In 1534 after the death of her first husband and a stay with relations at Sizergh Castle Katherine Parr married John Neville. She was twenty-two.
Neville was the third Baron Latimer, of Snape, Richmondshire, North Yorkshire. He was twice Katherine’s age and had grown up children. Unlike her mother, Maud, Katherine could not afford to remain unmarried. This was perceived as a marriage “up,” related as Neville was to the Earl of Salisbury and the Kingmaker. In more feudal times the Parrs had looked to the Nevilles although, unsurprisingly, they were related to them. Neville’d been married twice before and spent a lot of time in Yorkshire according to Porter. Like many other nobles wrote letters to Thomas Cromwell about the difficulties of paying debts. He also provided Katherine with two younger step-children: John and Margaret.
However, this post is not about family links. It is about the 1536 Pilgrimage of Grace and its aftermath. Katherine had, by that time, spent two years building relationships with her new family and managing Latimer’s household at Snape but changes were afoot. In 1534 when they married Anne Boleyn was queen. In the January of 1536 Catherine of Aragon died. In Spring, Anne Boleyn was accused and found guilty of adultery, incest and treason. She was dead by the end of May and Jane Seymour was queen. The Seymours together with the Duke of Norfolk who’d conspired to topple his own niece represented a more conservative faction but Cromwell’s methodical dismemberment of the Catholic Church in England continued. In Yorkshire, his commissioners had made a valuation of the monasteries, smaller monasteries were being suppressed, abbots of foundations such as Fountains were forced to resign and more pliable men placed in their stead.
Lord Latimer was more a catholic than a reformer even though, like countless other men, he’d taken the Oath of Supremacy and now in October 1536 found himself in a difficult position as across Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Westmorland and Cumberland mobs of men gathered to demand a return of the monasteries and the re-establishment of Princess Mary as Henry’s legitimate successor. The Pilgrimage of Grace was underway and it would soon arrive in Snape.
On 11 October rebels arrived at Jervaulx Abbey. The abbot, Adam Sedbar, tried to avoid being drawn into the conflict and hid for a while on the moors. The rebels who claimed they wanted to restore the abbeys threatened to burn Jervaulx if Sedbar didn’t return and take the oath. He claimed that he joined the pilgrims under duress. It would not save him from the Tower or execution.
Lower down the valley in Wensleydale, Katherine and her family at Snape must have been aware of the discontent seething around them. Porter describes events as does Moorhouse. For ten days history does not know where Lord Latimer might have been although a letter dated the 15th makes it apparent that the King knew he’d joined with the rebels. He appears in person on the 21st of October at Pontefract Castle marching under the banner of the Five Wounds. What is rather murkier is whether he joined the rebels voluntarily or under duress. His role would become that of spokesman and negotiator when the rebels presented their articles and Henry was forced (presumably grinding his teeth) to negotiate. The rebels were granted a pardon.
Even so, Latimer’s head must have felt somewhat loose about his shoulders when he returned home to Snape and his entire family must have feared that he would be attainted of treason. He was summoned to London to throw himself upon the King’s mercy. James suggests that the only reason that Latimer didn’t find himself in the Tower alongside other leaders of the rebellion was because of Katherine’s family who’d fought alongside the Duke of Norfolk to put the rebellion down put in a good word. It must have been a miserable Christmas despite Henry’s clemency. Lord Latimer went to London as soon as the holiday was over to try and repair the damage with his monarch and to placate Cromwell.
However, in January 1537 the North rose again. Latimer was still in London. This time, the rebellion was led by Sir Francis Bigod, bizarrely a convinced reformer, who was the father of Margaret Neville’s intended husband. A new mob arrived at Snape Castle and ransacked it. Katherine and her step-children became hostages. History has Lord Latimer’s own words in a letter sent to William Fitzwilliam, the First Earl of Southampton (he’d one day have to interrogate the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, Agnes Tilney, about her knowledge of Catherine Howard’s liaison with Manox and Dereham). Latimer wrote:
If I do not please them I do not know what they will do with my body and goods, my wife and children. I beg to know the King’s pleasure…
The rebels demanded that Lord Latimer return to Yorkshire immediately. Somehow or other he negotiated for the release of his family. History does not know what he said or promised. Nor does history know any of Katherine’s views or feelings during this time as there are no letters or record of this time. If Katherine wasn’t a reformer before it is easy to imagine that she was committed to change after the Pilgrimage of Grace.
The rebellion was firmly squashed by the Duke of Norfolk. Men such as Robert Aske and Lord Darcy who’d led the 1536 rebellion were arrested as was Abbot Sedbar. It is not unreasonable to suppose that the axe hung over Lord Latimer not least because his brother Marmaduke who’d been a rather more enthusiastic pilgrim spent time in the Tower and wrote to Cromwell noting that Lord Latimer had been involved as well.
Cromwell didn’t need to have Latimer executed, he arrived at a sensible business arrangement instead. It is clear from Latimer’s accounts that Cromwell received an annual income from Latimer until 1540 when Cromwell suddenly discovered what happened to men who displeased the King and made his own appointment with the axe.
Latimer’s health began to fail after the Pilgrimage of Grace. He spent more time in London along with his family who rarely travelled North with him when he journeyed there to administer to his estates and buy new land (yes, it was ex monastery). It may also have been that the King and Cromwell wanted Latimer close at hand.
This post has more holes than a colander in terms of actual reliable facts about Lord Latimer and Katherine Neville, as she was then, and the extent of their involvement and thoughts on the subject but what it does do is give us a flavour of the difficulties of being a member of the Northern gentry and aristocracy during the Pilgrimage of Grace. It is also a reminder that Katherine Parr is much more than Henry’s sixth queen – she had rather a dangerous life beforehand.
James, Susan E. (2009) Catherine Parr: Henry VIII’s Last Love. Stroud: The History Press
Loades, David (2010) The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Stroud: The History Press
Moorhouse, G. (2002) The Pilgrimage of Grace. London:Weidenfeld and Nicolson
Porter, Linda. (2010) Katherine the Queen. London: Pan Books