Tag Archives: Catherine Parr

On this day in 1580 – Katherine Willoughby died

Katherine Willoughby was born on 22nd March 1519 to William Willoughby and his wife Maria de Salinas. She was born at Parham Old Hall in Suffolk. Her mother Maria was of Spanish origin that came to England in the service of the future queen, Katherine of Aragon.

Katherine was raised at Parham whilst her mother attended on the Queen but when she was only seven, in 1526, her father died and Katherine as their only child inherited her father’s barony and all his property, making her a very wealthy child. However, Katherine’s inheritance was fought over within her family due to doubt over which land was left to male heirs and which to heirs general. It would be an ongoing battle.

Due to the death of Katherine’s father she was now the ward of King Henry VIII. Wards were often granted to the king if a father had died to take the financial strain off the mother in her times of need. As a result of this the King sold his ward to his closest friend and brother in law, Charles Brandon. Brandon acting for his ward soon became involved in her ongoing struggle to claim her inheritance by writing a letter to Cardinal Wolsey.

Katherine was betrothed to Brandon’s son, Henry but when Brandon’s wife and the king’s sister, Mary Tudor died in 1533 Brandon, aged 49 began showing an interest in his 14 year old ward. The betrothal between his son and Katherine was broken and six weeks after his wife’s death Brandon married Katherine. Katherine bore two sons to Brandon, one called Henry and the other Charles. She also raised Brandon’s first son from his previous marriage, the boy Katherine was originally intended to marry.

Brandon died in 1545 with Katherine only in her mid 20’s. It is believed that following the death of his friend the king viewed Katherine as a potential seventh wife. However, nothing came of this and the king remained married to Catherine Parr until his death in 1547.

Following Henry’s death and that of the dowager Queen Catherine, she was awarded the wardship of Catherine Parr and Thomas Seymour’s daughter and in later years also Lady Mary Grey. Tragedy struck Katherine in 1551 when both her sons caught the sweating sickness and died within an hour of each other.

Katherine married for a second time to Richard Bertie, this appears to be a love match as he was a member of her household. They also shared the same religious beliefs, their beliefs would cause them to flee to the continent during the reign of Queen Mary I. They returned to England in 1559 and continued living at Katherine’s estate, Grimsthorpe. Katherine and Richard had two children Peregrine and Susan.

Katherine’s battle over her estates were not resolved until Queen Elizabeth I took the throne.

Katherine died on 19th September 1580 and is buried with her second husband, Richard, in Spilsby, Lincolnshire.

Katherine WilloughbyKatherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk

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 1513 – William Parr was born

On 14th August 1513 William Parr was born to Sir Thomas Parr and his wife Maud. Thomas had two sisters Anne and Catherine, the sixth wife of King Henry VIII.

On 9th February 1527 Parr married Anne Bourchier daughter of Henry Bourchier, 2nd Earl of Essex. The marriage was not an easy one and in 1541 Anne eloped with her lover John Lyngfield, the prior of St. James’s Church, Tanbridge and they had several children. As a result of this Parr was able to annul the marriage via an Act of Parliament and on 17th April 1543 and Anne’s children were declared illegitimate. As a result of the Act Parr obtained his wife’s lands and titles and as a result was created the Earl of Essex. Parr was able to achieve this due to his high position within King Edward’s court and the influence he held over many.

Parr went on to marry Elisabeth Brooke. Elisabeth had been married to Sir Thomas Wyatt, who had been implicated in Anne Boleyn’s downfall; they had a son with Wyatt who went on to be Sir Thomas Wyatt the younger. Elisabeth fell in love with Parr whilst still married to Wyatt and they lived in adultery and later married whilst Wyatt was still alive, therefore the marriage was bigamous The validity of the marriage was contested as during Henry’s reign a divorced man could not be allowed to remarry but this law was rescinded by King Edward and their marriage was legal. However, it was again overturned by Mary before once again being revoked by Elizabeth.

Parr had many titles bestowed upon him alongside the Earl of Essex in 1539 he was created Baron Parr of Kendal and in 1547 he was created the Marquess of Northampton.

