3 September 1548: The State of Mind of the Dowager Queen

Lady Anne Herbert stands in the nursery looking out the window. Lady Herbert (now Countess of Pembroke) was the First Lady of the Privy Chamber and Groom of the stool. Photo credit: Meg McGath.

In early February of 1549, the late Dowager Queen’s good friend and former lady-in-waiting, Elizabeth Tyrwhitt [or Tyrwhyt, born Elizabeth Oxenbridge], gave her account of the state of mind and behavior of Queen Katherine on 3 September 1547 as she lay dying. Lady Tyrwhitt made this sworn deposition during the time that the Lord Seymour was being interrogated for treason. The original was transcribed and published by Samuel Haynes in ‘A Collection of State Papers, Relating to Affairs..From the Year 1542-1570, Transcribed from Original Letters and other Authentick Memorials, Never before Publish’d, Left by William Cecill Lord Burghley, and Now remaining at Hatfield House in the Library of the Right Honourable the present Earl of Salisbury,’ (London, 1740), 103-4. The document is not listed in the interrogation of Lord Seymour; Haynes seems to be the unique source for a presumably lost original.

Death scene of Queen Katherine played by Deborah Kerr and Stewart Granger as Thomas Seymour in "Young Bess." Kerr had a strong resemblance to the real Queen Katherine.

Death scene of Queen Katherine played by Deborah Kerr and Stewart Granger as Thomas Seymour in “Young Bess.” Kerr had a strong resemblance to the real Queen Katherine.

“There are many witnesses, who under pressure, have testified to this shameless love affair. A love affair of which even Queen Katherine accused you on her death bed.” — Edward, Duke of Somerset
“You’re lying! She knew me, she loved me, she was my friend.” — Lady Elizabeth
“But you were not hers.” — Edward, Duke of Somerset (“Young Bess” 1953)

Lady Elizabeth Tyrwhitt left an eyewitness account of Katherine’s last hours:

“Two days afore the death of the Queen, at my coming to her in the morning, she asked me where I had been so long, and said unto me, she did fear such things in herself, that she was sure she could not live: Whereunto I answered, as I thought, that I saw no likelihood of death in her. She then having my Lord Admiral by the hand, and divers others standing by, spake these words, partly, as I took it, idly [deliriously], ‘My Lady Tyrwhitt, I am not well handled, for those that be about me careth not for me, but standeth laughing at my grief, and the more good I will to them, the less good they will to me:’ Whereunto my Lord Admiral answered ‘why sweetheart, I would you no hurt.’ And she said to him again aloud, ‘No, my Lord, I think so’: and immediately she said to him in his ear, ‘but my Lord you have given me many shrewd taunts.’ Those words I percieved she spoke with good memory, and very sharply and earnestly, for her mind was far unquieted. My Lord Admiral perceiving that I heard it, called me aside, and asked me what she said; and I declared it plainly to him.”

Although Lady Tyrwhitt was not found of Seymour, she believed that the statements and accusations by her mistress were spoken in delirium. Seymour’s tenderness towards his wife at this moment were apparent as she recounts:

“Then he [Seymour] consulted with me, that he would lie down on the bed by her, to look if he could pacify her unquietness with gentle communication; whereunto I agreed. And by that time he had spoken three or four words to her, she answered him very roundly and shortly, saying ‘My Lord, I would have given a thousand marks to have had my full talk with Huicke, the first day I was delivered, but I durst not, for displeasing of you’: And I hearing that, perceived her trouble to be so great, that my heart would serve me to her no more. She like communication she had with him the space of an hour; which they did hear that sat by her bedside.”

Katherine Parr lies in state at Sudeley Castle © Meg McGath, 2012.

See also:


  • Linda Porter. ‘Katherine, the queen,’ Macmillan, 2011.
  • Susan James. ‘Catherine Parr: Henry VIII’s Last Love,’ The History Press, Gloucestershire, 2008, 2009 [US Edition].
  • Janel Mueller. ‘Katherine Parr: Complete Works and Correspondences,’ University of Chicago Press, Jun 30, 2011.

1 thought on “3 September 1548: The State of Mind of the Dowager Queen

  1. Pingback: 5 September 1548: The Death of Queen Katherine Parr | tudorqueen6

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