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September 24, 1561 – Katherine Grey Gives Birth to Son Edward

Katherine Grey and her son. Edward Seymour, artist unknown (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Normally, births are a very happy thing…but giving birth to the boy who for just a little while would arguably second in line to the throne of England ensured that Katherine Grey would never live a normal life. Let’s back up a bit for context.

In November 1560, Katherine had secretly married Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford. Since Katherine was technically heir to the throne under Henry VIII’s will (as confirmed by Parliament), she needed the Council’s permission to marry….so her failure to get or even seek that permission constituted treason.

And before you say, “well, it doesn’t seem so terrible,” remember that during Edward VI’s reign a Seymour (Thomas) tried to marry ELIZABETH without the consent of the Council, and was executed for it (though admittedly his more immediate crime was killing Edward’s dog during a kidnapping attempt). Katherine Grey’s betrayal was worse – she had actually married her Seymour, and he had actually impregnated her. But instead of execution, Elizabeth just threw the couple in the Tower and set to work invalidating the marriage.

Which was not as hard as you might think. If you clicked through to the post about the marriage, you read how it was officiated in secret at Hertford’s home by a random priest they grabbed off the street, and with only one witness. Well, they lost the priest and the witness died, they could not remember the exact date, and they hadn’t published the banns (newly required by the Church of England)….so it was easy for the Archbishop of Canterbury to issue the annulment.

Of course, it too a while for the annulment to actually be pronounced – long enough that Katherine Grey gave birth to s second son while still in the Tower (the guards took pity on them and gave them a conjugal visit….before presumably being fired for it). Not that the timing mattered to Katherine – although she was released from her cell, she was never freed from house arrest. She died not long afterwards, of consumption.…

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Published inOn This Day

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