After the death of King Henry VIII Parr being the King’s brother in law and therefore step-uncle to the new King, Edward VI, Parr was one of the most important men in the new Council. He served Edward loyally and when it was clear that the King was dying Parr along with his wife worked with John Dudley to place Lady Jane Grey as the successor to the throne. Upon Queen Mary’s ascension Parr was arrested on the charge of high treason and sentenced to death on 18th August 1553, however, he was instead released and eventually had his titles restored to him by Queen Elizabeth in 1559.

In 1565 his wife, Elisabeth, died aged 39 heavily in debt as she attempted to find a cure for her ailment which was believed to be cancer. Five years later Parr would marry Helena Snakenborg who was a lady in waiting from Sweden. This marriage would be short lived as Parr would die five months later at Warwick Priory. With no children his titles became extinct.

Queen Elizabeth paid for the funeral and burial of Parr and he was buried in St Mary’s Church, Warwick. His tomb is inscribed as followed;

William Parr, Marquis of Northampton; Died in Warwick 28 October 1571. [Buried] with the ceremonial due [of a] Knight of the Garter to the Order of Queen Elizabeth who bore the expense of the funeral, 2 December 1571.”

William ParrWilliam Parr, brother to Catherine Parr

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 1565 – Kat Ashley died

It is unknown when Katherine Champernowne, or Kat Ashley as she was later known, it is believed that she was born in 1502 and that her parents were Sir John Champernowne and Margaret Courtenay.

Kat’s early life is unknown and but she appears to have been appointed a waiting gentlewoman to Elizabeth in 1536, shortly after Anne Boleyn had been executed. Kat intended to keep Elizabeth’s mother’s memory alive with the infant.

After the birth of Henry VIII’s son, Edward, a new household was set up to care for him this included Lady Bryan who had been until then Elizabeth’s nurse. As a result in 1537 Kat was appointed governess to Elizabeth.

In her role as Elizabeth’s governess Kat would teach her young charge in every aspect from geography, astronomy, history, maths and many languages including French, Italian, Spanish and Flemish. Away from the classroom Kat would also teach Elizabeth dancing, riding, embroidery and needlework and by the time Elizabeth was six John Ashley husband of Katyears old she was able to sew a cambric shirt from her brother, Edward. Elizabeth said later in life that Kat ‘took great labour and pain in bringing of me up in learning and honesty.’ Kat played a huge part in shaping who Elizabeth would be in later life.

In 1545 Kat married Elizabeth’s senior gentleman attendant, Sir John Ashley, who was also a cousin of Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn

In 1543 with King Henry VIII marrying his sixth and final wife, Catherine Parr, Elizabeth began attending court more and more and Kat would accompany the young Elizabeth. With the death of the King, Elizabeth and Kat would go and live with Catherine and her new husband Thomas Seymour in Chelsea. However, it was not to be an easy time.

Thomas Seymour, despite his hasty marriage with the King’s widow, took a shine to Elizabeth and began a flirtation. Kat would witness Seymour’s attempts to potentially seduce the young girl and tried to stop them warning Elizabeth away from Seymour. Kat would eventually report her concerns to Catherine Parr, who instead of stopping it joined in and reportedly held Elizabeth down whilst Seymour slashed at the 14 year olds nightgown. However, things turned serious when Catherine caught Elizabeth in Seymour’s arms and Kat lectured Elizabeth on the need to stay out of trouble and protect her reputation especially as she was second in line to the throne.

These events would be eventually investigated by King Edward’s Privy Council when Seymour was being investigated for treason. On 21st January 1549 Kat was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London whilst the claims were investigated. Kat told the investigators everything she knew and protested Elizabeth’s innocence as well as her own and was eventually declared innocent and released in early March 1549.

Kat would return to Elizabeth who was now residing at Hatfield and would remain with Elizabeth until 1554 when Elizabeth was imprisoned in the Tower by her sister, Mary I. Elizabeth was later released and Kat rejoined her charge but it was short lived as in May 1556 Kat was arrested and sent to Fleet Prison after books that were discovered in her possession that was considered treasonous. Kat was imprisoned for just three months but on her release she was forbidden from seeing Elizabeth again.

