Katherine Parr was married twice before she caught Henry VIII’s eye. She married Sir Edward Borough in 1529, when she was seventeen, but he died just a few years afterwards in 1533. Her second husband was John Neville, 3rd Baron Latimer, a man twice her age.
John Latimer was a staunch Catholic, under deep suspicion and even implicated in the Pilgrimage of Grace, which makes Katherine’s deep Protestantism all the more ironic. By 1542 he was back in London to attend Parliament. It was then that Katherine visited her brother William and her sister Anne at court – and started to build a friendship with Sir Thomas Seymour. By that winter, Latimer’s health had worsened. Katherine nursed him but also started to make arrangements for herself. By February 16, she had rekindled her friendship with the Lady Mary and had joined her household. This is where she caught the attention of the King.
Latimer died on March 2, 1543. With his title and estates, Katherine became a rich widow and one of the most eligible women in the country. Thomas Seymour started to woo her, and by all appearances she was quite receptive to his suit. Unfortunately, she was somewhat blindsided when the King himself declared his own intentions. Although she knew she could not refuse Henry, she did try to avoid marriage. She is said to have answered that she would prefer to simply become his mistress….
For the next five years, Katherine Parr would serve honorably as Henry’s sixth and final wife. She was well regarded, educated and impressive, and she brought a semblance of family life back to the King and his children – something neither Anne of Cleves nor Catherine Howard ever tried to do. Meanwhile Thomas Seymour was given a posting in Brussels to remove him from court and avoid further discomfort and temptation – at least until Henry died. At that point, Katherine Parr and Thomas Seymour resumed their relationship. What an interesting alternative history it would have been if they had been together all along…
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