Queen Katherine Parr: Pregnant, At Last!


Katherine Parr (Deborah Kerr) and Lord Seymour (Stewart Granger) in “Young Bess” (1953); A Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Picture.

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.

Katherine Parr (Deborah Kerr), Lord Seymour (Stewart Granger), and Lady Elizabeth (Jean Simmons) in “Young Bess” (1953).

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.

Compiled digital art featuring Hampton Court’s Katherine Parr over looking the gardens and Chapel on the grounds at Sudeley Castle. © 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.[2] With beautiful gardens and walks, the castle would have been a perfect place for Katherine to spend the last three months of her pregnancy.

One of several plaques on the wall in the exhibit for Katherine Parr at Sudeley. © Meg McGath, 2012.

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 nursery at Sudeley Castle.

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.”[3]

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 Gardens at Sudeley Castle; Katherine Parr would spend her final days walking with Lady Jane Grey in these gardens. © Meg McGath, 2012.

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.

  1. Linda Porter. ‘Katherine, the queen,’ Macmillan, 2012.
  2. Susan James. ‘Catherine Parr: Henry VIII’s Last Love,’ The History Press, Gloucestershire, 2008, 2009 [US Edition].
  3. Janel Mueller. ‘Katherine Parr: Complete Works and Correspondences,’ University of Chicago Press, Jun 30, 2011.
  4. 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



30 December 1460: The Debt is Paid

On the 30th of December 1460, Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York and his forces were caught by surprise by the Queen’s forces at Sandal Castle near Wakefield where they had been stationed for over two weeks. Richard knew the battle was lost and that he would likely die so he sent his son (Edmund, Earl of […]


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 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.  

Dispelling myths: The Truth Behind Edward IV & Cecily Neville

From the blog of Carolina Casas.

tudors & other histories

Cecily and Edward IV Edward IV “the Rose of Rouen” and his mother “Proud Cis” Cecily Neville, Duchess Dowager of York.

Today historians still debate Edward IV’s parentage but a poem done in his honor, shortly after he was sworn in as King, leaves it very clear he was Richard, Duke of York’s son:

“Y is for York that is manly and mighty
That be grace of God and great revelation
Reining with rules reasonable and right-full
That which for our sakes hath suffered vexation.

E is for Edward whose fame the earth shall spread
Because of his wisdom named prudence
shall save all England by his manly deeds
Wherefore we owe to do him reverence

M is for March, through every trial
Drawn by discretion that worthy and wise is
conceived in wedlock and coming of blood royal
Joining unto virtue, excluding all vices.”

There was a scene in the White Queen, both…

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Family of Queen Katherine: The Duchess, Cecily of York

Written by Carolina Casas and Meg McGath

Different depictions of Lady Cecily, Duchess of York. Drawing on the left by Lisa Graves.
Lady Cecily (born Neville), Duchess of York, aka “Queen by Right” was one of the leading women of the War of the Roses. Mother of Kings; she was mother to Edward IV and Richard III of the House of York. She was the youngest daughter of Sir Ralph, Earl of Westmorland and his second wife, Lady Joan Beaufort. Joan was part of the illegitimate children of Prince John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster (son of King Edward III) and his mistress, later wife, Katherine (née Röet). Katherine had been a lady-in-waiting to the Duke’s mother, Queen Philippa. Their romance started during Lancaster’s second marriage to Constanza of Castile. After Constanza’s death, Katherine and Lancaster were married. A bill in Parliament was passed to legitimise their children. However, they were barred from the Royal Succession.

The Houses of Lancaster & York descended from the sons of Edward III of England
Lady Cecily married to Richard of York (Plantagenet) when she was just a teenager. This was normal for the time. The legal age for girls to marry was twelve and for boys it was fourteen. Richard was only a few years older. He was the son of Lord Richard, Earl of Cambridge and Lady Anne de Mortimer. Both of his parents had claims to the throne as descendants of King Edward III. Lord Richard was a grandson of Prince Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York (fourth surviving son of King Edward) while Lady Anne was a granddaughter of Philippa of Clarence; daughter of Prince Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence (the second surviving son of King Edward).


