Kathryn Howard Confesses to Her Crimes: The Crimes She Believes She Committed

by AlexandriaIngham

Kathryn Howard eventually admitted to her "crimes" but what were they? Did they have anything to do with an affair with Thomas Culpepper?

On November 7, 1541, Thomas Cranmer left the young Queen Kathryn Howard after she became hysterical. It is possible that he never thought he would get very far the next day; but he did. He had told Henry VIII that she would interrogate her severely. This would not involve torture: women were not allowed to be tortured to extract information.

Cranmer went to Kathryn on November 8, 1541, to make it clear how serious her crimes that she was accused of were. It was then that she confessed to “everything”; everything that she believed she had committed or maybe the points that she thought would save her neck.

The “Pre-Contract” Between Kathryn Howard and Francis Dereham

The allegations started when Henry VIII was made aware that Kathryn Howard had had a previous relationship with her secretary, Francis Dereham.

One of the first things that Kathryn partially admitted to was that there was a relationship between herself and her secretary, Francis Dereham. However, she didn’t admit to everything that Dereham previous had told the guards. Had she admitted to everything, she may have been able to save her head, since a pre-contract would have meant that she was never legally married to Henry VIII.

Kathryn told Cranmer that there was talk of marriage between herself and Francis Dereham. They would call each other husband and wife and they often kissed. However, part of Kathryn’s written confession also mentions that Dereham would kiss others in the house; although there is no mention of him calling other girls “wife”.

At no point did she confess that she had sexual intercourse with her “husband”. She explain that they would lay in bed together but he would never be naked. Whether this is true is often debated. She was a young girl and may have be intrigued. It didn’t help with her upbringing. While her step-grandmother tried to give her an education, there was only so much she could do when a lot of girls would sleep in the same room. They were all likely to get up to something and were at that experimental age. Just because times have change in the things that have become socially acceptable doesn’t mean that hormones and feelings have made any drastic changes.

The examination of Kathryn Howard
The examination of Kathryn Howard

Did Kathryn Howard Admit to an Affair with Thomas Culpepper?

Thomas Culpepper was eventually arrested for an affair with Kathryn Howard but did she admit to that?

There was just one mention of Thomas Culpepper and it wasn’t a confession that she had an affair with him. It was during a conversation with Francis Dereham. Dereham asked if Culpepper would become Kathryn’s next husband—reading between the lines, I would guess after Henry’s death—but Kathryn simply stated that she said he had heard more than her. She didn’t know anything about it.

The only evidence to support a relationship between Thomas Culpepper and Kathryn Howard was a letter that was found at Culpepper’s house. It was supposed to have been written by Kathryn and shared how much she wanted to see him. Some historians debate that she wanted to see him because she heard he was talking about her outside of court and wanted to make trouble for her. Whether this is true would probably depend on which Thomas Culpepper the murderer was (this Culpepper or his older brother).

The letter seems to be in two different hand-writings. It is possible that someone wanted to remove Kathryn Howard from court and this was the perfect chance. That would seem strange since she hadn’t really made many enemies. However, the letter was used as evidence that she was guilty of her crimes.

The "Found" Letter Sent From Kathryn Howard to Thomas Culpepper

A love letter sent to Thomas Culpepper from Kathryn Howard
A love letter sent to Thomas Culpepper from Kathryn Howard

Kathryn Howard Confesses to Henry VIII

After her confession, Kathryn wrote to Henry VIII to apologise for her crimes and beg for his mercy.

After confessing her “crimes” to Thomas Cranmer, Kathryn wrote a letter to her husband. She apologised refutably for her actions and asked him to have mercy. She definitely tried to play the age card—stating that she was young—and her ignorance. It is possible that she believed these were factors in her downfall; in fact, they most definitely were. Unlike her predecessors, Kathryn hadn’t been as educated. She was barely literate and had been raised in an environment that played to the innocence of young girls.

At no point did she confess to anything other than she already had done in her written confession written on November 8. Most of her letter was asking Henry VIII for his forgiveness. Obviously, she realised the possible outcome: she could lose her head.

Unfortunately, Henry VIII didn’t show mercy. He had his 19-year-old wife executed three months later. It wasn’t for an affair with Culpepper though! He had parliament create a bill so that she could be executed for not sharing her relationship with Francis Dereham before their marriage. Very unfair to the young girl but very much like King Henry VIII! This fact alone makes it clear that Kathryn made never have been able to save her own life.

Updated: 11/08/2013, AlexandriaIngham
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