A secret marriage with one of Queen Elizabeth’s ladies, caused the disfavor of his queen. Their marriage appears from the outside as an amazing love story – Sir Walter Raleigh and Elizabeth “Bess” Throckmorton. Unchanged: A secret marriage with one of Queen Elizabeth’s ladies, caused the disfavor of his queen. Their marriage appears from the outside as an amazing love story – Sir Walter Raleigh and Elizabeth “Bess” Throckmorton.
Born At Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire on 30 August 1548, Lady Mary Seymour was the long-awaited child of dowager queen Kateryn Parr, and her fourth husband Sir Thomas, Baron Seymour of Sudeley. The unexpected pregnancy left both parents overjoyed.
I recently picked up The Reign of Edward VI by James Anthony Froude and started looking for information on Thomas Seymour. It was while searching that I came across some new information.
On page 77, in the section of the book about the Protectorate, I found this line:
the admiral had seduced and deserted at least one innocent woman, who fell into crime and was executed.
The source for this statement is merely listed as “Latimer’s Sermons before King Edward”. So, of course, I went looking for this story in Latimer’s sermons. Unfortunately for me Froude did not give a more specific location in Latimer’s sermons. Luckily for me, the book is available online and I could do a search within it to find the reference to this woman.
The book is titled Sermons by Hugh Latimer, sometime Bishop of Worcester, Martyr, 1555, and I found the reference on page 164 (Latimer’s fourth sermon preached before Edward VI).
“I heard of a wanton woman, naughty liver. A whore, a vain body, was led from Newgate to the place of execution for a certain robbery that she had committed, and she had a wicked communication by the way. Here I will take occasion to move your grace, that such men as shall be put to death may have learned men to give them instruction and exhortation. For the reverence of God, when they be put to execution, let them have instructor; for many of them are cast away for lack of instruction, and die miserably for lack of good preaching. This woman, I say, as she went by the way, had wanton and foolish talk, as this: “that if good fellows had kept touch with her, she had not been at this time in that case.” [And amongst all other talk she said that such an one (and named this man) had first misled her: and, hearing this of him at that time, I looked ever what would be his end, what would become of him. He was a man the farthest fear of God that ever I knew or heard of in England. First, he was the author of all this woman’s whoredom; for if he had not led her wrong, she might have been married and become an honest woman, whereas now being naught with him, she fell afterward by that occasion to other: and they that were naught with her fell to robbery, and she followed; and thus was he the author of all of this.
After reading all that I was left wondering: Who was this woman? Did this really happen or was it fabricated by Latimer to further tarnish the reputation of Seymour to the King?
This got me thinking…how well did Latimer know Thomas, or the Seymour family at that. I found online, “Hugh Latimer; a biography” and in Chapter Four it states that Latimer was in Wiltshire from 1531 to 1535. During that time Thomas Seymour was employed by Francis Bryan at court.
If you are not familiar with the Seymours, their home at Wolf Hall was in Wiltshire. In the book “Ordeal by Ambition” by William Seymour, states that their home was in Burbage. Hugh Latimer was preaching at West Kington. I used Google maps to see what kind of distance were between the two locations and it appears to be about 36-38 miles, a bit far for the family to attend mass. In “Hugh Latimer; a biography”, the author states that while Thomas Seymour was in the Tower he requested that “Mr. Latimer might come to him”. The author believed that Seymour had heard countless praises of Latimer from his late wife, dowager queen Kateryn and that Latimer had converted Parr to the Protestant faith. Latimer visited Seymour in the Tower and may have attended him the day of his execution.
Latimer, indeed, without mentioning Seymour’s name, assumed that his audience “knew what he meant well enough.” But there were many who doubted his guilt; Latimer’s words were consequently much censured; and in his next sermon before the Court, on March 29, he deemed it necessary to defend himself by narrating all that he knew of Seymour’s death.
