It happened today - February 13, 2016

What was she thinking? Other than “I am an idiot”? I refer to Catherine Howard, 5th wife of Henry VIII overall and the second to be beheaded, on Feb. 13 1542.

Now I have no use for Henry VIII. Not his statecraft and certainly not his domestic affairs. One of my rules of history is do not marry Henry VIII. And I’m very glad his efforts to impose absolutism in England were resisted in Parliament and elsewhere. But Catherine Howard, who to be fair was at least partly a pawn for her ambitious relatives and their schemes to restore Roman Catholicism in England, should have realized that if you do marry the king, even if you are in your late teens and he is nearly fifty, you really truly should not take lovers.

I mean it. Not even one, never mind several. Especially if you are less than discreet, as she was, bad things will happen. People will find out. You will get caught. And then you will get beheaded.

Again, I do not for one moment excuse Henry, a monster personally and a would-be tyrant. Once he started pursuing a woman her choices were limited especially if her family was dangling her like bait. But reading the story of Howard and her lovers, also executed, I just cannot answer one key question.

What was she thinking?