On July 12 1543, King Henry VIII married Catherine Parr (1512-1548) at Hampton Court Palace. Catherine was the last of the six wives of the king and the final queen consort of the House of Tudor. She is also the most-married English queen and the first woman to publish an original work under her name in English in England.
How did Henry VIII and Catherine Parr meet?
When Catherine’s second husband passed away in 1543, she became a rich widow. She then decided to use her mother’s friendship with Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife, to get closer to the queen’s daughter Lady Mary. A few months later, she secured her position in Mary’s household, where she met the King. Even though she had a romantic relationship with Thomas Seymour, the brother of the late Queen Jane Seymour, she ended up giving him up to marry Henry, as she saw it as her duty to marry him. Seymour was given a post in Brussels to keep him away from the royal court.
Catherine and Henry got married on July 12, 1543, at Hampton Court Palace. Catherine then became the first Queen of England and Ireland after the King had adopted the title of King of Ireland. She was considered by most an intelligent, vivacious and intellectual queen and a more sensible choice for Henry in contrast to Catherine Howard, her previous wife.
As soon as she became queen, Catherine installed her stepchildren in her household. She also became a loving stepmother to Henry’s children and brought unity to the family. It is partly thanks to her that Henry reconciled with his daughters from his two marriages. Moreover, she also developed a good relationship with the King’s son Edward.
The Queen was a keen patron of the arts and became the first English Queen to write and publish her own works. Her Psalms or Prayers taken out of Holy Scriptures were printed in 1544 and served as propaganda to help Henry win the war against France and Scotland. One of the prayers included in the book, A Prayer for the King, is still used to pray for Elizabeth II by the Anglicans.
When Henry went on a military campaign to France in July 1544, she became regent. As all of the members of the regency council were sympathetic to her, she was able to rule freely. It is believed that her actions as ruler during this period greatly influenced her stepdaughter, Elizabeth I of England.
However, Catherine’s religious views often caused heated debates with the King, as she was a supporter of the English Reformation. Eventually, her religious opponents tried to persuade Henry that she could pose a threat and several plans were drawn up for her arrest. Being aware that she was in danger, Catherine asked Henry for mercy and the King forgave her.
The end of their marriage
On January 28 1547, Henry passed away after a long period of illness. Before he died, he ordered that Catherine were given the respect of a queen of England even if he was not alive. Soon after Henry’s son was crowned Edward VI, she retired from the royal household. A few months later, she married secretly Thomas Seymour, which caused a small scandal. However, she died after giving birth to a daughter on 5 September 1548.
Catherine Parr is known as the only surviving wife of Henry VIII’s six wives. However, she was also an intelligent woman who was able to understand the ways of the King and managed to survive despite her religious beliefs. Moreover, she became the first woman to publish an original work under her own name in England.