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: “The Jersey Portrait”

The portrait known as “The Jersey Portrait,” was once thought to depict Lady Jane Grey. Through thorough research however, the conclusion is that this is a portrait of Queen Katherine Parr.

“Parr is known to have commissioned numerous portraits of herself while married to Henry VIII, and this portrait was no doubt one of the many produced and given to friends and family.” (Susan James)

From Dr. Edwards, author of the site “Some Grey Matter“: “The Earl of Jersey informed me via email on 12 November 2012 that an unnamed friend of his mother had previously conducted an unpublished study of the painting. That friend concluded independently that the sitter was Katherine Parr. The friend’s findings were reviewed by experts at Sotheby’s auction house, and Sotheby’s “concurred” with the findings. None of this was known to me prior to 12 November, and neither the friend nor Sotheby’s have published that independent report.”

Little is known about the painting. It is oil on wood panel, consistent with sixteenth-century practices. It is about three-quarter life-size, according to the current Earl of Jersey, measuring 34 inches high by 24 inches wide. The frame bears a label of unknown age and origin identifying the sitter as Queen Mary. No detailed provenance information has ever been published, so that it is not possible to know when or how it came into the Jersey collection at Osterley House. It is worth noting that the original Tudor-era Osterley House had been built in the 1570s by Sir Thomas Gresham, who held Lady Jane’s sister Lady Mary Keyes [Grey] in custody from 1569 to 1572. The Osterley House built by Gresham fell into ruin in the eighteenth century, however, making it unlikely that the portrait originated there. Osterley was acquired and rebuilt in the 1760s by Sir Francis Child, ancestor of the 9th Earl of Jersey. The painting almost certainly entered the Jersey collection after 1760 as decoration for the new house. The painting survives and is now owned by The Earldom of Jersey Trust and held at Radier Manor in the Isle of Jersey. (Edwards)

For more information on the portrait: “Some Grey Matter: THE JERSEY PORTRAIT

30 September 1544: Henry returns from Boulogne, France

Henry greet Queen Katherine after returning from France; “The Tudors”

30 September 1544 – Queen Catherine’s duty as Regent of the Realm was over as Henry VIII returned to England after his victory in Boulogne. The French forces had surrendered on 13th September after a siege which had lasted from 19th July.

The Queen’s Sister: Lady Anne Herbert, Countess of Pembroke

Anne Parr, Lady Pembroke from Wilton Parish Church

Lady Anne Herbert [Parr], Countess of Pembroke, Baroness Herbert of Cardiff (15 June 1515 – 20 February 1552) was a noblewoman and the younger sister of Queen Katherine Parr, the sixth and last wife of King Henry VIII.

Anne is one of the few Tudor women to boast the fact that she was a lady-in-waiting to each of Henry’s six wives. Anne had an older brother, Sir William Parr, who among other creations, became Earl of Essex and 1st Marquess of Northampton. William was an influential man during the late reign of Henry VIII and that of Edward VI. Northampton was known as “the King’s uncle.” Northampton would also go on to become a loyal friend and ally of Queen Elizabeth I. Anne’s husband, Lord Pembroke, was also one of the most influential men during the reign of Edward VI and was rewarded with the title of 1st Earl of Pembroke.

Anne Parr was born on 15 June 1515 to Sir Thomas Parr of Kendal and Dame Maud Green, co-heiress of Sir Thomas Green, Lord of Greens Norton. She was the youngest surviving child of five; having an older sister Katherine, later Queen of England and Ireland, her brother William, and two other siblings. The first baby born to Anne’s mother was a boy. He died shortly after and Maud did not have another child until the birth of Katherine in 1512. In 1517, when she was two years old, her father died of the sweating sickness leaving her mother a widow, pregnant at twenty-five, and with the grave responsibility of guarding the inheritance of the Parr children.[3] It is not certain what happened to Maud’s baby but it did not survive.

