Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Rose Without a Thorn Can Have Pricks

This maid of honor was Catherine Howard & she was Anne Boleyn's cousin, if you can believe that!

Catherine Howard

Norfolk was her uncle, too, as she was the daughter of his youngest bro Edmund. She may have been as young as 15, probably no older than 20 (I believe I mentioned that whole sloppy record-keeping thing), whilst Henry was 49 & now officially a dirty old man for even casting his eye in her direction. Norfolk noticed Henry's gaze & went over & whispered in Cathy's ear that she best make nice w/ the king b/c there could be a lovely crown in it for her.

Cathy Howard was far from the sharpest crayon in the sprawling Howard clan box. Her father was a loser who moved from house to house sponging off his rellies (luckily the deceased John Howard, Duke of Norfolk had spawned about a dozen kids per wife so there were lots of houses in which to sponge) & just kept breeding kidlets like it was going out of style. The rellies weren't fussed about feeding them all, so they arranged for most of them to be farmed out elsewhere. Cathy's mum, Joyce Culpeper, demised like Jane had after having Cathy, & her daddy was too busy w/ his new wifey to pay her much mind, anyway, so she didn't care. She got sent to stay w/ her stepgranny, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk.

No special privileges there; little Cathy was shoved into the dormitory that all the Dowager Duchess's unmarried ladies shared. They were out in the country where it was boring & so sometimes the older chicks would invite some gents in to party once the old bat went to bed. There was no privacy, so if they wanted to spend some quality time w/ a gent they just closed the curtains round the bed & had at it. Cathy thought this looked like fun & she couldn't wait until she was grown up enough to swill wine & have a nice gentleman caller of her own sneak thru the windows.

In the meantime, the DD was supposed to be making sure Cathy got an edjamacation. She didn't do that very well b/c except for dull boring royal chicks like Mary, Elizabeth, & their cuz Jane Grey, Princess Mary's granddaughter, no girls had their noses in books all the time. It wasn't done. But they did have to learn social graces like playing instruments & dancing & such, so the DD got a musical instructor for her, Henry Manox.

Cathy was maybe 11-12 or so round this time, which even in those days was considered a little young for dalliance, which puts Manox squarely into the perv category for even thinking about it, let alone trying to talk Cathy into being her BF. Pretty soon twas obvs something unsavory was going on there & the DD caught on & had her son Sir William Howard toss Manox out on his ear & lecture Cathy about proper decorum & stuff. Cathy smiled & nodded at Unks but she was kinda peeved b/c she wanted to be like the other girls & have a BF.

The DD had gents attached to her household as well, b/c that's what duchesses get, lots of peeps to order around. One of them was Francis Dereham. He came & partied in the dorm w/ Joan Bulmer a lot but pretty soon he started noticing Cathy was growing up to be a sweet young thang & began cozying up to her. Joan was not amused, esp when Cathy started drawing the bed curtains when Dereham came by. Apparently at some pt Dereham asked Cathy to marry him when he got some money to support a wife & Cathy said OK & they began referring to each other as "wife" & "husband". In church terms this meant they were pre-contracted b/c they had an understanding that they were going to get hitched. Dereham thunk it would a fab idea to go to Ireland & become a nice swashbuckling pirate to earn lots of money fast, so he did. He sent Cathy some coin from time to time to save for them when they got married, but she spent it on ribbons & fans & other fripperies whilst trying to get a new BF. Then when the king got married again, Uncle Norfolk remembered she existed & called for her to come to court to be a maid of honor. Cathy was all excited b/c she was the poor rellie & this meant she got to get a splendid new wardrobe b/c you had to look cool if you were going to hang out in court circles. Plus it might be a good place to find a new BF.

So when Uncle Norfolk started whispering in her ear that the king had his eye on her, poor Cathy prolly glanced over at the fat lump w/ his bum leg up on a footstool & went EEEEUUUUUWWWW Unks I think not! Besides, he's MARRIED! Not for long, said Uncle Norfolk w/ a grin, & got Cathy even more fabby outfits & shoved her front & center. Henry bellowed at his physicians to fix his leg & stopped dummying up to the buffet so often so that he could heave his royal backside off the throne & ask Cathy to dance.

Henry VIII
detail from The Barber College Surgeons portrait

Pretty soon wagers were being laid on how fast Anne of Cleves was going to go to the Tower & lose her head, b/c it was plain Henry was besotted w/ Cathy. He called her his "Rose Without a Thorn" b/c she was so cute & perfect.

