Thomas Culpeper was the second of the three sons of Alexander Culpeper d. His older brother, also named Thomas, was a client of Thomas Cromwell.
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They were particularly influential after the fall of Cardinal Wolsey in , and for a brief time under the reign of Anne Boleyn , who was one of their cousins. Having bought the Higham Park estate at Bridge near Canterbury in ,  by Culpeper was acting as courtier for the Viscount Lisle and his wife, Honor, during which time he collected a number of items for them.
Culpeper was described as "a beautiful youth" and he was a great favourite of Henry.
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It was because of this favouritism that Culpeper had major influence with the King and was often bribed to use his influence on others' behalf. However, there is a possibility that the rapist was Culpeper's elder brother, also called Thomas. However, his elder brother, Thomas born around , may have received a knighthood, as referenced on the Culpeper Family Tree. He was part of the group of privileged courtiers who greeted Henry's German bride Anne of Cleves when she arrived in England for her marriage.
From —, Culpeper was given several gifts, including keeper of the manor at Penshurst Palace and property in Kent , Essex, Gloucestershire , and Wiltshire. In , Culpeper caught the attention of Henry's new teenage bride, Catherine Howard , and by they were spending time together, often alone and late at night, aided and abetted by Catherine's Lady-in-waiting, Lady Rochford , the widowed sister-in-law of Anne Boleyn.
Thomas Culpeper - Wikipedia
The affair caused the downfall of all involved. Culpeper had close access and often came into contact with the Queen and her attendants. At this time Culpeper began asking favours of Catherine, who was his seventh cousin, once removed. They arrived at Lincoln on 9 August, where Culpeper met Catherine for another secret meeting in her bedchamber. These meetings continued in Pontefract Castle , after the court arrived on 23 August. It is believed that the infamous letter Catherine sent to Culpeper was sent during these proceedings. These statements cause some audiences to believe that their affair was not only one of passion, but also centred on Culpeper's political agenda.
With Henry in poor health and only his very young son Edward to succeed him, being Catherine's favourite would undoubtedly have put Culpeper in a very strong political position. As a well-liked member of the King's Privy Chamber he enjoyed a close relationship with Henry. If the promise Catherine mentioned was in reference to his possible knowledge about her previous sexual relationship, Culpeper could have used this as leverage to gain power and control over the Queen herself. In this specific letter Catherine states that she longs to talk with Culpeper but does not mention any desire to be intimate with him.
Accounts of the Queen's premarital indiscretions had meanwhile come to the attention of Thomas Cranmer , then Archbishop of Canterbury. During Cranmer's investigations, he came across rumours of an affair between the Queen and Culpeper; Culpeper was soon arrested for questioning.
Both he and the Queen denied the allegations, but the letter from Catherine to Culpeper, found during a search of Culpeper's quarters, provided the evidence for which Cranmer was looking. This relationship was far more serious and undoubtedly consummated. Their affair continued throughout In revenge, he sent an anonymous note to the dowager duchess. She then discovered Catherine and Dereham together and there was a frightful scene.
But a physical relationship between a betrothed couple was not uncommon by sixteenth-century standards and Catherine and Dereham parted with some understanding of marriage when he returned from Ireland. It is likely that he was at least interested in her, if not immediately infatuated. It is also clear that she possessed the charm and sexual allure to attract men. These were to be her greatest strengths and weaknesses, for while they attracted the king, they also led her into increasingly reckless behavior. If she had married Dereham or Culpeper, or any other social-climber, she would have remained a gossip and flirt, perhaps she would have succumbed to adultery.
But behavior that could be tolerated in a poor niece of a duke was treason in a queen of England. The Norfolk name was one of the oldest in England. Their grand name, then, was both blessing and curse. And the divisive reign of Anne Boleyn, herself no friend of her Norfolk relations the duke presided over her trial , had taught them all to tread carefully about the king. And, if so, could she become a mature and successful queen?
They were veterans of the English court and knew the intricacies and dangers of their position. Catherine was a mere child by contrast, barely literate, and born in a later generation. She had been raised Catholic by her Norfolk grandmother and, despite her personal lapses, she represented the conservative faith to others. Henry VIII was mercurial and dangerous, and his latest marriage was a bitter disappointment.
Woe to the courtier who spoke ill of his latest attraction! It was left to the Norfolk clan to coach Catherine as best they could and hope their triumph would last. The king soon publicly favored young Mistress Howard. On 24 April she was given lands seized from a felon; a few weeks later, she received an expensive gift of quilted sarcanet.
It is possible their relationship was consummated around this time for there was a sudden urgency to annul the ill-fated marriage to Anne of Cleves. Meanwhile, the French ambassador reported rumors that Catherine was pregnant. The king had one son and heir but the vagaries of life in the 16th century made another heir necessary. Henry had just turned forty-nine years old and half his subjects were eighteen or younger.
The security of his realm was his greatest concern and it could only be guaranteed by legitimate heirs; as a second son himself, he knew the life of young Prince Edward was a slender thread upon which to balance a dynasty. The ceremony was a success, albeit lacking in the usual pomp and display of royal unions. Catherine was never crowned queen of England. The king consulted his council on creating a new succession should the blessed event occur, pushing his daughters Mary and Elizabeth even further from the throne. And the Reformation had cost him the love of the common people.
Henry also increasingly suffered from the ailments which would kill him a few years later. He had severe headaches and pains throughout his body; he found it difficult to sleep and was often impotent. English politics had become another headache for the king. His great advisor and friend, Thomas Cromwell, had championed the Protestant cause and the union with Anne of Cleves.
But it was only a brief triumph. Catherine was not pregnant in the summer of , nor did she become so. But the king was so physically affectionate with her in public that none doubted the happy event would occur. Still, warning signs about this hasty marriage had already begun. His courtiers gossiped and wondered. In August , Dereham was made her secretary, perhaps as a bribe to keep quiet about their former relationship. So even as she collected rich gifts of gowns, jewels, fur cloaks, and golden clocks, Catherine knew her indecorous past lurked in the background.
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As her later behavior showed, she was not. She was not merely collecting personal finery, but also lands and manors that had once belonged to Jane Seymour and even Thomas Cromwell.
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And she began to explore the traditional role of the queen as patroness. She probably did not love him in the most romantic sense of the word, but she did love him for the affection and generosity he showed her. We welcome suggested improvements to any of our articles. You can make it easier for us to review and, hopefully, publish your contribution by keeping a few points in mind.
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The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Learn More in these related Britannica articles: The second Catherine did not do as well as her cousin, the first Anne; she lasted only 18 months. Catherine proved to be neither a virgin before her wedding nor a particularly faithful damsel after her marriage. The blow finished Henry.
Thereafter, he was really a sad and bitter old man, and, though he married once more, to find a measure of peace with the calm…. There is no question that in these matrimonial politics he did as he was told, though it is improbable that his private opinions on the issues in question in any way contradicted his public doings. Henry married Anne because he believed that he needed to form a political alliance with her brother, William, duke of Cleves, who was a leader of the Protestants of western….
Annulment , legal invalidation of a marriage. Annulment announces the invalidity of a marriage that was void from its inception.