Queen Katherine Parr: “The Jersey Portrait”

The portrait known as “The Jersey Portrait,” was once thought to depict Lady Jane Grey. Through thorough research however, the conclusion is that this is a portrait of Queen Katherine Parr.

“Parr is known to have commissioned numerous portraits of herself while married to Henry VIII, and this portrait was no doubt one of the many produced and given to friends and family.” (Susan James)

From Dr. Edwards, author of the site “Some Grey Matter“: “The Earl of Jersey informed me via email on 12 November 2012 that an unnamed friend of his mother had previously conducted an unpublished study of the painting. That friend concluded independently that the sitter was Katherine Parr. The friend’s findings were reviewed by experts at Sotheby’s auction house, and Sotheby’s “concurred” with the findings. None of this was known to me prior to 12 November, and neither the friend nor Sotheby’s have published that independent report.”

Little is known about the painting. It is oil on wood panel, consistent with sixteenth-century practices. It is about three-quarter life-size, according to the current Earl of Jersey, measuring 34 inches high by 24 inches wide. The frame bears a label of unknown age and origin identifying the sitter as Queen Mary. No detailed provenance information has ever been published, so that it is not possible to know when or how it came into the Jersey collection at Osterley House. It is worth noting that the original Tudor-era Osterley House had been built in the 1570s by Sir Thomas Gresham, who held Lady Jane’s sister Lady Mary Keyes [Grey] in custody from 1569 to 1572. The Osterley House built by Gresham fell into ruin in the eighteenth century, however, making it unlikely that the portrait originated there. Osterley was acquired and rebuilt in the 1760s by Sir Francis Child, ancestor of the 9th Earl of Jersey. The painting almost certainly entered the Jersey collection after 1760 as decoration for the new house. The painting survives and is now owned by The Earldom of Jersey Trust and held at Radier Manor in the Isle of Jersey. (Edwards)

For more information on the portrait: “Some Grey Matter: THE JERSEY PORTRAIT

Family of Queen Katherine: Elizabeth Seymour, Lady Cromwell

Unknown lady once thought to be Queen Katherine Howard; possibly Elizabeth Seymour, sister of Queen Jane.

Elizabeth Seymour (c. 1511 – between 13 April 1562 and 9 June 1563)[1] was the daughter of Sir John Seymour and Margery Wentworth. She is best known as the sister of Queen Jane Seymour, third wife to King Henry VIII and aunt to Edward VI. She was also wife to Gregory Cromwell, son of Sir Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex. Upon the Dowager Queen Katherine Parr’s fourth marriage to Lord Seymour, Elizabeth became the Dowager Queen’s sister-in-law.


One of ten children,[7] born at Wulfhall, Wiltshire, she was the sister of Jane Seymour, third queen consort of King Henry VIII, and aunt of King Edward VI. Two of Elizabeth’s brothers, Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley and Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, were executed for treason during the reign of Edward VI. Like Katherine Parr, the Seymours’ descended from King Edward III. Wives 1, 3, and 6 were the only descendants of King Edward. The Seymours’ descended through their mother, Margery; through King Edward’s second surviving son, Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence. Katherine Parr and Katherine of Aragon were descendants of Lionel’s younger brother and the third surviving son of Edward III, John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster.

Jane and Elizabeth served as maids of honour to Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. Apparently Elizabeth was found of Queen Anne and was an attendant at the birth of Princess Elizabeth. Coincidentally, Queen Anne was their second cousin by their great-grandmother Elizabeth Cheney. By Cheney’s first marriage to Sir Frederick Tilney she was the mother of Elizabeth, Lady Surrey who was grandmother to both Queen Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard. By her second marriage she was mother to Anne, Lady Wentworth, grandmother of Elizabeth and her siblings.

When King Henry began to tire of Queen Anne, Elizabeth was some what disappointed but delighted that the King had taken interest in her sister Jane.

The Seymour’s gained wealth and power as Henry’s attentions turned to Jane.

On 30 May 1536, eleven days after Anne’s execution, Henry and Jane were married. Elizabeth Seymour was chief lady-in-waiting to Jane, who died twelve days after giving birth to Edward VI in 1537.

Elizabeth was part of the official welcoming party for Anne of Cleves, when she arrived from Germany. After Henry and Anne’s marriage was annulled, Elizabeth became lady-in-waiting to his fifth wife, Catherine Howard. With Thomas Cromwell’s execution in 1540 for treason and heresy, there was a brief decline in his family’s fortunes. Elizabeth served as lady-in-waiting to Henry’s sixth wife, Katherine Parr. After Henry VIII’s death in 1547, Elizabeth’s brother Thomas secretly married Katherine Parr, who died a few days after giving birth to her only child Mary Seymour, in September 1548.

In 1551, when her brother Lord Somerset and his wife were arrested, Elizabeth was given charge of their daughters. After the death of Edward, the Seymour’s were somewhat shunned at court.

Marriage and issue

Elizabeth’s first husband was Sir Anthony Ughtred (or Oughtred), Governor of Jersey who died on 20 December 1534.[1][2] They were married circa 1530 at of Wolf Hall, Savernake, Wiltshire, England. The marriage was childless.

In August 1537, Elizabeth had married Gregory Cromwell, 1st Baron Cromwell, son of Henry’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex, at Wulfhall, Savernake, Wiltshire.[2] They had five children.

  • Henry Cromwell, 2nd Baron Cromwell, succeeded his father. Before 1560, he married to Lady Mary Paulet, daughter of Sir John Paulet, 2nd Marquess of Winchester and Elizabeth Willoughby, daughter of Sir Robert Willoughby, 2nd Lord Willoughby de Broke and Lady Dorothy Grey [granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth Woodville and Lady Katherine Neville. Lady Bonville]. They had two sons and one daughter.[1]
  • Katherine Cromwell, married Sir John Strode of Parnham.
  • Frances Cromwell, who married Richard Strode, Esq.
  • Thomas Cromwell, Esq.
  • Edward Cromwell

She became a widow again upon the death of Gregory Cromwell in 1551. Around 1 April 1554, she married as his second wife John Paulet, Lord St. John [later 2nd Marquess of Winchester]. Paulet was the father of Elizabeth’s daughter-in-law, Lady Mary. Elizabeth Seymour died at Launde, Leicestershire between 13 April 1562 and 9 June 1563 at Launde, Leicestershire, England.[2] She was buried before 9 June 1563 in Basing, Hampshire. According to the Complete Peerage, the inscription on the wall at her vault at Basing read, “Hic jacet Dna Cromwell, quondam conjux Johis, Marchionis Winton.” As Paulet did not attain the title of Marquess of Winchester until after Elizabeth’s death, Elizabeth was known as “Lady Cromwell”; thus her vault reads “Lady Cromwell.”


Queen Jane Seymour [L] and possibly her sister Elizabeth as Dowager Lady Cromwell [R]

Victorian scholars had identified a portrait (shown above) by Hans Holbein the Younger as a likeness of Katherine Howard. Historian Antonia Fraser has argued that this image is far more likely to be Elizabeth Seymour. The sitter wears widow’s apparel. Katherine Howard would have had no reason to be dressed as a widow; but Elizabeth Seymour would, as her first husband had died in 1534. The portrait has long been associated with King Henry’s tragic young Queen and various people and places contest it to be a picture of Katherine Howard. The gift shop at the Tower of London  and many other places still depict the picture as being Katherine Howard on souvenirs. The National Portrait Gallery, which exhibits the painting at Montacute House in Somerset, remains undecided about the sitter’s identity.[3] The National Portrait Gallery who has professional curators is still examining the portrait.

According to their site:

Unknown woman, formerly known as Catherine Howard
after Hans Holbein the Younger
late 17th century
NPG 1119

This portrait of an unknown woman, formerly known as Catherine Howard (NPG 1119), highlights one of the many problems found when dating versions and copies. The original version, now in The Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio, was identified as Catherine Howard but this has since proved to be incorrect.

