Ladies-in-Waiting: Mary Wotton, Lady Carew

Mary (née Wotton), Lady Guildford

Mary (née Wotton), Lady Guildford by Hans Holbein

Mary Wotton (1499-17 September 1558) was the daughter of Sir Robert Wotton of Boughton Malherbe, Kent (1465-1524) and the heiress, Anne Belknap. By her sister, Mary was the great-aunt of Lady Jane Grey.

The Wotton family were merchants from London. The Wottons seemed to have suffered as a result of the War of the Roses, but seemed to survive and come out on top afterwards like the Howards, Carews, etc. At one time, Sir Robert was Controller of the Royal Household. He also received the Order of the Garter. Mary’s brother, Nicholas, was a diplomat and Ambassador to France to Queen Mary. Her nephew, Sir Henry, was also a diplomat and a poet. Her sister became Marchioness of Dorset and eventually Duchess of Suffolk.[4]

Wotton may have been the Mistress Wotton who was a chamberer to Mary Tudor, queen of France, in 1513.

She married first, as his second wife, Sir Henry Guildford (1489-1532) and was his executrix. Guildford was long associated with Sir Nicholas Carew so that may explain how the eventually widowed Lady Guildford married secondly to a Carew.

Mary, as Lady Guildford is listed as being one of the ladies who performed in a masque at the elaborate banquet that took place after the signing of the Treaty of Universal Peace with the French Ambassadors. The entertainment was lead by the King himself and his sister, the French Queen. At that time, Mary, Lady Guildford, was listed as part of the household of Queen Katherine of Aragon. Other ladies listed are Lady Carew, Elizabeth (Bessie) Blount, and Lady St. Leger. Wotton appeared quite frequently at court and probably lived there.[1]

According to Susan James, Lady Carew (previously Lady Guildford) was a veteran at court who had known Katherine’s mother, Lady Maud Parr.[2] The family connections were strong as the Parrs were already connected to the Guildford family. Lord Guildford was the son of Joan Vaux, sister of Sir Nicholas Vaux. After the death of Lord Parr in 1483, the widowed Elizabeth, Lady Parr, remarried to Sir Nicholas Vaux. Vaux became stepfather to the future Queen Katherine’s father, Sir Thomas. As for the Carews, Sir Thomas and Maud were friends with them while they were at court during the reign of Queen Katherine of Aragon. Several of the Carew family members would be placed within the household of Queen Katherine Parr including Wymond Carew who became the Queen’s treasurer.[2]

Apparently, along with her mother-in-law, Lady Jane Guildford, and her sister, the Marchioness of Dorset, she was one of the most prominent women at court in the 1530s.[1]

After Guildford died, she continually wrote to King Henry to receive some sort of help, referring to herself as a “poor widow”. She received a release from all her obligations to the king on March 25, 1533 but was still deeply in debt in 1535 when she wrote to Lord Cromwell on the subject.[1]

Her second husband, married in July 1540, was Sir Gawin Carew of Exeter and Wood, Devon (c.1503-1583). Mary was the second of his three wives. Gawin was the fourth and youngest son of Sir Edmund Carew. He was a Protestant and was devoted to the cause. When Anne of Cleves arrived, he was tasked with receiving her. We find that Sir Gawin was a Navy man and was in command of the ship Matthew Gonson during 1545. The ship was 500 tons and contained 300 men.[4]

As Lady Carew, she lived at Wood Barton, but was obviously frequently at court as she went on to attend Queen Katherine Parr and was part of her inner circle. Perhaps Mary was even given apartments again.

