Catherine Parr was Henry VIII’s sixth and final wife, but she’s a fascinating Tudor lady in her own right.

Hear 25 interesting facts about Catherine Parr in my latest “Facts about” video:

Here’s my my video on Catherine Parr’s death and the story of her remains:

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6 thoughts on “25 Interesting Facts about Catherine Parr”
  1. Catherine was a well educated woman like her two predecessors Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, and yes she was far from being the old nursemaid to Henry V111, she probably did sit with him and read to him and talk when he was in bed in pain with his legs, but the image of her as a serious faced matronly woman plumping up the kings pillows is really a myth, in reality she was a deeply sensuous woman who loved beautiful clothes and jewels, and had a warm and giving personality, she also had a sense of fun and was popular amongst many, she was also pretty as her portrait testifies, chestnut haired with deep brown eyes an upturned nose and an ivory complexion, yet in the portrait she is not smiling but her eyes look sideways warily, which is hardly surprising, as Henry V111’s wife she had the vision of his two beheaded wives in her mind, she was a mature woman when the king married in his old age, no young flibbertigibbet like her tragic predecessor, she really was just what he needed, she had kindness compassion and patience, unassuming and respectful and, she was a kind stepmother to his three children and although not a Catholic, the kings eldest Lady Mary was fond of her, however Catherine like most well educated women, was highly opinionated on her faith and made the mistake one day of going rather too far with her talk on religion to the king, he was a bit irked by this and declared it was a sorry state when kings are lectured by their wives, Henry loved a debate he enjoyed the company of intelligent women, but he did not care to be criticised on his own views, like his other queens before her, Catherine had her share of enemies and it was the Catholic Stephen Gardiner that was her most dangerous, one of her friends was Anne Askew a most remarkable woman who many viewed as a heretic, and she was racked by Gardiner in a vain attempt to implicate the queen, whom he also thought of as a heretic, her apartments were even searched for heretical books but the queen got wind of this and hid them all, Catherine out of all Henry’s wives was indeed fortunate, she had loyal friends and Askew kept her mouth shut under the severest of tortures, she even heard about the document for her arrest and under hysteria gave way to weeping, it makes one wonder if she had not been able to plead her case with the king, would Catherine Parr also have gone down in history as another of Henry V111’s beheaded wives? However fortune it seemed was on her side, because she won the king round and as she sat in the gardens with him the next day, sour faced Gardiner arrived with an attachment of the kings guards to arrest her, the king according to the source tells us that he got up and boxed Gardiner about the ears and called him a cur amongst others, he had no choice but to slink away like a wounded animal with the guards in retreat, it seems comical but Catherine must have been trembling, her life as Henry’s queen was fraught with danger but it was not the first time she had been in danger, married twice before she had lost her husband at a young age and then she had married again, to Lord Latimer an elderly man with children, during the pilgrimage of Grace her house had been attacked and she
    had been taken hostage with her step daughters, so she had lived quite a volatile life, she was descended from Edward 111 on her paternal side and was cousins to the king several times over, her extreme good fortune in being able to reach the king before arrest, makes one wonder had Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard had the same chance, would they also have been allowed to live, would his sentiments have affected his judgement, after her arrest Anne Boleyn never saw her husband again, neither did Catherine Howard after she was confined to her quarters, so we will never know if he would have weakened at the sight of their pleading faces, it seems Catherine Parr was not destined to tread the same doomed path as they, and she outlived her royal husband, whilst queen she was held in deep respect by the king and was appointed regent when he went to France, the court was a merry one and she had her step children there often, Elizabeth especially never knowing her mother, and being too young to remember Jane Seymour and not really having much of a chance to know Anna from Cleves, must have looked on Catherine as the first real mother she had ever known, Elizabeth herself being bright would have appreciated her step mother’s literary works, as they both shared the same faith, and Catherine was fluent in several languages likewise Elizabeth who was taught Latin as well as French, one Christmas Elizabeth gave her father a book written by her in Latin, so they must have conversed with each other often, when she became queen Catherine began to learn Spanish which must have pleased Mary and although the image of the Tudor wife is one of meek servility many noble houses gave their daughters as well as their sons an excellent education, the Grey sisters were another example as well as Anne Boleyn who had received a cosmopolitan education as well, there is a full length portrait of Catherine where she wears a gold embroiled gown and is carrying a book, her face is enchanting with the same small features but her hair in this one is more auburn than chestnut, and she looks more cheerful, having narrowly escaped imprisonment and / or death, she chose to live more quietly and never got into another heated debate with Henry again and Gardiner and Page and her other enemies had to lick their wounds and do nothing, Henry was fond of his Kate she was a mature woman and his pride had taken a battering after Catherine Howard, he knew she would never make a fool of him, as the new year commenced it was obvious to his doctors that the king would not live much longer, and she was allowed to see him so he could make his farewells, Catherine was then around thirty five and after three marriages still had no child of her own, four months later she married Thomas Seymour the new kings uncle, swept away by his youth and charm, she went to live with him in Sudeley Castle taking her step daughter Elizabeth with her, then a girl of fourteen and little Jane Grey her husbands ward, there in the beautiful lush countryside she must have been truly happy for the first time in years, but sadly marital bliss was denied her, her husband who fancied himself a ladies man, began flirting with Elizabeth and one day he went to far, heavily pregnant she discovered them one day locked in an embrace, Elizabeth was dismissed and from then on Seymour blundered from one catastrophe to another, inevitably like all ambitious men he ended up on the block, Catherine like Jane Seymour suffered from complications in childbirth and although her baby was born healthy, it robbed her mother of her life, the infection which increases delirium made Catherine babble as she lay on her death bed and she accused her husband of making her suffer with cruel taunts, Catherine was then thirty six, too old really in Tudor times to have her first child, but whatever age the mother, childbirth was very dangerous without the modern medicine and care mothers have today, her useless husband was stricken at her death and all he was left with now was their baby daughter, christened Lady Mary, possibly named after the Lady Mary, Catherine’s eldest stepdaughter, her funeral service was befitting of a one time queen consort and her epitaph was beautiful, many people sobbed as the staves were thrown onto her coffin, little Lady Jane Grey was chief mourner and she must have felt sad because now she would be sent home to her mother and father, whom she did not care for much, finding Catherine and Thomas much more less strict and kindlier then them, Catherine had a short life but it was certainly a full one married four times one of them to a king, she was highly educated and was the first queen to have her books published, she also was the first queen in Britain to have her funeral service in English, she laid in peace for about two hundred years, then in the middle part of the eighteenth century her tomb was discovered by two ladies whilst venturing around the castle ruins one day, the castle then having fallen into disrepair, it attracted the curious and the description of the dead queen is a very full and accurate one, the skin was firm and moist, the lead in which the body was encased preserved her remains, traces of beauty could be seen in its countenance, which looking at her portraits bears this out, her burial gown was lavish and the cere cloth which was her shroud and her shoes were all perfectly preserved, it was noted the queen had only been a little woman, maybe about five feet two, as her coffin was five feet four in length, the coffin was then covered up but opened again some time later, and this time was treated with dreadful disrespect, thrown onto a rubbish tip and even her body was stabbed with a pitchfork or some other sharp instrument, some drunken workmen were given the task to bury her so it was probably them who treated her with such appalling disregard, village louts no doubt, even then poor queen was not allowed to rest in peace, she was opened for a third time and of course by now, decay had set in and all what was left of this once remarkable woman was bones and dust, now she lies perfectly at rest in a marble tomb with a beautiful effigy, in the final home she had known briefly true happiness, her daughter little Mary Seymour is a mystery there are no records of her, and so the common assumption is, she sadly must have died young, but she was heiress to her father after his death and given into the care of the queens great friend, the Duchess of Suffolk, who bewailed the cost of keeping her, for little Mary was a most important personage, the daughter of an ex Queen consort of England, she thus fades from history, however her mother is known for being the last of Henry V111’s wives, the one who got away, and who escaped the gilded but sometimes bloody and dangerous cage.