Upon Elizabeth taking the throne the order was revoked and Kat returned to Elizabeth and was appointed First Lady of the Bedchamber and became one of the most influential people in Elizabeth’s court.

Kat Ashley died on 18th July 1565 and Elizabeth was left heartbroken at the loss of her long term companion. After Kat’s death Elizabeth would say of the woman who stayed by her side since she was four. ‘Anne Boleyn gave me life but Kat Ashley gave me love’.

Kat AshleyKat Ashley

On this day in 1557 – Anne of Cleves died

Anne of Cleves was born 22nd September 1515 in Düsseldorf to John III, Duke of Cleves and his wife Maria, Duchess of Julich-Berg. Anne grew up on the edge of Solingen.

At the age of 11 in 1527 Anne was betrothed to Francis, the 10 year old son of the Duke of Lorraine. Due to his age in 1535 the betrothal was broken off and considered unofficial.

Anne’s brother succeeded his father as the Duke of Cleves and due to his support of the Reformation and his ongoing dispute with the Holy Roman Emperor, Cleves was considered by Thomas Cromwell as a convenient ally.

Following the death of his third wife, Jane Seymour, King Henry VIII was beginning to consider remarrying for the fourth time and began to seek out his options. Hans Holbein the Younger was sent to Cleves to paint both Anne and her younger sister, Amalia, Henry was considering either of the sisters as his wife. Holbein was instructed to be as accurate as possible in his painting and not to flatter the sisters. The paintings were brought back to Henry who chose Anne based on her portrait.Anne_of_Cleves,_by_Hans_Holbein_the_Younger

Anne of Cleves portrait painted by Hans Holbein the younger

Negotiators were sent to Cleves to begin talks regarding a marriage between Anne and Henry. Thomas Cromwell oversaw the talks himself and a marriage treaty was signed on 4th October 1539. With the treaty signed Anne set off for England.

The Spanish Ambassador Eustace Chapuys wrote about Anne’s arrival in England;

“This year on St John’s Day, 27 Dec, Lady Anne, daughter of the Duke of Cleves in Germany, landed at Dover at 5 o’clock at night, and there was honourably received by the Duke of Suffolk and other great lords, and so lodged in the castle. And on the following Monday she rode to Canterbury where she was honourably received by the Archbishop of Canterbury and other great men, and lodged at the King’s palace at St Austin’s, and there highly feasted. On Tuesday she came to Sittingbourne.

On New Year’s Eve the Duke of Norfolk with other knights and the barons of the exchequer received her grace on the heath, two miles beyond Rochester; and so brought her to the abbey of Rochester where she stayed that night and all New Years Day. And on New Years Day in the afternoon the king’s grace with five of his privy chamber, being disguised with mottled cloaks with hoods so that they should not be recognised, came secretly to Rochester, and so went up into the chamber where the said Lady Anne was looking out of a window to see the bull-baiting which was going on in the courtyard, and suddenly he embraced and kissed her, and showed her a token which the King had sent her for New Year’s gift, and she being abashed and not knowing who it was thanked him and so he spoke with her. But she regarded him little, but always looked out the window… and when the King saw that she took so little notice of his coming he went into another chamber and took off his cloak and came in again in a coat of purple velvet. And when the lords and knights saw his grace they did reverence… and then her grace humbled herself lowly to the king’s majesty, and his grace saluted her again, and they talked together lovingly, and afterwards he took her by the hand and led her to another chamber where their graces amused themselves that night and on Friday until the afternoon.

…So she came to Greenwich that night, and was received as Queen. And the next day, being Sunday, the King’s grace kept a great court at Greenwich, where his grace with the Queen offered at mass, richly dressed. And on Twelfth Night, which was a Tuesday, the King’s majesty was married to the said Queen Anne solemnly, in her closet at Greenwich, and his grace and she went publicly in procession that day, she having a rich coronet of stone and pearls set with rosemary on her hair, and a gown of rich cloth of silver, richly hung with stones and pearls, with all her ladies and gentlewomen following her, which was a goodly sight to behold.”

