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16 February 1547: The Funeral of King Henry VIII

Queen Katherine Parr painted most likely as a young widow, posthumously.

After the news of King Henry’s death became public, the now Dowager Queen Katherine for the third time in her life donned widow’s weeds and mourning jewels. She wore buttons of gold enamelled black. She wore a gold ring with a death’s head. The death’s head of Christian lamentation on her finger, the queen secluded herself while she mourned and prepared for the funeral of the now dead king. Vast amounts of black cloth had been ordered for mourning clothes for the Lady Mary and Lady Elizabeth as well as the queen’s ladies and Henry’s household.
 For ten days the king’s embalmed body lay in the privy chamber in a huge chest lit by tapers. On 8 February, an official announcement was made that the King had indeed died. The bells through out the kingdom rang and prayers and Requiem masses were said for the king’s soul.

Funeral procession of Henry V; just an image to show how Henry VIII’s probably went, only grander of course!

On 14 February 1547, a great procession of 1,000 horsemen and hundreds of followers formed around a larger then life hearse made for the king. It was seven stories high, adorned with carefully crafted effigy of the monarch. The procession moved from Westminster down to Windsor stopping at night at the new “Lord Protector’s” home in Syon for the night. The road itself had to be repaved and trees had to be cut out of the way in order to bear the weight and size of the King’s hearse.
The funeral cortege arrived at Windsor in the afternoon of the 15th of February. The main Requiem and service would be held the next day.

An edited drawing of Queen Katherine.

Dressed in blue velvet lined with purple with a ring of gold with a death head, the queen watched the proceedings from her private Chapel above the choir, the Queen’s Closet, in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. It was the final act of a drama that had begun for Katherine over four years ago. Katherine watched as Henry was interred with his “most beloved” wife, the mother of the new king, Edward VI, Queen Jane Seymour. Ironically, it was Bishop Gardiner who officiated at the Requiem Mass. After all that Henry had done to break from Rome and the fact that he died holding Archbishop Cranmer’s hand; Henry wanted to have the familiar Latin Mass of the old religion to ensure the good of his soul. Katherine surely must have been upset with the situation seeing how much she disliked Gardiner and the form of ceremony. No doubt, with a disbelief of Purgatory notwithstanding, she said at least one prayer for her husband’s soul. The fact that she had been excluded from the Regency council was probably playing in her mind along with other thoughts which were not accounted for. One of them might have been towards her long lost love, Sir Thomas Seymour, who Katherine would now be free to marry.

The King left Katherine a generous lifestyle. He doted her as his “entirely beloved wife” and left her quite comfortably.

“The Queen shall have’, he commanded,  ‘3,000 in plate, jewels and stuff, beside what she shall please to take of what she has already, and further receive in money 1,000 besides the enjoyment of her jointures.’ She was always to be served and waited on as befitted a queen, with a large household (well over one hundred people) and all her dower properties which included her manors at Hanworth and Chelsea. She was still to exercise patronage, continue writing, live a life of privilege and comfort. Katherine would remain till her death the Dowager Queen of England and was the first lady of the Realm followed by Lady Mary, Lady Elizabeth, and Lady Anne of Cleves.

That this rule was followed and upheld becomes a completely different blog and issue entirely after Katherine’s marriage to Sir Thomas Seymour, younger brother of the Lord Protector and uncle to King Edward VI.

 Sources:
  1. Susan James. Catherine Parr: The Last Love of Henry VIII, History Press, Gloucestershire, 2009. pg 259-
  2. Linda Porter. Katherine, the Queen, Macmillan, US Edition, December 2010. pg 275-76.
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About tudorqueen6 (136 Articles)
I have been studying the genealogy and the history of the Parr family since 2007. I studied Women's Studies with an emphasis on English Women's History at the University of Maryland. My goal is to educate those who love Tudor History and to push aside the never ending myth that Queen Katherine Parr was nothing more than a nursemaid to King Henry VIII. I am planning on writing a book specifically on the family genealogy and relations which made Queen Katherine an important woman in her own right -- even before her own birth.

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