Alternate History: What If Kathryn Howard Told Henry VIII About Francis Dereham?

by AlexandriaIngham

Could Kathryn Howard have saved her life by telling Henry VIII all about Francis Dereham?

Despite Kathryn Howard allegedly having an affair with Thomas Culpepper, it was her previous relationship with Francis Dereham that really angered Henry VIII. He hated the idea that his fifth wife was not the rose without thorns he originally believed her to be.

But what if history could be rewritten? And what if Kathryn Howard was upfront about her relationship with Henry VIII. Sure, it was unlikely to happen considering her naivety and youth, but what if she had been advised to be honest about her relationship with Francis Dereham. She knew exactly what had happened to her cousin, Anne Boleyn. Being queen consort was dangerous, and enemies would find any way to bring someone down.

Kathryn Howard May Not Have Married Henry VIII

Would Henry VIII have considered another wife knowing Kathryn Howard's past?

Kathryn Howard may have saved her life just by being honestIt would have been likely that Kathryn would not have married Henry VIII after all. He may have even remained married to Anne of Cleves for a while longer, or he would have moved onto someone else. This could have worked out in Kathryn’s favor, even though she would not have viewed it that way.

She would have still likely met Thomas Culpepper, and they may still have had some type of relationship. If not, Francis may have still returned to her arms and continued their previous relationship.

Either way, if Kathryn didn’t marry Henry VIII, she would not have lost her head on February 13, 1542.

Henry VIII May Have Respected Her Honesty

Would Henry VIII have respected her more because she was honest in a court full of liars and cheats?

The king was surrounded by many people who wanted to gain something from court. Kathryn’s honesty would have been a refreshing change for the king, and he may have respected that. All she would have done was tell him that there was someone before him, and that there was possibly a pre-contract between them. Henry’s advisors could have then discussed the validity of that pre-contract and what it would mean for his marriage to her.

There is still a chance that Henry would have married Kathryn still. Previous marriages and contracts did not stop him in the past. Anne Boleyn had been rumored to be betrothed to others before Henry VIII, and Catherine of Aragon and Katherine Parr had both been married previously. None of that stopped Henry from marrying them.

Had she and Henry married, there is still the chance that Kathryn would have had the affair with Thomas Culpepper. However, the chance of them being caught would have been less than it was without telling Henry about Francis. The only reason the news of Kathryn’s love for Thomas came to light was due to Francis telling is interrogators all about it.

Fanmade Video of Kathryn Howard and Henry VIII on The Tudors

Francis Dereham Would Not Have Been Executed

Francis Dereham may have been able to keep his life by the queen being upfront about their relationship.

It is very unlikely that Francis would have been executed for his previous relationship with Kathryn. If she had have told Henry everything, there would have been nothing for him to be angry about. He wouldn’t have worked his way into her court has her personal secretary, either. There was no reason for her to fear Henry finding out the truth.

Of course, he may have acted out in some other way. He may have made a fool of himself trying to find a way to benefit from his previous relationship with the now-queen. So, there’s no guarantee that he wouldn’t have been executed, but it wouldn’t have been for the same reason and may not have been the full hanging, drawing and quartering.

What About Thomas Culpepper and Jane Boleyn?

What would the outcome have been for those involved in Kathryn Howard's alleged affair?

Thomas and Jane were executed for their crimes connected to Kathryn Howard’s downfall. However, the question is whether the two would have been executed if Kathryn had just been upfront about her previously relationship with Francis Dereham.

It is possible that they would have been. If Thomas and Kathryn had had their secret relationship, it is likely that the two would have been caught eventually. Jane would have still acted as lookout, so she would have been eventually implicated and executed.

Of course, Jane acting as lookout was an attempt to avoid anyone finding out about Thomas. Jane would have learned from her time as George Boleyn’s wife. It could have been years before anyone realized that Kathryn and Thomas were involved.

Read More About Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpepper

Francis Dereham was hanged, drawn and quartered as punishment for treason but why was he convicted of treason? All his "crimes" were committed before Kathryn Howard married.
Thomas Culpepper was executed on December 10, 1541, for treason. His crime? Having an affair with the Queen of England, Kathryn Howard. What led to him to such dangerous actions?
Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpepper were executed for treason on December 10, 1541, but were they really the men people believe them to be?

Would Kathryn’s Life Have Been Spared?

Could Kathryn have lived past 1542?

Kathryn’s execution only came due to a bill that was passed by the parliament in 1542. It was two months after the executions of Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpepper. It seems Henry may not have believed that Kathryn committed treason by adultery, despite his execution.

The bill of attainder against Kathryn focused on her relationship with Francis. She was executed because she had failed to tell Henry VIII about her past. By just telling him the truth before their marriage, it suggests that her life would have been spared.

This does depend on whether there was an affair with Culpepper, and whether they were caught or not. Kathryn was certainly discreet with this affair, if there was one. Before the note about Dereham, there was no court gossip surrounding her and Culpepper. That suggests that the rumors about their relationship started by Dereham were false, or that here was nothing to ever suggest it in the open. They may never have been caught in the act, and Kathryn’s life may have in fact been spared!

The Execution of Kathryn Howard
The Execution of Kathryn Howard

Would There Have Been Children?

Could Henry and Kathryn have had children if they married after she told him the truth?

Henry VIII was likely infertile by this point in his life, but that doesn’t mean that Kathryn would not have had any children. She may have had affairs with men like Thomas Culpepper as a way to ensure pregnancy, knowing that it wasn’t happening with Henry VIII. Unless someone came forward with suspicions about her infidelity, there would have been no reason for Henry VIII to believe that the child was not his.

But then what about Mary and Elizabeth? Would Henry VIII have gone on to marry Katherine Parr? This would really depend on whether Kathryn and Thomas had their affair and were caught. If not, Henry VIII may have stopped at wife number five. Kathryn may not have had the sense or courage to try place Mary and Elizabeth back in the line of succession. She may not have wanted to had she had children of her own; why place step-children in line of succession when her own children would have been there?

More Alternate History 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 agreed to the annulment from Henry VIII relatively easily. But what if she put up a fight like Catherine of Aragon?
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?

Kathryn’s downfall came from her relationship with Francis Dereham. Had she just been honest about that to start with, a lot of death and heartbreak could have been prevented. Of course, it doesn’t mean all deaths would have been prevented. There would have still been her affair with Thomas Culepper, and she may have still been caught in the act!

Read More About Kathryn Howard on Wizzley

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?
On February 13, 1542, Kathryn Howard and Jane Boleyn were executed. Did they get what they deserved? Were they really guilty?
Updated: 10/13/2014, AlexandriaIngham
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