Saturday, 14 November 2020

The Tudor Consorts 1485–1547

 

Seven women held the office of consort in the period 1485–1547, one of whom as the wife of the first Tudor king, Henry VII, and the following six as the wives of his son and successor, Henry VIII. The consorts are Elizabeth of York, Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Katherine Parr. These women have long fascinated scholars and the general public alike, with articles, books, films, television shows and even a musical about their dramatic, and in some cases tragic, lives. This article sets out to provide a brief overview of each consort, with further reading included for those who wish to learn more about the life in question. Briefly, however, it is worth noting that Retha M. Warnicke's Elizabeth of York and Her Six Daughters-in-Law (2017) is the only extant study of Tudor queenship in this period, and provides an illuminating and in-depth study of Tudor queenship in the period 1485–1547, offering facts not usually available in other works. Alison Weir (1991), Antonia Fraser (1992), David Starkey (2004) and David Loades (2010) have all written works about Henry VIII's six queens.


Elizabeth of York, consort of Henry VII
Born: 11 February 1466, Westminster Palace, London, England
Died: 11 February 1503, Tower of London, London, England (aged 37)
Father: Edward IV 
Mother: Elizabeth Wydeville
Tenure as queen consort of England: 1486–1503 (17 years, 1 month)
Coronation: 25 November 1487

Elizabeth of York was the eldest child of the first Yorkist king, Edward IV, and his consort Elizabeth Wydeville. She was born on 11 February 1466 at Westminster Palace, but had no expectation of ruling England in view of prevailing attitudes to female succession alongside the birth of a number of sons to her parents, including the eldest, Edward (born in 1470). During her childhood, she was briefly betrothed to the Dauphin Charles, son of the king of France, but the marriage did not take place. In 1483, Elizabeth's father died and her uncle, Richard of Gloucester, seized the throne resulting in the deposition of her brother. He and his younger brother, also named Richard, were placed in the Tower of London but their subsequent fate remains a mystery. Elizabeth and her sisters sought sanctuary alongside their mother, but resided at their uncle's court when he reached an agreement with their mother, the dowager queen. Rumours circulated that King Richard intended to marry his niece Elizabeth, in view of reports that Queen Anne was unable to bear children and was in poor health. Some evidence suggests that Elizabeth may have been interested in this match, but the king publicly denied it. Instead, Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond, who possessed a somewhat obscure claim to the English throne, schemed with Elizabeth Wydeville for the marriage of Henry to Elizabeth of York. Beautiful, virtuous and pious, Elizabeth became queen of England in January 1486 when she married Henry following his defeat of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth. Historians have shown that there is no evidence for later allegations of conflict between Elizabeth and her somewhat domineering mother-in-law Lady Margaret. The king and queen had several children, but only four survived to adulthood: Arthur, Margaret, Henry and Mary. Arthur died in April 1502 at the age of fifteen and his mother died ten months later, on her thirty-seventh birthday at the Tower of London, shortly after giving birth to a short-lived daughter Katherine. She was buried at Westminster Abbey and was joined there by her husband when he died seven years later. Elizabeth's only surviving son, Henry, succeeded his father as king of England in 1509 and her two surviving daughters Margaret and Mary became queen consorts of Scotland and France, respectively.

Further reading:
- Amy Licence, Elizabeth of York: the Forgotten Tudor Queen (2013)
- Alison Weir, Elizabeth of York: the First Tudor Queen (2013)
- Arlene Okerlund, Elizabeth of York (2009)



Katherine of Aragon, first consort of Henry VIII
Born: 16 December 1485, Archiepiscopal Palace of Alcala de Henares, Alcala de Henares, Kingdom of Castile
Died: 7 January 1536, Kimbolton Castle, Cambridgeshire, England (aged 50)
Father: Ferdinand II of Aragon
Mother: Isabella I of Castile
Tenure as queen consort of England: 1509–1533 (23 years, 11 months)
Coronation: 24 June 1509