Henry glared at Cromwell & pointed at Cathy & bellowed I WANT HER TO BE QUEEN! Cromwell gulped & started looking frantically for a way to get Anne out of the picture. Henry glared at him some more b/c Cromwell was the one who got him into this mess of being married to some nasty foreign chick who repulsed Little Henry so. Cromwell broke out into a cold sweat, remembering what happened to the last Lord Chancellor, Thomas More. And More just wouldn't accept Henry over the Pope. More hadn't saddled him w/ a bride the king liked not. Henry promised to make Cromwell a nice earl if he hustled faster & accomplished it w/o the unsightly mess of getting rid of the previous Queen Anne.

Henry had been busy whilst unmarried cutting the heads off lots of peeps. He decided his cuz, the Duke of Exeter, was a little too close to the throne for comfort, Exeter being the son of Elizabeth of York's little sister Catherine, so he had Cromwell trump up some charges & off to the Tower Exeter went. Henry's old BFF Nick Carew, who was Exeter's neighbor & pals-y w/ him, made the trip as well. Peeps was shocked b/c Carew had been raised in the royal nursey & been BFFs w/ Henry since he was like 6. Nice reward. Cromwell didn't like Nick b/c he was too close to the king, so he figured meh let's rope him into this nonsense as well. Another of Henry's cuzzes, Reginald Pole, Clarence's grandson,

Reginald, Cardinal Pole
jeez, you could play Where's Waldo in this peep's beard!

was a cardinal of the Catholic church & he bad-mouthed Henry about the Cath thing, so Henry said I'll show YOU mister don't you be dis'ing me, & he had Pole's 2 bros AND his elderly mum, Margaret, Countess of Salisbury (Clarence's daughter) all clapped in the Tower, too. The oldest bro Henry got the axe & so did Mum. Peeps was appalled b/c Margaret Pole was nigh on 70.

Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury

There are 2 tales regarding Margaret Pole's execution. One is that she was rather Alzheimer'd & didn't have a clue what was gonna happen, & the executioner did a really bad job & whacked her w/ the axe 11dy6 times b4 he got her head off. The other is that she had all her faculties & thumbed her nose at the executioner & said nyaah-nyaah, catch me if you can, & he had to chase her around the block hacking at her a while b4 she settled down & demised properly. Either way, Lizzie Borden didn't have nothing on this bungling executioner dude.

So Cromwell had good reason to quake in his dainties if he couldn't get rid of Anne #2 here. The only prob was, Anne had no skeletons in her closet at all. She was a nice chick w/ no previous BFs & peeps kinda liked her. I mean, even Henry didn't wanna whack off her head. So Cromwell sweated buckets & dredged up the previously questioned pre-contract w/ the Duke of Lorraine. Henry glared furiously & said pffft that didn't work to get me out of marrying the wench in the 1st place, how's that gonna work now?

Anne raised her hand & said, OK, that'll work, where do I sign? Henry was gobsmacked & gave Anne lots of palaces incl Richmond what had been his daddy's fav & told Anne she would hitherto be known far & wide as "the king's good sister" for being reasonable & not kicking up a fuss when he wanted out like Cath had. He wasn't getting any younger OR slimmer & there was that Rose w/o a Thorn waiting to be plucked, so he was mighty grateful & the marriage was annulled.

But Henry could hold a grudge. He did make Cromwell the Earl of Essex for finding that loophole at long last, but he didn't let him enjoy it overlong. Pretty soon Cromwell was packed off to the Tower for a date w/ the headsman & on the same day Henry married Cathy Howard. The man had an impeccable sense of timing, dontcha think?

So for the 11dy6th time a maid of honor rose to the rank of Queen of England. Henry's little soldiers made a miraculous recovery & he was hopeful his Rose would soon be breeding up that spare. Cathy sighed & pretended all those rich furs & gowns & jewels & peeps to wait on her hand & foot made up for Henry as part of the package deal. One of her ladies had squirmed her way back into court by reminding Cromwell he owed her big time.

And that chick was none other than Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford. Since George got attainted his wife had practically nothing on which to live in the manner to which she'd become accustomed, so when Anne of Cleves was arriving Jane reminded Cromwell just whose testimony severed DHs head here & couldn't he do something to alleviate her financial woes? So Jane got to be a lady-in-waiting & saw no reason to retire when the queen got replaced by Cathy Howard. Pretty soon it was obvs the disgraced Lady Rochford was one of the new queen's favs. No accounting for taste but there ya go.

Meanwhile, Cathy had conundrums. Her old peeps from the DDs country house came crawling out of the woodwork asking for favors. Joan Bulmer, Catherine Tylney, & some others got admitted to her ladies. And Francis Dereham came swaggering back from Ireland expecting to get hitched to find Cathy queening it over the court. He sidled up to her & said, ya think the king might wanna hear about all those times we shut the bed curtains, wife? Cathy promptly gave him a job as one of her secretaries w/ a nice fat salary.  And Henry Manox soon  came waltzing over, so Cathy sighed & gave him a job amongst the queen's muscians.