The appearance of Mary is not described anywhere, but from the complaints of King Henry we can tell that Queen Katherine’s ladies were not much to look at. Perhaps their daily clothing did not help enhance their beauty; if they were beautiful. It was probably to the Queen’s credit that she kept her ladies in subdued colors and didn’t flaunt them like other consorts did. Queen Katherine had seen what happened to Henry’s other wives and probably didn’t want a repeat of what happened before she became Queen.[2]

Along with Lady Herbert, Lady Lane, and Lady Tyrwhitt, Lady Carew was tasked with assisting the Queen on her first Maundy Thursday activities (1544), where the Queen performed her duty of washing the feet of poor women.[2]

When Katherine published her book, Psalms or Prayers, Mary and the inner circle of the Queen were included as recipients of the book.[3]

Lady Carew died on 17 September 1558. She is buried in the Church of Kentisbeare in the Whiting Chapel. Her effigy is not present, but can be seen on the monument of her husband, Sir Gawen Carew in the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene in Exeter Cathedral.[4]

For more on her tomb and memorial, see here (Memorials of the West).



  1. Barbara Harris. English Aristocratic Women, 1450-1550: Marriage and Family, Property and Careers. Google ebook.
  2. Susan James. Catherine Parr: Henry VIII’s Last Love.
  3. Mike Pincombe, Cathy Shrank. The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Literature: 1485-1603. Google eBook
  4. Report and Transactions of the Devonshire Association. Google eBook

Katherine Parr: Why the Queen is implicated with Seymour and His misconduct with the Lady Elizabeth

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.

Stewart Granger as Thomas Seymour and Jean Simmons as Lady Elizabeth in “Young Bess” (1953)

“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 demeanor.

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 behavior fits Seymour, but not Parr.


  • Susan James. Catherine Parr: Henry VIII’s Last Love. The History PressDec 26, 2010.
  • Linda Porter. Katherine the QueenThe Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr, the Last Wife of Henry VIII. St. Martin’s Press, Nov 23, 2010.
  • David Starkey. Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne. Harper CollinsSep 25, 2007.

Sudeley Castle History: Ralph Boteler, 1st Baron Sudeley

Boteler of Sudeley coat of arms.

Boteler of Sudeley coat of arms; bore gules, a fess countercompony argent and sablo between six crosses pattee or

Ralph Boteler, 1st Baron Sudeley and 7th Baron Sudeley KG (c. 1394 – 2 May 1473[1]) was an English baron and aristocrat. He was the Captain of Calais and Treasurer of England (from 7 July 1443).


Ralph Boteler was the youngest surviving son of Sir Thomas Boteler, de jure 4th Baron of Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire and Alice Beauchamp (d. 1443), daughter of Sir John Beauchamp of Powick, Worcestershire.[1]

His paternal grandparents were Sir William le Boteler, 2nd Baron Boteler and co-heiress Joan de Sudeley, daughter of John de Sudeley, 2nd Baron Sudeley.


Boteler was a military commander and member of the King’s Household under both Henry V and Henry VI. In 1418, Boteler was part of the retinue of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester (son of Henry IV) on the occasion of Henry V’s visit to Troyes.[6] He was present for the signing of the Treaty of Troyes which agreed that after the death of Charles VI of France, his heirs male would inherit the throne of France.[6] The treaty also required that Henry espouse the Princess Katherine of Valois, a younger daughter of Charles VI and sister to Isabella of Valois, the second queen to Richard II of England.[6] In 1420-21, Boteler was awarded grants of land in France most likely for his service to the King. After the signing of the treaty, Boteler was part of the attack against the Dauphin of France to keep him from trying to reclaim his right to the succession.

Dugdale quotes, “he was retained by indenture to serve the King in his wars of France with twenty men-at-arms and sixty archers on horseback.” (Dent)

Again, “In the beginning of the following reign, he had liscence to travel beyond the sea; was again in the wars of France and of the retinue of John, Duke of Bedford (brother of Henry V).” (Dent)

The Duke of Bedford was named Protector of the Realm and carried on the wars of France. Dent states that after the fall of Joan of Arc, Boteler rejoined Bedford at Rouen and was present for her burning at the stake.

