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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Queen Katherine Parr: The First Woman and Queen of England to be Published

First published in 1545,
First published in 1545, “Prayers or Meditations” by Queen Katherine Parr became so popular that 19 new editions were published by 1595 (reign of Elizabeth I). This edition was published in 1546 and bound by a cover made by the Nuns of Little Gedding. Located at Sudeley Castle, Winchcombe.

Queen Katherine Parr published two books in her lifetime. The first, ‘Prayers and Meditations’, was published while King Henry VIII was still alive [1545]. Some sources state 24 April 1544 as being the day that the book was available.

Folger Shakespeare Library PDI Record: --- Call Number (PDI): STC 4824a Creator (PDI): Catharine Parr, Queen, consort of Henry VIII, King of England, 1512-1548. Title (PDI): [Prayers stirryng the mind unto heavenlye medytacions] Created or Published (PDI): [1550] Physical Description (PDI): title page Image Root File (PDI): 17990 Image Type (PDI): FSL collection Image Record ID (PDI): 18050 MARC Bib 001 (PDI): 165567 Marc Holdings 001 (PDI): 159718 Hamnet Record: --- Creator (Hamnet): Catharine Parr, Queen, consort of Henry VIII, King of England, 1512-1548. Uniform Title (Hamnet): Prayers stirryng the mind unto heavenlye medytacions Title (Hamnet): Praiers Title (Hamnet): Prayers or meditacions, wherein the minde is stirred, paciently to suffre all afflictions here, to set at nought the vayne prosperitee of this worlde, and alway to longe for the euerlastinge felicitee: collected out of holy workes by the most vertuous and gracious princesse Katherine Queene of England, Fraunce, and Ireland. Place of Creation or Publ. (Hamnet): [London : Creator or Publisher (Hamnet): W. Powell?, Date of Creation or Publ. (Hamnet): ca. 1550] Physical Description (Hamnet): [62] p. ; 8⁰. Folger Holdings Notes (Hamnet): HH48/23. Brown goatskin binding, signed by W. Pratt. Imperfect: leaves D2-3 and all after D5 lacking; D2-3 and D6-7 supplied in pen facsimile. Pencilled bibliographical note of Bernard Quaritch. Provenance: Stainforth bookplate; Francis J. Stainforth - Harmsworth copy Notes (Hamnet): An edition of: Prayers stirryng the mind unto heavenlye medytacions. Notes (Hamnet): D2r has an initial 'O' with a bird. Notes (Hamnet): Formerly STC 4821. Notes (Hamnet): Identified as STC 4821 on UMI microfilm, reel 678. Notes (Hamnet): Printer's name and publication date conjectured by STC. Notes (Hamnet): Running title reads: Praiers. Notes (Hamnet): Signatures: A-D⁸ (-D8). Notes (Hamnet): This edition has a prayer for King Edward towards the end. Citations (Hamnet): ESTC (RLIN) S114675 Citations (Hamnet): STC (2nd ed.), 4824a Subject (Hamnet): Prayers -- Early works to 1800. Associated Name (Hamnet): Harmsworth, R. Leicester Sir, (Robert Leicester), 1870-1937, former owner. Call Number (Hamnet): STC 4824a  STC 4824a, title page not for reproduction without written permission. Folger Shakespeare Library 201 East Capitol Street, SE Washington, DC 20003
Folger Shakespeare Library
PDI Record:

Call Number (PDI):
STC 4824a
Creator (PDI):
Catharine Parr, Queen, consort of Henry VIII, King of England, 1512-1548.
Title (PDI):
[Prayers stirryng the mind unto heavenlye medytacions]
Created or Published (PDI):
[1550]
Physical Description (PDI):
title page
Image Root File (PDI):
17990
Image Type (PDI):
FSL collection
Image Record ID (PDI):
18050
MARC Bib 001 (PDI):
165567
Marc Holdings 001 (PDI):
159718
Hamnet Record:

