Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Question from Emmy - Legal justification for Katherine Howard's execution

Why was Katherine Howard executed? Was it for adultery? Suzannah Lipscomb, in an interview about Anne Boleyn, said adultery wasnt a capital crime or punishable by death (and Anne was executed for imagining Henrys death); besides, both Katherine and Culpepper said they didnt actually sleep together. Was it for speculating about the kings death? That got Dereham, I think, but that didnt apply to her. Was it for failing to disclose her sexual history, as laid out in the Bill of Attainder of 1542? But then why was Culpepper executed? What, exactly, was the legal justification?


PhD Historian said...

The Treason Act of 1351 made it an act of treason to have intercourse with certain female members of the royal family. This included the queen consort, on the grounds that a child conceived of the union might "seize" the throne under cover of being the king's child when in fact he/she was *not* the king's child. The female (i.e., queen consort) who participated in the adultery was as equally culpable as the male. Katherine Howard was therefore executed fro treason under the Treason Act of 1351.

Anonymous said...

So grateful for this question. I can't figure out if she had a pre-contract with Dereham, meaning her marriage to Henry wasn't valid. If it wasn't valid, it wasn't adultery with Culpepper. Wondering if that is correct/stands up to scrutiny.