Katherine Parr - Henry VIII's Last Wife

King Henry VIII's Last Wife - Catherine Parr History Visual Arts Famous People

Katherine Parr was the last wife of King Henry VIII. As one of his few wives who kept her head, Katherine (whose name is sometimes spelled with a "C") survived her husband.

Who was she? For starters, as Queen, she signed her name like this:

Katheryn the Quene KP

When Henry married his last wife, he was looking for someone to care for him (not someone with whom he could have children). As a result, Katherine—who was 30 when she married the King—was more mature than Henry's previous wives.

We learn more about her from the curators at Hampton Court Palace (where Katherine once lived). Let’s start with this question: Why did Henry marry Katherine?

Katherine Parr and Henry VIII met when she secured a position in Princess Mary's household in late 1542. By 1543, Katherine had already been married (and widowed) twice but was in love with Thomas Seymour. She gave him up to marry the King.

This was as much a sign of her pious adherence to what she saw as God’s will as – perhaps – a practical acceptance that Henry wouldn’t last forever. Katherine married Henry on 12 July 1543 at Hampton Court Palace.

Katherine was an educated woman who supported the arts. She was the first English queen (or queen consort) to write (and publish) her own books.

What was her relationship with her three step-children (Mary, Elizabeth and Edward)?

Katherine was a loving stepmother to Henry's three children and bought unity to the family. Princess Elizabeth was particularly fond of her stepmother.

Katherine took custody of the 14- year-old Elizabeth after Henry's death. Her influential example of female leadership was to shape the young Princess Elizabeth’s own ideas as queen.

Did Katherine support the “English Reformation”—which her husband started when he declared himself head of the Church of England—or did she support returning the country to a place where the Pope (in Rome) was head of the church?

The Queen was a vigorous supporter of the English Reformation. She sometimes pushed her evangelical views too far with Henry when discussing religion.

Katherine's religious opponents plotted against her and tried to persuade the King that she could be dangerous. Plans were drawn up for her arrest. Katherine was warned of the danger she faced and had the sense to throw herself on Henry’s mercy and plead for forgiveness. Henry was completely disarmed, and forgave her.

Did Katherine have a happy life and a happy ending?

Katherine remained loyal and devoted to Henry throughout their five years of marriage until his death in 1547. She was then free to marry her sweetheart Thomas Seymour a few months later.

Soon she was delighted to be pregnant. Tragically she contracted puerperal fever [also known as "childbed fever"] soon after being delivered of a healthy daughter, and died on 5 September 1548.

All three of Henry VIII’s children eventually ascended England’s throne, in this order:

  • Edward (his son with Jane Seymour);
  • Mary (his daughter with Catherine of Aragon); and
  • Elizabeth (his daughter with Anne Boleyn).

The artist who created this portrait is unknown. The original work is maintained by the National Portrait Gallery, in London.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5155stories and lessons created

Original Release: Aug 28, 2017

Updated Last Revision: Aug 28, 2017

Media Credits

Image online, courtesy Wikimedia Commons. PD


All quotes from article by Hampton Court Palace, entitled "Katherine Parr - A Sensible Woman and a Loving Stepmother?"


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"Katherine Parr - Henry VIII's Last Wife" AwesomeStories.com. Aug 28, 2017. Jan 18, 2019.
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