been greatly exaggerated. Evidence suggests that he knew, and understood, his niece poorly.

 

[image: 009.jpg]

A diplomat and a soldier, Lord William Howard was the uncle who knew Catherine best. For most of her queenship, he served as one of the English ambassadors to France.

 

[image: 010.jpg]

A portrait believed to be of the devout Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, who was accused of treason and imprisoned in 1538. Her interrogators attempted, but failed, to implicate Catherine’s family in her disgrace. Three centuries after her death, Lady Salisbury was beatified by Pope Leo XIII.

 

[image: 011.jpg]

Catherine’s second cousin, Katherine Carey – they joined the court at the same time as maids of honour. Carey married soon after their début and she is shown here, during one of her sixteen subsequent pregnancies. She was later a favourite lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth I.

 

[image: 012.jpg]

Catherine initially served in the household of Henry VIII’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. Many of Anne’s ladies-in-waiting regarded her German dresses as ornate, but hideous.

 

[image: 013.jpg]

Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s chief minister, was executed on Catherine’s wedding day in 1540. The Duke of Norfolk was active in the plots against him.

 

[image: 014.jpg]

‘The English Nero’: King Henry VIII, painted in the year of his marriage to Catherine.

 

[image: 015.jpg]

This miniature, once identified as Catherine, may be a likeness of her eldest stepdaughter, Mary Tudor. They were not particularly friendly towards one another, a fact which became painfully evident during Catherine’s first Christmas as queen.

 

[image: 016.jpg]

Eustace Chapuys, the Hapsburg Emperor’s ambassador in London. He first met Catherine at Hampton Court Palace in December 1540 and later wrote detailed reports on her downfall.

 

[image: 017.jpg]

As queen, Catherine was credited with saving the life of the poet, courtier and diplomat Sir Thomas Wyatt, following his arrest and imprisonment.

 

[image: 018.jpg]

By the time they were reunited at Grimsthorpe Castle as guests of the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk in 1541, Queen Catherine had developed feelings of dislike for her uncle Norfolk and some of her ladies-in-waiting apparently repeated her remarks to him.

 

[image: 019.jpg]

The ruins of the Bishop’s Palace in Lincoln, where Catherine also stayed as a guest and where she held one of her nocturnal meetings with Thomas Culpepper.

 

[image: 020.jpg]

Magnificent Lincoln Cathedral where Catherine, wearing a silver gown, publicly prayed on 9 August 1541, as part of the royal tour of the north.

 

[image: 021.jpg]

Pontefract Castle, painted by Alexander Keirincx, shortly before it was demolished as a consequence of serving as a royalist stronghold during the English Civil War. Pontefract was allegedly where Catherine had planned adultery with Thomas Culpepper and where she was reunited with Francis Dereham.

 

[image: 022.jpg]

The ruins of Catherine’s apartments at Pontefract.

 

[image: 023.jpg]

James V, King of Scots, whose trip to York was to have been Catherine’s first experience of a state visit as queen. The invitation came at a time of rapidly deteriorating relations between England and Scotland.

 

[image: 024.jpg]

The entrance to Hampton Court Palace, where Catherine’s downfall began, one day after she was publicly praised for the happiness she had brought to the king.

 

[image: 025.jpg]

Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, Catherine’s reluctant but relentless interrogator. He had romantic secrets of his own – namely an illegal wife and family – but he doggedly pursued the details of Catherine’s mistakes and he was the first man to suggest to the king that Catherine might have committed adultery.

 

[image: 026.jpg]

Catherine Howard being conveyed to the Tower – by the nineteenth century, when this drawing was made, Catherine had become an object of fascination and, often, sympathy. In 1877, her grave was marked for the first time, on the orders of Queen Victoria.

 

[image: 027.jpg]

Catherine spent the last three nights of her life at the Tower of London, where the constable Sir John Gage treated her with the courtesy and honours due to a queen.



ABOUT THE PUBLISHER

Australia

HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty. Ltd.

Level 13, 201 Elizabeth Street Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia http://www.harpercollins.com.au

Canada

HarperCollins Canada 2 Bloor Street East - 20th Floor Toronto, ON, M4W, 1A8, Canada http://www.harpercollins.ca

New Zealand HarperCollins Publishers (New Zealand) Limited P.O. Box 1

Auckland, New Zealand http://www.harpercollins.co.nz

United Kingdom HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

1 London Bridge Street London, SE1 9GF, UK

http://www.harpercollins.co.uk

United States HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

195 Broadway New York, NY 10007

http://www.harpercollins.com





  COPYRIGHT

William Collins An imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers

1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF

www.WilliamCollinsBooks.com

This eBook first published in Great Britain by William Collins in 2017

Copyright © Gareth Russell 2017

Maps and family trees by Martin Brown Extract from Die Lorelei from Collected Poems and Drawings by Stevie Smith, London, Faber and Faber Ltd, 2015. Kind permission granted by the publishers.

Cover image shows ‘Portrait of a Young Woman, 1540–45, oil on wood’, Holbein, Hans the Younger (1497–1543). New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Jules Bache Collection, 1949 (49.7.30) © 2016 The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource/Scala, Florence.

Gareth Russell asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins.

Source ISBN: 9780008128272

Ebook Edition © January 2017 ISBN: 9780008128296

Version: 2016-12-09



Chapter 3



  Lord Edmund’s Daughter

[image: 16548.jpg]

Anger makes dull men witty, but it keeps them poor.

– Elizabeth I (1533–1603) Edmund Howard cannot have been thrilled at the arrival of another daughter. Girls required dowries and Edmund was already struggling financially. Catherine had the bad luck to be born to a man who peaked long before he became a father. Edmund was a toxic combination of corrupt, unstable, and pathetic, but he had not always been that. Those who knew him in his youth described Catherine’s father as ‘a courage and an hardy young lusty gentleman’.1 One of seven sons, but the third to reach adulthood, he had his father’s and brothers’ athletic capabilities, but lacked their acute social intelligence. He had spent most of his childhood at court as a pageboy in the service of King Henry VII, like his elder brother Edward, and the upward trajectory of his family after Bosworth seemed to promise a life of plenty. During the festivities for Henry VIII’s coronation in 1509, Edmund and his two elder brothers were part of a group of ‘fresh young gallants and noble men gorgeously apparelled’ who were asked to lead a tourney at the Palace of Westminster.2 The roll call of those invited to fight alongside him suggests that only the best jousters were chosen, and with good reason, given how much had been spent.

Jousting mingled with a pageant was a relatively new kind of entertainment at the English court, with its combination of set pieces atop moving stages, music, dialogue, and mock combat. In Europe, it had long ago been transformed into an art form, with some celebrations recreating the city of Troy or the twelve labours of Hercules, complete with mechanised monsters and giants. Artistic ingenuity rubbed uneasily with a sportsman’s zeal, and it was not always clear how choreographed the fighting should be. At a tournament performed before Pope Clement V, even the horses had been reduced to moving props manoeuvred by six men concealed beneath cloth; a recent pageant for Cesare Borgia in the city of Ferrara saw the ‘dead’ combatants fall to the ground in a beautifully executed dance, before standing to take their bows. In contrast, an entertainment in honour of Queen Isabeau of France saw real knights sparring in front of the royal party for several hours.3 In England, the men of Henry VIII’s court seemed keener to follow the French example than the Italian.

Rather than a typical outdoor arena, like those used for a joust, the men fought in an elaborate fairy-tale set, as members of the court looked on and placed bets. A miniature castle had been built within the courtyard – miniature, at least, in comparison to its inspiration. Tudor roses and engraved pomegranates, Katherine of Aragon’s device, lined its walls, while a fountain splashed water in front of it. In the spirit of Sybaris, the little castle’s gargoyles spouted red, white, and claret wines to the delight of the audience. The entirely artificial ivy that wrapped this folie was ‘gilded with fine gold’. Edmund, by no means the least competitive of the group, rode forward from the castle to ask the king’s permission to fight for the honour of the court belle who had been given the role of Pallas Athena, the chaste embodiment of wisdom. Royal permission gave way to a testosterone-fuelled spectacle of egotism. The participants’ vitality and their determination were well matched, and the joust only halted at nightfall. The next day, the king and queen prevented the match resuming by stepping in to pre-emptively select the winners for themselves.4

In the years to come, the court lost none of its allure for Edmund. A brief, half-hearted and failed attempt to pursue a legal career did not get much further than enrolling in London’s prestigious Middle Temple in 1511.5 Within ten days of his admission to the Temple, Edmund was back at court to participate in another set of jousts, this time to mark the birth of the Duke of Cornwall, the king’s short-lived son and heir. Henry VIII, a tall and muscular youth blessed with the good looks of his grandfather Edward IV, was, at nineteen, keen to participate rather than simply observe as he had two years earlier.6 In recognition of Edmund’s skills, he was asked to lead the defenders; his brother-in-law, Sir Thomas Boleyn, was on the same team, as was Charles Brandon, the king’s handsome and womanising favourite. Once again, the royal household spared no expense to celebrate such an important event. The queen and her ladies gazed down from a box hung with arras and cloth of gold on a forest crafted from green velvet, satin, and ‘silks of divers colours’, complete with artificial rocks, hills, dales, arranged flowers, imported ferns, and grass. In the middle of the forest, the workmen had rendered another miniature castle ‘made of gold’. A manmade lion, ‘flourished all over with Damask gold’, and an antelope clothed in silver damask were flanked by men disguised as wildlings from a mythical forest, who escorted the bejewelled beasts as they dragged the final pieces of the pageant into place in front of the queen. Horns blasted, and parts of the set fell away to reveal four knights on horseback ‘armed at all places, every of them in cloth of gold, every of them his name embroidered’. These were Edmund’s opponents, the challengers, and their captain was the young king, joined by another of Edmund’s brothers-in-law, Sir Thomas Knyvet, and a clique of companions, all of whom had been given aliases that married amorous devotion with masculine honour. The king led the charge with his pseudonym of Coeur Loyale (‘Loyal Heart’), while Sir Edward Neville, another teammate, got ‘Valiant Desire’.7 Knyvet, who got the part of Ardent Desire, joked that his character’s name would be better suited to his codpiece.8 The sounds of the trumpets gave way to the beating of the drums that announced the arrival of these challengers, dressed in armour and crimson satin.