The painting style of the copy is more consistent with late seventeenth or early eighteenth-century workmanship. There is a variation in the quality of paint handling throughout the image. For example, the hands, face and fabric appear fairly simply painted, while the jewellery is very finely painted.

It is possible that the sitter was a member of the Cromwell family who once owned the picture. Previously it had been in the collection of a descendant of Oliver Cromwell. It is possible that this was a copy made for a descendant eager to trace or prove ancestry.

For more details see:


  • Elizabeth Seymour (c.1513-c.1530)
  • Lady Oughtred (c.1530-1534)
  • Lady Cromwell (1537-1551
  • Lady St. John (1554-1563)


Ancestry of Elizabeth Seymour


  1. Douglas Richardson. Magna Carta Ancestry, 2nd Edition, Vol. III, p. 111-112, 311.
  2. Douglas Richardson; Kimball G. Everingham (2005). Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families. Genealogical Publishing Company. pg 246. ISBN 0-8063-1759-0.
  3. Portrait NPG 1119; Unknown woman, formerly known as Catherine Howard, npg.org.uk
  4. Douglas Richardson. Magna Carta Ancestry, 2nd Edition, Vol. III, p. 311.
  5. Douglas Richardson. Plantagenet Ancestry, p. 247.
  6. Douglas Richardson. Plantagenet Ancestry, p. 572-573.
  7. Douglas Richardson. Plantagenet Ancestry, 2nd Edition, 2011. pg 82.
  • G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910–1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume III, pages 555, 557 and 558.
  • Cecil Aspinall-Oglander, Nunwell Symphony (London, U.K.: The Hogarth Press, 1946), appendix

Katherine Parr: Vellutello’s Edition of Petrarch Works

Katherine Parr’s copy of Vellutello’s edition of Petrarch’s works (1544).

Katherine Parr: Vellutello’s Edition of Petrarch Works © The British Library Board

Thanks to the British Library, in this photo we can see the BEAUTIFUL purple velvet and detail of Katherine’s personal copy of Vellutello’s Edition of Petrarch Words. Most photos on the net show the book as a bluish green back round.

This volume of Petrarch’s works, with an exposition by Alessandro Vellutello, was first published in Venice. The book is bound in purple velvet and embroidered with gold and silver thread and coloured silks. The coat of arms topped with the royal crown may have been embroidered by Katherine. The book appears to have been bound after the death of Henry VIII (in January 1547) and before Katherine’s marriage to Sir Thomas Seymour (in May of the same year). Had it been bound whilst Henry was still alive, it would be expected that the supporters (the creatures flanking the coat of arms) would be the lion and the greyhound. As there is no reference to Seymour, it seems it was made sometime in the short space of Katherine’s widowhood.

Vellutello's edition of Petrarch's works. Close up of arms.

Vellutello’s edition of Petrarch’s works. Close up of arms.

The British Library site states that the coat of arms are that of Katherine Parr, but my recent review of the coat of arms reveals perhaps that it is the arms of Katherine’s brother, Sir William Parr, 1st Marquess of Northampton and Earl of Essex. The coat of arms and quartertings are the same for the most part when compared to his stall plates from Windsor Chapel that were taken down and broken during the reign of Mary I and are now featured in the British Museum in London.
Garter stall plate of William Parr, 1st Marquess of Northampton, 1552. The plate was in St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, among other Garter plates, but upon the ascension of Queen Mary, Parr was stripped of his titles. His stall plate was taken down and broken apart.

Garter stall plate of William Parr, 1st Marquess of Northampton, 1552. The plate was in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, among other Garter plates, but upon the ascension of Queen Mary, Parr was stripped of his titles. His stall plate was taken down and broken apart.

It was subsequently owned by the Fitzhugh family (whose emblem of the creature breathing flames and gorged with a coronet, is depicted on the left). The creature on the right – a wyvern argent also gorged with a coronet – belongs to the Parr family.

The book went on public display in 2009 for the Henry VIII: Man and Monarch exhibit at the British Library. The event was to mark the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII’s accession.

Copy of Il Petrarcha con l’espositione d’A. Vellutello; con le figure a i triomphi et con piu cose utili in varii luoghi aggiunte (1544) owned by Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s sixth wife. British Library, C.27.e.19.
Shelfmark: c27e19
Held By: BL [British Library]
Country: England
Period: 16c
Cover Material: Velvet
Decorative Technique: Embroidered
Style: Armorial
Edges: Gilt and gauffered
BookBinder Owner: Parr, Katharine, Queen Consort of Henry VIII (1512-1548)
Author: Petrarch
Title: aIl Petrarcha con l:espositione d:A. Vellutello
Place of Publication: Venice.
Date of Publication: 1544.
Notes: Rebacked by BM/BL bindery. Edges gilt, gauffered and painted in red. Arms of Queen Katherine Parr of England.


Family of Queen Katherine Parr: Sir John Neville, 4th Baron Latimer

Effigy of John Neville, 4th Lord. By jmc4 – Church Explorer

Sir John Neville, 4th Baron Latimer of Snape Castle (1520[1][2] – 22 April 1577) was an English nobleman of the powerful House of Neville.

Early life

Born about 1520 (he was 23 when his father died, 2 March 1543), he was the only son of John Neville, 3rd Baron Latimer of Snape Castle and his first wife Dorothy, sister and co-heiress of John de Vere, 14th Earl of Oxford. After the death of his mother, Lord Latimer married secondly, Elizabeth Musgrave, by whom he had no children. After her death in 1530, Latimer married again in 1534 the widowed Katherine, Dowager Lady Borough [Parr].

From the beginning of his father’s marriage to Katherine, she tried to be a good step-mother to both children, but John proved to be difficult. There is some indication that Margaret, his sister, was their father and Katherine’s favourite. If that is true, it may explain the turbulence which would follow as John got older. As a “teenager”, John proved to be a confident sulking, lying, and over-sensitive boy. Lord Latimer did not name his son as heir to his properties and made sure that his son could not meddle with his inheritance or father’s legacy. In Lord Latimer’s will, Katherine was named guardian of his daughter and was put in charge of Lord Latimer’s affairs which were to be given over to his daughter at the age of her majority.

In January 1537, John, his sister Margaret, and step-mother Katherine, were held hostage at Snape Castle during the uprising of the North. The rebels ransacked the house and sent word to Lord Latimer, who was returning from London, that if he did not return immediately they would kill his family. When Lord Latimer returned to the castle he somehow talked the rebels into releasing his family and leaving, but the aftermath to follow with Lord Latimer would prove to be taxing on the whole family.[3]

Later life

Nevill became Baron Latimer on his father’s death in 1543. Although the relationship proved difficult during his youth, Katherine, did not forget Nevill. Katherine stayed close with her former stepchildren. In fact, Katherine made John’s wife, Lucy Somerset, a lady-in-waiting when she became queen consort to King Henry VIII.[1][3]

In May 1544, Nevill was involved with the siege of Edinburgh in Scotland and it was there that he was knighted. Nevill then went to war in France where he took part in the siege of Abbeville.

John became an emotionally unstable man later in life. In the summer of 1553, John was sent to Fleet Prison on charges of violence done to a servant. He was arrested for attempted rape and assault in 1557 and in 1563, he killed a man. Of the situation in 1553, Thomas Edwards wrote to the Earl of Rutland describing the violence which had taken place with the servant quoting “too great a villainy for a noble man, my thought.” That this public violence occurred after the death of his step-mother, Katherine, might suggest that at least she had some sort of control over Nevill while she was alive.[3]

Marriage and issue

In 1545, Latimer married Lady Lucy Somerset, daughter of Henry Somerset, 2nd Earl of Worcester and his second wife, Elizabeth Browne.[4] The new Lady Latimer was a cousin to Queen Katherine as the great-granddaughter of the Marquess of Montagu, brother to Lady Alice FitzHugh [great-grandmother of Queen Katherine]. Lady Lucy became a lady-in-waiting to her husband’s former step-mother, Queen Katherine Parr.

