When there is ever a discussion about the Six Wives of Henry VIII- most have a favourite and a least favourite. For many, the least favourite is infact Katheryn Howard. So many people will then tell you how foolish they believe young Kitty was in ignoring the fate of her cousin.
I have to disagree- I really love this girl. Not for any real reason but when I think of her and Culpepper I think the bravery comes accross far more than the foolishness.
Firstly, I think that we cannot blame Kitty for being ignorant of the Courtly ways. She’d been abandoned by her father at the Dowager Duchess’ ‘dubious academy’ as Starkey puts it. There is no way at this point that she’d even think for a moment she could be Queen- there was no point in virtue being brought up like that to be handed over to some random nobleman just for your dowry… She was a very loving girl and I’m guessing she felt a little neglected and wanted some attention. Unfortunately she gained it in the wrong way… Hence, the Dereham affair. She needn’t worry about something like that- she wasn’t a particularly important memeber of the Howard clan- her father was the second son if I remember rightly… And she was just a daughter. I don’t think she count have ever expected much power.
Then, pulled from the world she knew the King took a fancy to her… Kitty had never been aware of Court and was thrown in ‘at the deep end’ if you ask me. I think she thought she could carry on being herself even though she was being paraded around the King and advised on what to say in his company. I think by the time the situation had caught up with her she was far beyond the alter.
As Queen, she saw an opportunity to enjoy herself, to be loved and to gain plenty of attention that she thrived in. She also had the love of men other than the King…
You just have to feel for Kitty, fifteen years at the youngest and nineteen at the eldest, having to share a bed with the increasingly grotesque Henry VIII. Fat, fifty and filthy yet still thinking himself just as youthful as she… But the King gave her so much in love, attention and enjoyment that she just could not refuse him.
So her eyes wonder elsewhere… Quite a dramatic love, isn’t it? rather like a modern-day soap storyline. I truly do think she loved Henry, just not sexually. Throught most of her life she had indulged in men- Henry just wouldn’t do it for her. Then there is Culpepper. Handsome and offering her that final piece of her jigsaw for everything to be complete for her. Can you really blame her?
I think we can say that she must have been pretty desperate for a satisfactory sexual relationship by this point because of the sort of man Culpepper was. First, he was her cousin. Which would be accepted at that time, but still I’m sure she could have been much more creative and maybe wanted to draw attention to the fact that even her cousin could make a better lover than the king. Next, we was a convicted murderer and rapist. That is never good… Finally, he was in the king’s closest circle. She could have been so much more discreet otherwise… I suppose something must have clicked in Henry’s mind when neither of them showed up at night.
On the Summer Campaign, Kitty took her chance. Henry was suffering from his illnesses and from bouts of depression. The affair officially began about now. And after all of the attention and love Henry gave her without as much as a second thougt, if he were to find out, I think she thought she could be forgiven. She hadn’t known Henry’s personality well or probably knew much of the previous years… Another of her cousins had been killed by Henry, Anne Boleyn, the woman he had torn his country appart for.
After the Dereham affair and precontract was found, she could have got out. She would be bannished and sent into exile, maybe in due course she would be forgiven. But what would she do then? She would lose her pretty things and everything would be back to the life before, just nowhere near as good. She would have no one to love her. She refused. Then the Culpepper affair was found.
That was different to Dereham- Culpepper was adultery. In a Queen- high treason.
The only surviving letter of her was found and it was by far enough to seal her fate.
Spring 1541- Master Culpeper,
I heartily recommend me unto you, praying you to send me word how that you do. It was showed me that you was sick, the which thing troubled me very much till such time that I hear from you praying you to send me word how that you do, for I never longed so much for a thing as I do to see you and to speak with you, the which I trust shall be shortly now. That which doth comfortly me very much when I think of it, and when I think again that you shall depart from me again it makes my heart die to think what fortune I have that I cannot be always in your company. It my trust is always in you that you will be as you have promised me, and in that hope I trust upon still, praying you that you will come when my Lady Rochford is here for then I shall be best at leisure to be at your commandment, thanking you for that you have promised me to be so good unto that poor fellow my man which is one of the griefs that I do feel to depart from him for then I do know no one that I dare trust to send to you, and therefore I pray you take him to be with you that I may sometime hear from you one thing. I pray you to give me a horse for my man for I had much ado to get one and therefore I pray send me one by him and in so doing I am as I said afor, and thus I take my leave of you, trusting to see you shortly again and I would you was with me now that you might see what pain I take in writing to you.
Yours as long as life endures,
One thing I had forgotten and that is to instruct my man to tarry here with me still for he says whatsomever you bid him he will do it
On her trip to the Tower through the dreaded Traitors’ gate, she passed the severed heads of the men she had loved. Both had been found guilty of Treason. Culpepper had his sentence commuted to beheading- Dereham was not so lucky and faced the infamous traitors’ death.
On 13th Feb 1542, Kitty herself was executed along with Lady Rochford (Jane Boleyn, nee Parker. The sister-in-law of Anne Boleyn). Henry had passed new treason acts making the Dereham affair or anything like it Treason and also that mad people could be executed as Lady Rochford had gone mad by this point.
Don’t believe The Tudors- Kitty did not say ‘I die a Queen, but would rather die the wife of Culpepper.’
I just think you’ve got to feel for this girl. At the eldest she was twenty one, youngest just seventeen. And she was just a a very loving young woman who desired nothing more than to be loved and appreciated.
I just think it’s too bad she wasn’t about in Henry’s ‘golden years’.