5 September 1548: The Death of Queen Katherine Parr

The nursery and apartments of the dowager queen with Lady Anne Herbert standing by [the queen's sister] © Meg McGath, 2012.

The nursery and apartments of the dowager queen with Lady Anne Herbert standing by [the queen’s sister] © Meg McGath, 2012.

Unfortunately for Katherine, Dr. Huicke, so advanced in matters of diet and exercise for proper prenatal care, was a man of his time when it came to matters of hygiene. Having survived disease, civil insurrection, mob violence, charges of heresy and treason, four husbands including King Henry VIII, and the vicissitudes of life in sixteenth-century England for thirty-six years, Katherine succumbed most likely to puerperal or child-bed fever contracted from her doctor’s dirty hands and just a lack of hygiene in general. Two other Tudor queens had succumbed to the same disease and shortly died after; Jane Seymour [Henry’s third queen and mother of Edward VI who succeeded King Henry in January of 1547] and Elizabeth of York [queen to King Henry VII and mother of King Henry VIII; who gave birth to her final child, coincidentally named Princess Katherine, on 2 February 1503].

The three Tudor queens who would die shortly after giving birth; Queen Elizabeth of York, Queen Katherine, and Queen Jane Seymour. Their death is attributed to child-bed fever which was very common in Tudor times.

On the 5th September 1548, the Queen, lying on her death bed made her final will. Katherine was sick in body, but of good mind, perfect memory and discretion; being persuaded, and perceiving the extremity of death to approach her; disposed and ordained by permission, assent, and consent of her most dear, beloved husband, the Lord Seymour, a certain disportion, gift, testament, and last will of all her goods, chattels, and debts, by these words or other, like in effect, being by her advisedly spoken to the intent of a testament and last will in the presence of the witnesses and records under-named.

The witnesses of the queen’s will were Robert Huick, Doctor of Physic, and John Parkhurst. In her will, the queen gave her husband

“with all her heart and desire, frankly and freely give, will, and bequeath to the said Lord Seymour, Lord High Admiral of England, her married espouse and husband, all the goods, chattels, and debts that she then had, or right ought to have in all the world, wishing them to be a thousand times more in value than they were or been; but also most liberally gave him full power, authority, and order, to dispose and prosecute the same goods, chattels, and debts at his own free will and pleasure, to his most commodity.”

The queen lies in state inside St. Mary's Chapel at Sudeley Castle where she is buried, © Meg McGath, 2012.

The queen lies in state inside St. Mary’s Chapel at Sudeley Castle where she is buried, © Meg McGath, 2012.

Queen Katherine Parr died on Wednesday, the 5th of September, in the year of 1548; ‘between two and three of the clock in the morning.’

Nursery and Queen's apartment window from outside © Meg McGath, 2012.

Nursery and Queen’s apartment window from outside © Meg McGath, 2012.

John Parkhurst wrote two Latin epitaphs on Katherine Parr, circa 1548. Here is the first one.

On the incomparable woman, Katherine, formerly Queen of England, France, and Ireland, my most gentle mistress. An epitaph, 1547[8].

In this new sepulchre Queen Katherine sleeps,
Flower, honor, and ornament of the female sex.
To King Henry she was a wife most faithful;
Later, when gloomy Fate had taken him from the living,
Thomas Seymour (to whom the trident, Neptune, you extended)
was the distinguished man she wed.
She bore a baby girl; after the birth, when the sun had run
A seventh round, cruel Death did kill her.
For the departed, we her household flow with watery eyes;
Damp is the British earth from moistened cheeks.
Bitter grief consumes us, we unhappy ones;
But she rejoices ‘midst the heavenly host.

The queen lies in state inside St. Mary's Chapel at Sudeley Castle where she is buried, © Meg McGath, 2012.

The queen lies in state inside St. Mary’s Chapel at Sudeley Castle where she is buried, Lady Jane Grey and two yeomen watch over the queen’s body © Meg McGath, 2012.

Related Articles:


  • Linda Porter. ‘Katherine, the queen,’ Macmillan, 2012.
  • 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.
  • Emma Dent. ‘Annals of Winchcombe and Sudeley,’ London, J. Murray, 1877.

15 thoughts on “5 September 1548: The Death of Queen Katherine Parr

  1. I read that they exhumed her body in the 1800’s, and found it perfect, and beautifully in tack, but then it just turned to dust, almost immediately.

  2. I visited the castle, and had the great honor of seeing her resting place. I had never been to England before, and this was the highlight of my visit. From the moment I stepped into the castle, the hair stood up on my neck. I told my husband, I know what is in the next room, described it, turned the corner, and everything was as I pictured it. When I was in her bed chamber, a miniature on the post, eyes following me, turned out to be Sir Francis Drake, a relative if mine. In the chapel, another strange vibration. I moved from place to place, trying to find where these feelings were the strongest. I ended up near a wall, feeling most comforted. A guide walked up to me and said there used to be a partition in the wall where the nobility sat. I don’t think I was nobility, maybe a servant? I’d live to go back again. The gardens are beautiful.
    If I lived in England, I would love to be involved with this castle and be there everyday.

  3. I am wondering if the above pictures of Queen Katherine laying in state in St. Mary’s chapel are actually her or are they what is believed Queen Katherine looks like? Thank you for your help in advance.

  4. Pingback: Artículo sobre la muerte de Katherine Parr « Semper Eadem

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