Katherine Parr, Henry VIII's Sixth Wife
Written and researched by Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewska, B.F.A.,

Katherine Parr's only known portrait.

Interestingly enough, at little Katherine's birth, on November 11, 1512, the Queen Catherine of Aragon (Katherine Parr's future husband's first wife) gave her a gift with the initials K.I.P. delicately embroidered in a circlet of gold inside a cloth with the same initials. These initials stood for: "Katherina, Infanta Princess, Plus Oultre." The nuns at Granada, Spain were said to have embroidered these initials and the four little trumpets at the corners. Katherine of Aragon told Maud Parr that these were originally made for her by her mother Queen Isabella. Katherine's father, Thomas Parr, had grown up with young Henry Tudor. Sir Thomas Parr was a descendant of Edward III. Maud was the daughter of Sir Thomas Green. The Parrs were very close to the Royal Family. Thomas died on November 11, 1577, of the "sweats" after the family had spent the summer at Kendal Castle, the ancient seat of the Parr family (since the 14th century), located in Westmoreland (in 1524).


The sweats were a mysterious disease with a 40% mortality rate.

Kendal (Cumbria) was once a part of the kingdom of Rheged (from 450-595), and a stronghold of the Vikings (Carlisle and Cumbria). A Norman castle built in the 12th century. It was owned by the Parr family and it was originally in Scotland, until it was annexed to England in 1237.

Thomas had returned to London, England to the Parr House located on the Strand. Parr house was part of an old Norman stronghold, Montfichet Castle. The original castle was built by a Norman land baron. The footings of Montfichet were now under Blackfriars Church and the monastery next door. The monks gardens bordered the Parr House gardens. On the arrival of his family, the bells of Blackfriars Church were tolling his death. Maud Parr, his wife, had two smaller children when her husband died: Will was age two, and his sister Ann was three. Katherine was age five.

William, Lord Parr, Katherine's brother, wanted a divorce from Anne Bourchier, daughter of the Earl of Essex, whom he had married in February 1526. It seems that Anne ran off with her lover in 1542. Her Essex estates were given to her former husband and her children were declared bastards. (William was not sure they were his in reality...no DNA testing back then. Since the children were bastards, they were thought to not be fit to inherit their mother's properties. William was made Earl of Essex in December 1543; he was elected to Privy Council on March 1543; and Knight of the Garter on April 3, 1544.

Having a sister that was married to the King of England certainly feathered his cap.

Katherine had the proper dowry and her lineage included Talbots and Throckmortons on her mother's side of the family, and de Tallebois, Tunstalls, Nevilles and Marmions on her father's side. When Katherine approached her tenth birthday, her mother Maud was arranging her marriage. However, there were only forty peers in England at this time, and most of their heirs (Katherine's age) were married. Katherine's uncle William Parr assisted her mother in locating a suitable husband. One prospect was Lord Borough. He was sixty-four, and had two sons and several grandsons to preserve the title and his daughters married prosperous men. Lord Borough (b. 1463) was from a prominent Northern family, like the Parrs. Lord Borough's sons, Henry and Thomas were already in the running for marriage contracts with other peer's daughters. This left only their father, who was recently a widower. A proxy marriage ceremony was held at Parr House, in London, and at Cantley Hall in Gainsborough.

In 1526, Katherine would be known as "Lady Borough of Cantley Hall" (Cantley was inherited in 1496 by her husband's family). Cantley Hall was located in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, England. Hers was not a royal marriage but the family was of good blood, sufficient wealth, and a respectable amount of land. Katherine would not live with her husband until age fourteen years. When she went to Cantley Hall she was shocked to see how old her husband was. He introduced her to his oldest son, Henry and youngest son, Thomas. His daughters were Elizabeth and Ann. Lord Borough would not live very long and then Katherine was a widow at age sixteen. Six weeks after his death she left for home, and Katherine celebrated her birthday at Parr House.

Katherine's mother Maude Parr died and was buried in Blackfriar's Church, next to her father. Her tombstone read:

Maud, Lady Parr, beloved wife of Sir Thomas Parr, born Boughton Green April 6, 1495; died London August 20, 1529.

Going by this record, Maud gave birth to Katherine when she was only sixteen years of age.

