Welcome back to Mr. Al’s take on the many wives of Henry the XIII. When we left off the sweet, young, but not so innocent Katherine * had lost her head. Wouldn’t you know Henry would turn his attention to another Katherine. And now, without further ado, Mr. Al:
Yes, Katherine Parr was already married. But the hubby, Lord Latimer, was much older and sick with some long-term disease that would carry him off before too long. And a good thing too, because Henry was no spring chicken. He didn’t have time for lengthy courtships. Hell, he didn’t need no stink’n courtship at all! Wasn’t he king? The scullery maids never said “no”, why should Katherine? He began sending her little ‘tokens’ of his esteem. Katherine wanted to send them back, but she didn’t dare..
Her resolve was put to the test in March of 1543. Lord Latimer died, leaving Katherine a couple of manor houses, some cash and the usual knick-knacks. Family silver, ect. At 31, Katherine Parr was an independent woman of means. And an attractive one. With deep auburn hair, blue eyes and fashionably pale skin, more guys than Henry considered her a prize.
Being newly widowed and all, Henry decided to keep a low profile for the time being. One fellow wasn’t going to wait. Sir Thomas Seymour, brother of the late Queen, was six years older than Katherine, handsome to a fault and as ambitious as his sister. In Katherine he saw looks, money and connections to the oldest families in the kingdom. Sir Thomas Seymore was…a scoundrel!
Katherine was flattered by all the attention from this dashing fellow. Respectable enough to be employed by Henry as an ambassador, but not TOO respectable. She found him very exciting. There is no indication that Sir Thomas and Henry knew about each other in the beginning. It’s not likely that Katherine would have mentioned the gifts from Henry. You just naturally forget to mention things like that when an exciting non-Henry type guy comes calling.
It wasn’t long before they were discussing marriage. They might as well have been discussing a trip to the Moon for all the reality of it. Henry had his eye on Katherine. And when he found out about Sir Thomas, he had his eye on him as well…But not for the same reason…obviously…Anyway… Henry moved swiftly to nip the Seymour/Parr romance in the bud. Sir Thomas was sent on an embassy to the Regent of the Netherlands. An important post and an indication of Henry’s regard for Sir Thomas’s diplomatic abilities. Alas, the posting would last until Henry told him to come home.
No doubt Henry gave him some lovely parting gifts. With Sir Thomas gone, Henry turned up the heat on Katherine. She was not happy, but Henry being king and all, she had to go along. In July of 1543, Henry concluded a treaty with Scotland for the future marriage of his son, Edward, to Mary, Queen of Scots. This arrangement was entirely to Henry’s advantage. It left him in such high spirits that, dang it, he couldn’t help himself, he asked Katherine to marry him.
Katherine was appalled. She did NOT want to marry Henry. She tried to beg off. Henry asked again. He let her know that there was only one acceptable answer. She said yes. While Henry may not have been Katherine’s first choice for a husband, she quickly decided to make the best of it. She had no more love of sports or gambling than Anne of Cleves did, but at 52, neither did Henry. Henry was an old man by the standards of the day, and he felt it.
Not willing to give up the rich foods and wine that gave him so much pleasure, Henry had put on a great deal of weight. The weight gain seems to have brought on impotence. This apparently didn’t bother Henry either. Not at first, anyway. Katherine possessed an unusually keen intellect. One of her favorite subjects for debate was theology. Oh boy! Not only was it one of Henry’s favorite topics, but it endeared her to Archbishop Cranmer immediately. She was absolutely committed to church reform.
That same July, Cranmer issued a special license for the lovebugs to get married wherever and whenever they felt like it. Two days after receiving it, Henry and Katherine were married, are you ready for this? In a small, quiet ceremony at Hampton Court. Everything was going as well as Katherine could hope. The new Queen organized her new household. Relatives and friends were given cushy jobs. Henry was feeling better than he had in years! In fact, he felt that a special celebration was in order.
Oh boy. When Henry feels like celebrating I cringe.
Many of you have expressed concern that the Tudor Follies could not continue indefinitely, and indeed they can’t. There will be four more episodes, and then, alas, we will have to lay Henry and all his wives to rest. (I can hear Mr. Al’s voice in my head as I type this. Dear, there is such a thing as too much togetherness.)
There will be a short intermission for Mr. Al while he changes gears. He is boning up on his Georgian history, or at least that’s what the books scattered around the kitchen seem to be on. He is threatening to go backwards on me – starting with the Prince Regent from whom we get the term “The Regency Period” and working his way back in time to George the First. Sigh. If you must, dear. If you must.