At the end of her life, dowager queen Kateryn Parr was married to Thomas Seymour, Lord Admiral; She had just given birth to her only child, a daughter named Mary, on the 30th of August, 1548. Unfortunately, as happened often in Tudor England, Kateryn Parr got an infection after giving birth causing puerperal fever. The infection occurs when bacteria infect the uterus and surrounding areas after a women gives birth.
Elizabeth Tyrwhit was a lady-in-waiting and friend of dowager queen, Kateryn Parr. Here is an account of Kateryn’s state of mind and her behavior on 3 September 1549, two days before her death.
A two days afore the death of the Queen, at my coming to her in the morning, she asked me where I had been so long, and said unto me, she did fear such things in herself, that she was sure she could not live. Whereunto I answered, as I thought, that I saw no likelihood of death in her. She, then having my Lord Admiral by the hand, and divers other standing by, spake these words – partly, as I took it, idly: “My lady Tyrwhit, I am not well handled, for those that be about me careth not for me but standeth laughing at my grief. And the more good I will to them, the less good they will to me.”
Whereunto my Lord Admiral answered, “Why, sweetheart, I would you no hurt.”
And she said to him again, aloud, “No, my lord, I think so.” And immediately she said to him in his hear: “But, my lord, you have given me many shrewd taunts.” Those words I perceived she spake with good memory, and very sharply and honestly, for her mind was unquieted.
My Lord Admiral, perceiving that I heard it, called me aside and asked me what she said; and I declared it plainly to him. Then he consulted with me, that he would lie down on the bed by her, to look if he could pacify her unquietness with gently communication: whereunto I agreed.
And by the time he had spoken three or four words to her, she answered him very roundly and shortly, saying: “My lord, I would have given a thousand marks to have my full talk with Huick the first day I was delivered. But I durst not for displeasing you.”
And I, hearing that, perceived her trouble to be so great that my heart would serve me to hear no more. Such like communication she had with him the space of an hour, which they did hear that sat by her bedside.
Often I hear people say that Thomas Seymour did not love Kateryn Parr, that he was only with her because she was the wealthy dowager queen and had great status. I find it hard to believe after reading this witness account that Thomas Seymour did not love Kateryn Parr. If Thomas did not care for Kateryn he would not have been at her side. I believe the man loved her so greatly that he was there with her until the end, laying with her in bed, holding her hand and whispering into her ear to calm her mind.
We are so fortunate to have accounts like these from Elizabeth Tyrwhit to help tell the story of these amazing people in world history but we must always remember, like today, that sometimes people say things to get others in trouble. It has been reported that Elizabeth Tyrwhit never liked Thomas Seymour. Enough said.
Katherine Parr: Complete Works & Correspondences -Edited by Janel Mueller; pages 177-78
Thomas Seymour had a way with women – his charisma so great and his looks so good that even Katherine Parr couldn’t help but fall for him. He was described as “…fierce in courage, courtly in fashion, in personage stately, in voice magnificent.” Yet with all those wonderful attributes he did not marry until he was nearly forty years old.
In 1547, after the death of King Henry VIII, his son Edward succeeded him as King Edward VI of England. Young Edward’s mother, Jane, died days after giving birth to him and the only remaining connection to her was through his uncles, aunts and grandmother.
The Seymour Brothers
From early on the Seymour brothers were gifted with titles. Edward was given the title Viscount Beauchamp after his sister married the King in 1536. The following summer he became Earl of Hertford. At the same time his younger brother Thomas became Gentleman of the Privy Chamber. A year later he was granted the castle and manor of Holt in Cheshire and knighted prior to the christening of his nephew, Prince Edward, into the Knight of the Bath.¹ From that point, until the death of King Henry, Thomas was continually given lands, but no greater titles – those were saved for his elder brother, Edward.
When Prince Edward became King of England Thomas Seymour’s social standings grew immensely; He was now uncle to the King. Finally he was given a title…though not a dukedom like his brother Edward who became Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector but Baron of Sudeley and Lord Admiral, along with several pieces of land. As an uncle to the King he should have received more, at least an earldom. Some chroniclers and historians have said that his brother Edward was behind the lack of any great titles.