Katherine was made a legal ward of the king (Henry VIII). Maud's youngest son was betrothed to Anne Bourchier, heiress of the Earl of Essex shortly after Katherine wed Lord Borough. Bourchier took much of the Parr money that was to be held in trust for Katherine and Ann. Her brother was too young to be married, but the endowment was paid out anyway, and Anne's father spent it all.

Katherine's second husband was to be to John Neville, Lord Latimer. She was hoping for John Neville, but was told that every widow in the North wanted his hand. Latimer had lands at Richmondshire, and several manors near London. Lord Latimer seemed easy to be with. His home was Snape Hall in Yorkshire. However, he began to court Katherine and was said to have been smitten with her. Katherine was not sure she wanted to marry again. John proposed in 1530 and Katherine accepted.

John Neville was of the great medieval house of Neville who were related to the Plantagenets. John married (1) Dorothy de Vere, daughter of the Earl of Oxford. Dorothy nore him a daughter and a son, John, Jr. Dorothy died on February 7, 1527, and was buried at Welles in Yorkshire. (2) Elizabeth Musgrave married John Neville on July 20, 1528. They had no children.

It was Henry VIII who pushed her to consider Lord Latimer. As 1533 drew to a close Katherine celebrated her twentienth at Parr House. Sir William Parr then announced her sister, Ann Parr's betrothal to William Herbert. Herbert's father was the illegitimate son of the Earl of Pembroke, and was thought to be uncouth and nearly illiterate.

In 1533, Katherine would also become Lady Latimer (now she was 21 years of age). Katherine arrived at Snape Hall near Ripon in Yorkshire, England. This was a much different marriage. Katherine knew her husband and he had been a widower for nearly ten years. Katherine had step-children: John Neville, Jr.(b. 1522) was twelve years old, and Margaret Neville (b. 1523) was eleven. Only young John could remember his mother. Katherine's husband was forty-two years old (21 years older than his bride). Two years after her second marriage John Neville told Katherine they would return to London. He would go ahead for business transactions needed to be made. By this time Katherine had been married for six years to two husbands. She never produced an heir because her husbands were older (?)

In the summer and fall of 1536, the Latimers of Snape Hall lived with the uneasy knowledge that their neighbors were involved in a covert rebellion against Cromwell's influence with the king. Word came from her stepson, Henry, Lord Boroughs that twenty thousand rebels from other counties were planning a march on Yorkshire and they should be prepared for trouble. John summoned his tenants and stewards to tell the neighbors what was about to happen. They must all defend their property. John and Henry returned to Snape Hall for their evening meal.

The king was desecrating holy lands and buildings. Old statues were being burned in London. Some wounded arrived at the gates outside Snape. Sir William Askew was one of these men. He said that the locals set upon him as he performed his duties as tax collector. By Michaelmas they were still at Snape. A mob came through their gates and asked for John Neville, Lord Latimer. Katherine's husband had left with these men. Later Lord Latimer would go to London with his family to speak with the king (Henry VIII). At Petersburg they visited the tomb of Queen Katherine of Aragon. King Henry pardoned the entourage, but nothing had changed. One day an angry mob came to Snape and called John a traitor. They were to loot his castle. Treasures of his family were collected from many lands and the gifts from Henry VII were taken. His daughter Margaret reminded them of her bethrothal to young Bigod. In actuality John had broken the agreement. Katherine sent a messager to John who was in Malton near York. John then rode back to Snape in the cold, spending a night in an burned-out manorhouse he remembered from his youth. The next morning he rode to Snape and was relieved to see it still standing. Then John had to go to London again. Katherine always hated London, and Cromwell's spies were everywhere. They were told to return home and flee to Scotland or France to escape Cromwell's men. On their journey, there were men and monks hanging in all the trees, a gruesome sight. At the ancient gates of York they were halted. They made it through but people they knew were hung in the trees. After this John Neville grew ill of heart and died of comsumption. This disease was worsened as a result of his last journey in the icy cold to save his family at Snape. John made his will on September 12, 1542.

John Neville, Lord Latimer, was as much a victim as those who hung from the trees after the Pilgrimage of Grace. He died March 2, 1543. Katherine's husband was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral. She respected her first husband and had a genuine affection for her second. Now Katherine was again a widow.

"Katherine was a devout and committed reformer who arranged for regular sermon classes in her chambers. She encouraged radical preachers such as Hugh Latimer and Miles Coverdale, and ensured that the royal nursery was staffed with reforming humanists, among them John Cheke and Anthony Cooke.

