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All Posts, P&S History

Women’s History Month – Laura Adkins

Five things you may not know about Katheryn Parr…

We all are vaguely familiar with Henry VIII and his six wives, the last, Katherine of Aragon being the one who Survived. But did you know Katheryn was not just a survivor of Henry VIII but of plots against her, she achieved so much in her 36 years. Here I have listed some things that you may not know about this one of a kind, no category, Queen.

1.She was the first female in England to have a book published using her own name

Katheryn would publish three books in her lifetime, a great achievement in itself. The third one, Lamentation of a Sinner was published not only under a female’s name but the actual author. More of a personal piece than her pervious publications it was only reprinted twice; in 1548 and 1563. However, its biggest impact was that It was the first time a book in England was published by a woman using her real name.

2.She married four times

Katheryn was not only Henry VIIIs sixth wife but he was her third husband and she would wed one more time after his death.

Her first marriage was meant to have been to the son and heir of Henry, Lord Scrope of Bolton, also called Henry. Lord Scrope had reservations about the union and felt Katheryn was not a suitable match for his son, so Maud decided to find her daughter another match.

Katheryn’s first marriage was in 1529 to Edward Borough, son of Sir Thomas Borough. The Boroughs were an old northern gentry family who had risen to prominence during the Wars of the Roses. Around 1531, Katheryn and Edward would set up their own household nearby at Kirton in Lindsey. As soon as the two were beginning to settle with one another in their new household Edward died.

The second marriage was to John Neville, Lord Latimer, who had already been married twice and had two children. He wanted a wife not only to be a companion but as a mother to his children. This marriage may have even developed into a love match. By 1542 Lord Latimer knew he was very ill and not long for the world. It was during his last few weeks when King Henry VIII started to show an interest in the soon to be widowed Lady Latimer.

When she accepted the king’s proposal the two were married in a quiet ceremony in the queens closet of Hamptons Court Palace. Katheryn felt it was a match requested by God. Although not a love match, she most likely became fond of this aging monarch and grew to love his children, a love which continued after his death.

Katheryn’s last marriage was to Thomas Seymour. This marriage brought about a slight change in Katheryn’s behaviour. It was a marriage of love and one most likely longed for. They had married in secret, in a very short time after Henry’s death. They did not seek the new king’s permission nor that of his council, which as Queen Dowager it was her duty to do. She was even drawn into his dangerous and scandalous meetings with Princess Elizabeth Tudor under her own roof until she finally came to her senses. Had she lived longer she may even have been able to have prevented Thomas’ bid to control the king which led to his execution on the scaffold.

Thomas Seymour

3.Her mother was a close friend of Katherine of Aragon

Born Matilda Green, Katheryn’s mother, known as Maud, was born in Northamptonshire. Her ancestors had links with the royal court. Maud and her sister, on the death if their father became joint heiresses to his vast fortune and therefore good marriage prospects. This was when Sir Thomas Parr entered Maud’s life. He brought her wardship and married her a year later in 1508. A marriage of fortune for Sir Thomas but also one of friendship and most likely love. Thomas allowed his 15-year-old bride to get to know him first, and they both shared similar interests. The newly married Parrs would spend life at court, with Thomas being a close companion to the young King Henry. Maud would find a place in Katherine of Aragon’s court, where she and the queen became good friends, with Katherine being godmother, and most likely namesake, to her first daughter Katheryn. Due to Maud’s background in the court and her post as a lady-in-waiting, Rye House, the childhood home of Katheryn Parr and her two siblings had become what one could call a finishing school.

Katherine of Aragon

4. She had a daughter, Mary Seymour

Katheryn gave birth to a daughter, Mary, on 30 August 1548. Tragically a few days later Katheryn died leaving the baby in the sole care of her father Thomas. At the age of only 6 and a 1/2 months she found herself an orphan when Thomas made a play to control the king resulting in his beheading. Mary was taken to her uncle Edward Seymours home at Syon House, however her father then requested her care be passed to the Dowager Duchess of Suffolk, Katherine Willoughby, a friend to both of Mary’s parents.

The last official mention of Mary was in August 1550. It is thought she died very young, possibly of the sweating sickness. The dowager duchess lost two sons to the sickness in 1551 so it could be likely Mary died too. To further add to this theory an epitaph was written, possibly about Mary Seymour, and published in 1573 by Parkhurst, Katheryn Parr’s former chaplain. He surely would not have written one if she was still in the world of the living.

Agnes Strickland, writing in the 1800s believes Mary went to live with her governess, Mrs Elizabeth Aglionby, where she grew to adulthood and married Sir Edward Bushel, and went on to have children of her own. It is possible the information she had telling her this has since been destroyed. Sadly, it is not known for certain.

5. She was a follower of fashion and kept good hygiene

Katheryn had a great love of fashion with many of her portraits showcasing the most recent trends of the time from French style dressed to Italian v neck bodices. She knew what looked right in a portrait, with many of her portraits as queen showing her wearing crimson, her favourite colour but one which also indicates status. She can be seen wearing dresses with pearls and jewels sown into the garments, in silk damask and cloth of gold too.

She was obsessed with shoes and accounts show she had a new pair nearly every week and at one point owned forty-seven pairs. One could say her wardrobe would put the future Queen Elizabeth’s collection of over forty-five years to shame. She liked to look after herself and her hygiene by taking milk baths and scented her body with rosewater, and had fresh flowers in her rooms daily. She had her lavatory covered with red silk and ribbons with a canopy of crimson velvet and cushions of cloth of gold.

Daughter, author, mother, Queen and wife. Katheryn’s legacy lies with her stepdaughter, the future, Queen Elizabeth I. She helped shape this teenager to become the iconic and powerful monarch we all know today. Katheryn would have been proud.

Elizabeth I

Order Kateryn Parr here.