When Richard and his son were killed at the battle of Wakefield in December of 1460, Cecily was forced to send her two youngest sons to Burgundy. At the time, Cecily’s cousin Isabel (of Portugal), was Duchess of Burgundy as the wife to Philip “the good”. The boys didn’t return until after their brother had successfully deposed Henry VI and made himself King.

Cecily, the widowed Duchess of York by Geoffrey Wheeler
Before Edward IV married Elizabeth, Cecily was one of the most influential women in the land. In the White Queen she is depicted as proud and an elitist, with many fans taking on the side of poor, poor, Jaquetta and her eldest daughter when they had to defend themselves against mean ol’ Cecily telling them she doesn’t approve of the marriage and will do anything to disinherit him, just to see the Woodvilles finished.

Portrayal in “The White Queen

It is fashionable to see girl vs girl on screen, especially when it is royals. After all, in the realm of fiction it should be a woman’s show, right?

“The Scene” — Jacquetta vs Cecily; a true cat-fight invented by Philippa Gregory, solely for modern viewers entertainment. “The White Queen“, Episode 1.
Except that this woman is based on a real person and contrary to popular belief, she wasn’t out to destroy the Woodvilles. Her son’s marriage really set things back for his dynasty (and the House of York). As far as Cecily knew, if one king could easily be deposed and coerced, another one could be too. And the Woodvilles weren’t royal so they brought no alliance, nothing to the table.

Elizabeth’s father was a mere knight when he married her mother. She lost her right to call herself Duchess of Bedford after their union. After he became Baron, she became Baroness, and the two were staunch Lancastrians. Elizabeth’s first husband, Lord Grey (a knight), had died fighting the Yorks after all. Cecily’s own husband, son, and brother died fighting for York. They were beheaded and paraded before the people. There must have been some animosity there on the part of the Yorks. Cecily would be denied her life long goal of becoming Queen of England only a few weeks before the wars ended.

Although the Rivers had been pardoned as early as 1461, after Edward IV became King, it didn’t change the fact that they had fought for the other side and after having lost so many family members, it was only natural Cecily was fearful of their union.

Elizabeth Woodville, proved to be everything that was expected out of a royal consort; but that didn’t make matters better for the nobles who saw this as a betrayal. They had risked their sons and fortunes to make Edward King, and when he turned their backs on them, choosing a Lancastrian widow over Warwick’s proposed betrothal with Bona of France, it was pretty much an all out war then.

Portrayal of Duchess Cecily (portrayed by Caroline Goodall) and her son George, Duke of Clarence (the Fictional depiction of “The White Queen” by Historical Fiction writer, Philippa Gregory).
No one is sure what Cecily’s role was during this time. If she instigated her next son and nephew to rebel against Edward is not recorded. However, why would she risk the shame of being labeled an adulterer? When the rumor of Edward not being the son of Richard, but of a Welsh archer named Blaybourne spread throughout the country, Cecily spoke against it. The rumour tactic was sparked after Edward married Elizabeth. As many know, it was not a good match. The royal family did not benefit. The match would bring Elizabeth’s large family to court. The Rivers wanted to make sure that they had a strong hold at court by marrying their children to the highest nobles. Some of the marriages were forced upon the nobles who had an impressive pedigree which would now be “tainted” by the common Woodvilles.

In the only biography of Cecily Neville, Amy Licence lists many possibilities, one of them being that Cecily probably didn’t agree with what George and Warwick were about to do but as a mother, gave her son his blessing before he went to Calais.

Another is that “she traveled to Sandwich in an attempt to talk George out of going through with the potentially dangerous union.” By this she meant the union between George and Warwick’s eldest daughter, Isabel. Warwick was a nephew of Cecily so the affinity was one that would have required a proper papal dispensation.

Quote from “The White Queen”, a historical fiction novel and series by Philippa Gregory.
Following their disastrous attempt to overthrow Edward IV, the King reconciled with Warwick and George. We can only imagine what Elizabeth must have felt. After all, the Duke of Clarenece and Warwick had killed her father and younger brother before they imprisoned her husband. But she was forced to accept Edward’s reconciliation with them, having little to no agency.