Edmund’s slot came on the following day, 13 February, when the entertainments began with Thomas Boleyn and the Marquess of Dorset arriving in the costumes of pilgrims en route to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela, a holy site in the queen’s Spanish homeland reputed to be the burial place of Saint James the Apostle. They knelt before the ‘mighty and excellent princess and noble Queen of England’ to ask permission to joust in her presence; the queen graciously acquiesced and her husband returned to the fantastic tiltyard.9 An account of the joust, containing a tally of the scores of each knight, divided along the lines of their respective teams, survives today in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. In thin scratches of black ink, it lists Edmund Howard’s mistakes.10

The athletic Charles Brandon parried well, superbly in fact, but after an acceptable length of time in the tilt, without fail he yielded to the king by a margin or tied with him, a masterstroke of hail-and-hearty camaraderie that suggested that when the king triumphed it was because he was the better sportsman. Every one else followed suit and let the king win, except Edmund, who beat him every time. Lances splintered and sweat-drenched men cried out, while noblemen and ‘well-apparelled’ servants watched as Edmund Howard repeatedly sent the nineteen-year-old monarch crashing to the ground.11 It was said that a banquet afterwards ended with ‘mirth and gladness’, but that was mainly because the decision to let some of the common people take away as souvenirs the solid gold letters and decorations hanging from the courtiers’ costumes had resulted in poor Thomas Knyvet practically being stripped naked by zealous trophy hunters.12

Nearly all the men who participated in the Westminster jousts of February 1511 went on to rise further in the king’s graces, with the exception of Edmund. Three months later, Edmund was not asked to join in another set of jousts at the king’s side, while his elder brothers and his brothers-in-law were. Two years after those Westminster jousts, and the funeral of the little baby prince they had celebrated but who did not live to see his eighth week, the king went off to war against France, and he did not invite Edmund to accompany him. Henry VIII’s dreams of recapturing the martial glory days of Edward III or Henry V proved costly to the Howard family – Edmund’s elder brother Edward, who had become a favourite of the king’s, drowned in a naval battle against the forces of Louis XII. Despite the attacks Edward had led against Scottish ships, King James IV chivalrously told Henry VIII in a letter that Edward Howard’s life and talents had been wasted in Henry’s pointless war.13 Edmund’s brother-in-law and former jousting companion, Thomas Knyvet, was likewise lost at sea when his ship went up in flames at the Battle of Saint-Mathieu. Knyvet’s widow and Edmund’s sister, Muriel, died in childbirth four months later. Another of Edmund’s brothers, Henry, seems to have died of natural causes the following February, and been buried at Lambeth, less than a year after the death of another brother, Charles.14

The war that took his brother’s life provided Edmund Howard with the opportunity to achieve the high point of his career. In the king’s absence, the northernmost English county of Northumberland was invaded by Scotland, France’s ally, who ‘spoiled burnt and robbed divers and sundry towns and places’.15 It was quite possibly the largest foreign army ever to invade English soil – 400 oxen were needed to drag the mammoth cannon across the border.16 Queen Katherine of Aragon, left behind as regent, ‘raised a great power to resist the said King of Scots’, and placed it under the command of Edmund’s father.17 Katherine had been forced to marshal an army quickly, and they were bedevilled by the war’s ongoing problem of poor supplies. By the time they actually engaged the Scots, many of the 26,000 English soldiers had been without wine, ale, or beer for five days.18 In an age when weak ale, or ‘small beer’, was often supplied to prevent people drinking from dubious or unknown water supplies, its absence as the army moved north was felt keenly.19

At the Battle of Flodden, which took place on 9 September 1513, Edmund was given command of the right flank on the ‘uttermost part of the field at the west side’, with three subordinate knights serving as lieutenants over fifteen hundred men, mostly from Lancashire and Cheshire.20 When they were ‘fiercely’ attacked by the soldiers of Lord Hume, Edmund’s personal standard, and his standard-bearer, were hacked to pieces on the field, at which point most of Edmund’s men turned and fled.21 If his talents as a leader failed, his courage did not. With only a handful of loyal servants remaining by his side, Edmund was ‘stricken to the ground’ on three separate occasions. Each time, according to a contemporary account, ‘he recovered and fought hand to hand with one Sir Davy Home, and slew him’.22 A wounded soldier called John Heron returned to fight at Edmund’s side, declaring, ‘There was never noble man’s son so like to be lost as you be this day, for all my hurts I shall here live and die with you.’23 Edmund’s life was only saved by the arrival of cavalry headed by Lord Dacre, who rode in ‘like a good and an hardy knight’ to rescue Edmund from annihilation and bring him through the cadavers to kneel at his father’s feet, where he learned that ‘by the grace, succour and help of Almighty God, victory was given to the Realm of England’ and received a knighthood, an honour bestowed on about forty-five of his comrades who had also shown exceptional bravery in the melee.24

The scale of the Scottish defeat stunned as much as their mighty guns had when they first crossed the border – the corpse of King James was found ‘having many wounds, and naked’, lying in egalitarian horror with about eight thousand of his subjects, including nine earls, fourteen lords, a bishop, two abbots, and an archbishop.25 There was hardly a family in the Scottish nobility who escaped bereavement after Flodden; particularly heartbreaking was the example of the Maxwell clan – Lord Maxwell fell in combat within minutes of all four of his brothers.26 In the immediate aftermath of the carnage, many English soldiers were spotted wearing badges that showed the white lion, the Howards’ heraldic crest, devouring the red lion, an ancient symbol of Scotland.27 English writers later praised the Scots’ ‘singular valour’, but at the time soldiers on the field were so repulsed by the violence that they refused to grant amnesty to the captured prisoners.28 Queen Katherine shared the attitude of the troops with the victorious lion badges. Edmund’s father wanted to give King James’s remains a proper burial; he, and several councillors, had to talk the queen out of her original plan of sending the body to Henry as a token of victory. The queen relented. She dispatched James’s blood-soaked coat to her husband instead of his body and jokingly cast herself as a good little housewife in the accompanying letter, which contained the rather repulsive quip, ‘In this your grace shall see how I can keep my pennies, sending you for your banners a King’s coat. I thought to send himself unto you, but our Englishmen’s hearts would not suffer it.’29

Flodden provided the exorcism for Bosworth, and a few months later, on the Feast of Candlemas, the Howards’ dukedom was restored to them.30 Edmund’s bravery was commented upon by his contemporaries, but an anonymous and spiteful letter, regaling the king with the story of how Edmund’s men had deserted him, ‘caused great heart burning and many words’.31 The king was furious, and it took a lot for his courtiers to calm him down to the point where he ruled that no one should be punished for the crime and humiliation of flight from the field. Nonetheless, the deliberately leaked news meant that there was no escaping the fact the Edmund’s division had been the only section of the English forces to sustain a defeat at Flodden. This might explain why Edmund’s sole reward from the Crown was a daily pension of three shillings and four pence, an amount that could generously be described as nominal.32

Still, he was able to bask in the reflected glow of his father and benefit from the general climate of exultation, or relief, after the battle. In the autumn of the following year, the government gave Edmund £100 to equip himself in suitable finery for jousting at another major royal event, the marriage of the king’s youngest sister to King Louis XII of France, as the living seal on the postwar treaty. In Edmund’s own words, he was ‘to prepare myself to do feat of arms in the parts of France at jousts and tourneys’ during the celebrations.33 In a theme that was to repeat itself throughout most of their subsequent diplomacy, the English and French vied to outshine one another, with the result that peace between them was less bloody but hardly more cordial than war. Edmund was sent with his father, stepmother, and half sister, the Countess of Oxford, in a delegation that included a hundred horses, numerous retainers, and suitably lavish outfits to conform with the government’s request that everything should be done to advertise the wealth of Henry’s kingdom.34

At least by then Edmund had steady employment as a justice of the peace in Surrey, thanks in no small way to his family’s influence there.35 Tasked with preserving order in the localities, the JPs and their deputies were supposed to arrest criminals, keep a watch on troublemakers, maintain law and order, supervise foreign nationals, levy fines, and make sure food prices were being set at a fair rate. For the next few years Edmund appears in government documents arranging for safe conduct for a group of Prussian friars on a pilgrimage to Scotland, interrogating six suspected French spies, adjudicating on the alleged kidnapping of a maid by her employers who disapproved of her choice of husband, confining a constable called William Bever to the stocks on Lambeth High Street as punishment for ransacking a man’s house in the search for French agents, and obeying government orders to carry out a hunt for vagrants.36

Approaching forty, he found a wife in Joyce Leigh, a widow with five children from her first marriage to another local official.37 Joyce, whom the Howards tended to refer to by the slightly grander name of ‘Jocasta’, was nearly the same age as her new husband; she had first been married off at the age of twelve, then left a woman of substance by both her father and her first husband.38 Her money as well as her standing within the Lambeth community were useful to Edmund, since by 1514 there were signs that he was accumulating debts and that the blue-blooded security conveyed by his visit to France for the royal wedding was a slowly unravelling illusion.39

In November 1519, shortly after his marriage to Joyce, riots in Surrey resulted in Edmund being hauled in front of the Star Chamber, a panel set up to administer justice to the kingdom’s elite if there was a fear that common courts and judges might be too intimidated to hand down a fair sentence on a nobleman. As a body, the chamber was particularly concerned with the maintenance of public order. Consisting of legal experts from the common courts and members of the Privy Council, the royally appointed body of men that still constituted the main organ of government in early Tudor England, the Star Chamber could pass its defendants over to the commons if they felt their misdemeanours constituted crimes that could and should be adequately and publicly punished. The Star Chamber played on concepts of honour and the corresponding power of shame to bully errant peers into compliance. Even if they were pardoned, as many of them were, the summonses alone were enough to set tongues wagging.

