In December of 1547, Queen Katherine Parr became pregnant for what most people believe to be the first time by her fourth and final husband, Sir Thomas Seymour. After four husbands and twenty years of marriage, Katherine was about to fulfill what she felt was the primary duty of a wife, to give birth to a healthy baby; boys being preferred in aristocratic circles. Like today, some titles still cannot be inherited by the eldest or only daughter of a peer; meaning a girl cannot inherit the title of her father which is usually then passed to the closest living male relative, that being usually an uncle or cousin.
Queen Katherine found pregnancy difficult. She still had an on-going feud with her brother-in-law, the Lord Protector and his rather nasty wife, had morning sickness, was constantly worrying about her step-daughter Lady Elizabeth, and the temper of her husband and lack of discretion towards his feelings for Lady Elizabeth must have made the early months of pregnancy extremely hard for the Queen Dowager. In 1549, after the death of the Queen, two cramp rings for use against the pains of childbirth and three pieces of unicorn horn, sovereign remedy for stomach pains, were found in the chest of Katherine’s personal belongings which were talismans most likely from her husband and friend’s to alleviate the pains of childbirth and anticipated pangs of childbirth. Katherine was almost thirty-six, an advanced age to begin a pregnancy. The emotional strain of her household with Seymour’s infatuation with Lady Elizabeth couldn’t have helped her early months either.
As Katherine’s pregnancy progressed, her involvement in politics, if not her interest, diminished. She viewed her approaching motherhood with delight despite knowing the risks and the possibility that death in child birth was a very real possibility.
Seymour decided that Katherine should be confined as far away possible from the press of business and turmoil of the court as well as the summer plagues of London. Katherine was taken to Sudeley Castle in Winchcombe, England, outside of Cheltenham. The castle has a long history stretching back to William de Tracy. Richard III used the castle as campaign headquarters during the Battle of Tawkesbury; in which Katherine’s grandfather fought. Upon the death of Richard III, the castle reverted to the crown and new monarch, Henry VII; who gave the castle to his uncle, Jasper Tudor. After the death of Jasper Tudor, Sudeley reverted to the crown again, to King Henry VIII. In fact, the King made a visit to the castle with Anne Boleyn in 1535. Upon the ascension of Edward VI, Sir Thomas was created Lord Seymour of Sudeley and was granted the castle. In preperation for her lying-in, Seymour spent 1,000 pounds having the rooms prepared for her in his newly aquired house at Sudeley in Gloucestershire. With beautiful gardens and walks, the castle would have been a perfect place for Katherine to spend the last three months of her pregnancy.
On Wednesday, 13 June 1548, Seymour accompanied his wife, who was now six months pregnant, and his young ward, Lady Jane Grey, from Hanworth to Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire. Lady Elizabeth Tudor had been sent away that Spring so she did not accompany them. In this castle, Katherine spent the last three months of her pregnancy and the last summer of her life. Typical of Queen Katherine, she spared no expense when it came to attendants. She was attended by her old friend and doctor, Robert Huicke, and was surrounded by other old friends, Miles Coverdale, her chaplain, her almoner, John Parkhurst, Sir Robert Tyrwhitt, and the ladies who had been with her over the years such as Elizabeth Trywhitt and Mary Wodhull. Katherine also had a full compliment of maids-of-honour and gentlewomen as well as 120 gentlemen and yeomen of the guard. In spite of his duties, Sir Thomas Seymour seems to have spent most of that summer with his wife. Katherine whiled away her summer days overseeing the education of Lady Jane Grey while preparing for her baby. Her affections for her husband seemed as strong as ever, as was her belief in the final analysis, Seymour would make the moral choice over the immoral one.
While Katherine awaited her confinement, Katherine continued decorating the nursery which overlooked the gardens and the Chapel. The nursery of an expected heir was done up in crimson and gold velvet and taffeta, with furniture and plate enough for a royal birth. In Seymour’s eyes, the child would be a member of the royal family as Katherine was still officially the only queen in England. After his daughter’s birth, Seymour was overheard telling Sir William Sharington that,
“it would be strange to some when his daughter came of age, taking [her] place above [the duchess of] Somerset, as a queen’s daughter.”
