Episode 5 of the final season, very aptly named, “The Bottom of the Pot,” brings us to the end of the young Catherine Howard’s life.
It is an EXTREMELY quick rundown of actual events that took place during this time period, but such is the way of this series. The opening scene is Henry, showing Edward Seymour the letter that was sent to him, demanding to know what the letter is all about. Edward seems just as puzzled as the King as to the young queen’s past. Being ever careful and paranoid, Henry tells the Earl of Hertford to investigate the matter thoroughly and to not stop until he reaches “the bottom of the pot.”
Catherine is quickly confined to her chambers with only Lady Rochford to attend her at Henry’s command. Quickly, witnesses are rounded up, and Francis Derham is arrested. It is clear that Henry does not believe at this time that Catherine is guilty, but still he is waiting on the results of the investigation to make his judgements. The young queen is determined to find a way to speak to the King, sure that he will listen to her if he sees her. It’s sad really, because this way of thinking, was actually quite true. Henry could never get rid of someone who could get to him and speak to him… he almost always would relent. Such is why, historically, when someone in the Tudor times was about meet their end, Henry would isolate himself from the person, often times leaving to get away.
Henry meets with his council and unfortunately, to his humiliation, finds that all the charges against Catherine are true. What they don’t know about at this point, is that she had been having an affair with Thomas Culpepper. They are only investigating claims about her past music teacher, Henry Mannox, and her prior relationship with Francis Derham.
When Thomas Seymour comes to tell the terrified girl of her fate, that she is no longer queen of England, that she will be taken to Syon Abbey and placed under house arrest, and that everything she has is forfeit, Catherine gets hysterical. What happens next has been debated for years by historians. According to legend, Catherine gets free of the men who are guarding her in an effort to find Henry. She runs frantically to the chapel in Hampton Court to find him, screaming his name. Just as she sees him, she is dragged away, beseeching him to look at her, to speak to her. Michael Hirst chooses to use this particular legend in his series, which I think adds a poignancy and makes you feel a bit sorry for the young girl. Henry does seem to be a bit moved, however, and sends Bishop Gardiner to interrogate Catherine.
Meanwhile, they continue to torture Francis Derham, sure there is more to his story than he is telling. (Well, that and Edward Seymour just loved to use torture, LOL!
Being a girl who wasn’t so bright to begin with, Catherine is given a way out, she is presented with a merciful bargain from Henry, only to continue lying and maintain her complete innocence. She is devastated and broken and it is quite plain that she is not thinking clearly, whatsoever. You are reminded that indeed, this is a young girl who really didn’t know what she was doing, really did not have the good sense to realize she had done herself in. Her stories changed from day to day, they varied, first confessing things and then vehemently denying them, laughing them off. It is my opinion, she was afraid to commit to anything for fear it would kill her, but in the end, she was to die anyway.
The Bishop Gardiner brings Henry the queen’s “confession,” however, Edward Seymour and the Duke of Suffolk have other suspicions. Edward finally gets Francis Derham to crack under torture, giving him Thomas Culpepper’s name. Then, all hell breaks loose. At first, Henry was content with being able to annul the marriage. Now, he would not be so generous. It turns into this horrible “he said,” “she said,” triangle between Lady Rochford, Thomas Culpepper, and Catherine Howard. It’s almost sad how they throw poor Lady Rochford under the bus, blaming her, saying she acted like a madame in a brothel. Poor woman. Wrong place, wrong time… ALWAYS.
Edward Seymour then has the unfortunate job of informing Henry that he has indeed scraped “the bottom of the pot.” Henry is enraged (duh), and decides to have his just revenge on “that wicked bitch”. The real twist in the knife is when Seymour reads Catherine’s letter to Culpepper to the king. OUCH!!!!! If Henry wasn’t such a tyrant, I would feel so sorry for him! Of course, in typical Henry VIII fashion, he blames everyone but himself. Didn’t we see that one coming?
Can someone explain to me just WTH is going on with this crap???? (See above picture) Michael Hirst goes to the trouble to insinuate that Anne Stanhope’s son Thomas is indeed her brother-in-law’s son, not her husband Edward’s? Interesting touch, I guess. You never know, lol!
Poor Lady Rochford. She has gone mad, and Henry still wants her dead. Henry is out for blood and even stoops to chiding the Duke of Suffolk at every turn for his involvement in “putting the queen before his notice.” It’s kind of maddening how one person refused to ever take responsibility for his own actions.
I really love how Michael Hirst can turn a gruesome death into almost this most moving and beautiful moment. You hear Catherine’s voice reciting her letter to Culpepper and her testimony about him and Francis Derham…. meanwhile you see Culpepper and Derham going to their deaths. You see a young, vulnerable girl, dancing as if she were still at court, getting the feeling that she is in a whole other world… far away from her troubles. As you hear her voice and as she dances, Culpepper is beheaded, Derham, hung, drawn and quartered. I can’t say I was sad to see either of them go.
Catherine is brought to the Tower of London by the Duke of Suffolk. Of course, Henry orders her death and gets an act of attainder to be able to execute the Lady Rochford as well. Informed of her impending death, Catherine requests that the block be brought to her so that she may practice how to place her head and “make trial of it.” Brave girl. I don’t think I would have done the same. But, I guess one doesn’t really know how you would act unless you were in that situation, correct?
And so we come to the end of this episode. First mistake Michael Hirst made, and I am not entirely sure why, was that he had poor Lady Rochford executed first. This is not fact. Catherine Howard was executed before her Maid of Honor.
In the end, Michael Hirst let Catherine go out in a blaze of glory. There is another legend concerning the queen that her last words were, “I die a queen, but would rather die a wife of Culpepper.” This was found to be historically inaccurate, but Michael Hirst chooses to use it anyway, to sort of show us, that this was really the type of girl that Catherine was. And, so ends the life of wife #5.
Stay tuned for episode six!
****All pictures for this post were found on the sites – Admiring Tamzin Merchant – http://tamzinmerchant.net/ and Showtime’s Tudors Wiki (which has been SUPER helpful to me!) http://tudorswiki.sho.com/photos .