Latimer was also the person who reported the small notes that Seymour had written:
The man being in the Tower, wrote certain papers, which I saw myself. They were two little ones, one to my Lady Mary’s Grace, and another to my Lady Elizabeth’s Grace, tending to this end, that they should conspire against my Lord Protector’s Grace; surely, so seditiously as could be.
These notes were reported to Latimer by his servant and were found in Seymour’s shoe. The notes were sewn between the soles of a velvet shoe. He also goes on to mention how creative Seymour had been in creating ink to write. “He made his ink so craftily and with such workmanship, as the like hath not been seen.” “He made his pen of the aglet of a point, that he plucked from his hose, and thus wrote these letters…”
John Lingard of Lingard’s History of England was no fan of Latimer or Somerset. He said that Latimer was merely staying on the good side of Somerset with his sermons.
So, from all this we can determine that Thomas Seymour may have known, or at least known of Latimer through his late wife. We can, if we believe Lingard, determine that Latimer was a man who understood he had to appease the Lord Protector.
I have been been unable to corroborate Latimer’s sermon about the wanton women who was executed because of Thomas Seymour. But it is my belief that Hugh Latimer’s sermon was fabricated to further slander Thomas Seymour’s name – many of the King’s subjects had become sympathetic to his story after his execution, just as they had with Anne Boleyn.
Hugh Latimer; a biography. by Demaus, R. (Robert), 1829 -1874; Tract Society, London. Publication date  Lingard’s History of England by Dom Henry Norbert Birt, O.S.B.. London. George Bell & Sons . The Reign of Edward VI by James Anthony Froude. Published by J. M. Dent & Company . Sermons by Hugh Latimer, sometime Bishop of Worcester, Martyr, 1555. Publisher Cambridge : Printed at the University Press . Ordeal by Ambition: An English Family in the Shadow of the Tudors by William Seymour. Published by Sidgwick & Jackson Ltd .
On 8 February 1587, Marie Stuart (Queen of Scots) was executed at Fotheringhay Castle for her supposed treasonous acts against Elizabeth I, Queen of England.
From the moment Mary was informed of her impending execution (the following morning) she felt the world lifted from her shoulders. This prison that she had been kept in for nearly two decades would soon close and she would be free at last.
In Margaret George’s novel, Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles, she speaks of how Mary looked forward to death as an end to her misery. When she was informed of her sentence she was inspired to write (originally in latin):
O Lord God,
I have hoped in Thee.
Now set me free.
In cruel chain,
In bitter pains,
I have longed for Thee.
In sorrow sore,
Upon my knees,
I Thee implore
That Thou wilt
Grant me liberty.
Mary had requested access to her chaplain, but she was denied. The English feared Mary becoming a martyr. Even going so far as to say that her life would be the end of their religion, and her death it’s preservation. Words such as those gave Mary the strength she needed to go on, for they proved she was to be martyred by her execution – that she was one of God’s chosen servants. This gave Mary great strength and comfort to carry on in her last hours.
A scaffold was being erected in the Great Hall (of the castle) in preparation of her execution. Mary would hear the faint banging of it being build. The sound of her impending freedom.
Imagine knowing that your end was near – that there is nothing you could do to stop it. Would you be as brave as the Queen of Scots? Would you embrace your last few hours by savoring every piece of what it is to be human? To breath. To smile. To laugh.
After giving a speech to those who had served her in her prison she said prayers. We can imagine: Strengthen me. Thank you for this life.
When the Sheriff came for Mary, at just past eight in the morning, they left her room and made their way down the great oak staircase of the castle. When they reached the foot of the stairs the Earl of Kent refused to allow Mary’s servants to proceed any further. She was to die alone by the request of the Queen of England.
After many words exchanged, the Queen was granted six persons to follow her into the Great Hall. Jane, Elizabeth, Melville, her master of household, physician, apothecary and surgeons. Yet again she was denied her priest.
With all the confidence she could muster (for a person about to die) she walked into the Great Hall with her head held high. She refused to have anyone say that she was afraid at the end.