Besides the baby’s cradle was a bed with a scarlet tester and crimson curtains and a separate bed for the nurse.
The Queen continued to take the advice of her doctor and walked daily among the grounds of Sudeley, but she was still concerned about the politics and overseeing of the new boy king.
On the eve of August 30th, Katherine went into labour.
- Linda Porter. ‘Katherine, the queen,’ Macmillan, 2012.
- Susan James. ‘Catherine Parr: Henry VIII’s Last Love,’ The History Press, Gloucestershire, 2008, 2009 [US Edition].
- Janel Mueller. ‘Katherine Parr: Complete Works and Correspondences,’ University of Chicago Press, Jun 30, 2011.
- Emma Dent. ‘Annals of Winchcombe and Sudeley,’ London, J. Murray, 1877. Out of copyright; use of images and info.
The original post from which this was taken
- Meg McGath. “Queen Katherine Parr: The Pregnancy and Birth of Lady Mary Seymour“, WordPress, 29 August 2013.
From Rebecca Larson’s article at TudorDynasty: Why Queen Elizabeth I Never Married
“Elizabeth also experienced an improper male relationship while she was living with her step-mother Katherine Parr and her new husband Thomas Seymour. Thomas would flirt with Elizabeth in an improper fashion – and to thwart him from continuing these escapades Katherine would participate (to keep a watchful eye) by holding down young Elizabeth while Thomas tickled her. Inevitably, Katherine found them alone in an embrace and she immediately put a stop to this behavior. She was after all Elizabeth’s guardian. Katherine was also pregnant with Thomas’ child at the time. She sent young Elizabeth away to her own household.”
Insert MY frustration and anger here…
These articles never research the info on Katherine Parr! They always throw Katherine Parr under the bus without even questioning where the info came from and from whom.
First off, “young Elizabeth?” Elizabeth during her stay with Seymour and Parr was of age. If her father had cared for her and his country–Elizabeth would have been wed earlier. As the daughter of a King, Elizabeth was seen as a commodity and a political pawn in these times. Her paternal great-grandmother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, was pregnant by twelve and gave birth at thirteen. It wasn’t uncommon for women to be wed by the age of twelve. So to call Elizabeth “young” is a modern day concept based on how we live today.
“There are many witnesses, who under pressure, have testified to this shameless love affair. A love affair of which even Queen Katherine accused you on her death bed.” — Edward, Duke of Somerset
“You’re lying! She knew me, she loved me, she was my friend.” — Lady Elizabeth
“But you were not hers.” — Edward, Duke of Somerset (“Young Bess” 1953)
The testimony and the statements accusing Parr of joining in Seymour’s antics came from Kat Ashley (Elizabeth’s governess) who was threatened to be tortured until she spoke up about Seymour and Parr.
Katherine Parr had been dead for several months by the time Ashley was arrested and put in the Tower. Ashley knew that women were no longer spared from torture (i.e Anne Askew). The interrogators of Ashley were trying to implicate and charge Seymour after he had tried to marry Elizabeth again and kidnap Edward. Everyone had tired of his lunatic moves to take some power.
When Elizabeth was staying with the couple, they were seated at Chelsea Manor–in what is now known as the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The Manor was situated on the Thames and was close to several important establishments used by the Lord Protector and his council. At the time Ashley claims Parr was involved in Seymour’s damaging antics. Parr had a HUGE household with a lot of staff on watch. If Parr had participated in these acts, why did no one else contribute, with the SAME story? Ashley was the only one to speak of Parr is such a demeanour.
We also have evidence that Ashley encouraged Elizabeth to play along with Seymour. Ashley told Elizabeth that she would be lucky to have such a man. This was ALL done while Seymour was still married to Parr. Evidence also states that Ashley was jealous and had a crush on Seymour — so the weight of her testimony … Is basically worth a grain of salt. Parr never had any inappropriate relations with her stepchildren recorded as described by Ashley. Parr had stepchildren from 1534 until her death in September of 1548. If she was not trustworthy, her second husband never would have left his daughter in Parr’s care. Also, King Henry never would have left Parr in control of everything while he was in France if he believed her to be a bad influence and what not. Her Regency during this time in her reign, could have become a permanent status if Henry had died in France–The behaviour fits Seymour, but not Parr.
