Lady Anne Bourchier (1517 – 28 January 1571) was the suo jure 7th Baroness Bourchier, suo jure Lady Lovayne, and Baroness Parr of Kendal [by marriage]. She was the first wife of William Parr, 1st Marquess of Northampton, 1st Earl of Essex, and the sister-in-law of Queen Katherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII of England.
She created a scandal in 1541 when she deserted her husband to elope with her lover, John Lyngfield, by whom she would have several illegitimate children. According to Alison Weir’s Six Wives, “he [Parr] was pressing the King to authorize the highest penalty for her offense, which in those days was death” and due to the intervention of Catherine, who at that time was still Lady Latimer, who spoke to King Henry VIII on her behalf, Anne avoided the possible penalty of execution.
Lady Anne Bourchier was born in 1517, the only child of Henry Bourchier, 2nd Earl of Essex, 6th Baron Bourchier, Viscount Bourchier, 2nd Count of Eu, and Mary Say, who was a lady-in-waiting to Henry VIII’s first Queen consort, Katherine of Aragon. Her paternal grandparents were Sir William Bourchier, Viscount Bourchier and Lady Anne Woodville, a younger sister of the English queen consort Elizabeth Woodville. This connection made her a 3rd cousin of Queen Katherine Parr. Her maternal grandparents were Sir William Say and Elizabeth Fray. Anne was related to three queen consorts of Henry VIII; Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, and Catherine Howard who all shared the same great-grandmother Elizabeth Cheney.
As the only child of the last Earl of Essex, as well as the contingent heiress of the Countess of Oxford, Anne was one of the wealthiest heiresses in England. The Bourchier wealth derived from the 14th century marriage of Sir William Bourchier to Eleanor de Lovayne (27 March 1345 – 5 October 1397), a rich heiress in her own right.
Marriage and inheritance
On 9 February 1527, Lady Anne was married to her 3rd cousin, William Parr. Parr was the only son of Sir Thomas Parr of Kendal, Sheriff of Northamptonshire and Maud Green. Anne was approximately ten years old at the time of her marriage which had been diligently arranged by her ambitious mother-in-law. Anne later succeeded to the titles of suo jure 7th Baroness Bourchier and Lady Lovayne on 13 March 1540 at the time of her father’s accidental death. His viscounty of Bourchier and earldom of Essex did not pass to her, however, and both titles became extinct upon his death. Her husband had been created 1st Baron Parr of Kendal in 1539.
Anne and Parr were unhappy from the very start of their marriage. After their marriage in 1527, the couple did not live with each other until twelve years later. Anne was described as having been poorly-educated; and she appeared to prefer the peace of the countryside to the excitement of Henry VIII’s court, as her first recorded appearance at court where she attended a banquet was on 22 November 1539 when she was aged 22.
Lady Anne Bourchier abandoned her husband William Parr in 1541 and took up residence with a man now identified as John Lyngfield, the prior of St James’s Church, Tanbridge, in Surrey. Any wife acting in that manner was cause for public scandal, but the scandal was worsened when Anne became pregnant by Lyngfield. The birth of Anne’s child prompted Baron Parr to take action against her to protect his own interests, lest the baby should later in the future lay claim to his estates. In January 1543, William Parr then acted to protect his interests and secured a legal separation from Anne (but not a divorce or annullment). During 1541, after Anne had left, Parr started an affair with one of the ladies at court, Dorothy Bray.
From the Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of Henry VIII, dated 22 January 1543, there is this item:
“Whereas lady Anne, wife of Sir Wm Parre lord Parre continued in adultery notwithstanding admonition, and, finally, two years past, left his company and has since had a child begotten in adultery and that the said child and all future children she may have shall be held bastards.”
Katherine Parr enters the picture in March 1543 when William relied on her influence to get a private bill through Parliament denouncing his wife’s behavior and declaring her child by Lyngfield a bastard. That bill did not include a sentence of execution for Anne Bourchier. All the bill actually did was publicly register William’s disapproval of his wife’s actions and prevent her son by Lyngfield from ever taking the Parr name. William and Anne remained legally married until 1552.
