Family of Queen Katherine: Elizabeth FitzHugh, Lady Parr and Vaux

Impaled arms of Parr and FitzHugh, Hampton Court Palace Pedigree window of Katherine Parr.

Impaled arms of Parr and FitzHugh, Hampton Court Palace Pedigree window of Katherine Parr.

Hon. Elizabeth FitzHugh Lady Parr of Kendal and Lady Vaux of Harrowden (1455/65 – 29 January 1508) was an English noblewoman and the co-heiress to her father, Hon. Sir Henry FitzHugh, 5th Baron FitzHugh of Ravensworth. Lady Parr is best known for being the grandmother of the sixth queen of Henry VIII, Katherine Parr and her siblings Lady Anne Herbert, Countess of Pembroke and William Parr, 1st Marquess of Northampton.

Ravensworth Castle, ancestral home to the Barons FitzHugh

Ravensworth Castle, ancestral home to the Barons FitzHugh

Elizabeth FitzHugh was born at her family’s ancestral home, Ravensworth Castle, in North Yorkshire, England. She was the daughter of Sir Henry FitzHugh, 5th Baron Fitzhugh of Ravensworth Castle. Her family was of the Northern gentry. Lady Parr’s mother was born Lady Alice Neville, daughter of Sir Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury and Lady Alice Montacute, suo jure 5th Countess of Salisbury, only daughter and heiress of Sir Thomas Montague, 4th Earl of Salisbury and Lady Eleanor Holland. Her paternal grandparents were Sir William FitzHugh, 4th Baron Fitzhugh of Ravensworth and Marjory Willoughby, daughter of Sir William Willoughby, 5th Baron Willoughby de Eresby and his first wife, Lucy Le Strange. Through her mother Lady FitzHugh, Lady Parr descended from Edward III by his son Prince John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster and Titular King of Castile. Lady FitzHugh was sister to Sir Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick (“Warwick, the Kingmaker”). Her paternal aunts included Lady Cecily, Duchess of York making her a cousin to King Edward IV, Richard III, and his siblings. Elizabeth had nine siblings[1], including Alice FitzHugh, Lady Fiennes and Henry, 6th Baron FitzHugh who married Elizabeth Burgh, daughter of Sir Thomas Burgh, 1st Baron Burgh of Gainsborough. Their son George, the 7th Lord FitzHugh, inherited the barony but after his death in 1513, the barony fell in abeyance between Lady Parr and her older sister Alice, Lady Fiennes. This abeyance continues today between the two families.[2]

The current co-heirs to the barony are:

  • Hon. Emily Douglas-Home, suo jure 29th Baroness Dacre (b. 1983)
  • Hon. Tessa Ogilvie Thompson née Brand (b. 1934)
  • Francis Brand, 7th Viscount Hampden (b. 1970)
  • William Herbert, 18th Earl of Pembroke (b. 1978), a descendant of Lady Anne [Parr], Countess of Pembroke

Lancaster_vs_York

Life

Elizabeth FitzHugh had an easy-going and pleasure-loving disposition. As Lady Parr, she joined the household of her cousin, the Duchess of Gloucester.[7] The Duchess of Gloucester was born Lady Anne Neville, the youngest daughter of Sir Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick (“Warwick, the Kingmaker”) and Lady Anne Beauchamp. Lady Parr was close to her cousin which showed in her positions under Anne as Duchess and Queen consort. Because of the family connections, Elizabeth’s mother, Lady FitzHugh pressured Lady Parr’s husband, Lord Parr, to follow the rule of the Duke of Gloucester (later King Richard III) while he was serving as Lord Protector of the Realm. When the Duchess became queen in 1483, Lady Parr was appointed by the Queen herself and served as lady-in-waiting. Lady Parr and her mother were both present at the coronation on 6 July 1483. Both were dressed in fine dresses made by cloth that the King himself had given them. Elizabeth received seven yards of gold and silk; her mother received material for two gowns, one of blue velvet and crimson satin as well as one of crimson and velvet with white damask. It is not known which gown Elizabeth wore as she rode behind Queen Anne; but she was one of the seven noble ladies given this honour. Her husband who had been deeply devoted to Edward IV declined his role in the coronation and headed north where he died shortly after.[8]

