Most of the time when authors and sometimes historians discuss the marriage between Sir Thomas Seymour and Kateryn Parr they say things like, ‘he married her for power’, or he ‘married her for money’. Today I really want to talk about the love story that was Thomas and Kateryn.
Kateryn Parr was married four times in her life – Thomas being her last – but before Thomas she was married briefly to Sir Edward Burough, followed by John Neville, 3rd Baron Latimer. Near the end of Latimer’s life Kateryn and her husband moved to London so he could be closer to good doctors. During this time Kateryn held a position in the household of the Lady Mary — this would have been the perfect opportunity for Thomas and Kateryn to meet. Author Linda Porter, however, states that it is a misconception to believe that Kateryn was in Mary’s household, as she believed it to be a misunderstanding of household document. There is no reason to believe that Kateryn left her dying husband’s side.
We don’t know exactly when they met, or where they met, but we do know that after Lord Latimer died in March 1543, there was a relationship between Thomas Seymour and Kateryn Parr. What we know is that Kateryn had wished to marry Thomas instead of King Henry — we know this because of a letter she wrote to Thomas merely two weeks after the death of the king.
The other part I find most interesting in this letter is it appears that the two had talked in some way since the king’s death — very dangerous and yet these two who had wanted to marry four years earlier accepted the risk.
Dowager Queen Katheryn to Lord Thomas Seymour [Circa mid-February] 1547:
I send you my most humble and hearty commendations, being desirous to know how ye have done since I saw you. I pray you be not offended with me in that I send sooner to you than I said I would. For my promise was but once in a fortnight. Howbeit, the time is well abbreviated: by what means I know not, except the weeks be shorter at Chelsea than in other places. (were they already sleeping together and she was saying that because time with Thomas alone seemed too few and far between)
She goes on in the closing of the letter to say:
(addition to body of letter)
I would not have you to think that this mine honest goodwill toward you to proceed of any sudden motion or passion. For, as truly as God is God, my mind was fully bent the other time I was at liberty, to marry you before any man I knew. Howbeit, God withstood my will therein most vehemently for a time and, through His grace and goodness, made that possible which seemeth to me most unpossible – that was, made me to renounce utterly mine own will, and to follow His will most willingly. It were too long to write all the process of this matter. If I live, I shall declare it to you myself. I can say nothing but, as my lady Suffolk saith, “God is a marvelous man.”
By her that is yours to serve and obey during her life,
Katherine the Queen KP
The date of Thomas’ response is unknown, but believed to be in March. We know a lot was going on the first few months of Edward VI’s reign so it is quite possible that Thomas was busy with council matters.
When we look at his letter we can find clues.
In Thomas’ response to her he says: [possibly March 1547]
The like humble and hearty recommendations I send your highness that I received. And being more desirous to hear from you than, as I thought, ye desired to hear from him, as yesterday in the morning I had written a letter unto your highness upon occasion that I met with a man of my lord Marquess as I came to Chelsea, whom I knew not. Who told Nicholas Throckmorton that I was in Chelsea fields, with other circumstances which I defer till a more leisure. Which letter being finished, and my hand thereat, remember your commandment to me, wherewith I threw it into the fire, by minding to keep your requests and desires. And, for that it hath pleased you to be the first breaker of your appointment, I shall desire your highness to receive my thanks for the same. And that ye might with as goodwill receive the like whom I shall send to you, and not to think that I break any of your commandment by the same.
Then he closes the letter in an interesting way….
I beseech your highness to put all fancies out of your head, that might bring you in any one thought, that I do think that the goodness you have showed me is of any sudden motion, as at leisure your highness shall know, to both our contentations. And thus, for lack of leisure, being sent for to my lord my brother, I humbly take my leave of your highness.
From Saint James in haste, as may appear to you by my hand.
From the body of him whose heart ye have,
[Postscript] I never over-read it after it was written. Wherefore if any fault be, I pray you hold me excused.
Thomas had wished to write her sooner as well, but when he did he professed it all and decided to throw it into the fire because of a promise they had made. He mentions how Kateryn was the first to break their fortnight promise.
In the [Postscript] – Thomas seems insecure about his letter and mistakes he may have made in it. Clearly he thinks Kat is quite amazing.
I believe a letter that has been dated [circa April] 1547, that this was one of the first letters between the newly reunited couple where it is briefly mentioned they are married by her closing.
