Katherine Howard

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Katherine Howard, Queen Consort as played by Tamzin Merchant
Motto: " No other Will but His"

Born c. 1521/24 - married the King July 28, 1540
- executed February 13, 1542 by order of King Henry VIII

Character's backstory: Daughter of Lord Edmund Howard, a younger brother of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk and first cousin to Anne Boleyn whose mother was Katherine's father's sister. She was the 4th of ten children in her family & from the age of 9 or 10, Katherine was brought up in the household of her step grandmother, Agnes Tilney, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. Her mother had died young and her father, though a nobleman, was constantly in debt. She came to King Henry VIII's court as a lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves. Like her predecessors, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour, Katherine caught the king's eye while she served the current queen when it is thought she was merely 16 years old and Henry was 49. After Henry quickly dispatched Anne of Cleves, he married Katherine sixteen days later. Henry was greatly taken with his lively new queen, who amused him as his weight and the wound he received from a joust in his earlier days bothered him more and more. * For more on the history of Katherine Howard click here

"On 24 November [1541], Katherine Howard -- whom the Council had formally demoted from the title of Queen two days earlier-- was indicted for having led 'an abominable , base, carnal, voluptuous life' before marriage ' like a common harlot with divers persons ... maintaining however outward appearance of chastity and honesty'. So she had led the King 'by word and gesture to love her' and thus 'arrogantly coupled herself with him in marriage'. She had also concealed the contract she had had with Dereham 'to the peril of the King and of his children to be begotten 'by her' (who might have found themselves bastards). After marriage she had again shown Dereham'notable favour', while inciting Culpepper to carnal intercourse, telling him she loved him above the King...

She never confessed to adultery -- and nor had Culpepper or Dereham. Culpepper had actually been put to death for intent to commit adultery (as Buckinghamhad been put to death for intent to commit treason). The whole question of the precontract [with Dereham] remained a delicate one. It was however the King's will that Katherine should suffer under an Act of Attainder which proved her treason. So Katherine too was condemned to die for the 'violent presumption' that she had committed adultery.

On the Sunday, Katherine was informed that she was going to die. Perhaps the horror of the clumsy death of Margaret, Countess of Salisburyhad communicated itself to her. She asked to have the block brought to her in advance 'that she might know how to place herself' and make trial of it'."
~ Antonia Fraser The Six Wives of Henry VIII

Gentility: Nobility; granddaughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, cousin to Queen Anne Boleyn

Position: Queen Consort of England, lady in waiting to Anne of Cleves

Personality type:
The youngest of Henry's wives, she was not known for her maturity. The young queen delighted in amusements, and was altogether described as a flirtatious and lively queen. Unfortunately for her, her vivacious spirit landed her in trouble with other men, and as a result, landed her on the block.

Signature look:
Petite & pretty, she enjoyed beautiful clothes, dancing and music.
According to French ambassador Marillac, she was "a young lady of extraordinary beauty" and of "superlative grace."

"Sparkling eyes set far apart, with whitened skin unmarred by freckles and tinted with a high and contrasting colouring, were regarded as the epitome of feminine loveliness. Both Katherine and her cousin, Anne Boleyn, had these characteristics, and although the Venetian Ambassador was not captivated by Anne s charms, he admitted that her eyes were black and beautiful and that these more than anything else pleased the King. Katherine Howard was not unlike her cousin, and legend has it that she was Henry's most beautiful queen. What ever the truth, all her critics agree that she had auburn hair, was small, plump and vivacious overflowing with so much vitality that Marillac could write that he had nothing to report except a continuous round of banqueting and dancing at court " ~ Lacey Baldwin Smith

Nickname: "Rose without a thorn"

Endearing trait(s):
Sweet & kind natured. She brought Princess Elizabeth forward, befriending her and calling her "kinswoman", though there was danger in angering the King with the reminder of Anne Boleyn. When she learned of Margaret Pole, Lady Salisbury, once Princess Mary's governess, who had been imprisoned in the Tower for years after Katherine of Aragon's banishment from Court, she risked Henry's anger once again by sending warm clothing and bonnets to the old woman, though she did not even know her. Later, at Princess Mary's request, she pled with Henry for the Countess of Salisbury's life, to no avail, earning herself nothing but a vicious reprimand.
* The series inaccurately shows Lady Salisbury being arrested (and obviously executed) before Henry marries Katherine.

Katherine successfully pleaded for the pardon of Thomas Wyatt who was in the Tower. He was subsequently released.

Annoying trait(s):
Some say she was empty headed and frivolous, and in intellect and experience, she certainly was no match for the people and intrigues surrounding her. She was VERY young and impulsive and was used remorselessly by the very people who should have protected and guided her -- her family.

"Henry showered his new love with jewels and other gifts and was rejuvenated by her youth, her prettiness, and her vivacity. He was "so marvellously set upon [her] as it was never known that he had the like to any woman".
Charles de Marillac described Katherine's countenance as "delightful" but there is no certain portrait of her.Two almost identical miniatures by Holbein, thought to be of Katherine survive today. They show a plump girl with auburn hair and the Howard nose, which bears our Marillac's assertion that she was " a young lady of moderate beauty but superlative grace, of small stature, of modest countenance and gentle earnest face"...

In character Katherine was frivolous, flighty, pleasure-loving and sensual. Chapuys thought her "imperious and wilful" which was perhaps the result of the King overindulging her. Although her religious views were certainly orthodox, she was not noted for her piety."
Alison Weir "Henry VIII: the King and his court"

Tamzin Merchant as Katherine Howard

Katherine Howard's signature

She was too much a child to deny
any sweet thing she wanted.
Anne of Cleves was said to have remarked,
when hearing of Katherine's adultery.

