The Disappearance of Lady Mary Seymour

Written by Rebecca Larson

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.

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Early Tudor Palaces and Country Houses

 

Early Tudor Palaces and Country Houses

1485-1550

Compton Wynyates

Public Domain: 19th century print or a watercolour from Nash Mansions of England published in 1870
Public Domain

“The delightful red-brick manor house of Compton Wynyates in Warwickshire, was begun by Edmund Compton in 1481, just prior to the accession of the House of Tudor. Edmund’s sturdy but good-looking country home was given some elegant editions, including porch and some towers by his son, the prominent Tudor courtier, Sir William Compton, between 1493 and 1528.” –The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.348)

King Henry VIII’s room at Compton Wynyates had stained glass windows featuring the royal arms and throne of Aragon – the royal arms of his future wife, Katharine of Aragon. In 1572, Elizabeth I also stayed in the same room as her father.

In later years Compton Wynyates became uninhabited. This caused the house to decay and nearly fell into complete ruin. In 1768 it was ordered by Lord Northampton to be demolished, but the order was not carried out. In the late 19th century it was restored and in 1884 was once again inhabited by the 5th Marquess of Northampton.

Hampton Court Palace

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Photo Credit: Christopher Wren / CC BY-SA 3.0

“One of England’s finest royal building associated with the magnificent court of Henry VIII, although major changes were made in the 17th century during the reign of William and Mary. The palace came into royal hands as a gift from the statesman, Cardinal Wolsey to his royal master, Henry VIII.” -The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.350)

In an episode of “The Tudors” on Showtime, it shows Henry VIII becoming a little distraught by the grandeur of the palace that Wolsey had built - it was greater than any palace Henry had at the time. Once Wolsey noticed Henry’s reaction to the grand palace he offered it as a gift to His Majesty. At this time Wolsey was starting to fall out of favor of the  king and out of self-preservation offered his splendid palace…I’m sure Hampton Court Palace was hard to part with, but then again, so is your head.

(c) Trinity College, University of Cambridge; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) Trinity College, University of Cambridge; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Hever Castle

Public Domain
Photo Credit: The Giant Puffin / Public Domain

“The moated and fortified manor house of Hever Castle, near Edenbridge in Kent, was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, mother of Elizabeth l. Henry VIII was a frequent visitor in the 1520’s when he paid court to Anne.”- The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.352)

After the death of Anne’s father Hever Castle was taken over by the Crown. Henry VIII gave it to Anne of Cleves after their divorce in 1540. When Anne of Cleves died in 1557 the Castle again reverted to the Crown until Queen Mary l gifted it to Sir Edward Waldegrave.  For more on what happened: Hever Castle & Gardens – Owners

© National Portrait Gallery, London
Anne of Cleves
Anne of Cleves by Hans Holbein the Younger

Leeds Castle

CC BY-SA 3.0
Photo credit: Sophie Templer / CC BY-SA 3.0

“Henry VIII took a great liking to Leeds Castle in Kent, and carried out lavish improvements, transforming it from castle to fortified palace. The King was often in Kent, where he was entertained at Penhurst Place and visited Anne Boleyn at Hever Castle. Leeds Castle had well-established royal links, and had been favoured by kings and queens since Edward l honeymooned there in 1299.” –The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.353)

In 1519, Henry VIII transformed Leeds Castle for his wife Katherine of Aragon.

Katherine of Aragon
Katherine of Aragon

Sulgrave Manor

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Photo Credit: Cathy Cox / CC BY-SA 2.0

“The sturdy, unpretentious manor house at Sulgrave, in Northamptonshire, was built in the early Tudor years by a direct ancestor of George Washington, the first President of the United States of America. Lawrence Washington, younger son of a prominent Lancashire family, was born c. 1500. He became a wool merchant and bought the Priory of St. Andrew, Northhamptonshire, from the Crown in 1539, following Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries.”The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.356)

Edinburgh Castle & Holyroodhouse

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Photo Credit: Kim Traynor / CC BY-SA 3.0

“Edinburgh Castle was a well-established stronghold and royal dwelling by the latter years of the 14th century when the future Robert ll build David’s Tower, containing royal apartments. In the mid-1430’s, James l built a new Great Chamber, probably alongside the royal accommodations in the Tower. His successor, James ll, brought the great siege gun of Mons Meg to the castle, which assumed an increasingly important role as a royal artillery.”The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.358)

The increased use of Edinburgh Castle as Scotland’s principal foundry in 1511 left little room for the royal family to stay. In the meantime, the royals began to stay more regularly at the Abbey of Holyrood. King James IV built Holyroodhouse as his principal residence in the late 15th century.