This following letter, is the first in their correspondences where any mention of marriage is made. Pay attention to the closings going forward. It is obvious to me now that it was known to Somerset at this time that the couple were married because he was trying to control her lands, unnecessarily – see more after letter.
Parr writes to Seymour [circa April 1547]:
As I gather by your letter delivered to my brother Herbert, ye are in some fear how to frame my lord your brother to speak in your favor. The denial of your request shall make his folly more manifest to the world, which will more grieve me than the want of his speaking. I would not wish you importune for his goodwill: if it come not frankly at the first, it shall be sufficient once to have required it, and after, to cease. I would desire ye might obtain the King’s letters in your favor, and also the aid and furtherance of the most notable of the Council, such as ye shall think convenient: which thing obtained shall be no small shame to your brother and loving sister, in case they do not the like.
My lord, whereas ye charge me with a promise written with mine own hand, to change the two years into two months, I think ye have no such plain sentence written with my hand. I know not whether ye be a paraphraser or not. If ye be learned in that science, it is possible ye may of one word make a whole sentence, and yet not at all times after the true meaning of the writer, as it appeareth by this your exposition upon my writing.
When it shall be your pleasure to repair hither, ye must take some pain to come early in the morning, that ye may be gone again by seven o’clock, and so I suppose ye may come without suspect. I pray you, let me have knowledge near night at what hour ye will come, that your porteress may wait at the gate to the fields for you. And thus, with my most humble and hearty commendation, I take my leave of you for this time, giving you like thanks for your coming to the court when I was there. From Chelsea.
[Addition] I will keep in store, till I speak with you, my lord’s large offer for Fausterne (one of her dower properties that Ned wanted): at which time I shall be glad to know your further pleasure therein.
By her that is and shall be your humble, true, and loving wife during her life,
Katherine the Queen KP
The next letter in the collection is dated 17 May 1547 and is written by Thomas to Katherine:
After my humble commendations unto your highness, yesternight I supped at my brother Herbert’s: of whom for your sake, besides mine own, I received good cheer. And after the same, I received from your highness by my sister Herbert your commendations, which were more welcome than they were sent. And after the same, she waded further with me touching my being with your highness at Chelsea. Which I denied (being with your highness), but that, indeed, I went by the garden as I went to see the Bishops of London’s house. And, at this point, stood with her for a time, till at the last she told me further tokens which made me change colors: who, like a false wench, took me with the manner.
Then, remembering what she was, and knowing how well ye trusted her, examined her whether those things came from your highness or were feigned. She answered that they came from your highness. And he that knew it, to be true. For the which, I render unto your highness my most humble and hearty thanks. For, by her company in default of yours, I shall shorten the weeks in these parts: which heretofore were three days longer, in every of them, than they were under the plummet in Chelsea. Besides this commodity I may, assuring your highness by her how I do, proceed in my matter, although I should lack mine old friend Walter Erle.
I have not as yet attempted my suit, for that I would be first thoroughly in credit ere I would move the same: beseeching your highness that I may not so use my said suit that they shall think, and hereafter cast in my teeth, that by their suit I attained your goodwill. For hitherto I am out of all their dangers, for any pleasure that they have done for me worthy thanks. And, as I judge, your highness may say the like. Wherefore, by mine advice, we will keep us so, nothing mistrusting the goodness of God. But we shall be as able to live out of their danger as they shall out of ours. Yet I mean not but to use their friendship to bring our purpose to pass, as occasion shall serve.
If I knew by what means I might gratify your highness for your goodness to me, showed at our last being together, it should not be slacked to declare mine to you again. And to that intent that I will be more bound unto your highness, I do make my request that, if it be not painful to your highness, that once in three days I may receive three lines in a letter from you – and as many lines and letters more as shall seem good unto your highness.
Also, I shall humbly desire your highness to give me one of your small pictures, if you have any left: who, with his silence, shall give me occasion to think on the friendly cheer that I shall receive when my suit shall be at an end. And thus, for fear of troubling your highness with my long and rude letter, I take my leave of your highness, wishing that my hap may be once so good, that I may declare so much by mouth at the same hour that this was writing: which was twelve of the clock in the night this Tuesday, the seventeenth of May, at Saint James.
I wrote your highness a line in my last letter, that my [lady] of Somerset was going [toward] Sheen, who hath been sick, which [was] the let thereof. And, as I understand, th[ey] will thither as [of] tomorrow.