On 17 April 1543, he obtained an Act of Parliament, repudiating Anne and her child, who was declared a bastard, and unfit to inherit.
According to Alison Weir’s Six Wives: At this time, Parr’s sister Catherine was being courted by King Henry VIII. She was also a close friend of Anne, and according to Alison Weir, supported her against her brother who was pressing the King to apply the death penalty for his unfaithful wife. Weir states that Catherine petitioned the King to grant clemency for Anne; Henry agreed, provided Parr himself pardoned her, saying to Catherine that “if your brother can be content, I will pardon her”. After much pleading on Catherine’s part, Parr relented and Anne received the King’s pardon. She was, however, constrained to forfeit her titles and estates to her husband, and spent the next few years living in exile at the manor of Little Wakering, in Essex.
First off, someone said that Weir’s info came from the Spanish Calendar. In the translation of “Chronica del rey Enrico otavo de Inglaterra“, published 1889 by G. Bell and sons, the “story” is about an “Earl of Rochford” who was in love with the daughter of Lord Cobham. No names are mentioned. The only reference to making the story possibly about Parr is the quote calling the person “brother of Queen Katherine, the last wife of King Henry.” Parr was not Earl of Rochford and he didn’t have a servant that fooled around with his wife and then left and died in Wales. Anne left Parr with another man and went into exile with him in Essex at the manor of Little Wakering where she became pregnant and had an illegitimate child. There are also NO dates present in this Chronica. It also doesn’t state “Parr prosecuted..” it states “the Earl..” Anne was prosecuted against to keep her illegitimate children from inheriting Parr’s inheritance and estates; he also wanted a legal separation from Anne. The fact that Anne continued in adultery and had illegitimate children is recorded in the Letters and Papers of Henry VIII. I seriously think something either got lost in translation or I’m guessing by the time the news got to Spain it had been twisted into a completely different story which happened all the time in accounts of history. It’s like the Crusades — the 5 different accounts of the Speech of Pope Urban II at Clermont. The way word travels and the accounts of stories change over time unless they are immediately recorded at the time; which in England they were seeing how something was written in the LP’s of Henry VIII which deals nothing with Parr wanting Anne executed, just wanting her child declared illegitimate and wanting a separation. Unless you go into researching what Weir has to say, you are bound to agree with her and think that she knows what she’s talking about. This “account” is completely inaccurate and full of errors; somehow Weir twisted her story without really researching this document and then quotes it as a source when anyone who reads it can clearly see the constant errors.
Statement from Christine Hartweg,
The Spanish Chronicle is a bit notorious; it’s a typical gossip source, it’s also very likely this part was written some years after the events. I would think that he is in love with the daughter of the Lord Cobham is the ref to Elizabeth Brooke.
In a way the Spanish Chronicle is rather interesting, for example it is in many ways less biased in a purposeful sense than many of the ambassadorial reports; however it is completely garbled, clearly a source that interesting in respect what was talked AND then this got mixed up with the cultural prejudices and misunderstandings of the Spanish writer, who seems to have been in England for some time.
Statement from Hannah Stewart to make things clear about what we are dealing with [The Spanish Chronicles],
It is the Spanish Chronicle that also has Thomas Cromwell engaged in conversation with Katherine Howard shortly after her arrest (when in fact Cromwell had been dead for nearly two years). It is to be treated with a high degree of caution.
Secondly, it was highly unlikely that Anne would have been sentenced to death, as adultery was not a capital offense in 16th century England. Henry VIII’s wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard were both executed for treason. The act of adultery, when committed by a queen consort of England, was legally a crime of High treason, and punishable by death. What is interesting is that Weir gives no support or citation as to where she found the info on the execution of Anne Bourchier. As stated, adultery wasn’t punishable by death in the Tudor era and adultery by non-royals did not carry an assumption of being a capitol offense.
For details of the actual account and reference to the primary sources that document what actually happened between Parr and Bourchier, see Susan James’s Catherine Parr, Henry VIII’s Last Love, pages 50-52 and 82. First off, James never states anything about an execution and that Parr used his influence with Catherine to secure a separation. It then says that after all that was done with Anne, Parr embarked in an affair with Dorothy Bray. It was after Anne had committed adultery and run off, not before!
