“Your Excellency, what I have done for the Lady Mary is much less than I would like to do; as well as being my duty in every respect. As for the friendship between our two countries, I have done and will do nothing to prevent it from growing still further as the friendship is so necessary and both sovereigns [are] so good.”
Katherine’s relationship with Mary was one of friendship rather than motherly. When Katherine became queen the royal children were by then acquainted with her. It is not known whether it was Katherine herself that suggested meeting the Ladies Mary and Elizabeth before the wedding, but Henry obviously approved. In any case, Katherine wanted to establish a good rapport with the king’s daughters before the wedding. While Katherine had been contemplating the kings proposal there is no doubt that the three children and the role in which she would play came to mind. With Mary, Katherine wanted nothing more than to become a supporter and friend to her. Being a mother to another woman’s child was a responsibility that Katherine assumed with grace and dedication.
History may not have viewed Henry as an attentive parent but he cannot be judged by our modern standards as times were different back then. Henry did not visit his children’s establishments on a regular basis, but claimed to love them all. Royal children were brought up separately. A separate household was always established for the Prince of Wales while princesses, often living together, had smaller establishments. As in Katherine’s time, court was not a place for small children and Mary as Princess had a household of her own until her parents’ divorce when she was forced to live with her half-sister, Elizabeth. Buried in a legacy of failed marriages and just the everyday duties of a king, Henry’s affections towards his children were understandably lacking. Katherine was convinced that Henry needed to be more involved with his children. The uncertainty that filled all of their lives, especially Mary and Elizabeth, needed to be relieved. Katherine promised and made sure as long as Henry was alive and she was consort that the children would have a stable future.
Katherine’s marriage to the King gave Mary the longest period of unbroken happiness she had known since childhood. It was much needed after a decade of turmoil. Katherine was a staunch champion of the princess and her regard for Mary certainly helped improve her prospects, as well as enriching her life. Soon after the wedding, Katherine gave Mary a present of gold bracelets. Katherine would go on to exchange purses of money with Mary as was done throughout the aristocracy as a token of female friendship. The two shared a love for clothes and jewels. They also had a love of music in common. The two thrived on conversation and diversion. Both were dedicated to studying and religion. History has made it seem that Katherine and Mary were so set in their ways of religion that they had absolutely nothing in common. In fact some people have gone as far as saying that if Katherine had lived into Mary’s reign, Mary would have had Katherine burned at the stake! Truth be told, within their relationship, neither was firmly set in their ways and their relationship never suffered. Mary had somewhat accepted her father’s religious changes. Katherine’s faith as queen would eventually develop along different lines than that of Mary. But much would change in Mary’s life before she became pegged as “Bloody Mary”.
The Imperial Ambassador, Chapuys, recounts that the two were almost always together and would come to thank Katherine in time, in the name of his Master Charles V, for all that she had done and would continue to do for the Lady Mary.
By 1544, a new act of succession was introduced. Since becoming queen, Katherine had set out to reconcile Henry and Mary and to restore her as a potential heir to the throne. Chapuys was most impressed with the queen’s attempts at favoring the Princess and wrote frequently to Charles V about it. Charles was also most pleased and encouraged Chapuys to continue good relations with Queen Katherine. The act was the first succession act in England to give females the right to succeed to the throne as queen. Lady Mary and Elizabeth were again part of the succession after their brother Edward. Though both Mary and Elizabeth remained illegitimate and were denied the title of princess, they were Henry’s official heirs. This Act signified the rehabilitation of the royal children with their father; which Katherine could take more than a little credit for. Based on ambassadorial reports, it was Katherine who was the chief instrument of Henry’s decision to name all of his children in his will as heirs to the throne. The terms of Henry’s Will would later legitimize both Mary’s seizure of the crown from Lady Jane Grey and Elizabeth’s succession after Mary’s death. It was Katherine who helped insure their legitimacy as queens.
It was in 1544, that Mary would be painted by an artist commemorating her re-in-statement to the succession. In the portrait, attributed to Master John, Mary is still young and quite beautiful. Portraiture was another common interest of Katherine Parr. Throughout her reign she would have portraits done of her and the two daughters of Henry. It is thought that perhaps these portraits of Katherine were done to make up for the fact that Henry had commissioned a painting of the royal family during her reign; only to put Jane Seymour in posthumously as queen. Perhaps that is the case, but the portrait of Mary is memorable and a favorite of many admirers to this day.
