Monday, March 14, 2011

Question from Lauren - Ancestry of Catherine Parr

Strickland said that Catherine Parr was "of a more distinguished ancestry than either sir Thomas Boleyn or Sir John Seymour. From the marriage of his Norman progenitor, Ivo de Tallebois, with Lucy, the sister of the renowned earls Morcar and Edwin, Sir Thomas Parr inherited the blood of the Anglo-Saxon kings."

Is it true that this made Catherine Parr "of more distinguished ancestry" than Jane or Anne? And is there proof that she was descended from Anglo-Saxon kings and if so which one?


Foose said...

There are some issues with this assertion. First, although some genealogies show that Edwin and Morcar had a sister named Lucy, there are quite a few others that indicate no such thing. The evidence is conflicting, and Lucy is kind of an odd name for the daughter of an Anglo-Saxon Earl (I'm not saying it couldn't happen).

If she was the daughter of Alfgar, and Sir Thomas Parr descends from her, then there is a connection to the Anglo-Saxon kings in that Alfgar's grandfather Leofwine was either the grandson or great-grandson of Alfred the Great.

However, note the careful wording of Strickland's statement. She says that Catherine Parr was "of a more distinguished ancestry than either Sir Thomas Boleyn or Sir John Seymour." She does not claim that Anne or Jane were less distinguished. Anne and Jane were both descended maternally from Edward III, descendant of the union of Henry I and Edith-Matilda, daughter of the Anglo-Saxon princess St. Margaret of Scotland - herself a direct descendant of Alfred the Great through her great-grandfather Ethelred the Unready.

Strickland was remotely related to Katherine Parr and consequently exalts her ancestry, character and achievements in her Lives of the Queens of England. She was also living in the 19th century, when English nationalism inspired a huge revival of interest in the Anglo-Saxon past, with well-born people eager to claim descent from the thanes and earls of Edward the Confessor - inspiring a raft of spurious or at least highly imaginative genealogies. Think of the mass appeal of Ivanhoe and the popularity of such names as Alfred and Edith, which worked its way down from the nobility (Queen Victoria had a son named Alfred) to the working classes.

Strickland is valorizing the Anglo-Saxon descent of Sir Thomas Parr, which I don't think a Tudor person would have done. I don't think noble Anglo-Saxon ancestry would have been repudiated, especially if there was any sort of property claim with it (genealogies are chiefly useful for making claims to property), but noble Norman blood was the social sine qua non. Note that when Anne Boleyn's party was trying to pump up her credentials, the heralds came up with a pedigree that showed Sir Thomas Boleyn's descent from a Norman baron in the 12th century - inviting the derision of the Duchess of Norfolk, according to Chapuys. There was no attempt to make an end run around the Norman monopoly of class and breeding by suggesting Anne came from an older royal line native to England. I also don't think a Tudor person would have seen Sir Thomas Parr as Boleyn's or Seymour's social superior because of his Anglo-Saxon descent. But I am not absolutely sure how Tudor-era people viewed the Anglo-Saxon past, so there could be other views.

I haven't see the "invented" Boleyn pedigree but Sir Thomas Boleyn definitely did have some noble Norman ancestors through his mother and grandmother, so it might have been more firmly based on fact than is usually described.

GoldenAged said...

Actually Anne Boleyn WAS NOT descended from Edward III. She was only descended from Edward I. All of Henry's wives descended from Edward I in one way or another. Catherine Parr descended from Edward I by both wives.

Agnes Strickland's book is FULL of errors. She sites her first husband as the 2nd Baron which we know is wrong. David Starkey too quotes that Catherine Parr was of better lineage and her family was more established at court.

The Parr's went back to serving Edward IV. Her grandfather Sir William Parr who married Lady Elizabeth FitzHugh, niece of "Warwick, the Kingmaker", was a close friend of Edward IV. Sir Thomas Parr was a close friend of Henry VIII; Parr's step-father had been educated under the household of Lady Margaret Beaufort, Henry's grandmother where Parr is also believed to have spent some time. Catherine's brother grew up in the household of Henry Fitzroy with Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. They were educated together and Catherine's uncle, Sir William, Baron Parr of Horton, was part of the head of the household for Fitzroy. From Sir Thomas' grandmother to his own daughter, Anne, they were all ladies-in-waiting to the queens of England. His grandmother and mother both personally served under special appointment by Richard III's consort herself, Anne Neville, niece of his grandmother, Lady Alice Neville. Anne Parr was one of the few women to serve all six of Henry's wives. Maud Parr nee Green, his wife, was good friend's with Queen Katherine of Aragon and a lady-in-waiting to her. She was given private chambers next to the queen's and Queen Katherine was supposedly Catherine Parr's godmother.

If Sir Thomas had not died at such an early age he would have been given the title which his brother received or another barony. He was also co-heir to the FitzHugh barony; which is still in abayence between the descendants of Alice FitzHugh and his daughter, Anne Parr's.

Sir Thomas Parr descended from Edward III through his mother. He descended from both King John and William "the Lion" of Scotland by his father AND mother. The statement that she descends from King John is from Douglas Richardson's ancestry book "Plantagenet Ancestry". Catherine descended from every King of England who had issue up to King Edward III. Catherine Parr was also the only queen to descend from the Beaufort's (illegitimate issue of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford).

Catherine's mother also descended from royal blood. By her grandfather, the Greene's of Greens Norton, she directly descended from King Fergus of Galloway and many nobles and Kings of England which included Henry I, Edward I, and Henry II of England through her connections with the Ferrers of Groby, Talbot, Despencer, FitzAlan, De Clare, and other noble families. They were also cousins to Elizabeth Woodville, queen consort of Edward IV.

Some of her ancestry can be viewed here: AND a blog was written about this very topic here:

Foose said...

Yes, Lady Parr is definitely correct about the Edward I/Edward III mistake. Sorry about that.

Regarding the question of how Tudor people regarded Anglo-Saxon ancestry, I have since found some interesting snippets. In Philip Schwyzer's Literature, Nationalism and Memory in Early Modern England and Wales, I found the following:

"One of the most remarkable features of Tudor national consciousness, especially in its later phase, is the extent to which it sidelined or ignored the English and their history..." The author's footnotes cites the historian T.D. Kendrick realizing "that the question of Saxon ancestry in the Tudor period was 'by general consent left alone.'"

The religious schism added more complexity. Apparently Catholics were enthusiastic about the ancient Anglo-Saxons, as they had been converted directly by Rome. The Protestants deprecated them for the same reason, although Elizabeth's Archbishop of Canterbury Matthew Parker had a scholarly interest in the Anglo-Saxons and encouraged study of them and their language in his circle.

Yet clearly St. Edward and St. Edmund and other Anglo-Saxon figures show up in the royal pageantry; there are plenty of Tudor gentry people (perhaps not the top nobility) named Frideswide and Mildred and Edgar, etc., although this may reflect the influence of the old religious foundations and saints' wells, rather than pride in Anglo-Saxon ancestry. It seems as if the faint origins of later enthusiasm for the Anglo-Saxons can perhaps be detected in Tudor England, but again I don't think their pre-Conquest English ancestry would have been something the Parrs themselves would have vaunted.

Anonymous said...

Also, are five of Henry VIII's wives (except Ann of Cleves) descended from William Marshall (1190-6 Apr 1231)? From the little research I have done, I know Ann Boleyn is, but I'm not sure about the other four.