After her husband Sir William Parr died in 1483, Elizabeth, who was twenty three at the time, was left with four small children. As a widow, Elizabeth’s life revolved around the court. Elizabeth would be second in a four generation span of family that would serve England’s queens which started in 1483 with her mother, the redoubtable Alice Neville, Lady Fitzhugh. Her granddaughter, Anne Parr would continue the tradition by becoming lady-in-waiting to all six of Henry VIII’s wives. Even Anne’s sister, Catherine Parr, who would later become queen served in the household of the Lady Mary until she caught the eye of King Henry.[3]
Elizabeth was lucky enough to remarry. After the overthrow of Richard III and The House of York, Elizabeth made a dubious second marriage with a protege of Lady Margaret Beaufort, Sir Nicholas Vaux, the future 1st Baron Vaux of Harrowden, which saved the family fortunes.[3]

Marriages and Issue

FitzHugh was married twice. She married firstly, at the age of 12, Sir William Parr (d.1483), a man twenty eight years her senior. William was a Knight of the Garter, among other high positions at court, who was held high in favour with King Edward IV; who by marriage to Elizabeth became a cousin. He fought as a Yorkist on the side of the Neville’s at Banbury. The couple did not produce their first child until Elizabeth was sixteen years of age. Lord and Lady Parr had three sons and two daughters:
  1.  Anne Parr, Lady Cheney (AFT 1475–4 November 1513), who married Sir Thomas Cheney of Irthlingborough. Their daughter Elizabeth, would go on to marry the son of Nicholas Vaux, 1st Baron Vaux of Harrowden (Elizabeth FitzHugh’s second husband) by his second marriage to Anne Green; maternal aunt to Katherine Parr. When Elizabeth Cheney married Lord Vaux, she was age 18 and he was age 14. While there were no blood relations,  Lord Vaux’s father had issue by his marriage to his first wife (see below); thus making Hon. Katherine, Hon. Alice, and Hon. Anne Vaux her maternal aunts. Through these relations, Elizabeth Cheney and her husband, the 2nd Lord Vaux, would have Throckmorton cousins in common.[4]
    Elizabeth, Lady Vaux of Harrowden, wife to the 2nd Baron Vaux.

    Elizabeth Cheney (or Cheyne), Lady Vaux of Harrowden; daughter of Anne Parr and Sir Thomas Cheney.

    Elizabeth was originally drawn by Holbein c.1536. For more on the original drawing and copies of paintings, see: The OTHER Elizabeth Cheney

  2. Sir Thomas Parr, Lord of Kendal (AFT 1475–11 November 1517), who was the eldest son, was knighted and was sheriff of Northamptonshire in 1509; he was master of the wards and comptroller to Henry VIII. He was rich, owing to his succeeding, in 1512, to half the estates of his cousin, Lord FitzHugh, and also to his marriage with Maud Green, daughter and coheiress of Sir Thomas Green of Boughton and Greens Norton in Northamptonshire. He died on 12 November 1518, and was buried in Blackfriars Church, London. His widow died on 1 September 1532, and was buried beside him. Of their children, Katherine Parr, queen of Henry VIII, and William Parr (afterwards Marquess of Northampton), are separately noticed; while a daughter, Anne, married William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke of the tenth creation. The couple also had two other children who died as infants; a son was born before their eldest, Katherine, but was stillborn. The second infant who was conceived after their fourth child, Anne; but was either miscarried, dead at birth, or died shortly after, the same year their father died, 1517. The only descendants alive today are the descendants of their youngest surviving daughter, Anne. Her descendants include the current Earls of Pembroke, Earls of Montgomery, Earls of Carnarvon, and more.[4]
  3. Sir William Parr, 1st Baron Parr of Horton (BEF 1483–10 September 1547), the second son, was knighted on 25 December 1513, was sheriff of Northamptonshire in 1518 and 1522, and after his niece’s Katherine Parr’s promotion became her chamberlain. On 23 December 1543 he was created Baron Parr of Horton, Northamptonshire. He died on 10 September 1547, and was buried at Horton (for his tomb, see Bridges, Northamptonshire, i. 370). By Mary, daughter of Sir William Salisbury, he left four daughters.[4]
  4. John Parr, Esq. (BEF 1483–8 September 1508), married Constance, daughter of Sir Henry Vere of Addington, Surrey. They had no issue.[4]
  5. Alice, died young (b. before 1483).