The youngest daughter of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, Katherine (born in 1485) was betrothed to Arthur, Prince of Wales, eldest son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, in childhood and was thus educated as befitted a queen consort of England. A devout Roman Catholic, Katherine studied a range of subjects including philosophy, theology, history, arithmetic and classical and canon law, and learned languages such as French and Latin. She also acquired experience in domestic skills such as embroidery and sewing. In the summer of 1501, the fifteen-year-old Katherine travelled to England to wed Arthur and their wedding took place at St Paul's Cathedral in November. Whether the young couple consummated their union or not has remained a subject of controversy for the last five hundred years. Tragically, Arthur died the following spring at Ludlow Castle on the borders of Wales, where Katherine was residing with him. Subsequently the English and Spanish monarchs arranged that Katherine would marry Arthur's younger brother, Henry, now heir to the English throne. Ferdinand's procrastination over paying the remainder of his daughter's dowry, however, led to the marriage being postponed while Katherine lived in difficult conditions at Durham House in London. When Henry VII died in 1509, his eighteen-year-old son elected to marry Katherine and the couple were crowned at Westminster Abbey in June. Katherine presided over a court of culture and learning and was appointed regent of England when her husband went to war with France in 1513. When the Scots invaded that year, the queen ordered Thomas Lovell to raise an army in the Midlands and the English army triumphed at the Battle of Flodden. 

During her marriage, Katherine was pregnant at least six times but only one child survived, Mary (born in 1516). Like many of his contemporaries, Henry doubted whether a female could successfully rule England and by 1527 believed that his marriage to Katherine had displeased God by virtue of their lack of surviving sons. He was also in love with Anne Boleyn, who served in Katherine's household. The king argued that Katherine's marriage to Arthur in 1501 had been consummated, thus making her subsequent union with Henry invalid according to Biblical law. The queen, however, claimed that she and Arthur had never consummated their marriage. The struggle for an annulment of the Aragon marriage endured for six years, but in 1532 or 1533 Henry married Anne Boleyn in secret and in May, Archbishop Cranmer pronounced the Aragon marriage null and void, rendering the queen's daughter Mary illegitimate and unable to succeed her father. By then banished from court, Katherine resided in a range of residences including The More, Ampthill Castle and Buckden Towers, before spending the final years of her life at Kimbolton Castle, where she died on 7 January 1536, perhaps of cancer, having never accepted her husband's decision to annul their marriage. She was buried at Peterborough Abbey (now Cathedral); her daughter Mary became England's first queen regnant in July 1553.

Further reading:
- Garrett Mattingly, Catherine of Aragon (1941)
- Giles Tremlett, Catherine of Aragon: Henry's Spanish Queen (2010)
- Amy Licence, Catherine of Aragon: An Intimate Life of Henry VIII's True Wife (2016)


Anne Boleyn, second consort of Henry VIII
Born: Between 1500 and 1507 probably at Blickling Hall, Norfolk or Hever Castle, Kent, England
Died: 19 May 1536, Tower of London, London, England (aged 28–36)
Father: Thomas Boleyn, earl of Wiltshire
Mother: Lady Elizabeth Howard
Tenure as queen consort of England: 1533–1536 (3 years)
Coronation: 1 June 1533