Cecily in the meanwhile invited her sons the following year to Baynard’s Castle. “She may have had apologies” Licence theorizes, about the previous events. If she had attempted to dissuade George from turning against his brother, she might have felt she could have done more and this was her way of bringing her two sons together.

“For a woman of her status and pride, it seems unlikely that she would wish to see her sons in direct combat, as she knew all too well the personal, political and material losses she may suffer as a result.”

But if this was the case, it came to nothing. George and Warwick were back at their old schemes, only this time they didn’t only fail (again) but were forced to leave England and Warwick had to make another ally -one he probably swore never to make; an alliance with Margaret of Anjou, the Lancastrian queen.

Margaret of Anjou and the Duchess of York

Much has been said about the friendship between Jacquetta and Margaret of Anjou, but there is almost no mention of the friendship between her and Cecily.

At the time that Margaret was in the first stages of prregnancy, the two women travelled the countryside together. And it is very possible that the two visited Norfolk shrine to give thanks. That same year, the two women wrote to each other, once again expressing gratitude towards the holy mother.

Cecily had been previously placed under house arrest with her sister Anne, the Duchess of Buckingham following her husband and son’s exile. Her sister had sided with the Lancastrians out of loyalty to her husband (the Duke of Buckingham). It was also at this time that Cecily saw many of Henry and Margaret’s army rob her of her valuables. Hearnes’ Fragment, a chronicle written by a servant of Edward IV, recorded that the Lancastrian troops “burnt and pillaged the town; and the Duchess of York residing there, had her wardrobe rifled and her furniture spoiled.”

To make matters worse, Cecily had her three youngest children with her, and as many mother in her position would, she did everything she could to protect them. So she left the castle and bravely met with her old friend, the Queen, pleading with her. The Queen was merciful enough to let her stay with her sister, Duchess Anne.

After her husband’s return, he sent for Cecily. The two entered London triumphantly. Cecily was dressed for the occasion in a beautiful blue gown. It was at this time that Richard made his bid for the throne but the people were not ready for a Yorkist monarch, especially when their present King (although having proved himself incapable of ruling) was still alive. So Richard had to settle for an accord which stated that following the King’s death, he and his heirs would inherit the throne.

It is by this act alone that Cecily had ever right to call herself “Queen by Rights”. She was after all, one step away from being the first Consort of the House of York.

“It was at this time” Licence writes, referring to the year after Elizabeth Woodville was given a lavish coronation, “that she started using the title of “My Lady the King’s Mother” and retreated into the royal apartments whenever she was at court. As for her later self-given title, this came during the 1470s, after Edward IV had regained his throne and rid himself of the Lancastrian threat.

Cecily became very religious during this time, and while she still kept up with the latest fashions, the Duchess followed a strict regime.

The Princes in the Tower

“What did Cecily believe had happened to her grandsons? Did she and Richard have a conversation about their futures?” (Licence)

When Richard, Duke of Gloucester, her younger son, made a bid for the English throne, she stayed silent. In the “White Queen”, she is not silent. Instead, the show portrays the fictional Cecily as whispering in Richard’s ear along with the other PG’s Lady Macbethesque character (Richard’s wife) Anne Neville. The two women try to convince Richard to rid himself of the Princes in the tower. They are after all Woodville puppets.

It is true that Richard was fearful for his safety. Like the Woodvilles, he wanted control over his royal nephew. And while some historians contest that Richard was never made Lord Protector and that is was just a lie to get power. Other historians argue that he was and that the Woodvilles were simply out to get him. The truth is that they were all scrambling for power over the new boy King and that they were all in danger.

This was the real life “Game of Thrones” and the Woodvilles became more influential following the Lancastrian Readeption. The appointment of Elizabeth’s brother, Anthony, Earl of Rivers, as the Prince of Wales’s governor was also a road block after the death of Edward. As the new King was escorted to London, Richard intercepted them. The boy haughtily replied that he would trust no one other than his uncle Anthony. As the day went on, the boy showed that he had a defiant attitude towards his paternal uncle, Richard. The trust that was built with his mother’s family started early on, and it was apparent that it would not be broken.