One of her cuzzes on her mother's side, Thomas Culpeper, was already at court & he was one of Henry's privy chamber peeps. Twas said Henry was getting so fat & his leg was so bad that he could no longer climb up on the little stepstool to get into those great high Tudor tester beds, so Culpeper was one of the peeps who had to deliver him to his wife & heave him on up. Culpeper was maybe 25-30 but since Nick Carew departed he'd become Henry's BFF anyway. Henry gave him lots of goodies. Culpeper was a bad boy b/c twas rumored he'd gotten away w/ murder once, but since twas only a peasant outraged that Culpeper fancied his wife & raped her whilst his men held her down, no one much cared & it gave him a bit of cachet. He was supposedly smokin' hot but alas has no portrait to gawk at.

Cathy looked over the tub of guts to whom she was wed & then she looked over at the smokin' hot dude who was hefting him into bed & thunk, no contest, as ya would. She started making eyes at Culpeper. Culpeper made eyes back. Pretty soon Jane Rochford was pressed into service to cover up the queen's clandestine meetings w/ Master Culpeper. No way of knowing if they ever had the opportunity to do the deed, tho peeps think probably they did.

Mary Lascalles had been in the DDs service & was disgusted w/ such a lewd wench becoming Queen of England & she told her brother John about the goings-on w/ Manox & Dereham when he suggested she go cozy up to Cathy for a nice cushy palace position. They were both of the New Learning, which is what they called peeps w/ Protestant leanings back then, so your basic religious fanatics.

John Lascalles told some of his peeps what Sissy said about Cathy, & eventually the wrong ears heard it. Cromwell's replacement was (tediously) Thomas Wriothesley, who got wind of talk of the queen's immorality & hauled John in for questioning. Dereham & Manox were EZ to find, since they were attached to the queen's household. Thumbscrews were applied (literally; they weren't nobility so they could get tortured) & pretty soon W had some interesting info about the queen's checquered past. So he hmmm'd some & thunk, where there's smoke, there's fire, & began conducting discreet investigation into what the queen might be up to now. It wasn't long b4 Culpeper joined the others in the Tower.

Henry missed him immediately, as ya would when a peep tucks you in at night. Henry & Cathy had just come back from the summer progress, which is when the king packs up the court & goes round his domain visiting & bankrupting other peeps who were forced to host him. He'd gone all the way to York this yr b/c he was supposed to have a mtg w/ his nephew James V, King of Scots, there.

James V, King of Scotland

James stiffed him & Henry was not amused. Henry was unamused w/ York in general b/c this was where that whole Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion that was in The Tudors HOG started, back when he was wed to Jane, so he was doubly irked. But all this racketing round in strange houses had given Cathy & Culpeper ample opportunities to hook up, more so than they could at regular court. Peeps ratted Culpeper out for it b/c they got a tad careless. So W & Cranmer had to tell Henry where Culpeper had gone & why.

Henry was gobsmacked. Not his perfect little Rose w/o a Thorn! Rumor has it he bawled like a big fat baby to learn of his wife's infidelity. I'm gobsmacked he was even surprised, considering the chasm of difference btwn himself & Culpeper LOL & my, didn't it just serve him right after making up all that stuff to get rid of Anne Boleyn? HA HA. What goes around comes around. But Henry in his little dream world just couldn't believe any chick would prefer ANY man to him, & he was even more horrified when W & C broke the news about Dereham & Manox. I HAVE BEEN DECEIVED! he bellowed. Jeez, how could he NOT have noticed Cathy wasn't a virgin the rest of his wives?  Maybe he was just so happy to get it up again it escaped him LOL

At any rate, once Henry stopped sniveling he decided to go pray in the chapel for guidance & such. W put the queen's apts under guard & no one was allowed to come out, esp not Cathy. Peeps talked & Cathy found out what was up & freaked as ya would when married to Henry VIII, a dude who likely changed his wives more often than his underwear. She managed to plow her way thru the guards on her doors & went flying down the gallery at Hampton Court to the chapel, screaming Henry's name b4 they nabbed her & dragged her back. This is why the gallery at Hampton Court is said to be haunted & peeps have said they've seen Cathy's screaming ghost there running amuck.

Henry was being such a blubbering old idiot that W was afraid if he was allowed to see Cathy he'd forgive her for her indiscretions & then HE'D be in hot water for uncovering them. So he packed Cathy off not to the Tower, but to Syon Abbey.

