Katherine 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.