The scaffold was only two feet high and was draped in black.
The Earls of Shrewsbury and Kent were there to witness her execution and to report back to Queen Elizabeth.
The executioners asked the Queen of Scots for her forgiveness (which is customary) and she replied with, “I forgive you with all my heart, for now I hope you shall make an end of all my troubles.”
Once she was disrobed of her outer garments it was revealed that she was dressed in red – the color a catholic martyr would wear.¹ This fact would be one that Kent and Shrewbury would hate to report back to the Queen of England.
Her servant, Jane (Kennedy) blindfolded Mary. The Queen of Scots was assisted to the block where she proceeded to kneel on a cushion that was placed there for her. She positioned her head on the block and stretched out her arms. Her last words were, “In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum” (“Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit”).²
The executioner’s first swing missed Mary’s neck and struck her in the side of the head. Mary groaned and said in a whisper, “Sweet Jesus.” The spectators in the Great Hall gasped and screamed.
The second swing severed her neck, except for a small piece of ligament. The executioner, embarrassed at his botched execution cut through it with his axe.
After he removed her head he grabbed her head by the hair and declared, “God save Queen Elizabeth!” Upon saying those words Mary’s head fell from the wig she had been wearing and Mary’s head fell to the ground.
This was the end to a life lived the way Mary wanted to live it. From the age of six days old she was Queen. Her life had been laid out for her, but she would inevitably live it the way she wanted.
Mary, Queen of Scots would love much in her short life. She was chastised for making the choices she did, but she did not care. She may not have had the best of luck when it came to men but she always did things her way.
In the end, the “fight” between Elizabeth and Mary was won by Mary. We remember her as a victim and a martyr.
Rest in peace Marie Stuart, Queen of Scots. (8 December 1542 – 8 February 1587)
¹Fraser, A. Mary Queen of Scots, 1969.
²Guy, John (2004). “My Heart is my Own”: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots. London: Fourth Estate. pg 7-8
George, Margaret (1992). Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles
Fraser, A. Mary Queen of Scots, 1969.
Guy, John (2004). “My Heart is my Own”: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots. London: Fourth Estate. pg 7-8
Of all of King Henry VIII’s queens, Katheryn Howard is viewed with the least sympathy. If not technically guilty of adultery, she’s at least seen as having “deserved” her fate because of her immoral lifestyle. One recent historian referred to her as an “empty-headed slut.” Others have described her as a “good-time girl” or a frivolous young woman only interested in pretty dresses and boys.
Down through the centuries, our view of many of Henry’s queens has changed as historians re-interpret the records and old myths are debunked. Anne Boleyn has her fierce partisans; perhaps it’s time we also swept away the layers of cobwebs from Katheryn’s memory, too.
Katheryn had a terribly neglected upbringing. In the Tudor age, the only value a woman had was in the alliances her marriage could bring her family. Though high in bloodline, Katheryn was from the “poor side” of the Howard family, and had little to no dowry. No one expected much of her.
Her mother died around 1528 when Katheryn was about five years old. She was eventually sent to the house of her grandmother, the dowager duchess of Norfolk, who fostered a number of young aristocratic ladies, as was common in that era for those of noble blood. Children would be sent to the home of another noble – preferably superior in rank – to finish their education and learn the social graces. Unfortunately, the dowager duchess does not seem to have taken her responsibility to the young ladies in her charge seriously, and their supervision was lax at best.
Katheryn was pretty, “very small in stature,” with the auburn hair that seems to have run in the Howard family. She was kind-hearted, and viewing her behavior from a modern psychological standpoint, it appears she had an understandable longing for attention and affection.
As a very young girl – possibly only thirteen or fourteen, she was touched inappropriately by her music teacher. Though today we would consider this sexual abuse, in that era it was considered a black mark against her character. The music teacher, Mannox, bragged about it to other members of the household in very crude terms. When the dowager duchess learned what had happened, she slapped Katheryn twice, and ordered her to never be alone with the teacher again. It’s somewhat chilling to imagine the poor girl having to continue lessons with the man who had groped her and bragged about it to others.
