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Trouble in Paradise



Work is continuing on Katherine Howard, the Dowager Duchess and Norfolk House, Lambeth – Trouble in Paradise, an attempt to collate information on what was once the Lambeth home of a future queen consort of Henry VIII. Queen Katherine was an unremarkable girl whose teenage misdemeanours were to cost the young woman her life and bring terror and ruin to Agnes Tilney, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, the elderly step-grandmother who had brought her up. (If I achieve nothing else within the pages of this future book, I hope it will help dispel the widespread misconception that Katherine lived at the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lambeth Palace in her somewhat adventurous youth!).


Provisional Chapter headings


1


TROUBLE IN PARADISE


2


LIVING WITH THE DUCHESS


3


THE MAIDENS’ CHAMBER


4


THE SECRET IS OUT


5


THE DOWNFALL OF A NOBLE FAMILY


6


PANIC AT NORFOLK HOUSE.


7


PARADISE LOST


8


1542


9


ALL HAS CHANGED


10


WHAT BECAME OF NORFOLK HOUSE?


APPENDICES




Summary


Norfolk House was situated on what is now busy Lambeth Road, south of the Thames and almost opposite Westminster Palace, now the Houses of Parliament. Obviously it has been built over for hundreds of years, but excavations have given us at least some idea of what Katherine Howard’s step-grandmother’s home was like when, in the spring of 1540, the besotted Henry VIII came to call on the ‘rose without a thorn’.





















The Novotel at 113 Lambeth Road is the sandy-coloured building, with the Bell Inn on the Norfolk Row side and the premises of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain on the other; Norfolk House stood on this spot. The tree to the right blocks the view of Lambeth Palace and the Howards’ local church, now the Garden Museum. © Marilyn Roberts



I started off looking at the archaeological reports on the house but was soon fascinated by Agnes Tilney who, I now believe, has had a raw deal over the centuries. She is generally reviled for having run a lax household and for not keeping proper control over the girls in her care, but in truth she appears to have done her best to keep her large household in order. At the end of the search for Norfolk House and the Howard connections all I can say is that the information from the official sources of the times is so repetitive, flimsy and biased that half-a-dozen different people could interpret the behaviour and motives of Katherine and the part played by her step-grandmother in as many different ways.
















The main entrance to Lambeth Palace, the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Katherine Howard’s step-grandmother who brought her up did not live here, as is frequently stated, although Duchess Agnes and other prominent Howards, including Anne Boleyn’s mother, were buried in the church alongside, which is now deconsecrated and used as the Garden Museum.

© Marilyn Roberts

























The Howard Chapel in the Church of St Mary at Lambeth (now the Garden Museum). Agnes Tilney, Duchess of Norfolk, had a magnificent tomb here of which nothing remains, although she and Anne Boleyn’s mother, Elizabeth Howard, Countess of Wiltshire, are believed still to lie under the floor of what is now the cafeteria. © Marilyn Roberts



As for building-up a picture of Norfolk House itself, with the exception of its appearance on Wenceslaus Hollar’s Prospect of London and Westminster taken from Lambeth drawn more than  a hundred years after Katherine’s death, and Bill Wyatt’s artist’s reconstruction after the excavations of the site in the 1980’s, there is little to go on. The present writer, who confesses to being neither archaeologist nor architect, concludes from its proportions, layout and features typical of a courtyard house, that Norfolk House bore a great deal of resemblance to the magnificent but little-known Gainsborough Old Hall in Lincolnshire, in Katherine’s day the home of the Burgh family, and one of the places she stayed with Henry VIII during the Northern progress of 1541. In a peculiar twist of fate, this wonderful house had been home for a brief period some years earlier to the teenaged Katherine Parr, eventually King Henry’s sixth wife, whose first husband was the son and heir of the then Lord Burgh.




















Is this what the Lambeth Road elevation of Norfolk House would have been like – if we imagine the tower on the left is the Bell Inn?  It would seem that the Norfolk House kitchens were in the courtyard section, rather than on the northern elevation as seen on the right here at Gainsborough Old Hall. © Marilyn Roberts









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