By summer of 1544, Katherine had been appointed Regent of England as Henry went off to battle in France. During her reign, most historians believe it was Elizabeth who was most affected by watching her step-mother rule over the country. Mary, herself, would also pay close attention to Katherine’s regency which no doubt influenced her. Both daughters would come to see that it was possible for a queen to handle all that was expected of a king; that perhaps one day they too could rule as queen of England. As regent, Katherine possessed a considerable amount of power. During Katherine’s regency five proclamations were issued and she was granted the right to disburse money from the Treasury. Throughout his time in France, Katherine would write often informing Henry of her progress. Often included were her sentiments, her time with the children, and worries about his health.
At the end of Henry’s reign as King he started to not only distant himself from Queen Katherine, but also from his children. Henry knew that his health was failing and that he must make provisions for his son Prince Edward’s minority as the next Tudor king. Henry’s final Christmas was spent alone at Whitehall, apart from Katherine and Mary who were at Greenwich Palace. On 11 January, it is accounted that the queen’s apartments were prepared for her arrival, but there is an uncertainty as to whether or not Katherine saw her husband one last time. On 28 January 1547, King Henry died. Neither Katherine nor his children were present.
After the death of King Henry, Mary was not told of his death for several days. Edward’s minority council took elaborate precautions to ensure all was in place before they made an official announcement. This action made Mary extremely angry, but she could do nothing about it. Yet how ever wary Edward’s councillors were, nothing could alter the fact that Mary was in her own right heiress to the throne. For the time being, Mary would stay with Katherine who was again for the third time, a widow. At the time of her father’s death Mary was aged 31. Mary’s reaction to her father’s death was never recorded as she never publicly mourned his death. She was apparently more irritated at the fact that no one had told her that her father had died until days later. Most likely her reaction to the news was mixed grief and some kind of relief. At Henry’s death both Mary and Elizabeth became two of the richest women in England. They both had an income, the promise of a dowry, and extensive holdings of property. Mary was now an owner of 32 houses and manors. These lands had previously belonged to the Duke of Norfolk and his son Surrey but were attained by the King after their arrest. It is noted that after all that the Howard’s had put Mary through she still came out on top owning most of Norfolk, Suffolk, and land in Essex.
Until April 1547, Mary remained in the household of the Dowager Queen Katherine. Mary went into deep mourning and it is not recorded whether or not she attended her father’s funeral or even her brother’s coronation. In her mourning, Mary went into deep reflection upon the way the country was now being run. While Henry was alive, she didn’t dare questioning his advisers. Now with Edward’s council, many of the members she had known for quite a while now, she came to her own opinion and was no longer afraid to voice her opinion as she did not think much of the men who ruled in her brother’s name. By Spring, Mary had left the household of the Dowager queen as a dispute between the Lord Protector and his family was about to devolve. Truth being that Mary was a lady with many households and of age; she was mistress of her own manors and needed to start living her own life. While her father had been alive, Mary had been denied her very own family. She missed out on many marriage proposals and the chance to bear children of her own. Before Henry died, he promised the queen many things and gave her permission to marry again if it pleased her. Within months of his death Mary would find that her step-mother had renewed her liaison with her former love, Sir Thomas Seymour. Thomas was the younger brother of the Lord Protector. Thomas was jealous of his older brother as he had no part in the regency council. Therefore it has been proposed that perhaps he saw that by marrying the queen dowager he would obtain some sort of recognition. After surviving nearly four years of marriage to Henry, which was a feet among itself, Katherine was now letting her heart rule over her head. As she had no political role in Edward’s reign, Katherine looked to the possibility of her own happiness. The two would marry on an unknown date. Of course Katherine’s marriage was solemnized by God, but it had not been sanctioned by the king and his council. There was nothing in the will of Henry saying that Katherine could not marry again – but some saw the marriage as untimely as it was too soon after the king’s death. In attempts to gain favour and have the marriage be accepted, Seymour wrote to Mary asking for her approval and consent. The jest of the letter was strong, but at the same time clever and revealing. Mary knew what had been happening in the household before she left and was not one to play dumb. Mary knew Seymour’s reputation with women and was not fooled by his appeal to win her favour. Mary was still upset over the fact that Katherine would even consider marrying so soon after her father’s death and in a way felt it insulted the memory of her father. Although Mary was unhappy about Katherine’s choices, she realized that she would no longer share in the company of her step-mother who had done so much to re-store her relationship with her father and to re-instate her into the Act of Succession. Katherine had been regarded as an equal by Mary. The two had shared so much time together that it most likely hurt her deeply when she heard the news of Katherine’s death.
