If you’re not familiar with the names Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpepper then fret not; all will be explained. These are the chaps partly responsibly for the execution of Henry VIII’s fifth bride, Katherine Howard.
Young Katherine was only 19 when she was executed for treason. She had been found to be shagging a member of the King’s Privy council, a strapping young lad named Thomas Culpepper. To be fair, You can’t really blame her when she was married to a fat 50 year old king, who stank of pus from his ulcerated leg and insisted on letching over the poor girl at any opportunity going.
Katherine’s start to life was far from that of a future queen. Although she was Ann Boleyn’s cousin, she had not been graced with the same upbringing and social status.She had been dumped in the care of her Grandmother because her parents, though noble, were too skint to raise her, so there she stayed, in a dorm with other unwanted girls. Her education was limited and she was by no means as intelligent as the other women that had graced Henry’s bed. She was however pretty and charming.
She came to court around 1539 to serve as a lady in waiting to Anne of Cleeves. Henry had married Anne but didn’t like her and so was desperate to get rid when young Kitty Howard caught his eye. To cut a long story short, he divorced Anne and married Katherine.He described Katherine as his ‘rose without thorns’ and was completely smitten. However, fairly soon into their marriage it became apparent that Katherine was not as innocent as Henry was led to believe.
At the time there were people at court who knew of Katherine’s past and the shit she got up to whilst living at her Grandmother’s. Basically Katherine had been getting frisky with her music teacher, Henry Mannox and had then gone onto have a relationship with a bloke called Francis Dereham. Now you may be thinking that there is nothing odd about that, a young girl having a boyfriend, but the problem was that she had declared her love for Dereham in front of God, which technically made them married, referred to themselves as man and wife and more than likely consummated the marriage, (who am I kidding, they defo shagged – Katherine later admitted that she knew her way around a man’s cock without getting preggers…not the words of a virgin).
Katherine thought she could hide her past and move on, be a queen and become the most important woman in the land. The problem is that when you are rich and have the world at your feet, it takes one dirty little bastard from your past to lay down a little blackmail for it all to come crashing down around you. Soon after she became Queen, Katherine found that one of her old pals from back in the day, Joan Bulmer, had requested to come to court to serve as a lady in waiting. Joan was pure poison – she had dirt on the queen and was prepared to use it for her own gain, what could Katherine do? Joan was swiftly followed by Dereham, who came knocking on Katherine’s door asking for a position of power. Katherine gave Dereham the position of her secretary, possibly to keep tabs on him and stop him running his mouth, keep your enemies close and all that.
Dereham wasn’t the only bloke at court to get close to Katherine. Whilst the King was ill earlier in 1541, Katherine had began a smoking hot affair with a dashing young chap named Culpepper, (but please don’t get a vision of a Tudor ‘Darcy’ type character in your head, this prick had not long before raped a gate keepers wife, then killed the gate keeper and got away with it like a slimy fucker… though some historians speculate that this was actually his brother, also called Thomas). It’s fair to say Katherine loved Culpepper, (who, incidentally was her distant cousin), very much and the whole affair was assisted by Katherine’s Lady in waiting, Lady Jane Rochford. Things were certainly complicated for Katherine, but she was young and naive, and spoiled by the king, who was besotted with her (and bragged constantly about the hot sex he was getting from the girl more than half his age).
Anyway, shit got real on November 2nd 1541, when the King was passed a letter pointing out that the queen was far from ‘a rose without thorns’ and had actually been married and was now shagging one of his pals behind his back. He went fucking mental. Everything went on lock-down and all parties were questioned. The ladies in waiting were sent to the tower and questioned, Henry Mannox was called in (the letter stated he knew of a ‘private mark’ on the queens body), Culpepper was tortured and confessed, as did Dereham.
Culpepper and Dereham were arrested as traitors and condemned to death. Mannox was allowed to go, he had gained his carnal knowlege of the Queen before the King had rocked up. Dereham had deflowered the Queen, and for that Henry could not forgive him. Katherine denied her marriage to Dereham (if she had admitted it, she would’ve been in a contract with another man and her life may have been spared). It was no good, she had not only made Henry look a right mug, but because she had now gained the reputation of a whore, any kids she had would have their paternity questioned, and since these kind were would be kings that shit wouldn’t fly. She had to go.
Katherine was condemned to death, along with Lady Jane Rochford (who went mad, literally) and the whole of the Howard family. This however, is the story of Thomas Culpepper and Francis Dereham. Culpepper, being an old pal of the kings, got away lightly with beheading, Dereham on the other hand suffered a far worse fate, He was sentenced to a traitors death. That was some cold, bad shit about to come his way.
Dereham faced a traitors death, which consisted of: hanging, membering, disembowelling, beheading and quartering. In that order. It feels a little unfair that Dereham was handed this death whist Culpepper, who worked for the King, had been trusted by the King and was still bending his rapey little cock inside the Queen, got the easy option. Dereham had popped the Queen’s cherry long before Henry had a whiff of it, this pissed Henry off more than anything.
Dereham’s death was long, excruciating and humiliating.He was taken to Tyburn where he was hung but cut down before death, he than had his cock hacked off and his intestines ripped out and burned before him whilst made to watch. He was then beheaded and quartered. The Queens execution happened the following year, her last words being ‘I die here a queen, but I would have rather died the wife of Culpepper’.
One thought on “December 10th 1541: The Executions of Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpepper”
Simon Schama eat your heart out!