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Parr, Catherine (1512–1548)

Parr, Catherine (15121548)

The sixth and last wife of King Henry VIII of England. She was born in Kendal, the daughter of Sir Thomas Parr, a court official. She married twice, the first time to Lord Edward of Borough. After his death, she married Baron John Neville, who died in 1543. Although she was drawing close to Thomas Seymour, the brother of the king's late wife Jane Seymour, Henry himself proposed marriage to her. His previous wife, Catherine Howard, had been executed on a charge of adultery, after which the enraged king's ministers and inner circle felt a great reluctance to propose any woman as his next consort. Parr was an acceptable candidate by the fact that she had been twice married already, and thus her chastity was not an issue as it would have been for an unmarried woman. She accepted the proposal despite her love for Thomas Seymour, and the sixth royal wedding of Henry's reign took place on July 12, 1543, at the palace of Hampton Court.

After his five marriages had ended in divorces or executions, Henry was growing stout, sickly, and extremely paranoid and fearful of cabals and conspiracies at court. In this troubled atmosphere Catherine helped tutor the king's two daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, who had grown estranged from their father. Catherine succeeded in softening Henry's intolerant attitude toward his daughters and possibly saving them from accusations of treason.

In the summer of 1544, Henry took the field for a campaign in France, appointing Parr as regent to rule England in his place. She carried out her duties with competence, attending to the finances of the realm and supplying Henry's armies with men, supplies, and provisions. The queen regent's ability greatly impressed the young Elizabeth, who looked to her stepmother as a model for her own management of England after she took the throne.

Parr's sympathies for the new reformed faith, however, made Catholic courtiers hostile to her, and their machinations with the king put her in danger. She was guilty of debating religious issues at court and encouraging commoners to read the Bible in an English version, an act that constituted defiance of the king as the supreme head of the church. An arrest warrant was issued but on the eve of being taken prisoner Catherine soothed the king's ego with submissive and penitent speeches; when palace guards arrived to take her prisoner the king angrily sent them away.

After the death of Henry in 1547, Catherine Parr carded the title of Dowager Queen of England and quickly married Thomas Seymour. She took a strong interest in the Reformation ideas then current on the continent, and commissioned an English translation of a work of Desiderius Erasmus. In the next year, however, she died of a fever shortly after giving birth to her first child, a daughter.

See Also: Elizabeth I; England; Henry VIII

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Catherine Parr

Catherine Parr (1512–48), 6th queen of Henry VIII. Daughter of Sir Thomas Parr of Kendal, Catherine was well educated with protestant sympathies. She was 31 and had been twice married when she attracted Henry's attention. She is said to have had strong reservations about marrying him—‘better mistress than wife’—but the marriage was performed at Hampton Court on 12 July 1543. Her maturity served her well and the marriage was the most adult Henry had experienced. She provided something of a home for the royal family, intervened on behalf of both Mary and Elizabeth, and interested herself in their education. During 1544, while Henry led the invasion of France, Catherine acted as regent and took her duties seriously, adding her initials, KP, to documents. On Henry's death in 1547 she was disappointed not to be made regent for the young Edward VI. She went on to marry the ambitious Thomas Seymour, a former admirer, and promoted Baron Seymour of Sudeley. She died on 7 September 1548 shortly after the birth of a daughter.

Sue Minna Cannon

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Parr, Catherine

Catherine Parr, 1512–48, sixth queen consort of Henry VIII of England. She was the daughter of Sir Thomas Parr, an officeholder at the court, and had been twice widowed before Henry made her his wife in 1543. She exerted a beneficent influence over the aging king, interceding in behalf of Henry's daughters, Mary and Elizabeth (whom she helped to educate), and served for a time as queen regent (1544). At one point Catherine's Protestant sympathies placed her in danger, but she lived to become queen dowager and to wield considerable power at the start of the reign of Henry's son, Edward VI. She married (1547) Baron Seymour of Sudeley but died in childbirth the next year.

See J. Mueller, ed., Katherine Parr: Complete Works and Correspondence (2011); biographies by A. Martienssen (1974) and L. Porter (2010).

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Catherine Parr

Catherine Parr, queen of England: see Parr, Catherine.

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