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Holyroodhouse – Photo Credit: Kim Traynor / CC BY-SA 3.0
James_IV_of_Scotland
James IV of Scotland

Following her return from France in 1561 Mary, Queen of Scots stayed at Holyroodhouse. In 1565 she married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley there, and in 1566 the brutal murder of David Rizzio catapulted Mary into scandal after Lord Darnley was suspected of orchestrating the murder.

Mary, Queen of Scots
David Rizzio
David Rizzio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Falkland Palace & Stirling Castle

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Falkland Palace – Photo Credit: Sam Styles / CC BY-SA 2.0

“Falkland Palace began as a castle built by the Macduffs, earls of Fife, probably in the 13th century. James ll extended the castle and frequently visited it to hunt deer and wild board. After 1458, when he granted a charter, it was known as Falkland Palace.” “James V’s daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots, was a frequent visitor to Falkland Palace after her return to Scotland from French exile in 1561.”The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.359)

King James ll of Scotland
King James II of Scotland

Stirling Castle is one of Scotland’s most historically important sites and was once a favoured residence of the Stewart kings and queens who held grand celebrations at the castle.

Knights, nobles and foreign ambassadors once flocked to Stirling Castle to revel in its grandeur with its superb sculptures and beautiful gardens. It was a favoured residence of the Stewart kings and queens who held grand celebrations from christenings to coronations.” – VisitScotland.com

Stirling Castle http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/
Stirling Castle – Photo Credit: Finlay McWalter / CC BY-SA 3.0

Deal Castle

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Photo Credit: Lieven Smits / CC BY-SA 3.0

“Henry VIII built the low-lying artillery fort of Deal Castle, in Kent, as one of a string of coastal fortifications built around England’s south coast in the later 1530s and early 1540s. Following his break with the Church of Rome, he feared invasion by the armies of a Franco-Spanish Catholic alliance brokered by the Pope.”The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.360)

Notice how from above Deal Castle looks like the Tudor Rose. Henry VIII was in his late 40s when he build these forts. Anne of Cleves is said to have stayed at Deals Castle after her long voyage from Europe on her way to London to meet her future husband.

Henry Vlll in 1542
Anne of Cleves - 1540s
Anne of Cleves – 1540s

Syon House

Public Domain
Public Domain

The splendid Syon House, now surrounded by London’s westward sprawl at Brenford in Middlesex, was built during the reign of Edward VI by his uncle Edward, Duke of Somerset, Lord Protector. Somerset built a three-storey building with battlements and angle turrets around a central courtyard. His house stood on the foundations of the abbey church that had belonged to the convent on the side.” –The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.362)

The land which Syon House was built had originally belonged to a convent. The nuns’ confessor, Richard Reynolds refused to accept Henry VIII as Supreme Head of the Church of England – he was was executed and his body placed on the gateway of the abbey to be used as an example of what happens to those who refuse to accept the Act of Supremacy.

Henry’s fifth wife, Katherine Howard was detained here prior to her execution in 1542.

Henry’s coffin rested at Syon House on it’s journey to Westminster and had burst open overnight- dogs were said to be seen gnawing on the royal corpse. Many suspected divine retribution since this happened at Syon House and the events that took place years earlier.

Katherine Howard
Katherine Howard

Sudeley Castle

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Photo Credit: Wdejager / CC BY-SA 4.0

“The 15th century Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire was rebuilt in the late 1540s by Lord Thomas Seymour. Thomas was the brother of the Duke of Somerset, Lord Protector to Edward VI; their sister, Jane, had been Henry VIII’s third wife, who had died giving birth to Edward in 1537, making the brothers the young king’s uncles.”The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.363)

After the king’s death, Thomas Seymour married Henry’s widow Katherine Parr. Thomas and Katherine moved into Sudeley Castle where she gave birth to their daughter, Mary on 30 August 1548. Katherine died there from puerperal fever a week later and was buried in St. Mary’s Church near the castle.

