Two Days Before Her Death: Kateryn Parr

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. Tyrwhit has also been recorded as not liking Thomas Seymour. With that in mind, here is Tyrwhit’s 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.

Never before had Kateryn Parr been recorded as saying anything negative about her husband. It is quite possible that due to Postpartum Psychosis that Kateryn developed frank psychosis, cognitive impairment, and grossly disorganized behavior that represent a complete change from previous functioning. I am unaware if anyone else has looked into this any further but it makes perfect sense to me why Kateryn would have made the accusations she did about Thomas at the end of her life.

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

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Catherine Parr elizabeth Tyrwhyt History Thomas Seymour

5 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Oh such guilt.. he did lay beside her but she spoke the truth knowing she was on the downside of her life.. Not quite sure why you would defend him..

    • I guess because we never know the truth between a husband and wife–my children are in their 40’s and 50’s and hear things about their late father after he’s been gone 14 years. Some is truth good and /or bad and some is fabrication depending on the person and situation you’re dealing with—Try this with people who lived hundreds of years ago and try to make 100% sense of any of it.. ….as they say the truth of anything usually lies in the middle.

      • What you say is wise. Truth about people is usually a bit of this and a bit of that. Seymour was a cad, an opportunist and craved power. In this he wasn’t so different to lots of other men of his time (or any other). He was bolder than some others and got up a lot of people’s noses. But this doesn’t mean he didn’t care for Catherine; they had quite a long history, after all. I am rather touched that he lay on the bed beside her as she was dying.

  2. I think there is probably a little wiggle room on both sides. Most certainly Thomas loved Catherine, but it didn’t stop his outrageous behavior with Elizabeth Tudor. The love of power often precludes the love of love. Elizabeth Tyrwhyt may or may not have disliked him, and perhaps she was already witness to his wandering eye. In any event, I believe Catherine had the rose colored glasses removed from her eyes, and her dreamed of perfect love wasn’t so rosey after all.

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