Henry VIII,the Reign
Proceedings against Queen Catherine Howard for Incontinency in 1542 Extracted from Lord Herbert’s Life of Henry VIII
But our king encountered a greater vexation; for the queen was supposed to offend in Incontinency ; some particulars whereof being extant in our Records, I have thought fit, says lord Herbert, to transcribe, rather than to make other narration; the family of which she came being so noble and illustrious, and the honour of her sex (which is tender) being concerned therein.
The Letter sent from divers of the Council to William Paget, our ambassador then in France, was this.
"After our hearty commendations, by these our letters, we be commanded to signify unto you, a most miserable case, which came lately to revelation, to the intent that if you shall hear the same spoken of, you may declare the truth as followeth :
Where the king's majesty upon the Sentence given of the Invalidity of the pre tended Matrimony between his highness and the lady Anne of Cleve, was earnestly and humbly solicited by his council, and the nobles of this realm, to frame his most noble heart to the love and favour of some noble personage to be joined with him in lawful Matrimony, by whom his majesty might have some more store of fruit, and succession to the comfort of this realm ; it pleased his highness upon a notable appearance of honour, cleanness and maidenly behaviour, to bend his affection towards mistress Catharine Howard, daughter to the late lord Edmond Howard, brother to me the duke of Norfolk, insomuch as his highness was finally contented to honour her with his Marriage, thinking now in his old days, after sundry troubles of mind, which have happened unto him by Marriages, to have obtained such a jewel for womanhood, and very perfect love towards him, as should not only have been to his quietness, but also brought forth the desired fruit of marriage, like as the whole realm thought the semblable, and in respect of the virtue and good behaviour which she shewed outwardly, did her all honour accordingly.
But this joy is turned into extreme sorrow ; for when the king’s majesty receiving his Maker on Alhallows day last past, then gave him most humble and hearty thanks for the good life he led and trusted to lead with her, and also desired the Bishop of Lincoln, his ghostly father, to make like prayer, and give like thanks with him ; on All-souls day being at mass, the archbishop of Canterbury having a little before heard, that the same mistress Catherine Howard was not indeed a woman of that pureness and cleanness that she was esteemed ; but a woman, who before she was joined with the king's majesty, had lived most corruptly and sensually ; for the discharge of his duty opened the same most sorrowfully to his majesty, and how it was brought to his know ledge, which was in this form following.
While the king's majesty was in his Progress, one John Lossels came to the said Archbishop. of Canterbury, and declared unto him, that he had been with a sister of his married [his sister in law] in Sussex, which sometimes had been servant with the old Duchess of Norfolk, who did also bring up the said mistress Catharine, and being with his said sister, chanced to fall in communication with her of the queen, wherein he advised her (because she was of the queen's old acquaintance) to sue to be her woman; whereunto his sister answered, that she would not so do; but she was very sorry for the queen;
Why, quoth Lossels?
Marry, quoth she, for she is light both in living and condition:
How so, quoth Lossels?
Marry, quoth she, there is one Francis Den ham, who was servant also in my lady of Norfolk's house, which hath lien in bed with her in his doublet and hose between the sheets an hundred nights. And there hath been such purling and blowing between them, that once in the house a maid which lay in the house with her, said to me, She would lie no longer With her. because she knew not what matrimony meant. And further she said unto him, that one Mannock, sometimes also servant to the said duchess, knew a privy mark of her body.
When the said Lossels had declared this to the said Archbishop of Canterbury, he considering the weight and importance of the matter, being marvellously perplexed therewith, consulted in the same with the lord chancellor of England, and the earl of Hertford, whom the king's majesty going in his Progress left to reside at London, to order his affairs in those parts ; who having weighed the matter, and deeply pondered the gravity thereof, where with they were greatly troubled and unquieted, resolved finally that the said archbishop should reveal the same to the king's majesty ; which because the matter was such, as he hath sorrowfully lamented, and also could not find in his heart to express the same to the king's majesty by word of mouth, he declared the Information thereof to his highness in writing.
When the king's majesty had read this Information thus delivered unto him, his grace being much perplexed therewith, yet nevertheless so tenderly loved the woman, and had conceived such a constant opinion of her honesty, that he supposed it rather to be a forged matter, than of truth.
Whereupon it pleased him secretly to call unto him the lord privy seal, the lord admiral Sir Anthony Brown, and Sir Thomas. Wriothesly; to whom he opened the case, saying, He could not believe it to be true: And yet seeing the Information was made, he could not be satisfied till the certainty thereof was known; but he would not in any wise, that in the inquisition any spark of scandal should rise towards her.
Whereupon it was by his majesty resolved, that the lord privy seal should go straight to London, where the said Lossels that gave the Information was secretly kept, and with all dexterity to examine and try whether he would stand to his saying : Who being so examined, answered, That his sister so told him, and that he had declared it for the dis charge of his duty, and for none other respect ; adding that he knew what danger was in it ; nevertheless, he had rather die in declaration of the truth, as it came to him, seeing it touched the king's majesty so nearly, than live with the concealment of the same: which asseveration being thus made by the said Lossels.