To suggest that Cecily would have coldly advocated their murder is taking a lot of artistic licence. Hollywood loves to play loose with history and this time, there was no exception when it came to “The White Queen”. While there is some basis for her disconent, it is unlikely that she would have condoned two of her grandchildren’s murder. We don’t know what her feelings were; we can only speculate. Historically, Richard did use one of Cecily’s residences as he plotted his rise to power. But, nobody knows for certain if she was present. There is no evidence either way. However, that didn’t stop the show from placing her in residence as one of the plotters.


Amidst betrayal, intrigue, and more death, Cecily left this world in May of 1495. This was a woman who had lived through the murders of her husband, son, and brother; the internal war of her sons Edward and George, which ended in George’s execution; her House’s rise and fall, and the vilification of the last King of the House of York, her son Richard. The House of Tudor defeated Richard in 1485 and Cecily was still alive when her granddaughter, Elizabeth of York (eldest daughter of Edward), become queen to the new King, Henry VII.

Cecily left several religious items to the church at Fotheringhay and other valuable items to her next of kin, including her great-grandson, Prince Arthur (Tudor) of Wales. She even left something for the current “My Lady the King’s Mother”, Margaret Beaufort, which was a service book covered with black cloth of gold with gold claps.

Tomb of Cecily and the Duke of York along with their son, Edmund.
Cecily was buried with her husband Richard and son Edmund in Fortheringhay. The current memorial is the work commissioned by her great-great-granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth I (Tudor).

‘Cecily Neville: Mother of Kings’ by Amy Licence
For more information on Cecily, check out “Cecily Neville: Mother of Kings” by Amy Licence and “Blood Sisters” by Sarah Gristwood which is about all the women in the wars of the roses, stretching to the Tudor period with Henry VIII’s ascension and joint coronation with his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.


The OTHER Elizabeth Cheney

Lately on Pinterest I have noticed that a certain portrait has become labeled as a member of Queens Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard’s family. The woman in the portrait is being credited as their grandmother (or whatever) “Lady Elizabeth Cheney Tilney”. The link used on each pin belongs to The Royal Collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and if clicked on — the title is clearly stated as being “Elizabeth Cheyne, Lady Vaux (1509-1556)”

Lately on Pinterest I have noticed that a certain portrait has become labeled as a member of Queens Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard’s family. The woman in the portrait is being credited as their grandmother (or whatever) “Lady Elizabeth Cheney Tilney“. The link used on each pin belongs to The Royal Collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and if clicked on — the title is clearly stated as being “Elizabeth Cheyne, Lady Vaux (1509-1556)“.[1]

The actual Lady Elizabeth Tilney was born in 1422 as a Cheney, the daughter of Lawrence and Elizabeth Cokayne. Elizabeth married firstly to Sir Frederick Tilney by whom she had a daughter named Elizabeth Tilney. By Lord Tilney, Elizabeth was in actuality the great-grandmother of Queens Anne Boleyn (wife no. 2) and Katherine Howard (wife no. 5). As the widowed Lady Tilney, Elizabeth made a second marriage to Sir John Saye. By that marriage she was also the great-grandmother of Queen Jane Seymour (wife no. 3). Lady Elizabeth Saye (born Cheney) died in 1473.

The only daughter of Sir Frederick Tilney and Lady Elizabeth (born Cheney), Elizabeth, married firstly to Sir Humphrey Bourchier by whom she had issue. After her first husband died, the widowed Lady Bourchier became the wife of Sir Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey (later Duke of Norfolk) on 30 April 1472. This couple was parents to Lady Elizabeth Howard (mother of Anne Boleyn) and Sir Edmund Howard (father of Katherine Howard)–the two doomed queens of King Henry VIII.

Will the Real Elizabeth Cheney Please Stand Up?

A copy of “Lady Vaux” originally by Hans Holbein c. 1536. This copy was done in 1938.

