Letter of Queen Catherine Howard
to Master Thomas Culpeper
This is the only surviving letter written by Henry VIII's fifth wife.
It was written in the spring of 1541, roughly eight months after she
married the king. After Catherine's fall from grace, Culpeper was among
the men charged with committing adultery with the queen. It was a treasonable
offense, and he was executed for it (along with Francis Dereham.) Culpeper
tried to save himself by arguing that he had met with Catherine only because
the young queen was 'dying of love for him', and would not let him end
Catherine, for her part, argued otherwise; she told
her interrogators that Culpeper ceaselessly begged for a meeting and she
was too fearful to refuse. However, the letter clearly supports Culpeper's
version of events. After all, the queen did write 'it makes my heart die
to think what fortune I have that I cannot be always in your company.'
The affection she felt for Culpeper led to a legend
surrounding Catherine's last words - 'I die a Queen, but would rather die
the wife of Culpeper.' This final declaration of love did not occur; its
invention was an attempt to give Catherine's pathetic and tragic story
some mark of distinction.
Catherine was not as well educated as Henry's other
wives, though her mere ability to read and write was impressive enough
for the time. This letter taxed her greatly, as she points out in the
closing lines. It is transcribed here as originally written, and the grammatical
mistakes are Catherine's own.
I heartily recommend me unto you, praying you to send me word how that
you do. It was showed me that you was sick, the which thing troubled
me very much till such time that I hear from you praying you to send
me word how that you do, for I never longed so much for a thing as I
do to see you and to speak with you, the which I trust shall be shortly
now. That which doth comfortly me very much when I think of it, and
when I think again that you shall depart from me again it makes my heart
die to think what fortune I have that I cannot be always in your company.
It my trust is always in you that you will be as you have promised
me, and in that hope I trust upon still, praying you that you will come
when my Lady Rochford is here for then I shall be best at leisure to
be at your commandment, thanking you for that you have promised me to be
so good unto that poor fellow my man which is one of the griefs that I
do feel to depart from him for then I do know no one that I dare trust
to send to you, and therefore I pray you take him to be with you that
I may sometime hear from you one thing. I pray you to give me a horse
for my man for I had much ado to get one and therefore I pray send me
one by him and in so doing I am as I said afor, and thus I take my leave
of you, trusting to see you shortly again and I would you was with me
now that you might see what pain I take in writing to you.
Yours as long as life endures,
One thing I had forgotten and that is to instruct my man to tarry here
with me still for he says whatsomever you bid him he will do it.
to Letters of the Six
Wives of Henry VIII
to Primary Sources