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This article is about Henry VIII's fifth wife. For other uses, see Catherine (disambiguation).
The following article contains the fictional portrayal of one or more historical figures. Details in this article may differ from real world facts. For more information on the historical figure(s), consult the links provided within or at the bottom of the article.

"I can see that Catherine will never feel the same about him again. He is not the big, genial husband she took him for. He is dangerous."
Beatrice Townhill[3]

Catherine Howard (c. 1520 – 13 February 1542) was the fifth wife of King Henry VIII of England after Anne of Cleves, whom she had served as a lady-in-waiting. She was also a cousin of his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Catherine and Henry were married in 1540. She was only Queen for a little over a year, before being executed for her past indiscretions.


Early life[]

Catherine was born around 1520[1] into the aristocratic Howard family. After her mother died when she was young, Catherine was put in the care of a distant relative, Agnes Tilney, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. Catherine grew up in Lambeth with a number of other children, all of whom were under the guardianship of the Dowager Duchess. The children were under the care of various attendants due to the Dowager Duchess being at court most of the time. Unfortunately, the attendants apparently did not take great care of the children or give them a decent education.[4]

At age twelve, Catherine was taken advantage by her music teacher, Henry Manox. She later had a some sort of relationship with Francis Dereham, whom also lived at the Dowager Duchess's home. Reportedly, he referred to her as his "wife" and even allowed her to handle his money like a wife.

1540 – 1542[]

In 1540, Catherine was brought to court by her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk. She served as a lady-in-waiting to King Henry VIII's fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, whom he was attempting to divorce at the time. Henry quickly became infatuated with Catherine, which had been her uncle's plan all along. In July of that year, Henry annulled his marriage to Anne of Cleves. He and Catherine married just a few short weeks later at Oatlands Palace. Before her marriage, Catherine was approached by a Joan Bulmer for a position. She appointed her as a secretary, possibly feeling that she could not refuse her since she knew of her past. Several happy months of celebrating followed for Catherine until after Christmas. She was then distressed by Henry's sullen moods and worried that he no longer loved her.

As 1541 went on, Catherine became aware of Henry's ruthlessness, particularly when he had Margaret Pole. Francis Dereham approached her in August, leading her to appoint as another secretary. A few months later in November, Catherine's past was revealed by an old acquaintance Mary Lascelles to Archbishop Cranmer. Catherine was confined to her chambers with her lady-in-waiting, Lady Rochford. Later, a damning letter was discovered in Thomas Culpeper's room that suggested an affair between the two. Catherine expressed her innocence, but was eventually found guilty. Francis and Thomas were executed in December 1541. Catherine was not executed until 13 February 1542 with Lady Rochford.


Catherine's stepdaughter Elizabeth had been fond of her though she thought of her as "more like a playmate than a mother."[5] Elizabeth and Robin Dudley saw Catherine run down the long gallery at Hampton Court seeking mercy from Henry. Deeply effected by the incident, Elizabeth came to believe that Catherine haunted the long gallery following her execution.[6]

Physical appearance[]

Catherine was described as having the "same sharp-eyed beauty and liveliness" as her cousin, Anne Boleyn.[4]

Personality and traits[]

Beatrice Townhill described Catherine was as a youthful girl whom was "full of life, fun and naughtiness."[4] She lived for fun, bringing joy and happiness to her husband. However, Catherine expected everyday to be fun and thus became dismayed when Henry lapsed into his depressive episodes. Due to her upbringing, Catherine was not well educated at all. She had a hard time reading and writing. Catherine was also generally naive about the nature of people. She was particularly vulnerable at court due to her lack of knowledge on how it works and not having anyone to advise her.

Behind the scenes[]


In chronological order:


See also[]

My Story characters
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Give Us the Vote! | Standing Alone | Hero at Dunkirk | What If They Find Us?

Further reading[]