Friday, October 14, 2011

Question from Marilyn R - Norfolk House, Lambeth, in Kathryn Howard's time there

I am having a final tidy-up of my research on Norfolk House, Lambeth, during the time Katheryn Howard lived there with her step-grandmother.

I would be grateful if anyone can help with any references to the domestic arrangements, other than those to be found in ‘Letters & Papers’, which were recorded after Katheryn’s fall from grace. After years of working on this, on and off, I have come up with very little in the way of contemporary references elsewhere.

I wonder if life in this household was really very different from that in other homes of the nobility which acted as sort of ‘finishing schools’ for young people. If this place was so notorious in its day it seems strange that there are no references to it in the gossipy correspondence between foreign ambassadors and their leaders when Henry married Katheryn, bearing in mind that the Dowager Duchess was one of the greatest ladies in the land, step-mother of the third Duke of Norfolk and step-grandmother to the late Anne Boleyn, whose train she carried at her coronation, and to whose child she was godmother. The ambassadors were usually on the ball when it came to a nice bit of scandal!

What I am asking is: are there any references, apart from those in ‘Letters & Papers’ to Norfolk House having a bad reputation? The ‘evidence’ in L&P is retrospective, and some of it was extracted under duress. So many people seem to have seen so much, but it was all kept quiet for years - could this really be done in a household of 100 people or more? One Andrew Maunsey, a former a servant of the Duchess, said under questioning that about a year before she came to Court he had three times seen Mistress Katheryn in bed with Francis Derham at Norfolk House. Katherine Tilney was also in the bed at the time and could confirm it, he said, which she did later; he thought a laundrywoman named Besse might also be helpful.(Beds were a luxury and the girls and women in the dormitory would have shared.)

But what about the gossip when all the naughty stuff in Lambeth (and Horsham) was actually happening? Any comments/observations will be appreciated.

3 comments:

kb said...

I think my response would be - but was it considered scandalous at the time? Before she caught Henry's eye, or was put in his path by her family, who was Katherine? She wasn't a great heiress, her parentage was respectable but not of the highest of the Norfolk Howards.

Your thought about how scandalous was it really is worth pursuing. It is possible that the reputation was retrofitted. It is also possible that the Dowager Duchess's house was no different than other houses run by other great ladies. Although later on Katherine Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon was known for running a strict household. She also took in fewer children.

Good luck with your research. It's worthwhile pursing.

Marilyn R said...

Kb, I agree. I think contemporary information on poor Katheryn is a moveable feast and you can make anything you like of it - and they did!

(I remember you were researching the La Warre family. It might be a bit early for you but have you come across the will of Thomas, Lord La Warre made in 1524? I’ve found it while looking for the will of Thomas Howard, husband of the Lambeth dowager. Interesting to compare the two.)

Mary R said...

I seem to remember reading that the girls were locked up at night and that Katharine (at least once) stole the key. Perhaps someone can verify this?

If the Duchess actually locked her charges up at night, what more was she expected to do? Can you imagine the fuss that would be raised if anyone tried to do this in modern times?