  2. Catherine Parr was indeed a very well educated woman and that came from an investment into her education from her family. I always thought her first husband was much older than her. I didn’t realise he was only a few years her senior. Her second husband, John Neville, Lord Latimer had health problems and a family of his own and so Catherine was very much a family lady and so keen to help the King’s family. Catherine was a natural with children, other people’s children especially and she seemed to really enjoy interaction with them as well as sharing their studies and interests.

    Catherine, of course was a good friend to Mary because she knew her as being part of her household. Mary and Elizabeth made translations which they dedicated to Catherine and Elizabeth found her to be a very good stepmother. Edward and Elizabeth spent more time at Court under Catherine as Queen. Eventually, after the King’s death, Elizabeth moved in with Catherine and Thomas Seymour and at first things were fine. However, Thomas Seymour had a thing for young women it seems, casting an eye on 14 year-old Elizabeth. This was the time that girls could officially marry and be sexually active, although consummation was encouraged after a period of waiting for a young bride to mature and this wasn’t typically the age of marriage across the wider society. Elizabeth wasn’t entirely innocent in this and encouraged him with flirtatious behaviour and was caught kissing him by Catherine, while she was pregnant. However, Seymour is alleged to have gone further, with tales, unsubstantiated, it must be said by anything but servants gossip and evidence obtained under threats of prison, that he came into her room and tried to fondle her, he went there only in a nightgown and the probably invented story that both Catherine and Thomas Seymour tickled Elizabeth and cut her dress. I actually don’t believe half of it because of the circumstances around the evidence. At the time Elizabeth and her servants were being questioned about the idea that Seymour wanted to marry her and one of them came out with this stuff in order to save himself from possible torture and imprisonment. Seymour certainly fancied the blossoming young Princess and was very ambitious, asking her to consider him as a suitor. Elizabeth could not marry without the permission of the Council, she said this as she cleverly deflected the many questions put to her as she became embroiled in a plot to kidnap or kill her half brother, which of course Thomas Seymour was accused off.

