Alternate History: What If Kathryn Howard Had a Child With Henry VIII?

by AlexandriaIngham

If Kathryn Howard gave birth to a baby, would it have helped save her life? That is something I'm taking the time to look into.

There are a lot of alternate history ideas that are running through my head now that I’ve started this series. Kathryn Howard is one of those poor victims of Henry VIII. Sure, there were things that she could have done better and she definitely wasn’t queen material, but I refuse to put all the blame on her.

It’s led me to wonder what if Kathryn Howard had had a child with Henry VIII before he found out about Francis Dereham. If she had had a child, what if she was pregnant at the time? Would that have changed the outcome?


Henry VIII May Not Have Been So Rash

Henry VIII would have had to consider all his options finding out that his fifth wife was expecting a baby.

Kathryn Howard may not have lost her head if she was pregnant or had had a boy.Getting another heir was still important to him by this point. While he had accepted Mary back into his life on a more civil ground, she and Elizabeth were still out of the line of succession. He was left with Edward and that was it. He needed that spare heir.

The idea of marrying Kathryn was a good one when it came to heirs. There was the chance that she would have a baby relatively easily and quickly. If she had told him that she was expecting, the red carpet would have been out. There would have been no reason to believe that she was having an affair.

Of course, he would have still be suspicious once he found out about her previous relationship with Kathryn Howard, but I’m not sure he would have been so rash. He would have waited to find out if the baby was a boy or girl. If it was a girl, sadly there would have been no need to keep Kathryn around. If it was a boy...well, that was an entirely different matter.

The Suspicions of Kathryn Having an Affair

The court would have talked, but would Henry VIII have listened?

There would always be the suspicions that Kathryn had an affair and the baby was not Henry VIII’s. This would have especially been the case when it came to Francis talking about Kathryn’s affair with Thomas Culpepper. The court would gossip that the child—whatever the gender—was Thomas’ and not Henry’s.

Would Henry have listened to them? Let’s look back at his daughter with Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth. There was constant talk that Elizabeth was not really Henry VIII’s daughter. However, Henry never believed those rumors. You could tell from the coloring that Elizabeth was certainly a Tudor. She just had her mother’s stubbornness. There were similar situations with Anne’s next pregnancies. Henry VIII never seemed to believe anything other than these babies were his.

It is possible that he would have done the same with Kathryn, especially when it came to having a healthy son. Henry may have even refused to believe there was an affair, and put it down to a man (Francis) trying to get himself out of the difficult situation that he was in.

Now, if it was a girl, Henry may have decided that the child was one from the affair. Thomas and Kathryn would have still lost their heads—and Thomas may have even faced the harsher punishment of being hung, drawn and quartered. There would have been more “proof” that there was an affair.

Henry VIII Couldn’t Have Discarded Kathryn Howard

Kathryn would have been around for some time, whether has Henry's wife or not. However, Henry would have had to really think about all his options.

Henry VIII would have thought twice before executing Kathryn HowardIf the baby was a boy, there is no way that Henry VIII could have just discarded Kathryn Howard. Beheading her would have meant an annulment would have happened first. That baby would not have been eligible to the throne.

Even if he believed the affair happened or believed Francis’ tale of the pre-contract, Henry VIII had to think this one through carefully. Kathryn would have likely been put under some sort of house arrest. It was too dangerous for the boy’s claim to the throne for her to be allowed out. He may have sought for a way to end the marriage without making it invalid the whole time. That way, the baby would have been born in wedlock, but his parents would have no longer been together.

It’s a difficult one, this one. I’d like to think that Henry VIII would have kept Kathryn around just for the sake of the baby. I think that would have happened if the baby was a boy, just because of how much he wanted—and really needed—that spare heir.

More Alternate History Articles on Wizzley

I often love delving into the what ifs in history. This is a post dedicated to the what ifs surrounding Anne Boleyn had she had a boy.
It's fun to have fun with alternate history. Here I considered what could have happened if Jane Seymour never died after the birth of Edward.
Anne of Cleves was put aside after just six months of unconsummated marriage. But what if it was consummated? And what if Anne of Cleves had a child with Henry VIII?
Anne of Cleves agreed to the annulment from Henry VIII relatively easily. But what if she put up a fight like Catherine of Aragon?

The Boy Would Have Been King

Henry VIII would have made sure his spare heir was placed in the line of succession

If that baby was a boy, there are high chances that he would have been King of England after Edward VI. But this would have depended on Edward’s views of his younger half-brother—and the views of the council. There is the chance that the council would have convinced Edward that his brother was not really his brother.

Either way, Henry VIII would have placed his son in the succession after his first son. Mary and Elizabeth may not have made it into the line of succession, depending on whether Henry VIII would have married Katherine Parr afterwards.

Had the boy become king, Lady Jane Grey would have likely kept her head. In fact, she may have gone on to marry well, and have sons of her own. They may have eventually become kings, rather than the joining of the English and Scottish crowns.

Would Henry VIII Have Married Katherine Parr?

What could have happened to Katherine if Henry VIII never married her?

I’m not sure he would have done. Henry would have had to wait for the birth of the baby first. He needed to know if it was a boy. If it was a boy, Henry would have then needed to be careful about what he did to Kathryn—depending on if he believed the affair or not. Katherine Parr would have lost her second husband and likely been with Thomas Seymour by that point. There are chances that Katherine and Thomas would have married by that point.

Katherine’s demise may have happened sooner than it did in real life, if she married Thomas sooner. She died of childbed fever in 1548, but she may have fallen pregnant sooner than she did in real life. But that thought would be for another day.

It’s a difficult what if, considering Henry VIII’s temper but need for an heir. Francis would have certainly still lost his head, but Henry VIII may have believed that he was exaggerating stories. If Kathryn Howard had a son, Henry would have needed to be careful. That son would have been the all-important spare heir.

Read More About Kathryn Howard on Wizzley

Could Kathryn Howard have saved her life by telling Henry VIII all about Francis Dereham?
Kathryn Howard, the fifth wife of Henry VIII, was a young girl, flirtatious and full of life. She may have been able to save her life had she admitted just one thing.
Kathryn Howard eventually admitted to her "crimes" but what were they? Did they have anything to do with an affair with Thomas Culpepper?
Updated: 10/16/2014, AlexandriaIngham
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