Henry VIII & Queen Catherine at Lincoln

1541, on 9 August, the king, Henry VIII, visited Lincoln; with him was his new queen, Catherine Howard and, of course, the attendant court. It will be remembered by those only vaguely acquainted with Lincolnshire history that the year 1536 was the year of the Lincolnshire Rising and Pilgrimage of Grace. A handful of years later, this was the occasion for the city to make amends and put on a show of its loyalty.

Five years after that troubled year, which had cost many lives, Henry decided to pass through the city of Lincoln on his way to Yorkshire. An account of that visit, written by one of the heralds, was to be found in the manuscripts department of the British Museum; it is now in the British Library. The description of the visit is based on a transcript as sent in a letter from Frederic Madden, FSA, to Henry Ellis , FRS, in, apparently, 1831. Madden states this account was found ‘…in a volume among Additional MSS…consisting of various Ceremonials…written in the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I… on folio 179.’ I regret my inability to cite a more recent reference in the BRitish Library. My source is the journal of the Society of Antiquaries, which states it was read at a meeting on 20 January, 1831. The reference given is MS Add 6113, f179b.

The burden of the account and its significance to this site is two-fold: 1] it was ‘by evidence of the fatal night’, 6-7 August, in Lincoln that Catherine’s adultery with Thomas Culpepper was proven; and 2] the intrinsic interest of such an account.

It will be remembered that Catherine had at one time been engaged to Culpepper; also that she had, previously, had affairs with her music teacher and with Francis Dereham, who became her secretary after the marriage to Henry in July 1540. Just over a year later she was found out: she lost her head, literally. In early 1542, parliament passed a bill in answer to the king’s rage which declared it treason for an unchaste woman (presumably, one who was not a virgin) to marry the king. She was executed in February . For Henry the humiliation was too much; he turned into an angry, bitter, paranoid man, devilled by the need for a male heir to the throne — the constant impulse to his marriages. The succession was every king’s waking nightmare: he must ensure that any child born to his wife was in fact his, and not an impertinent courtier’s

Concerning the description of the visit, Madden states that:

The handwriting of the article is that of William Colbourne, Rouge-dragon [one of the four Pursuivants of the English College of Arms], and York Herald, to which latter office he was appointed in 1564…the details of the procession, the dresses of the King and Queen Catharine [sic] Howard and their suite, will serve to illustrate the mode in which these progresses were usually conducted, whilst the general and close resemblance of Henry’s entry into Lincoln to that of Richard the Second and his Queen into London, on a similar occasion, will not fail to strike those who have read the description of the latter by Richard de Maydestone [sic] preserved in the Bodleian Library.’
Sir Henry Ellis (1777-1869) was Keeper of Printed Books and, later, Principal Librarian at the British Museum. Sir Frederic Madden, (1801-1873) was Head Keeper of Manuscripts, also at the BM; he was also a founding member of the Athenaeum.