“It is difficult to say for how long Warwick had been casting envious eyes on supreme power, and exactly when he gave serious thought to undermining the Protector; but that former friendship of which Somerset was soon to remind him had never gone very deep, and it evaporated entirely when at the beginning of the new reign Somerset took from him the coveted post of Lord High Admiral, and gave it to Thomas Seymour. Certainly Warwick was scheming against the Protector at the time of Thomas’ nefarious deeds. He quickly realized that by stirring the brotherly quarrel to its ultimate disastrous conclusion he must weaken Somerset’s standing in the country,, for there were many who, unaware of the full extent of Thomas’s treachery, and the unenviable position into which some members of the Council had manoeuvered the elder brother, regarded the affair as little short of fratricide. More recently Warwick had been in direct conflict with the protector over Somerset’s refusal to remove a justice in favour of Warwick’s nominee, and to grant his son, Ambrose, the reversion of two offices held by Sir Andrew Flammock.” -William Seymour; Ordeal by Ambition: An English Family in the Shadows of the Tudors
Not to undermine Seymour’s work but I don’t agree with him on this point. Thomas Seymour wasn’t exactly patient when it came to plotting and although I don’t agree with his reasons, or Dudley and Grey’s reasons for turning their backs against the Protector, they had valid reasons.
Thomas Seymour married before everyone told him it was a bad idea, or perhaps he didn’t care. Knowing what we know about Tommy, it was probably the latter. A century later somebody had done the same with Catherine of Valois, the Queen Dowager of England and mother to the baby-king Henry VI of England and II of France. Owen Tudor paid dearly for this, and although he got off in the end and proved himself to be a loyal Lancastrian, there were still consequences. Kathryn Parr was not as royal as Catherine of Valois had been but she had noble and Roya blood, and she was an important figure in the English Reformation. Edward VI loved her and Elizabeth looked up to her.
Thomas had always been ambitious and probably resented that he wasn’t being given as much honors as his brother was receiving. Not only that, some historians like Warwick dispute the allegations from later chroniclers that their wives quarreled over precedence and Anne asked Kathryn to give up her jewels. I love Warnicke and once again, I am not trying to put down their research, but I do think there was some form of quarrel between the two. Anne was as pragmatic as Kathryn was. She knew how dangerous Thomas was, and what he was doing and probably saw Katherine as a danger. That her influence over all these wards (who had royal blood and a claim to the throne) could be detrimental to her husband and what affected him, directly affected her and her children.
Also, she must have felt more important than the Queen Dowager since she married Thomas Seymour who despite his appointments and new title, was still several ranks lower than his older brother.
John Dudley was a staunch Protestant but a cold pragmatist when it came to war and foreign relations unlike Edward Seymour. The latter was following the same disastrous foreign policy of his predecessor, Henry VIII of invading Scotland, causing more death and destruction that supposedly would have intimidated them and forced the country into submission but what ended up happening was the opposite. As for his countrymen though, Edward showed he had better intentions than his opponent and former ally. Dudley wanted a more religious regime like the King, but Edward Seymour believed there should be compromise. (Another person who thought like this was Cranmer.) He tried pushing for policies that helped the poor and the needy but most of them did very little to improve the economy.
Edward’s intentions were good, but his way of doing things were not. When he was elected Lord Protector, his supporters thought that he was going to work for them instead of the common people and it ended turning the other way around. Edward could have succeeded in his domestic policies if he had been a better politician and not done many things (such as slapping one courtier) that ended up alienating him from the nobles and turned them against him. Furthermore, he refused to rule with the same iron fist as his predecessor. The ruthlessness he showed on Scotland, was something he was averse to showing on his fellow countrymen, even his enemies. Whereas with Dudley, it was the complete opposite.