As for the REAL Elizabeth Cheyne (or Cheney)–she was born in 1509; around the time that Anne Boleyn may have been born. Elizabeth was the daughter of Sir Thomas Cheyne of Irthlingborough, an Esquire of the Body to Henry VIII, and Lady Anne (born Parr). Sir Thomas Cheyne (d.1514) was the son of Sir John Cheyne of Fen Ditton (c.1424-1489) and his wife Elizabeth Rempston (born c.1418)–see below for more info.[8] Lady Anne’s parents were Sir William Parr, Baron Parr of Kendal and Lady Elizabeth (born FitzHugh). By her parents, Lady Anne was a paternal aunt to Henry VIII’s last queen, Katherine Parr. In 1516, Elizabeth Cheyne became a ward of of her step-grandfather, Sir Nicholas (later 1st Baron Vaux of Harrowden). In 1523, she was married to Sir Thomas Vaux (later 2nd Baron Vaux of Harrowden); the heir of Lord Nicholas Vaux by his second wife.[1][2][3]

The Close Circle of Nobility

Step-grandfather you say?

Now this is where the history of the Vaux and Parr families become extremely confusing to some–Elizabeth Vaux and Katherine Parr’s grandmother, the widowed Lady Elizabeth Parr (born FitzHugh), married secondly to Sir Nicholas Vaux (later 1st Baron) as his first wife. This move was made as a measure to ensure loyalty to the new Tudor King, Henry VII. Lord Vaux’s mother, Katherine, had been a loyal supporter of the House of Lancaster and Queen Margaret of Anjou (wife of Henry VI). Elizabeth FitzHugh, herself, was loyal to the House of York. Her mother Lady Alice Neville was a daughter of Sir Richard, 5th Earl of Salisbury. As such, Elizabeth was a niece of Richard, Earl of Warwick “Warwick, the Kingmaker”. As close family members, Elizabeth and her mother were part of the coronation train of Queen Anne (born Neville) and attended her as ladies afterwards. Elizabeth and Nicholas had three daughters. One was the wife of Sir George Throckmorton, also named Katherine (née Vaux). After Elizabeth FitzHugh died, Lord Vaux married secondly to Anne (née Greene); the maternal aunt of Queen Katherine Parr. By Anne, Lord Nicholas had his heir–Thomas–who married Elizabeth Cheyne. Upon Thomas and Elizabeth’s marriage in 1523, Elizabeth was formally titled Lady Elizabeth Vaux or Lady Vaux. The family tree of Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard have no such lady with this title.[2][3]

As for Sir Thomas Cheyne–here is where some people may have confused the portrait. Cheyne was of the same lineage as Lady Elizabeth Tilney/Saye (born Cheney), daughter of Sir Lawrence (d.1461) and Elizabeth Cokayne. Thomas’s father, Sir John (d.1489), was Elizabeth Cheney’s brother. So there is a connection there, but the daughter of Sir Thomas was not an ancestress to the Boleyn or Howard family.[7][8]

About the Work of Art

‘Elizabeth Cheyne, Lady Vaux (1509-1556)’ c. 1536 by Hans Holbein. Windsor Castle. The Royal Collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2012–RL 12247.[1]
Above: the actual sketch from Windsor Castle’s collection of Holbein’s portraits. It is described as using Black and coloured chalks, white bodycolour, wash, pen and ink, brush and ink, and metalpoint on pale pink prepared paper; 28.1 x 21.5 cm[1]

The original sketch was acquired by Edward VI in 1547 after the death of his father, Henry VIII. Henry FitzAlan, 12th Earl of Arundel bequeathed the portrait to John, Lord Lumley in 1580. Lord Lumley probably bequeathed the portrait to Henry, Prince of Wales in 1609, and thus, it was inherited by Prince Charles (later Charles I) in 1612. Charles I exchanged the portrait with Philip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke (the grandson of Lady Vaux’s other cousin, Lady Anne Pembroke (sister of Queen Katherine Parr) around 1627/8. Charles II acquired the painting through Thomas Howard, 2nd Earl of Arundel in 1675. It has been in the Royal Collection ever since.[1]

