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December 20, 1541 – Agnes Tilney Begs for Mercy

Agnes Tilney, Duchess of Norfolk, published by John Thane in 1793 (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Quick context: Agnes Tilney was the dowager Duchess of Norfolk who was supposed to be supervising the upbringing of the young Catherine Howard. On November 2, Archbishop Cranmer alerted Henry to Catherine’s past; on November 6, Henry abandoned Catherine at Hampton Court; on December 15, her uncle Norfolk wrote a letter throwing her under the bus …but in that same letter he also threw his stepmother under those wheels and she was arrested as well and brought to the Tower (apparently along with so many Howards that there were not enough rooms to house them!).

Southampton and Wriothesley went to question her – they describe her fear:

Immediately after the dispatch of the letter written yesterday […], they two went to the Tower. Began with the lady of Norfolk, whom they found on her bed and apparently very sickly, urging her to reveal more of the lewd demeanor of the Queen and Dereham. Describe, at great length, her sorrowful protestation that she never suspected anything more than a light love between them, and thought that Dereham gave her money only because he was her kinsman. Also how she prayed the King’s pardon for not having told of it before the marriage, and for breaking Dereham’s and Damporte’s coffers, confessed where 800l. more was hidden in her house (which Wriothesley, with Mr. Attorney, Mr. Pollard, and Mr. Brystowe, found this morning), and begged that the King would not give away her house at Lambeth, for she could not long live in the Tower.

Letters and Papers

The plea worked well enough to save her from being tried two days later with Lord William Howard and his wife, Margaret; Katherine Tilney, Alice Restwold, Joan Bulmer, Anne Howard, Robert Damporte, Malena Tilney, Margaret Benet, Edward Waldegrave and William Ashby. Though she was included in the indictment and was sentenced to imprisonment and forfeiture of lands and goods. She was even eventually released from the Tower …


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December 20, 1541 – Agnes Tilney Begs for Mercy
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