A few years later, Katheryn stole the keys to the young ladies dormitory from her grandmother and opened the door for young men who brought “wine and cheer,” for them. She engaged in a sexual relationship with Francis Dereham.
Though Katheryn later steadfastly denied a marriage to Dereham had taken place, she did admit to allowing Dereham to call her his wife in front of others and then having sexual relations with him, which constituted a legally binding marriage by church and civil law. Katheryn doesn’t seem to have believed this was true. In her mind, they were just playing, young lovers having fun calling one another by pet names.
The dowager duchess knew about their relationship. She once slapped Katheryn and Dereham because she caught them kissing. When asked where Dereham was, the dowager duchess would say, “I warrant you if you seek him in Katharine Howard’s chamber ye shall find him there.”When she learned of the young men visiting the girls’ chamber, she lectured Katheryn that she would “hurt her beauty” if she spent late nights drinking.
In November or December 1539, Katheryn’s uncle secured her a position at court as Queen Anna von Kleefes’s maid of honor, and Dereham decided to go off to Ireland to attempt to make his fortune. He gave Katheryn money to hold for him, and secured a promise from her that she would “never swerve” from her devotion to him.
The king’s immediate interest in Katheryn was so obvious that ambassadors were commenting on it even before his marriage to Anna was annulled. By spring, the king was sending her a steady stream of gifts. Anna was a very intelligent woman and took the deal Henry offered in dissolving their marriage.
Henry was reportedly obsessed with Katheryn, more “in love” with her than any of his previous wives. He couldn’t keep his hands off her, even in front of the court – notable behavior for the prim king who had always found public displays of affection distasteful.
The Howard family seems to have come to a silent consensus that no one would say anything about Katheryn’s relationship to Derham, or what had occurred earlier with the music teacher. Certainly many of them were aware that Katheryn was not a virgin and that the level of the Dereham relationship made any marriage to the king questionable without a dispensation being issued, but none of them said a word as Henry VIII married Katheryn Howard on July 28, 1540.
Katheryn Howard wasn’t raised for the role like Katharine of Aragon, nor highly-educated like Anne Boleyn, nor ambitious like Jane Seymour, but she tried to be a good queen. Despite her youth, terrible upbringing, and lack of preparation, Katheryn took her role seriously, with the spirit of reconciliation in mind. She tried to make friends with everyone across religious divisions.
She tried to use her influence with the king for good purposes, and urge him toward mercy. Researcher Conor Byrne says in his biography of her that she interceded on behalf of at least four prisoners, including Thomas Wyatt and Countess Pole. It is interesting, because neither of these people were partisans or friends of Katheryn – she got no political or personal reward from trying to help them.
Katheryn also made it a point to show kindness to her neglected cousin Princess Elizabeth. Perhaps it was because she knew what it was like. Katheryn wouldn’t really get any benefit from this generosity, since Elizabeth was currently still in disgrace with her father, and as an unfavored bastard, she had little dynastic value.
Katheryn directed that the Elizabeth be brought to court and seated directly across from her at the dinner table, the position of honor. She’s also noted as having sent the princess small gifts from time to time.
She also reached out to Princess Mary, who reportedly didn’t think much of her new stepmother. Katheryn and Anna von Kleefes also exchanged gifts, and danced with one another when Anna was at court.
The king certainly lavished gifts on his pretty young queen, but Katheryn’s own expense books show she spent more on trying to help others than she did on herself. One of her biggest purchases was the fur-lined clothing she bought for the elderly Countess Pole who was suffering from the cold and damp during her imprisonment in the Tower.
Dereham got the shock of his life upon returning to England, expecting to take Katheryn as his wife, but discovering she was now Queen. Katheryn made a terrible mistake in appointing him to be one of her secretaries. It would later be alleged that she had done so with the intent of continuing her “sordid life” with him.