She is a pretty young creature, with wit enough to do as badly as the others
if she were to try.

- Ambassador Chapuys in a letter to Charles V

She hath done wondrous naughty
~ Francis I delightedly commented on being
informed of the accusations against Katherine

Howard badgeKatherine Howard COA as Queen Consort

" Comet-like, brilliant yet transitory, Katherine Howard blazed across the Tudor sky. The light that so fiercely illuminated the dark places of history lasted only eighteen months, but the harsh flame of her passing silhouetted and exposed the monstrous realities of her age - the cruelty and violence of London, the predatory morality of the court, the dazzling magnificence of the Crown, and the complex character of the man she married, the King himself. These four underlie the ephemeral splendour of her life and the tragedies that followed her career at court; and here a diversion from the main flow of events leading to the fateful days of February, 1542, is necessary. Katherine was something more than the product of her family; she was also a child of her age, the product of, and in the end victimized by, those vague postulates of social and political behaviour which, though rarely articulated, nevertheless set fetters upon men's minds and condition their actions. Katherine mirrored in her assumptions and ethical standards the violence that pervaded all levels of society and especially the city of London and the royal court the essential stages upon which the final acts of her life were played.

...Life at court and in the city was harsh and dangerous, yet Katherine accepted the brutality of law, the callousness of ethics, and the extremism and violence of society for what they were part of the normal fabric of life. Katherine herself could be both cruel and generous, coarse and charming, meek and arrogant, with no thought of inconsistency. Reflecting every facet of society, her emotions were unbridled, and she moved easily from the frenzied bitterness of remorse and self-criticism into ecstasies of reckless love and heedless passion. If she was proud and indifferent to the suffering of others, if she frantically endeavoured to compress into a single moment the pleasures of an entire life, then she did no more than the rest of society that lived on the brink of destruction.
" ~ Lacey Baldwin Smith in A Tudor Tragedy

During her girlhood at the home of her step grandmother, Agnes Tilney, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, Katherine had been caught in a compromising position with Henry Manox, her music teacher, when she was 13. The Duchess had immediately fired Manox, and beat Katherine severely for her transgressions. But the flirtation with Manox had been little more than that.

The e
lderly Duchess carefully locked the dormitory of the single women of her household each night, but she slept far from it, and was nearly deaf as well. What should have been a chaste and safe stronghold was far from it.The windows were opened as soon as the door was locked, and men from the area had free access to the room, and the women within it.

Katherine formed a liaison with Francis Dereham during this time, and he was a frequent visitor to the dormitory. In fact, they had sworn before witnesses to marry each other as soon as she was older, and called each other "husband" and "wife". When he went on a journey to Ireland, he left his money in her possession, and made presents to her of clothing and jewelry. Katherine, in turn, bestowed sexual favors on him, going so far as to have intercourse with him in full view of the other people in the dormitory. When Dereham was questioned (under the influence of torture), he revealed enough particulars about Katherine's anatomy, including a birthmark or scar on her upper thigh, to let Henry know that his testimony could not be trumped up.

*See also :Historical Controversies about Katherine Howard


Family members:
Father Lord Edmund Howard, third son of the 2nd Duke of Norfolk
Mother : Joyce Culpepper
Brother: Sir Charles Howard
Brother: Henry Howard
Brother: Sir George Howard
Sister: Lady Mary Howard
Sister: Lady Margaret Leigh Howard
Half siblings: Isabel, Margaret, Joyce, John, and Ralph Leigh from her mother's first marriage to Sir Ralph Leigh Esq
First cousin: Anne Boleyn on Howard side of family
First cousin: Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey
First cousin: Mary Fitzroy, Duchess of Richmond ( sister of Henry Howard and wife of Henry's illegimate son Henry Fitzroy)
Uncle: Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk
Aunt: Lady Margaret Bryan
Aunt: Elizabeth Howard (mother of Anne Boleyn)

-Francis Dereham, a secretary in her grandmother's (and later her own) household. He was hanged, drawn, and quartered for treason for his pre-marital relationship with Katherine.

-Thomas Culpepper, a distant cousin and favourite courtier of the king.. Jane Boleyn, George Boleyn's wife and Anne Boleyn's sister-in-law, arranged their secret meetings. He was also beheaded for treason for his relationship with Katherine.

-Henry Manox, a music teacher to Katherine employed by her grandmother Agnes Tilney. During Katherine's trial, both Katherine and Manox confessed to having a sexual relationship that did not include intercourse.

Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford (formerly Jane Parker, widow of George Boleyn)

Thomas Cranmer & the Protestant Faction


  • "I have come here to die, I die as a Queen, but I'd rather die as the wife of Culpepper."

  • "I've spoken to god so rarely, I do not think he would know who I was"

  • "Life is very beautiful."


  • In Season 4, episode 5; Katherine Howard ran down the hallway, to plead to King Henry VIII to show mercy towards her.


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Katherine Howard - Season 4

Katherine Howard
Miniature by Holbein c1540 - thought to be Katherine

JRM as King Henry with Tamzin Merchant as Katherine Howard
Katherine Howard as played by Tamzin Merchant with JRM as King Henry VIII
Season 4

Torrance Coombs as Thomas Culpepper with Tamzin Merchant as Katherine Howard
Thomas Culpepper (Torrance Coombs) and Katherine
Season 4