Edward Seymour surely wanted to give the impression that he was a fair brother; After he was made Lord Protector he had this to say to the Council:
My lords, you know how long my brother, Master Seymour, has served, and how the King esteemed him, and if he had not died would have given him great rewards; and you also know that it is time the Earl of Warwick was allowed to rest, and had another less laborious office. My brother is young and is well fitted for this post, so if you approve I propose to make Warwick the Earl Constable, and my brother High Admiral.²
When we look back at previous kings in their minority it was more common that any remaining uncles were given much greater titles than what Thomas Seymour received. With his brother Edward as Lord Protector of the Realm, he had the power to recommend to council to give his brother a greater title. It’s almost as if Edward Seymour knew that his brother would attempt to over-throw him and take a more powerful position for himself.
Thomas never believed he was given enough and always thought he deserved more. That was definitely his weakness. It’s easy to see him as a villain, but he was also a victim of his brother’s ambitions. I believe this was his true motivator. However, imagine seeing your elder brother and your younger sister getting everything they desired and you, as a middle child, feeling like you were always forgotten.
Thomas Seymour was nearly forty years old and unmarried when Henry VIII died in 1547. There is no doubt that he could have married any noble woman of his choosing but his ambitions were always higher and greater than most expected. He wanted a marriage that would give him more money, more property and more political standing.
Before Katherine Parr was married to Henry VIII, she and Seymour had hoped to marry after the imminent death of her third husband, Lord Latimer. Merely a couple of months after the death of Latimer, Henry VIII asked Katherine to be his wife. She could not refuse. This may have fueled Seymour’s internal fire to strive for what he thought he deserved and what he thought should be his.
It was necessary to have a lengthy mourning period after the death of a husband, but especially if that husband was the King. If the wife was of child-bearing age she had to wait until a sufficient amount of time went by for everyone to see that she was not with the King’s child. As an example, the dowager queen, Catherine of Valois, was told she could not remarry until her son (who was a minor) came of age and could give consent.
Had Thomas Seymour proposed to Katherine in 1543 right after the death of her husband it would have been seen as improper. He had to give it some time before proposing marriage. The King however, did not have to follow the same rules as his subjects.
With Katherine married and out of the picture, Thomas had every opportunity to marry, yet he did not. He was send abroad several times by Henry VIII on embassies or battles and that sufficiently kept him away from Katherine Parr during the King’s lifetime.
When Seymour’s nephew, Edward succeeded the throne it opened up a new door of opportunity for Thomas. Seymour had approached the King’s servant, John Fowler to plead his case to the King regarding marriage. He had asked Fowler:
Mr. Fowler, I pray you, if you have any communications with the King’s Majesty soon, or tomorrow as his highness whether he would be content I should marry or not; and if he says he would be content, I pray you ask his grace whom he would have to be my wife?
When Fowler saw the King next he brought up Seymour in conversation by marveling how he had not yet been married. The King had no response. Then Fowler asked, “Could your grace be contented he should marry?” The King responded by saying only, “Ye-very well.” Fowler than proceeded to ask Edward whom Seymour should marry. The King said that Thomas Seymour should marry “My Lady Anne of Cleves.” He paused a moment and then changed his mind saying that Seymour should marry his sister Mary – to help “turn her opinions.” This must reference her religion.
The above reference situation is not dated so I am unsure when it actually occurred. I believe this was about the time that Thomas proposed to Elizabeth and married Katherine Parr. It appears he’s looking for the King to name one of the two ladies.
The Lord Protector approached Council regarding his brother marrying the dowager queen. That he deserved a wife of a great title as he was the uncle of the King. The dowager queen favored the marriage but worried to Paget’s wife that she would lose her title as queen. She was assured that it was not the case.²
Thomas Seymour secretly wed Katherine Parr in 1547. There marriage was short-lived but did produce a child, Mary.
After the death of Parr, Seymour asked the Council if he could marry “Madam Elizabeth.” He said that he, as uncle to the King, and someone whom had formerly been married to the dowager queen, deserved to marry her above everyone else. Nothing, of course, came from his request.
Things started to escalate from that point and Seymour showed signs of desperation after the death of the dowager queen and turned down request to marry Elizabeth.
We’ll stop there for now and continue on with a future article about what happened next.
Notes and Sources:
¹ Wriothesley Chronicle
² Chronicle of King Henry VIII
Literary Remains of King Edward the Sixth: Edited from His Autograph Manuscripts, with Historical Notes and a Biographical Memoir, Part 2 (page cxv & cxvi)
MacLean, John; The Life of Thomas Seymour, Knight, Baron Seymour of Sudeley and Master of the Ordance
The downfall of Thomas Seymour caused many important people to be questioned about his actions, as well as their own. Lady Elizabeth Tudor was no exception. Her relationship with Seymour was complicated to say the least. His own behavior, especially after the death of his wife Katherine Parr, is what led to his execution. The below statements are the “confession” of Lady Elizabeth regarding her relationship with Thomas Seymour. In 1549, Elizabeth was 15 or 16 years old.