Together they had four daughters that all produced children by their first marriages:

  • Hon. Elizabeth Neville (c. 1545 – 1630), married firstly Sir John Danvers of Dauntsey, and secondly Sir Edmund Carey. Elizabeth’s descendants by Danvers included the Dukes of Leeds [extinct in 1964]; Earls of Lichfield; Earls of Leicester of Holkham from which Sarah of York descends.
  • Hon. Katherine Neville (1546 – 28 October 1596), married firstly Henry Percy, 8th Earl of Northumberland, and secondly Francis Fitton of Binfield. Lord and Lady Northumberland were parents to Sir Henry, 9th Earl of Northumberland. Her descendants include Lady Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales; HM Queen Elizabeth II by her mother; Sarah, Duchess of York; and others. Katherine was buried in the Chapel of St. Nicholas in Westminster Abbey, within the Percy family, Dukes of Northumberland.
  • Hon. Dorothy Neville (1547 – 23 March 1609), married Sir Thomas Cecil, Queen Elizabeth’s counselor, later Earl of Exeter. Cecil was the half-brother of the Earl of Salisbury. Her descendants also include Lady Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales.

Latimer’s daughter, the Hon. Dorothy Neville who became Countess of Exeter when her husband Thomas Cecil was elevated to Earl in 1605

  • Hon. Lucy Neville (c. 1549 – April 1608), married Sir William Cornwallis of Brome Hall. Their daughters made advantageous marriages to nobility such as the marriage of their daughter Anne to the 7th Earl of Argyll by whom she had issue. Another daughter, Elizabeth, became Viscountess Lumley as the wife of Sir Richard, 1st Viscount Lumley.

Lord Latimer died without sons in 1577; his four daughters became his joint heiresses. The barony became abeyant until 1913, when its abeyance was terminated in favour of Latimer’s distant descendant Francis Money-Coutts, 5th Baron Latymer.

Effigy and tomb of the 4th Lord Latimer in Nevilles’ Chapel, Wells, North Yorkshire Well Village Website © Well Parish Council 2011

He was buried in St. Michael’s Church, Well, North Yorkshire which adjoined Neville’s home, Snape Castle. The church had a long standing history with the Neville family going back to John and Queen Katherine Parr’s ancestor, Sir Ralph Neville, the 1st Earl of Westmorland. Westmorland married Lady Joan Beaufort; the only daughter of Prince John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster by his mistress, later wife, Katherine Roet. Ralph was responsible for the building of the present church c. 1330. Latimer’s mural monument lies in Nevilles’ Chapel within Well’s Church. Latimer’s daughter, Hon. Dorothy, Countess of Exeter inherited Snape Castle and is also buried there with her husband Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter.[5] According to a card placed upon the tomb, the four coat of arms on his tomb represent that of his four daughters and their husband.

His wife, Lucy, was buried in Hackney Parish Church in London. Her grand tomb has her effigy surrounded by her four daughters.[6] Her tomb is one of only a few in England which feature such noble bearings; the other being the tomb of George Clifford, Earl of Cumberland at Skipton which is surrounded by no fewer than seventeen richly adorned shields which include that of Brandon, Dacre, de Clare, St. John, and more.[7] The Earl himself was a descendant of Katherine Parr’s great-aunt, Mabel Parr, Lady Dacre. Lady Latimer’s tomb not only includes the arms many of those on Clifford’s tomb as Neville, Beauchamp, Dacre, Berkeley, and Percy but also those of de Vere Earl of Oxford, Walcot, and Cecil.[6] Lord Latimer’s arms (the Neville) are at one end of the tomb. The statues of the four daughters were two on each side of the monument; at the side of each the shield of the husband impaling the Neville arms. These arms are thus repeated five times. At the other end are Lady Latimer’s arms: the lions and fleur de lis that is France and England, quarterly, the arms of the Dukes of Beaufort, descended from the eldest legitimated son of John of Gaunt, her father being Henry Somerset, 2nd Earl of Worcester.[6]

Document on the magnificent tomb of Lady Lucy Somerset, Lady Latimer; wife of the 4th Lord Latimer and lady to HM Queen Katherine Parr. Courtesy of JMC4 Church Explorer.[8]

In Robinson’s History of Hackney we find:

“The effigy of Lady Latimer was exquisitely sculptured and was fixed on the top of the table monument She appears to be dressed in a scarlet robe with a coronet on her head and the other part of the dress was richly gilt This effigy was probably intended for a portrait of her.”[6]

Memorial to Lady Lucy Latimer in the old church. Watercolour by T. Fisher c.1795 [9]

Her epitaph reads:

Such as she, is such surely shall yee bee; Such as shee was, such if yee bee, be glad: Faire in her youth though fatt in age she grew; Virtuous in bothe whose glosse did never fade. Though long alone she ledd a widowe’s life, Yet never ladye live da truer wife. From Wales she sprang, a Branch of Worcester’s race, Grafte in a stock of Brownes her mother’s side: In Court she helde a maide of honor’s place, Whilst youth in her, and she in Court did byde. To John, Lord Latimer, then became she wife; Four daughters had they breathing yet in life. Earl of Northumberland tooke the first to wife; The nexte the heire of Baron Burleigh chose: Cornwallis happ the third for terme of life: And Sir John Danvers pluckt the youngest Rose. Their father’s heirs, them mothers all she sawe: Pray for, or praise her: make your list the Lawe, Made by Sir William Cornwallis, Knight, this Ladye’s Sonne in Lawe.[6]


By his father, Latimer descended from King Edward III of England twice. Latimer’s great-grandparents were Sir Henry Neville, heir to the barony of Latimer and Earldom of Warwick, and the Hon. Joan Bourchier. Neville was a grandson of Sir Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland and his second wife, Lady Joan Beaufort. Lady Joan was the legitimized daughter of Prince John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster by his mistress, later wife, Katherine Roet. Bourchier was a granddaughter of Sir William, 1st Count of Eu and Lady Anne of Gloucester, daughter of Prince Thomas of Woodstock [youngest son of Edward III] and his wife, Lady Eleanor de Bohun. This connection to the Bourchier family made Latimer a cousin of the Earls of Bath, Lords Dacre of the South, the Lady Margaret Bryan [governess of the King’s children], Lady Anne Bourchier [husband of Katherine Parr’s brother William Parr], and even the Duchess of Somerset Anne Stanhope.

Latimer’s mother was the granddaughter of the 12th Earl of Oxford and Elizabeth Howard. Oxford was himself a descendent of Edward I of England and Eleanor of Castile by their daughter Princess Joan of Acre. The Countess of Oxford, Elizabeth Howard, was a descendant of John I of England by his son Richard of England, Earl of Cornwall, King of the Romans as well as a descendant of Henry I’s illegitimate son Reynold de Dunstanville, 1st Earl of Cornwall.

The ancestry of John Neville, 4th Lord Latimer


  1. ^ Linda Porter. Katherine the Queen; the Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr, the Last Wife of Henry VIII. Macmillan, 2010. pg 66-67.
  2. According to Linda Porter’s Katherine, the Queen, Neville was 14 at the time of his father’s marriage to Catherine Parr.
  3. Susan E. James. Catherine Parr, Henry VIII’s Last Love. The History Press, 2009.
  4. G. E. Cokayne. The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, Vol. VIII, G. Bell & sons, 1898. pg 200. Google eBook
  5. Village of Well, North Yorkshire, http://www.wellvillage.org.uk/history/
  6. Richard Simpson. Some Accounts of the Monuments in Hackney Church, Billing and Sons, 1881; Chapter: Lady Latimer.
  7. W. Harbutt Dawson. History of Skipton, Simpkin, Marshall, London, 1882.
  8. JMC4 Church Explorer . London, Hackney, Flickr, 2008.
  9. T. Fisher. Hackney Council, The Churchyard Memorials: Memorial to Lady lucy Latimer in the old church, c.1795.

