Prayers of Queen Katherine Parr by the Princess Elizabeth, 1545

For Christmas, 1545, Princess Elizabeth was determined to give her stepmother and father something that would please them both. Elizabeth decided to take the published book by the new Queen, Prayers and Meditations, and transcribe it into Latin, French, and Italian. Elizabeth presented the gift at Christmas only to find her father irritated and annoyed. At the time, Elizabeth was barely twelve. For any person to perform such a feat at such a young age and embroider her own book cover–mind blowing. However, her father thought it was some sort of joke and seemed to be somewhat jealous of his wife. Why? One can only imagine what Henry was thinking. Knowing his temper, Henry was probably upset that Elizabeth had not translated one of his works into some lavish Latin based language — note: Henry never had a book published. Instead, Henry had yet another wife who aspired to be a great woman. Like Katherine of Aragon, Parr was highly educated. Her mother, the widowed Lady Maud Parr, who was close to Queen Katherine (of Aragon), was a mother of her time. As Princess Mary was being educated and taught to someday perhaps succeed her father, Lady Maud took note and used the same system Thomas More used, to educate his daughters. Queen Katherine Parr was given an enviable education which was only afforded to royals and top nobility. One of the top Tudor biographers, Dr. Starkey, has gone as far as saying that Parr was the most educated of all six wives. In the end, Parr would publish two books and her poems/prayers would be added to Prayer books later on.

Prayer Book of Princess Elizabeth (1545)
Embroidered back cover of the trilingual translation by Elizabeth I. Parr’s monogram is in the centre. (Wikipedia)

Another manuscript beautifully written by the Princess Elizabeth about a year later is now at the British Museum. It is on vellum, and contains prayers or meditations, composed originally by Queen Katherine Parr in English, and translated by the Princess into Latin, French, and Italian. The title as given in the book reads, ‘Precationes … ex piis scriptoribus per nobiliss. et pientiss. D. Catharinam Anglie, Francie, Hibernieq. reginam collecte, et per D. Elizabetam ex anglico converse.’ It is, moreover, dedicated to Henry viii., the wording being, ‘Illustrissimo Henrico octavo, Anglie, Francie, Hibernieq. regi,’ etc., and dated Hertford, 20th December 1545.

It is bound in canvas, and measures 5¾ by 4 inches, the groundwork being broadly worked in tapestry-stitch, or some stitch analogous to it, in red silk, resembling in method the work on the ground of The Miroir of the Synneful Soul already described. On this, in the centre of each side, is a large monogram worked in blue silk, interwoven with silver thread, containing the letters K, probably standing for Katherine, A, F, H, and R, possibly meaning ‘Anglie, Francie, Hibernieque, Reginæ,’ but like most monograms this one can doubtless be otherwise interpreted. Above and below the monogram are smaller H’s, worked in red silk, interwoven with gold thread. In each corner is a heartsease of yellow and purple silk, interwoven with gold thread, and having small green leaves between each of the petals. The work which was once on the back is now so worn that it cannot be traced sufficiently to tell what it originally was. The designs of these two volumes, credited to the Princess Elizabeth, resemble each other to some extent; they both have a monogram in the centre, they both have heartsease in the corners and groundwork of a like character. They are, as far as workmanship goes, still more alike, similar thick silk is used for the ground, and threads and braids of a thick nature, with metal interwoven, are used on both for the ornamental work. Speaking of this British Museum book, the Countess of Wilton says, ‘there is little doubt that Elizabeth’s own needle wrought the ornaments thereon.’

Source: English Embroidered Bookbindings by Cyril James Humphries Davenport. Alfred Pollard Release, January 23, 2006 [EBook #17585]. pg 34-35.

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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.
Sources

  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

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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.