The most famous of Henry VIII's six wives, Anne Boleyn was born between 1500 and 1507. The majority of modern historians favour a birth date of circa 1501, but evidence from her daughter's lifetime supports the later birth date, especially in view of prevailing court customs that decreed that maidens of honour did not receive instruction in languages. It is also questionable why the ambitious Thomas Boleyn would have been content for his daughter to remain unmarried between 1523 and 1527 if she were as old as twenty-seven in the latter year. Anne is thought to have been born at Blickling Hall in Norfolk or perhaps Hever Castle in Kent, although some of her later relatives believed that she had been born in London. Whether she was older or younger than her sister Mary and brother George continues to remain controversial. If born in 1507, Anne was probably the youngest surviving child. In 1513, she was sent to the court of Margaret of Austria in the Low Countries; traditionally thought to have served as a maiden of honour, as noted earlier it was not the custom for maidens to receive an education while they were fulfilling her duties. The following year, Anne wrote a letter to her father in poor French, indicating that she could not speak the language and so would not have been capable of fulfilling the duties of a maiden of honour. Perhaps she initially resided in the royal nursery and served as a maiden at a later date. In 1514, she attended Henry VIII's sister Mary when she married Louis XII of France and later served Claude of France, wife of Francois I. Anne acquired a thorough knowledge of French culture and developed her talents in dancing, music and singing. Her evangelical faith may also have originated in France. In 1521 or 1522, she returned to England to wed James Butler to settle a dispute between the Boleyn and Butler families concerning the earldom of Ormond, but the marriage never took place. Anne fell in love with, and hoped to marry, Henry Percy, heir to the earldom of Northumberland, in 1523, but the couple were prevented from marrying due to the wishes of the king and Cardinal Wolsey and Anne was banished from court, remaining at Hever until 1526 or 1527, when she returned probably in the capacity of maiden of honour to Katherine of Aragon. 

Contemporaries described her as being of medium height, with long dark hair, brown or black eyes and a swarthy complexion. Her detractors slandered her as being deformed, while others noted her beauty and elegance. In 1531 she was described as being both 'young' and 'good-looking'; such references to Anne's youth in the late 1520s and early 1530s provide further evidence of a birth in 1507, rather than as early as 1500/1. In 1527, Henry fell passionately in love with the sophisticated and charming Anne, and proposed marriage to her. The couple, however, wed only in late 1532 or early 1533 on account of the long struggle to annul the Aragon marriage. Anne was crowned queen on 1 June 1533, already pregnant, and gave birth to her only surviving child, Elizabeth, on 7 September. Two further pregnancies resulted in a probable stillbirth (in 1534) and in a miscarriage (in 1536). The king and queen's relationship was stormy, punctuated by periods of bitter quarrels and subsequent reconciliation. Many of the king's subjects refused to accept Anne as queen and she was regularly slandered as a whore or prostitute. The marriage was also never recognised in Europe as valid. 

Anne exerted significant influence at court, especially in advancing the evangelical faith, and was outspoken on political and religious matters. Despite her influence, the royal couple's lack of a son endangered Anne's security. The queen's precarious position worsened in early 1536 when her husband fell in love with her attendant Jane Seymour. In May, four months after a miscarriage, Anne was accused of treason, adultery and incest with five men, including her brother, and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Historians continue to debate the reasons for the queen's downfall; suggestions include that a coup was masterminded by Thomas Cromwell to remove Anne and her 'faction' from power; that her husband had grown to hate her and was desperate to marry Jane; that she actually was guilty of the charges; that she gave birth to a deformed foetus, convincing her husband that she was a witch; and that her own incriminating behaviour and conversations in the spring of 1536 created a climate of suspicion and distrust of her loyalty to the king. Irrespective of the reason, most historians believe that she and the men accused with her were not guilty of the charges. All were found guilty and the men were executed on 17 May, the date on which Anne's marriage to Henry was annulled, probably on account of his earlier liaison with the queen's sister Mary. Anne was beheaded within the walls of the Tower of London two days later, the first English queen to suffer execution, and her remains were interred at the Tower chapel of St Peter ad Vincula. Her daughter, Elizabeth, became queen of England in 1558.

