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King Henry VIII and his Six Wives
Kathryn Howard
Picture Galleries
Badges and Mottos
Catherine of Aragon
Anne Boleyn
Jane Seymour
Anne of Cleves
Kathryn Howard
Katherine Parr
Henry VIII

Kathryn Howard
Fifth Wife of Henry VIII, Beheaded


Perhaps it is rather fitting, or rather ironic, that Henry's fifth bride, Kathryn Howard, his second wife to be beheaded, was the first cousin of Anne Boleyn, who was his first wife to be beheaded.
Kathryn Howard was the daughter of Lord Edmund Howard, a younger brother of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk.  Kathryn was brought up in the household of the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk.
Kathryn came to the English court around the age of 19 as a lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves, and quickly caught the attention of the King.  Her uncle, Thomas Howard, encouraged her to respond to the King's attentions, in hopes he would gain more power from their marriage.  Just 16 days after divorcing Anne of Cleves, Henry at the age of 49 married 19 year old Kathryn Howard on July 28, 1540.
Kathryn's youth and playfulness improved the elderly king's spirits, who had been depressed for some time over an ulcerated leg.  He gave her many gifts, and adored her greatly.
Rumours of infidelty from the Queen began not a year into their marriage.  Kathryn, like her cousin Anne Boleyn, was very flirtatious and playful.  She was not very careful to hide her admirers, and even appointed one as her personal secretary.
In November 1541, Archbishop Cranmer gathered enough evidence against Kathryn and sent it to the King. Henry could not believe the wife he loved so much could be unfaithful, but agreed to further investigations.  More evidence was obtained that she had been promiscuous even before her marriage to Henry, but during it as well.
She was executed on the Tower Green on February 13, 1542, and buried near her cousin Anne Boleyn.
View Kathryn Howard's Picture Gallery: Kathryn Howard
Go on to: Katherine Parr