Part 7: Katherine Parr
A new law made it treason for any future queen to
conceal her pre-marital affairs.
It would take a bold or a modest woman to become
fifty-two year-old Henry's wife. When, in 1543, thirty-two year-old
widow Katherine Parr came to court, she had been married twice. She
was independently well off, with neither parents nor children. (Her
name is sometimes alternatively shown as Katheryn or Catherine.)
Immediately Sir Thomas Seymour, brother of the late
Queen Jane and one of the most eligible bachelors at Henry's court,
was attracted to the wealthy, good-looking widow. The feeling was
mutual, but Henry had fallen in love with Katherine and he showered
her with gifts.
In May, Henry cleared his path by sending Seymour
to be resident ambassador in Brussels and then he proposed marriage to
Katherine. She accepted not for personal, political, or dynastic
ambitions, but because God had told her to. They married on 12
July 1543 at Hampton Court, making Katherine the last queen consort
of the Tudor dynasty.
Both of Henry's daughters, the young princesses
Mary and Elizabeth, were present at the wedding and Katherine took
a keen interest in the education of both Elizabeth and Edward. In
fact it was Katherine who was influential in getting Henry to pass
the Third Succession Act in 1543 which restored Mary and Elizabeth
to the line of succession. She also acted as regent between July and
September 1544 while the king was campaigning in France. If he
failed to return then she was to maintain the position until young
Edward came of age.
Katherine believed it was her task to complete the
conversion of king and country to the reformed religion, an ambition
which drew sympathies from Archbishop Cranmer. She had already
anonymously published her first book in 1543, Psalms or Prayers.
Anti-Protestant officials immediately placed her in
their sights. Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, disliked
nothing more than a woman with opinions, especially anti-Catholic
opinions. By 1545 his hunt for heretics began to close in on the
Katherine's religious opinions were known in detail
because, most unusually for a sixteenth century woman and still more
remarkably for a queen, she was a published writer as mentioned
above. Her first work to be published under her own name was the
Prayers and Meditations, printed in 1545.