Thomas Seymour
Thomas Seymour
Katherine Parr
Katherine Parr

Anne Parr: Witness to History

Lady Anne Parr was sister to Kateryn Parr — sixth wife of Henry VIII. Anne Parr is unique because she was either a Maid-of-Honor, or Lady-in-Waiting to all the wives of Henry VIII, all six.

A Maid-of-Honor was generally a young girl in her teens, just starting out at court. In order to hold the position one had to be part of a noble family. Physical beauty was also requirement, so we must assume Anne was considered attractive. A Maid-of-Honor also had to impress courtiers – knowing a foreign language, and being a good dancer were only a couple of the necessities of holding the position.

A Lady-in-Waiting was a married lady who served the Queen. Some of these ladies had served prior to becoming married as Maids-of-Honour. A woman could also became a Lady-in-Waiting when she married a prominent member of the King’s Privy Chamber or Privy Council. These ladies helped dress the Queen, they provided companionship to her and served her during her meals. A Lady-in-Waiting spent considerable time with the Queen. They kept busy with activities like needlework, sewing and embroidery.



There is not conclusive evidence to show when she went from Maid to Lady, but we can assume it was after she married.

Anne Boleyn was a Maid-of-Honour to Katherine of Aragon beginning in 1522, when she returned from France. Anne Parr joined the same household in 1528 when her mother, Maud Green secured her a position with the Queen. Anne Parr would have been witness to the events between Boleyn and King Henry. She was actually very fond of Anne Boleyn and stayed in the new queen’s household when she was crowned in 1533.

When Henry VIII had his second wife beheaded and married Jane Seymour, Anne Parr was there. She was also one of the few people present at the baptism of Prince Edward, and was part of the funeral procession of Queen Jane – she was with the fourth chariot.

William Herbert
William Herbert

In February 1538, Anne Parr married Sir William Herbert, Esquire of the King’s Body. It is very likely that she met William at court.

When Henry VIII married Anne of Cleves, Anne Parr returned to court as a Lady-in-Waiting for the new Queen. The marriage was short-lived and Henry soon annulled his marriage from Anne of Cleves and wed the very young and flirtatious Katherine Howard. Anne Parr continued as a Lady-in-Waiting to Katherine Howard and was also the “Keeper of the Queen’s Jewels.”  Anne left court briefly to give birth to her son Henry. She returned to court some time after and her timing coincided with the fall of Katherine Howard. Anne attended to Katherine when she was imprisoned at Syon House and then in the Tower of London.



Katherine Parr
Katherine Parr
Holbein foll Henry VIII em l
Henry VIII

In 1543, Anne witnessed the wedding ceremony at Hampton Court Palace between her sister, Kateryn Parr and King Henry VIII. Anne was Queen Kateryn’s Chief Lady-in-Waiting. The sisters were indeed close and Anne was well experienced at court and in the Queen’s household.

Anne Parr experienced a lot during her time at court – especially when it came to the wives of Henry VIII:

  • She saw the poor treatment of Katherine of Aragon
  • The rise and fall of Anne Boleyn
  • The rise of another fellow lady Jane Seymour and her untimely death after providing the King with a son
  • The quick reign of Anne of Cleves
  • The experience of the downfall of Katherine Howard
  • The reign of her sister, Kateryn Parr

It’s easy to say Anne Parr probably had a lot of good advice for her sister, Queen Kateryn Parr, after all that she had witnessed. If we are to believe Philippa Gregory’s book, The Taming of the Queen (Historical Fiction) to be true, then we would believe that Anne Parr actually taught her sister how not to become pregnant — because being pregnant and losing the child, or having a deformed child made the king look bad…and we all know how insecure Henry VIII was. But, Gregory writes historical fiction and we should take that statement with a grain of salt. Kateryn had been married before so she surely knew how to not become pregnant, if that’s what she chose.

As the keeper of the jewels she would have seen each of Henry’s queens exchange some of the same jewels – some were made into a new piece, while others stayed the same.

On 20 February 1552, Anne died. At the time of her death, she was one of the ladies of the Lady Mary, the future Queen Mary I.

Anne Parr was one of very few women who served all six Tudor queens. Imagine if she had a diary that survived, or had written a book about everything she saw or heard. That would be priceless.

 

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