Henry VIII and Catherine ParrOn this day in history, 12th July 1543, King Henry VIII married his sixth and final wife, Catherine Parr, Lady Latimer, widow of John Neville, 3rd Baron Latimer of Snape in Yorkshire, in the Queen’s Closet at Hampton Court Palace.

The chroniclers only mention the marriage in passing, giving few details:

“In this yere, the Kyng maryed Ladye Katherin par widow, late wyfe to the Lorde Latymer, at Hampton Court.”1

“This yeare, the 12 of Julye, Lady Katherine, late wyfe of the Lord Latimer, lately departed, and sister of the Lord Parre, was proclaymed Quene and marryed to the Kinges Majestye at Hampton Courte.”2

“The twelfe of Julie, at Hampton court, the king maried the ladie Katharine Par, widow, late wife vnto the lord Latimer deceased, and then she was nominated queene, and so proclaimed.”3

However, further details are given in the notarial attestation by Richard Watkins, the King’s prothonotary, in Letters & Papers:

“Notarial instrument witnessing that, on 12 July 1543, 35 Hen. VIII., in an upper oratory called “the Quynes Pryevey closet” within the honor of Hampton Court, Westm. dioc., in presence of the noble and gentle persons named at the foot of this instrument and of me, Ric. Watkins, the King’s prothonotary, the King and lady Katharine Latymer alias Parr being met there for the purpose of solemnising matrimony between them, Stephen bp. of Winchester proclaimed in English (speech given in Latin) that they were met to join in marriage the said King and Lady Katharine, and if anyone knew any impediment thereto he should declare it. The licence for the marriage without publication of banns, sealed by Thos. abp. of Canterbury and dated 10 July 1543, being then brought in, and none opposing but all applauding the marriage, the said bp. of Winchester put the questions (recited) to which the King, hilari vultu, replied “Yea” and the lady Katharine also replied that it was her wish; and then the King taking her right hand, repeated after the Bishop the words, “I, Henry, take thee, Katharine, to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death us depart, and thereto I plight thee my troth.” Then, releasing and again clasping hands, the lady Katharine likewise said “I, Katharine, take thee Henry to my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to be bonayr and buxome in bed and at board, till death us depart, and thereto I plight unto thee my troth.” The putting on of the wedding ring and proffer of gold and silver (described) followed; and the Bishop, after prayer, pronounced a benediction. The King then commanded the prothonotary to make a public instrument of the premises. Present : John lord Russell, K.G., keeper of the Privy Seal, Sir Ant. Browne, K.G., captain of the King’s pensioners, and Thos. Henage, Edw. Seymer, Hen. Knyvet, Ric. Long, Thos. Darcy, Edw. Beynton, and Thos. Speke, knights, and Ant. Denny and Wm. Herbert, esquires, also the ladies Mary and Elizabeth the King’s children, Margaret Douglas his niece, Katharine duchess of Suffolk, Anne countess of Hertford, and Joan lady Dudley, and Anne Herbert.”4

As you can see, the King’s daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, were present at the wedding.

You can read more about Catherine Parr in the following articles:

Notes and Sources

  1. Hall, Edward (1809) Hall’s chronicle: containing the history of England, during the reign of Henry the Fourth, and the succeeding monarchs, to the end of the reign of Henry the Eighth, in which are particularly described the manners and customs of those periods. Carefully collated with the editions of 1548 and 1550, J Johnson, p. 858.
  2. Wriothesley, Charles (1875) A chronicle of England during the reigns of the Tudors, from A.D. 1485 to 1559 Volume 1, Camden Society, p. 143.
  3. Holinshed, Raphael (1807) Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, Volume III, J Johnson, p. 832.
  4. Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 18 Part 1, January-July 1543, 873.

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14 thoughts on “12 July 1543 – The King’s marriage to Catherine Parr”
  1. A clever woman who must have had a great deal of courage. Did she not only want to protect the development of the new religion but also help the King have peace within his family? By all accounts he was a bit of a wreck at this point of his life so did she pity him? If only people had kept diaries in Tudor times!