Creator (Hamnet):
Catharine Parr, Queen, consort of Henry VIII, King of England, 1512-1548.
Uniform Title (Hamnet):
Prayers stirryng the mind unto heavenlye medytacions
Title (Hamnet):
Praiers
Title (Hamnet):
Prayers or meditacions, wherein the minde is stirred, paciently to suffre all afflictions here, to set at nought the vayne prosperitee of this worlde, and alway to longe for the euerlastinge felicitee: collected out of holy workes by the most vertuous and gracious princesse Katherine Queene of England, Fraunce, and Ireland.
Place of Creation or Publ. (Hamnet):
[London :
Creator or Publisher (Hamnet):
W. Powell?,
Date of Creation or Publ. (Hamnet):
ca. 1550]
Physical Description (Hamnet):
[62] p. ; 8⁰.
Folger Holdings Notes (Hamnet):
HH48/23. Brown goatskin binding, signed by W. Pratt. Imperfect: leaves D2-3 and all after D5 lacking; D2-3 and D6-7 supplied in pen facsimile. Pencilled bibliographical note of Bernard Quaritch. Provenance: Stainforth bookplate; Francis J. Stainforth – Harmsworth copy
Notes (Hamnet):
An edition of: Prayers stirryng the mind unto heavenlye medytacions.
Notes (Hamnet):
D2r has an initial ‘O’ with a bird.
Notes (Hamnet):
Formerly STC 4821.
Notes (Hamnet):
Identified as STC 4821 on UMI microfilm, reel 678.
Notes (Hamnet):
Printer’s name and publication date conjectured by STC.
Notes (Hamnet):
Running title reads: Praiers.
Notes (Hamnet):
Signatures: A-D⁸ (-D8).
Notes (Hamnet):
This edition has a prayer for King Edward towards the end.
Citations (Hamnet):
ESTC (RLIN) S114675
Citations (Hamnet):
STC (2nd ed.), 4824a
Subject (Hamnet):
Prayers — Early works to 1800.
Associated Name (Hamnet):
Harmsworth, R. Leicester Sir, (Robert Leicester), 1870-1937, former owner.
Call Number (Hamnet):
STC 4824a
STC 4824a, title page not for reproduction without written permission.
Folger Shakespeare Library
201 East Capitol Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
Henry was said to be proud and at the same time jealous of his wife’s success. ‘Lamentations of a Sinner’ was not published until after Henry died [in 1547]. In ‘Lamentations‘, Catherine’s Protestant voice was a bit stronger. If she had published ‘Lamentations’ in Henry’s lifetime, she most likely would have been executed as a heretic despite her status as queen consort. Henry did not like his wives outshining him [i.e. Anne Boleyn]…hence her compliance and submission to the King when she found that she was to be arrested by the Catholic faction at court. Her voice may have been dialed down a notch, but once her step-son, the Protestant boy King Edward took the throne — she had nothing to hold her back. Her best friend, the Dowager Duchess of Suffolk, and brother Northampton encouraged Parr to publish.

A publication of the book c.1550 [after the death of Queen Katherine]
A publication of the book  The Lamentation of a Sinner c.1550 [after the death of Queen Katherine]

Published in 1547 [according to Sudeley Castle] after the death of King Henry VIII, “The Lamentation of a Sinner” was Catherine’s second book which was more extreme than her first publication. She was encouraged by her good friend the Duchess of Suffolk and her brother, the Marquess, to publish. The transcription of the title page here is… “The Lamentacion of a synner, made by the most vertuous Lady quene Caterine, bewailyng the ignoraunce of her blind life; let foorth & put in print at the inflance befire of the right gracious lady Caterine, Duchesse of Suffolke, and the ernest request of the right honourable Lord William Parre, Marquesse of Northampton.”

I was lucky enough to see a copy both a Sudeley Castle and at the Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.

Queen Katherine's
Queen Katherine’s “Lamentations” on display at the Vivat Rex Exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Sudeley Castle History: Ralph Boteler, 1st Baron Sudeley

Boteler of Sudeley coat of arms.
Boteler of Sudeley coat of arms; bore gules, a fess countercompony argent and sablo between six crosses pattee or
Ralph Boteler, 1st Baron Sudeley and 7th Baron Sudeley KG (c. 1394 – 2 May 1473[1]) was an English baron and aristocrat. He was the Captain of Calais and Treasurer of England (from 7 July 1443).

Family

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

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

Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

View of the back of Sudley Castle in Gloucestershire showing the landscape it overlooks. Sudley is one of the grandest late medieval houses in Gloucestershire. Many of the buildings are ruined but the long medieval hall appears habitable. The Castle Chapel is striking, very much in the Gothic Perpendicular style with heavily pinnacled roof. It has a Royal connection, as Katherine Parr, the last Queen of Henry VIII died here in 1548 and was buried in this Chapel. The large rear window of the chapel is obscured by foliage, which suggests that the Chapel was at this date in a bad state of repair. Between 1554 and 1813, it was held by the Chandos family, although it was damaged during the Civil War, which made it largely inhabitable.
View of the back of Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire showing the landscape it overlooks. Sudeley is one of the grandest late medieval houses in Gloucestershire. Many of the buildings are ruined but the long medieval hall appears habitable. The Castle Chapel is striking, very much in the Gothic Perpendicular style with heavily pinnacled roof. It has a Royal connection, as Katherine Parr, the last Queen of Henry VIII died here in 1548 and was buried in this Chapel. The large rear window of the chapel is obscured by foliage, which suggests that the Chapel was at this date in a bad state of repair. Between 1554 and 1813, it was held by the Chandos family, although it was damaged during the Civil War, which made it largely inhabitable.
The original Castle was built during King Stephen’s reign. His His capture of several French ships added to his wealth which he spent on restoring the Castle. Tradition says that the Portmare Tower was where Boteler held a French Admiral who he had taken prisoner. Boteler received ransom from the King adding more to his considerable wealth.[6]