In 1543, William Parr had begun his courtship of the Hon. Elizabeth Brooke, who was a niece of Dorothy Bray, and a former Maid of Honour of Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard. He was created 1st Earl of Essex on 23 December 1543 by his brother-in-law, King Henry VIII. On 31 March 1552, a bill was passed in Parliament which declared the marriage between Parr and Bourchier to be null and void. Parr had married Elizabeth Brooke in 1547. Their marriage was declared valid in 1548, invalid in 1553, and valid again in 1558 upon the ascension of Queen Elizabeth I. Three monarchs had influenced the status of Elizabeth Brooke; Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I.
Later years and death
Upon the ascension of Queen Mary, Parr was arrested and was committed to the Tower after his traitorous complicity with John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland’s failed plot against Mary to place Lady Jane Grey upon the throne. After Parr was sentenced to death on 18 August 1553, Anne intervened on Parr’s behalf with Queen Mary I in hopes that they [she] would be able to keep their estates. Parr was released. The bill which had declared their marriage null and void was reversed on 24 March 1554. That December, Anne used the reversal to her advantage and was granted an annuity of £100. Again in December 1556, Anne was granted another annuity of £450. She remained at court until the ascension of Elizabeth I. Queen Elizabeth held Parr in high favour and Anne most likely knew that her charades would not be welcomed by the queen. Parr was restored to blood and was re-created Marquess of Northampton, re-elected to the Order of the Garter, and was made a privy councillor among other things.
She had several more children by John Lyngfield but they, like her first child, were legally declared bastards. Only one daughter, Mary, is documented as having lived to adulthood. She married a Thomas York by whom she had children, but they all lived in obscurity. Author Charlotte Merton suggested that Katherine Nott, who held an unspecified position in Queen Elizabeth I’s household from 1577 to 1578, was also a daughter of Anne.
Sir Robert Rochester and Sir Edward Waldegrave held Benington Park, in Hertfordshire, as feoffees for her use; however, upon the death of Rochester in 1557, Waldegrave transferred the property to Sir John Butler. In response, Anne brought a lawsuit against Waldegrave and Butler which was heard in the Court of Chancery. She won the case but Butler petitioned to retry the case and continued to regard the park as his own. Butler’s petition was apparently unsuccessful because following Queen Elizabeth I’s accession to the throne in November 1558, Anne had retired to Benington Park where she quietly spent the rest of her life.
Anne Bourchier died on 28 January 1571 at Benington. Parr died the same year and was buried in the Collegiate Church of St. Mary in Warwick. His funeral and burial was paid by the Queen. He had married two times after Anne, but only his third wife, Helena Snakenborg, whom he had married after Anne’s death in May was considered legal. He fathered no children by any of his wives and the little money and estates he had left were passed to his cousins.
Upon Anne’s death, the barony of Bourchier passed to her cousin, Walter Devereux (husband of Lettice Knollys, cousin of Elizabeth I), who eventually was created Earl of Essex in 1572 after the death of Lady Anne’s husband, William Parr, the Earl of Essex, in 1571.
- Alison Weir. The Six Wives of Henry VIII, p. 492.
- What is interesting is that Weir gives no support or citation as to where she found the info on the execution of Anne Bourchier. Adultery wasn’t punishable by death in the Tudor era and adultery by non-royals did not carry an assumption of being a capitol offense. For details of the actual account and reference to the primary sources that document what actually happened between Parr and Bourchier, see Susan James’s Catherine Parr, Henry VIII’s Last Love, pages 50-52 and 82.
- Emerson, Kathy Lynn. A Who’s Who of Tudor Women, Bo-Brom.
- Martienssen, Anthony (1973). Queen Katherine Parr. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company. p. 39.
- Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 06
- The Letters and Papers Foreign and Domestic of Henry VIII, Vol. 18, Part 1, Item 66, Part III, cap. xliii, dated 22 January 1543
- European Heraldry. The War of the Roses: Descendants of Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester — Henry Bourchier, 5th Baron Bourchier, 1st Viscount Bourchier, 1st Earl of Essex.