This Day in History: 1541-08-25

On 25th August 1541, Francis Dereham – a Tudor courtier – arrived at Pontefract Castle having been thrown out of the household of Agnes Howard, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. Dereham arrived at Pontefract seeking employment within Queen Catherine’s household, and he was later made the Queen’s Private Secretary and then a Gentleman Usher of the Queen’s chamber. The significance of this appointment is that Dereham had begun sexual relations with Catherine when she was fifteen, whilst living in the household of the Dowager Duchess in Norfolk House, Lambeth. There was no obvious vacancy within her household, but after speaking with Dereham in her private quarters at Pontefract, Catherine introduced him to the rest of her staff. Rumours of a pre-contract of marriage between Dereham and Catherine would have invalidated Catherine’s future marriage to King Henry VIII. On December 1st 1541, Dereham and Thomas Culpeper were arraigned at Guildhall for treason and were executed on ┬áDecember 10th 1541 – Dereham being hanged, drawn and quartered, Culpeper’s ┬ásentenced commuted to beheading.