Category Archives: Catherine Parr

On this day in 1569 – Queen Dowager Catherine Parr died

On 5th September 1569 the Queen Dowager Catherine Parr died six days after giving birth at Sudeley Castle, the home she shared with her fourth husband, Thomas Seymour.

Catherine Parr died of puerperal fever, which was also known as childbed fever. It was also the illness that killed King Henry VIII’s third wife, Jane Seymour. It was not an uncommon cause of death amongst women in Tudor times as the hygiene around childbirth was very poor.

Catherine’s body was wrapped in a waxed cloth, to prevent decay and was encased in a lead coffin. Her chief mourner at her funeral was Lady Jane Grey as her step daughter Elizabeth had been sent away from Sudeley Castle following an alleged scandal involving Thomas Seymour and the young Princess.

The funeral service was performed in English, the first of its kind, and relatively short as Catherine was a believer of the reformed faith. The funeral contained psalms sung in English, an offering for alms, three lessons and a sermon spoken by Miles Coverdale, well known for translating the Bible. Catherine was buried in the chapel within the grounds of Sudeley Castle with an inscription on her lead coffin which read;181

Here lyeth Queen Katheryne Wife to Kinge Henry the VIII and The wife of Thomas Lord of Sudely high Admy… of Englond And ynkle to Kyng Edward VI.”

Catherine’s tomb was discovered in 1782 and when the coffin was opened the wax cloth was removed from the body and it was discovered that Catherine was well preserved and she still had hair, teeth, nails and her flesh was still soft and moist with her arm weighing the same as if she was alive.

When the coffin was opened again in 1817 there was nothing but a skeleton, it was now that the coffin was moved to the tomb of Lord Chandos, the family that resided in Sudeley Castle at the time. It was carefully restored on the orders of Lady Anne Greville, Duchess of Buckingham and daughter of the 3rd Duke of Chandos. In later years the chapel was rebuilt by Sir George Gilbert Scott who built a canopied tomb wih a recumbent marble figure crafted by John Birnie Philip. The tomb had four crests carved on the side one for each of her husband’s.

178The tomb of Queen Dowager Catherine Parr

On this day in 1548 – Queen Dowager Catherine Parr gave birth to a daughter

On 30th August 1548 the Queen Dowager, Catherine Parr gave birth to a daughter at Sudeley Castle, the home she shared with her fourth husband, Thomas Seymour.
Catherine Parr spent the final three months of her pregnancy at Sudeley Castle preparing for the birth of her first child. Catherine ensured that she was surrounded by her closest friends including her chaplain, Miles Coverdale, her almoner, John Parkhurst as well as her ladies from when she was Queen.

053Part of the remains of Sudeley Castle where Catherine Parr would have given birth

Shortly before her confinement was due to begin Catherine decorated the nursery, it was situated looking over the gardens and chapel. It was decorated in crimson and gold velvet and taffeta. Beside the cradle was a bed with crimson curtains as well as a separate bed designated for the new child’s nurse.
The daughter was named Mary, after the Queen Dowager’s eldest step daughter and future Queen. Just six days after her birth Catherine died of puerperal fever and was laid to rest within the grounds of Sudeley Castle. Mary was then brought up with her father as her main guardian, Seymour took Mary to London and placed her with her aunt and uncle, the Duke and Duchess of Somerset, who had just had their own child. Mary remained here until Seymour was executed for treason just seven months later leaving Mary an orphan.

178The burial place of the Queen Dowager Catherine Parr

Due to an appeal made to William Cecil by Katherine Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk we know that she was appointed Mary’s guardian after Seymour’s death, it appears that she resented being given the young child to care for and referred to her as ‘the Queens daughter’ in her letter. Katherine Brandon was appealing to Cecil to gain his help with talking to the Lord Protector, the Duke of Somerset regarding the upkeep of Mary’s household. The household was expensive to maintain as Mary was still the child of a Queen and therefore needed a lady governess, rocker and her own servants despite her young age. However, in January 1550 an act of Parliament was passed that allowed Mary to inherit Seymour’s properties and therefore a regular income.
Records show no other mention of Mary after this date, she was just 16 months old, she never stood forward to claim her inheritance and so it is believed that she died as an infant. It is likely that she is buried near Grimsthorpe in the estate owned by Katherine Brandon.

Catherine Parr letter7A letter written from Catherine Parr to Thomas Seymour

about her pregnancy

On this day in 1544 – Princess Elizabeth wrote to Catherine Parr.