Further reading:
- Eric Ives, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn (2004)
- Retha M. Warnicke, The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn (1989)
- G. W. Bernard, Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions (2010)
- Susan Bordo, The Creation of Anne Boleyn (2013)
- Alison Weir, The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn (2009)



Jane Seymour, third consort of Henry VIII
Born: About 1509 probably at Wolfhall, Wiltshire, England
Died: 24 October 1537, Hampton Court Palace, London, England (aged about 28)
Father: Sir John Seymour
Mother: Margery Wentworth
Tenure as queen consort of England: 1536–1537 (1 year, 5 months)
Coronation: Never crowned

On 30 May 1536, Jane Seymour became the third wife of Henry VIII when she married him at Whitehall Palace in London. The eldest daughter of Sir John Seymour and Margery Wentworth, Jane was probably born in about 1509, for twenty-nine female mourners are alleged to have participated in her funeral procession, suggesting that when she died, she had been in her twenty-ninth year. The imperial ambassador also described her as being over 25 in 1536. Jane is thought to have served Katherine of Aragon as a maiden of honour, but the evidence is patchy and it is uncertain when she arrived at court. She later attended Anne Boleyn, although she is thought to have remained loyal to the former queen. There is little, if any, evidence for the oft-repeated assertion that Jane revered Katherine of Aragon and later modelled her queenship on that of Katherine's. She received a traditional education as a child, in which she learned skills such as embroidery, housewifery, sewing and needlework, but she was never described as possessing linguistic or musical ability. Jane may have been betrothed to William Dormer, but if so, the marriage took place and by early 1536, at the age of twenty-seven, Jane remained unwed. Henry VIII began courting her that year, perhaps with a view to taking her as his mistress, but Jane, who seems to have been coached by her family, refused the king's proposal. The turbulence of the Boleyn marriage, and the king's lack of sons by the queen, coupled with his interest in Jane, sealed Anne's fate and led to Jane becoming queen of England in May 1536. She was described as being pale and fair, but not beautiful, and while some observers praised her good sense and placid nature, others thought that she was haughty. Jane was never crowned queen due to an outbreak of plague in the capital. Her household was conservative in dress and behaviour, and she exerted little political influence, although she did intercede for the king's daughter Mary and father and daughter were reconciled in 1536. When Jane did attempt to speak out for the abbeys, which the king planned to dissolve in order to seize their revenues, she was brutally warned not to meddle in political matters if she wished to avoid the fate of her predecessor. 

In early 1537, the queen conceived a child and on 12 October, at Hampton Court Palace, she gave birth to the king's much-desired son, who was named Edward. Tragically, Jane died twelve days later at the age of about 28, perhaps of puerperal fever or an infection from a retained placenta. She was buried at St George's Chapel, Windsor, and her husband was interred there next to her when he died in 1547. 

Further reading:
- Pamela Gross, Jane, the Quene (1999)
- Elizabeth Norton, Jane Seymour: Henry VIII's True Love (2009)


Anne of Cleves, fourth consort of Henry VIII
Born: June 1515 in Dusseldorf, Duchy of Berg, Holy Roman Empire
Died: 16 July 1557, Chelsea Old Manor, London, England (aged 42)
Father: John III, duke of Cleves
Mother: Maria of Julich-Berg
Tenure as queen consort of England: 1540 (6 months)
Coronation: Never crowned