Second Marriage

After the death of Sir William Parr in fall of 1483, Elizabeth re-married Sir Nicholas Vaux c.1484/5 (probably right before the fall of Richard III), who later became 1st Baron Vaux of Harrowden as his first wife.[4] Vaux was the protege of Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII, so the marriage came at a good time, saving the family fortunes. Vaux’s mother, Katherine Peniston, had been lady to Margaret of Anjou and as such, the Vauxs’ were sympathetic to the Lancastrian cause bringing the Parr family back in to favor. Lady Katherine Vaux (Peniston) would remain with Margaret of Anjou in exile and died in her service.[6] After the accession of Henry VII, Vaux was raised by Lady Margaret Beaufort.[6] Elizabeth’s son by her first marriage, Sir Thomas Parr (father of Katherine), is thought to have been educated under Beaufort’s tutelage (Susan James) which would explain the closeness he formed with her grandson, King Henry VIII. Vaux became close to his Parr step-children. After the death of Elizabeth, Vaux would re-marry to Anne Green, sister to Lady Maud Parr and thus sister-in-law to Sir Thomas Parr.

Their issue:

  1. Hon. Katherine Vaux (abt 1490-1552/1571)[5], married the Catholic Sir George Throckmorton of Coughton Court. Sir George was one of those opposed to the divorce of Henry VIII and Queen Katherine of Aragon. He also opposed the break from Rome. As the divorce of Queen Katherine and the marriage of Anne Boleyn was still pending, Sir George said that the king “had meddled with both the mother and sister.” The couple had 19 children and in his life time 112 grandchildren who were mostly ardent Catholics.[4] For over 500 years now, their family has remained one of England’s oldest Catholic families.

    British English School An Unknown Lady once called Katherine Vaux, Lady Throckmorton National Trust Collections Coughton Court, Warwickshire 1576.

    British English School An Unknown Lady once called Katherine Vaux, Lady Throckmorton National Trust Collections Coughton Court, Warwickshire 1576.

  2. Hon. Alice Vaux (d. 1543), married Sir Richard Sapcott/Sapcote c. 1501. No issue; some genealogies state she was the mother of one of Sapcott’s younger sons, but that has not been proven.[4]
  3. Hon. Anne Vaux, married Sir Thomas Le Strange (1493-1545) and had issue.[4]

Sources:

  1. The Complete Peerage vol. V, pp. 428-429.
  2. Crofts Peerage Online, Baron FitzHugh
  3. Susan James. Catherine Parr: Henry VIII’s Last Love,” (2009), pg 15, 81.
  4. Douglas Richardson. “Plantagenet Ancestry,” Genealogical Publishing Com, 2004. pg 144, 561.
  5. Peter Marshall, Geoffrey Scott (OSB.) “Catholic Gentry in English Society: The Throckmortons of Coughton from Reformation to Emancipation,” Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., Nov 17, 2009. (several errors, i.e. Katherine Parr’s relation to the Throckmorton’s and Lord Throckmorton died in 1552, pretty sure his wife didn’t die in the same year.)
  6. Barbara J. Harris. “English Aristocratic Women, 1450-1550 : Marriage and Family, Property and Careers: Marriage and Family, Property and Careers,” Oxford University Press, Jul 26, 2002. pg 218.
  7. Michael Hicks. “Anne Neville: Queen to Richard III,” Tempus, 2006. pg 189.
  8. Linda Porter. “Katherine, the Queen,” Macmillan, 2010.

See also

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