Katherine Howard is a very familiar name to anyone knowledgeable about the 6 wives of Henry the 8th. Katherine is best known for being the 5th wife, the teenager, and the 2nd of Henry’s wives beheaded for allegedly being unfaithful to the King (the first being her 1st cousin Anne Boleyn). While many would agree that her numerous romantic relationships was her downfall, I would have to disagree. Because having multiple lovers, while not recommended, is not a crime even in Tudor times.
Katherine Howard’s true error in judgement lies in the events prior to her hasty marriage to Henry the 8th. 1540 was an eventful year for the Tudor court when King Henry married the German Anne of Cleves. As Henry’s 4th wife it has to be said that Anne was the most ill prepared of all his wives combined. To Anne’s utter disadvantage she was completely ignorant regarding English culture and customs. In fact, she could not even speak the English language fluently. And having no family and no true connections in England meant that Anne’s only assistance would come from her ladies in waiting. And that is exactly the position that Katherine Howard held.
I believe the most costly mistake of Katherine’s life was to undermine Anne of Cleves. The literal definition of undermining is: to dig a hole underneath something making it likely to collapse. This was actually done in the past by invaders to fortified castles walls to expose weaknesses and allow them to conquer their enemies. This aptly describes Katherine’s actions toward Anne of Cleves in a figurative manner. By taking advantage of Anne’s ignorance, alleged lack of beauty, and inability to communicate Katherine set herself up as King Henry’s 5th wife without remorse.
Admittedly it is highly unlikely King Henry would have fallen in love with Anne of Cleves despite any efforts on Katherine’s part. But this calculated act of sabotage on Katherine’s part truly did undermine Anne’s brief marriage. And while we must take into consideration the influence of Katherine’s power hungry family Katherine still should have known that her dubious reputation alone should rule her out as a future queen.
Tragically she inevitably set herself on a collision course with disaster. And it Tudor times that could only mean one thing: a date with the Executioner’s Block!
(Please feel free to give feedback and follow Countess Chronicles for more!)