Maud, Lady Parr was a maid-of-honour and good friend to Queen consort Katherine of Aragon. She was also apparently head of the Royal school at court where Anne was educated alongside her sister Katherine and other daughters of the nobility. Anne would have been taught French, Latin, philosophy, theology, and the Classics. Lady Parr had already taught her children to read and write when they were small. Anne herself later said that her education at home was based on the approach used in the family of Sir Thomas More where the boys and girls were educated together; as was the case with the Parr’s until her brother left home in 1525 to join the household of Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond; the recognized natural son of King Henry by his mistress Elizabeth Blount, a lady-in-waiting to the Queen.[3]

The Six Queens

At court

Sometime in 1528, Lady Parr secured her 13 year-old daughter, Anne, a post at Court as maid-of-honour to Queen Katherine of Aragon. Anne was then made a ward of King Henry. When Anne Boleyn was crowned queen in 1533, Anne Parr continued in the same capacity as maid-of-honour. She quickly succumbed to the spell of Queen Anne’s charismatic personality and following the Queen’s example, she became an ardent supporter of the New Faith.[5] After Anne Boleyn’s fall from power and subsequent execution, Anne remained at Court in the service of the new queen, Jane Seymour. She was one of the few present at the baptism of Prince Edward on 15 October 1537 and was part of the funeral cortege of Jane Seymour.[3] Some sources state that Anne carried the train of the Lady Elizabeth at Prince Edward’s baptism, while others believe it was Lady Herbert ‘of Troye’, wife of her future husband’s paternal half-uncle, Sir William Herbert, son of the 1st Earl of Pembroke of the eighth creation.

When King Henry took as his fourth wife Anne of Cleves, Anne returned to her role as maid-of-honour, which she remained in when Queen Anne was supplanted by Katherine Howard. Following Queen Katherine’s arrest for adultery, Anne Parr was entrusted with the Queen’s jewels.[6]

Marriage

Sir William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke

In February 1538, Anne married Sir William Herbert (c.1501-17 March 1570), Esquire of the King’s Body. Herbert was the son of Sir Richard Herbert of Ewyas, the illegitimate son of William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke [of the before mentioned]. It is without a doubt that Anne met her husband at court. It is not known whether or not the marriage was a love match or not, but it is interesting to note that both Anne and her sister Katherine had been attracted to dashing men of action who were slightly disreputable.[3] The Herbert’s, due to King Henry’s newly found infatuation for Anne’s sister Katherine, appeared to be in the King’s favour; as for the next few years Anne and her husband received a succession of Royal grants which included the Abbey of Wilton in Wiltshire (pulled down and built over for Wilton House in the 1540s), Remesbury (north Wiltshire), and Cardiff Castle. They also used Baynard’s Castle as their London residence.

Anne had three children by her husband: Henry, who succeeded his father; Edward Herbert; and Anne Herbert.[7]

The Queen’s sister

King Henry VIII and Queen Katherine

Anne was a witness to the wedding ceremony performed at Hampton Court Palace on 12 July 1543, when King Henry married her sister Katherine, the Dowager Lady Latimer.

In June 1544, the Queen lent her sister her manor, Hanworth for the lying-in for her second child. It was there that Anne gave birth to another son, Edward (his elder brother was named Henry, was this a coincidence?). The Queen sent regular messengers to Hanworth to inquire on the health of her sister. For the christening, the queen provided a large delegation (five yeo-men, two grooms, and Henry Webbe) from her household to attend. Letters continued well into July between the two sisters while Anne remained at Hanworth. After the birth, Anne visited Lady Hertford, who had also just given birth, at Syon House near Richmond.[19]

In August 1544, the queen paid for a barge to bring Anne by river from Syon House (home to the Hertford’s) to Westminster. The queen’s involvement in the birth and christening of her nephew would eventually lead her to take him in as part of her household after the death of King Henry.[19]