Futhermore, her brother William, 1st earl of Essex, and a Privy Councillor, and her brother-in-law, Sir William Herbert, a Chief Gentleman of the Privy Chamber, supported two men of reformist persuasions whose successes in the wars with France and Scotland brough them into political prominance "(Loades, 199). Henry VIII (reigned 1509-1547) lost his wife Jane Seymour, and was to marry Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard (age 17).

Henry (age 59) and Katherine Parr (now age 32) were married July 12, 1543 at Hampton Court Palace. Catherine Howard was just executed on February 13, 1542, making their marriage only seven months after Howard's death. Henry died on January 28, 1547. Henry was born in 1480, making him 63 years of age at his death. Katherine Parr, Henry's last wife, was born on November 11, 1512 in Greenwich Palace, Kent, England. Katharine died September 6, 1548 (35 years) at Whitehall Palace, London, England. Her funeral was held on September 8th at Sudeley Chapel. She was buried near the altar of the Sudeley chapel. Katherine's tomb would be violated when the chapel fell into disrepair. In 1784, her body was taken from its coffin, and exposed to view overnight, until a local vicar had it returned to its original location.

Katherine was the daughter of Thomas Parr (d. 1517) and Maud Green (1495-1529). Her line goes to Edward III through her grandmother, Elizabeth FitzHugh(d. circa 1507). Her grandfather was Sir William Parr (1434-1484), son of Sir Thomas Parr (1405-1464). Katherine Parr would be "nursemaid" to Henry as he could not walk or stand by 1545, and he was carried in a litter and winched up and down the stairs.

Katherine was used to old men since she had married (1)Edward Broughton(1463-1528), Lord Borough. (2) Sometime before 1533 to John Neville, Lord Latimer (1493-March 2, 1543).

After Henry VIII's death she, at last, married for love. Her fourth (4th) husband was Thomas Seymour (1506?-1549 executed).

Thomas Seymour was the brother of Jane Seymour, third wife of Henry VIII. Thomas was six years older than Katherine Parr and was considered handsome in his time).

Thomas and Katherine were married in April 1547. They had a child, Mary Seymour on August 30, 1548. Katherine was 35 years old at her daughter's birth and Katharine died on Wednesday, September 7, 1548 (two months and 4 days before her 36th birthday); between 2:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. at Sudeley Castle; of complications of childbirth.

Mary Luke writer of The Ivy Crown: A Biographical Novel of Queen Katherine Parr, Last Wife of Henry VIII states that: "Mary Seymour, the orphaned daughter of Queen Katharine Parr and Thomas Seymour lived with Katharine Brandon and, according to several accounts, her amintence was at the duchess' expense which was a great hardship. When Katharine Parr bequeathed her fortune to Thomas Seymour--a fortune lost by his execution--Mary Seymour was left virtually penniless."

    Luke says that two stories survive as to the life of Mary Seymour.

  1. One says Mary Seymour died on her thirteenth birthday.

  2. Agnes Stickland of Lives of the English Queens, said that Mary became the wife of Sir Edward Bushel, a gentleman of the household of Anne of Denmark, the queen of James I, who succeeded Queen Elizabeth.

    When Mary Spencer Bushel's daughter wed, her husband, Silas Johnson, she was said to regained her mother's properties by order of Parliament. Among the possessions was a damask napkin which was made for and brought from Spain by Katharine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII. It was intialed with "K.I.P," which along with four little trumpeteers appeared in each of the four corners, as noted in this account.


Ashley, Mike. British Kings and Queens. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1998.

Cannon, John and Ralph Griffiths. Oxford Illustrated History of the British Monarchy. New York: Oxford Univesity Press, 1988.

Emerson, Kathy Lynn. The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in Renaissance England From 1485-1649. Cincinnati, OH.: Writer's Digest Books, 1996.

Loades, David (editor). Chronicles of the Tudor Kings. Wayne, N.J.: BHB International Inc., 1997.

Luke, Mary. The Ivy Crown: A Biographical Novel of Queen Katherine Parr, Last Wife of Henry VIII. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1984.

Weir, Alison. The Six Wives of Henry VIII. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991.

Weir, Alison. Henry VIII, The King and His Court. New York: Ballantine Books, Inc., 2001.

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