Meet the Wives Handbook: Catherine Parr


Married to King Henry at the age of 31, Catherine Parr was not considered a likely candidate for motherhood, by Tudor standards. But she was a prime pick for stepmother.

Elizabeth, overlooked by earlier wives except for Anne of Cleves, forged a close bond with Catherine through their joint love of learning. At 11, Elizabeth translated Catherine's own best-selling "Prayers and Meditations" into French, Italian and Latin as a present for her father and stepmother. The new queen was given direct responsibility for her welfare a year later.

Elizabeth's 27-year-old half-sister, Mary, joined Catherine's household from the beginning, acting as a faithful friend and companion. Nine-year-old Edward took a steady interest in his step-mother's attempts to improve her Latin and commended her efforts. She was to him "very dearest mother." (He also was not above begging her to keep the Catholic Mary "from all the wiles and enchantments of the evil one. . .")

But Catherine would not live long enough to care for her own child, Mary.

MARY SEYMOUR (1548 - ?)
Born to the queen and her fourth husband, Thomas Seymour. Mary Seymour would be named for Henry VIII's elder daughter. Rich tapestries and other items were set aside for this baby at the Seymour residence at Sudeley Castle, but several days after Mary's birth, Catherine Parr died and Mary Seymour's life story began to fade into obscurity.

Within six months, her father was executed for sedition and his properties forfeited to the crown. Mary was sent to live with her mother's friend, the Duchess of Suffolk, for whom the financial burden of the tiny baby's household proved exorbitant. A year and a half later, Mary's property was restored to her by act of parliament, but, by all accounts, she did not live to enjoy it.

The last recorded mention of Mary is on the eve of her second birthday on August 30, 1550. She then vanished from recorded history. Though stories circulated that Mary Seymour eventually married and set up a family of her own, most historians believe that she died in infancy.

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