In September 1544, William Herbert was knighted on the battlefield at the Siege of Boulogne during the King’s campaign against the French. Anne, now Lady Herbert, was her sister’s principal lady-in-waiting and the sisters were close. Anne was also part of the circle of Protestants who surrounded the new Queen. In 1546, fellow Protestant Anne Askew was arrested for heresy. Those who opposed the Queen tried to gain a confession from Askew that the Queen, her sister, and the other women were Protestants. Queen Katherine and some of her closest friends had previously shown favour to the arrested woman. Bishop Stephen Gardiner, Thomas Wriothesley, and Sir Richard Rich were involved in torturing Anne Askew and interrogating her about her supposed connections to the ladies at court who were suspected to be Protestants. Askew was asked particularly about the Queen, her sister Lady Herbert, the Duchess of Suffolk [Katherine Willoughby], Lady Hertford [Anne Stanhope, wife of Edward, later Lord Protector], and the Countess of Sussex [Anne Calthorpe].

The warrant for the arrest of Queen Katherine from “The Tudors”

Gardiner and Wriothesley obtained the King’s permission to arrest and question the Queen about her religious beliefs.[3] Luckily Katherine intercepted the warrant and/or was warned by the King’s doctor that she was to be arrested and questioned. Katherine visited the King in his bedchamber and adroitly managed to persuade the King that her interest in the new religion had been undertaken solely as a means to provide stimulating conversation to distract the King from the pain caused by his ulcerous leg. Henry was appeased, and before the arrests were due to take place, he was reconciled to Katherine. Wriothesley, who had not been informed of the reconciliation, came for the queen while the King was with her. The King burst into an angry fit calling Wriothesley names such as “Knave”, etc. Katherine had escaped the wrath of the King and on 28 January 1547, the King died leaving Katherine the Dowager Queen.

After Henry VIII’s death, when the queen dowager’s household was at Chelsea, both Anne and her son Edward were part of the household there. The Dowager queen, as always, was keen to have her family close to her. Anne’s husband, William Herbert was appointed as one of the guardians to the new king, Edward VI. Katherine shortly afterward married Thomas Seymour, Lord of Sudeley, Lord High Admiral of England, who was an uncle of King Edward. In September 1548, following the birth of a daughter, Lady Mary Seymour [named after the queen’s step-daughter], Katherine Parr died of puerperal fever.

Arms of Sir William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke (10th creation)
Arms of Sir William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke (10th creation)

Later life

Drawing by Holbein thought to be Anne Parr

On 10 October 1551, Anne’s husband was raised to the peerage as Baron Herbert of Cardiff and Earl of Pembroke on 11 October 1551. He received the disgraced Duke of Somerset’s Wiltshire estates, including Ramsbury and a newly built mansion at Bedwin Broil, and much woodland on the borders of the New Forest in 1553. The relationship between the Herbert’s and Edward Seymour had been one of friendship until Seymour fell from favour.[3] Herbert was also granted, one Sir Thomas Arundel’s attainder, Wardour Castle and park, and obtained some property belonging to the see of Winchester. The Wardour property subsequently reverted to the Arundel family by exchange and purchase, but Pembroke’s increase of wealth exceeded that of any of his colleagues.[8]

Anne died on 20 February 1552 at Baynard’s Castle in London.[17] At the time of her death, Anne was one of Lady Mary Tudor’s [the future Queen Mary I] ladies.

William married as his second wife Lady Anne Talbot, daughter of George Talbot, 4th Earl of Shrewsbury and Elizabeth Walden, but the marriage produced no children.

Anne was buried with huge pomp in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London next to her ancestor John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster on 28 February 1552. Her husband died on 17 March 1570 and by his wishes was also buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral. Her memorial there reads: “a most faithful wife, a woman of the greatest piety and discretion” and “Her banners were set up over her arms set on divers pillars.[17] Pembroke obviously loved his wife for when he wrote his will, despite being married again, he wanted nothing more than to be buried “near the place where Anne my late wife doth lie buried” in St. Paul’s.[17]

