04 February 2011

Catherine Howard: His rose without a thorn

Catherine Howard was the fifth wife of King Henry VIII.

After the death of Jane, Henry was shopping for a queen.  At this point in his life, and given his history, most women considered for the job were shying away from it.  When asked if she was interested in being Henry's queen, Christina of Milan is to have said that if she only had two heads, she would give Henry one. As far as the thinking of those days were concerned, Henry had put away Catherine of Aragon unfairly, had Anne Boleyn executed without just cause, and let Jane Seymour die in her child bed for a negligent lack of care.  And Anne of Cleves, what had that been about?   Not everyone thought so negatively of Henry, of course, but many people, especially women, did. So the task of finding a wife, and one that Henry liked, was not going to be easy.

Enter Catherine Howard. Young, pretty, and not savvy or powerful enough to decline marriage proposal to the aging king, she was the perfect choice (victim.)  Still, there existed problems that Henry had not the insight to consider.  Catherine was a simple party girl from the provinces, hardly queen material.  Catherine was Anne Boleyn's cousin, and mutual family would not be all the two women would share.

For a time, King Henry was ecstatic over his young pretty wife.  Her referred to Catherine as his "rose without a thorn."   What the king didn't know is that his queen was no virgin, and would not be chaste even after her marriage.  Soon after the nuptials Catherine behaved like a loose canon, flirting wildly, and when Mary Tudor accused her stepmom of caring for little else but pleasure, she was right.

Still, it is hard not to sympathize with Catherine. Henry was 30 years older than his queen, 350+ pounds, and afflicted with boils that produced a nauseating stench. Naturally, the young Catherine was not attracted to Henry, and was almost immediately interested in someone else. That she actually thought she could get away with cheating on Henry is where things become unbelievable. Of course, Catherine was promptly discovered.
And though he would mourn for her, King Henry did sign her death warrant.


Theresa Bruno said...

I don't know much about Catherine Howard, but something tells me there was more to her than pleasure seeking.

Anyhow we will never know, because her life ended so soon.

CR Wall said...

I agree, Theresa.

Catherine's was a particularly tragic case. So young, and frankly never having been raised for the role she was to play, she was almost destined for failure and tragedy. That Henry actually fooled himself into thinking that such a young and attractive young woman could actually maintain the position she was called to speaks volumes on the degree of disturbance that riddled Henry's mind.