Jane Seymour's death in 1537 led Henry VIII and his chief minister Thomas Cromwell to seek a bride from one of the royal houses of Europe. Various candidates were proposed, including Marie of Guise and Christina of Denmark, but the king's desire for an alliance with Cleves - in view of England's isolation and the threat from France and Spain, who were then allies - led him to favour a match with Anne, daughter of John III, duke of Cleves. Anne had initially been betrothed to Francis of Lorraine. Her education was traditional in nature, but she does not seem to have acquired instruction in music and was not viewed as being sophisticated. She was described by observers as attractive, with long fair hair and with a tall, slim build. In 1539 she departed for England in readiness for her marriage to Henry, whom she met for the first time at Rochester Abbey on New Year's Day 1540. The king and a few of his attendants adopted a courtly love convention in which they visited Anne in disguise. Henry was disappointed with Anne, perhaps because she had allegedly 'regarded him little' since she may not have known who he was on account of his disguise. The king also complained that she was 'nothing so fair as she hath been reported', but it is a myth that he described her as a Flanders mare, a claim which dates from a later period. The couple married at Greenwich Palace on 6 January 1540, but the marriage was never consummated and Anne was never crowned. By the spring of that year, Henry was passionately in love with Anne's maiden of honour, Katherine Howard, and international politics, namely the renewal of conflict between France and Spain, meant that the Cleves alliance was no longer welcome or necessary. The king believed that Anne was not legally his wife on account of her earlier precontract to Francis of Lorraine. The marriage was annulled in July and Thomas Cromwell, who had helped to arrange the Cleves marriage, was executed for treason. Anne received a generous settlement; her properties included Richmond Palace and Hever Castle. It is a myth that she was the luckiest of Henry VIII's six queens, for she would not have viewed the situation that way: Anne hoped to be reinstated as queen and when Henry married for the final time to Katherine Parr, she was described as being disappointed and disparaged the new queen's appearance. In some sense Henry was Anne's protector and, after his death, her life became increasingly complicated. She experienced conflict between her servants in her household and confided to her brother that she felt like a stranger in England. When her stepdaughter Mary became queen of England in 1553, Anne congratulated her and participated in the queen's coronation procession. She seems to have lost royal favour the following year on account of her close association with her other stepdaughter Elizabeth, who was implicated in Wyatt's Rebellion, and because she was thought to have intrigued on Elizabeth's behalf during the rebellion. Anne died on 16 July 1557 at Chelsea Old Manor, probably of cancer, and was buried at Westminster Abbey. 

Further reading:
- Heather Darsie, Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King's Beloved Sister (2019)
- Retha M. Warnicke, The Marrying of Anne of Cleves. Royal Protocol in Early Modern England (2000)
- Elizabeth Norton, Anne of Cleves: Henry VIII's Discarded Bride (2009)



Katherine Howard, fifth consort of Henry VIII
Born: Between 1523 and 1525 probably in Lambeth, London, England
Died: 13 February 1542, Tower of London, London, England (aged 17–19)
Father: Lord Edmund Howard
Mother: Joyce Culpeper
Tenure as queen consort of England: 1540–1541 (1 year, 4 months)
Coronation: Never crowned

Katherine Howard was the youngest wife of Henry VIII. She was a younger daughter of Lord Edmund Howard and Joyce Culpeper, and was the granddaughter of Thomas, second duke of Norfolk and a niece of Thomas, third duke of Norfolk. She and Anne Boleyn were first cousins, for Anne was the daughter of Edmund's sister Elizabeth. Katherine's date of birth is unknown, but contemporary - albeit fragmentary - evidence indicates that she was born between 1523 and 1525. Certainly she was a teenager when she captivated the ageing king in late 1539 or early 1540. At some point between 1531 and 1536, Katherine was sent to reside in the household of her step-grandmother Agnes, dowager duchess of Norfolk. She began receiving music lessons in 1536, perhaps with a view to serving as maiden of honour to Anne Boleyn or Jane Seymour. That she only began receiving music lessons that year is a further clue to her age, for if born as early as 1520/1 these surely would have taken place earlier with a view to acquiring a place in the queen's household. In the midst of these lessons her music master Henry Manox seduced her, although the two did not have sexual intercourse. She later noted that Manox had beseeched her to grant him sexual favours 'at the flattering and fair persuasions of Manox, being but a young girl'. By 1538, Katherine was involved in a liaison with Francis Dereham, a secretary to the dowager duchess, and rumours circulated in the household that the two hoped to marry. Dereham, born between 1506 and 1509, was then aged between twenty-nine and thirty-two, and Katherine was aged between thirteen and fifteen. It is possible, though uncertain, that Dereham coerced her. By 1539, however, their relationship had ended on account of Katherine's appointment to the household of Anne of Cleves. 