Monument of William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, in old St Paul's Cathedral, City of London, 1656. Artist: Wenceslaus Hollar.  the tomb on a tall base on which lie a man and wife, in ermine robes, heads to left; eleven columns support a double arch above and obelisk topped extensions at the sides; two cartouches at top, to the left with coat of arms and to the right with dedication by 'Ioh Herbert'.
Monument of William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke and his first wife Lady Anne (Parr), in old St Paul’s Cathedral, City of London, 1656. Artist: Wenceslaus Hollar. the tomb on a tall base on which lie a man and wife, in ermine robes, heads to left; eleven columns support a double arch above and obelisk topped extensions at the sides; two cartouches at top, to the left with coat of arms and to the right with dedication by ‘Ioh Herbert’.[21]

Issue

Lord and Lady Pembroke had three children:

Henry Herbert, 2nd Earl of Pembroke
  1. Henry Herbert, later 2nd Earl of Pembroke (c.1539-1601), who married three times:
  • On 25 May 1553,[22] he married Lady Katherine Grey (1540-1568), granddaughter of Mary Tudor, Dowager Queen of France. On the same day, her sister Lady Jane married Lord Guildford Dudley. The two couples were married at Durham House in London. After the wedding, Katherine went to live with her husband at Baynard’s Castle on the Thames.[18] When Lord Herbert’s sister-in-law, Jane, failed to ascend to the throne of England due to a lack of popular support, the Earl of Pembroke sought to distance himself from the Grey family. Pembroke separated his son from Katherine and sought the annulment of the marriage.[18] With this smart move, Pembroke secured Queen Mary’s favour and the marriage was annulled in 1554.
  • His second wife was Lady Catherine Talbot (c.1552-1575) [a favorite of Queen Elizabeth], daughter of George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury and Lady Gertrude Manners. Catherine was the sister of Lord Francis Talbot who married his younger sister, Lady Anne.
  • His third wife was Mary Sidney, daughter of Sir Henry Sidney and Lady Mary Dudley, daughter of the executed John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. By her, the couple had children including William [3rd Earl] and Philip [4th Earl], both of whom would accede to the Earldom of Pembroke.

2. Sir Edward Herbert (June 1544-1595), married Mary Stanley, by whom he had issue including William Herbert, 1st Baron Powis. Their descendants would become Marquess’s and then later Earls of Powis which is still in existence to this day.[9] According to Susan James, biographer of Katherine Parr, the queen was invested in Edward’s birth and christening. She took in young Edward as a toddler about the time of her marriage to Seymour. They are also supposedly ancestors to Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York through their granddaughter, Hon. Catherine Herbert, Lady Palmer. The paternity of Lady Palmer’s granddaughter, Lady Anne, is questioned as her mother was Lady Barbara Villiers, mistress to King Charles II of Great Britain. At the time of Lady Anne Palmer’s birth Barbara was married to Roger Palmer, 1st Earl of Castlemaine, but the King recognized Anne as his and she adopted the name “Fitzroy.”

3. Lady Anne Herbert (1550-1592), married Francis, Lord Talbot, son of George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury and Lady Gertrude Manners. There is no known issue from this marriage.[8]

Legacy

The arms of the 2nd Earl of Pembroke

William Herbert’s career started after a recommendation from King Francis I of France. He shortly became esquire of the body to King Henry VIII. Two years later he was granted arms. The year before Katherine Parr married the king, grants and advancement started for Herbert and his wife. The first grants dated March and April, 1542, include the site of the late monastery, the manor of Washerne adjoining also the manors of Chalke. These were given to “William Herbert, Esquire and Anne his wife for the term of their lives with certain reserved rents to King Henry VIII.“[20] When Edward VI re-granted the manors to the family, it was explicitly “to the aforenamed Earl, by the name of Sir William Herbert, knight, and the Lady Anne his wife and the heirs male of their bodies between them lawfully begotten.“[17] Anne had been the joint creator of this extraordinary enterprise.[17] Lady Anne had brought legitimacy to the Herberts. Anne also gave the family grace and courage.

