Catherine Howard was the granddaughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk and the cousin of Anne Boleyn.
In 1509 Henry VII died and his son Henry VIII became king of England. It was very important to Henry that his wife, Catherine of Aragon, should give birth to a male child. Without a son to take over from him when he died. Henry feared that the Tudor family would lose control of England.
Catherine gave birth to six children but five died within a few weeks of being born. Only one child, Mary, survived into adulthood.
By 1530 Catherine was too old to have any more children. Therefore, Henry decided he would have to have another wife. His choice was Anne Boleyn, the 20-year-old daughter of Viscount Rochford. Anne gave birth to a daughter called Elizabeth.
In January 1536 Anne had a son. Unfortunately the child was born dead. Later that year Henry accused Anne of committing adultery with five different men. Anne and the men were all executed. Ten days later Henry married Jane Seymour. The following year, Jane died giving birth to a son. Henry now at last had a male heir.
Henry began to look for another wife. His Lord Chancellor, Thomas Cromwell, wanted England to form an alliance with the Protestants in Saxony. One way Henry could do this was by marrying Anne of Cleves, the daughter of the Protestant leader, Duke John Frederick.
In 1539 Henry was sent paintings of Anne but he suspected that the artist had exaggerated Anne's beauty. Henry therefore sent Hans Holbein to Saxony to paint her picture. On the evidence of Holbein's painting. Henry decided to sign the marriage contract. However, when Anne of Cleves arrived in England for the wedding Henry was very disappointed with her. Although he agreed that Holbein had captured her physical likeness. Henry did not like her personality.
Henry divorced Anne of Cleves and in 1540 married Catherine Howard. The following year she was charged by Thomas Cranmer of having sexual intercourse before her marriage with Henry Mannock, Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpepper. In 1542 Catherine Howard and the three men were executed.