The relationship between rulers and ruled in Tudor England was characterised by elaborate anxiety. Political theorists, such as Sir Thomas Elyot who published his treatise on good government in 1531, preached that ‘everything is order, and without order nothing may be stable or permanent’.40 This belief was occasionally both shaken and strengthened by the fact that the century proved to be one of social mobility, wider literacy, growing towns, and an expanding population. Elite views of social unrest were inevitably influenced by their own childhood curriculums that were generally heavy on the classics, in which rebellion was cited as a chief cause for the fall of Ancient Rome, encouraging a belief that popular protest led to mob rule, ‘which of all rules is most to be feared’.41 No one wanted the poor to be miserable, but nearly everyone wanted them to be obedient. In both town and countryside, outdoor and entertaining activities were encouraged in every season, because it was understood that people needed to enjoy themselves and, in doing so, dissipate their energy.

The belief that the plebeian urban classes were naturally credulous, easily distracted, and prone to overreaction placed the blame for any outburst of civil unrest squarely on the shoulders of their immediate superiors. Edmund and a colleague ‘were indicted of riots, and maintenance of bearings of diverse misdoers within the county of Surrey’.42 The recent disturbances in the county were a poor reflection on the king’s deputies, and Edmund’s fiery temper, or ill standing with the sovereign, did not help. Both defendants were shamed but pardoned, while another, Lord Ogle, was passed over to the common courts after riots blamed on his dereliction of duty resulted in the death of a bystander.43

The years following the Star Chamber hearing saw Edmund’s career stagnate and his debts increase. Joyce Howard’s properties were mortgaged and remortgaged, despite opposition from her mother and stepfather. Years earlier, after the death of Joyce’s father, Richard Culpepper, who had been a wealthy landowner in Kent, her mother Isabel had remarried to Sir John Leigh then swiftly arranged a wedding between Joyce and John’s younger brother, Ralph. This meant that John and Isabel had a doubly vested interest in monitoring Joyce’s inheritance, with Isabel mindful of the Culpepper estates and John equally concerned about the disposal of the Leigh bequests from Joyce’s first husband.44 The couple evidently came to distrust Edmund Howard, and both their wills attempted to limit his ability to interfere in their daughter or grandchildren’s inheritance.

This distrust was not entirely undeserved – Edmund’s debts had all but taken over his life by 1527. Despite being a public figure tasked with the maintenance of the law, on one occasion Catherine’s father had only dodged arrest as a debtor thanks to a tip-off from a friend.45 Aristocratic poverty, of course, was not quite the same as the agony of the actual condition, and the names of at least two of Lord Edmund’s servants crop up in subsequent correspondence.46 But by the end of the 1520s, he was undeniably struggling and badly so, to the extent that he began to borrow heavily from his friends, even persuading one, John Shookborough, to stand as surety for his debts.47 The idea of getting another job, a profession that would pay a consistent wage, was considered abhorrent, something that would bring ‘great reproach and shame to me and all my blood’, in Edmund’s words. At least on the surface, he claimed to resent the position he was born into, citing his aristocratic heritage as something that had condemned him to a life of genteel struggle.

Perhaps such woeful excuse-making was why his relatives’ aid seems to have dried up between 1524 and 1531, a time when Edmund became increasingly desperate. During one spell of hiding to avoid the possibility of being apprehended by his creditors, he sent his wife to petition Cardinal Wolsey, the king’s then chief minister, on his behalf. According to his accompanying letter to the cardinal, unless Edmund received financial help he would either have to seek sanctuary in a religious institution or flee abroad. The panic and unhappiness apparent in Edmund’s letter remains uncomfortable to read. Quotations from it are usually cited in the various biographies of Catherine, but it is by reading the majority of the text – including his astonishing offer to serve on a mission to the Americas – that one can fully appreciate the depth of Edmund Howard’s desperation. Addressed to ‘My Lord Cardinal’s Grace’, in haste, it reads: My duty remembered, humbly I beseech your grace to [be] my good Lord, for with out your gracious help I am utterly undone. Sir so it is that I am so far in danger of the King’s laws by reason of the debt that I am in, that I dare not go a broad, nor come at mine own house, and am fain to absent me from my wife and my poor children, there is such writs of executions out against me; and also such as be my sureties are daily arrested, and put to great trouble, which is to my great shame and rebuke. Sir there is no help but through your Grace and your good mediation to the King’s Grace, in the which is my singular trust: and your gracious favour showed unto me … shall not only be meritorious but shall be the safeguard of my life and relief of my poor wife and our ten children, and set me out of debt. And humbly I beseech your Grace for such poor service as I have done the King’s Grace, and trust for to do, that I be not cast away; and if the King’s Grace or your Grace should command me to do any service I would trust to do acceptable service; and liver I had to be in his Grace’s service at the farthest end of Christendom than to live thus wretchedly, and die with thought, sorrow and care. I may repent that ever I was nobleman’s son born, leading the sorrowful life that I live, and if I were a poor man’s son I might dig and delve for my living and my children and my wife’s, for whom I take more thought than for my self: and so may I not do but to great reproach and shame to me and all my blood. Sir if there be any creature living that can lay to me other treason, murder, felony, rape, extortion, bribery, or in maintaining or supporting any of these, and to be approved on me, then let me have the extremity of the King’s laws; and I trust there shall none lay against me any thing to be approved to my reproach but only debt. Sir I am informed there shall be a voyage made in to a newfound land with divers ships and captains and sogears [soldiers or sea-goers?] in them; and I am informed the voyage shall be honourable and profitable to the King’s Grace and all his realm. Sir if your Grace think my poor carcass any thing meet to serve the King’s Grace in the said voyage, for the better passion of Christ be you my good lord there in, for now I do live a wretched a life as ever did gentleman being a true man, and nothing I have to live on, nor to find me my wife and my children meat or drink; and glad I would be to venture my life to do the King’s service, and if I be put there unto I doubt not but I shall do such service as shall be acceptable and redound to his Grace[’s] honour. And Sir I have nothing to lose but my life, and that I would gladly adventure in his service trusting thereby to win some honesty, and to get somewhat toward my living; and if it shall please the King’s Grace to have my body do him service in the said voyage, humbly I beseech your Grace that I may know your pleasure therein. Sir I ensure you there shall be nothing nor nother friend nor kin let me, but with a willing heart I will go, so it shall stand with the King’s pleasure and yours. The King’s Grace being so good lord to me through your good mediation … and assign my bill the which I now do sue for, or to set me out of debt some other ways. Sir I beseech your Grace to pardon me that I came not to your Grace myself according to my duty, but surely Sir I dare not go a broad, and therefore I have been thus bold to write to your Grace. All the premises considered I humbly beseech your Grace to be my good lord, for the passion of Christ and in the way of charity and piety. I beseech your Grace to pardon me for this my bold writing, but very poverty and need forceth me thus to do, as knoweth our Lord Jesus, who have you in his blessed tuysseone. Written with the hand of him that is assuredly yours, Edmund Howard, Knight.48

If help did come from Wolsey, it was piecemeal. Edmund was head of a large household, which added to his financial woes. The elder girls, Isabella and Margaret, along with Catherine’s full siblings Charles, Henry, George, another Margaret, and their younger sister Mary, were all still living at home. Interestingly, a later survey also mentions Jane Howard, a sister born after Mary, who, if she existed at all, must have been born after 1527 and died in infancy, perhaps sometime after 1530.49 Catherine’s two eldest half brothers, John and Ralph, had moved out when she was a child. On turning twenty-four, John inherited a manor in Stockwell from his grandfather, and Ralph had been left a trust fund to finance his training as a lawyer in London. Her half sister Joyce was also married and out of the house.50 Even by including Jane, Edmund’s claim that he had to maintain ten children in 1527 does not seem to be entirely accurate, but debt seldom stimulates a compulsion toward honesty.

Catherine’s early life is thus difficult to trace – one of the youngest in a large family amid a wealth of contradictions. She possessed one of the most respected surnames in the country, but at least initially it brought her little in terms of material comfort or security. Her father was theoretically one of the pillars of the local community, but in practice he spent most of her childhood hiding from his creditors and resorting to increasingly desperate methods to get his hands on the money they needed. Whether her time in her father’s household was happy or not, we have no way of knowing. It was certainly short. Her mother died in about 1528 or 1529 and her father swiftly remarried, to another widow, Dorothy Troyes. This marriage, too, seems to have been short, since Dorothy’s will was made in the early summer of 1530, by which point Catherine’s first cousin, Anne Boleyn, was firmly established at court as queen-to-be.51 Anne possessed the natural assertiveness that bordered on bossiness common in someone who was often found, or believed herself, to be more competent than those around her. She set out to find her hapless uncle Edmund a job, and when the death of Sir William Hussey opened up a vacancy for the post of comptroller to the civic authorities at the port of Calais, she pounced.52 Putting Edmund in the post of comptroller with its heavy financial duties was a little like putting the poacher in charge of the game. With unintentional irony, the decision was finalised on April Fool’s Day 1531.53

For Edmund, the chance to get safely across the Channel could not have come at a more opportune time. Within a few months of his departure, his friend John Shookborough had been arrested as guarantor for Edmund’s debts. Realising that the net was closing around him, and horrified to discover the extent of his friend’s financial deceptions, Shookborough tried to catch the attention of Thomas Cromwell as he attended Mass at the Augustinian friary near his home in Austin Friars, hopeful that a message could be passed on to the court through him. Unfortunately, Cromwell did not see Shookborough in the crowd, and as the latter returned into the city, he was arrested for £26 of Lord Edmund’s debts. In a letter to Cromwell he admitted, ‘I am surety for more, and dare not go abroad in the city.’ To avoid prison, Shookborough had to pledge two of his family’s best items of clothing to the creditors, and he offered Cromwell a gelding ‘for your favour’ in helping him out of the mess in which friendship with Edmund had landed him.54

Edmund arrived in Calais on St Nicholas’s Day 1531, amid the December chill, with an introductory letter from Anne Boleyn clutched in his hands. He took it to the town’s vice treasurer, Thomas Fowler, who was canny enough to realise the tacit instructions implicit in Anne’s avalanche of complimentary charm: ‘At his coming here on St Nicholas Day,’ he told his brother, ‘he [Edmund] brought me a letter from my lady Anne, directed to you and me, which my lord commanded me to open, giving us great thanks for our kindness to my lord Edmund.’55

At some point between April and December 1531, between the announcement of Edmund’s new post and his assumption of his duties, his household in Surrey was broken up. Two of the girls were married – Isabella Leigh to Sir Edward Baynton, a widowed courtier with seven young children, and Margaret Howard to Thomas Arundell, a close friend of the Earl of Northumberland and son of a Cornish gentry family who were wealthy enough not to need a sizeable dowry.56 Edmund’s other children were old enough to begin the process of education in another’s household; we do not know where the others went, but both Catherine and, at some unknown point, her brother Henry, were invited to live as wards of their wealthiest female relative, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk.