Written and researched by Meg McGath
27 August 2012

30 September 1544: Henry returns from Boulogne, France

Henry greet Queen Katherine after returning from France; “The Tudors”

30 September 1544 – Queen Catherine’s duty as Regent of the Realm was over as Henry VIII returned to England after his victory in Boulogne. The French forces had surrendered on 13th September after a siege which had lasted from 19th July.

Family of Queen Katherine Parr: Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall

Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall

Cuthbert Tunstall (c. 1474/5 Hatchford, Richmondshire, England – 18 November 1559 Lambeth Palace, London, England) was an English church leader during the reign of four Tudor monarchs. Through out his lengthy career he was Bishop of Durham, Bishop of London, Archdeacon of Chester, Lord Privy Seal, Royal adviser, and a diplomat. He was “lucky” enough to have served as Bishop of Durham [among other offices] and actually survive the reigns of three Tudor monarchs; King Henry VIII, Edward VI [Protestant], Mary I [Catholic]. Under the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I, Tunstall would be arrested in 1559 after refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy and die under house arrest at Lambeth Palace [home to the Archbishops of Canterbury].

“Tunstall’s long career of eighty-five years, for thirty-seven of which he was a bishop, is one of the most consistent and honourable in the sixteenth century. The extent of the religious revolution under Edward VI caused him to reverse his views on the royal supremacy and he refused to change them again under Elizabeth.”The Anglican historian Albert F. Pollard

Tunstall was illegitimate at birth, although his parents later married and the irregular circumstances of his background were never held against him. He was the son of Sir Thomas Tunstall, one of two sons of Sir Thomas of Thurland. Sharing a great-great-grandfather, Sir Thomas of Thurland Castle [Tunstall’s grandfather], Tunstall was a first cousin, twice removed on his father’s side to Queen Katherine Parr and her siblings Lady Anne Herbert and Sir William, 1st Marquess of Northampton. Tunstall was appointed as the executor of Sir Thomas Parr’s will. After his death, Tunstall continued to stay close to the Parr family. Tunstall advised Lady Maud Parr on the education of her children; especially that of her daughters. Maud named Tunstall as one of the executors of her will as well.

Tunstall was an outstanding scholar and mathematician, he had been educated in England, spending time at both Oxford and Cambridge, before a six year spell at the University of Padua in Italy, from which he received two degrees. His Church career began in 1505, after he returned to England. He was ordained four years later. At the time of his ordination four years later he had caught the attention of the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Warham, who sponsored Tunstall’s advancement and brought him to court. Tunstall was also a close to Wolsey, who recognized his potential to serve his country and diplomacy.

Cuthbert Tunstall [a portrait painted before the Reformation showed him with a rosary. It was obviously painted over].

Tunstall was close to all the great names of English humanism in the early sixteenth century, especially Sir Thomas More. The European humanist Erasmus greatly admired Tunstall’s modesty, scholarship, and charm. Tunstall helped Erasmus in his publishing.

Tunstall was a great publisher of many books including De arte supputandi libri quattuor (1522), which enhanced his reputation among the leading thinkers of Europe. This book would be used later by Mary Tudor and his cousin Catherine Parr as queen.

Like More, Tunstall was on intimate terms with King Henry VIII. During the King’s ‘Great Matter‘, Tunstall defended Queen Katherine of Aragon, but not with the vigour or absolute conviction of Bishop Fisher. Tunstall had been bold enough to tell Henry that he could not be Head of the Church in spiritual matters and he may have been one of the four bishops of the northern convocation who voted against the divorce, but he recognized that the queen’s cause was hopeless and never attempted opposition to the King. In fact, he attended Anne Boleyn’s coronation. But Tunstall felt he could not keep quiet, he wrote a letter personally to Henry about the rejection of Christendom, and other matters that bothered him. Henry disagreed and refuted every point Tunstall made. These exchanges led to a search of Tunstall’s home by order of the King, but no incriminating evidence was found. Rumor was that Sir Thomas More warned Tunstall in time to dispose of anything that might incriminate him.

Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall [right] confronts Katherine of Aragon in "The Tudors".

Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall [right] portrayed by Gordon Sterne confronts Katherine of Aragon in “The Tudors“.

Tunstall agreed to take the oath, unlike More and Fisher. He and Archbishop Lee of York were required to explain to the imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, and subsequently the very angry Katherine of Aragon the justification for the annulment of her marriage. They did not succeed in getting her to agree or acknowledge the fact that she was no longer queen.

After the ‘great matter’ was resolved, Tunstall turned his loyalty back to the King. Tunstall was an executor of King Henry VIII’s will. Tunstall would go on to serve in the reigns of Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I.

On 19 July 1553, Mary was proclaimed Queen. After being imprisoned in The Tower under the rule of Edward VI, Mary released him and he went back to being Bishop of Durham. During the reign of Mary, Tunstall was very lenient on the Protestants involved in the “Marian Persecutions.”

Lambeth Palace, London. The oldest parts of the present buildings date from the 1400’s. The most obvious external feature is the gatehouse which is framed on either side by two towers, built by in tudor brick by Archbishop Morton in 1495. This is consequently known as Morton’s Tower.

It was during Elizabeth’s reign that Tunstall refused to take Elizabeth’s Oath of Supremacy and was subsequently arrested. Even though he had been Elizabeth’s godfather, he was deprived of his diocese in September 1559, and held prisoner at Lambeth Palace, where he died within a few weeks, aged 85. He was one of eleven Catholic bishops to die in custody during Elizabeth’s reign. He was buried in the chancel of Lambeth church under the expense of the Archbishop that had overseen his confinement, Parker.

Thurland Castle Gate; Lancashire.gov.uk

Thurland Castle; Lancashire.gov.uk

De arte supputandi libri quattuor

De arte supputandi libri quattuor Cuthbert Tunstall London: R. Pynson, 1522 [DeM] L.1 [Tunstall] SSR

De arte supputandi libri quattuor
Cuthbert Tunstall
London: R. Pynson, 1522 [DeM] L.1 [Tunstall] SSR

De Morgan in his Arithmetical Books was laudatory about Tunstall: “This book is decidedly the most classical which was ever written on the subject in Latin, both in purity of style and goodness of matter. The author had read every thing on the subject, in every language which he knew … and had spent much time, he says, ad ursi exemplum, in licking what he found into shape. … For plain common sense, well expressed, and learning most visible in the habits it had formed, Tonstall’s book has been rarely surpassed, and never in the subject of which it treats”. As hinted by De Morgan, Tunstall’s work is not original, but a confessed compilation. Tunstall‘s motivation for writing it was a suspicion that that the accounts goldsmiths with whom he was dealing were incorrect; he renewed his study of arithmetic in order to check their figures. His work was the first printed in Great Britain to be devoted wholly to mathematics.

Copy of Tunstall’s book from Lehigh University.

This is the first of three 16th-century editions in De Morgan’s library. De Morgan’s designation of it on the title page as “very rare” has since been disproved: nineteen other copies are recorded in Britain on ESTC, chiefly held in Oxford and Cambridge libraries, with another five in North America. (DeMorgan Library, London)

Tunstall Chapel

In Durham Castle, Tunstall constructed a Chapel in 1540. For more info: Tunstall Chapel.


  1. William Fordyce. “The history and antiquities of the county palatine of Durham:comprising a condensed account of its natural, civil, and ecclesiastical history, from the earliest period to the present time; its boundaries, ancient, parishes, and recently formed parochial districts and chapelries, and parliamentary and municipal divisions; its agriculture, mineral products, manufactures, shipping, docks, railways, and general commerce; its public buildings, churches, chapels, parochial registers, landed gentry, heraldic visitations, local biography, schools, charities, sanitary reports, population, &c,” Volume 1, A. Fullarton and co., 1857. Google eBook.
  2. Edward Foss. “The Judges of England: With Sketches of Their Lives, and Miscellaneous Notices Connected with the Courts at Westminster, from the Time of the Conquest,” Volume 5, Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1857. pg 237-40.
  3. Katherine Parr. “Katherine Parr: Complete Works and Correspondence,” editor Janel Mueller, University of Chicago Press, Jun 30, 2011.
  4. Linda Porter. “Katherine, the Queen,” Macmillian, 2010.