From him whom ye have bound to honor, love, and such in all lawful thing obey,
Dowager Queen Katherine to Lord Thomas Seymour [latter half of May] 1547:
This day at dinner I received a letter from you by the means of my sister Herbert, who sent the same unto me by one of her servants, for the which I give you my most hearty thanks. It seemed convenient unto me, at her bering here upon Monday, to open the matter unto her concerning you, which I never before did: at the which, unfeignedly, she did not a little rejoice. Wherefore I pray you, at your next meeting with her, to give thanks for the same, taking the knowledge thereof at my hand.
I do well allow your advice, in that my lord your brother should not have all the thank for my goodwill in this matter. For I was fully bent, before ye wrote, so to frame mine answer to him when he should attempt the matter, as that he might well and manifestly perceive my fantasy to be more towards you for marriage than any other. Notwithstanding, I am determined to add thereto a full determination never to marry, and break it when I have done, if I live two year.
I think to see the King one day this week: at which time I would be glad to see you, though I shall scarce dare ask or speak. I shall most willingly observe your commandment of writing to you once in three days, thinking myself not a little bound to you, that it hath pleased you too, so to command me. I have sent in haste to the painteress for one of my little pictures, which is very perfect, by the judgment of as many as hath seen the same. The last I had myself, I bestowed it upon my lady Suffolk. This letter had been sooner with you but for tarrying the coming of the picture, the which I am not certain to receive at this time. If I cannot perform your request at this season, I shall not fail to accomplish the same shortly.
My lord, whereas you desire to know how ye might gratify my goodness showed to you at your being here, I can require nothing for the same, more than ye say I have, which is your heart and goodwill during your life: praying you to perform that, and I am fully satisfied. When you be at leisure, let me hear from you; I dare not desire to see you for fear of suspicion. I would the world were as well pleased with our meaning as, I am well assured, the goodness of God is. But the world is so wicked that it cannot be contented with good things. And thus, with my most humble and hearty commendations, I take my leave for this time, wishing your well-doing no less than mine own.
From Chelsea, by her that is yours to serve and obey during her life,
Katherine the Queen KP
Dowager Queen Katherine to Lord Thomas Seymour [Late May 1547]
Around the same time as the previous letter, this one is Kateryn once again writing to Thomas. Here is what she has to say:
This shall be to advertise you that my lord your brother hath this afternoon a little made me warm. It was fortunate we were so much distant, for I suppose else I should have bitten him. What cause have they to fear [you] having such a wife? It is requisite for them continually to pray for a short dispatch of that hell. Tomorrow, or else upon Saturday at afternoon about three o’clock, I will see the King: where I intend to utter all my choler to my lord your brother if you shall not give me advice to the contrary. For I would be loath to do anything to hinder your matter.
I will declare unto you how my lord hath used me concerning Fausterne, and after, I shall most humbly desire you to direct mine answer to him in that behalf. It liketh him today to send my chancellor to me, willing him to decare to me that he hath bought Master Long’s lease, and that he doubted not but I would let him en[j]oy the same to his commodity: wherein I should do to his succession no small pleasure, nothing considering his honor, which this matter toucheth not a little. Forsomuch as I at sundry times declared unto him, the only cause of my repair into those parts was for the commodity of that park, which else I would not have done. He, notwithstanding, hath so used the matter, with giving Master Long such courage, that he refuseth to receive such cattle as are bought for the provision of my house; and so in the meantime I am forced to commit them to farmers.
My lord, I beseech you, send me word with speed how I shall use myself to my new brother. And thus I take my leave with my most humble and hearty commendations, wishing you all your godly desires, and so well to do as I would myself and better. From Chelsea in great haste.
But your humble, true, and loving wife in her heart,
Katherine the Queen KP
In “The Nine Days’ Queen, Lady Jane Grey, and her Times” by Richard Davey it states that:
…the Queen-Dowager was subjected to unfair treatment on account of her marriage. Somerset determined to force her to lease her favourite manor of Fausterne to a friend of his name Long. Katherine refused point-blank to receive this gentleman as tenant, especially at a ridiculously low rent.
Kateryn mentions in her April letter of the “large offer” -…”till I speak with you, my lord’s large offer for Fausterne: at which time I shall be glad to know your further pleasure therein.”
Lord Thomas Seymour to Dowager Queen Katherine, [late May] 1547
After my humble recommendations, with thanks that ye have admitted me one of your counsellors, I perceive that your highness hath been warmed: whereof I am glad, for that ye shall not think on the two years ye wrote of in your last letter before this.
