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of the marriage was contested as during Henry’s reign a divorced man could not be allowed to remarry but this law was rescinded by King Edward and their marriage was legal.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.”