Chapter 4


The Howards of Horsham

[image: 16548.jpg]

But oh, young babies, whom blood … hath endowed with grace, comeliness, and high ability … it were great pity but that ye added to sovereign beauty virtue and good manners.

– Dr Furnivall, ‘The Babees’ Book or A Little Report on how young people should behave’ (c.1475) When Catherine Howard arrived in the Sussex village of Horsham in 1531, she had every reason to feel thankful for the fact that her gender had spared her a grammar school education similar to those endured by her grandfather and many of her peers.1 Contemporary gossip was rife with horror stories of how young, upper-class boys were disciplined at their boarding schools – the philosopher Erasmus of Rotterdam relayed tales of students beaten nearly to the point of unconsciousness by their masters, forced to swallow salt, vinegar, or urine as a form of punishment, and how the schools ran on ‘howling and sobbing and cruel threatenings’.2 When Elizabeth I, ‘being a learned Princess’, visited Westminster School a few decades later, schools’ reputation for unchecked corporal punishment was so widespread that she bypassed the official meet-and-greet to talk directly to one pupil ‘of a fair, and ingenious countenance’. The queen stroked the young man’s head and ‘demanded him to tell her how often he had been whipped’. The boy paused, but ‘being witty’ he answered the royal query by quoting Virgil’s Aeneid, ‘Most gracious Queen, you do desire to know, / A grief unspeakable and full of woe.’3

Instead, Catherine, about eight or nine years old in 1531, could expect her education to be conducted privately through a set of tutors chosen by her grandmother, whose principal manor, Chesworth House, sat on the edge of Horsham village, where life continued in much the same way as it had for decades. The Howard influence in Horsham remained strong. They hand-selected its Member of Parliament, often predictably picking a member of their extended family. The provisions needed to feed, clothe, and heat the dowager and her staff accounted for a significant chunk of the area’s economy, a relationship replicated across Tudor England, where the nobility stimulated and sustained the employment of tens of thousands of people – not just those who farmed and traded in the supplies they needed, but also those who served them. From the figures available to us, it seems that nearly two-thirds of people aged between fifteen and twenty-four worked as servants in this period, either to the aristocracy or to the middle classes, and somewhere between a quarter and half of the total population were in domestic service at some point in their lives.4

Like most girls with a similar background, Catherine had grown up with servants, but the sheer number she saw as she was led across the drawbridge of her grandmother’s pretty moated manor at Chesworth could not have been a familiar sight.5 Even if widows usually kept smaller households than a married noblewoman, the scale of the dowager’s establishment would have been difficult to comprehend for a young girl who had spent her infancy at the mercy of her father’s financial fluctuations. As the fourth highest-ranking woman in the kingdom, Agnes Howard did not keep a small household.6 It would have been considered unseemly for her to do so. Etiquette guides from the time suggested it was appropriate for a duke or duchess to have about 240 servants.7 As with most manners manuals, this was only a guideline, and some peers, such as the late Duke of Buckingham who employed nearly 500, preferred to live on the larger side.8

In the courtyard at Chesworth House, or Chesworth Place as it was sometimes known, Catherine got her first sight of the dozens of men and women who attended her grandmother.9 The chief household officers, like the steward who essentially ran the establishment, the treasurer, and the chaplain, Father Borough, who looked after the house’s religious valuables and spiritual needs, wore cloaks sporting the dowager’s personal coat of arms in bright threads as they walked to or from their offices, all of which were located within the house proper. The chaplain’s deputy, the almoner, was in charge of arranging for charity to be given to the local poor and for any food that was left uneaten to be distributed at the manor gates. Valets, whose job was very different to their more famous Edwardian counterparts, might be on their way to check on the grain stock in the stables, while young grooms cleaned out the stalls nearby. Little pageboys, the only servants likely to be on a pittance of a salary or none at all, ran through the house carrying messages, fulfilling errands from their superiors, and trying to find time to attend training to work in another part of the household once they were older. The servants certainly had enough tasks to keep them occupied. Chesworth had its own orchard, slaughterhouse, large kitchens, a pantry to oversee the production and storage of bread, a buttery that stored the manor’s ale, beers, and wine, and a great hall where the household dined and the dowager could entertain her guests. A career in service was not considered in any way demeaning – society was hierarchical, and the rewards and security offered by employment with the aristocracy were substantial. All the servants wore uniforms and they were expected to conform to expectations that a good servant should be ‘neatly clad, his clothes not torn, hands and faces well washed and head well kempt’.10

As Catherine was ushered down Chesworth’s long corridors, the signs of her grandmother’s fortune were everywhere. This was a woman so wealthy that she kept £800 in silver around the house in case of an emergency; to give an idea of the scale of that hoarding, one of Catherine’s aunts had been expected to maintain a family and a household on about £50 a few years earlier, another lived comfortably on £196.11 Cleaners bustled around placing reeds and rushes on the floor or sweeping them away for hygiene’s sake once they became too dirty. When they entered the dowager’s presence, Catherine and her brother were expected to bow or curtsey and to repeat that action in miniature every time she asked them a question, ‘otherwise, stand as still a stone’.12 Like their servants, they were taught that it was impolite to sigh, cough, or breathe too loudly in the lady of the house’s presence.13

The abundance on display at Chesworth underscored why Edmund Howard was considered such a failure by his contemporaries. Consumption and display were part of the nobility’s duty, a clause in the social contract, by which they generated work for those around them and upheld the class system whose origins were believed to mirror Heaven’s. As part of his Christmas celebrations a few years earlier, Catherine’s uncle Thomas, Duke of Norfolk, had hosted a dinner for 580 guests one night and then another for 399 five days later.14 A frugal aristocrat was a source of universal contempt in the sixteenth century; an indebted one even more so.

The Dowager Duchess of Norfolk was only fifty-four years old when Catherine first came into her care. The daughter of two gentry families from Lincolnshire, Agnes had come to the late duke’s attention when his first wife, Agnes’s kinswoman, passed away. Agnes’s brother Philip had then been the duke’s steward, a position often given to members of one’s extended affinity, and despite – or because of – the fact that he was nearly thirty-five years older, the duke was sufficiently smitten with Agnes’s charms to marry her regardless of the fact that she brought him little in the way of a dowry. She was thus technically Catherine’s step-grandmother, since Edmund was born from the duke’s first marriage.

Agnes’s late husband had left her twenty-four manors, and the tetchy, opinionated dowager used them to finance a life of luxury and convenience, expressing her opinions as and when they came to her. She wrote chatty letters full of unsolicited medical advice to Cardinal Wolsey, perhaps patronised poets including, quite possibly, the famous John Skelton, and made sarcastic quips at the expense of everyone from the royal court to her stepson the Duke of Norfolk.15 During an outbreak of the plague in 1528, she told a visitor that the reason the sickness had affected some of the duke’s servants was the slipshod management of his household staff.16 Time was to show that Agnes did not have a firm hand on the rudder of her own retinue either, but like most witty people she did not let accusations of hypocrisy stand in the way of a memorable put-down. She was a generous employer, an inveterate gossip, and conscious of the magnificence of her position – one of the many jewels she owned was a personalised initial ‘A’, crafted from pearls and set with diamonds.17 To her wards, the dowager duchess was a strict but inconsistent guardian. The pearls, the diamonds, and the lady herself were often away from Catherine for extended periods, mainly at court.18

In the meantime, Catherine settled into life at Chesworth and its acres of fine deer-hunting country.19 Our image of a rough-and-tumble Tudor England, replete with belching men with earthy appetites gnawing at chicken legs, and buxom serving wenches, is not a world that Catherine or her contemporaries would have recognised. From infancy, she was expected to learn etiquette and to behave appropriately. Guides and manuals from the era laid out in great detail how the children of the gentry and nobility should behave from the moment they woke up in the morning – ‘Arise from your bed, cross your breast and your forehead, wash your hands and face, comb your hair, and ask the grace of God to speed you in all your works; then go to Mass and ask mercy for all your trespasses. When ye have done, break your fast with good meat and drink, but before eating cross your mouth, your diet will be better for it. Then say your grace – it occupies but little time – and thank the Lord Jesus for your food and drink. Say also a Pater Noster and Ave Maria for the souls that lie in pain’ – to how long they should nap and how they should enter a room.20 When Catherine was brought into her grandmother’s company she was expected to ‘enter with head up and at an easy pace’ and say ‘God speed’ by way of greeting, before sinking into a curtsey.21 Obeisance was worked on ad nauseam. A clumsy dip was an embarrassment that no girl could afford in Tudor high society; one Howard had a servant repeat a perfect bow a hundred times after the poor man had been in such a rush that he admitted his previous attempt had been made on ‘a running leg’.22 Catherine was told to look straight at whoever was speaking to her, to listen carefully to whatever they were saying, to make sure they knew that she was paying attention – ‘see to it with all your might that ye jangle not, nor let your eyes wander about’ – and ‘with blithe visage and diligent spirit’ set herself to the task of being as charming and interesting as possible. Her anecdotes and stories should be entertaining and to the point, since too ‘many words are right tedious to the wise man who listens; therefore eschew them’.23 Above all, she must learn to act like a lady in front of her relatives – to stand until they told her otherwise, to keep her hands and feet still, never to lean on anything, or scratch any part of herself, even something as innocuous as her face or arms.24

