Katherine Parr

kathparr emblem.pngKatherine Parr, the wife who survived, was the daughter of Thomas Parr of Kendal who died in 1517. She was also twice widowed; first married to Sir Edward Burough when she was about fifteen, but was widowed shortly after in 1529. Her second husband was Sir John Nevill, Lord Latimer. He was a wealthy landowner in Yorkshire, his land was in the path of the pilgrims of the 1536 Pilgrimage of Grace and the family were held hostage. He died in 1542 just as Henry was looking for another wife.


Katherine had moved into the household of Princess Mary and was courted by Thomas Seymour, one of Jane Seymour’s brothers. Whatever Katherine’s thoughts on the matter she attracted the attention of Henry and when Henry proposed there wasn’t really a polite way out of it. They married on 12 July 1543. Katherine had yet another old husband and this one was probably the most dangerous of all of them.


 Like all of his wives Henry was related to Katherine. The Parrs were descended from King John and Edward III as well as Joan Beaufort who became the Countess of Westmorland. There was rather more Plantagenet blood in Katherine’s veins than in Anne Boleyn’s or Jane Seymour’s for that matter.


The maiden with flowing hair in Katherine’s emblem is St Catherine of Alexandria – she of wheel fame who was martyred by the Emperor Maxentius after she’d bested his scholars in a debate about Christianity. It probably didn’t help that many of the scholars she argued with became Christians on the strength of Catherine’s argument and were promptly put to death. Maxentius’s wife apparently suffered a similar fate leaving the way clear for Maxentius to try and win Catherine over with a marriage proprosal which she rejected. The alternative turned out to be death on a wheel. She was one of the most important medieval saints.

The Tudor rose needs no explanation.


Her motto was “To be useful in all that I do.” And she was. She brought the royal family together, advised Henry to get himself some reading glasses and forwarded the Protestant faith. She even had books of her own work published.


After Henry’s death she married Thomas Seymour – the ambitious admiral who turned his attentions to Katherine’s step-daughter. Katherine died at Sudeley Castle in 1548 having given birth to a daughter called Mary. She left all her possessions to Thomas who would shortly afterwards find himself condemned to a traitor’s death.


4 thoughts on “Katherine Parr

  1. A very brief look at a complicated issue. Katherine was married to her second cousin Neville he was a good honest man with a fondness for good cooking. He was most probably a good husband and she cherished his memory. At court she had may relatives and had in fact spent much of her youth in the court. She had been,in my opinion, born in September 1512 in Blackfriars House. A part of what is now a ruin as Henry knocked the whole abbey down. Her parents both are buried there with not a sign today of the tomb. She therefore had no love for this tyrant and desired,as you rightly say ,Tom Seymore considered as good looking with a mighty beard.

    Henry stepped in as always and forbid the union. Now Kate Parr was saintly but forceful and she was unhappy with this. What ever Henry said after this she stooped to conquer and she managed just that. It was no picnic as she was accused of having protestant books in her study. Unholy scripts of German Luthian wording. Someone alerted her to that search but she hid them out of sight and out of reach of trouble. It saved her life. She blamed Cromwell whom she made an enemy of. Sort praise and a long stroke of Henrys ego won her husband back and Cromwell was executed. I am from Kendal and all swear to my great great great grandfathers castle being Katherine Parrs birth place. Camden saw Parr Castle as a crumbling ruin just two years later than her Royal marriage.
    I know that Sir Thomas Parr and Lady Maude lived in the way of the court and had built a house in Blackfriars yard. Certainly in 1511 1513 they had the house ready and lived there. It was thought far to cold In the castle to give birth and besides Henry V11 had Sir Thomas in his company most of the session meetings listed. So unless Kate was not 36 years old but older or younger by two years then she was born in London 1512. Sorry for many I know in the old grey town but it is the case as researched. Still we have the romantic ruins my great grandfather gave to the people of Kendal as a gift to make a park. It was immediately grabbed by the County Council. I dare say Lord John Parr was happy to avoid land tax so the gift was tongue in cheek. Considering it all started with one of my ancestors running his sword through a member of town Council one John Haigh. One of King Edwards men raced to windsor castle to warn him that the Kings cousin Sir William Parr was about to be hanged for murder. Edward III was not achap to anger and he appeared to release Parr whom he had himself knighted at Crecy. made him Baron Parr and Knight of the Garter. It was the case that the King had sent Parr to value defenses on the Scottish Border. Haigh insulted Parr as an off comer taking charge in his town. What ever he entered with a sword in hand and in the street Parr cut him in two.No one saw fit after that to argue the toss so Bill became the Kings protector of the boarder. He married the Kings first cousin the richest girl in England. Maude Green of Barrow. The PARR boys loved the name Maude it seems.
    She had barrow landings which Parr turned into big Docks for King Edwards army in ships for fast take up in action. He was made for life and he knew it. Next that peaceful knoll to the east of todays town he built his castle. You see Kendal had been burnt to the ground in raids over the border. Cattle and wife theft was the business of the Steele Bonnets. Buildings of wood and wattle burnt well leaving those escaped no better off. We know that the new town was mostly designed with narrow alleys by Parr who had seen it in towns in France and knew it worked as only one soldier at a time could come through leaving archers to fire arrows so fast for the roof that the dead built up and blocked that passage in and out. Today just a few of those old yards that saved Kendal in war exist. I recall many more that bore the name of my ancestor. He is buried in a stone tomb badly stripped of its grand design by many factions down even to Prince Charlie and his men who camped in that Kendal Parish church. Sharpened swords on Parrs tomb. They had main camp outside the town but snow had cut those in the church off. now just a carved shield is seen on a mass of old green brown stone. I hope I tread not one your toes dear Julia but you must have known when you penned this article that a cord you would strum in me. Thank you for the chance to recall my family and my bloodline. My only wish is that my son had lived to see this passion for English History that never was when I was young. Together we could have marveled at the story of an old family whos many members are in fact history makers themselves.

  2. There is a HUGE mistake in the very first paragraph. Katherine didn’t marry until 1529 to Sir Edward Borough; son of Sir Thomas, 1st Baron Burgh. Edward was around Katherine’s age and wasn’t old. Edward died shortly after c. April 1533. She didn’t marry Lord Latimer until 1534. Lord Latimer died in 1543; months before Katherine married Henry. It was odd because Henry didn’t give Katherine the afforded time as a widow, one year! Yes, as everyone can read on my own blog, Katherine descended from Edward I more than both Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour. Thanks for re-sharing that info that I researched myself. I also researched the maiden which can be seen in the Parr Chapel in Kendal.

    • Thank you for your comments. Just so we’re quite clear, I’ve never looked at your blog before today. My information about Katherine Parr’s ancestry comes from a regular correspondent to this blog who is passionate about his family history, a trip to Sudeley Castle where I chatted with a very knowledgeable and informative guide and one of Katherine Parr’s biographies. It is entirely possible that both my ‘verbal’ sources have accessed your blog but I didn’t use it as part of my research for this post. I should also add that where I use other people’s blogs and websites I tend to add a link so that my readers can open a new screen and read further if they wish and so that I can refer back myself if I need to at a later date. Thank you for drawing my attention to your blog. I am sure I shall enjoy reading it.

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