The original questions that she is referencing (as numbered) are not within this document. It also appears that Elizabeth wrote most of this by her own hand and the rest was written for her my Mr. Robert Tyrwhitt. Tyrwhitt and his wife Elizabeth served in the household of Katherine Parr – Robert as a Master of Horse and his wife, Elizabeth was related to Katherine and also worked in her household. Elizabeth Tyrwhitt was known to have provided information regarding the Lord Admiral, Thomas Seymour that made him look guilty of the death of his sweet wife and of his inappropriate relationship with young Lady Elizabeth. The Tyrwhitts were sent to Hatfield House by the Council to care for Lady Elizabeth in place of Kat Ashley and Thomas Parry, who were seen to be promoting the cause of Thomas Seymour.
I’ve attempted to translate most of this into modern English but you’ll find certain words that I was unable to determine what she meant. When you come across one of those it will be in “quotes”.
Kat Ashley told me, after that my Lord Admiral was to the Queen, that if my Lord might have had his own will, he would have had me, before the Queen. Then I asked her how she knew that: Then she said, she knew it well enough, both by himself and by others. The place, where she said this, I have forgotten, for she had spoken to me of him many times, and of the which I have forgotten several times.
Another time, after the Queen was dead, Kat Ashley would have had me to write a letter to my Lord Admiral, to have comforted him of his sorrow, because he had been my friend in the Queen’s time; for he would think great kindness there. Then I said I would not do so, for it needs not: Then said she; If your Grace will not, then I will. And as I do remember I did see it; but what the effect of it was I do not remember.
Another time I asked her, what news was at London; and she said, that the rumors there were that the Lord Admiral should marry me: Then I smiled at it, and said, it was but a London news (rumor).
Another time, she said, you shall see shortly, that he that would gladly have had you, before he married the Queen, will come now to woo you: Then I answered her, though he himself would peraventur (perhaps) have me, yet I think the Counsel will not consent to it; for, I think, by that you said, that if he had his own will, he would have had me, I thought there was no lette (hindrance), but only the Counsel, of his part.
Another time; I suspect she told me that if the Counsel did consent to it, she thought it was not amiss. Be which sayings, and all the rest, ‘That if the Counsel would consent to it, I thought she had right good will thereunto.’
How be it at another time she said, she would not wish I should have him for because that she, that he had before, did so miscarry. Another time when Parry had written that my Lord Admiral would lend me his house; when she had read it, she told me it was best for “Pary” to ask Master Denny’s advice therefore; and so she sent him word.
After, when Parry had declared to me, for Alen’s matter, what my Lord Admiral had said, and also for Durham-Place, he told me, that my Lord asked, whether my patent was sealed or no. He told me, that my Lord told him the expenses of his house, and inquired of mine.
Another time, he asked me whether, if the Council did consent thereto, to have my Lord Admiral, whether I would consent or no. Then I asked him what he meant to ask me that, or who bade him to say so: He answered that nobody bade him to say so; but that he gathered by his asking of these questions before, that he meant some such thing: Then I said it was but his “fowlych” gathering.
Another time he told me, that my Lord Admiral wished that my lands were changed into certain land that were the Queens.
Another time he brought me commendations from my Lord Admiral, and said that he advised me to make haste to get my patent sealed, and get it into my hands: Then I asked him why so hastily; then he said, he thought, when I had my patent, that he would go about to get the Council’s consent to have me.
Another time he told me, that my Lord Admiral would wish me that I lay at Ashridge, because that when he went down into the country, it was on his way, and that he would see me.
My Lord, these are the articles which I do remember, that both she and the Cofferer (Parry) talked with me of; and if there be any more behind which I have not declared as yet, I shall most heartily desire your Lordship and the rest of Council, not to think that I do willingly council them, but that I have indeed forgotten them. For if I did know them, and did not declare them, I was wonderfully about above all the rest to be rebuked, considering how friendly your Grace has both written to me in letters, and counselled me by messages, to declare what I know herein. Also I assure you Lordship that if there be any more which I have not told (which I think there not be) I will send you word of them, as they come to mind.
Your assured friend to my little power,
Burghley & Haynes; A Collection of State Papers: relating to Affairs In the Reigns of King Henry VIII, King Edward VI, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth : From the year 1542 to 1570; pages 102-103