Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Question from Mindy - Katherine Parr's widowhood

Did Katherine Parr have the choice of staying at the King's court after she was widowed? Was it expected of her to withdraw to her own residence? Was she more or less forced to leave by the King's Protector of the Realm so he would have no other influence on the King but his?

From what I understand Katherine Parr was on good terms with all her stepchildren while she was married to King Henry. But I do not know of her standing with Edward after the death of Henry. Thomas Seymor was his favorite uncle, Katherine Parr a beloved stepmother so it stands to reason they continued in favor with Edward, if not the Protector and Parliament.


Elizabeth M. said...

Katherine Parr made things a little difficult for herself by marrying Thomas Seymour so soon after she was widowed. The marriage was initially kept a secret. Thomas and Edward Seymour, the latter becoming known as the Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector during the minority of his nephew Edward VI, were at odds. Edward, as Lord Protector, felt he had the upper hand, which did not sit well with his brother. tensions were further inflamed by Thomas marrying the widowed queen and grasping for the guardianship of the young Princess Elizabeth, who was living in the house of her step-mother. In addition, Edward Seymour's wife was the formidable shrew Anne Stanhope, who could not stand Catherine Parr. As the wife of the Lord Protector, she felt she was the first lady of the realm, ahead of the widowed queen, and this led to quarrels of precedence to ownership and possession of certain jewels. It was in Queen Catherine's best interest to retire from court.

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth M has a good grasp of the situation, but I would like to add one or two considerations. Katherine Parr's last husband, Thomas Seymour, was Lord Protector Edward Seymour's younger brother and seems to have fallen into a pattern of behavior all too common in history. That is, he struggled to compete with his older ... and more successful ... brother in order to gain equal or greater recognition. What I call "the second son syndrome" repeated often in English and British royal history, right up to the modern day.

After marrying Parr, Seymour set up a household separate from that of his brother and separate from that of the young king. Parr's most recent biographer has shown that Seymour attempted to play off his wife's royal status, something that would have been difficult to do when living at court. There, Parr's status would have been overshadowed by that of the king, the Lord Protector's, and potentially by that of the Lord Protector's wife. By setting up a separate quasi-royal household, Thomas Seymour could more easily place himself at the center of attention alongside his wife. Incorporating Elizabeth Tudor and Jane Grey into the household further increased the royal mystique and prestige of "his" household.

Several of Edward's recent biographers have argued that King Edward had begun to see through his uncle Thomas's fawning behavior and to distance himself from what had been a favorite uncle by the time Seymour married Parr. I tend to agree with this assessment.

kb said...

May I ask Elizabeth M....

Do you have sources for the characterization of Anne Stanhope as a shrew? I have heard this assessment before, as well as the story that she and Katherine Parr did not get along, but I don't know where this information comes from. I have only recently started to research pre-1558 in detail and would be grateful for any guidance on this issue. From anyone.

Elizabeth M. said...

Anne Stanhope was a woman who was widely disliked at the Tudor court of her nephew, Edward VI. Her marriage to the King's elder uncle gave her a sense of privilege. She used that connection to wield power. Some historians believe she goaded her husband into some of his decisions made as Lord Protector--that he was the proverbial "henpecked" husband. As the wife of the Lord protector, she felt she was undeniably the first lady of the realm, and her brash and domineering behavior added to the dislike of her. She may also have had a sense of her own self importance, as like many well-born women of her day, she did have a dash of royal blood--her mother Elizabeth Bourchier was a great-granddaughter of Anne of Woodstock, daughter of Edward III's son Thomas of Woodstock and his wife Eleanor de Bohun. Her rival, the widowed Katherine Parr, also had royal blood, but it was more remote--her paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Fitzhugh, was a granddaughter of Ralph Neville, from his union with Lady Jane Beaufort, only daughter of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford. Since the Beaufort children were born out of wedlock and only legitimized by royal papal decree in 1396, after their parents were married. So the stigma of bastardy, though supposedly removed, still lingered. A woman as proud as Anne Stanhope would have been well aware of the superiority in her own pedigree to that of the widowed queen, as well as to many of the other women of the court.
Basically, this woman had a big ego problem, and this coupled with a strong-willed and sometimes violent temper, made her one of the least-loved women of her time.

Foose said...

Anne Stanhope's character is presented pretty consistently in both scholarly works and popular novels -- arrogant, shrewish, domineering. William Paget, the "master of practices" under Edward VI and Mary, told the Imperial ambassador that the cause of Somerset's downfall was "He has a bad wife." In 1549, when Somerset was trying to put down rebellion, Van der Delft reported to the Emperor:

"[Somerset] then had the peasants divided into squadrons, and assigned them quarters as if he expected to fight; but about five in the afternoon he sent his wife off to her house, and she went out weeping, very badly handled in words by the courtiers and peasants, who put all this trouble down to her ..."

Van der Delft's correspondence has a number of negative remarks about the lady and could be a good starting-point. I found only a few sources referring to her prior to Edward's reign -- Chapuys called the "countess of Hertford" one of the stirrers-up of heresy at court in the 1540s.

Clearly there may be room for a modern reevaluation of Anne Stanhope's character. Like the Duchess of Suffolk, she may have been unfairly traduced or the few sources we have may be significantly biased for one reason or another.

I am curious as to whether she might have been in attendance as lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon or Anne Boleyn. She was quite friendly with Princess Mary, despite their religious differences; Mary called her "my good gossip Nan." Her birth would certainly have qualified her to be at court in attendance.

According to tudorplace.com.ar, her mother was previously married to one Richard Page. Curiously, Richard Page was the name of the man arrested along with Thomas Wyatt a couple of days after Cromwell's arrest of Anne Boleyn, George Boleyn, Weston, Brereton and Smeaton. A gentleman of the privy chamber and part of Anne's faction for some years, he never came to trial and was released. I never found any subsequent reference to him. I don't think he's the same man who married Elizabeth Bourchier, but he might have been a connection of Anne Stanhope's and (a) possibly obtained his release through her interest with the Seymours (she married Edward Seymour in 1534/5), or (b) possibly been a Seymour/Cromwell spy in Anne's entourage.

kb said...

Thank you foose - I'm off to the state papers

Foose said...

The Katherine Parr-Anne Stanhope quarrel over the royal jewels and precedence, which took place around June 1547 (shortly after Katherine married Thomas Seymour but still expected to be treated as Dowager Queen), apparently comes from William Camden's life of Elizabeth.

Also, for Tudor film buffs out there, Anne Stanhope's bad reputation was immortalized in the film "Young Bess," in which she (played by Kathleen Byron) has a nasty cameo complaining to her husband about the Queen Dowager giving herself airs and saying that Princess Elizabeth clearly takes after her mother.

ckeltz said...

Whatever happened to Catherine Parr's child Mary? I'm trying to find as much info as possible about Catherine and her family. Since I found out that Catherine and I are related. She would be a cousin of my mothers.