This curriculum was part of the rationale behind the farming out of English aristocratic children to their relatives, a custom which foreign visitors often found peculiar. It was believed that parents might spoil or indulge their own children and thus neglect their education. Even if Edmund had not gone to Calais, Catherine would at some point probably have found herself attached to the dowager’s household. It was not just her new home, but her classroom and her finishing school where she would learn by example to behave like the great ladies of her family. Like the generation before her, Catherine was taught that good manners were essential to ‘all those that would thrive in prosperity’.25 Etiquette was drilled into her at a young age and into hundreds of other girls just like her. One of her cousins was praised for being ‘stately and upright at all times of her age’ and never ‘diminishing the greatness of birth and marriage by omission of any ceremony’.26 There were rhymes to help her remember the rules of placement, books aimed at children and adolescents that stressed how rude it was to point or to be too demonstrative in conversation – ‘Point not thy tale with thy fingers, use not such toys.’ There were rules that would hardly be out of place in a modern guide, such as enjoinders to keep one’s hands ‘washèd clean / That no filth in thy nails be seen’, not to talk with your mouth full, to keep cats and dogs away from the dinner table, and to only use one’s best dinner service for distinguished guests; but there were also instructions on where to put cutlery, how to cut bread (it was never to be torn with the hands), and a culture that almost elevated propriety into a religious duty.27 One children’s textbook on the proper way of doing things began with: Little children, draw ye near And learn the courtesy written here; For clerks that well the Seven Arts know, Say Courtesy came to earth below, When Gabriel hailed Our Lady by name, And Elizabeth to Mary came.

All virtues are closed in courtesy, And vices all in villainy.28

They were lessons that Catherine swallowed whole. For the rest of her life, she remained devoted to the niceties. Few things seemed to cause her greater stress or anguish than the fear that she might make a mistake in public. She seldom did. Compliments on her polite gracefulness followed her into the grave.

This decorum subjugated and elevated Catherine, for while it kept her firmly kowtowing at the feet of her guardian, it also affirmed her superior position to those around her. Since the Victorian era, when the cult of domesticity was at its height, many writers have bewailed Catherine’s childhood as one of gilded neglect in which the poor young girl was cast adrift by a ‘proud and heartless relative’ to live amongst a group of servants who delighted in corrupting her.29 However, on looking closely at all the available evidence that has survived from Catherine’s life at Chesworth House, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that throughout her time there she was treated differently to the other young people. In almost every instance, it was Catherine who remained in control of her roommates, Catherine who confidently issued orders and had access to all the chambers and keys of the mansion. If she or her brother Henry entered a room, the servants were supposed to back away discreetly. This did not mean that they flung themselves against the wall, more that they gave them space, and they were expected to continue paying them attention for as long as they were speaking.30 Catherine was initially one of only two people under the roof who was the grandchild of a duke, and the deference she was shown throughout her childhood, even by those she counted as close friends, nurtured her confidence and habit of command.

When the household ate, Catherine and her brother were on display, both before the rest of the household and under the watchful eye of the dowager or, if she had gone to court, her steward. At meals, often taken in the Great Hall, if the dowager was present and showed Catherine a sign of affection, such as allowing her to take a drink from the same cup, Catherine knew to reach out with both hands as she took it, then to pass it back to the servant who had brought it over to her. Even if there were no guests and the duchess chose to dine more privately, her establishment sat in order of precedence. Before Catherine and her family arrived in the hall, the tables were wiped down, then three layers of fresh linen were spread, with care taken to ensure each hung evenly. Eight loaves of the best bread to come out of the bakery that day were put at the top table, while servants with napkins slung from their necks to their arms covered the dowager’s cutlery with a cloth until she was ready to use it. If a servant was in doubt about the way to fold the linen or wrap the bread before consumption, there were etiquette manuals for that, as well. Basins with hot and cold water for washing one’s hands were brought out and last-minute checks conducted to make sure the salt was ‘fine, white, fair, and dry’ as required.31 The dowager’s carvers would sharpen their knives before the meal, politely holding them with no more than two fingers and a thumb when it came time to carve the meat. It was a time that regarded carving as an art, with textbooks produced specifically to discuss the correct way to slice and serve.32

One place where etiquette did relax was the maidens’ chamber, the room where Catherine slept, in essence a form of dormitory, such as might be found in a traditional boarding school. Certainly, the maidens’ chamber engendered similar feelings of camaraderie and corresponding lack of privacy. Bedrooms were a rare luxury in Tudor households; sharing beds was common and sleeping in group accommodation even more so. (The dowager’s dependants were lucky to have beds; many lesser households handed out straw mattresses and glorified sleeping bags.) In the maidens’ chamber, Catherine bunked down with other young women in her grandmother’s care and service. She befriended the forceful and brash Joan Acworth, who had a string of beaux and the confidence of a girl who expected life to treat her well; there was also Alice Wilkes, who seems to have enjoyed agreeing with the prejudices of whoever she was gossiping with at the time, as well as girls related to the dowager’s natal family, such as young Katherine Tilney. With these comrades, Catherine wiled away an unremarkable early adolescence. Some of her friends, like Joan, were a few years older, others were the same age or a little younger.33

For almost half a century, our views on medieval and early modern childhood have been influenced by the work of the late French historian Philippe Ariès, whose book Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life argued that childhood was a relatively modern concept, alien to the Middle Ages or the sixteenth century with their detached style of parenting that sought to accelerate an infant’s path to adulthood.34 This theory has been comprehensively debunked in recent years, and ample evidence survives, both in the relevant documents and from excavated toys belonging to medieval children, to prove that they were recognised as a separate category. Games and dolls existed for children; there were debates on the different stages of infancy; the Virgin Mary and Saint Nicholas were popular heavenly protectors of the young. By the standards of many people at the time, Catherine enjoyed a youth that could be described in positive terms – if not as idyllic, then certainly as privileged, affectionate, and happy. She was sincerely liked by many of the people at Chesworth, who appreciated the loyalty she showed towards her family’s servants, the effort she exerted to help them, her high spirits, her generosity, and her sense of mischief and fun. Life could of course be cut short in infancy, and youth could be butchered by an arranged marriage, but in Catherine’s case there is no reason to believe that she endured an unhappy or neglected childhood or adolescence.

Festivals, usually religious ones, shaped the calendar. The feast of St George, England’s national saint, and May Day, the start of summer, brought a flurry of celebrations. The twelve days of Christmas, from Christmas Day to the Feast of the Epiphany, were an especially busy time. The Christmas log, usually ash emitting a festive green flame, burned in the great fireplace,35 and carols, their melodies faintly reminiscent of a dance, replaced the usual, more sombre hymns. Fine food was laid on by and for the dowager’s staff; wine, ale, and mead fuelled the party spirit – the English had a reputation for being great drinkers – while entertainments marked each passing day. Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve was a tradition that stretched back a millennium by the time Catherine huddled inside the local chapel to commemorate the Saviour’s arrival. A troupe of itinerant actors might arrive, or have been sent for, to perform a nativity play, another tradition which has survived but evolved to the present day. Symbolism and sentiment pervaded a Tudor Christmas – the holly hung throughout the house emphasised the presence of Easter in the Christmas story, sorrow amid joy, with the holly’s prickles alluding to Christ’s crown of thorns at His crucifixion, and its berries to His spilled blood. Saint Francis of Assisi had taught that even animals should share in the joyfulness of the season, originating the custom that cattle, horses, and pets should be given extra food on Christmas morning, and sheaves of corn should be left out to feed the birds struggling through winter.36

In the manor house’s rooms, boughs were built and hung by servants and members of the family. Evergreens were bound together and little gifts wrapped around them, with holders for candles added before the whole thing was hoisted high enough for people to stand underneath it. Mistletoe dangled from the centre of the bough, thus explaining its nickname ‘the kissing bough’. The evergreen bough’s candles were lit for the first time on Christmas Eve, then again every night until Twelfth Night, the colloquial name for the Feast of the Epiphany, when the Magi had arrived at the manger in Bethlehem.37 The boughs were a source of mirth and merriment throughout Yuletide, with mummers or musicians often ending their performance beneath them for comic effect or hopeful flirtatiousness. Unfortunately, Catherine soon took to kissing musicians, in other parts of the house, without the excuse of Christmas revelry.

To tell the story of Catherine’s early romances and the role her family’s servants played in them, it is necessary to introduce her aunt, Katherine, a regular presence after Catherine left Edmund’s care but one who has hitherto been almost completely ignored in most accounts of Catherine’s life. The elder Katherine Howard’s impact on the journey of the younger was significant, and both began spending more time with the dowager in the same year. Katherine’s betrothal to Sir Rhys ap Gruffydd before her father’s funeral in 1524 has already been mentioned; the marriage ended in a tragedy that nearly destroyed Katherine.

