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Henry VIII Marries Katherine Parr: Henry VIII’s Second Longest Marriage

Updated on June 16, 2014
Katherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII
Katherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII

On July 12, 1543, Henry VIII married his sixth and final wife, Katherine Parr. This was Henry’s second longest marriage, lasting the last five years of his life. However, it is nowhere near as close as his first marriage to Catherine of Aragon, which lasted over 20 years! Katherine was more of a nursemaid than a wife and was the most married out of all Henry’s six wives but it is possible the skills she picked up looking after her two previous husbands attracted Henry to her.

17-Year-Old Katherine Parr Marries Sir Edward Borough

In 1529, a 17-year-old married Sir Edward Borough. This was the grandson of the 2nd Baron Burgh, of the same name. This name has caused confusion in earlier biographies with Katherine being reported to have married the older Edward.

Katherine’s life under the Borough household was not an easy one and not one that she was used to, either. Edward’s father, Sir Thomas Borough, was a strict man and traditional in his ways. He believed it was Katherine’s duty to provide sons for his own son, which Katherine had failed to do. However, the young woman was not phased by Thomas’ outbursts and he soon found out that she was stronger than his sons. Katherine was raised in a household where her mother was the head and it was very liberal. Katherine’s mother encouraged her to learn and debate.

As a show of his outbursts, Edward’s young brother’s wife, Elizabeth Owen was kicked out of the house for disobeying Thomas. Her sons with the younger Borough were declared bastards and kicked out with Elizabeth. It led to many, including Edward, living in fear of Thomas.

There is no record of children between Katherine and Edward. If she did fall pregnant, the children never survived infancy or she miscarried them. However, Thomas possibly made Katherine upset and homesick and she regularly wrote to Maud Parr (her mother) for advice. Maud possibly helped to convince the two that they should move out of Thomas’ home just two years after they married. They moved to Kirton-in-Lindsay.

Jonathon Rhys Meyers Speaks Callously About Katherine Parr

The Death of Sir Edward Borough

By the spring of 1533, Edward died and Katherine was left as a widow. This was a difficult time for women as she was reliant on her husband and now her father-in-law. Thomas didn’t care about Katherine but refused to allow her to remain in Kirton-in-Lindsey.

As her dowry, he arranged for the income for a manor in Kent and two in Surrey to be turned over to Katherine. This was the end of their relationship. It is likely that Katherine was happy with this arrangement. Had there been children, it is probable that the outcome would have been different.

The young Katherine Parr
The young Katherine Parr

Katherine Parr Marries Lord Latimer

For a short time, Katherine lived with Catherine Neville, the Dowager Lady Strickland. While there, she met John Neville, 3rd Baron Latimer. He was Katherine Parr’s father’s second cousin so they required no papal dispensation to marry and she became the second Parr woman to marry into peerage.

Lord Latimer had been married twice before and had children from those marriages. He was twice the age of his new bride and in financial difficulties—his family had persuaded him to attempt to claim the title Earl of Warwick, which had been held by Richard Neville, the Kingmaker.

It is surprising that Katherine married Lord Latimer—although that is possibly due to the title. Latimer was a strict Catholic and was loyal to Catherine of Aragon. In October 1536, Lord and Lady Latimer were almost under attack from a Catholic rebel uprising. They demanded that Latimer join them and dragged him away. For a year, Katherine was left alone with her two step-children, Margaret and John, in fear that they would return.

It is possible that the actions helped to strengthen Katherine’s Protestant views. In 1537, Katherine and her step-children were taken hostage and the house was ransacked. Latimer returned from London and somehow talked the rebels into freeing his family. This led to questions from Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell as to which side Latimer was on.

As a conspirator with the rebels, Latimer would be executed for treason. Latimer knew this and when he was asked to condemn Robert Aske’s actions, he did. It is also possible that William Parr, Katherine’s brother, managed to help secure Latimer’s freedom. However, Katherine’s reputation was tarnished due to her husband. It was 1540, after Thomas Cromwell’s death, that they gained some dignity and Katherine was able to visit her brother and sister at court.

Katherine Parr Falls in Love with Thomas Seymour

Lord Latimer attended Parliament from 1542, which led to Katherine being at court on a regular basis. She met Thomas Seymour here, who would later become her fourth husband. Katherine enjoyed her time at court. She was able to debate in scholarly matters, as well as follow the latest trends in fashion and beauty.

Lord Latimer was ill by the end of 1542. His wife spent the last few months of his life caring for him and nursing him back to health. He knew his death was coming and was very generous to Katherine in his will. She was left the guardian of Margaret and given £30 per year out of money left by Latimer to care for her. She was also left with various properties, including the manor of Stowe.

Katherine didn’t want to return to the north and decided to use the past friendship she had with Catherine of Aragon to reach out to Lady Mary Tudor. It is unclear whether this was because she wanted to remain at court, wanted to stay around Thomas Seymour or both. Either way, on February 16, 1543, Katherine became part of Mary’s household and caught Henry VIII’s attention. She had started a romantic relationship with Thomas Seymour but it was too late; Henry VIII wanted her as his next bride and she knew she had to accept.

Why was Henry VIII attracted to Katherine Parr?

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What Attracted Henry VIII to Katherine Parr?

Katherine had been married twice and failed to provide any children. It begs the question what actually attracted Henry VIII to her. By 1543, it is possible that he had stopped searching for someone to provide him with an heir and needed someone to look after him. It is also possible that he needed someone who could care for his children.

Katherine Parr had proven to do both these during her marriage to Lord Latimer. In his last few months, Katherine cared for him while he was sick. She had eased his pain as much as possible and showed that she was faithful as a wife. She had also proven to be faithful during her first marriage, despite being under such difficult conditions at first.

Secondly, Katherine had proven to be a good step-mother. She was caring for Margaret and had looked after John while Latimer was held in London. This was a good sign for Henry. He likely knew that he would die soon and he needed someone to care for Mary and Elizabeth. In fact, she was so good that she managed to repair the relationships between Henry and his daughters and they were placed back in line of succession.

It is also likely that Henry VIII wanted someone he could trust. The betrayal of Katherine Howard had hurt him deeply. He opted for a woman who had already been married twice and had caused no reason for rumours about her commitment. She had proven the opposite by being there for both her husbands.

Anne of Cleves was the last of Henry VIII's wives to die
Anne of Cleves was the last of Henry VIII's wives to die

Katherine Parr Marries Henry VIII

Katherine and Henry VIII married at Hampton Court Palace. She never had a coronation but there was a proclamation, naming her Queen of England and the first Queen of Ireland. Katherine made her step-daughter a lady in waiting and John’s wife became a member of her household; she looked after them even after the death of Lord Latimer.

Katherine’s marriage to Henry VIII was not without its problems. Her liberal views almost ended her life but she was smart enough to counter the possibility before it became a reality. She ensured her step-children gained the best education and possibly partially influenced Lady Elizabeth Tudor in her younger years.

The marriage was the second longest for Henry VIII, lasting five years. The only reason it ended was because Henry VIII died. She is regularly known as the wife to survive him, although Anne of Cleves, Henry’s fourth wife, died after her.


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