He was made a Knight of the Garter in 1420.[4] He was captain of Arques and Crotoy in 1423 and took muster in Calais in 1425.[3] In 1441, Boteler became Lord Chamberlain of the King’s household.[6] The following year, Boteler was made Treasurer of the King’s Exchequer.[6] He was then sent as an ambassador with Richard, Duke of York, to negotiate a treaty with France. He served as Lord High Treasurer of England from 1443 to 1446. In 1447, he was associated with John, Viscount Beaumont in the Governorship of the “Isle of Jersey, Garnesey, Serke, and Erme” with the priories-alien and all their possessions in those islands; to hold during the minority of Anne, daughter and heiress of Henry Beauchamp, 1st Duke of Warwick (husband to Lady Cecily Neville, sister to Lady Alice, great-grandmother of Queen Katherine Parr).[6] The employment was short as the young heiress died in 1449. Boteler then joined commission with James Butler, Earl of Wiltshire, in the Governorship of the town, marches, and castle of Calais.

In 1458, Boteler was acknowledged for his great service done to King Henry V and Henry VI in France and Normandy. Upon the fall of Henry VI, things drastically turned. Boteler excused himself from Parliament due to his age. He then devoted himself to the re-construction of Sudeley Castle.

View of the back of Sudley Castle in Gloucestershire showing the landscape it overlooks. Sudley is one of the grandest late medieval houses in Gloucestershire. Many of the buildings are ruined but the long medieval hall appears habitable. The Castle Chapel is striking, very much in the Gothic Perpendicular style with heavily pinnacled roof. It has a Royal connection, as Katherine Parr, the last Queen of Henry VIII died here in 1548 and was buried in this Chapel. The large rear window of the chapel is obscured by foliage, which suggests that the Chapel was at this date in a bad state of repair. Between 1554 and 1813, it was held by the Chandos family, although it was damaged during the Civil War, which made it largely inhabitable.

View of the back of Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire showing the landscape it overlooks. Sudeley is one of the grandest late medieval houses in Gloucestershire. Many of the buildings are ruined but the long medieval hall appears habitable. The Castle Chapel is striking, very much in the Gothic Perpendicular style with heavily pinnacled roof. It has a Royal connection, as Katherine Parr, the last Queen of Henry VIII died here in 1548 and was buried in this Chapel. The large rear window of the chapel is obscured by foliage, which suggests that the Chapel was at this date in a bad state of repair. Between 1554 and 1813, it was held by the Chandos family, although it was damaged during the Civil War, which made it largely inhabitable.

The original Castle was built during King Stephen’s reign. His His capture of several French ships added to his wealth which he spent on restoring the Castle. Tradition says that the Portmare Tower was where Boteler held a French Admiral who he had taken prisoner. Boteler received ransom from the King adding more to his considerable wealth.[6]

Boteler was a huge benefactor to the churches. He erected St. Mary’s Chapel and aided the parishioners of Winchcombe to restore their Parish Church.[6]

The Dungeon Tower of Sudeley Castle.

The Dungeon Tower of Sudeley Castle.

In May 1455, Boteler took up arms again for the King at the first Battle of St. Alban’s. The First Battle of St Albans, fought on 22 May 1455 at St Albans, 22 miles (35 km) north of London, traditionally marks the beginning of the Wars of the Roses. Richard, Duke of York (husband to Lady Cecily Neville and father to Edward IV and Richard III) and his ally, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (Warwick, the Kingmaker, uncle to Elizabeth Parr, grandmother of Queen Katherine), defeated the Lancastrians under Edmund, Duke of Somerset, who was killed. York captured Henry VI.[6]

When Edward IV took the throne, things turned for the bad for Boteler. Boteler was forced to give up Sudeley Castle — Edward was depriving the Lancastrians of their lands, etc. leaving some of them in poverty while the Yorks’ flourished with the new grants that had been transferred from the Lancastrians to them. Records show Boteler reluctantly handing over the Castle. It states that he confirmed the Castle over to Richard, Earl of Rivers; William, Earl of Pembroke; Antony Wydville; Lord Scales; William Hastings; Lord Hastings; Thomas Bonyfaunt, Dean of the Chapel Royal; Thomas Vaughan; and Richard Fowler.[6] With this went the inheritance of his heirs as well.

