Poor Catherine Howard
I find myself feeling the same compassion for Catherine Howard as I do for Mary Stuart – both were women who continued to make poor decisions in the face of increasingly dire consequences.
Catherine Howard married Henry VIII despite a precontract – sealed with the ceding of her virginity – to Sir Francis Dereham. That was a huge mistake.
Still, it was a minor (read: non-fatal) issue compared to her decision to embark on an affair with one of Henry’s gentlemen, Sir. Thomas Culpeper. There are so many theories as to why she did this. Some point to the age difference – of course a nineteen year old with a sordid past would seek some diversion from marriage to an obese tyrant in his 50s. Some argue that she was just seeking a son to cement her position – with her background, she knew she would be vulnerable unless and until she birthed a “spare” son. Some claim she was being blackmailed. And some just believe she was an adrenaline junkie.
I don’t know why Catherine Howard did what she did (though I have ordered Conor Byrne’s new biography and hope it will explain things!). I do know it was a stupid risk, mainly because of how badly it backfired.
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