This drawing of Lady Vaux with the companion image of her husband was probably made as a study for a painted portrait. Holbein’s painting of Lady Vaux is known only through copies. No painting of Lord Vaux survives.[1]

lady vaux
The Hampton Court painting of ‘Elizabeth, Lady Vaux’ c. 1600-30 (Twitter user Sir William Davenant)[5][6][9]
Henry VIII loved art and collected his fair share of portraits and drawings. There is a painting of ‘Lady Vaux’ at Hampton Court (above) which is said to have been painted by Holbein. It is one of three paintings recognized as genuine by the experts. However, others debate the authenticity and the painting at Hampton is labeled ‘After Holbein–Elizabeth, Lady Vaux‘. Elizabeth is depicted looking to the front, wearing a brown dress with ermine, with a jewel at her bosom decorated with the Madonna and Child enthroned. She holds a pink carnation in her right hand, and a cherry in her left. This is thought to be a competent copy after a lost original by Hans Holbein. The original was painted in 1535. This portrait hangs in the Haunted Gallery at Hampton. The authentic sketch of ‘Lady Vaux’ by Holbein (RCIN 912247) is at Windsor Castle.[1][4][5][6]

The only other copy of the painting of Lady Vaux is in Prague Castle Gallery of all places!

The portrait of ‘Lady Vaux’ hangs in the gallery at Prague Castle.

Authors Notes

So, if you see the portrait of Lady Vaux on Pinterest; the caption is incorrect. The fact that people refuse to or do not know how to change the caption is rather sad in my opinion. Elizabeth had no direct connection to the Boleyn or Howard families. Why do I feel like the painting was and still is being labeled incorrectly? My theory: most people do not know anything about Katherine Parr’s extended family; it seems so much easier to associate a lot of things to the Boleyn family for some fans. And when some are called on it, it can get pretty nasty. I’ve had some really nasty comments after leaving my own comment about the true identity of the sitter. For some Boleyn fans, the research, so they think, has already been done. The caption must be correct. No. But who am I? Some random pinner–or so they think.

I won’t deny that as a writer on Parr, this whole situation makes me extremely angry. I have been writing for years on this family and just trying to correct a simple image has become tiresome and pretty unpleasant. What really bothers me is the fact that putting the wrong label on a portrait deprives the memory of the real person. To me, somehow that person becomes erased.

Elizabeth, Lady Vaux died shortly after her husband on 20 November 1556. She was most likely a victim of the plague which killed her husband.[9]

More info:


  1. Holbein, Hans. “Royal Collection – Elizabeth, Lady Vaux,” circa 1536. RL 12247. Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II, 2015. URL: https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/egallery/object.asp?maker=12102&object=912247&row=82
  2. Douglas Richardson. “Plantagenet Ancestry,” Genealogical Publishing Com, 2004. pg 144, 561.
  3. Burke, Sir Bernard. “A Genealogical History of the Dormant: Abeyant, Forfeited, and Extinct Peerages of the British Empire,” New Edition. London: Harrison, 1866. pg 418.
  4. ‘Spelthorne Hundred: Hampton Court Palace, pictures’, in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 2, General; Ashford, East Bedfont With Hatton, Feltham, Hampton With Hampton Wick, Hanworth, Laleham, Littleton, ed. William Page (London, 1911), pp. 379-380 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol2/pp379-380 [accessed 13 February 2016].
  5. Sir William Davanant on Twitter: “I give thee Elizabeth Cheyne, Lady Vaux (1509-1556). After Hans Holbein. #HamptonCourt” [https://twitter.com/SirWilliamD/status/297996052068450304]
  6. Holbein, After Hans. “Royal Collection: Elizabeth Cheyne, Lady Vaux,” circa 1600-30. RCIN 402953. Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II, 2014. URL: https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/402953/elizabeth-cheyne-lady-vaux-1505-1556
  7. A F Wareham and A P M Wright, ‘Fen Ditton: Manors’, in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 10, Cheveley, Flendish, Staine and Staploe Hundreds (North-Eastern Cambridgeshire) (London, 2002), pp. 123-124 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/cambs/vol10/pp123-124 [accessed 11 February 2016].
  8. Richardson, Douglas. “Plantagenet Ancestry: A Study In Colonial And Medieval Families,” 2nd Edition, 2011. pg 526-7. Google eBook
  9. Johnson, Graham and Humphries, Lund. “Holbein and the Court of Henry VIII: The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace,” London and Bradford, The Gallery, 1978. pg 95-96.

©Meg McGath, 12 February 2016

This is the work and research of Meg McGath. You may not reproduce or copy this material without written permission.

The Men Who Took Power

“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.