And, as touching mine advice for Fausterne, your highness shall declare unto my lord that it hath not been hid from him, what was your determination concerning the same for your house. Also, ye have given commandment to your officers to grow to some point with Master Long for the patent that he hath of you, by whom ye understand that he hath so used his office, that he hath no interest therein but during your pleasure. Howbeit, ye do not mind to take it of him except ye may lawfully do the same, and yet not without such recompense as he shall be contented withal. In the which parts there is sufficient pasture to fat all your provision and also my lord’s: and they being in your hands, ye would be loath to say my lord nay thereof, or a greater matter. And desire him, for our sake, not to meddle withal, for that ye will take warrant at his hand rather than claim your right, he misliking withal. And if ye find him steadfast to a long interest, I would ye should say that if he hath such interest as his lordship doth declare, then anything that ye should grant is well worthy of thanks. And until such time as ye know certainly wait interest ye have, ye will not depart withal; and I may not the same. Ye will make him such answer as he shall have cause to be content.
I wrote your highness a letter yesterday, of part of my mind therein, which I took to my brother Herbert, to be delivered to his wife who, I think, knoweth of our matters, but not by me nor none shall, but such as ye appoint, til it be further forth.
I presume I have my lady of Suffolk’s goodwill touching mine own desire of you; who, this other day, talking of me with my friend Sir William Sharington, wished me to be their master. He demanding of her what she meant, [she] thereby expounded it that she would that I were married to their mistress. And so would I. And, to bring it the sooner to pass, I shall do my best to set my lord and you at a jar; to the intent to make you weary of your matter: that ye shall convey them to me, to answer for us both. And thus, for this time, I take my leave of your highness.
From Saint James.
From him that is your loving and faithful husband during his life,
What I most took from this letter is that this is Thomas’ first mention (in his letters to Kateryn) of Sir William Sharington, a man who would help create a Sudeley Castle fit for a queen and allegedly aid Thomas in his downfall. Not only was Sharington mentioned but I could not help but notice that the Lady Suffolk appears to have ‘spilled the beans’ when it came to their marriage. This would indicate that the marriage was not yet public but that Somerset and his wife already knew about it.
After the late May 1547 letter from Thomas to Kateryn we have one from King Edward where he mentions their marriage, and how the young king believed it was all his idea. In all actuality, they manipulated the young king to get what they wanted. You can look at that any way you want. If you want something bad enough…
Imperial ambassador Van der Delft reported to the Emperor on the 16th of June 1547
I have been informed from a secret source that a marriage is being arranged between the Queen Dowager (Katharine Parr) and the Lord Admiral (Seymour) brother of the Protector, and also that of the son of the Earl of Derby, the richest noble in England, with the daughter of the Protector.
-‘Spain: June 1547, 16-30’, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 9, 1547-1549, ed. Martin A S Hume and Royall Tyler (London, 1912), pp. 100-116. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol9/pp100-116 [accessed 2 February 2019].
King Edward’s Letter to Dowager Queen Katherine, 25 June 1547
[Headed] To Queen Katherine Parr, the King’s letter congratulatory, upon her marriage with the Lord Admiral
We thank you heartily, not only for your gentle acception of our suit moved unto you, but also for your loving accomplishing of the same: wherein you have declared not only a desire to gratify us, but also moved us to declare the goodwill, likewise that we bear to you in all you requests. Wherefore ye shall not need to fear any grief to come, or to suspect lack of aid in need: seeing that he, being mine uncle, is of so good a nature that he will not be troublesome any means unto you; and I of that mind that, for divers just causes I must favor you.
But even as, without cause, you merely require help against him whom you have put in trust with the carriage of these letters, so may I merely return the same request unto you: to provide that he may live with you also without grief, which hath given him wholly unto you. And I will so provide for you both that hereafter, if any grief befall, I shall be sufficient succor in your godly and praiseworthy enterprises. Fare ye well, with much increase of honor and virtue in Christ.
From Saint James the five-and-twenty day of June,
We get a sneak from the Imperial ambassador, Van der Delft who had this to say upon his report the Emperor on the 10th of July 1547 – it appears that word of their marriage was out:
The Queen (Dowager Katharine Parr) was married a few days since to the Lord Admiral, (fn. 1) the brother of the Protector, and still causes herself to be served ceremoniously as Queen, which it appears is the custom here. Nevertheless when she went lately to dine at the house of her new husband she was not served with the royal state, from which it is presumed that she will eventually live according to her new condition.