When the Lancastrian party rose again in 1470, there was hope that Sudeley would be restored to Boteler, but the House of York refused. The Castle was handed over to the Earl of Rivers and the others named above, but it was not meant to stay with them. Instead, Edward IV granted the Castle to his brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later King Richard III).[6] It would remain Crown property until a grant to Thomas, Lord Seymour, the husband of Queen Katherine Parr, widow of King Henry VIII, in 1547 by his nephew King Edward VI (son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, wife 3). Shortly after Sudeley was taken from Lord Seymour, the Castle would temporarily pass to the late Queen’s brother, Marquess of Northampton (Sir William Parr) until the accession of Queen Mary I.

Lord Sudeley

Tree of the Lords of Sudeley from "Annals of Winchcombe and Sudeley" by Emma Dent, Lady Sudeley, 1877.

Tree of the Lords of Sudeley from “Annals of Winchcombe and Sudeley” by Emma Dent, Lady Sudeley, 1877.

The Boteler’s elevation to the aristocracy arose from the second marriage of Ralph’s grandfather, William le Botiler of Wem, de jure 2nd Baron Boteler, to the co-heiress of John de Sudeley, de jure 2nd Baron Sudeley, Joan de Sudeley.[1] In 1367, Thomas Boteler became co-heir to his uncle, John de Sudeley, de jure 3rd Baron Sudeley.[1] This eventually led to his father succeeding to the title of Lord of Sudeley. The title passed to both of Ralph’s elder brothers, John (5th Baron Sudeley) who died unmarried and childless in 1410 and William (6th Baron Sudeley), who despite being married, also died childless seven years later. William’s widow, Alice, was appointed governess of Henry VI in 1424.[2] On 10 September 1441, Ralph Boteler was created by a new writ and letters patent, Baron of Sudeley by King Henry VI.[1] With the title he was granted an annuity of 100 marks to himself and his heirs for the better support of his dignity, to be received out of the farm of the county of Lincoln.[6]

Ralph inherited Sudeley Castle from his mother; he started rebuilding in 1442.[4][6] Unfortunately he failed to gain royal permission to crenellate it and had to seek Henry VI’s pardon.[5] Boteler was a supporter of the House of Lancaster during the War of the Roses. In 1469, Boteler was forced to sell Sudeley to King Edward IV due to his support for the Lancastrian cause. Sudeley became Royal property.

Marriage and Family

Lord Sudeley married twice. Before 6 July 1419, he married commercial wealth, in the person of Elizabeth Norbury, widow of John Hende (d. 1418), late Mayor of London, and daughter of John Norbury.[1] They had two sons, Ralph and Thomas, Knt.[1] She died 28 August 1462, and in the following year he married Alice (d. 1474), daughter of John, Baron Deyncourt, and widow of William, Baron Lovel of Titchmarsh, Northamptonshire, who survived him.[1] They had no issue.[1]

Sudeley’s only surviving son from his first marriage, Thomas, predeceased him, also without a male heir.[1] Thomas’ widow Eleanor was the Lady Eleanor Boteler[7] (known as the Holy Harlot) whose alleged pre-contract of marriage to Edward IV of England was claimed to have invalidated Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, and so legitimized the usurpation of Richard III of England. Lady Eleanor describes herself as “lately the wife of Thomas Boteler, knight, now deceased.”[7]


  1. Douglas Richardson. Plantagenet Ancestry: A Study In Colonial And Medieval Families, 2nd Edition, 2011. pg 230-32.
  2. John Ashdown-Hill, “Eleanor The Secret Queen“, The History Press, 2009, pg 50 ISBN 978-0-7524-5669-0
  3. John Ashdown-Hill, “Eleanor The Secret Queen“, The History Press, 2009. pg 52 ISBN 978-0-7524-5669-0
  4. Sudeley Castle Online: History Timeline URL:
  5. John Ashdown-Hill, “Eleanor The Secret Queen“, The History Press, 2009. pg 51 ISBN 978-0-7524-5669-0
  6. Emma Dent. ”Annals of Winchcombe and Sudeley,” J. Murray, 1877.
  7. John Ashdown-Hill, “Eleanor The Secret Queen”, The History Press, 2009. pg 140

