Posted By Claire on September 5, 2012
On Wednesday 5th September 1548, between two and three o’clock in the morning, Catherine Parr, the dowager queen and wife of Thomas Seymour, Baron Sudeley, died of puerperal fever (childbed fever). Her body was wrapped in cere cloth and waxed cloth, then encased in a lead envelope, for the burial which took place the same day at Sudeley Chapel. Seymour’s ward, Lady Jane Grey, acted as chief mourner and Miles Coverdale, the famous reformist Bible translator, preached the sermon.
Catherine Parr was aged around thirty-six when she died and had just given birth to her first child, a little girl called Mary. The birth seems to have been straightforward and the baby was healthy, but within a few days of the birth, Catherine had contracted the infection which was also responsible for Queen Jane Seymour’s death, the dreaded childbed fever.
I always find Catherine’s story sad. She had finally married the man she loved and had had the child she probably thought she’d never have and then she died. What’s worse is that without her steadying influence Seymour went on to be executed as a traitor and then the orphaned Mary Seymour disappears from the records at the age of two, so probably died. So sad.
But Catherine’s story doesn’t end there. In the spring of 1782, some ladies visiting Sudeley Castle and investigating the ruins of the chapel there, found an alabaster block. They thought that it might have been part of a monument and so opened the ground in that area. They discovered a lead envelope coffin inscribed:
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
The women then cut holes in the coffin and unwrapped the remains to find that Catherine’s body had been completely preserved. Unfortunately, the women did not seal up the coffin again so the remains began to decay. By the time it was investigated again, exposure to the elements had led to the disintegration of Catherine’s remains.
You can find out more about Catherine Parr in the following articles:-
- Last But Not Least: The Enduring Fascination of Katherine Parr – A guest post by historian Linda Porter
- Catherine Parr – The Old Nursemaid?
- Catherine Parr in Danger – A guest post by historian Elizabeth Norton
- Catherine Parr – A brief bio of Henry VIII’s sixth wife.
- Catherine Parr: The One Who Got Away
- The Mystery of Mary Seymour Solved?
I’ve also written about Catherine Parr over at The Elizabeth Files:-