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

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

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

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

Lord Sudeley

Tree of the Lords of Sudeley from "Annals of Winchcombe and Sudeley" by Emma Dent, Lady Sudeley, 1877.
Tree of the Lords of Sudeley from “Annals of Winchcombe and Sudeley” by Emma Dent, Lady Sudeley, 1877.
The Boteler’s elevation to the aristocracy arose from the second marriage of Ralph’s grandfather, William le Botiler of Wem, de jure 2nd Baron Boteler, to the co-heiress of John de Sudeley, de jure 2nd Baron Sudeley, Joan de Sudeley.[1] In 1367, Thomas Boteler became co-heir to his uncle, John de Sudeley, de jure 3rd Baron Sudeley.[1] This eventually led to his father succeeding to the title of Lord of Sudeley. The title passed to both of Ralph’s elder brothers, John (5th Baron Sudeley) who died unmarried and childless in 1410 and William (6th Baron Sudeley), who despite being married, also died childless seven years later. William’s widow, Alice, was appointed governess of Henry VI in 1424.[2] On 10 September 1441, Ralph Boteler was created by a new writ and letters patent, Baron of Sudeley by King Henry VI.[1] With the title he was granted an annuity of 100 marks to himself and his heirs for the better support of his dignity, to be received out of the farm of the county of Lincoln.[6]

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

Marriage and Family

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

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

References

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

5 September 1548: The Death of Queen Katherine Parr

The nursery and apartments of the dowager queen with Lady Anne Herbert standing by [the queen's sister] © Meg McGath, 2012.
The nursery and apartments of the dowager queen with Lady Anne Herbert standing by [the queen’s sister] © Meg McGath, 2012.
Unfortunately for Katherine, Dr. Huicke, so advanced in matters of diet and exercise for proper prenatal care, was a man of his time when it came to matters of hygiene. Having survived disease, civil insurrection, mob violence, charges of heresy and treason, four husbands including King Henry VIII, and the vicissitudes of life in sixteenth-century England for thirty-six years, Katherine succumbed most likely to puerperal or child-bed fever contracted from her doctor’s dirty hands and just a lack of hygiene in general. Two other Tudor queens had succumbed to the same disease and shortly died after; Jane Seymour [Henry’s third queen and mother of Edward VI who succeeded King Henry in January of 1547] and Elizabeth of York [queen to King Henry VII and mother of King Henry VIII; who gave birth to her final child, coincidentally named Princess Katherine, on 2 February 1503].

The three Tudor queens who would die shortly after giving birth; Queen Elizabeth of York, Queen Katherine, and Queen Jane Seymour. Their death is attributed to child-bed fever which was very common in Tudor times.

On the 5th September 1548, the Queen, lying on her death bed made her final will. Katherine was sick in body, but of good mind, perfect memory and discretion; being persuaded, and perceiving the extremity of death to approach her; disposed and ordained by permission, assent, and consent of her most dear, beloved husband, the Lord Seymour, a certain disportion, gift, testament, and last will of all her goods, chattels, and debts, by these words or other, like in effect, being by her advisedly spoken to the intent of a testament and last will in the presence of the witnesses and records under-named.

The witnesses of the queen’s will were Robert Huick, Doctor of Physic, and John Parkhurst. In her will, the queen gave her husband

“with all her heart and desire, frankly and freely give, will, and bequeath to the said Lord Seymour, Lord High Admiral of England, her married espouse and husband, all the goods, chattels, and debts that she then had, or right ought to have in all the world, wishing them to be a thousand times more in value than they were or been; but also most liberally gave him full power, authority, and order, to dispose and prosecute the same goods, chattels, and debts at his own free will and pleasure, to his most commodity.”

The queen lies in state inside St. Mary's Chapel at Sudeley Castle where she is buried, © Meg McGath, 2012.
The queen lies in state inside St. Mary’s Chapel at Sudeley Castle where she is buried, © Meg McGath, 2012.

Queen Katherine Parr died on Wednesday, the 5th of September, in the year of 1548; ‘between two and three of the clock in the morning.’

Nursery and Queen's apartment window from outside © Meg McGath, 2012.
Nursery and Queen’s apartment window from outside © Meg McGath, 2012.

John Parkhurst wrote two Latin epitaphs on Katherine Parr, circa 1548. Here is the first one.

On the incomparable woman, Katherine, formerly Queen of England, France, and Ireland, my most gentle mistress. An epitaph, 1547[8].

In this new sepulchre Queen Katherine sleeps,
Flower, honor, and ornament of the female sex.
To King Henry she was a wife most faithful;
Later, when gloomy Fate had taken him from the living,
Thomas Seymour (to whom the trident, Neptune, you extended)
was the distinguished man she wed.
She bore a baby girl; after the birth, when the sun had run
A seventh round, cruel Death did kill her.
For the departed, we her household flow with watery eyes;
Damp is the British earth from moistened cheeks.
Bitter grief consumes us, we unhappy ones;
But she rejoices ‘midst the heavenly host.

The queen lies in state inside St. Mary's Chapel at Sudeley Castle where she is buried, © Meg McGath, 2012.
The queen lies in state inside St. Mary’s Chapel at Sudeley Castle where she is buried, Lady Jane Grey and two yeomen watch over the queen’s body © Meg McGath, 2012.

Related Articles:

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.

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

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

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

Sudeley Exhibit by Belinda Durrant ©

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

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

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

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

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

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