Sunday, 10 February 2013

Catherine Parr

Catherine Parr was born in 1512 (probably August) to Sir Thomas Parr and Maud Green. She received the standard education but developed a lifelong passion for learning. She was fluent in French, Latin and Italian but hated any kind of needlework.

She married her first husband (sir Edward Borough) when she was seventeen and it is possible that her husband was in poor health and died in 1533. After her husband's death she spent some time with the Dowager Lady Strickland before marrying John Neville, who was the 3rd Baron Latymer and twice her age. Her husband was a strongly believing Catholic and during the Lincolnshire rising a mob appeared in front of their house, demanding that Lord Latymer supported the reinstatement of Catholicism and Catherine watched as they dragged him away. In 1536 and 1537 Catherine lived alone with her two step-children, fearing what would happen next. It is likely that she developed her intense dislike of the rebellion and the old religion during this period.

Catherine and her step-children was held hostage at Snape Castle in 1537. However, Lord Latymer talked the rebels into letting them go. But Lord Latymer's (and thereby Catherine's) reputation was tarnished for life by rumours that he may have taken part in the rebellion even though no evidence was found. When the Latymers went to London and as her husband attended Parliament, Catherine went to court where she met Thomas Seymour.

Lord Latymer's health deteriorated and Catherine nursed him till his death in 1543. She was then named the guardian of his daughter Margaret through his last will. Catherine was left a wealthy widow and did sincerely mourn her husband, keeping his New Testament with his name inside till her death.
Catherine renewed her old friendship with the Lady Mary (Catherine's mother knew Catherine of Aragon) and by February 16th 1543 Catherine was an established part of Mary's household. And she soon caught the eye of the king. She had already begun a relationship with Thomas Seymour but had to accept the King's proposal and Thomas was sent to Brussels to remove him from court.

Catherine Parr married Henry VIII on July 12th 1543 at Hampton Court Palace and became the first English Queen to also have the title of Queen of Ireland since Henry had proclaimed himself King of Ireland earlier. Catherine was partially responsible for reuniting Henry VIII with his two daughters and she soon became friends with all his three children.
When Henry went to France on his last military campaign, Catherine was left as Regent in his absence. Due to a council that was positive towards the new Queen, Catherine could rule as she wanted. She was successful in handling the finances, the provisions and the musters for Henry's campaign and kept a constant contact to the lieutenant in the northern marshes.

But Catherine's religious views were soon becoming a concern for the Catholic and anti-Protestant members of court who saw her as a threat. It is generally believed today that Catherine was a Protestant despite being born before the Protestant reformation. She published a book after Henry's death where she supported Protestant ideas which is unlikely to have developed in a few couple of months. Also her sympathy with Anne Askew, a Protestant martyr burned for her beliefs, gives reason to believe that Catherine shared her religious views.

But her Catholic enemies were dangerous and in 1546, Stephen Gardiner (Bishop of Winchester) and Lord Wriothesley (Lord Chancellor) tried to turn the King against his wife and an arrest warrant was drawn up with Catherine Parr's name on it. But Catherine saw the warrant and managed to reconcile with the King which ended in a strange incident that shows Henry VIII's unstable mind at the time: Henry had not bothered to tell the guards that Catherine was not to be arrested after all and when they came for her while she was with the King, Henry flew into a rage and send them angrily away.

The King was dying and shortly before his death he gave Catherine a pension of 7.000 pounds and declared that she should be titled as Dowager Queen but still be treated as if he was alive which meant that she took precedence over all other ladies at court.
When Thomas Seymour returned to court following the King's death, Catherine accepted his proposal of marriage but it was impossible that the new King Edward VI and the council would allow the Dowager Queen to remarry so soon. So, Catherine married Thomas Seymour in secret at the end of May without the King and council's knowledge. But when the news became public it caused quite a scandal and both the King and Lady Mary were outraged. Thomas Seymour was censored by the court and wrote to the Lady Mary, asking for help. But Henry's eldest daughter was so displeased that she even told her half-sister, Lady Elizabeth, not to have any further contact with the Dowager Queen.

Catherine came into a violent argument with Edward Seymour's (Lord Protector of the Realm) wife over Catherine's jewels. The Duchess of Somerset thought that Catherine had no right to wear the jewels of the Queen of England and that the Duchess should be the one to wear them instead. Catherine won the argument by referring to the Third Succession Act that clearly stated that Catherine was to be treated as if Henry was still alive.

In 1548, Catherine invited Lady Elizabeth and Lady Jane Grey to stay with her and her husband at Sudeley Castle. Her household would later be known as a place for education for young ladies. At 35, Catherine became pregnant for the first time. Rumours stated that Thomas Seymour began to take an interest in Lady Elizabeth and that Catherine even participated in "indecent behaviour". Elizabeth was sent away in May - possibly to stop the rumours.

Catherine gave birth to her only child, a girl named Mary Seymour. But Catherine fell ill shortly after the birth due to what was known as "childbed fever". Catherine Parr died on September 5th 1548 only five days after giving birth.

Motto: To Be Useful In All I Do

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