A stained glass window in Wilton Church shows Anne kneeling before a prayer book or Bible; there is no evidence of religious imagery. In a long armorial mantle are embroidered the many quarterings of the arms of her distinguished ancestry [see below]. It was the Parr-inheritance which gave the Herbert family any legitimate claim to ancient nobility; and she knew it. On her tomb in St. Paul’s her epitath reads that she had been “very jealous of the fame of a long line of ancestors.“[17]

Stained glass window of the Pembroke’s in Wilton Parish Church

Through her sons, Anne Parr has many descendants, including the Earls of Pembroke, Earls of Montgomery, and the Earls of Carnarvon.[8]

Philip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke with his family by Anthony van Dyck. Notice the coat of arms above them which continue to incorporate Anne’s lineage. The painting is on display in Wilton House.

Several of the homes of her descendants have been used in movies and major television shows. In 2005, Wilton House substituted for “Pemberley”, home to Mr. Darcy in “Pride & Prejudice” (starring Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFayden). The impressive portrait by Van Dyke, of the 4th Earl of Pembroke [grandson of the 1st Earl and Lady Anne] and his family, was most likely painted at their home in London, Durham House. It is the largest canvas which upon Van Dyke has ever painted, measuring 17×11 feet. A great deal of care went into transferring the painting to their estate in Wilton once the double cube room was finished being renovated by Inigo Jones.[23]

Wilton House Pride and Prejudice (2005) Pemberley_periodpieces_blogspot
Pride and Prejudice” (2005). The painting can be seen during Lizzie’s visit to “Pemberley”. [Photo courtesy of Period Pieces]
The popular BBC/PBS series “Downton Abbey” is filmed at Highclere Castle in Hampshire where Anne’s descendants, the Earls of Carnarvon, have been seated since 1793. In 1684, the castle came into the possession of the Herbert’s through the marriage of Margaret Sawyer of Highclere to the 8th Earl of Pembroke; their second son Robert inherited the castle but died without issue. Robert’s nephew and heir, Henry Herbert, inherited the castle in 1769. Henry was created 1st Earl of Carnarvon in 1793 by King George III.

Saloon of Highclere Castle which features the coat of arms of the lineage of the Carnarvon branch of the Herbert family, from the 1st Earl of Pembroke; the first one on the left is that of William, 1st Earl of Pembroke and Anne Parr.

Titles and Styles

  • Mistress Anne Parr
  • Lady Anne Herbert, Lady Herbert of Cardiff
  • Lady Anne Herbert, Countess of Pembroke
  • References:

    1. ^ Note: Katherine Parr’s biographer, Susan E. James is of the opinion that the subject of this Holbein drawing is Anne Parr
    2. ^ Besant, Sir Walter (1903), The Thames, London: A. & C. Black, pp. 84–7
    3. ^ a b c d e f Linda Porter. Katherine the Queen. Macmillan, 2010.
    4. ^ Anthony Martienssen “Queen Katherine Parr”, page 21
    5. ^ Martienssen, pages 64-5
    6. ^ Martienssen, page 137
    7. ^ Martienssen, page 137
    8. ^ a b c Dictionary of National Biography. Vol XXVI. Sidney Lee, Ed. London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1891. 220-223.
    9. ^ George Edward Cokayne, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, Vol. X, p. 643.
    10. ^ “thePeerage”. http://thepeerage.com/p10151.htm#i101510. Retrieved 2010-04-09
    11. ^ Douglas Richardson, Plantagenet Ancestry, p. 565.
    12. ^ “thePeerage”. http://thepeerage.com/p10152.htm#i101511. Retrieved 2010-04-09
    13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k The Lineage and Ancestry of H.R.H. Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, by Gerald Paget, Vol. I, p. 95.
    14. ^ The Family Chronicle of Richard Fogge, Archaelogica Cantiana, Vol 5, 1863.
    15. ^ E.W. Allen. The Antiquary, Volume 3. 1873. (Google eBook)
    16. ^ “thePeerage”. http://thepeerage.com/p338.htm#i3376. Retrieved 2010-04-09
    17. Anthony Nicolson, Quarrel with the King: The Story of an English Family on the High Road to Civil War, Harper Collins, 3 November 2009. pg 63-4. (Google eBook)
    18. Chapman, Hester, Two Tudor Portraits: Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey and Lady Katherine Grey, Jonathan Cape 1960. pg 165; 166-167; 169.
    19. Susan James. “Catherine Parr: Henry VIII’s Last Love,”The History Press, 2009. pg 275-76.
    20. Sir Nevile Rodwell Wilkinson. ”Wilton House Guide: A Handbook for Visitors,” Chiswick Press, 1908. pg 80.
    21. Tomb of William Herbert,” Heritage Images.
    22. Leanda de Lisle says “The date is almost always given as the 21st but this is drawn from Commendone writing after the event. It was booked to take place on a Thursday (see Albert Feuillerat, Documents Relating to the Revels at Court, p 306) and when I calculated the day from other known dates – e.g. Jane’s entry to the Tower – it confirmed my suspicion that it was the 25th.” p 328 in Notes of “The Sisters Who Would be Queen”, by Leanda de Lisle.
    23. Pembroke, Sidney Charles. A Catalogue of the Paintings & Drawings in the Collection at Wilton House, Salisbury, 
      Wiltshire. London: Phaidon, 1968.