Medieval “Spelling”: Butler vs. Boteler

Boteler vs. Butler

If the article on Wikipedia for the Lady Eleanor Talbot, daughter (in-law) of her father (father-in-law) shows that his “surname” is “Boteler” — why is this not used in this article? The Butler family and the Boteler family were completely different; it’s a HUGE difference. The Boteler’s are quoted as such in plenty of sources including the official site for Sudeley Castle; Lord Boteler of Sudeley to be specific. What sources are being used to confirm that Butler should be used in this article? The Oxford DNB article for her father states Boteler, Ralph, first Baron Sudeley (c.1394–1473). The Annals of Winchcombe and Sudeley by Emma Dent (Lady of Sudeley), which is kept at Sudeley Castle, also states Boteler. — User X

“The Butler family and the Boteler family were completely different; it’s a HUGE difference”. I’m sorry, but that’s utter nonsense. There was no such thing as “correct” spelling at this time in history (see for example Spelling of Shakespeare’s name). Boteler and Butler are the same name (in the Titulus Regius her name is spelled “Elianor Butteler”). Such names only become differentiated when a standard spelling gets established, but that’s not until centuries after this period. Most sources referring to her spell the name “Butler”, so per WP:NAME that’s what we should use. The quotation at the end from Michael Hicks’s, English Political Culture in the Fifteenth Century uses the spelling as he publishes it.
In the 19th Century it was common for posh families to adopt a more unusual spelling to differentiate them from the common herd. A famous case is the Wellesley family, who were previously called “Wesley”, a name associated with lower-class nonconformism. It would not surprise me one bit if the Butlers decided they were really Botelers to avoid the horrifying suggestion that they descended from servants! I agree that this sometimes produces odd anomalies – if one family member is typically spelled one way while their brother or father is spelled differently, it can cause confusion. I had a similar difficulty deciding on the spelling for the recently created Lewes Lewknor article. See the Talk:Lewes Lewknor page. — user Y

Update – using the online academic research library Questia I found a total of one reference to her as “Eleanor Boteler” in the whole library. There were numerous references to “Eleanor Butler”. Some were to different women with the same name. Using combinations with “Edward” I found eight clearly referring to her. There may be more in which the name Edward does not appear on the same page. — user Y

This is a bit of a digression, but I knew someone surnamed “Butler” whose family name had been changed from “Le Boteler” by his father and was changed back by his brother! — user Z

Ah yes, slipping in a “le” helps to give it that Norman-knight quality. Of course the Brontë family were the masters of name gentrification, managing to mutate their moniker from Irish to English and then up again from Brunty to Brontë with that hard-to-place diacritic creating an air of vaguely continental but undeniable gentility. User Y
BTW, even your own source, The Annals of Winchcombe and Sudeley by Emma Dent, spells it Butler! See p.128. User Y
I already looked at that book — Emma Dent uses “Butler” for Ralph Boteler, 1st Lord? No she doesn’t. The name is CLEARLY spelled Boteler. A recorded close role from Edward IV’s reign in that book clearly states that the family name is Boteler on pg 124. The Boteler’s and Butler’s don’t even have the same ancestry. At the point of 1270 — the ancestor of the Butler’s of Ormonde was Sir Edmund of Carrick Butler. The Boteler’s ancestor at that time was Sir William Boteler, 1st Lord Boteler. Their coat of arms are also completely different. That can be seen on Sudeley Castle’s own timeline. Actually on page 128, if you actually read it, it states Lady Eleanor Butler, the widowed daughter-in-law of James Butler, Earl of Wiltshire — the Boteler’s didn’t hold that title and if we are talking about the same Eleanor Talbot, her father-in-law was not James Butler; it was Ralph, Lord Sudeley! As for Sudeley’s page — It was a pre-contract of marriage between Edward IV and Boteler’s widowed daughter-in-law Lady Eleanor Boteler (formally Lady Eleanor Talbot) which Richard III relied on to declare Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville bigamous and their children illegitimate leading to the imprisonment and disposal of the Princes in the Tower. There are a lot of sources, and one from that time period, that states Boteler.

