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February 10, 1542 – Catherine Howard Taken by Barge to the Tower

Catherine Howard being conveyed to the Tower, English School (from Cassell’s Illustrated History of England, with thanks to Project Gutenberg )

This would have been such a difficult trip for poor Kitty Howard. After Parliament passed the Act of Attainder against her, officials came to get her at Syon Abbey to take her to the Tower. She became hysterical and had to be dragged to the waiting barge….which would take her past London Bridge and the rotting heads of Thomas Culpeper and Francis Dereham.

We have a description of the trip from Chapuys’ February 25 letter to Charles:

On the afternoon of the 10th, she was, with some resistance, conveyed by river to the Tower. The Lord Privy Seal, with a number of Privy Councillors and servants, went first in a great barge; then came the Queen with three or four men and as many ladies, in a small covered barge; then the Duke of Suffolk, in a great barge, with a company of his men. On their arrival at the Tower, the lords landed first; then the Queen, in black velvet, and they paid her as much honour as when she was reigning. 

And then we have a description of her time in the Tower from Marillac’s February 13th letter to Francis:  

Parliament has condemned this Queen and the lady of Rochefort to death. Her execution was expected this week, for last night she was brought from Syon to the Tower, but as she weeps, cries, and torments herself miserably, without ceasing, it is deferred for three or four days, to give her leisure to recover, and think of her conscience. As to the old Duchess of Norfolk, some say she shall die, others that she shall keep perpetual prison, like her son lord William and daughter the Countess of Bridgewater. A few days will show. All her goods are already confiscated, and are of marvellous value, 400,000 or 500,000 crowns, for ladies in this country succeed for life to the moveables of their deceased husbands. Norfolk is greatly interested, since the greater part came to her through his late father; yet the times are such that he dare not show that the affair touches him, but approves all that is done.

P.S. After writing the above, was informed that to-day, Monday, 13th, the condemned ladies should be executed; and, indeed, about nine o’clock in the morning, this Queen first, and afterwards the lady of Rochefort, within the Tower, had their heads cut off with an axe, after the manner of the country. The Queen was so weak that she could hardly speak, but confessed in few words that she had merited a hundred deaths for so offending the King who had so graciously treated her. The lady of Rochefort said as much in a long discourse of several faults which she had committed in her life. It is not yet said who will be Queen; but the common voice is that this King will not be long without a wife, for the great desire he has to have further issue.

As for what all this did to Henry, I will leave you with Chapuys’ insightful analysis in his December 3 letter to Graneville:

This King has wonderfully felt the case of the Queen, his wife, and has certainly shown greater sorrow at her loss than at the faults, loss, or divorce of his preceding wives. It is like the case of the woman who cried more bitterly at the loss of her tenth husband than at the deaths of all the others together, though they had all been good men, but it was because she had never buried one of them before without being sure of the next; and as yet it does not seem that he has formed any new plan.


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February 10, 1542 – Catherine Howard Taken by Barge to the Tower
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