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November 7, 1541 – Thomas Cranmer Questions Catherine Howard

Tamzin Merchant as Catherine Howard in Showtimes’ The Tudors (from the Tudors Wiki)

So, on November 2, Thomas Cranmer had let the fifty-year-old Henry VIII know that witnesses had come forward claiming that his seventeen-year-old (fifth) wife had slept with other men before their marriage – now it was time for the tender-hearted man to question the poor girl.. At this point, everything was still focused on what had happened before the marriage – today’s questioning was just to gather enough information to invalidate her marriage to Henry and bring about her downfall.

You can see from his report how sorry Cranmer is for her – he even explains how his intention had been to start stern and then let her know the King intended to be merciful, but she was in a terrible state. To calm her, he started by telling her that she had already been granted mercy, provided she just confess the truth to him. And so she did.

[A note here, before I start! This is from Letters and Papers and therefore expressed as a summary rather than the letter itself…and that’s how you need to read it.]

Describes his interview with the Queen, whose state it would have pitied any man’s heart to see. She had continued so ever since Cranmer left her. Purposed first to exaggerate her demerits, then declare the justice of the laws, and, lastly, signify the King’s mercy; but, for fear she would enter into a frenzy, was fain to begin with the last. When she broke out into any “extreme braydes,” told her there was some new fantasy come into her head and asked what it was. She said “this sudden mercy” made her offences seem more heinous. About six o’clock she fell into another pang which, she said, was “for the remembrance of the time, for about that time, as she said, Master Heneage was wont to bring her knowledge of your Grace.” Lacks time to write everything and leaves it to the bearer, Sir John Dudley, to relate. Encloses all he can get touching any communication of marriage with Dereham, which she thinks no contract, nor would it be so if carnal copulation had not followed. The reason Mr. Baynton sent to the King was to declare her state, and because, after Cranmer left, she began to excuse and temper the things she had said and put her hand to, for she says that what Dereham did was by force.

Sigh. Unfortunately, things only escalated from here. That poor girl.


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