Throughout the reign of Henry VIII, as many know, he had six different wives. The first of these wives was the daughter of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile, Infanta Catalina; or as most have come to know her in England – Katherine of Aragon. Katherine came to England to marry the older brother of Henry who was then heir to the throne of England; Arthur, Prince of Wales. Shortly after their marriage Arthur died and Katherine was left a widow at an early age. To avoid returning her large dowry to her father Katherine was married to Arthur’s younger brother, then Henry, Duke of York. The marriage between Katherine and Henry produced only one child who would live to adulthood, a girl, the future Queen Mary I of England. In Tudor times, not having a male heir was particularly troublesome as the country had just been through a civil war in which Henry’s father seized the crown. Henry VIII was only the second Tudor monarch, a son of both the houses of Lancaster and York. Henry felt that a male heir was essential; after all, the last woman to reign as queen regent was the tumultuous reign of Empress Matilda, daughter of Henry I.
Born Princess Mary of England, Mary was the daughter of King Henry VIII and his first wife Katherine of Aragon. Her mother, after two decades of marriage to the King, had given birth to six children. Out of the six, only one would survive infancy, their daughter Mary. Katherine had produced no surviving sons, leaving their daughter, the future Mary I of England, as heiress presumptive at a time when there was no established precedent for a woman on the throne. At this time is when Henry began to take interest in one of Katherine’s ladies, Anne Boleyn. In Anne, Henry saw the possibility of having a male heir; to continue his father’s legacy. After going through a great bit of trouble – which included a break from Rome – Henry “divorced” Katherine and “married” Anne under his Church of England. This break and marriage would come to change England and inevitably changed Henry for the rest of his life. Henry would go on to have again, one daughter, with Anne. During this marriage, Princess Mary, now within her teens, went from being a legitimate Princess and daughter of Henry VIII to an illegitimate “bastard” under Henry’s new succession act. Mary was forced to live below the standards of what she had become accustomed to and was forced to accept that her mother was no longer queen of England. After only a few years of marriage to Anne, Henry became convinced that his second wife could not produce a male heir and literally disposed her for yet another lady-in-waiting, Jane Seymour. During her short reign, Jane tried to reconcile Henry with his daughter Mary. It was through this “precious” lady that Henry finally got what he wanted; a male heir, named Edward. To Henry’s misfortune, only twelve days after giving birth to Edward, Jane died. Henry would go on to marry three more times after Jane. Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, and a woman named Katherine Parr. It was the last of Henry’s wives who would come to reconcile Mary, along with her half-siblings, with Henry.
Katherine Parr was born in 1512. By both parents, Princess Mary was related to Katherine Parr. By her paternal grandparents, Mary was related by Katherine’s descent from the Beaufort’s, children of John of Gaunt, a son of Edward III making Mary by her paternal grandmother, Elizabeth of York, a 4th cousin. By the Woodville connection, they were 4th cousins. By her paternal grandfather, Henry VII (by Beaufort and Holland), Mary was a double 5th cousin, once removed. By her maternal grandmother, Isabel of Castile (by John of Gaunt), she was a fifth cousin and a fifth cousin, once removed. Jane Seymour is the next closest after Parr sharing Edward III (6th cousins, once removed).
Katherine was a few years older than Mary who was born in 1516. Katherine’s mother, Maud, had become a lady-in-waiting to Princess Mary’s mother shortly after her marriage to Sir Thomas Parr. Katherine was named after the queen and it is thought that the queen was her godmother.
