On this day in Tudor history, 30th August 1548, in the reign of King Edward VI, the dowager queen, Catherine Parr, sixth and final wife of King Henry VIII, gave birth at Sudeley Castle.
The father of her baby was her husband, Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley.
The healthy baby girl was named Mary, after her godmother, Catherine’s stepdaughter, the future Queen Mary I.
Lady Mary Seymour would soon be orphaned, and by the age of two she had disappeared from the records.
What happened to Mary Seymour?
Hear about the various theories…
On this day in Tudor history, 30th August 1548, Catherine Parr, Queen Dowager and wife of Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour of Sudeley, gave birth to a healthy daughter at Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire.
The little girl was baptised ‘Mary’ after her godmother, the Lady Mary, who was Catherine Parr’s stepdaughter by her marriage to King Henry VIII.
Lady Mary Seymour had been born into a happy, healthy and loving family, but by the age of seven months she was an orphan and a burden. Her mother died of childbed fever just days after her birth and her father was executed for treason on 17th March 1549. Her mother’s friend, Catherine Brandon (née Willoughby), the Duchess of Suffolk, was appointed as Mary’s guardian but found the burden of paying for a Queen’s daughter’s household too much. The duchess appealed to William Cicil to talk to the Duke of Somerset about helping her with Mary’s upkeep and this resulted in an act of Parliament being passed in January 1550 allowing Mary to inherit her father’s property.
We hear of Mary once more, in a grant from the privy council for household wages, livery and food in March 1550, 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 writes that “this must surely be the epitaph that Parkhurst, who would have known Lady Mary Seymour, wrote on her death”, and who else could it refer to? Porter concludes that “It suggests, as has long been conjectured, that she died young, probably around the age of two. She may well be buried in Lincolnshire, near Grimsthorpe, the estate owned by the Duchess of Suffolk, where she had lived as an unwelcome burden for most of her short, sad life.”
Romantic tradition has Mary Seymour surviving childhood, and puts her disappearance down to her being sent to Ireland, and being raised there by the Hart family, friends of her late father, or by her being sent to France to escape Protestant persecution in Mary I’s reign. Victorian historian and author Agnes Strickland writes of Mary surviving into adulthood and marrying Sir Edward Bushel, a member of the household of Queen Anne of Denmark, but I haven’t seen any evidence to back up that claim. It seems that Linda Porter’s theory has more validity.
So, the sad tale of Mary Seymour, who was born in this day in 1548.