I came across Catherine’s story when I was nearly done with my first book, The Blood Confession – a historical fantasy inspired by the legend of Countess Bathory, who believed that bathing in the blood of virgins would preserve her youth and beauty for eternity. I had been working on this book for a while and I was feeling a little lost at the thought of being finished. I started casting around for some other wayward girl in history that I could write about, and that’s when I found Catherine Howard.
Catherine was a teenager when she first arrived at court, to be a part of the new queen’s household. While Henry was disappointed with his new bride, Anne of Cleves, he “cast a fantasy” to Catherine from the moment he saw her. She was young, pretty, petite, and vivacious—just Henry’s type. Less than a year after her arrival at court she was married to the King of England and awaiting her own coronation as queen. After over a year of marriage, she was accused of having an affair while married to the king. This was the same charge given to Henry’s second bride years earlier, which lead to her execution. That queen, Anne Boleyn, was Catherine’s own cousin.
Even though Catherine’s story is completely different from Countess Bathory’s, I had a similar reaction to it: “What was she thinking? Why did she do it?” These questions made me want to write about Catherine in her point of view, to come up with an internal logic to explain her illogical actions.
I found it fascinating to research Catherine and observe the different approaches to her story: she was simple-minded, greedy, whorish, and immature. Somehow I had to create empathy for her, to connect with her and find her voice. I didn’t want to make her too much a victim, especially since her bad choices are what drew me to tell her story in the first place. Certainly she was greedy, and not at all well-versed in court etiquette and politics, but at the core of her story I found her to be woefully, fatally naïve. And that, as I see it, lead to her downfall. The Tudor court was a fascinating but brutal place to live, filled with people each with his own agenda, and families willing to sacrifice their own young for a chance at power.
When my husband and I went to England, we visited the Tower of London on February 13, the anniversary of Catherine’s execution. She is buried in the chapel beside her infamous cousin, Anne Boleyn. A bouquet of roses was draped over Anne’s crest that day, and the guard showed us how the white stone is now discolored because of all the flowers she has received over the years. It made us feel sorry for Catherine that she never gets such attention. While she did not have nearly the impact on history that Anne did, her story is still a fascinating one. I left a small stone on her crest as a mark of our visit, and I can only hope that she knows that we came a long way specifically to visit her.
Please head on over to Alisa's web-site: www.alisalibby.com more information on both her wonderful books. Also any one who leaves a comment will be eligible to win a copy of Alisa's book.