Catherine Parr became the Queen of England when married as the sixth wife of King Henry VIII. She did this not before, but after he had already had two of his wives’ necks on the chopping blocks. Seems like a pretty risky thing to do. What no one knew, however, was that Catherine Parr had a little something up her sleeve that he believed would save her life if ever it came to be her turn on the chopping block… which it did.
Early Life and Marriages
Parr was born in 1512. Her mother Maud Green and Sir Thomas Parr. was a lady-in-waiting for Queen Catherine of Aragon. Green had even named her daughter, Catherine, after the Queen.
Parr married twice before she was wed to King Henry VIII. At 17 years old, she was married to Sir Edward Borough. Edward was the son of Thomas Borough, Anne Boleyn’s chamberlain. He died in 1533, leaving her a widow. Her second husband was John Neville, a 3rd Baron or Lord Latimer. Lady Latimer (Parr) was widowed yet again less than ten years later, and with no children. That’s when she married King Henry VIII, becoming his last wife. However, she was secretly in love with Sir Thomas Seymour, Henry VIII’s brother-in-law. Seymour was Prince Edward’s uncle. So, why did she marry Henry VIII? After seeing that his first wife was killed for pre-marital affairs, she decided to marry the king. Also, she was believed that having a position of power would help her spread her beliefs.
The protestants were losing the culture war, as some would say. As Henry VIII’s wife, she held bible studies with her friends and worked to spread the belief.
As King Henry’s health declined towards the 1550’s his and Parr’s son, Prince Edward, was in line to receive the throne. He was, however, still a minor. Therefore whoever his parental figure was would have significant influence over the country. Conservative political figures wanted to keep Queen Catherine Parr from further power. Bishop Stephen Gardiner had reformist Anne Askew arrested and tortured. The goal was to get Catharine Parr outed for being a heretic. This plan failed. Askew was burned as a heretic. When this plan failed, Bishop Stephen Gardiner tried to push Parr as a threat ad convinced Henry VIII to arrest her. And he did. Hearing that she was going to be arrested, Parr begged her husband not to kill her. By appealing to his sense of man-knowledge, compared to her, a mere woman, she begged for his mercy. Thoroughly ego-stroked, he spared her. She was the only one, out of his six wives to survive.
Shortly after Henry’s death, she was able to marry her longtime paramour, Thomas Seymour. However, he was already trying to get with a much younger girl, Elizabeth Tudor. Some proclaimed he had Parr killed to Marry Elizabeth because right after she gave birth to her first child, she died. She was only 36 and died mysteriously, seemingly without cause only a week after her delivery. On her deathbed, Catherine Parr told her handmaids that her husband didn’t love her and that he’d poisoned her. True or not, before the year was out, Tudor was arrested for treason, and a plot to get to Elizabeth Tudor.