  2. I don’t think Katherine had much say in the matter really, I can imagine him asking her and she saying yes so as not to offend him, she was probably quaking in her shoes poor lady, after his fifth wife’s execution I cannot see any decent woman wishing to marry Henry at all.

    1. There are some amusing satires on YouTube, and I think my favorite ends with a cartoon of a herald coming into a room full of women and saying, “Good news! King Henry is looking for another wife!” and all the women running screaming in every direction. If I can find that video, I’ll post the link.

  3. At this point in his life, Henry must have been a shadow of his former self. I do believe the winds were knocked out of his spirit. Marrying for the sixth time was akin to breathing in his mantra. “I must marry, I must produce a male heir”. Oh how right you are, if only these lovely strong Tudor women left behind some written words!

  4. Although I feel sorry for all of Henrys wives I cannot help but feel sympathetic towards him to, he had thought by now he would have sired a few healthy sons then he would go to his grave content knowing England had a male ruler and the dynasty would be secure, his country would be secure and that was always his prime concern, perhaps we should now and then try to understand what this most complex man went through in his quest for a son, how it affected him and his troubled conscience, what miseries he went through to attain that, he must have felt less than a man especially after the impotency charge was made public at Anne’s trial, we can feel sympathetic towards his first two wives for the awful treatment they endured, Anne who after all was murdered and Jane whose early death was caused by giving Henry what he so urgently wanted, Catherine Howard who really brought her demise upon herself yet she was so young, and then Catherine Parr who was said to be in love with Tom Seymour and was nearly arrested for heresy, none of them gave Henry what he wanted except Jane and so I do find it in my heart to be sorry for him now and then, as it was for England he went to the lengths he did, awful for his hapless wives though!

    1. So a caregiver cannot be in love with their husband. I must remember that after 24 years of marriage and several of caregiving. How do you know how Catherine Parr felt? For one thing she was more than a caregiver, Henry treated her with respect and trust and made her his regent while he was in France. The marriage may not have been a love match but she did have a choice and chose to marry Henry as Catherine was a religious fanatic who thought that she could convert Henry. She had a great deal of influence in the court, so much so as to make Stephen Gardiner twitchy about her evangelical activities, she was involved in being a patron of books in English, translation and published her own book. The queens quarters were more like a Bible meeting than the court, she was involved in the education of the kids and she drove the King to annoyance with her preaching. The latter was almost her undoing, save she got wind of the arrest warrant and sensibly admitting that Henry was right, she was a woman and she wanted to learn from his wisdom. But she was more than a caregiver. Yes she was able to nurse Henry when needed, but she was also a companion and a moother to his younger children. We don’t know how she felt but there is evidence that she missed him when away and had affection for him. Even if she was not in love with him, Henry Viii treated Katherine Parr much better than the cad Sir Thomas Seymour with whom she was in love and who flirted with Princess Elizabeth under her nose.

  5. I vividly recall the reconstruction of the marriage between Henry Viii and Katherine Parr at Hampton Court back in July 2009, which is why I am fond of this marriage. Katherine Parr was a devoted woman in that she was a good wife, but she was emerging as an educated woman who could express her own ideas. She became a friend to Princess Mary, she was a published author, a patroness, married to two older men, she cared for them, but her marriage to John Neville gained her wealth, power and prestige. The marriage was a success, although after Katherine was held hostage in Yorkshire by Aske and his rebels, Neville found himself caught up in the Pilgrimage of Grace, against his will. He was able to make the case and clear himself, but Katherine seems to have emerged from her ordeal with a more formidable mind. Katherine was appaulled by the case of a young man aged 15 who was punished for ‘heresy’ and was also shocked that her brother, William, whode wife had cheated on him wanted to petition for the death penalty for her as adultery could be charged under petty treason. Katherine came to count to plead for the lady and William was refused his request. Katherine would be outspoken, a force for education, she was a supporter of Lady Mary and became her friend. Mary dedicated an important translation to Katherine Parr and she was rightly credited with bringing Edward and Elizabeth more into the life at court with their father and possibly had something to do with the restoration of Msry and Elizabeth in 1544 Succession Act.