A year after her father’s death and a few months into her marriage, the elder Katherine Howard’s grandfather-in-law died. An early supporter of the Tudor claim to the throne and a stalwart loyalist ever since, the old man’s position as the monarchy’s satrap in south Wales was expected to pass to his grandson and heir, Rhys, who was in his early twenties.38 However, mourning had barely concluded before the government appointed the thirty-six-year-old Lord Ferrers instead. The decision was widely perceived as a humiliation for a family who had devoted their lives to serving the Tudors, and the sting worsened when young Rhys was excluded from the council that advised the royal household’s outpost in Wales. The marriage between Katherine and the attractive but hotheaded Rhys was a happy one, and she was outraged on her husband’s behalf, particularly since she believed that the decision to elevate Lord Ferrers, who had, after all, been judged too incompetent to serve as her brother’s successor as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland four years earlier, was part of a deliberate policy to humble her husband’s family.39 When Rhys and two of his servants were set upon by an unknown gang as they travelled past Oxford University, she began to suspect that Ferrers meant to harm or kill him.40 Rhys and his family were popular in Wales; a contemporary noted that ‘the whole country turned out to welcome him, and this made Lord Ferrers envious and jealous’. When Ferrers overplayed his hand and arrested Rhys for disturbing the peace, Katherine rallied hundreds, including the Bishop of Saint David’s and many representatives of the local gentry, who marched with her on Carmarthen Castle.41 Katherine threatened the castle under cover of darkness, making sure to display her strength through the guise of delivering a message that asked for her husband and his men to be freed. If they were not, then she promised Ferrers that her men would burn down the castle door to fetch them, a threat which rather undercut her claims that she had no intention of causing further disturbances. Ferrers managed to disperse Katherine’s supporters, but the lull was temporary. Chaos began to spread in the region. Servants of the two factions were ambushed and killed, Rhys was freed, only to be taken once more, Katherine and her men attacked one of Ferrers’s homes, lives were lost and property ruined. In his letters to his superiors in London, Lord Ferrers described Katherine and Rhys as leaders of a ‘great Rebell[ion] and Insurrection of the people’.42

Eventually, Rhys was arrested one last time and brought to London to stand trial for treason. He was accused of discussing prophecies that concerned the downfall of the king and of conspiring with Scotland to foment another invasion. One of his own servants provided evidence against him. The case, which resulted in a conviction, was overseen by an on-the-rise Thomas Cromwell, who also helped to arrange some of the logistics of Rhys’s execution on 4 December 1531. It is unclear to what extent Rhys had been driven to contemplate allying with a foreign power in order to recapture his family’s position in south Wales; the common view at the time seems to have been that he was ‘cruelly put to death, and he innocent, as they say, in the cause’.43 Allegations of financial corruption, his feud with Lord Ferrers, and the resultant threat to peace in Wales made his destruction a matter of convenience for the central government.

While we may never know exactly how much his own actions brought about Rhys’s death, we can be certain of the devastating effect it had on his widow. She had been intimately involved in her husband’s quarrel, and so the possibility that she would be accused of complicity in his alleged treason was tangible. Left to forge prospects for their three young children – Anne, Thomas, and Gruffydd – and fearful for herself, Lady Katherine followed in the footsteps of her elder brother Edmund and flung herself on the mercy of their niece, Anne Boleyn.44 Once again, the family’s dark-eyed golden girl did not disappoint.45 She may even have tried to limit the damage for her aunt and young cousins shortly before Rhys’s execution. Rhys had been attainted at the time of his conviction, meaning that the Crown could seize his goods and property, but his act of attainder specifically and unusually made provisions for his widow, who was left with an annual income of about £196.46 If Anne could not save Rhys, she worked hard to salvage his family’s situation. It is incorrect that his two boys, both under the age of seven, were packed off to live in the care of another family, as has been stated. All three of the siblings stayed in their mother’s care, and she swiftly married Lord Daubeney, a widower nearly two decades her senior. Anne Boleyn had not had much time to deploy her matchmaking skills, and the sickly Daubeney was hardly as easy on the eye or heart as Rhys had been, but he enjoyed royal favour, and in such pressing circumstances that was more important than personal preference.47 A few years later, Daubeney was created Earl of Bridgewater by Henry VIII, making Katherine a countess, but the marriage that saved her from going under with her first husband was not a happy one.* It was mutually miserable to the point that within three years the pair were living apart and complaining about one another to anyone who would listen.48 The countess’s sons joined Catherine as their grandmother’s wards, though they had ample opportunity to see their mother who, accompanied by her maid, Mistress Philip, began to spend much of her time residing with her mother.49

The countess’s case showed the extent to which the new queen’s loyalty to her family could prove invaluable. It was not the same thing as infallible – she had saddled Edmund with a job for which he was manifestly unqualified and Katherine with a husband she came to loathe – but in difficult circumstances, Queen Anne was a worthwhile ally. Young Catherine was one of dozens of the queen’s cousins, nieces, aunts, uncles, and extended relatives who would look to her for advancement, especially in bringing them to court to serve her in lucrative obedience. In Calais, rumour had it that Catherine’s father did not plan to live out his life as a comptroller but ‘hopes to be here in the court with the King or the Queen, and have a better living’.50 But court gossip was vicious and mercurial, savaging those it had once nurtured. Just as an anonymous letter years earlier had damaged Edmund’s standing in the aftermath of the Battle of Flodden, whispers on the court grapevine tried to harm the countess. ‘I have none to do me help except the Queen,’ she wrote in a letter, ‘to whom am I much bound, and with whom much effort is made to draw her favour from me.’51 The more Howards around Anne, the better, and even if she was not destined to serve at the queen’s side, Catherine needed to continue learning the courtly graces. She was not going to spend her whole life at Chesworth House.

On 2 May 1536, the ground shifted beneath the family in the most devastating fashion since their defeat at Bosworth. Shortly after lunch, Queen Anne Boleyn was arrested and rowed upriver to the Tower of London, where, seventeen days later, she bowed off the earthly stage after tucking the hem of her dress under her shoes, hoping to preserve her dignity once her body collapsed forward into the straw.52 Two days earlier, another of Catherine’s cousins, Lord Rochford, perished as collateral damage in the quest to ruin the queen, along with Sir William Brereton, a Welsh landowner who had once been supported by the countess’s first husband.53 In seventeen days, the Howard women had been robbed of their most celebrated kinswoman, and while it is tempting to think that the people at Chesworth spoke of Anne’s fate in much the same horrified, incredulous way as distant relatives like the Ashleys or the Champernownes seem to have, it is equally possible that Catherine’s friends discussed the events of 1536 with the same unthinkingly gleeful acceptance that greets so many political or royal scandals, no matter how improbable their details.54 The government’s version of events that had Anne as a bed-hopping, murderous adulteress certainly made for a good story, so good in fact that its manifest falsities still cling to popular perceptions of its victims, almost five hundred years later.

If the family was not already nervous enough, within weeks of the queen’s execution Catherine’s younger uncle Thomas was also sent to the Tower, after his secret betrothal to the king’s niece, Lady Margaret Douglas, was discovered.* The king was apoplectic and chose to see the romance as part of a plot to place the Howards closer to the throne.55 The couple were separated and while Margaret was eventually released, Thomas died of a fever after eighteen months in prison. His body was handed back to the dowager, who was granted permission to bury her son next to his father at Thetford on condition that ‘that she bury him without pomp’.56

Throughout the scandal caused by Thomas’s elopement, the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion convulsed the north of England. Thousands rose in protest at the closure of the monasteries and the gathering pace of religious revolution. Even a young girl growing up in a country house in the south cannot have missed the changes affecting England after the break with Rome. Catherine’s family were initially sympathetic to the king’s quarrel with the pope, but by 1536 they were beginning to feel a mounting sense of dread. Edmund Howard had sworn the mandatory oath acknowledging the king as head of the Church in 1534, yet a few years later he and his colleagues in Calais were accused of failing to implement the king’s latest spiritual policies.57 Even the late queen, the alleged harbinger of the English Reformation, had shown signs of swinging towards theological conservatism in the months before her death.58 When news of the northern uprising reached Horsham, the dowager showed herself supremely reluctant to honour her feudal obligations and provide men to help suppress it.59 Her sons and stepsons felt differently, perhaps mindful of their precarious position in the king’s favour after the events of the summer, and it was Lord William Howard who eventually had the lucky honour of kneeling at Henry’s feet with the news that the north had submitted.60

At this point, Catherine was about thirteen or fourteen years old. Sometime between her cousins’ executions and her uncle’s death, she began formal music lessons. Thirteen was a little late to start the music lessons that many children in her position had been taking from the ages of six or seven, so it is possible that she had some lessons earlier, though Catherine’s formal education does seem to have been somewhat neglected. Unlike several of her relatives, she was never singled out for praise for her musical or literary abilities. By the autumn of 1536, her schooling had focused on teaching her how to read, write, walk, talk, stand, dance, and move in a way guaranteed to please her contemporaries, but not much else.

Her principal music teacher was a young man called Henry Manox, brought in by the dowager, possibly on the recommendation of his kinsman, Robert Damport, who was already in her service.61 Manox deviated little from the stereotype of an arrogant, young, emotionally impulsive musician. He set the mould for the type of man Catherine was subsequently drawn to – handsome, cocky, more brawn than brain, and passionate to the point of possessive. Several of Catherine’s friends already had romantic entanglements with the young gentlemen of the household – as with most establishments before the late seventeenth century, women were in the minority on the dowager’s staff – and Catherine and Manox began a flirtation that eventually progressed to kissing and fondling. In modern parlance, they fooled around but did not go all the way.62

This relationship forms the first piece of ‘evidence’ in a recent theory about Catherine’s life, namely that she was the victim of repeated sexual abuse throughout puberty, with Manox being the first of several men to groom her.63 Variations on this narrative describe Manox as a predator or simply the first in a succession of men, such as Francis Dereham, who repeatedly raped her. The latter interpretation can only be sustained by either wilful or accidental ignorance of almost every piece of relevant surviving evidence. It requires misrepresenting Catherine’s personality, disregarding the biographical details of everyone around her, and twisting beyond recognition every comment made by most of the people who knew her. This is not to suggest that such abuse did not happen – the young Elizabeth I was molested and horribly manipulated by her stepfather, Thomas Seymour, in a relationship that was not just quite clearly one we would characterise as abuse, but which was described as such in contemporaries’ vocabulary for it.64 Cases of child abuse were reported and prosecuted, and the concept was understood in the early modern era, so it is untrue to say that there was no perception of victimhood or coercion.65 The memoirs of the fourteenth-century merchant’s wife Margery Kempe recounted an argument that contained a threat of what would now clearly be recognised as marital rape, if the husband did not get what he wanted.66 Admittedly, Catherine herself would later claim that she had been forced into sexual relations at this stage in her life, but it can be shown that she was lying, and doing so in desperate circumstances.67 Against that claim, which no one at the time believed, there is a mountain of precise evidence, from those who knew her and from the men involved, about when her relationships began, how they began, their consensual basis, and above all, Catherine’s role in ending them when she lost interest.