English Ancestry of The Six Wives: Descent from Edward I

The Six Wives of King Henry VIII

Yes, all six wives of King Henry VIII had English ancestry; some more than others.

Henry VIII after Hans Holbein c. 1535-44

Miniature of Henry VIII [1540-1570] after Hans Holbein the Younger. Watercolour and bodycolour on vellum, diameter 3.6 cm, Royal Collection, Windsor Castle.

FACT: King Henry VIII descends from Edward I of England only six times!

  • By his paternal grandmother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, Henry descended from Edward I by Margaret’s paternal grandparents; John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset and his wife Lady Margaret of Kent [born Holland], later Duchess of Clarence.
    • Lord Somerset was a grandson of Edward III [grandson of Edward I and his first wife, Eleanor of Castile] by his father Prince John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster.
    • Lady Margaret of Kent was a granddaughter of Princess Joan of Kent, Princess of Wales [wife of Edward, Princes of Wales, heir to Edward III, and mother to Richard II]; granddaughter of Edward I and his second wife, Marguerite of France, by their second son, Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent.
  • By his maternal grandfather, Edward IV, Henry descended from Edward I by Edward’s parents; Lord Richard, Duke of York and Lady Cecily [born Neville], Duchess of York:
    • The Duke of York’s parents, Lord Richard, 3rd Earl of Cambridge and his wife Lady Anne [born Mortimer], Countess of Cambridge both descended from Edward I.
      • Cambridge was a grandson of Edward III by his father, Edmund of Langley, Duke of York, 4th surviving son of Edward III.
      • Lady Anne Mortimer was a granddaughter of Edward III by her paternal grandmother, Lady Philippa of Clarence, 5th Countess of Ulster; granddaughter of Edward III by his second surviving son, Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence. Lady Anne also had a second connection to Edward I, by her maternal grandfather, Sir Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent; son of Princess Joan, Princess of Wales. Princess Joan was, as mentioned before, a granddaughter of Edward I and his second wife Marguerite.
    • Lady Cecily, Duchess of York, was the youngest daughter of Sir Ralph, Earl of Westmorland and his second wife, Lady Joan Beaufort. Lady Joan was the only daughter of Prince John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster and his third wife, Katherine [Roet]. John of Gaunt was of course the son of Edward III.

292px-Tudor_Rose_Royal_Badge_of_England.svgWould it surprise you to know that even Katherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves had Edward I in their pedigree?

In fact, Katherine of Aragon descended from two wives of Prince John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, Titular King of Castile [the son of Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault]; Blanche of Lancaster AND Constanza of Castile, heir to the throne of Castile.

Royal Emblem of Queen Katherine of Aragon

1. Katherine of Aragon – daughter of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile [2 times]

  • By her mother — Isabella of Castile’s paternal grandmother, Katherine of Lancaster, daughter of Prince John of Gaunt [son of Edward III] and his second wife, Constanza of Castile, she descended from Edward I and Eleanor of Castile.
  • Isabella of Castile’s maternal great-grandmother, Philippa of Lancaster, was also a daughter of Prince John of Gaunt, but by his first wife, Blanche of Lancaster. Lady Philippa was brother to King Henry IV [Bolingbroke]. Queen Katherine’s Hampton Court Pedigree shows this line from Edward I’s son, Edward II, onwards.

Royal Emblem of Queen Anne Boleyn

2. Anne Boleyn – daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn and Lady Elizabeth Howard [5 times]

  • By both paternal great-great-grandparents [through the Butler’s of Ormonde], Sir James, 4th Earl of Ormonde and Joan Beauchamp; she descended from Edward I and Eleanor’s daughter Princess Elizabeth of Rhuddlan. The Earl and Countess of Ormonde were parents to the 7th Earl of Ormonde.
  • By her paternal great-great-grandmother, Lady Anne Montacute, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Salisbury [also an ancestor of Queen Katherine Parr] she descends from Princess Elizabeth’s elder sister, Princess Joan of Acre. Lady Anne was the mother of Anne Hankford, Countess of Ormonde as wife to the 7th Earl.
  • By her maternal [Howard] line she descended from Edward I and Eleanor of Castile via her great-great-grandmother Lady Margaret Mowbray, wife of Sir Robert Howard; Lady Margaret descended from Elizabeth of Rhuddlan, by way of Lady Eleanor Fitzalan [wife of Thomas Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk].
  • By Sir Thomas Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk, she descended from Edward I and Marguerite of France through their son, Thomas of Brotherton Plantagenet, Duke of Norfolk [Hampton Court Pedigree shows this line from Edward I’s son, Thomas of Brotherton onwards]

Royal Emblem of Queen Jane Seymour

3. Jane Seymour – daughter of Sir John Seymour and Margery Wentworth [twice]

  • By her maternal great-grandmother, Hon. Margaret Clifford, whose father John Clifford, 7th Lord descended from Joan of Acre, daughter of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile. Lord Clifford’s great-great-grandmother was Lady Margaret de Clare, Countess of Gloucester [daughter of Princess Joan] who married Sir Hugh Audley, 1st and last Earl of Gloucester.
  • By Hon. Margaret Clifford’s mother, Lady Elizabeth Percy, whose grandmother was Lady Philippa of Clarence, 5th Countess of Ulster who was the daughter of Lionel of Antwerp, the second son of Edward III. [Hampton Court Pedigree shows this line from Edward I’s son, Edward II, onward]

Royal Emblem of Queen Anne of Cleves

4. Anne of Cleves – daughter of John III, Duke of Cleves and Marie von Julich [twice]

  • By both paternal great-grandparents, Johan I Duke of Cleves and Elizabeth of Nevers; who were great-grandchildren of Marguerite of Dampierre, suo jure Countess of Flanders. Marguerite was the great-granddaughter of Margaret of England, Duchess of Brabant; daughter of Edward I and Eleanor. [Hampton Court Pedigree shows the lineage of Johan I of Cleves from Edward’s daughter, Margaret of England who’s son became Johan III, Duke of Brabant]

Royal Emblem of Queen Katherine Howard

5. Katherine Howard – daughter of Lord Edmund Howard and Jocasa Culpepper [3 times]

  • Like Anne Boleyn, by her paternal line [Howard] she descended from Edward I and Eleanor by Elizabeth of Rhuddlan by way of Lady Eleanor Fitzalan [wife of Thomas Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk].
  • By Sir Thomas Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk, she descended from Edward I and Marguerite of France through their son, Thomas of Brotherton Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Norfolk [Katherine’s Hampton Court Pedigree shows this line from Edward I’s son, Thomas of Brotherton onwards]
  • By her maternal great-great-grandfather, Sir William Ferrers, 5th Baron Groby, she descends from Princess Joan of Acre, daughter of Edward I and Eleanor, via her daughter Lady Elizabeth de Clare, wife of Sir Theobald, 2nd Lord Verdun.