An unknown Spanish chronicler later described Katherine as the most beautiful woman in the kingdom. She was elegant, charming and generous, although other contemporaries described her as willful and imperious. Upon her arrival at court, Henry VIII fell headily in love with the teenaged Katherine and the two married on 28 July 1540 at Oatlands Palace. Katherine fulfilled her duties as queen successfully, acting as a patron and intercessor on a number of occasions, and court observers described the king's hope that his new queen would bear a son. Rumours circulated throughout Katherine's queenship that she was pregnant, but if so, she never gave birth to a living child. Like Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves, Katherine was never crowned, although it was rumoured that she would be crowned in York during the royal couple's progress to the north of England. By the spring of 1541, however, Katherine's life became complicated. Her former suitor Dereham arrived at court, hoping to serve in her household, and soon began boasting of his former relations with the queen. Dereham's aggressive and possessive attitude towards Katherine placed both individuals in danger. At the same time, Katherine began secretly meeting with Thomas Culpeper, a favoured courtier, with the aid of Lady Rochford, sister-in-law to Anne Boleyn. Culpeper was described as handsome but he had a dark reputation as an alleged rapist.

Traditionally, the queen and Culpeper are thought to have had a sexual affair, but both parties denied it. A letter written by Katherine to Culpeper probably in July 1541, usually described as a love letter, instead indicates that she desired him to keep his promise to her, but it remains uncertain what she was referring to. Perhaps the couple were in love, but it is also possible that in a climate of tension and intrigue at court, in which Dereham had recklessly boasted of his former liaison with the queen, that Culpeper had learned of Katherine's background and used it against her in order to win favours and attention. In support of this theory is the fact that Katherine gave him gifts and met with him regularly while chaperoned by Lady Rochford. It is possible that the promise which Katherine referred to in her letter concerned Culpeper's promise not to reveal her past to the king. She also warned him to beware revealing their meetings during his confessions to priests in case Henry VIII, by virtue of his position as head of the Church in England, somehow learned of their liaisons. Irrespective of the nature of their meetings, Katherine behaved recklessly since contemporary customs warned women not to meet secretly with men who were not their husbands. It is also questionable why she did not learn from the experiences of her cousin and predecessor Anne Boleyn, whose allegedly indiscreet conversations had led to her downfall and execution in 1536.

In November 1541, Archbishop Cranmer learned of Katherine's past when John Lascelles, whose sister Mary had resided in the dowager duchess of Norfolk's household alongside Katherine, revealed that the queen had been involved with two men prior to her marriage to the king. The queen and her household were subsequently investigated and the privy councillors eventually learned of her secret meetings with Culpeper in the spring and summer of that year. The distraught king refused to see Katherine and moved away from court. In December, Dereham and Culpeper were executed for treason and in February of the following year, Katherine and Lady Rochford were beheaded at the Tower of London, having been found guilty of treason by an Act of Attainder, thus denying them the right to stand trial. Contrary to popular belief, the queen was not found guilty of adultery but was indicted for intending to commit adultery with Culpeper, which constituted a treasonous offence. Both women were praised for their godly conduct on the scaffold, in which they praised the king and beseeched onlookers to pray for them. After the executions, their remains were interred at the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula. Katherine was aged seventeen to nineteen years when she was executed. 

Further reading:
- Conor Byrne, Katherine Howard: Henry VIII's Slandered Queen (2019)
- Gareth Russell, Young and Damned and Fair: The Life and Tragedy of Catherine Howard at the Court of Henry VIII (2017)
- Josephine Wilkinson, Katherine Howard: The Tragic Story of Henry VIII's Fifth Queen (2016)
- Retha M. Warnicke, Wicked Women of Tudor England (2012)
- Lacey Baldwin Smith, A Tudor Tragedy: The Life and Times of Catherine Howard (1961)

Katherine Parr, sixth consort of Henry VIII
Born: 1512 probably in Blackfriars, London, England
Died: 5 September 1548, Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire, England (aged 36)
Father: Sir Thomas Parr
Mother: Maud Green
Tenure as queen consort of England: 1543–1547 (3 years, 6 months)
Coronation: Never crowned