    There is no evidence that Katherine as a widow had no choice but to marry Henry Viii. The law protected her rights as a widow so she could have remained as an independent lady in comfort or married Sir Thomas Seymour. The King may have had Seymour moved as Ambassador, but that does not mean he forced Katherine to marry him, this just gets rid of the rival suitor. Katherine was courted by Henry over several weeks, she had a number of things to offer that Henry saw as usful in a wife and companion. For one thing she was not bsd looking, she was thirty two, still able to have children as far as all knew, she was very interesting and intellectual, she was known to a number of people at court, politically savvy, a friend to the Duchess of Suffolk, she enjoyed talking about theology, the King’s favourite subject, she was well educated and eager to learn more, she had cared for two disabled husband’s, she was sensible and his children liked her. Henry Viii could offer her power and security, protection and a chance to influence things and events at court. To Henry she was far more than a nurse, she was a genuine companion who in his last years was a helpmate as his first wife, her namesake had been.

    Katherine Parr was controversial as she became far more influential than expected, she made friends with several theologians, promoted reformers, encouraged the new translations of religious books and her rooms were full of books and ladies who debated the Bible. Some people say it was more like being at a revival meeting than court entertainment. She would even talk about the issues with the King, but of course as with all fanatics she became more and more outspoken, going too far and getting herself and her ladies in a whole load of trouble. Katherine went too far one day, drove the King mad and he allowed her to be investigated for heresy. However, Katherine was warned and came to the King, making her peace by stroking Henry’s ego. She said that her only aim was to learn from his wisdom as her King and Head, as she was a woman whose opinion did not count. Katherine was also trusted to act as his regent for several months and took part in the advanced education of his children. She wrote a prayer for Henry in English which was read when he went to war in France. After Henrys death, Katherine was rich and independent, marrying Thomas Seymour, with whom she was foolishly in love with. It was he, not Henry Viii who treated her badly, acting as a cad and chasing Elizabeth who had come to live with them. Katherine is also known for the publication of the reformation text Lamentations of a Sinner.

    Finally one bit of tit bit. The marriage was also mentioned in a letter to the Duke of Suffolk who was campaigning in Scotland, so this shows that unlike in the Tudors, Charles Brandon did not act as his best man. Nor did the wedding take place before the entire court, but in the Queens Closset which is a small chapel, with the number being 14 people, including the Duchesd of Suffolk. Henry Viii seemd to have liked low key weddings as all but one were small affairs, with a larger public celebration afterwards.

    1. I think the idea that Katherine didn’t have a choice about marrying Henry wasn’t necessarily a legal issue, but instead, rested on the fact that Henry could ruin her … and her brother … if he was angry at a rejection. The laws that would have given most widows the freedom to marry (or not) as they pleased would not protect Katherine … or her family … from Henry’s anger Henry had a track record of beheading people who didn’t give him what he wanted … Thomas More and Margaret Pole didn’t give him the status/recognition/title he wanted; Anne Boleyn didn’t give him the son he wanted; etc,

      1. All very true, but I don’t see Henry beheading someone who just said that she did not want to marry him. There is a tale that she did say she would rather be his mistress thsnv wife, but we have no evidence that he approached her with anything but kindness and respect. The other idea floated by David Starkey is that Katherine married Henry because God told her to. For me it was probably more likely that both saw benefits from the match and it was all very cordial, maybe not a love match, but certainly very beneficial.

  6. Lady Latimer wanted to marry Thomas Seymour, not Henry. It appears she grew fond of him, but given how quickly she married Seymour after his death, it seems her feelings for Seymour remained intact through her marriage to Henry. Much good it did her. She got her marriage, and he promptly started messing with Elizabeth, not only risking the happiness of all, but their heads as well.