The idea of Henry Manox as a paedophile preying on his young charge is a grotesque one, but mercifully without any supporting detail. Manox certainly put Catherine under pressure to consummate their relationship and reacted crudely when she ended things between them, but none of this supports a hypothesis of sustained and deliberate abuse. In the first place, we do not know Manox’s date of birth, and given the average age of the group he consorted with, he was likely to have been five years older than Catherine at the very most. Furthermore, the scenario of Manox using their lessons to bully her into a sexual relationship is undercut by reading transcripts from the investigations of 1541, which prove Catherine’s lessons were actually taken by two teachers at the same time – Manox and another man, Barnes – during which Catherine would have been chaperoned.68 However, if not horrible, their relationship was nonetheless inappropriate, on several levels.

Catherine began her lessons with Manox and Barnes in 1536. The attraction between Catherine and Manox seems to have been relatively slow-burning, but eventually the couple were sending each other little gifts, with a young maid called Dorothy Barwick being the first to carry tokens on Catherine’s behalf.69 Manox later claimed that ‘he fell in love with [Catherine] and she with him’, but that was not how others remembered it.70 More honestly and less nobly, he and Catherine found each other very attractive, and the taboo nature of their affair, particularly the difference in class, added a certain inevitable spice. To meet up alone and outside their lessons would have required significant skills of subterfuge. Catherine did not bring Manox into her shared dormitory, so where they found the time and venue to progress along the bases of physical intimacy is anybody’s guess. They had perhaps been meeting on several occasions when the dowager discovered them kissing in an alcove near the chapel one afternoon. She slapped Catherine two or three times and reiterated that they were never to be left alone together.71 They did not obey her, but they had the sense to become more discreet. While it remained an open secret to many other people at Chesworth, they subsequently and successfully hid their relationship from the dowager.

They were still seeing each other in early 1538, when a young woman called Mary Lascelles arrived to serve in the household on a regular basis.72 She was working as a nursemaid to one of Catherine’s infant cousins when the child’s father, Lord William Howard, the dowager’s youngest surviving son, began to spend more time in his mother’s household.73 Tudor house guests sometimes stayed longer than modern tenants, so their servants ended up living and serving alongside the owner’s. Lord William, a diplomat and soldier, had recently been widowed and married again, to Margaret Gamage, the daughter of a Welsh landowner. He had one daughter, Agnes, from his first marriage and at least one son from his second by 1538. Mary the nursemaid was a prim young girl from a family who took the Reformation very seriously, and she was horrified at what she heard about her master’s niece – two fellow maids, Isabel and Dorothy, admitted to her that they had been carrying messages and love tokens from Catherine to Manox.

Concerned, Mary reached out in a spirit of servant solidarity to Manox to warn him of the danger he was in. She told him that if he had any plans to marry Catherine, they were impossible as ‘she is come of a noble house and if thou should marry her some of her blood would kill thee’. Manox was contemptuous: ‘Hold thy peace, woman. I know her well enough.’ With maximum honesty and minimal charm, he explained, ‘I have had her by the cunt and she hath said to me that I shall have her maidenhead though it be painful to her, not doubting but I will be good to her hereafter.’74

Manox’s boast shot through the gossip network of the house, flying with rumour’s customary unerring skill right to the ears of its subject. Catherine’s heart was not exactly warmed when she heard what Manox had said about her, and she ended their affair, even in the face of Manox pleading that he ‘was so far in love with her that he wist [knew] not what he said’.75 Catherine, by then fifteen or sixteen, was disbelieving and unimpressed. She was firm to the point of brutal in her bad temper. During their argument, she pointed out, ‘I will never be nought with you and able to marry me ye be not.’76 This comment is usually interpreted by historians as an example of snobbery on Catherine’s part – a wounding reminder that their respective backgrounds made the idea of marriage absurd. Had Catherine meant to make that point, she would have been unkind and accurate. In fact, it seems that she was actually being more specific. Manox could not marry her because he was already engaged to somebody else or already married. Catherine’s uncle William is mentioned calling ‘on him [Manox] and his wife at their own door’ shortly after Manox’s liaison with Catherine ended.77 That Manox was engaged at the time he became involved with Catherine and married shortly after would explain both their comments about the improbability of their dalliance ending in marriage and her decision to keep their physical intimacy in check. If Catherine did intend to lose her virginity to Manox, despite her reticence, his comments about her and his fiancée gave her the motivation to end things before they went any further. All her life, Catherine hated to be humiliated and reacted strongly when faced with disrespect or embarrassment.

A few days after their quarrel, Catherine had softened and agreed to hear Manox out one last time. The two went for a stroll in the duchess’s orchards. Manox seems to have mistaken this promenade as a sign that the relationship might soon be back on track, but it was only well-meaning politesse on Catherine’s part. Her mood had altered, but her mind was made up, and not long after that she found a replacement for Manox in the form of Francis Dereham, her grandmother’s secretary.

* Lord Daubeney was not elevated to the earldom until 1538. However, for clarity’s sake, especially in differentiating her from her niece, the elder Katherine Howard will usually be referred to as ‘the countess’ from now on.

* This was not the Duke of Norfolk, but his younger half brother with the same name, Lord Thomas Howard. In the same year, another of Agnes’s children, her daughter Lady Elizabeth Radclyffe, died of natural causes.



Chapter 5



  Mad Wenches

[image: 16548.jpg]

For among all that is loved in a wench chastity and cleanness is loved most.

– Bartholomew of England, De proprietatibus rerum (c.1240) Catherine never could make a clean break of things. Time and time again, she went back to pick at a wound, drawn irresistibly to the drama of the supposed farewell or the intimacy of an emotional conversation. Her tête-à-tête with Manox in the orchard only a few days after she broke off their relationship was the first recorded instance of a trait that left too many of her actions open to misinterpretation. As Manox nursed hopes of reconciliation, Catherine entered a more adult world. The dowager’s household began to spend more time at Norfolk House in her home parish of Lambeth, the Howards’ recently completed mansion on the opposite side of the river to Whitehall, the king’s largest and still-expanding palace. There, Catherine began to see more of the relatives who lived in the capital or at court – her elder half sister, Lady Isabella Baynton, visited the dowager, and their brother Henry had married and brought his new wife to live with him.

Catherine conformed to general contemporary ideals of beauty, which praised women who had ‘moistness of complexion; and [are] tender, small, pliant and fair of disposition of body’.1 Contrary to the still-repeated tradition that she was ‘small, plump and vivacious’, the few surviving specifics about Catherine’s appearance describe her as short and slender.2 A former courtier subsequently described her as ‘flourishing in youth, with beauty fresh and pure’.3 She was comfortable with admiration and attention. Manox was not the only servant who was smitten; a young man called Roger Cotes was also enamoured.4 As she got older, Catherine was given servants of her own, including her roommate Joan Acworth, who became her secretary. How much correspondence Catherine actually had at this stage in her life is unknown, but it clearly was not enough to create a crushing workload for Joan.

It was through her secretary-cum-companion that Catherine found Manox’s successor. Francis Dereham was good-looking, confident to the point of arrogance, and a rule breaker who possessed a blazing temper which Catherine initially chose to regard as thrilling proof of his affection for her. He was also a ‘ladies’ man’, who had already notched his bedpost with several fellow servants, including Joan Acworth.5 Their fling had since ended, and Joan cheerfully moved on, even singing his praises to Catherine, who began to show an interest in him in the spring of 1538 – at the very most within a few weeks of ending things with Manox.6

By then, Francis had been in the dowager’s service for nearly two years.7 Distantly related to her, he was the son of a wealthy family in the Lincolnshire gentry where he learned the upper-class syntax and mannerisms necessary to pass as one of the club.8 The dowager was fond of Francis, and he eventually carried out secretarial work for her. When he first arrived at Chesworth House, he and his roommate Robert Damport were given tasks like buying livestock for the household, perhaps a boring pursuit but an important one considering that many aristocratic households spent nearly one-quarter of their expenditure on food.9 Dereham and Damport were sent to get animals ready for the annual cull on Martinmas, a religious festival that fell every year on 11 November. Not all the livestock were killed then, and it is not true that most meat served in winter was heavily salted or covered in spices to hide its decay; households generally fed the animals intended for table with hay throughout the colder months to keep the food as fresh as possible.10

One of Francis’s closest friends in the household was his wingman Edward Waldegrave, who gamely chased the friends of Francis’s lovers and helped organise nighttime visits to the maidens’ chamber, arriving with wine, apples, strawberries, and other treats pinched from the kitchens. Talking, drinking, and flirting continued into the small hours, often to two or three o’clock in the morning, and if anyone from downstairs unexpectedly came to inspect, there was a small curtained gallery at the end of the maidens’ chamber where the men could hide until danger had passed. The idea to hide them in there was Catherine’s.11 She was not the only girl with a sweetheart – for instance, Francis’s friend Edward was courting one Mistress Baskerville. To make the numerous rendezvous easier, Catherine took the initiative and sneaked into her grandmother’s room one evening, stole the relevant key, had a copy made, and then ensured the door to the staircase that led to the maidens’ chamber was unlocked after the dowager went to bed.12

Within a couple of months of seeing Dereham, the reluctance Catherine had expressed to Manox about losing her virginity had evaporated. She and Francis began lying on her bed during the clandestine parties; this progressed to kissing, foreplay, and then sex. There was not much privacy in the maidens’ chamber, but Catherine was ‘so far in love’ that it did not seem to deter her.13 One of the dowager’s maids, Margery, who later married another servant in the household called John Benet, spied on them and saw Francis removing Catherine’s clothes. Later, Francis told Margery that he knew enough about sex to make sure Catherine did not end up pregnant.