By the time Dereham returned, Katheryn’s attentions were taken up by another of the king’s courtiers, Thomas Culpepper, whom Dereham thought had “succeeded him in her affections.” But some historians have theorized that it’s entirely possible that Katheryn was being blackmailed by Culpepper into meeting with him to keep quiet about her past.
That past came to light when a proposed lady in waiting refused to serve Katheryn because she’d been at the dowager duchess’s home and had seen that Katheryn was “light in living and condition.” The comment triggered an investigation, at first dismissed by the king as vicious gossip, but when confronted with evidence she’d been sexually active before her marriage, the king screamed and cried, demanding a sword be brought to him. He vowed she would suffer more in death than she’d ever experienced pleasure in her lover’s arms.
Only a few days prior, he had given a public prayer of thanksgiving that he had finally found such a perfect wife. He had long held himself up as an expert on women, able to determine whether or not a woman was pure just from looking at the firmness of her body. Katheryn had not only broken his heart, she had made a fool of him, as well.
Katheryn’s meetings with Culpepper would be investigated, but she was doomed for death as soon as Henry discovered she’d been “impure” when she came to his bed. Both Katheryn and Culpepper would swear that the relationship never became sexual, but Culpepper admitted he would sleep with the queen if she’d been willing. One of the major pieces of evidence against her was an undated letter Katheryn had written to Culpepper in the florid language of the day. Adultery was never proven despite the intense efforts put into the investigation. All the indictment could allege was intent.
The Imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, spoke to Katheryn’s uncle, the Duke of Norfolk. It’s interesting to speculate about what Norfolk knew of his niece’s sexual history when she came to court. Surely his mother, the dowager duchess, told him about the difficulties she’d had with her ward when they discussed sending Katheryn to court.
Did Norfolk decide it was best just to pretend none of it had happened in the interest of finding Katheryn a husband? Of course, he never imagined that Katheryn’s husband would be the king. Did he panic at the thought of how the king might react when he discovered his bride wasn’t a virgin?
Now that the secret was out, Norfolk was eager to disavow this second niece who had married the king and fallen from favor. Chapuys says that Norfolk told him he’d liked to see Katheryn burned at the stake. The French ambassador also wrote of it and said, “Norfolk says she shall die, and specially because the King could not marry again while she lives.”
Ultimately, Katheryn was guilty of nothing but having sexual experience before she married the king. Adultery was never proven, only the possibility of intent. Katheryn was being punished because her husband was heartbroken that his “perfect jewel of womanhood” had been touched by others before him. His condemnation of her became history’s judgment.
Perhaps had her reign been longer, we would have seen more of Katheryn’s kind spirit in action and her historical reputation would be different. But it was not to be. Katheryn wasn’t queen long enough to make a delible mark. She wasn’t a passionate advocate for education like Katharine of Aragon, nor a religious reformer like Anne Boleyn, but it appears she took her role seriously and attempted to be a good queen to her people. But her sexual experiences cast a large enough shadow to blot out the good she had done, and history would dismiss her as an empty-headed and sexually voracious girl who deserved what she got.
Katheryn would spend her last hours in her chamber with the execution block, practicing laying her head on it so she would bring no further disgrace to her family by fumbling it. Her last words are not recorded as Anne Boleyn’s were, but witnesses were impressed that the pale, frightened young girl made such a “godly and Christian end that ever was heard tell of (I think) since the world’s creation.”
Her legacy would be a new law which made it treason for a woman to conceal her sexual history from the king if he expressed an interest in marrying her, and treason for anyone who knew of the bride’s sexual history not to reveal it within 20 days of the king’s marriage.
She also has a short story in the Romantic Interludes anthology, available from TWCS, Amazon and iTunes, or can be purchased separately from Amazon. A short story collection featuring the characters from The End of All Things is also available from Amazon.
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