Intelligent, Kind, Headstrong, Outspoken, Nurturing
"To Be Useful In All That I Do"
Katharine Parr was Henry's sixth, final, and surviving wife. She was highly intelligent, somewhat educated, stylish on a scale that exceeded any of Henry's previous wives, devout, and kind. She believed in the Reformation, making many enemies in the kings court- many of whom were still conservative catholics. It should be noted that although Henry broke with the Catholic church in order to wed Anne Boleyn, and brought the Reformation to England, Henry remained a devout Catholic throughout his life. The religion that he created, he actually wanted no part of, and was just as likely to kill a Protestant for the crime of heresy as he would a Catholic. Katharine was a devout Protestant on the verge of evangelical, a flaw that Henry indulged when he was feeling well, but that infuriated him when he was not.
So outspoken was Katharine Parr that her conservative opponents hatched a plan to have her arrested- but the person to serve the warrant dropped it in sight of one of Katharine's loyal courtiers. They raced ahead to warn her, and Katharine avoided arrest by feigning illness. During one of Katharine's lectures, Henry was ill, and infuriated, and it is quite likely that it was Henry himself who ordered a false arrest warrant in order to frighten Katharine into minding her opinions, or quite possibly very much intended to have her arrested.
Henry was furious, and chastised her for being too outspoken, too proud, and far outplaying her station. Katharine appeased Henry by saying the only reason she argued with him was so that she could be corrected and instructed by him. Katharine had a very good understanding of the king's vanity, and by appealing to it, she saved her neck as well as her marriage- Henry would lavish her with presents and affection openly and often throughout the marriage.
The twice widowed Katharine had never been allowed to marry for love, and marrying the king was no different- she had caught his eye at court, and a king would have what a king would have.
Katharine did not love Henry, but she was always good and affectionate with him. Henry's age, weight, and illness took a toll on his virility, but he was able to consumate, and more often than not- Katharine ordered black satin nightdresses and spent most nights in the kings chamber. She nursed over his ulcerated leg, doted on him during his legendary migraines, and could be seen sitting on his lap during court. Henry had married twice for power, twice for lust, and now, twice for love- Katharine Parr was considered as beloved to him as Jane Seymour, if not more so- when gone to France, he left Katharine as regeant, or sole ruler in his absence. He had granted this distinct power to no other wife except Katharine of Aragon. He returned from France to find his kingdom well run, which probably made him love her all the more.
Katharine was also good hearted, and not at all under the delusion that she would bear the king's desired second male heir. Henry was in his 50s, obese, and in failing health. His relationships with his daughters, in particular Princess Mary, had been damaged terribly by his disasterous marriages to Katharine of Aragon, his first wife, and Anne Boleyn, his second. Jane Seymour, his third wife, had bore him a sole male heir, and had made mending the kings familial relations a priority, but she died 12 days after childbirth. Anne of Cleves, wife four, had been a good stepmother for the child Elizabeth, and maintained friendship with Mary, but had not attempted to reconcile Henry with his daughters. Catharine Howard, wife five, was far too involved in her own indescretions and was far too immature to mother any child, and had nothing to do with either princess, or the prince.
Katharine Parr, however, was a loving stepmother to both princesses, and after Henry's death, Elizabeth lived with her and husband Thomas Seymour- brother of third wife Jane Seymour- whom she had always been in love with. Indeed, Katharine and Thomas' love affair was interrupted by the King's want of her, and they had parted no less in love, but aware that Henry's wishes took precedent over their own. Thomas Seymour, however, was easily seduced by the power to be inherited through Katharine on the king's death, and his naked ambition cost Katharine her sovereignity- they married too soon after the king's death, and the people would not accept him as sovereign king. Katharine was not fussed- she had not asked to be queen, after all- but Thomas was furious. His brother was custodian of Prince Edward, a family feud that would come to a head during Edwards reign.
Thomas was also the modern day equivalent of a child molester- he would enter Elizabeth's room while she was in bedclothes under the pretense of 'playing a game'. Things were fine when Katharine was present- but Seymour began entering without Katharine's presence, and doing more than playing little games with Elizabeth. He was charged with being 'too forward' with Elizabeth, and Katharine had no choice but to send her away- a heartbreak for her, as she thought of Elizabeth as her own daughter.
Henry VIII died in January of 1547, after four years of marriage. Katharine was finally free to marry for love, hence her hasty marriage to Thomas Seymour. Thrice widowed and childless, Jane became pregnant in November of 1547, but fell victim to the poor medical knowledge of the 16th century, and died 6 days after giving birth to a daughter. Besides being the only surviving and most loved wife of Henry, she left behind religious writings that are still considered some of the most profound and beautiful works of devotional literature.