In much the same way as life in university halls can erode a sense of propriety, years in the maidens’ chamber left the girls feeling extremely comfortable in one another’s presence. When the bed hangings were pulled shut, the noises the couple made left no doubt about what they were doing. Their lovemaking was so energetic that their friends took to teasing Francis about being ‘broken winded’ once it was over.14 The pair were drunk on one another, kissing and cuddling like ‘two sparrows’, and the memories of the people who saw them in 1538, written down in 1541, prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that their relationship was consensual.15 It has already been mentioned that it was customary for young people of the same sex to share a bed – in the way Francis did with Robert Damport – and on several occasions, perhaps after too much of the purloined wine, another girl was in the bed when Francis and Catherine began foreplay.16 Alice Wilkes was so irritated by the couple’s ‘puffing and blowing’ that she insisted on switching beds to get a better night’s sleep.17 Alice, who was soon to marry another member of the household called Anthony Restwold, tried to speak to Catherine about the terrible risks she was taking. Any girl would find herself ruined by a pregnancy out of wedlock, let alone the Duke of Norfolk’s niece. Catherine dismissed her concerns by pointing out that ‘a woman might meddle with a man and yet conceive no child unless she would herself’, much the same stance taken by Francis in his earlier conversation with Margery.18 A rebuffed Alice then shared her fears with Mary Lascelles, who had held a low opinion of Catherine ever since she found out about her involvement with Henry Manox. ‘Let her alone,’ she advised, ‘for [if] she hold on as she begins we shall hear she will be nought in a while.’19

Mary Lascelles’s sour-sounding reflection on Catherine’s impending comeuppance was based as much on hard-nosed pragmatism as on religious sensibility. Lascelles’s advice to Henry Manox about the consequences of becoming involved with a noble girl showed that she appreciated the practical dangers implicit in these kinds of upstairs–downstairs romances. The potential consequences of sin were awful, particularly in a society where God was liable to prove far more forgiving than His earthly flock. Religion was omnipresent in Catherine’s world. It was not separated from the world, but rather it influenced everything in society, from the ecstatic to the banal, and was in its turn influenced – sixteenth-century villagers playing football after Mass sang songs celebrating the skills of Saint Hugh of Lincoln in bouncing the ball up and down from the tips of his toes.20 Eroticism and sexuality could be incorporated into the Divine as much as the mundane. Christianity’s blushes about nudity were at least a century away – prayer books handed out to children might show a naked Bathsheba bathing in the moonlight; icons of pure and brave Saint Agatha often depicted her bare breasts seconds before the pagan Romans tore them from her as part of her martyrdom; the loincloth-wearing Saint Sebastian was usually shown as lean and muscular as the arrows of the unbelievers pierced him for his faith in Christ.21

None of these devotional images were supposed to excite lust, of course, but nude images, no matter how holy their intent, at the very least ran the risk of provoking impure thoughts in some of their audience, and this reflected a society in which theological teachings on sexuality were often torturously contradictory. There were tensions between, and within, theological writings on sex and medical thoughts on the same subject. Views on what constituted a danger to one’s spiritual or physical health swung depending on which writer you consulted: a monk from the Franciscan order, for instance, was historically likely to be less censorious than one from the Dominican tradition. Medical wisdom held that ‘men fall into various illnesses through retaining their seed with them’, while in Catherine’s lifetime the Bishop of Rochester argued that an orgasm damaged a man’s health more ‘than by shedding of ten times so much blood’.22 A large part of the dichotomy stemmed from the age-old question of whether sex was something to be enjoyed or endured and if, in circumstances such as marriage or procreation, it might become something praiseworthy. The philosopher Sylvester Prierias Mazzolini, who died around the time of Catherine’s birth, argued that any deviation from the missionary position was a contraceptive, itself a sin, and that the pursuit of sexual pleasure, even within wedlock, was fundamentally dangerous. Couples who were engaged often began a sexual relationship before the actual wedding service, a custom with which certain members of the priesthood had no quarrel but others found to be objectionable.

Almost none of Catherine’s contemporaries disregarded the Church’s teachings on sex in their entirety, but equally there is plenty of evidence that very few accepted them in full. Moralists noted with concern, disappointment, and apparent surprise that very few men admitted to masturbation when they confessed their sins.23 The suggestion that couples should wait three days before consummating a marriage was almost universally ignored.24 Clerical tomes lambasted homosexual activity, masturbation, foreplay, oral sex, and anal sex, lumping them all together as sodomy, but even here there were inconsistencies. For every morality guide that ranked homosexual sex in the same category of vice as masturbation, there were others that ranked it just above bestiality, such as the manual written to help confessors in the assigning of penance which carefully ranked every sexual transgression from the least severe (an unchaste kiss) to the worst (bestiality). In the same list of ascending vice, incest was number eleven, while masturbation was jarringly ranked as number twelve, which was four ranks worse than the rape of a virgin, itself classed as marginally worse than the rape or abduction of a married woman. Many lay Christians found these debates absurd and correspondingly ignored thundering assertions like the one that claimed that if a sinner ‘has foully touched his own member so that he has polluted himself and poured out his own semen, this sin is greater than if he had lain with his own mother’.25

However, even if people did not always pay attention to the obsessively detailed denunciations from the guardians of sexual morality, there was still widespread acceptance of the importance of chastity, especially in women, and a belief that sexual intercourse created a bond between two people that could not easily be broken. Medicine taught that women were more lustful than men, more illogical, more emotional, and more susceptible to biological impulses. Female orgasm was believed to be desirable in securing a conception, perhaps one of the few pieces of medical advice that worked in a woman’s favour in the 1530s. The rest seemed to focus either on their emotional volatility or the horrors that sex could inflict on them – childbirth, after all, killed many, and contemporary textbooks acknowledged that some women endured great pain during sex itself, perhaps because of a prolapsed uterus or some other infirmity, when ‘such women cannot endure a man’s penis because of the size of it, and sometimes they are forced to endure it whether they would or not’.26

A woman’s life could be ended or ruined by the consequences of sex, a point which was constantly stressed in the hope of encouraging restraint. Virginity, or perhaps more accurately an unsullied reputation, was the most valuable part of an aristocratic lady’s social armour. Without it, she was a defenceless and easy target. Catherine was clearly enjoying her sexual relationship with Francis, while doing her research in how to avoid becoming a mother. Her boast that she knew how to ‘meddle’ with a man without risking pregnancy suggests that she knew something about oral sex – number fourteen in the aforementioned confessors’ manual, between having sex outside the missionary position and homosexuality – or the other rudiments of sixteenth-century contraception. In the rural idyll at Horsham or behind the walls of her grandmother’s London mansion, it was easy to make the mistake of thinking that biology and the disapproving stares of Mary Lascelles were her greatest threats.

Before the dowager arrived at her pew for morning Mass, her servants gathered the usual pile of letters left there as petitions for her. After a service at Lambeth, one note brought a nasty surprise: it claimed that if the dowager went up to the maidens’ chamber half an hour after her usual bedtime ‘you shall see that which shall displease you’.27 The dowager ‘stormed’ in a rage and only through sheer luck did the girls manage to hide the worst from her. Perhaps it was one night where only a few couples were meeting or most of the men managed to make it into the curtained gallery in time. In any case, the duchess did not discover that Catherine was seeing Dereham. The note was opaque enough for the dowager to think that it referred to another young man called Hastings, whose flirtatious interest in one of Catherine’s roommates had already been noticed. Catherine did not think the tip referred to Hastings, and she was angry enough at the potential embarrassment to break into the dowager’s rooms again, steal the letter, and take it straight to Francis, who agreed that Henry Manox must have written it, perhaps with the help of one of his friends. Apparently, Manox had wanted to ruin Dereham without ruining his own chances with Catherine. True to form, Francis was almost as angry as the dowager, if for very different reasons. He found Manox and proceeded to hurl insults at him.28 The two men may have been friends before, since one of Francis’s complaints was that the letter proved Manox had never loved him or Catherine.

Arguments about who had incited the wrath of the dowager eventually reached the ears of Lord William, who was irritated by the atmosphere in the house and went to Manox’s accommodation to add a second dose of criticism, rather awkwardly bringing the news up in front of Manox’s wife. William was unimpressed by Manox’s churlish troublemaking, as he saw it, and perhaps by the abuse of his position in flirting with Catherine. He was equally bored by the gossiping about it in the maidens’ chamber and the he-said-she-said resulting from the dowager’s discovery: ‘What mad wenches!’ he said. ‘Can you not be merry amongst yourselves but you must thus fall out?’29 Lord William’s anger understandably frightened Manox more than Francis Dereham’s. Not long after the contretemps, Manox left the dowager’s service to work for another family in Lambeth.30 In regards to the temporarily strained environment in the house, Catherine’s glamorous aunt, the countess, was more sanguine when the scandal broke: the only advice she gave her niece was that staying up too late would ‘hurt her beauty’.31

While Catherine’s guile and Francis’s bravado saved them and their friends from the worst of her relatives’ suspici