On November 1, 1541, having just returned from a successful northern progress, King Henry VIII gave his gratitude to God ‘for the good life he led and trusted to lead’ with his young and beautiful wife, Catherine Howard. He even asked the Bishop of Lincoln publicly to ‘give like thanks with him’ in honor of the queen. The king was still besotted with his young wife, and Catherine was – if not besotted with Henry – than most likely basking in the glow of success. To be loved by such a powerful king was a power in and of itself.
As Henry spoke those words of thanks in the chapel, the king’s advisors were penning a letter detailing what they had discovered about Catherine while the king had been on progress. They would deliver this letter the very next day, and the aging king would read of the corrupt life that his beloved bride had led before their marriage. His ‘jewel of womanhood’ was not all that she had seemed, after all.
Perhaps as Henry was reading that letter, Catherine was seated before her mirror prettying herself for the next banquet, or watching the way the firelight sparkled off the jewels on her fingers. But her past lingered in the corners all the while, watching her, like ghosts. And her fate was, silently, being determined by powers beyond her control.