Tudor Tuesdays: Catherine Parr

Welcome to the last Tudor Tuesday! I hope everyone’s enjoyed reading about the six queens of Henry VIII, and if you haven’t picked up a copy of the luscious Gilt yet, you should definitely make it out to the bookstore today to do so.

Today, we visit the last Queen to rule with Henry VIII, the extremely intelligent and clever Catherine Parr. Catherine witnessed important historical and political events in her short tenure as Queen, and is said to have been one of the biggest influences on the young Elizabeth I.

Born sometime in 1512 to noble parents, Catherine grew up as Henry VIII began his first years on the throne. Her father died when she was only five and her mother was left to care for three young children. Her childhood was filled with the scriptures and languages that her mother adored, and Catherine and her sister were groomed to be exceptional noblewomen with all the skills and talents ladies were expected to have. These traits would make for two excellent matches before her third marriage, to the King himself.

Photo ©Luminarium

Edward de Bourgh was Catherine’s first husband–they wed in 1529, but Edward died a few short years later, leaving Catherine a rich widow. Lady Parr passed away in 1531 and Catherine received her inheritance, allowing her to have the luxury and freedom to marry whom she wished, a power most women in the Renaissance did not have. She chose John Neville, Lord Latimer, and her marriage was happier than what women were conditioned to expect. Lord and Lady Latimer were quite popular at the royal court, and it was during those visits that Catherine caught the eye of the King.

As uncomfortable as it must have been for Catherine to receive gifts from Henry VIII, she had the grace not to reject them and ruin the Latimer name. Her husband’s health began to deteriorate in 1543, and Henry sped up his courtship of the soon-to-be widow. Upon Lord Latimer’s death in March 1543, Catherine inherited two large and wealthy estates and cared for her stepdaughter as best she could. Though she had the right to leave court after her husband’s death, she stayed because she had fallen in love with Sir Thomas Seymour, a charming and smart young man.

Catherine was a remarkable woman in many ways, but it was her integrity and loyalty that endeared me to her. Trapped as she was into marrying the King, even though she was in love with Seymour, she remained strong and did not conduct an extramarital affair. She took to her role with the same grace she displayed during her entire life: caring for the Ladies Mary and Elizabeth without trying to control them, encouraging their interests and giving them the tools and resources they needed to learn to survive. She also displayed an unusual concern for her tenants and servants, ensuring they were educated and did not live unhappy lives. Henry came to trust her enough to appoint her as Queen Regent during his invasion of France, a stunning development that none of his previous wives were offered. It’s not just any woman who could craft a fulfilling life out of a one-sided marriage, and her greatest accomplishment is thought to be her molding of the future Queen Elizabeth I of England’s Golden Age.

Sadly, Catherine’s story does not have a happy end. Seymour, the man she had loved throughout her entire marriage to Henry and married after his death, did not find her to be enough for his ambitions. Despite their marriage and Catherine’s devotion to him, he began to actively pursue Elizabeth I. Catherine and Elizabeth’s loving mother-daughter relationship came to an end, and they did not communicate for weeks. It is said that during their last meeting, Catherine told her “God has given you great qualities. Cultivate them always, and labour to improve them, for I believe you are destined by Heaven to be Queen of England.”

Shortly after Catherine gave birth to Lady Mary Seymour, her daughter with Thomas, she contracted puerperal fever and died a week later on September 7, 1548. She was greatly mourned by her stepchildren and friends, and she was admired and lauded for her kind nature, love of learning and compassion.

Need more Tudor intrigue? I’ve got a thrilling little excerpt from Gilt, just for you!

Cat scrutinized me, head cocked to one side, the red-breasted gown completing the look of a robin about to catch a worm.

“Your eyes are too knowing,” she said. “Men will think you see more than they wish you to understand. They want to surprise you. You look at them and they want to slink away.”

“Thanks,” I grumbled, pulling the hood over my face. “Better?”

But I wondered if my eyes were the reason no boy had ever visited me at our midnight parties.

“What are friends for?” Cat smoothed her hair beneath a red velvet caul networked with gold braid and pearls that the duchess had probably worn for a royal coronation. “I tell you these things so you can attend to them in the future. You should practice looking more demure. Less judgmental.”

Cat was a firm believer in practice. She had invented the way she walked, smiled, laid her fingers on a man’s arm—even the way she turned her face to catch the light. She wasn’t a stunning beauty, a brilliant musician, or a quick wit, but she could get a man’s attention merely by entering the room.

And I was the perfect mirror. I helped her refine every performance—echoing and casting back at her all the things I couldn’t be myself. She took me with her everywhere. We complemented each other. Completed each other. I was the Kitty to her Cat.

Being a reflection was better than being nothing at all.

Make sure to get your word for the scavenger hunt (featured in YELLOW) to enter to win one of 3 GILT prize packs. 3 people will receive a finished copy of the book, and some GILT bookmarks.

To enter fill in the Rafflecopter form on Kathy’s blog (US ONLY) once you have the words to complete this sentence:

In the ____ of King ____ VIII, who you ____ can get you in, but ___ you ____ can get you ______

Missing a word? Check out the other Tudor Tuesday blog posts!

Nicole introduces us to Catherine of Aragon @ Nicole About Town
Kathy sheds new light on Anne Boleyn @ A Glass of Wine
Rebecca tells us why Jane Seymour was beloved @ Reading Wishes
Harmony elaborates on Anne of Cleves’ story @ Radiant Reads
Christy digs into GILT and the true story of Catherine Howard @ The Reader Bee

And don’t forget to check in with Katherine Longshore next week for the Tudor Tuesday wrap up!


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