Nielsen Hayden genealogy

Catherine Howard, Queen Consort of England

Female 1524 - 1542  (~ 24 years)

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  • Name Catherine Howard 
    Suffix Queen Consort of England 
    Birth Between 1518 and 1524  [1
    Gender Female 
    Death 13 Feb 1542  Tower of London, London, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Burial Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London, London, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Person ID I29937  Ancestry of PNH, TNH, and others
    Last Modified 5 Sep 2020 

    Father Edmund Howard,   b. Between 1478 and 1480   d. Mar 1539 (Age ~ 61 years) 
    Mother Joyce Culpeper,   b. Abt 1480   d. Aft 1527 (Age ~ 48 years) 
    Family ID F17872  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Henry VIII, King of England,   b. 28 Jun 1491, Greenwich, Kent, England Find all individuals with events at this locationd. 28 Jan 1547, Hampton Court Palace, Richmond upon Thames, London, England Find all individuals with events at this location (Age 55 years) 
    Marriage 28 Jul 1540  Oatlands Palace, Surrey, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Family ID F17871  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart
    Last Modified 4 Sep 2020 

  • Notes 
    • In one of the charges leading to her downfall, she was alleged to have failed to resist the advances of a gentleman of the king's privy chamber named Thomas Culpeper, who was himself beheaded at Tyburn on 10 Dec 1541, two months before her own execution. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article about Katherine Howard notes that "he was distantly related to Katherine on her mother's side, for they shared a Culpeper ancestor who had lived in the reign of Edward II." This would be true if the courtier were a son of any number of Culpepers of sixteenth-century Kent, virtually all of them descendants of Thomas Colepeper of Brenchley who died in 1309. But the ODNB confidently states that the courtier Thomas Culpeper was "the second of the three sons of Alexander Culpeper of Bedgebury, Kent (d. 1541), and his second wife, Constance Harper (née Chamberlain); his elder brother, also named Thomas, was a client of Thomas Cromwell." This piques our interest, because this Alexander Culpeper was a son of John Culpeper (~1430-1480) and his wife Agnes Gainsford, who are themselves direct ancestors of JTS and (probably) TNH, AP, and GFS.1, 2

      The problem is this: Alexander Culpeper of Bedgebury made his will on 20 May 1540, and died sometime in 1541 before 21 June, when his will was proved. His wife Constance made her will on 4 Oct 1541, after her husband's death. All of these events happened before the courtier Thomas Culpeper was accused, much less executed. And yet both wills name only one son named Thomas. Alexander's calls Thomas "myne eldist sonne" and mentions one other son, John. Constance's also names only two sons by Alexander, Thomas and John. (She had an additional son, George Harper, by her first marriage.)

      Constance's will was proved at London on 13 Nov 1542, so it's entirely possible that she lived past 10 Nov 1541, the day the courtier Thomas Culpepper was executed. And there is a codicil to Constance's will, undated, but it makes none of the adjustments one might expect if one of one's legatees had been beheaded at Tyburn since the main will was drawn up.

      Even more to the point, if backwoods gentry Alexander and Constance Culpeper had a son who was a fast-rising figure at the royal court, one would think he would at least be mentioned in one or both of their wills. Remember again that when both of these wills were drawn up, the courtier Thomas Culpeper had yet to be accused of any wrongdoing.

      Finally, the will of the Thomas Culpeper who was definitely a son of Alexander and Constance Culpeper, mentioned in both of their wills, is dated 6 Aug 1557; it was proved 20 Oct 1558, and he was buried at St. Mary's in Goudhurst on 13 May 1558. He was married twice, to Elizabeth Hawte in about 1522 and to Ellen Hendley in about 1540. He is obviously not the courtier who was executed in November 1541.

      Where does the claim about the courtier's parentage come from? Probably the 1592 Visitation of Kent. Specifically, the 1924 volume The Visitations of Kent, Taken in the Years 1574 and 1592 by Robert Cooke, Clarenceux, edited by W. Bruce Bannerman, part 2, London, 1924 (Harleian Society volume 75). "The present Volume contains the remaining portion of the letters, I-Z, of the second Visitation, in 1574, together with the third Visitation, made in 1592, based on a contemporary MS bearing the autograph of Percy, Viscount Strangford, London, 1816, with the addition, from other sources, of some further Pedigrees and Arms." We're uncertain what "contemporary MS" means in this context: an actual manuscript made by a herald in the 1590s, or not? And as to the "autograph of Percy, Viscount Strangford, London, 1816", we are doubtful about the mighty authenticating credibility emanating from the signature of Percy Clinton Sydney Smythe, 6th Viscount Strangford (1780-1855), whose career as a British diplomat went into an abrupt decline when, as ambassador to Russia in 1826, he was caught falsifying dispatches to the British government and revealing confidential documents to the Austrian ambassador in St. Petersburg. At any rate, these are the pertinent passages from the 1924 volume's representation of the 1592 visitation, all on page 92:

      Sr John Colepeper of Bedgebery aforsaide knight Sonne and heire to Walter married Agnes the daughter of . . . . . and by her hathe issue Sr Alexander Colepeper knighte his eldest Sonne […]

      Sr Alexander Colepeper of Bedgebery aforsaide knighte Sonne and heire to Sr John maried to his first wiffe Agnes Daughter to Roger Davye of Northfelde in the County of Kent Esquire and by her had issue Alys. After the saide Sr Alexander maried to his seconde wiffe Constance Daughter to Robert Chamberlein and wydowe of Harper, and her her had issue Thomas Colepeper his eldist Sonne, and Thomas Colepeper second Sonne, and John Colepeper thirde Sonne, Elizabeth maried to St Clere gent., Anne maried to Raulfe Molyns of Barkeshier, and Johan maried to Aldred ffitz James of Somersetshire Esquire, Margarett married to Phillippe Chowte gent and Katherin maried to Edwarde Barrett gent.

      Anne's husband was actually William Molyns, not Raulfe or Ralph. Johanna's husband was Alfred Fitzjames, not Aldred, but given the fluidity of late-medieval names he may well have gone by Aldred two or three times a week. At any rate, even stipulating that these passages represent a perfect copy of the original 1592 visitation, it remains that this information would have been taken down by the heralds from people reciting family history over fifty years after the deaths of Alexander and Constance Culpeper.

      We would like to know if the author of the ODNB essay about Katherine Howard, Retha M. Warnicke, has other sources that would indicate that the courtier Thomas Culpeper was in fact a son of Alexander and Constance. We would also like to know the source for the information that his stated older brother, also named Thomas, was "a client of Thomas Cromwell." In the absence of any such information, we're inclined to believe that this theory of the parentage of the courtier Thomas Culpeper is merely yet another example of the less-than-perfect reliability of visitation pedigrees.


      (1) Depending on whether TNH, AP, and GFS ancestor Joan Roberts was a daughter of her father Walter Roberts's second wife Isabel Culpepper, daughter of John Culpepper and Agnes Gainsford, as seems most probable, instead of his first wife, Margaret Penn. See Adrian Benjamin Burke, John Blythe Dobson, and Janet Chevally Wolfe, "The Exhurst Ancestry of the Stoughton Siblings of New England", The New England Historical and Genealogical Register 165:245, October 2011; 166:46, January 2012.

      (2) And possibly of PNH, if it's ever proved that his 9G-grandfather Henry Colepepper (d. 1675 in Virginia) was a son of his fellow Virginia emigrant John Culpeper (1637-1674), as has often been speculated. If this turned out to be the case, John Culpeper and Agnes Gainsford would be the most recent common ancestors of PNH and TNH.

  • Sources 
    1. [S76] The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004-ongoing.