The king's majesty being informed thereof, sent the Lord Privy-Seal into Sussex, to examine the woman, making a pretence to the woman’s husband of hunting, and to her for receiving of hunters ; and sent the said Thomas Wriothesly to London at the same instant, both to examine Mannock, and also to take the said Derrham upon a pretence of piracy, because he had been before in Ireland, and hath been noted before with that offence ; making these pretences to the intent no spark of suspicion should rise of these Examinations.
The said Lord Privy Seal found the woman in her Examination constant in her former sayings: and Sir Thomas. Wriothesly found by the Confession of Mannock, that he had commonly used to feel the secrets and other parts of her body, ere ever Derrham as so familiar with her; and Derrham confessed that he had known her carnally many times, both in his doublet and his hose between the sheets, and in naked bed, alleging such Witnesses of three sundry women one after another, that had lien in the same bed with them when he did the acts, that the matter seemed most apparent.
But what inward sorrow the king's majesty took when he perceived the Information true, as it was the most woeful thing that ever came to our hearts, to see it; so it were too tedious to write it unto you. But his heart was so pierced with pensiveness, that long it was before his majesty could speak, and utter the sorrow of his heart unto us: and finally, with plenty of tears (which was strange in his courage) opened the same.
Which done, she was spoken withal in it by the Archbishop. of Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor, the duke of Norfolk, the Lord Great Chamberlain of England, and the bishop of Winchester; to whoa at the first she constantly denied it; but the matter being so declared unto her, that she perceived it to be wholly disclosed, the same night she disclosed the whole to the Archbishop. of Canterbury, who took the Confession of the same in Writing subscribed with her hand: then were the rest of the number, being eight nine men and women which knew of their doings, examined, who all agreed in one tale.
Now may you see what was done before the Marriage; God knoweth what hath been done sithence: but she had already gotten this Derrham into her service, and trained him upon occasions, as sending of errands, and writing of letters when her secretary was out of the way, to come often into her privy chamber.
And she had gotten also into her privy chamber to be one of her chamberers, one of the women which had before lien in the bed with her and Derrham : what this pretended is easy to he conjectured. Thus much we know for the beginning; whereof we thought meet to advertise you, to the intent afore specified: and what shall further succeed and follow of this matter, we shall not fail to advertise you thereof accordingly.
You shall also receive herein enclosed a packet of Letters, directed unto Sir Henry Knevet, his graces ambassador with the emperor, which his highness's pleasure is you shall see conveyed unto him by the next post. Thus fare you right heartily well. — From the king's Palace at Westminster the 12th of November. Your loving Friends, Thomas Audeley, Chancellor.
Here were other Names, which are now defaced in the original ; but ' D. Norfolk' may by the contents of the Letter be supposed one E Hertford, William Southampton, Robert Sussex, Stephen Winton, Anthony Wingfield.
Besides the persons specified in this Letter, one Thomas Culpeper (being of the same name with the queen's mother) was indicted for the same fault (as our Histories have it,) which he and Derrham at their Arraignment confessing, Culpeper had his head cut off, and Derrham was hanged and quartered.
But it rested not here; for the lord Wm. Howard (the queen's uncle, newly returned from an ambassage in France) and his wife, and the old Duchess of Norfolk, and divers of the queen's and the said duchess kindred and servants, and a butler- wife, were indicted of Misprision of Treason (as concealing this fact,) and condemned to perpetual prison; though yet by the king's favour some of them at length were released.
The king yet not satisfied thus, for more authorizing his proceeding, referred the business to the parliament sitting the 16 of January,. On the 21st of the same month a bill was brought into the house", and read a first time for the Attainder, on the charge of High Treason, of Catherine Howard, late queen of England, and Jane lady Rochford, with others.
And in the same bill was contained the Attainders, on misprision of treason, of Agues Howard duchess of Norfolk, William Howard. On 28 the lord chancellor declared to the rest of the peers’ How much it concerned all their honours not to proceed to give too hasty a judgement on the bill for the attainder of the queen and others which had yet been only read once amongst them. For that they were to remember that a queen was no mean or private person, but an illustrious and public one.
Therefore, her cause was to be judged with that sincerity, that there should be neither room for suspicion of some latent quarrel, or that she should not have liberty to clear herself, if perchance, by reason or council she was able to do it, from the crime laid to her charge. For this purpose he thought it but reasonable, that some principal persons, as well of the lords as commons, should be deputed to go to the queen, partly to tell her the cause of their coming, and partly in order to help her womanish fears, by advising and admonishing her to have presence of mind enough to say anything to make her cause better.
