Catherine Parr

Catherine held several records as Queen of England – the Queen most often married, and more important to her, the reigning Queen who survived marriage to Henry, and the first English Queen also to be Queen of Ireland.

Only once did Henry send for a princess, and Anna of Cleves was not a success, although her lack of success perhaps kept her body intact. Henry preferred to make his own decisions, propinquity was important, and his wife’s attendants gave him a liberal choice. Catherine came from landed gentry with connections to royal ancestry, was a distant cousin of King Henry VIII, and her mother was friends with Catherine of Aragon which possibly explains her daughter’s name, though Catherine in its various forms was common. She was born 1512, probably in London. She was first married when seventeen, to Sir Edward Borough but he died in 1533. She was next married to John Neville, a northern baron, widower twice her age and father of two children; the baron was caught up in the northern rebellion and survived the jeopardy with damaged reputation before he died in 1543, leaving Catherine a well off widow. She joined the ladies in waiting to Mary, Catherine of Aragon’s daughter, and there she became attached to Thomas, the brother of Queen Jane Seymour. She was, however, after the Queen’s death picked out as his next companion by Henry, obliged to marry him, and to say farewell to Thomas Seymour who was sent by the King to Brussels.

The marriage took place in Hampton Court, July 12, 1543, four months after the death of her second husband. Perhaps more of a nurse to her husband than bed-mate, Catherine did her best to unite the family, to keep Henry’s children, in particular the daughters, foremost in his attentions. She was also an efficient regent in 1544 when Henry spent three months out of the country, and wrote two books of religious studies.

Henry died January 28th 1547, on his instructions, Catherine was still to be considered a Queen of England, which inhibited her ability to marry again. She was bequeathed in money, plate and property, well beyond today’s equivalent of a million pounds sterling.

However, in May Catherine secretly married her old love, Sir Thomas Seymour, and when this was discovered in the summer Henry’s children who she had done so much to help, all turned against her, though their anger dissolved and by 1548 all were friends again; Elizabeth lived with her.

Catherine became pregnant for the first time in her four marriages, she was delivered of a girl baby in August, 1548 and died six days later, probably from childbirth (puerperal) fever, though some suspect her husband poisoned her (didn’t they always?). What became of her daughter, named Mary, is not known.

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