Katherine was the eldest daughter of Sir Thomas Parr and Maud Green, and was probably born in the summer of 1512 in Blackfriars, London. Her father was a favoured companion of Henry VIII and her mother served in the household of Katherine of Aragon, for whom Katherine Parr was probably named. Katherine acquired an excellent education, which included the learning of languages such as French and Latin, and in 1529, aged seventeen, she married Sir Edward Burgh of Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. Her husband died in 1533 and Katherine probably resided for a time at Sizergh Castle in Westmorland with the Dowager Lady Strickland, the widow of Katherine's cousin Sir Walter Strickland. The following year, Katherine married for the second time to John Neville, Baron Latimer, and acted as stepmother to his two children John and Margaret. In 1537, during the Pilgrimage of Grace, Katherine and her stepchildren were held hostage by the rebels at Snape Castle in Yorkshire. Her husband had been compelled the previous autumn to join the rebellion, and had been threatened with violence if he refused. However, Latimer's involvement in the rebellion led the king and Cromwell to suspect him of being a traitor, and it is possible that Katherine's brother William and their uncle (also named William) intervened for his life as a result. In 1543, Latimer died and at the age of thirty-one, Katherine was once more a widow.

She seems to have fallen in love with Sir Thomas Seymour, brother of the late Queen Jane, but while residing at court, she caught the attention of Henry VIII and the couple were married at Hampton Court Palace on 12 July of that year. Katherine's later correspondence indicates that she had not willingly agreed to marry the king, but felt that God had called her to be queen of England in order to advance true religion. It is a myth that she acted as a nursemaid to her ageing and infirm husband. Katherine was an educated, cultured and elegant queen consort who was known for her love of art, music and fashion. Like Katherine of Aragon, she was made regent of England in 1544 when the king left England to campaign in France. Katherine became close to her three stepchildren Mary, Elizabeth and Edward, and scholars have conjectured that her influence on Elizabeth, in particular, was significant. Katherine possessed a devout religious faith and wrote a number of religious works including The Lamentation of a Sinner (published after her husband's death). She enjoyed reading and discussing scripture with the ladies of her Privy Chamber. However, her adherence to the reformed faith led the conservatives at court, masterminded by Bishop Stephen Gardiner and Lord Wriothesley, to plot against her. Her own outspoken views increasingly alienated the king, and rumours began circulating that Henry planned to marry for the seventh time to the queen's friend Katherine, duchess of Suffolk. Whether there was any truth to these rumours remains uncertain.

In the summer of 1546, shortly after the burning of the heretic Anne Askew, who was thought to have links to some of the queen's ladies-in-waiting, a warrant was drawn up for the queen's arrest on charges of heresy. Fortunately for Katherine, a servant caught sight of the warrant and warned her in time. She convinced the king of her loyalty by claiming that she had only discussed religion with him as a distraction from the suffering caused by his ulcered leg. Henry VIII died on 28 January 1547 and his wife, now queen dowager, retired from court. The queen's swift remarriage to Thomas Seymour, probably in that spring, caused a scandal. In particular, her stepdaughter Mary was reported to be displeased by Katherine's actions. The dowager queen also experienced conflict with the Lord Protector on account of her jewels, since he and his wife argued that Katherine was no longer entitled to wear them.   

In the spring of 1548, Katherine conceived a child for the first time. However, her husband's reckless behaviour with her stepdaughter Elizabeth, who was residing with her stepmother, created a scandal in the household, and Elizabeth was dismissed as a result. On 30 August, the dowager queen gave birth to a daughter, Mary, but Katherine died only six days later from puerperal (or childbed) fever. Her daughter is thought to have died in infancy. Katherine was buried at St. Mary's Chapel in the grounds of Sudeley Castle, and remains the only English queen buried on private ground. Thomas Seymour was executed for treason the following March.

Further reading:
- Susan James, Kateryn Parr: The Making of a Queen (1999)
- Linda Porter, Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr (2010)
- Susan James, Catherine Parr: Henry VIII's Last Love (2010)

The Tudor Consorts
This article has sought to provide a brief biography of each of the seven Tudor consorts, alongside offering a list of recommended works for readers interested in learning more about them. Their lives continue to remain fascinating for modern audiences.

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