The Queen Dowager, Part 1

Posted by by Janet Dooley on 4 January 2012 in category in Henry VIII - 0 0 Comments

In 1543 Catherine Parr was chosen to be Henry VIII’s sixth wife. Catherine Parr was twice widowed and courting another man when the king came calling. The other man was Thomas Seymour, and Henry had him sent away to a permanent ambassadorship, clearing the way for his own courtship. Knowing she had little choice in the matter, Catherine accepted the king’s proposal for marriage. While undoubtedly knowing full well the risks of being Henry VIII’s wife, Catherine Parr never publicly or privately expressed doubt, fear, or resistance to being queen. She knew her duty, and rose to the occasion. 

Catherine Parr as a young woman in this portrait by an unknown artist. She was already twice widowed when she married Henry VIII. Catherine came from a noble family who's own father died when she was young. She had been raised by her mother, a strong and determined woman who trained Catherine to manage a noble household. With the exception of a few conservative Catholic bishops, Catherine was well loved and respected as queen.


Although Catherine was still young and pretty, it’s not likely that Henry VIII ––still mending his broken heart from the Katherine Howard debacle––was looking for a lover in his new wife. More likely he was looking for a companion and a caretaker. Catherine had already buried two elderly husbands, so she knew well how to nurse and comfort a sickly, dying man.

Surviving a plot by Catholic forces to get rid of her (the new queen was a devotee of the Reformed religion), Catherine outlived her husband and became the Queen Dowager of England. She had been a well-respected queen of England, served as Regent when the King went warring in France, and reunited Henry’s children, even restoring Mary and Elizabeth to the succession. Her influence had been great and her reputation was spotless. 

But her story was not over. Thomas Seymour was about to come calling.

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