Although Chapuys report shows the happy display the couple put on, away from public eyes Henry was unhappy with his new bride after she first failed to impress at their meeting in Rochester. Anne was expected to recognise her masked suitor as her new husband as per the rules of courtly love but she did not understand what was being played out in front of her. Henry urged Thomas Cromwell and his councillors to find a way out of the marriage

Despite Henry’s protestations and no solution to his request the marriage went ahead on 6th January 1540 at Greenwich Palace, presided over by Archbishop Cranmer. The couple then spent an unsuccessful wedding night together. Henry complained further about Anne in particular he described Anne as having bad odour and saggy breasts amongst other complaints, he also stated that Anne was unprepared for married life and what was expected of her on her wedding night. It was known that Henry reported to Cromwell ‘I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse’.

By 24th June 1540 Anne was commanded to leave the court and was moved to Richmond Palace, while Anne remained in the dark as to what was happening back at Greenwich Stephen Gardiner was investigating the pre-contract Anne had with the Duke of Lorraine’s son. On 6th July 1540 Anne was informed that Henry was worried that their marriage was not lawful and her consent was sought for the marriage to be investigated. Anne gave her consent probably fearful of her life if she did not.

The marriage between Henry and Anne was declared invalid on 9th July 1540 due to three factors; Anne’s pre-contract with the Duke of Lorriane, Henry’s lack of consent to the marriage and the lack of consummation after the wedding. In exchange for a quick and easy annulment Henry granted Anne an income of £4000 a year, houses at Richmond Palace, Bletchingley and Lewes along with jewels, furniture, hangings as well as Hever Castle, the former home of Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. Anne was also given the title of King’s sister and allowed to attend court.

Although the marriage did not work out between the couple Henry and Anne would go on to have a good relationship when Henry married his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, Henry visited Anne to inform her personally of the marriage. After the fall of Catherine Howard Anne’s brother, the Duke of Cleves, pushed her case for the King to remarry Anne, a suggestion that was quickly refused instead marrying Catherine Parr, a woman that Anne appeared to dislike.

After King Henry VIII’s death Anne remained in England and in March 1547 the new King Edward VI’s Privy Council asked Anne to vacate her home at Bletchingley Palace and relocate to Penshurst Palace in order for Thomas Cawarden, the new Master of Revels to live in Bletchingley.

Anne lived quietly away from court during Edward’s reign. When Edward’s eldest sister took the throne after his death Anne wrote to Mary on 4th August 1553 to congratulate her former step-daughter on her marriage to Philip of Spain. The following month on 28th September Anne accompanied Mary from St James’s Palace to Whitehall, Elizabeth also accompanied the pair.

With the country reverting back to Catholicism Anne changed her religion to please the new Queen and despite the few appearances at the beginning of Mary’s reign, including her coronation Anne remained away from court. That is until Wyatt’s Rebellion in 1554 when Anne’s relationship with Elizabeth caused Mary to question Anne’s motives and Mary was convinced that “the Lady (Anne) of Cleves was of the plot and intrigued with the Duke of Cleves to obtain help for Elizabeth: matters in which the king of France was the prime mover.”

After falling under Mary’s suspicion Anne did not attend court again and chose to live quietly on her estates until her health began to deteriorate when Mary permitted Anne to relocate to Chelsea Old Manor, the former home of Henry’s final wife Catherine Parr. In July 1557 Anne dictated her final will, she remembers her family as well as the Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Suffolk and Countess of Arundel. Anne also left money for her servants and asked Mary and Elizabeth to find employment for them within their households.

Anne died on 16th July 1557; aged 41, the cause of death is unconfirmed. Anne was buried in Westminster Abbey, the only one of Henry’s wives that was buried there. Her tomb is opposite the shrine for Edward the Confessor.

Annes tomb Westminster AbbeyAnne of Cleves tomb in Westminster Abbey