And to end the debate — “John Ashdown-Hill’s book about Lady Eleanor doesn’t mention any connection between the families (at least from what I can tell from looking at the index). I think it’s fine to use the “Boteler” spelling–that’s how Eleanor spells it in a deed that A-H quotes….She describes herself as “lately the wife of Thomas Boteler, knight, now deceased.” It’s on p. 140 of his book “Eleanor, the Secret Queen,” if you need a reference.” (Thanks to author Susan Higginbottom) It’s quite interesting to note that someone has ALREADY used the book as a source for a few citations! I’m guessing USER Y doesn’t have the book. Huh!

Specials thanks to Susan Higginbotham for the reference to John Ashdown-Hill’s book and quote.

Queen Katherine Parr: The Pregnancy and Birth of Lady Mary Seymour

From Sex and Sleaze: Time Traveller’s guide to Tudor England:

Childbirth is an exclusively female affair, with only female midwives in attendance and no doctors. After childbirth, babies are rapidly baptised because of high infant mortality, usually in the absence of their mothers. New mothers are not allowed in church until about 30 days after the birth, and then must be ‘churched’, or ritually purified.

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.[1] 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.

In June Katherine wrote to her husband from Hanworth:

“I gave your little knave your blessing, who like and honest man stirred apace after and before. For Mary Odell being abed with me had laid her hand upon my belly to feel it stir. It hath stirred these three days every morning and evening so that I trust when ye come it will make you some pastime.”[2]

The Dowager Queen’s letter from Hanworth which is preserved at Sudeley Castle © Meg McGath, 2012.

Seymour, who was also aware of the perils of childbirth — from his own sister’s account — replied from Westminster:

“I do desire your highness to keep the little knave so lean and gaunt with your good diet and walking, that he may be so small that he may creep out of a mousehole. I hear my little man doth shake his poll [head], [and] trusting God should give him life to live as long as his father, he will revenge such wrongs as neither you nor I can.”[3]

The last part of the message obviously had to do with Seymour’s friction with his elder brother which at this time was on the verge of paranoia.

The Ruins of the 15th Century State Apartments, where Katherine would have spent her last few months © Meg McGath, 2012.

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.[4] With beautiful gardens and walks, the castle would have been a perfect place for Katherine to spend the last three months of her pregnancy.

The Nursery at Sudeley Castle

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.

The queen wrote to her husband who had been called away on duty describing the baby as very active.

“I gave your little knave your blessing, who like an honest man stirred apace after and before. For Mary Odell being abed with me had laid her hand upon my belly to fell it stir. It hath stirred these three days every morning and evening so that I trust when you come it will make you some pastime…”

It was during this time that the queen dowager reconciled with Lady Mary who wrote to her stepmother on 9 August:

“I trust to hear good success of your Grace’s great belly; and in the meantime shall desire much to hear of your health, which I pray almighty God to continue and increase to his pleasure as much as your own heart can desire.”[6]

The Lady Elizabeth, who was now living away from her step-mother also wrote, too, answering a letter of Katherine’s in which the queen described the beauties of Sudeley and wished the princess with her once more:

“Although your Highness’ letters be most joyful to me in absence, yet considering what pain it is to you to write, your Grace being so great with child, and so sickly, your commendation were enough in my Lord’s letter. I much rejoice at your health with the well liking of the country. Your Highness were like to be cumbered, if I should not depart, till I were weary being with you; also it were in the worst soil in the world your presence would make it pleasant… God send you a most lucky deliverance.”[7]

One could reflect on this letter — seeing Lady Elizabeth’s concern when it came to childbirth. Perhaps this weariness and the eventual death of her beloved step-mother would confirm that she would never consider having children.

