Such a tragedy.
Katherine Parr lived a life of sacrifice. Her first and second husbands, chosen by her father, were much older than she was. When the second one, Lord Latimer, died, he left her a rich, 31-year old widow and one of the most eligible women in England. Thomas Seymour – still a bachelor at 35 – came a’courting and it looked like things would work out well for them…until Henry VIII himself took a fancy to Katherine shortly after she entered the household of his daughter Mary. There was no refusing the 52-year old King (Katherine did try – told him she’d rather be his mistress than his wife) and so Katherine became his sixth wife.
They were married for four years, until Henry’s death in 1547. During that time, Katherine was both supremely trusted (she served as Regent while Henry went off to invade France) and deeply suspected (she narrowly escaped a plot by Stephen Gardiner to examine her religious beliefs, which would have led to her execution). When Henry died, she was free to follow her heart.
And follow it she did. She scandalized the court by marrying Thomas Seymour after only four months of widowhood. But Thomas Seymour had kept the young King Edward VI involved in the secret, and the couple got away with it. There followed an idyllic time for Katherine; she brought Lady Jane Grey and the Princess Elizabeth to live with her and created a household that was a model for living and learning. Katherine was over the moon when she found herself pregnant in March 1548, though things quickly went downhill from there: her husband was found making advances to the 15-year old Elizabeth. After she caught the two of them in an embrace, Katherine would have learned that Seymour had tried to marry Elizabeth before he swept Katherine off her feet…
Elizabeth was quickly sent away but the damage had been done. Although Seymour apparently repented and all was happy when Katherine gave birth to her daughter Mary, everything changed when puerperal fever set in. Katherine got suspicious at times, and made some accusatory remarks – she told her husband that he had given her “many shrewd taunts” – and even hinted she thought he might have poisoned her (“My Lord, I would have given a thousand marks to have had my full talk with [Doctor] Huicke, the first day I was delivered, but I durst not, for fear of displeasing you”). While she repudiated these complaints when she regained lucidity and wrote a will that “with all her heart and desire” made him her sole heir, it was clear that her resentment had been enormous. She died six days after Mary’s birth.
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Poor Katherine, life was not easy in those days for anyone it seems.
Especially not Henry’s wives….
Thank you for reminding me of your book. I’m going to go get it. I just finished “The Taming of the Queen”.
Hope you love it!
Elizabeth was at the most fourteen, most likely thirteen when Thomas Seymour began his campaign of harassment and abuse against her. If it had happened today he’d be another Jared Fogle.
I would like to think it could not happen today…there’s much that happened then that I would say that about!
Such sadness. Reminds us that history resonbates through the centuries and human nature never changes much.