Maud’s relationship with the Queen was unlike that of most queens and their ladies. It was a relationship that went much deeper than “giddy pleasure”. Both knew what it was like to lose a child in stillbirths and in infancy. It was Katherine Parr’s mother, Maud, who shared in the horrible miscarriages and deaths in which Queen Katherine would endure from 1511 to 1518. The two bonded over the issue, as Maud had experienced the death of her eldest, an infant boy, and later a miscarriage or early infant mortality after the birth of three healthy children. Because of these shared experiences, the queen and Maud became close.
After her husband died in 1517, Maud continued her position at court as one of Katherine of Aragon’s household and stayed close to the Queen even when her relationship with Henry started to decline in the 1520s. In 1525, when Henry’s infatuation with one of Katherine’s ladies, Anne Boleyn, became apparent, inevitably the ladies began to take sides. In these times, Queen Katherine never lost the loyalty and affection of women like Maud Parr, Gertrude Courtenay, and Elizabeth Howard, who had been with the Queen since the first years of her reign. Maud stayed with Queen Katherine until the end of her own life in 1531.
It has been said that Katherine Parr and Princess Mary were educated together. While Katherine’s mother attended on the queen, Katherine was at Parr house in Blackfriars, London. Katherine was not brought to court with her mother and probably the only time, if any, that she was in contact with the royal family was at her christening. Katherine and other daughters of the court were taught separately while Princess Mary, who had her own household, was taught by private tutors.
After the disastrous marriage of the King and Katherine Howard, the King was no longer looking for flighty relationships that stirred his passions. Henry had learned a tough lesson with Katherine Howard and was determined more than ever to find an intelligent, honest, loving, and devoted wife. He wanted someone he could hold an actual conversation with; a companion. Another quality Henry looked for in a wife was someone who could be a perfect companion to his eldest daughter, now styled The Lady Mary Tudor. After years of tension and multiple step-mothers whom Mary had mixed relations with, Henry must have felt he owed her that much.
After the death of Katherine Howard, Mary enjoyed far greater favor from her father and presided over court feasts as if she was queen herself. For New Year’s, Mary was showered with lavish gifts from her father. Within the presents were ‘two rubies of inestimable value.’ However, it was during this time that Mary suffered from chronic ill-health linked to anxiety, depression, and irregular menstruation. These health issues along with others would continue until Mary’s death. Thankfully by Christmas 1542, Mary had recovered and was summoned to court for the great Christmas festivities. Her quarters at Hampton court were worked on day and night to prepare for her arrival. The Imperial Ambassador, Chapuys, reported that the King ‘spoke to her in the most gracious and amiable words that a father could address to his daughter.’
Katherine Parr would marry twice before her marriage to King Henry in 1543. Her first marriage would be to her distant relative, Sir Edward Borough in 1529; which ended in about 1533 with his death. Her next marriage was to her father’s second cousin, Sir John Neville, 3rd Baron Latimer of Snape in 1534. With this marriage, Katherine became Lady Latimer. She was the first of her family to marry into peerage since her great-aunt, Maud Parr, Lady Dacre. With this marriage also came two step-children from Latimer’s first marriage to Dorothy De Vere. For about a decade, Katherine would experience the joy of being a step-mother. It was during this time that she became extremely close to her step-daughter, Margaret, which was somewhat of a pre-cursor to Katherine’s future relationship with the Lady Elizabeth, Henry’s youngest daughter. By the time Lord Latimer had died, Katherine was left a rich widow and was asked by Latimer to look after his daughter until the age of her maturity. It has been said that Katherine became a lady in the household of Lady Mary during this time, but biographers Susan James and Linda Porter have different opinions. It was thought by James that because Mary remembered the kindness Katherine’s mother had shown her mother that she gladly took Katherine as one of her ladies. Porter disputes this saying it would have been below Katherine’s standing as the widow of a peer who had her own establishments and a large settlement from her husband’s death. Truth be told, many courtiers and wives of peers were ladies to royals in Tudor England. It was a wonderful opportunity, kept them busy, and at the center of court. Katherine’s sister, Anne, would serve all of Henry’s wives, including her. After the death of Lord Latimer, Katherine began a fling with the brother of former queen Jane Seymour, Sir Thomas Seymour. The two were most likely planning to be wed, but before the two could marry, Katherine would first catch the attention of King who quickly proposed.
