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Katherine Parr

An intelligent woman and a loving stepmother?

An intelligent woman and a loving stepmother?

Katherine Parr and Henry VIII met when she secured a position in Princess Mary's household in late 1542.

Katherine was, by most accounts, vivacious, attractive and a scholar. She was also 30 years old, a mature contrast to Catherine Howard, and a more sensible choice for an ailing King in need of a nurse as much as a wife.

      
A portrait of Katherine Parr by an unknown artist

Why did Henry marry Katherine?

By 1543, Katherine had already been married (and widowed) twice but was in love with Thomas Seymour. She gave him up to marry the King.

This was as much a sign of her pious adherence to what she saw as God’s will as – perhaps – a practical acceptance that Henry wouldn’t last forever.

Katherine married Henry on 12 July 1543 at Hampton Court Palace.

A keen patron of the arts, Katherine was the first English queen to write and publish her own books.

Image: A portrait of Katherine Parr by an unknown artist. © National Portrait Gallery, London

Stability and unity

Katherine was a loving stepmother to Henry's three children and brought unity to the family.

Princess Elizabeth was particularly fond of her stepmother and Katherine took custody of the 14-year-old Elizabeth after Henry's death.

      

Did you know?

Katherine's influential example of female leadership was to shape the young Princess Elizabeth’s own ideas as queen.

Katherine Parr, attributed to Master John, circa 1545
Purchased with help from the Gulbenkian Foundation, 1965, National Portrait Gallery, NPG 4451

Dangerous beliefs

The Queen was a vigorous supporter of the English Reformation.

She sometimes pushed her evangelical views too far with Henry when discussing religion.

Katherine's religious opponents plotted against her and tried to persuade the King that she could be dangerous.

Plans were also drawn up for her arrest.

Katherine was warned of the danger she faced and had the sense to throw herself on Henry’s mercy and plead for forgiveness. 

Henry was completely disarmed, and forgave her.

Image: Katherine Parr, attributed to Master John, circa 1545, © National Portrait Gallery, London

Illustration of Kateryn Parr (1512-48), King Henry VIII's sixth wife.

God the knower of secrets can judge these words not only to be written with ink, but most truly impressed in the heart.

Katherine protesting her love for the King in a letter, July 1544

The death of the King

Henry died on 28 January 1547 at the age of 55 after a period of serious illness.

A line engraving of Katherine Parr by William Camden Edwards, after Hans Holbein the Younger

A tragic ending

Katherine remained loyal and devoted to Henry throughout their five years of marriage until his death. 

She was then free to marry her sweetheart Thomas Seymour a few months later. Soon she was delighted to be pregnant.

Tragically she contracted puerperal fever soon after being delivered of a healthy daughter, and died on 5 September 1548.

Image: Katherine Parr, © National Portrait Gallery, London

Watch Religious Belief in Tudor England Mini Documentary

What were Henry VIII's religious beliefs? Was he a Catholic, Protestant, or a Humanist follower of Erasmus? Find out in this mini-documentary.

Video transcript of Beliefs

Follow along with an interactive transcript of Beliefs on YouTube. A link to open the transcript can be found in the description.

Listen to the podcast

Was Katherine Parr the nursemaid who looked after and survived her husband, or was she much more than that? In this final episode of our Six Queens podcast series, Tracy Borman and historian Sarah Gristwood acquaint us with the woman behind the myths, an intelligent, strong and resourceful champion of her own agenda.

More episodes

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EXPLORE WHAT'S ON

  • Things to see

Haunted Gallery and Processional Route

Walk Henry VIII’s route from his private apartments to the Chapel and see the infamous Haunted Gallery in the State Apartments.

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  • Included in palace admission (members go free)
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The Wilderness

Wander through this treasure of the Hampton Court Gardens, which was once Charles II's formal pleasure garden and is now a wild meadow.

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  • Hampton Court Palace
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  • Things to see

Hampton Court Gardens

Take time to explore and relax in these world-renowned gardens and find our free entry Garden Open Days dates.

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Browse through our Tudor Collection to find a whole range of products based on the Tudors.

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Elizabeth's Women by Tracy Borman

Discover the world of Elizabeth I with this insightful look at Elizabeth's relationship with woman and how they helped to shape her into a remarkable monarch. This thrilling book explores the lesser known side of Elizabeth I who is often portrayed as a ruthless 'man's woman'.

£16.99

Henry VIII gauntlet armour oven glove

This fun oven glove has been inspired by a suit of armour made for Henry VIII in 1540, which is on display at the Tower of London.

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