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Katherine Parr Gives Birth to Baby Girl: Katherine’s Only Child

Updated on August 30, 2013
The beautiful Katherine Parr
The beautiful Katherine Parr

On August 30, 1548, Katherine Parr gave birth to a baby girl, named Mary. This was with her fourth husband, Thomas Seymour. Despite being married three times previously, this was the first time that Katherine had her on child; and was the only child of the sixth wife of Henry VIII. Soon afterwards, on September 5, Katherine died of childbed fever.

Katherine Parr Becomes Dowager Queen of England

On January 28, 1547, King Henry VIII of England died. He had been very ill in the last years of his life and Katherine Parr had acted like a nursemaid to him. This was the third husband to leave Katherine a widow. However, this time she was left as a wealthy one as Dowager Queen Consort of England. She had an allowance of £7,000 per year.

Upon Henry’s death, he needed someone to look after his children, especially the young Lady Elizabeth Tudor. Katherine became Elizabeth’s carer, later along with Lady Jane Grey—the granddaughter of Henry’s younger sister, Mary Tudor. Elizabeth and Jane were about the same age and both raised as Protestants.

Katherine never seemed to mind this responsibility. She had already proven to be a loving step-mother to the children of her late husband, Lord Latimer. After his death, she was left in charge of his daughter, Margaret. Katherine has also developed a close bond with Henry’s children and ensured Elizabeth grew up with Protestant ideals—it was something Anne Boleyn would want and that Katherine believed in.

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Why did Katherine Parr have to wait so long to have children?

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Thomas Seymour was the man Katherine wanted to marry before Henry VIII
Thomas Seymour was the man Katherine wanted to marry before Henry VIII

Katherine Parr Marries Sir Thomas Seymour

It was just a few months after Henry VIII’s death that Katherine decided to remarry. She did this in secret, knowing how scandalous it was. Who was her choice of husband? The man Katherine had wanted to marry in 1543, before she married the King of England; Sir Thomas Seymour. It was because of this marriage that Lady Jane Grey actually came to live with the sixth wife of Henry VIII. Seymour had purchased her guardianship from her parents, Francis and Henry Grey.

The marriage only lasted around 18 months until Katherine’s death. During that time, she was forced to send Elizabeth away. There were rumours that Elizabeth and Thomas were involved in an affair or that Thomas had forced himself on Katherine’s step-daughter. She did catch the two in some sort of act but it is unclear who she blamed for that. She may have sent Elizabeth away out of anger, distrust or for her own safety.

According to Kat Ashley, Lady Elizabeth’s governess, Katherine had helped Thomas form a relationship with the future queen. Katherine was pregnant by this time and it is possible that she feared for the safety of her child and allowed Thomas to take any woman he chose. The truth behind it is still debated but in May 1548, Elizabeth left the Seymour residence to live with Sir Anthony Denny in Chelsea.

Katherine Parr Falls Pregnant

By March 1548, Katherine Parr realised that she was pregnant. This was a surprise to herself and Thomas Seymour. She was 36 years old and had three husbands previously. She had never fallen pregnant with any of them—not for a lack of trying—but finally had. She gave birth to a daughter. Sadly it was a daughter she would never get to see grow.

Just six days later, Katherine died to childbed fever; something that killed many women in the 16th century. However, she did ensure that her daughter was named after a woman she admired; Henry VIII’s daughter, Mary Tudor. Less than one year later, Mary’s father was executed under the orders of King Edward VI of England.

It was Katherine Parr's fourth husband who gave her a child
It was Katherine Parr's fourth husband who gave her a child

Mary Seymour Becomes Katherine Willoughby’s Ward

After the death of her mother, the wealth went to her father. However, that was forfeited to the crown after his execution. Mary was not just left an orphan but a destitute one. She had no prospects in life and she was made a ward of Katherine Willoughby, the Duchess of Suffolk. Willoughby was not happy about the matter and made it clear in her actions.

After 1550, there are no records about the child. Of course, this doesn’t mean that Mary died but historians believe that this was the case. There have been speculations about her life and the possibilities that she did reach adulthood but there is nothing concrete and no evidence to support any of it.

Children did die young in the 16th century and not having her parents would not have helped. Linda Porter, biographer of Queen Katherine Parr, agrees that Mary Seymour died around the age of two. She bases this off evidence that in January 1550, Mary was given the chance to inherit some of the lands that were her fathers. Nobody claimed these—and it would have been Willoughby at the time. Surely Willoughby would have wanted these since they would pay for Mary’s upbringing. The best answer is that Mary was dead.

It is a sad end to a short tale. Mary Seymour was the only child of Katherine Parr. Katherine had married four times and it was that fourth one when she finally fell pregnant. However, due to the medical and health issues at the time, she died when Mary was just a few days old. Mary never really stood a chance in life without her mother, especially considering Thomas’ constant want for power.

A Sit Down with Jonathon Rhys Meyers About Katherine Parr

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      Alexandria Ingham 4 years ago from UK

      It is such a sad piece. I really feel for Mary Seymour like I do for Margaret Pole. Their lives could have been so different.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      This is a sad bit of history. Interesting but sad nonetheless. When I read articles out of history like this, I often wonder what and how things would have changed had the parties who died or were executed had lived.

      Thanks for sharing this. Angels are on the way ps

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