On the morning of the 5th September 1548, Catherine Parr died at Sudeley Castle. It had been over a year since Henry VIII had died and left her Queen Dowager, and she had been married to Thomas Seymour for six months.
Catherine Parr had given birth to a daughter, Mary Seymour, on the 30th August, but had unfortunately contracted puerperal (childbed) fever. As her condition worsened she had suffered bouts of delirium, however she probably knew the extent of her condition. On the morning of the 3rd September, she called Robert Tyrwhit’s wife, Lady Elizabeth, to her bedside. Elizabeth recalled the conversation and it is mentioned in Haynes’ State Papers:
“My Lady Tyrwbyt, I am not well handelyd, for thos that be abowt me caryth not for me, but flandyth lawghyng at my Gref; and the moor Good I wyl to them, the les Good that wyl to me.”
She was probably referring to Thomas Seymour’s relationship with her stepdaughter, Elizabeth. Catherine died in the early morning of the 5th September and her body was wrapped in layers of cere cloth, a waxed cloth used to help prevent decay, and encased in a lead envelope in her coffin. She was buried in the chapel of Sudeley Castle. Jane Grey was the chief mourner and the service was short, in English, as Catherine would have approved. This simple ceremony has been described as the first Protestant burial of an English queen.
Even though she was close to them, none of Henry VIII’s children made any public utterance on their stepmother’s passing. It was suggested to Elizabeth that she write a letter of condolence to Thomas but she declined, on the grounds that she might be thought to be wooing the widower.
Catherine Parr was only thirty-six when she died. In 1782, people investigated the remains of Sudeley Castle’s chapel.They opened up the ground and discovered, not far from the survive, a lead envelope coffin inscribed with the following:
Here lyeth Queen Katheryne Wife to King
Henry the VIII and
The wife of Thomas
Lord of Sudely high
Admy… of Englond
And ynkle to Kyng
Luckily they found that Catherine’s body was completely preserved under the layers. However, they did not seal the coffin properly and so Catherine’s remains had decayed by the time the coffin was investigated again.
State Papers, Haynes, p103-104
Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr, Linda Porter, p320-324
On This Day in Tudor History, Claire Ridgway, p415-416
Catherine Parr’s memorial.