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Part 5 of the Six Wives of Henry VIII series: Catherine Howard.

After the speedy collapse of his unsuccessful match to Anne of Cleves, Henry was determined to choose his next bride for himself. His attention was soon drawn to Catherine Howard, a cousin of Anne Boleyn, who was a lady-in-waiting to Henry’s former wife, Anne of Cleves. She was reportedly beautiful and full of life, and much younger than her mistress.

The young Catherine was pushed by her family into the king’s attention, who decided she was exactly the sort of wife he had been looking for. However, many have suggested that they were poorly matched – not least because of the thirty or so year age gap. Henry and Catherine were married on 28 July 1540, just three weeks after his marriage to Anne of Cleves was annulled.

Catherine's past was supposedly sorted, although much of what is known is purely speculation. Unfortunately, Henry was seemingly unaware of Catherine's past, which by his standards, would cast her as immoral and unworthy of his hand in marriage. Tragically, her chances of keeping it secret were dashed when (in likelihood) she made the mistake of having an affair with Thomas Culpepper, a Gentleman of the King’s Privy Chamber. We know very few details about this alleged affair, but reportedly her maid, Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, helped Catherine meet with Thomas in secret while Henry was away from court.

On the morning of 13 February 1542, Catherine Howard was beheaded. Her maid, Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, followed her to the block. It’s believed Catherine may have been as young as 17 when she died. Catherine Howard is buried in the Chapel of St Peter Ad Vincula at the Tower of London. (source:

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