After dismantling the union between the Church of England, the Pope, and the monarchy, King Henry VIII continued to marry whom he pleased and dispose of his unwanted marriages , as seen in the Anne of Cleves divorce. One other woman would die because of accusations of treason and she happened to be related to one of his former wives.
Henry VIII’s fifth wife was Kathryn (Catherine or Katherine) Howard, who was chosen before Henry had even divorced Anne of Cleves. Interestingly, Kathryn was the third wife of Henry’s that was a commoner before becoming Queen. Kathryn was actually the cousin of Anne Boleyn , the 19-year-old daughter of Edmund Howard. The marriage occurred in July of 1540 when Henry was 49 years old. He had become an overweight shadow of his former self. His ability to walk was hindered by his weight and an injury to his leg that grew worse and was stubborn to heal. Kathryn was full of youthful vibrancy, and she was also a noted flirt.
Being married to an old husband sent her eyes and actions wandering. She made friends with the younger courtiers. One of the courtiers was Francis Dereham, who had known the Queen before her marriage to Henry. He knew that she had engaged in different affairs before getting married and used this to his advantage. He bribed Kathryn with this information so that he would gain a better position at court. After being accused of adultery, Kathryn was executed for the crime after two years of marriage in 1542.
Kathryn’s life could have been spared if she would have admitted to a precontract with Dereham. This agreement would have just terminated her royal union with Henry , allowing him to annul the marriage and simply banish her from Court. Kathryn would have been disgraced, left to a life of poverty, and exiled. Yet, she still would have avoided execution. She decided to claim that Dereham had raped her instead of accept a precontract.
Kathryn was stripped of her title as queen and sent to a prison in Syon Abbey in Middlesex. She stayed there throughout the winter of 1541. Dereham and another were executed at Tyburn on December 10. Their heads were positioned on top of the London Bridge as was a custom of the times. The execution of Kathryn took place on February 10, 1542, where she was punished to death for failing to disclose her sexual history to the king within twenty days of their marriage. The bill that sealed her fate was passed only three days before her death.
Henry’s last wife was named Katherine Parr. The two tied the knot in 1543, and she would go onto live longer than Henry. She possessed attributes that were beneficial for a man looking for someone to care for his children. Katherine was kind to the stepchildren and was talented in taking care of her husband. She bathed Henry’s leg wound and stood by his side when he was sick. Despite proving herself, enemies within the court attempted to get her tried for treason. They accused her of being a committed Protestant. However, she managed to convince her husband that she was loyal to him and his Church. Her life was spared. When Henry died, she married Edward’s uncle, Thomas Seymour, but died in childbirth in 1548.