Monday, August 03, 2009

Question from Jacque - Katherine Parr's first husband

I've noticed that on lots of Internet sites it says that Katherine Parr's first husband, Edward Borough, was a man in his sixties when they were married. However, I recently read in Antonia Fraser's "The Wives of Henry VIII" that Edward Borough was really only a few years older than Katherine (who was seventeen, I believe) when they were married. The book says this confusion is due to the fact that Katherine's husband's grandfather was also called Edward Borough and at the time his grandson and Katherine were married, he was in his sixties. Is this true? Does anyone know the approximate year of birth for Katherine's first husband if he wasn't in his sixties?


PhD Historian said...

Dr Susan James, who I consider a definitive authority on Katherine Parr, states that Edward Borough, son of Thomas Borough and his first wife, Agnes Tyrwhit, was in his "early twenties" when he married sixteen-year-old Katherine Parr in 1529. That would suggest a date of birth between 1505 and 1510, though there is apparently no documentation surviving that records his exact date of birth.

James notes the longstanding confusion between Edward and his grandfather, as well as the "purple prose of the horrors suffered by the [young] Catherine [sic] packed off to Lincolnshire to marry an aged lunatic." She also offers ample evidence to dispell that myth.

See Susan James, Catherine Parr: Henry VIII's Last Love (Tempus Publishing, 2008), pp. 53-56.

Lara said...

Susan James also addresses this (and also agrees that she was married to the grandson) but only says that he was "in his early twenties". It seems that not a lot is known about him, which is probably part of the reason that the confusion arose in the first place.

She places the marriage as "probably in the late spring of 1529" which would put his birth year somewhere c. 1506 if we assume an age of around 23 years.

Lara said...

I should have known that PhD Historian's comment would be waiting for moderation while I was typing up mine! :)

Kristian said...

Wow! This is the first I've read about Kateryn's first husband being in his 20's...great Q&A!
It's fascinating then to think that she didn't get pregnant during that marriage. I'd always just chalked it up to her husband's age, since clearly she was fertile.
I have not read anything by Susan James -- is there any reason or speculation on why Kateryn Parr never conceived before the Seymour marriage?

Marilyn R said...

The Burghs (this is the correct spelling although it is pronounced ‘borough’) are an interesting, but nowadays little-known, family associated with Gainsborough Old Hall, Lincolnshire. They offer an excellent example of the confusion caused by the use of the same forenames for generation upon generation and by sloppy research as regards the various new creations of a peerage.

Sir Thomas Burgh (c.1431-1496), who built the Hall in the 1460’s, was created Lord Burgh in 1487; he was the first Lord Burgh in this creation. At this time a barony was not automatically hereditary and his son, Sir Edward (c.1463-1529), was not summoned to the House of Lords, so the barony became extinct. It is not this Sir Edward Burgh, son of a 1st Lord Burgh, but his grandson, confusingly also called Sir Edward and also son of a 1st Lord Burgh of a new, later creation, who married Katherine Parr.

In his early years the first Sir Edward was on very friendly terms with Henry VII, whose accounts show that he, Henry, paid his dues when Sir Edward beat him at cards; however, in later years he fined Edward to within an inch of his fortune (I am ashamed to say I cannot at the moment remember why) and his avid persecution was rumoured to be one of the root causes of Edward being certified as a lunatic in 1510. In a recent TV programme David Starkey quoted the Burgh family’s dilemma at that time, pronouncing the name as ‘bruff’ instead of ‘borough’, which really surprised me, coming from him - maybe that’s how it sounded in Tudor times?

Sir Edward’s son, another Sir Thomas Burgh (c.1488-1550) was created 1st Lord Burgh of ‘Gaynesboro’ in a NEW creation in 1529; he was twice Sheriff of Lincolnshire, attended Court regularly, was chamberlain to Anne Boleyn and held the canopy over her at her coronation in 1533.

It was this Thomas’s elder son, Sir Edward, who married Katherine Parr, then about 16 years of age, in 1529 when he is thought to have been about 22. One local tradition says the young couple left the Hall at Gainsborough to live in another Burgh residence at nearby Kirton-in-Lindsey because Katherine did not get on with her in-laws, but it seems more likely that they would have had their own household anyway. Sir Edward died after only three years and was buried in the All Saints Church mentioned by Kathy in her recent Steven Gunn Lecture report on this site.

Sir Edward’s younger brother, Sir William (c.1522-1584), was called to Parliament and became 2nd Lord Burgh; he married Katherine Clinton, daughter of Henry VIII’s one-time mistress Elizabeth Blount and her second husband, Edward Clinton, Earl of Lincoln.

His son Thomas, 3rd Lord Burgh was in the service of Queen Elizabeth as Governor of Brill between 1587-97 when the family finances took a severe downturn, but in spite of his wife’s constant pleading that he be allowed home to sort out his affairs, Elizabeth insisted she could not spare him, and after his death in 1597 at only 39 the house and lands had to be sold to clear debts.

Thomas’s son Robert, 4th Lord Burgh died in 1602 aged 7, after which the title was in abeyance in the female line(s) until 1916, when it was restored to Alexander Henry Leith, whose great-grandson Alexander Gregory Disney Leith (1958- ) is 8th Lord Burgh. Alexander and his wife can be seen with members of the re-enactment society Lord Burgh’s Retinue at

His mother is the author Anita Burgh, some of whose romantic novels reflect the difficult life she had as an ordinary hospital nurse who had married into the English aristocracy.

Jacque said...

In regards to why Katherine didn't get pregnant during this marriage, Antonia Fraser notes that Edward Borough's health was poor, so maybe that has something to do with it. If he was always sickly, and then her next husband was much older, and then the king of course was much older than her as well (as well as being in failing health), that may offer some explanation as to why she never got pregnant before her marriage to Seymour.

Luv said...

Does anyone know what type of relationship Katherine Parr and Edward Borough might have had? If they both were in the 20's it seem like they would have had kids, but Katherine Parr did not have any children until she married Thomas Seymore. Which is one of the reason why so many people believe that her husband were all much older than she.

Marilyn R said...


There is certainly some odd Katherine Parr information on the Internet, which ought to be used by schools as a warning to students about dubious information! I wonder if anyone can shed any light on original sources for the following gem. The only Cantley I know is in Doncaster, miles away.

“When Katherine approached her tenth birthday, her mother Maud was arranging her marriage. However, there were only forty peers in England at this time, and most of their heirs (Katherine's age) were married. One prospect was Lord Borough. He was sixty-four... Lord Borough's sons, Henry and Thomas were already in the running for marriage contracts with other peers’ daughters. This left only their father, who was recently a widower. A proxy marriage ceremony was held at Parr House, in London, and at Cantley Hall in Gainsborough.

In 1526, Katherine would be known as "Lady Borough of Cantley Hall" (Cantley was inherited in 1496 by her husband's family). Cantley Hall was located in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, England... Katherine would not live with her husband until age fourteen years. When she went to Cantley Hall she was shocked to see how old her husband was.”

Jacque said...

Marilyn R's quotation sounds a lot like what Anthony Martienssen says about Katherine's first marriage in his book, "Queen Katherine Parr" on pages 36-37, although it is not a direct quote from the book.