On 31st July 1544 Princess Elizabeth wrote a letter to Catherine Parr. Elizabeth was aged just ten years old but the letter was written beautifully in Italian to the current Queen who was acting regent whilst Elizabeth’s father, Henry VIII, was in France.

It is the earliest surviving letter in existence that Elizabeth wrote to her step mother. Translated it read;

Inimical fortune, envious of all good and ever revolving human affairs, has deprived me for a whole year of your most illustrious presence, and, not thus content, has yet again robbed me of the same good; which thing would be intolerable to me, did I not hope to enjoy it very soon. And in this my exile I well know that the clemency of your highness has had as much care and solicitude for my health as the king’s majesty himself. By which thing I am not only bound to serve you, but also to revere you with filial love, since I understand that your most illustrious highness has not forgotten me every time you requested from you. For heretofore I have not dared to write to him. Wherefore I now humbly pray your most excellent highness, that, when you write to his majesty, you will condescend to recommend me to him, praying ever for his sweet benediction, and similarly entreating our Lord God to send him best success, and the obtaining of victory over his enemies, so that your highness and I may, as soon as possible, rejoice together with him on his happy return. No less pray I God, that He would preserve your most illustrious highness; to Whose grace, humbly kissing your hands, I offer and recommend myself.

From St James’s this 31st July.

Your most obedient daughter, and most faithful servant, Elizabeth.”

Elizabeths letterA fragment of the letter Elizabeth sent to Catherine Parr

On this day in 1549 – An Act of Attainder was passed against Thomas Seymour

Thomas Seymour, brother to the late Queen Jane Seymour, husband of the Dowager Queen Catherine Parr and uncle to King Edward VI saw an Act of Attainder passed against him on 5th March 1549 declaring him guilty of high treason.

Upon the ascension of Edward VI, Thomas was created Baron Seymour of Sudeley and as the King’s uncle a member of the new Privy Council. In 1547 he married King Henry VIII’s widow, Catherine Parr, controversially only months after Henry had died. Due to the Dowager Queen’s position of step-mother and guardian of Princess Elizabeth they lived at Chelsea Manor in London. Upon Catherine and Thomas’ marriage he also moved into the property, which raised some concerns as during the final months of Henry’s life Thomas had put forward the notion of marrying one of the Princesses, preferably Elizabeth, although this did come to nothing at the time.

With Elizabeth now under the same roof as Thomas their relationship became too familiar with reports that Thomas would enter her chambers dressed in just his nightclothes and would tickle and slap the Princesses behind whilst she was in bed. These incidents were reported to Catherine who tried to put them down to innocent fun and she even partook in a few of them herself to try and ease the situation.

Catherine became pregnant in 1548 and the couple moved to Sudeley Castle. Elizabeth was sent to Hertfordshire to live as a precaution to ensure that Thomas didn’t do anything towards her whilst Catherine was in confinement. Catherine gave birth in September 1548 to a daughter but only a few days later Catherine died from complications of childbirth. Upon her death Thomas inherited all of Catherine’s wealth and once again his attentions turned towards Elizabeth and the idea of marriage.

Sudeley Castle      Sudeley Castle home of Thomas Seymour and Catherine Parr

Throughout King Edward VI’s reign Thomas was jealous that his brother, Edward, was appointed Protector and not him. The jealousy worsened over time and Thomas attempted to do what he could to gain influence over the nine year old King. He began visiting the King in secret and giving him an allowance behind his brothers back. He also tried to convince the King that he could rule in his own right and did not have a need for a Protector, on this occasion Edward did not listen to his uncle for fear of betraying the man appointed to look after him and his interests.

In 1547, with his brother invading Scotland in the Kings name, Thomas began voicing concern over his brothers ability to rule in the Kings name and he even went as far as approaching other nobles for their support in case of a rebellion. Upon his return from Scotland, Edward Seymour called for a council meeting for his brother to explain himself. Thomas failed to show up.

Thomas Seymour’s downfall took a further turn for the worse when on 16th January 1549 Thomas was found outside King Edward’s chambers with a loaded pistol after breaking in to Hampton Court Palace. It is unclear of his intentions but to the council it appeared that he was attempting to abduct the King.

The following morning Thomas was arrested and sent straight to the Tower of London and in the following five weeks was charged with 33 counts of treason and other offenses. Instead of receiving a trial in front of a jury of his peers Thomas Seymour was found guilty via an Act of Attainder. The Act was sent to the Lords on 25th February where it passed through twice before it was sent to the Commons for final approval. It was signed off on 5th March 1549. The Act of Attainder stripped Thomas of his land and titles as well as condemning him to execution.

Thomas Seymour was executed on 20th March 1549.

Thomas Seymour