Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Question from Peggy - Sources for info on possible abuse of Catherine Howard in her youth

I am currently working on a masters level paper regarding Catherine Howard. I am approaching the paper from the view that while her guilt of infidelity is hard to fight, the treatment of her life has been treated rather cruelly. I have read several books on her and I find myself filled with pity for the young girl. I was thinking of using the possibility of her being emotionally and even sexually abused. Can you point me toward some articles or books that might help me? I am interested in either the point of view that I may be on the right path or that I am seriously wrong. It may be that I am off base due to the Tudor era beliefs toward women.
Thank you for any help you can provide.


Marilyn R said...

'Catherine Howard: a Tudor Conspiracy' by Joanna Denny and Agnes Strickland's 'Queens of England' follow the abused/neglected child approach. Denny sees her as being abused, or at least of witnessing events that made her sexually aware, at a very early age.

I have been doing research on Norfolk House itself and on Katheryn's step-grandmother for a couple of years now and there is nothing to be found about Katheryn's early life except what is in 'Letters & Papers', as far as I can tell, which is why books about her are padded out with information about Tudor life in general.

I agree with Lady Antonia Fraser and David Starkey that Katheryn's upbringing was not that of an unwanted or discarded child and was not so different from many other noble girls of the time. The upbringing of children of the Tudor nobility bears no comparison with what we today would regard as a happy home life with mum and dad.

I think you need to be careful with the idea that she was sexually abused by Manox. She made it clear she would not marry him but agreed to meet him to allow him 'special favours'; not only did she turn up at the appointed place and time - which she did not need to do - she also, as he rather quaintly put it at his interrogation, allowed him go a lot further than he expected and 'to feel more than was convenient'. She says it all, I think, in her letter of confession to Henry VIII,

'At the flattering and fair persuasions of Manox, being but a young girl, I suffered him at sundry times to handle and touch the secret parts of my body which neither became me with honesty to permit nor him to require...'

She also blames Dereham for leading her astray, but she was older then, old enough to know that stealing the dormitory keys was wrong, and she had already been chastised by the Duchess several times.

I find myself rather liking Katheryn (so does david Starkey,I think), whose misfortune it was to have caught the eye of a man like Henry VIII. What a dreadful waste of a young life.

I am trying to compose my summing up prior to publication of my research and I think there is so little information on Katheryn, and what there is was extracted under interrogation and is often dubious, that you can put just about any spin on it you wish and half a dozen people could argue her case from different angles.

Let us know how you get on.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure of exactly how accurate this novel is, as it is a fiction novel, but The Tudor Wife by Emily Purdy gives a great deal of description of the life Catherine Howard led prior to entering the Royal Court. It describes how she was raised at her grandmother's house where she shared a dormitory with the maids from about the age of five. Each night the men within the household came to the dormitory to dally with the maids while little Catherine slept on in a bed she shared with an Alice Restwold. One night it seems she woke up and witnessed the goings on with the maids and Alice apparently flew into a rage at her, then talked sweetly to Kat about how she needed to keep it all secret. Thus at that tender age of five, little Kat apparently became part of the debauchery, partaking in kisses, touching, caresses and adult games, but was not to be 'deflowered' because she was a Howard and her honour had to remain intact.
The book refers to several years later when she was thirteen, and of Henry Madox's desire to take her maidenhead, with Catherine's willingness to allow him. Her grandmother caught them in the act and dismissed Madox and beat Catherine so severely she was left with bruises. She even intimately examined Kat to ensure she had not been violated.
It describes how her relationship with Francis Dereham developed into a makeshift game of husband and wife, where she willingly lost her virginity to him. Again the grandmother caught her in the arms of another man, and again she was beaten black and blue.