Lastly, William Seymour like so many biographers that have become enchanted with their subjects, is against speaking too ill of him. He points out his flaws, his disastrous policies but he always adds that a lot of these are due to the nobles ceaselessly plotting against him. This is partially true as I’ve already stated, but he was also to blame.
Thomas was ultimately executed, Edward suffered the same fate years prior. The charges laid against him were outrageous, going so far as to plotting the murder of John Dudley, newly elevated to Duke of Northumberland. There’s no question that Edward did want to escape and was concocting all kinds of schemes to get out. Even going so far as to use his daughter Jane to entice the King and Jane was as Jane Grey, an accomplished young girl. A few years younger than her, she had translated and written many religious works. But his rivals sustained that he had plotted to invite everyone to a dinner and murder everyone there. Eventually new charges were laid on him were because the others weren’t enough to convict him. On November, Northumberland put all the evidence together and laid out the new charges against him. They were read out, and as it was customary of the time, the accused did not have to be present for his guilt to be established. Ned Seymour was accused with sedition, treason and conspiracy to “overthrow the government, imprison Northumberland and Northampton, and convene Parliament”.
Ned Seymour was able to show himself at the hearings at last in December. Lord Strange was one of the witnesses who was brought in, to accuse him of plotting to marry his young daughter, the nine year old Jane Seymour –an accomplished young woman, who as the other Jane [Grey], could read, write in Latin, Greek and many other languages, and had already translated many works- to the King. As ludicrous as all these charges were, this one was not. Ned Seymour did ask some of his allies to speak favorably of his daughter to the King, in the hopes that the young King would be impressed by her and this would release him [and his wife] from prison.
After this trial and his sentence was pronounced, Ned Seymour finally gave up. He knew the end was coming and prepared for the inevitable, praying hard and taking shelter as so many before him had done, in the religion that comforted him. There are a lot of version of his last words, one of them come from his chaplain, a man he largely favored, John Foxe. John was not present during his execution but he maintained that his account was taken from a “certain noble personage” who was.
His last words were: “Dearly beloves maisters and friends, I am brought hither to suffer, albeit that I never offended against the King neither by word nor deed, and have been always as faithful and true unto this realm as any man hath been. But forsomuch as I am by a law condemned to die, I do acknowledge myself, as well as others, to be subject thereunto …” Then he told them he had come to die, according to the law and gave thanks “unto the divine goodness, as if I had received a most ample and great reward” and asked them to continue to embrace the new religion.
Why was the Warwick Earldom given to the Dudleys? I should check the ancestry there. I’m sure there were senior lines but the “regency council” just handed out titles like candy. The death of Henry VIII — or even Edward IV — put an end to the rightful ways of nobility and male inheritance. What a joke. Henry was so stupid to entrust men over someone like Katherine Parr who had the best interests in mind when it came to Edward VI. But hey, there is speculation about Henry’s will which may have been altered. The men around Henry purposely kept the queen and Lady Mary away from the King and when he died…they weren’t told for days!! Those men thought they were helping, but in actuality–THEY killed the Tudor dynasty in a way.
6 AUGUST 1552: THE DEATH of Sir George Throckmorton of Coughton Court [uncle by marriage and cousin]. George was the eldest son of Sir Robert Throckmorton of Coughton by Catherine, daughter of William Marrow. Sir Robert Throckmorton was a courtier and Councillor to Henry VII. Before his death, in Italy while on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Sir Robert had seen George launched at court and in local government and in enjoyment of numerous leases and stewardships. This early advancement may have owed something to Throckmorton’s marriage to a daughter of another courtier, Sir Nicholas Vaux, whose stepson Sir Thomas Parr, comptroller of the Household to Henry VIII.
George was a loyal subject to the crown, however when it came to Henry’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon he opposed it. He did not approve of Henry marrying Anne Boleyn and was vocal about it. After all, he was close to Sir Thomas More and the Throckmorton was a devout Catholic family [still are to this day]. George’s circle included supporters of Katherine of Aragon which included Lady Maud Parr, his sister-in-law [wife to Sir Thomas Parr, brother of his wife Katherine]. Maud stayed with her mistress until her death in 1531.