In spring before the wedding, Katherine would appear at court with both Lady Mary and Lady Elizabeth. The fact that the two had not been together earlier that spring and were now with Katherine and her sister at court was seen as significant. Katherine believed that a good relationship with the two was fundamental to her strategy. Once married, and confident as queen, she could develop the relationships further.
Katherine would go on to marry the King in July of that year. Within those who were present were the Ladies Mary and Elizabeth. With the marriage came three new step-children for Katherine to take care of. Instead of seeing it as her “duty”, she saw it as an opportunity as she had still not produced any children of her own.
Susan James. Catherine Parr: Henry VIII’s Last Love, The History Press, 2009.
Linda Porter. Katherine the queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr, the Last Wife of Henry VIII, MacMillan, 2010.
Linda Porter. The Myth of “Bloody Mary”: A Biography of Queen Mary I of England, St. Martin Griffins, 2010.
Anna Whitelock. Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 2009.
The wedding of Henry and Katherine, Dowager Baroness Latimer as recorded
Notarial instrument witnessing that, on 12 July 1543, 35 Hen. VIII., in an upper oratory called “the Quynes Pryevey closet” within the honor of Hampton Court, Westm. dioc., in presence of the noble and gentle persons named at the foot of this instrument and of me, Ric. Watkins, the King’s prothonotary, the King and lady Katharine Latymer alias Parr being met there for the purpose of solemnising matrimony between them, Stephen bp. of Winchester proclaimed in English (speech given in Latin) that they were met to join in marriage the said King and Lady Katharine, and if anyone knew any impediment thereto he should declare it. The licence for the marriage without publication of banns, sealed by Thos. abp. of Canterbury and dated 10 July 1543, being then brought in, and none opposing but all applauding the marriage, the said bp. of Winchester put the questions (recited) to which the King, hilari vultu, replied “Yea” and the lady Katharine also replied that it was her wish; and then the King taking her right hand, repeated after the Bishop the words, “I, Henry, take thee, Katharine, to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death us depart, and thereto I plight thee my troth.” Then, releasing and again clasping hands, the lady Katharine likewise said “I, Katharine, take thee Henry to my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to be bonayr and buxome in bed and at board, till death us depart, and thereto I plight unto thee my troth.” The putting on of the wedding ring and proffer of gold and silver (described) followed; and the Bishop, after prayer, pronounced a benediction. The King then commanded the prothonotary to make a public instrument of the premises. Present : John lord Russell, K.G., keeper of the Privy Seal, Sir Ant. Browne, K.G., captain of the King’s pensioners, and Thos. Henage, Edw. Seymer, Hen. Knyvet, Ric. Long, Thos. Darcy, Edw. Beynton, and Thos. Speke, knights, and Ant. Denny and Wm. Herbert, esquires, also the ladies Mary and Elizabeth the King’s children, Margaret Douglas his niece, Katharine duchess of Suffolk, Anne countess of Hertford, and Joan lady Dudley, and Anne Herbert.
Notarial attestation by Ric. Watkins, Ll. B., King’s prothonotary. Large parchment.
[Addressed to] To our right dear and entirely beloved brother, the Lord Parr, Lord Warden of the Marches,
Right dear and well-beloved brother, we great you well. Letting you wit that when it hath pleased almighty God of His goodness to incline the King’s majesty in such wise towards me, as it hath pleased his highness to take me of all others, most unworthy, to his wife, which is, as of reason it ought to be, the greatest joy and comfort that could happen to me in this world:
To the intent, you being my natural brother, may rejoice with me in the goodness of God and of his majesty, as the person who by nature hath most cause of the same, I thought meet to give your this advertisement. And to require you to let me sometime hear of your health as friendly as you would have done, if God and his majesty had not called me to this honor: which, I assure you, shall be much to my comfort. Given at my lord’s manor of Oatlands, the twentieth of July, the thirty-fifth year of his majesty’s most noble reign.
Kateryn, the quene
Transcription by Janel Mueller, from her compilation of the Works and Correspondences of Katherine Parr.
Katherine Parr: Complete Works and Correspondences, editor Janel Mueller. University of Chicago, 2011. pg 46.