Syon House

This was one of the monasteries Cromwell had helped Henry dissolve. Henry liked it & kept it b/c it was handy to barging down the Thames like his other principal residences. They had to move his niece out to make room for Cathy. This was Margaret Douglas. Margaret Tudor, after being widowed at Flodden Field, had married the Scots Earl of Angus. Those Scots lords were always jockeying to shove each other around & they didn't like Angus being married to the queen regent, so they staged a coup & Margaret had to go running to England for her life whilst pregnant, & little Margaret was born there at Harbottle in Northumberland. Henry & Cath kept her when the coup was overthrown & Margaret went back to Scotland to rule for her son James. Margaret Douglas was under house arrest for daring to acquire a BF w/o Uncle Henry's permission, even tho she was a yr older than Mary. That wasn't done if you had royal blood, stuff like that had to be approved by the king.

Cathy was hopeful that since she wasn't in the Tower, it was all good. W & C & their minions came by to question her. She admitted to her dalliances w/ Manox & Dereham, plus that whole pre-contract nonsense, b/c just like Anne of Cleves, if Cathy had a pre-existing pre-contract that made her technically not the king's wife at all, so she figured she could just have a nice annulment & some palaces & be the king's sister, too, & then she could marry Culpeper. I SAID she wasn't the sharpest crayon in the box, didn't I?

Then they got out of Jane Rochford about all the seecrud meetings w/ Culpeper, hurled her in the Tower, & went back to question Cathy some more. Cathy wasn't QUITE so stupid as to not realize that Culpeper was a whole different thing from screwing around b4 she'd ever met the king. This was cheating on him. But since she had the pre-contract w/ Dereham & therefore wasn't the king's wife, then really, it WASN'T....was it? Cathy got all confoozled & spilled her guts.

Then W & C went back to Henry w/ the queen's confession in hand. Henry whimpered some about her heartless betrayal & twas not a fun Christmas at court w/ no queen to preside & no one knowing what would become of her. The guys were executed & peeps wondered when it would be Cathy's turn. Cathy eagerly signed all sorts of papers regarding the pre-contract, hoping the king would spare her. Henry was still waffling & weeping & wouldn't sign a death warrant. Finally in February, not wanting the gruesome details of a trial this time, he had Parliament pass a Bill of Attainder against her & signed off on it. Then he cried some more.

Cathy was dragged kicking & screaming from Syon to take the scenic barge ride to the Tower.

There are 2 tales surrounding the execution of Catherine Howard. One is, after she got thru having hysterics as ya would, she asked the Tower peeps to bring her a block so she could practice laying her head on it & do a good job b4 the crowd the next day. No fancy Frenchie swordsman for Cathy, just a common axe. The other is that when it came time for her to do her speech from the scaffold, she got smart w/ Henry & said I DIE A QUEEN BUT I WOULD RATHER DIE THE WIFE OF CULPEPER. I reckon she wasn't as interesting as Anne Boleyn b/c Anne's final words are all over the place but all peeps have to say about Cathy is that she said her punishment was "just & worthy".

Cranmer felt sorry for her & said "a more piteous creature I have never seen" & pointed out to Henry that whole pre-contract thing invalidating the marriage entirely & suggested axe-ing might not be necessary, but the more Henry brooded the more he felt victimized. So the attainder was phrased to get around any nonsense like old BFs & made it an act of treason for a chick not to disclose ALL her past BFs to the king prior to marrying him (peeps was all OMG IS HE GONNA GET MARRIED AGAIN??) & that even the contemplation of stepping out on the king (tho how Henry thunk he was gonna read minds I dunno) also counted as treasonous behavior.

Jane Rochford, one of the most reviled peeps on the Tudor stage, finally got hers & followed Cathy to the block for helping her conceal her extracurricular activities. What's also interesting is that in addition to ramming the attainder thru Parliament, Henry also shoved thru a law that made it OK to execute crazy peeps. It's said this is b/c of Jane, who supposedly went insane in the Tower knowing it was her turn for the axe after she was instrumental in sending so many others to meet the headsman HA HA.

Only ya know what? That whole story of Jane tattling on George & Anne may never have happened b/c Tudor historian Julia Fox (who is married to Scots historian John Guy, imagine their dinner convos) wrote the 1st bio of Jane last yr & she looked & looked & couldn't find ANY contemporary fingers pointed at Jane. So the whole thing might be a legend & peeps been glaring at Jane nigh on 600 yrs for no good reason at all. But apparently either Jane's behavior or Cathy's hysteria was the reason for the insane peeps to the scaffold act as twas passed right b4 their executions.

All the bloody straw had barely been cleaned up when Henry's roving eye lit upon another lady.....

No comments:

Post a Comment