Royal Emblem of Queen Katherine Parr

6. Katherine Parr – daughter of Sir Thomas Parr of Kendal and Maud Greene [6 times]

  • By her paternal grandmother the Hon. Elizabeth FitzHugh, daughter of Lady Alice Neville [sister of “Warwick, the Kingmaker”] she descended from Lady Joan Beaufort and her second husband Sir Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland; Lady Joan was the legitimized daughter of Prince John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, third son of Edward III and thus she descended from Edward I and Eleanor of Castile. [Katherine’s Hampton Court Pedigree shows this line from Edward I’s son, Edward II onwards]
  • By her paternal great-great-grandmother, Lady Alice Montacute, suo jure Countess of Salisbury [wife of Sir Richard, 5th Earl of Salisbury, son of Lady Joan and Sir Ralph mentioned above]. Both parents of the Countess of Salisbury descended from Edward I; by her father the 4th Earl of Salisbury she descended from Princess Joan of Acre, daughter of Edward I and Eleanor by her son 2nd Lord Monthermer by her second husband Lord Monthermer, Earl of Gloucester. By her mother Lady Eleanor de Holland [daughter of Lady Joan of Kent, Princess of Wales and niece of King Richard II] she descended from Prince Edmund of Woodstock, son of Edward I and his second wife Marguerite of France.
  • By her maternal great-great-grandfather, Sir Thomas Greene, Sheriff of Northamptonshire, she descended from Princess Elizabeth of Rhuddlan, daughter of Edward I and Eleanor; Sir Thomas Greene descended from Princess Elizabeth’s daughter Lady Eleanor Bohun, Countess of Ormonde. His wife, Hon. Philippa de Ferrers descended from Elizabeth of Rhuddlan’s elder sister, Princess Joan of Acre, TWICE; by her daughters Lady Margaret de Clare, Countess of Gloucester and Lady Eleanor de Clare, Lady Despenser.

For more on their pedigrees, featuring the windows from Hampton Court Palace — see also —

The Hampton Court Pedigrees

Written and researched by Meg McGath, 2012.

The “Melton Constable” or “Hastings” Portrait of Queen Katherine Parr

It is my pleasure to report that this portrait which was once labeled “Lady Jane Grey” is now officially “Queen Katherine Parr.”

The Melton Constable Portrait of Katherine Parr

According to Dr. J.S. Edwards, Ph.D. and his website “Some Grey Matter“, this portrait owned by the Lord Hastings and now at Seaton Delaval, in Northumberland, is a seventeenth-century copy of a sixteenth-century original formerly in the Royal Collection but lost in the dispersals of 1651-52. The painting was originally held at the seat of the Hasting family in Norfolk, but was moved.

Though long thought to depict Lady Jane Grey, it has recently been relabeled by the National Trust as Katherine Parr.

You will note that the painting is owned by the Barons Hastings. The 1st Baron was Sir William Hastings, husband to Lady Katherine Neville as her second husband. Lady Jane did not descend from the 1st Baron Hastings, but from his wife’s first marriage to Lord Harrington (Sir William Bonville). However, Parr’s great-grandmother, Lady Alice FitzHugh (Neville), was sister to Lady Katherine Hastings.

For more information, see:

Tudor Conflict and Disease: the Reformation and Plague

The uniting of the House of York [technically Elizabeth of York was, after the death of her brothers, heiress to the throne of England, but she was a female] and the House of Lancaster [Henry Tudor who became King Henry VII of England].

The Tudor period was a time of change. The War of the Roses between the two Royal houses of Lancaster and York had just ended [1485]. The newly crowned King was Henry Tudor [VII], a direct descendant of John of Gaunt Plantagenet (3rd surviving son of Edward III; father to the Lancastrian Kings) and his mistress (later wife) Katherine Roet through his mother Lady Margaret Beaufort. Although there were plenty of nobility who could claim the throne based on a more legitimate line; Henry Tudor was crowned King of England in 1485 on the battle field directly after the Battle of Bosworth [in which he defeated Richard III of the House of York]. Henry VII, who had fought his way to the throne of England, was crowned on 20 October 1485. In an attempt to keep the Nation from going to War again, he married Princess Elizabeth of York [Plantagenet of the House of York]; daughter of King Edward IV and his queen consort Elizabeth Woodville. Through this union Henry’s hope was to unify the two houses. Henry’s children, when born, would have a stronger claim to the throne because the blood of both the houses of York and Lancaster would be inherited. Having married Elizabeth, who some saw as the sole heiress of Edward IV, the children of the two would leave no question as to who should rule England. 

Although Henry VII’s intentions were good, over the next two generations the House of Tudor would go through some very unsettling times. Due to the fact that England had become bankrupt during the reign of his predecessor, there would be economic difficulties that Henry VII would have to resolve. His oldest son, Arthur, Prince of Wales, would die young leaving his only other living son, Henry, the throne.[1] Henry VIII had a long and grueling reign. His reign saw the demise of the Catholic Church due to his “great matter” which will be discussed further in this paper. The plague of “sweating sickness” began around 1485, when Henry VIII’s father came to power and lasted until 1551. With Henry VIII’s rule and the ascension of his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, a whole new lifestyle was created. There was a constant fight over religion and disease played a huge part in everyday life.

In this paper there will be two main topics discussed; conflict and disease. The conflict for this paper deals with Henry VIII’s conflict with the Catholic Church over his “great matter” and how he transformed England into a Protestant nation even though he died as a Catholic in the end. I then chose to write about the history of the plague of “Sweating Sickness” which hit London during the reign of the Tudor dynasty. Both issues had an impact on England. The change to Protestantism over the King’s “great matter” sent the whole country into an uproar. There were major disputes between the clergy and King Henry. Even the people had issues with the change. Then in between all of this came the plague to make things worse. It swept through London killing anyone it came into contact with. 

The original Tudor heir, Prince Arthur, was Henry’s older sibling.

Henry VII and Elizabeth of York gave birth to a son in September of 1486. They named him Arthur, Prince of Wales. As the oldest son Arthur was to be the heir to the English throne. Arthur grew up being taught the ways of the Kingdom. He was sure to be King of England one day. Arthur was betrothed to a Spanish princess named Katherine of Aragon at an early age. The match was one of allegiance for Katherine was the daughter of the two great Spanish monarchs, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. The two were to be married as soon as they turned of age. They married in 1501. The couple was not together long before the two of them became sick. Katherine eventually recovered, but only to find herself a widow. At the age of 15, Arthur died after suffering from a mysterious sickness at Ludlow Castle. Sweating sickness was thought to be one of the causes.[2]
The sweating sickness was an epidemic that started originally in the late 1400s. It was an epidemic that would have sudden outbreaks. The worst outbreak recorded in the book “The Epidemics of the Middle Ages” by Justus Friedrich Carl Hecker was recorded during 1517. In July of that year many people were infected and within the span of two or three hours they were dead. The epidemic was extremely contagious and if you came into contact with it your chances of living were slim to none. The poor were affected the most, but even the rich who thought they were beyond getting the epidemic got caught by surprise. Christmas celebrations of that year were cancelled in the Palaces. King Henry VIII retreated from London to the countryside to stay away from the epidemic. He would constantly move around in fear and would shut himself up alone in castles until the epidemic passed through. The sickness began to spread though into other parts of England like Oxford and Cambridge. Soon it had reached the English occupied part of France, Calais. [3]
The causes of the epidemic are unknown, but one can certainly imagine personal hygiene had something to do with it. Also, English people were not known for eating healthy. There would be excess overeating of salted meats, over indulging in wine, etc. The living habits were not very healthy basically. People did not know how to take care of themselves. People did not take baths, there was no soap, and the poor were not taken care of. They were left to rot on the streets.

The towns people and nobility try to flee from London.

If you were to escape the sickness you would have to leave the city. There were also mystic pills and herbs that people took, but only the rich could afford them. Basically, unless you were of high status and had a lot of money you would have to stay in town and try to wait it out, but as stated before, your chances of surviving were slim to none.[4]

King Henry VIII shortly after his coronation in 1509.

Henry, who had been titled Duke of York, became the next heir apparent after Arthur died and took on the title of Prince of Wales. Henry had grown up in a carefree environment. He was educated, but not as Arthur had been. After the death of his brother Arthur, Henry VII was left with Infanta Katherine who had become the dowager Princess of Wales. Since Katherine had been married once already she was seen as less of an attractive match. She did not return to Spain. As a solution to accommodate Katherine of Aragon [more likely to better suit Henry VII and to be able to keep her dowry], Henry VII discussed the possible proposal of marriage to Katherine himself with her parents Ferdinand and Isabella. Henry VII’s son Henry VIII was only eleven and his chances of surviving to adulthood were at stake. Henry VII thought that if he married Katherine of Aragon himself, he would be able to have another son as a safeguard. Of course the match was not approved. Henry VII was about 30 years older than Katherine and he had more experience and knowledge in politics. Eventually the idea of marrying Katherine to Henry VII’s son, Henry, Prince of Wales, was put forth.

