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Catherine Parr

Sixth Wife of Henry VIII

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Catherine Parr, after a Holbein painting

Catherine Parr, after a Holbein painting

© Clipart.com
Tomb of Katherine Parr, Sudeley Castle Chapel

Tomb of Katherine Parr, Sudeley Castle Chapel

Stephen Dorey / Photolibrary / Getty Images

Catherine Parr Facts:

Dates: Born 1512 (?)
Married Henry VIII of England on July 12, 1543
Widowed January 28, 1547
Died September 5 or September 7, 1548

Known for: Sixth wife of Henry VIII
Religion: Protestant leanings
Also known as: Katherine Parr, Katharine Parr, Catharine Parr

Catherine Parr Biography:

When Henry VIII of England noticed the widowed Catherine Parr, he had just had his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, executed for deceiving him. He divorced his fourth queen, Anne of Cleves, because he was not attracted to her.

He'd lost his third wife, Jane Seymour, after she gave birth to his only legitimate son. Henry put aside his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and split with the Church of Rome in order to divorce her, so that he could marry his second wife, Anne Boleyn, only to have Anne executed for treason for betraying him.

Knowing that history, and apparently already engaged to Jane Seymour's brother, Thomas Seymour, Catherine Parr was both reluctant to marry Henry, and aware that refusing could have serious consequences for herself and her family.

So Catherine Parr married Henry VIII of England on July 12, 1543, and by all accounts was a patient, loving, and pious wife to him in his last years of illness, disillusion, and pain.

Catherine Parr was the daughter of Sir Thomas Parr, who served as Henry's Master of the Household, and Maud Green. She was educated well, including in Latin, Greek, and modern languages, and she also learned theology. Catherine was first married to Edward Borough until he died in 1529, and then to John Neville, Lord Latimer, who died in 1542.

Catherine Parr helped reconcile Henry to his two daughters, Mary, daughter of Catherine of Aragon, and Elizabeth, daughter of Anne Boleyn. Under her influence, they were educated and restored to the succession. Catherine Parr also directed the education of her stepson, the future Edward VI.

Catherine was sympathetic to the Protestant cause -- and could argue fine points of theology with Henry, occasionally infuriating him so much that he threatened her with execution. She probably tempered his persecution of Protestants under the Act of the Six Articles. Catherine herself narrowly escaped being implicated with Anne Askew.

Catherine Parr served as Henry's regent in 1544 when he was in France but, when Henry died in 1547, Catherine was not made regent for Edward. Catherine and her former lover, Thomas Seymour -- he was Edward's uncle -- did have some influence with Edward, including obtaining his permission to marry, which they did on April 4, 1547.

Catherine gave birth to her only child, a daughter, in August, 1548, and died a few days later of puerperal fever. There have been suspicions that her husband poisoned her in order to marry the Princess Elizabeth. Lady Jane Grey was a ward of Thomas Seymour until his execution for treason in 1549.

Catherine Parr left two devotional works which were published after her death. She wrote Prayers and Meditations (1545) and Lamentation of a Sinner (1547).

Bibliography:

  • Divorced, Beheaded, Survived: A Feminist Reinterpretation of the Wives of Henry VIII, Karen Lindsey, 1996. One of the best accounts of the strange marital history of one of England's most memorable monarchs. (Compare Prices) [0201408236]
  • Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII, David Starkey, 2003. Katherine is portrayed quite sympathetically in this account. (Compare Prices) [069401043X]
  • The Six Wives of Henry VIII, by Alison Weir, 1993. (Compare Prices) [0802136834]
  • The Wives of Henry VIII, Antonia Fraser, 1993. (Compare Prices) [067973001X]

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