    Sadly for Elizabeth, her stepmother was upset by the behaviour of her husband and Elizabeth was sent away to live elsewhere, her stepmother being pregnant. Elizabeth did write to Catherine but their relationship wasn’t the same. Catherine herself gave birth to a baby girl but unfortunately died soon afterwards on 5th September 1548. Little Mary Seymour is a bit of a mystery. She was cared for by her father for a few months until his imprisonment and execution and then moved to the care of Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk. The last recorded information we have is a letter asking for financial help to pay for her needs when she was about two. After that she disappeared from the historical record so its assumed that she died. However a poem written in the 1570s suggested that she lived and got married. The former is more likely to be true as children died often in infancy, before the age of five and its unlikely that a royal ward would simply have vanished. Unfortunately, we don’t know anything more, not even where she was buried.

  3. Its a great pity that those who came after the original ladies and John Nash didn’t pay her the respect to preserve her remains but mistreated them and fancy having two drunken people bury her again. The poor Queen was still beautiful and well preserved and only 36 but her body had gone to dust because obviously ivy equals moisture and that damaged her body. Now there is hardly anything left but a few bits of bone and that which we can see in a glass case in a museum. Her hair is still fair and reddish and part of the cloth from her original shroud remains. We also have her beautiful prayer book and small book of lamentations and her spiritual autobiography. A set of baby clothes, believed to be from Lady Mary, her lost daughter are also on display. The restored tomb of Queen Katherine Parr is very regal, very serene, very beautiful and peaceful and so finely made as to look like silk rather than pink marble. The whole restored Chapel and the House and Gardens are so well worth a visit. You can even take a sneak picky of the Queens loo. But don’t tell anyone.

    1. Yes I find it absolutely appalling that her body was not treated with due reverence, but that’s drunken workmen for you, they might not have known it was the body of a queen but to just throw her around like that is disgusting, no matter if this body belonged to a peasant woman human remains should be treated with respect, like I said earlier they we’re probably just louts from the village, I bet when the ladies first saw her they were shocked and a little frightened, but how wonderful to be able to actually look on the face of one of Henry V111’s queens, I wished I’d been there, and what a shame photography was not around then, I always thought maybe her baby daughter would have been buried with her, since she must have died quite young, but maybe the Duchess of Suffolk who was her guardian decided it was best to bury her in a little grave somewhere on her estate, she must therefore have a tombstone, though like Mary it’s a mystery, no other body was found with Catherine, her story is quite sad really, because her first two marriages were arranged and her second husband was much older than her, she wed the king but could not in her heart have wished that honour, being very religious she believed it was her calling, but she immediately became a target for her enemies and endured a highly worrying fraught existence, at one time she was danger of her life, her final husband was the one she truly loved and he betrayed her, personally I think Seymour was an idiot, he was married to a beautiful intelligent and gracious woman, she was carrying his child and he began fooling around with a girl scarcely out the nursery, and not with any girl but the dead kings daughter, which put them both in a very dangerous position, he may have loved Catherine as he courted her before she wed the king, but being ambitious he always set his sights higher, and he was envious of his older brother being protector of the realm, the king had only been dead about four months when he married the queen, and I think Catherine should have exerted more self control, but she was thirty five and considered middle aged by the standards of the day, she must have thought time was passing her by and she longed for children, so she was swept away on a tidal wave of love, one cannot blame her for that, but Seymour seemed to relish the prestige of being married to an ex Queen consort, it is said there was rivalry between Catherine and the protector Somerset’s wife, maybe Lady Somerset was envious of her, certainly there was rivalry between Edward and Thomas, Catherine was allowed to keep her jewels she was given as queen and must have had a sizeable pension, after her death he appears to have been genuinely distressed, no doubt guilt played a large part there, it seems Catherine Parr though being extremely fortunate in out living King Henry V111, did not find happiness with her one true love, Seymour obviously did not deserve a woman of her calibre, and it makes one wonder how Catherine herself, being a woman of sound common sense did not see her shallow husband for what he really was, an immature vain arrogant selfish irresponsible excuse of a man, but such is the power of love, it makes fools of all of us.

      1. It would make a good novel, a fictional life of Mary Seymour, an alternative to her dying young, with the the poem maybe as a starting point for her marriage and possibly a family and some intrigue. She could evenbe a rebel, rejecting her strict upbringing and Protestant lifestyle. Oh yes, I can see her now defying everyone and upsetting the status quo. Yes, good stuff.

        1. Yes there are so many fiction novels about Anne Boleyn, why not one about the lost children of high personages like Mary Seymour, the lost child of Mary Boleyn and Stafford as well, it would make fine reading.

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