30 August 1548 – Catherine Parr, Queen Dowager, Gives Birth to a Daughter
Posted By Claire on August 30, 2013
On this day in 1548, Mary Seymour, daughter and only child of Catherine Parr, Queen Dowager, and Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour of Sudeley, was born at Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire.
Catherine Parr died of puerperal fever on 5th September 1548, just six days after the birth of Mary, and Thomas Seymour was executed as a traitor on 20th March 1549, leaving Mary orphaned at the age of just seven months. We know that Catherine Parr’s friend, Katherine Brandon (née Willoughby), the Duchess of Suffolk, was appointed as Mary’s guardian, because she appealed to William Cecil to talk to the Duke of Somerset about helping her with the upkeep of Mary’s household, which was the household of a Queen’s daughter and therefore very expensive to run. The Duchess must have been very relieved in January 1550 when an act of Parliament allowed Mary to inherit her father’s property – money would be forthcoming at last.
But that is the last we hear of little Mary Seymour, who would have been around sixteen months-old when she was allowed to inherit Thomas Seymour’s remaining property. She just disappears from the records, and never claimed her inheritance.
What happened to the little girl has always been a mystery, but historian Linda Porter writes of a poem that might just tell us the fate of Catherine Parr’s daughter. The poem, from a Latin book of poem and epitaphs written by Catherine Parr’s chaplain, John Parkhurst, in 1573, reads as follows:-
“I whom at the cost
Of her own life
My queenly mother
Bore with the pangs of labour
Sleep under this marble
An unfit traveller.
If Death had given me to live longer
That virtue, that modesty,
That obedience of my excellent Mother
That Heavenly courageous nature
Would have lived again in me.
You are, fare thee well
Because I cannot speak any more, this stone
Is a memorial to my brief life.”
Linda Porter is of the opinion that, although no name is given, it must be the epitaph of Mary Seymour and that she did, indeed, die young. Porter ponders whether she may have been buried at the Lincolnshire estate of the Duchess of Suffolk, near Grimsthorpe. We just don’t know.
Christine Hartweg wrote an excellent article on Mary Seymour on her blog – see Who Cared for Little Mary Seymour’s Upkeep?
Notes and Sources
- This article is taken from On This Day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway, p405-406
- Lady Mary Seymour: An Unfit Traveller by Linda Porter, published in History Today Volume: 61 Issue: 7 2011
10 thoughts on “30 August 1548 – Catherine Parr, Queen Dowager, Gives Birth to a Daughter”
Wasn’t Thomas executed on 20 March?
Oops, sorry, typo! Will correct – thanks!
Although, interestingly, Linda Porter has him being executed on 17th in her article. Interesting!
Wasn’t Catherine Parr married to Henry VIII ? I’m confused can you tell me ML
Wasn’t Catherine Parr married to Henry VIII ? I’m confused can you tell me ML thanks
She was married 4 times – Edward Burgh, John Nevill (Baron Latimer), Henry VIII and Thomas Seymour.
How sad for that lost little girl
Thank you, Claire, for the mention!
Just the other day I’ve seen a note by someone that there are several dates for Thomas’ execution in the sources, but I can’t remember where that was … (George Bernard in the ODNB also has 20 March, though).
Considering the Tudor monarchs had a thing about women being able or not wanting women to rule: they seem to have had an epidemic of them in the family. Henry has two adult sisters; adult sisters have adult daughters; he has several nieces and cousins; adult neices have more daughters; and he had two daughters who lived; outlived his son in fact. The boys drop like flies for one reason or another and the girls live to rule. Tudor girl power or what? Then wife number 6 who has not so much as a sign of being pregnant by any of her first 3 husbands has yet another daughter by the fourth. The Clifford line goes all female; the Brandon Grey line goes all female and the Tudor line ends up all female. At one time or another the older Henry must have found himself with a house full of women! Poor Henry! All those women: and he added 6 more to the tally by marrying them! Yes, definately Tudor Girl Power Rules O.K!
I believe though in all seriousness that the Grey girls did not have happy lives and Mary Parr is something of a myster, although she was brought up by her mother’s friend Katherine Brandon-Bertie, Duchess of Suffolk etc; and had a reasonably good life, from what I recall. I do not remember much, has to be said. But fancy after all those husband’s finally having a child and poor Katie Parr did not live long to enjoy her baby girl. Sad for both of them. It is no wonder that Tom Seymour went a bit bonkers after this and tried to kidnap King Edward and have his own way in the council. Good job the boy screamed and he was rescued before any harm was done. What a family!
I disagree that the loss of mention of Lady Mary Seymour was evidence that she died young. Absense of evidence is not evidence of absense and unless something more substantial is produced I except that she was cared for and survived until at least young adulthood. There is no grave for her near Grimsthorpe and I have been there several times. There is no record of her death near here either. Traditions survive that she survived and unless someone points to a grave or a record of death there is no proof to the contrary; or to support that she lived. But I believe she did live and this poem I believe is written by her and points to her death around 1573/74. I know there is no evidence for that either, but the poem sounds as if it is written by someone dying of some sort of lingering illness and given that bad bouts of influenza could see you off in those days; this is a more likely cause of her death.