Queen Katherine looks from the window in her nursery which overlooks the gardens and Chapel.

Queen Katherine looks from the window in her nursery which overlooks the gardens and Chapel.

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.”[5]

Besides the baby’s cradle was a bed with a scarlet tester and crimson curtains and a separate bed for the nurse.

The Queen's Garden where Katherine would have walked.

The Queen’s Garden where Katherine would have walked.

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.

The nursery as it is today; the woman portrayed here is Queen Katherine's sister, Lady Anne Herbert [later Countess of Pembroke] who was Katherine's groom.

The nursery as it is today; the woman portrayed here is Queen Katherine’s sister, Lady Anne Herbert [later Countess of Pembroke] who was Katherine’s groom.

On Thursday, 30 August, [coincidentally in 2012, the celebration of Queen Katherine’s 500th anniversary of her birth, the 30th of August ALSO fell on a Thursday, on the eve of a blue moon] Katherine brought to bed a healthy baby girl who was named Lady Mary in honour of her step-sister, the Lady Mary Tudor. Disappointed briefly that the son and avenger he had hoped for had turned out to be a girl, Seymour rallied quickly and announced his daughter’s birth to the lord protector in ‘glowing terms’ and with a detailed description of her beauty. Somerset, the father of 12, was amused by his brother’s enthusiasm for fatherhood. But Seymour’s joy in his child’s birth was followed by fear at his wife’s worsening condition.

This portrait of a baby/small child hangs in the Nursery at Sudeley Castle. No identification on who it is.

This portrait of a baby/small child hangs in the Nursery at Sudeley Castle. No identification.



  • 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.

Written and researched by Meg McGath, 29 August 2012

Belinda Durrant Exhibit at Sudeley Castle: Where’s Mary?

Belinda Durrant has three new works on display at Sudeley Castle as part of their exhibition celebrating the quincentenary of the birth of Katherine Parr. She was gracious enough to share them with us and to even write what inspired her to make these works. 

Sudeley Exhibit by Belinda Durrant ©

“It [the exhibit] was made as a direct response to visiting the castle. I am no history scholar…just couldn’t understand why there was so little info about the poor little child at the Castle and decided I was going to find out myself….and promptly discovered that there was nothing much more to find, which just made it all worse, somehow.

Katherine Parr was the 6th wife of Henry VIII. After his death in 1547 she married Thomas Seymour and moved to his country residence, Sudeley Castle in 1548 where she gave birth to a daughter, Mary on August 30th of that year. She died from puerperal (childbed) fever just seven days later and is buried in St Mary’s Church within the castle grounds. The site of baby clothing often provokes unexplained sentimental reactions, particularly from women. Freud tells us that this is fetish. Such clothing reminds us of the child itself and is embraced as a substitute for the ‘lost’ child. Freud means ‘lost’ in terms of the fleeting period of babyhood, but in this case, Lady Mary Seymour was apparently quite literally ‘lost’.

We are told that Mary became an orphan at just a few months old when her father was executed for treason and that she was sent to live with Katherine Willoughby, the Duchess of Suffolk. I have been able to find out very little else. It seems all record of her disappears after August 29 1550, the eve of her second birthday.

The three works I have displayed in the Castle exhibition centre, ‘Where is Mary? Bonnet, Mittens, Bib’ were made as a direct response to a visit I made to the castle in July 2011. The work is not about embroidery and stitch.

It is about the ACTS of embroidering and stitching; the almost ritualistic time, care and love which goes into the making of those very special first clothes which celebrate the arrival of a new child.

Bonnet which reads “Where is Mary” by Belinda Durrant, picture by Sudeley Castle.
 © 13 April 2012