Katherine of Aragon and Henry VIII were betrothed and later married on 11 June 1509. Katherine of Aragon and Henry VIII’s marriage was a good match. At the time, it provided an alliance with Spain through Katherine’s nephew The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.[5] Katherine’s English ancestry was also a plus. Katherine descended from Edward III of England, twice, by his son Prince John of Gaunt. 1st Duke of Lancaster [father of Henry IV]. Katherine descended from John’s first two wives, Lady Blanche of Lancaster, the heiress to the Lancaster inheritance and Infanta Caterina of Castile who was Titular Queen of Castile in her own right. Technically, Katherine had a stronger claim to the throne of England than Henry if Henry was to use his paternal ancestry as the basis of his rise to the throne. So any future children by Prince Henry and Katherine would have a stronger claim to the throne.

King Henry with his first wife, Katherine of Aragon.

Shortly after being married, Katherine gave birth to a son. Henry and Katherine named him Prince Henry. He was given the title Duke of Cornwall. Henry was ecstatic. There were lavish gatherings and jousting matches held in the new baby’s honor. But only a few months later the baby Henry would die. Katherine became pregnant again soon after the death of her child. This time around she lost the baby which was in fact a boy. Katherine would have many more of these unfortunate events happen before she gave birth to a healthy baby girl on 18 February 1516. The couple named her Mary. Shortly after her birth Katherine became pregnant again, but lost the child. Princess Mary would be the only surviving child between the union of Henry and Katherine; which became a problem.

Princess Mary was for a time the heiress to the English throne.

At this point in time King Henry was starting to question Katherine’s ability to conceive a male heir. Katherine was getting old and her chances of having a healthy boy were diminishing. It was during these times that Henry started to stray from his marriage and as a result, his mistress Elizabeth Blount, had a son by Henry named Henry Fitzroy. Of course the child was not legitimate, so the baby could not become his heir. This didn’t stop Henry from celebrating his birth and bestowing the title of Duke of Richmond and Somerset upon him. Henry was in fact quite proud of his new born son.[6]

When King Henry saw that it was possible for him to conceive a son with another woman he then saw the issue of producing a male heir as Katherine of Aragon’s fault. King Henry continued to dispute whether his marriage to Katherine was valid. In the Bible he had read a passage from Leviticus 18:16: “Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother’s wife: it is thy brother’s nakedness” and Leviticus 20:21: “If a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing…they shall be childless.” Therefore Henry convinced himself that God was punishing him for marrying his brother’s widow.[7][8]

Henry Fitzroy was the only illegitimate child the King acknowledged; he was created Duke of Richmond and Somerset which infuriated the Queen.

At the death of Arthur, there was a question of whether or not the marriage had been consummated. This proof would be needed if Katherine was to marry Henry VIII for Arthur and Henry were brothers. Papal Dispensation was needed before the two could even marry. Katherine of Aragon had to vow that her marriage to Arthur Tudor had never been consummated. So twenty-four years later King Henry tried to use this plea as a way of getting a divorce so he could marry his new love, a lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine, named Anne Boleyn.[9]

When Henry met Anne, he became infatuated with her. He suddenly declared that he wanted a divorce and was willing to do anything to get it. Henry eventually got his way, but not without turning the whole country upside down. Cardinal Wolsey, Henry’s confident, was to get this divorce by partitioning the Pope in Rome starting in 1526.
Anne Boleyn came from a family that was known to support the “new” religion. At the time, the people of Europe were being swept over by the Catholic Church or so they were led to believe. The money that the congregation spent was to be for the poor and the needy, but instead it was used for personal gain. The people were also led to believe that if you paid a handsome sum, you could save your loved ones soul from purgatory and God would grant them forgiveness. The Catholic Churches were not all like this. The few that were gave the whole religion a bad name. So when a man named Martin Luther started to talk about the misfortunes of the Catholic Church and how they should be overturned, people started to listen. They were tired of the old faith and wanted a religion that did not corrupt and steal money. They also wanted personal access to a Bible that was written in English. For the only way the people could learn about scripture in the Catholic Church was through listening to a Priest read from the Bible in Latin. Many people were not educated enough to understand Latin and therefore were led to believe what they heard was the word of God.

Anne Boleyn, a lady-in-waiting to the queen, caused quite a stir at court. The Queen’s ladies would start to take sides over the queen or the new mistress; or “the whore” which Anne was known as by the Catholics and those in favour of the queen.

In the middle of all this a war broke out between France, Spain, and the Catholic Church. The French King, Francois I, was captured and taken to Rome, but later released on the authority of King Henry. This war would interrupt and delay the Pope’s decision on Henry’s matter. On 17 May 1527, the King called a meeting. In this meeting he brought up the matter declaring that his marriage was not legal, but the Cardinals begged to differ. At this point in time, Katherine who had been kept in the dark about the whole matter for over two years was now just being informed of the whole situation. Katherine immediately knew that she needed the support of her nephew the Emperor Charles V if she was to stay married to the King. Katherine claimed that the marriage to Arthur had never been consummated and she had come to King Henry a virgin. In an altercation that would follow, the King was quoted as saying that they had been living in immortal sin and that Katherine was not his legal wife.
Wolsey, who was Catholic, was not popular at Court. Katherine of Aragon did not like him because he was pleading for Henry’s divorce and the Boleyn’s did not like him because they were opposed to the Catholic faith. The Boleyn’s were Protestant, true believers of the movement Martin Luther had started. Anne, her family, and a rising courtier named Cromwell, were in favor of this “new” religion. Not only did they believe it would end the “corruption” of the Catholic Church, but thought it might be the way for Henry to finally get an annulment from Katherine.
The King was granted the title “Supreme Head of the Church of England.” Even with this title, he could not declare his marriage as null and void. He still needed a decision from the Pope. The Pope did not see the marriage as being null so he declared that Katherine was the rightful wife of Henry VIII and they were still legally married. After receiving this final letter, Henry decided that he would deny the Pope’s authority. Henry then decided to sever himself from Rome. Cromwell was appointed Chancellor after Thomas More retired due to conflicting views with his faith. More did not see Henry as the Head of the Church, he was Catholic, therefore he agreed with Rome when it came to their decision. He did agree to the decree that made Anne Boleyn Henry’s legal wife, but that was not enough for Henry. Therefore, Thomas was executed at the Tower.
The King was granted the title “Supreme Head of the Church of England.” Even with this title, he could not declare his marriage as null and void. He still needed a decision from the Pope. The Pope did not see the marriage as being null so he declared that Katherine was the rightful wife of Henry VIII and they were still legally married. After receiving this final letter, Henry decided that he would deny the Pope’s authority. Henry then decided to sever himself from Rome. Cromwell was appointed Chancellor after Thomas More retired due to conflicting views with his faith. More did not see Henry as the Head of the Church, he was Catholic, therefore he agreed with Rome when it came to their decision. He did agree to the decree that made Anne Boleyn Henry’s legal wife, but that was not enough for Henry. Therefore, Thomas was executed at the Tower.

The English Bible approved by King Henry VIII; The Bible in Englyshe, London: Richard Grafton and Edward Whitechurch, 1540. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress.

The Reformation of England was a political issue, not a doctrinal. The first action to be taken was to put an end to the tyrannical power that the clergy had over the people. Then the superstition that you should not question your faith, that it was a sin to, had to be broken. The King began to hand out the English Bible to his servants.[10]  Although Henry was adamant about giving his people a Bible which could be read in English, through out his reign he became concerned about the consequences of letting the lower classes reading the bible for themselves. Restrictions and certain versions were restricted.