Later on, George was steward from 1528-40 for Thomas Seymour, [later Baron Seymour of Sudeley]. The marriage of Katherine Parr to King Henry VIII in 1543 proved helpful to his children, but George was still in disfavor at court. George was part of the fall of Thomas Cromwell, but his part in it is obscure. Cromwell had somewhat kept George in disfavor for quite some time. The two clashed on religious ideals and other matters of state. The Throckmortons who had converted to Protestantism were held high at court and helped out their cousin Katherine Parr during her reign as queen and as dowager queen. Several Throckmortons did stick to the “old” religion and later found themselves in trouble during the reign of Elizabeth I [daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn].
By 1512, George married Katherine, daughter of Sir Nicholas Vaux [later 1st Lord Vaux of Harrowden] and his first wife, Elizabeth FitzHugh. Elizabeth FitzHugh was the paternal grandmother of Queen Katherine Parr; daughter of Lady Alice FitzHugh [born Neville, granddaughter of Lady Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmorland]. The couple had eight sons including Anthony, Clement, George, John I, Kenelm, Nicholas and Robert and eleven daughters.
Throckmorton died on 6 August 1552 and was buried in the stately marble tomb which he had prepared for himself in Coughton church. The most impressive monument which he left, however, was the gatehouse of Coughton court. Throckmorton spent most of his life rebuilding the house: in 1535 he wrote to Cromwell that he and his wife had lived in Buckinghamshire for most of the year, ‘for great part of my house here is taken down’. In 1549, when he was planning the windows in the great hall, he asked his son Nicholas to obtain from the heralds the correct trickling of the arms of his ancestors’ wives and his own cousin [and niece by marriage] Queen Katherine Parr. The costly recusancy of Robert Throckmorton and his heirs kept down later rebuilding, so that much of the house still stands largely as he left it.
- The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982. ‘THROCKMORTON, Sir George (by 1489-1552), of Coughton, Warws.‘
Queen Katherine Parr published two books in her lifetime. The first, ‘Prayers and Meditations’, was published while King Henry VIII was still alive . Some sources state 24 April 1544 as being the day that the book was available.
Henry was said to be proud and at the same time jealous of his wife’s success. ‘Lamentations of a Sinner’ was not published until after Henry died [in 1547]. In ‘Lamentations‘, Catherine’s Protestant voice was a bit stronger. If she had published ‘Lamentations’ in Henry’s lifetime, she most likely would have been executed as a heretic despite her status as queen consort. Henry did not like his wives outshining him [i.e. Anne Boleyn]…hence her compliance and submission to the King when she found that she was to be arrested by the Catholic faction at court. Her voice may have been dialed down a notch, but once her step-son, the Protestant boy King Edward took the throne — she had nothing to hold her back. Her best friend, the Dowager Duchess of Suffolk, and brother Northampton encouraged Parr to publish.
Published in 1547 [according to Sudeley Castle] after the death of King Henry VIII, “The Lamentation of a Sinner” was Catherine’s second book which was more extreme than her first publication. She was encouraged by her good friend the Duchess of Suffolk and her brother, the Marquess, to publish. The transcription of the title page here is… “The Lamentacion of a synner, made by the most vertuous Lady quene Caterine, bewailyng the ignoraunce of her blind life; let foorth & put in print at the inflance befire of the right gracious lady Caterine, Duchesse of Suffolke, and the ernest request of the right honourable Lord William Parre, Marquesse of Northampton.”
I was lucky enough to see a copy both a Sudeley Castle and at the Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.
Lamentations of a Sinner
“The Lamentacion of a synner, made by the most vertuous Lady quene Caterine, bewailyng the ignoraunce of her blind life; let foorth & put in print at the inflance befire of the right gracious lady Caterine, Duchesse of Suffolke, and the ernest request of the right honourable Lord William Parre, Marquesse of Northampton.”
Published in 1548 after the death of King Henry VIII, “The Lamentation of a Sinner” was Catherine’s second book which was more extreme than her first publication. She was encouraged by her good friend the Duchess of Suffolk and her brother, the Marquess, to publish.
[Vivat Rex Exhibition, Folger Shakespeare Library, STC 4828]