    Researched by Meg McGath

    © 4 March 2011

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.

Links

Sources:

  • 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

Queen Katherine’s Letter: “The Tudors” vs. the real deal

From The Tudors, episode 7. Katherine Parr’s letter to Henry while Regent of England; during his siege of Boulogne, France.

Although Your Majesty’s absence has not been long, yet the want of your presence means that I cannot take pleasure in anything until I hear from Your Majesty. Time hangs heavily. I have a great desire to know how Your Majesty has done since you left, for your prosperity and health I prefer and desire more than my own. And although I know Your Majesty’s absence is never without great need, still love and affection compel me to desire your presence. Thus love makes me set aside my own convenience and pleasure for you at whose hands I have received so much love and goodness that words cannot express it. We hear word of ill weather and delays besetting you and though we thank God for your good health we anxiously await the joyous news of the success of your great venture and for your safe and triumphant return for which all England offers daily prayers. I fear am I but a poor substitute for Your Majesty in the matter of the guidance of your kingdom. I long for your return. I commit you to God’s care and governance.
By Your Majesty’s humble obedient wife, and servant,
Katherine, the Queen

17th-century plan of Boulogne, Fortified Places, by David Flintham.

The actual letter which she wrote in July 1544; it was written during Henry’s six-week absence while he was in Boulogne, France and during the Regency of Queen Katherine. Its tone is loving and respectful.

Although the distance of time and account of days neither is long nor many of your majesty’s absence, yet the want of your presence, so much desired and beloved by me, maketh me that I cannot quietly pleasure in anything until I hear from your majesty. The time, therefore, seemeth to me very long, with a great desire to know how your highness hath done since your departing hence, whose prosperity and health I prefer and desire more than mine own. And whereas I know your majesty’s absence is never without great need, yet love and affection compel me to desire your presence.
Again, the same zeal and affection force me to be best content with that which is your will and pleasure. Thus love maketh me in all things to set apart mine own convenience and pleasure, and to embrace most joyfully his will and pleasure whom I love. God, the knower of secrets, can judge these words not to be written only with ink, but most truly impressed on the heart. Much more I omit, lest it be thought I go about to praise myself, or crave a thank; which thing to do I mind nothing less, but a plain, simple relation of the love and zeal I bear your majesty, proceeding from the abundance of the heart. Wherein I must confess I desire no commendation, having such just occasion to do the same.
I make like account with your majesty as I do with God for his benefits and gifts heaped upon me daily, acknowledging myself a great debtor to him, not being able to recompense the least of his benefits; in which state I am certain and sure to die, yet I hope in His gracious acceptation of my goodwill. Even such confidence have I in your majesty’s gentleness, knowing myself never to have done my duty as were requisite and meet for such a noble prince, at whose hands I have found and received so much love and goodness, that with words I cannot express it. Lest I should be too tedious to your majesty, I finish this my scribbled letter, committing you to the governance of the Lord with long and prosperous life here, and after this life to enjoy the kingdom of his elect.
From Greenwich, by your majesty’s humble and obedient servant,
Katharine the Queen.