Chapter 9 : Limelight Again
In 1539, the balance of power in Europe shifted to the detriment of Henry and England when Charles V and Francis I signed a peace treaty. With his two old allies and adversaries now swearing brotherly love, Henry was out in the cold. He prepared to defend his borders. Norfolk was sent to patrol the Scottish border, and Surrey to raise musters for the defence of the east coast.
Henry also entered into an alliance with the Duchy of Cleves, a state strategically placed between the Emperor's German and Flemish territories. This alliance was to be cemented by a marriage to Anne, the Duke's sister. At the tilt to honour the new Queen, Surrey ran the opening course, as the highest ranking competitor.
The alliance between France and the Emperor lasted little longer than it took the ink to dry on Henry's new marriage contract. This was fortunate for Henry as he had taken an instant dislike to his new Queen's person (although he later seemed to enjoy her company). An annulment was quickly obtained and the Howards were once more at the forefront of everyone's mind as the daughter of Lord Edmund Howard, Katheryn, was catapulted to the throne at the age of about twenty.
Norfolk, seeing in Katheryn a more tractable niece than Anne Boleyn had been, must have been rubbing his hands in glee. This was his chance to get rid of the upstart, Thomas Cromwell, and return the Howards to the centre of power, which, he believed, was their God-given right.
At a Council meeting on 10 June 1540, Cromwell was arrested, and Norfolk tore the Order of the Garter from his neck with his own hands. Surrey too, showed his feelings, chortling with delight
"now is that foul churl dead…who would…leave no nobleman on live (alive)".
On the very day of Cromwell's execution, Katheryn married the King.
Poor Katheryn was a lamb amongst wolves. Less well educated than the majority of her cousins, she had been sadly neglected by her step-grandmother Agnes, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, and, as a younger daughter of a younger son, had been allowed to run about unsupervised and unguarded. Before coming to Court, she had been fondled by her music master, Henry Manox and conducted a full-blown affair with Francis Dereham, one of Duchess Agnes' household.
Dereham was genuinely fond of her, and considered her his betrothed wife, but when Katheryn came to Court as maid-of-honour to Anne of Cleves, she forgot him, and seems to have formed an attachment to her cousin, Sir Thomas Culpepper, a gentleman of the King's Chamber. Whether Norfolk knew anything about his niece's past is a moot point. Certainly his step-mother and half-sister, the Countess of Bridgewater did, but either they said nothing, or Norfolk refused to hear it.