    Life was not a happy proposition for ladies in this time. So many had sad lives.

  7. She was middle aged by the standards of the day and yes it appears she had never stopped loving Tom throughout her marriage to Henry, therefore she seized this chance of marital bliss and even though the council and many people were shocked that it was so soon after the kings death she was desperate for happiness, let’s not forget her previous marriages had been to older men and Lord Latimer had been infirm so she was more of a nursemaid to him then a wife, Seymour preyed on her feelings he was said to be charming and the women found him very attractive, but that charm hid a selfish ambitious heart and Katherine couldn’t resist him, here was a young virile handsome man paying court to her no wonder she found it difficult to say no to him, poor Katherine her next husband was only concerned with furthering his ambition and I’m sure he only married her because of that, she was a rich powerful widow he could well have had affection for her but I think he loved power more than women, he then paid court to the princess Elizabeth after her death having frolicked with her before which caused immeasurable grief to Katherine, really the man had no shame, it is significant that both Katherine and Elizabeth were near the throne, why did he not try to woo another lady there were plenty at court, he had to have power and I think Elizabeth knew that, for her age she was as sharp as needles yet Katherine’s feelings were more involved than Elizabeth’s, Elizabeth too loved power more than the opposite sex, it’s true that King Henry treated his sixth wife with respect and I think he admired her intelligence, he had had enough of flighty young things and saw the advantage of a kindly mature woman who also treated him with the respect he also deserved and commanded as the monarch, some one who was patient with his infirmities and knew how to soothe him when he was depressed, he did it’s true treat her a lot better them Tom Seymour.

  8. Katherine Parr was not forced into marriage with Henry Viii and she could have said no without any problems. She knew the King and she knew his daughter, Mary, in whose household she had served. She was a widow with property and protection in law. However, it is a bit more complicated than saying yes or refusing a King. Katherine might not have been overly enthusiastic about the much married monarch but she did see an advantage in accepting his proposal, and it was a proposal, not a command, that she could influence him religiously and politically. Katherine accepted apparently because God told her to marry Henry.

    Of course Katherine didn’t love Henry Viii, she loved Thomas Seymour, whom she later married, and who, unlike Henry Viii, mistreated her through adultery with Princess Elizabeth. He possibly looked at other women as well. She gave up Thomas who was moved out of the way through a mission abroad, she was sent gifts and was courted and was flattered by the King. She was a very intelligent and was well read and educated and a published author, if at this stage an orthodox one. She was the friend of the young wife of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, Katherine Willoughby, also a well educated woman and very much a radical reformer. The latter encouraged KP in her own interest in reform and Katherine herself saw herself as having a mission to bring Henry and his children closer to the new learning. This influenced her decision to marry the King.

    Once Queen Katherine used her influence as she could but made the best progress when Henry left her in charge in 1544 when he went of to invade France. In this period she spent more time with Elizabeth and Edward at Court, gathering them up and taking them on progress in the Summer. She also became a patron of books translated into English and she saw more reformed clergy enter the Court. She would influence Henry with his children and their tutors but she also fell foul of the King because of her preaching at him. Her household was full of radical women and men and many of them owned books regarded as dangerous. She found herself being the subject of a search and she narrowly escaped arrest for heresy because she was forewarned of a warrant for her arrest. Katherine was removed from the King’s plans for his sons care after Edward became King. This may or may not represent a breach, it is still disputed.

    Yes, Katherine cared for her husband as a nurse, but she was so much more than a caregiver and her letters to him reveal a genuine affection existed between them. Her feelings are only to be truly guessed at but she was a dutiful wife, was trusted as Regent, she was a companion and evidence of some affection exists. On the whole, until Katherine went too far in 1546,_Henry encouraged and enjoyed their theological discussions. She was a clever woman and he appreciated that in all of his wives who processed it. He just wasn’t fond of her preaching at him.

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