Queen Katherine by unknown artist, NPG

Henry’s last wife, Katherine Parr, a supporter of the Reformation and a believer in allowing the people to read the Gospels and the Bible in English, would come to know the restrictions and would almost be condemned herself for her genuine attempt to spread the word of God. Katherine Parr would go on to publish the first book by an English woman and queen in her own name called “Prayers or Meditations“. After the death of Henry and during the reign of the Protestant king, Edward VI, son of Henry and his third wife Jane Seymour, Katherine would go on to write and publish another book called “Lamentations of a Sinner” which became a huge success among the English people.

Henry imposed Royal Supremacy. This meant that Henry would have supremacy over the laws of the Church in England. The Act of Supremacy passed by Parliament and Henry stated that the King was “the only supreme head on earth of the Church in England’ and that the English crown shall enjoy “all honours, dignities, preeminence’s, jurisdictions, privileges, authorities, immunities, profits, and commodities to the said dignity.”[11]

Queen Katherine’s “Lamentations” on display at the Vivat Rex Exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library © Meg McGath

The Reformation of the Church in England changed religion in the Nation forever. Instead of answering to Rome, England answered to only the Sovereign in power. King Henry saw himself as the Supreme Head of the Church in England. He felt that he should have say over the laws of religion and he passed an act that would only allow him to be answerable to God himself. In the end, I think the whole break from Rome was a mix of wanting to break away from the religious dogma of the Catholic Church and Henry’s desire for an annulment so he could marry Anne Boleyn and have a son. Henry VIII was obsessed with having an heir. After his father, Henry VII had won the War of a Hundred years you can understand why he wanted the Tudor dynasty to continue on. Henry VIII’s father worked tirelessly to build up England again. As for the topic of sweating sickness, it was a lot like today’s Swine Flu disease only worse.  It spread faster and killed 99% of its victims. There was no hygiene in London. Most of London’s population at the time was poor. They were packed into small houses. Their diet was not good and they had no medicines or vaccines to prevent the spread of the epidemic. No one knew what to do. This was during the time when doctors thought bleeding a patient would get rid of the sickness. Today we know better. The Tudor period was a harsh period. Not just because of the disease, but the fact that each day you woke up you had no idea whether or not you would live or die.[12]
Alexander, Michael Van Cleave. “The First of the Tudors: Study of Henry VII and His Reign.” Croom Helm. February 1981.
Bucholz, Robert and Key, Newton. “Early Modern England, 1485-1714: A Narrative History.” Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated. January 2008.
Carlton, Charles. “Royal Childhoods.” Routledge & Kegan Paul Books Ltd. January 1986.
Carroll, Robert. “Bible: King James Version (KJV).” Oxford University Press, USA. August 1998.
Fraser, Antonia. “The Wives of Henry VIII.” Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. November 1993.
Froude, James Anthony. “The Divorce of Catherine of Aragon: The Story as Told by the Imperial Ambassadors Resident at the Court of Henry VIII. In Usum Laicorum.”
Adamant Media Corporation. 30 Nov 2005
Hecker, J.F.C. “The epidemics of the middle ages.” Translated by B. G. Babington.
G. Woodfall and Son for The Sydenham Society. London. 1844.
Ross, David. “Henry VIII ‘s Act of Supremacy (1534) – Original Text.” Britain Express.
< “http://www.britainexpress.com/History/tudor/supremacy-henry-text.htm”>
Thurston, Herbert. “Henry VIII.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 16 Jul 2009. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07222a.htm&gt;.

[1] Robert Bucholz and Newton Key’s Early Modern England, 1485-1714: A Narrative History, Wiley, Johnson and Sons, 2008.
[2] Robert Bucholz, Newton Key, Early Modern England, 1485-1714: A Narrative History, Wiley, John and Sons, Incorporated, 2008.
[3] J. F. C. Hecker, The epidemics of the middle ages. Translated by B. G. Babington, G. Woodfall and Son for The Sydenham Society, London, 1844.
[4] J. F. C. Hecker, The epidemics of the middle ages. Translated by B. G. Babington, G. Woodfall and Son for The Sydenham Society, London, 1844.
[5] Robert Bucholz, Newton Key, Early Modern England, 1485-1714: A Narrative History, Wiley, John and Sons Incorporated, 2008.
[6] James Anthony Froude, The Divorce of Catherine of Aragon: The Story as Told by the Imperial Ambassadors Resident at the Court of Henry VIII. In Usum Laicorum, Adamant Media Corporation, 30 Nov 2005.
[7] Antonia Fraser, The Wives of Henry VIII, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, November 1993.
[8] Carroll, Robert. “Bible: King James Version (KJV).” Oxford University Press, USA. August 1998.
[9] Antonia Fraser, The Wives of Henry VIII, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, November 1993.
[10] Robert Bucholz, Newton Key, Early Modern England, 1485-1714: A Narrative History, Wiley, John and Sons Incorporated, 2008.
[11] Henry VIII’s Act of Supremacy (1534) – original text, English History. David Ross and Britain Express
[12] J. F. C. Hecker, The epidemics of the middle ages. Translated by B. G. Babington, G. Woodfall and Son for The Sydenham Society, London, 1844.
© Meg McGath 16 July 2009, London, UK

Queen Katherine’s Letter: “The Tudors” vs. the real deal

From The Tudors, episode 7. Katherine Parr’s letter to Henry while Regent of England; during his siege of Boulogne, France.

Although Your Majesty’s absence has not been long, yet the want of your presence means that I cannot take pleasure in anything until I hear from Your Majesty. Time hangs heavily. I have a great desire to know how Your Majesty has done since you left, for your prosperity and health I prefer and desire more than my own. And although I know Your Majesty’s absence is never without great need, still love and affection compel me to desire your presence. Thus love makes me set aside my own convenience and pleasure for you at whose hands I have received so much love and goodness that words cannot express it. We hear word of ill weather and delays besetting you and though we thank God for your good health we anxiously await the joyous news of the success of your great venture and for your safe and triumphant return for which all England offers daily prayers. I fear am I but a poor substitute for Your Majesty in the matter of the guidance of your kingdom. I long for your return. I commit you to God’s care and governance.
By Your Majesty’s humble obedient wife, and servant,
Katherine, the Queen

17th-century plan of Boulogne, Fortified Places, by David Flintham.

The actual letter which she wrote in July 1544; it was written during Henry’s six-week absence while he was in Boulogne, France and during the Regency of Queen Katherine. Its tone is loving and respectful.

Although the distance of time and account of days neither is long nor many of your majesty’s absence, yet the want of your presence, so much desired and beloved by me, maketh me that I cannot quietly pleasure in anything until I hear from your majesty. The time, therefore, seemeth to me very long, with a great desire to know how your highness hath done since your departing hence, whose prosperity and health I prefer and desire more than mine own. And whereas I know your majesty’s absence is never without great need, yet love and affection compel me to desire your presence.
Again, the same zeal and affection force me to be best content with that which is your will and pleasure. Thus love maketh me in all things to set apart mine own convenience and pleasure, and to embrace most joyfully his will and pleasure whom I love. God, the knower of secrets, can judge these words not to be written only with ink, but most truly impressed on the heart. Much more I omit, lest it be thought I go about to praise myself, or crave a thank; which thing to do I mind nothing less, but a plain, simple relation of the love and zeal I bear your majesty, proceeding from the abundance of the heart. Wherein I must confess I desire no commendation, having such just occasion to do the same.
I make like account with your majesty as I do with God for his benefits and gifts heaped upon me daily, acknowledging myself a great debtor to him, not being able to recompense the least of his benefits; in which state I am certain and sure to die, yet I hope in His gracious acceptation of my goodwill. Even such confidence have I in your majesty’s gentleness, knowing myself never to have done my duty as were requisite and meet for such a noble prince, at whose hands I have found and received so much love and goodness, that with words I cannot express it. Lest I should be too tedious to your majesty, I finish this my scribbled letter, committing you to the governance of the Lord with long and prosperous life here, and after this life to enjoy the kingdom of his elect.
From Greenwich, by your majesty’s humble and obedient servant,
Katharine the Queen.