He knew for certain, that it was but just, that a princess should be judged by equal laws with themselves; and he could -assure them, that the clearing herself in this manner would be highly acceptable to her most loving husband. But that some answer ought to be had from her, and to report the truth of it to his majesty his advice was, that they should choose the archbishop of Canterbury;' Charles duke of Suffolk, grand master of the household; William earl of Southampton, lord privy seal; with the bishop of Westminster; if the king's council approved of this, day after day, to repair to the queen, to treat of this matter, according as their own prudence might think it necessary."
And in the meantime, the sentence concerning the bill against her majesty was ordered to he suspended.
On the 30th of January, the chancellor declared to the lords openly, that the privy council, on mature deliberation, disliked the message that was to be sent to the queen; nevertheless, in the meantime, they had thought of another way, less faulty, to be put to the king, or rather to be altogether demanded of him: "
1st. That his majesty would condescend, according to his usual wisdom in council, to weigh by no equal balance, the mutability of all human affairs; that nature is weak and corrupt; none made free from accidents; and that no man can he happy in everything. That the whole state of the kingdom depends on his majesty's resolution to divert his mind from all trouble and solicitude.
Next, that the attainder of Thomas Colepepper and Francis Dereham, with the king's assent, should be confirmed by authority of parliament.
Also, the attainder on misprision against lord William Howard.
And that the parliament might have leave to proceed to give judgment, and to finish the queen's cause; that the event of that business may be no longer in doubt.
3rd, That when all these things are completed in a just parliamentary method, without any loss of time, that then his majesty would condescend to give his royal assent to them: not by being present and speaking openly, as the custom hath been in other parliaments, but absent, by his letters patents, under the great seal of England, and signed by his own hand.
That the remembrance of this late and sorrowful story and wicked facts, if repeated before him, may not renew his grief and endanger his majesty's health.
Lastly, they were to beseech his majesty that if by chance, by speaking freely on the queen, they should offend again-t the statutes then in being, out of his great clemency, he would pardon all and every of them for it. And to propound all these matters to his majesty, the archbishop of Canterbury, Charles duke of Suffolk, with the earl of Southampton, were deputed for that purpose."
January 31, the lord chancellor declared to the house, " That their message and request of yesterday had been delivered to his majesty by the lord’s commissioners; and that the king had denied no part of their petition, but had orderly granted every part of it. That he had returned them thanks for their loving admonition in regard to his health; which he said he took care of, not so much for the sake of his own body, as that of the whole republic. Nay, his majesty declared farther to them than they durst ask of him, as in the case of desiring liberty of freedom speech etc.
For he told them he granted yet more in giving leave for each man to speak his mind freely and not incur the penalty which the laws had fixed on those who took the liberty talk on the inconsistency of queens especially when the said person did not do it out of malice or you will but out zeal for his service
On 11 February, the Lord Chancellor produced two statutes which had passed both lords and commons; one concerning the Attainder of the queen, and the other about the method of proceeding against lunatics, who before their insanity had confessed themselves guilty of high treason.
Each statute signed with the king's own hand, and together with his majesty's assent to thorn, under the broad seal, and signed also, which was annexed to the said statutes. This the chancellor held forth in both hands, that both lords and commons, who were called for that purpose, might apparently see it, and that the statutes might from thence have (he full force and authority of a law.
Which, when done, the Duke of Suffolk, grand master of the king's household, delivered himself, in a very serious discourse, to this effect: he told the house.
“That he and his fellow-deputies, appointed to wait upon the queen, had been with her; and that she had openly confessed and acknowledged to them the great crime she had been guilty of against the most high God and a kind prince, and lastly against the whole English nation.
That she begged them all to implore his majesty not to impute her crime alone to her whole kindred and family. But that his majesty howsoever unworthy she might be and undeserving, would yet extend his unbounded mercy and his singular beneficence to all her brothers, that they might not suffer for her faults. Lastly, to beseech his majesty that it would please him to bestow some of her cloaths on those maid-servants who had been with her from the time of her marriage, since she had now nothing else left to recompense them as they deserved."
The earl of Southampton, lord privy seal, next stood up in the house, and, in near the same words, confirmed what the duke had said: adding…
…Here the Journal Book again breaks off abruptly, and we are only told that '
the chancellor prorogued the parliament to the Tuesday following. This last hiatus in manuscripto, along with the former, makes it seem evident, that they were not done by neglect of the clerks, but by design ; and that it was a trick of state, to prevent posterity from being acquainted with some matters, not consistent with the respect they then paid to their grand monarch.
And so the queen and lady Jane Rochfort (wife to the late lord Rochfort, and noted to be a particular instrument in the death of queen Anne) were brought to the Tower, and after confession of their faults, had their heads cut off.
An Act also passed, declaring that it shall be lawful for any of the king's subjects, if themselves do perfectly know, or by vehement presumption do perceive any will, act or condition of lightness of body in her which shall be the queen of this realm, to disclose the same to the king, or some of his council; but they shall not openly blow it abroad, or whisper it, until it be divulged by the king or his council. If the king, or any of his successors shall marry a woman which was before incontinent, if she conceal the same, it shall be High-Treason.