-‘Spain: July 1547, 1-15’, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 9, 1547-1549, ed. Martin A S Hume and Royall Tyler (London, 1912), pp. 116-125. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/spain/vol9/pp116-125 [accessed 2 February 2019].
Lord Admiral, Thomas Seymour to Dowager Queen Katherine, 9 June 1548:
After my humble commendation and thanks for your letter: as I was perplexed heretofore with unkindness that I should not have justice of those that I thought would in all my causes be partial (which did not a little trouble me), even so the receiving of your letter revived my spirits. Partly, for that I did perceive that ye be armed with patience, howsoever the matter will weigh; as chiefest, that I hear my little man doth shake his poll, trusting if God shall give him life to live as long as his father, he will revenge such wrongs as neither you nor I can at this present. The world is such; God amend it.
Now to put you in some hopes again, this day a little before the receiving of your letter, I have spoken with my lord: whom I have so well handled that he is somewhat qualified, and although I am in no hope thereof, yet I am in no despair. I have also broken with him for your mother’s gift. Who makes answer that, at the finishing of your matter, either to have yours again or else some recompense as ye shall be content withal. I spake to him of your going down into the country on Wednesday, who was sorry thereof, trusting that I would be here all tomorrow to hear what the Frenchmen will do. And, on Monday even, I trust to be with you, as Friday the Frenchmen. I have no mistrust that they shall be any let of my going with you this journey, or any of my continuance there with your highness.
And thus, till that time, I bid your highness most heartily well to fare, and thank you for your news, which were right heartily welcome to me. And so I pray you to show[er] him with God’s blessing, and mine, and all goodwills and friendship. I do desire your highness to keep the little knave so lean and gaunt with your good diet and walking, that he may be so small that he may creep out of a mouse-hole. And thus I bid my most dear and well-beloved wife most heartily well to fare.
From Westminster this Saturday, the ninth of June.
Your highness’s most assured and faithful, loving husband,
Katherine discusses in her next letter how much confidence she has in her husband’s abilities.
Dowager Queen Katherine to Lord Admiral Thomas Seymour, shortly after 9 June, 1548:
This shall be to desire you to receive my humble and most hearty recommendations and thanks for your letter, which was no sooner come than welcome. I perceive ye have had no little trouble and business with your matter. I never thought the contrary, but ye should have much ado to bring it to pass as ye would have it. Nevertheless, I supposed my lord protector would have used no delay with his friend and nature brother in a matter which is upright and just, as I take it. What will he do to other that be indifferent to him, I judge not very well. I pray God he may deceive me for his own wealth and benefit more than for mine own. Now I have uttered my choler. I shall desire you, good my lord, with all [my] heart not to unquiet yourself with any of his unfriendly parts, but bear them for the time as well as ye can: which I know is much better than either mine advice or doing can express.
I am very sorry for the news of the Frenchmen; I pray God it be not a let to our journey. As soon as ye know what they will do, good my lord, I beseech you let me hear from you, for I shall not be very quiet till I know. I gave your little knave your blessing, who like an honest man stirred apace after and before, for Mary Odell, being abed with me, had laid her hand upon my belly to feel it stir. It hath stirred these three days every morning and evening, so that I trust when ye come it will make you some pastime. And thus I end, bidding my sweetheart and loving husband better to fare than myself.
From Hanworth this Saturday in the morning.
My lord, I thank you with all my heart for Master Hutton, desiring your to continue his good or else, I fear me, he shall never live in quiet with my lord Dacre. To whom I pray you make my recommendations, assuring him that I will be his friend, in case he use Master Hutton well, or else his enemy.
By your most loving, obedient, and humble wife,
Katherine the Queen KP
The date of this letter indicates that it is about the same time that the alleged incident with the Lady Elizabeth occurred. Thomas, Kateryn and Jane Grey were about to embark on their long journey to Sudeley, while the Lady Elizabeth instead went to Cheshunt. Is it not possible that the supposed scene in the gallery never happened? Since the Kat Ashley changed her story a bit between who she told. Or that the Lady Elizabeth had herself taken quite a fancy to Thomas and formed a crush that others, including Parr, recognized as harmful behavior on her part. That it could damage her reputation if she acted on her feelings.
Regardless of how Elizabeth’s time ended with the dowager queen we can see that Kateryn and Thomas, from these letters, had a great affection for one another. Their letters tell us a story that the propaganda machine would not want us to know. They loved one another.