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;
“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.