Katherine Parr
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Henry VIII’s sixth and last wife, Katherine Parr, was most likely named after his first wife, Katherine of Aragon.  

Katherine Parr’s mother was friends with Katherine of Aragon, who served as Katherine Parr’s godmother. If you think it can’t get any weirder or more complicated, think again.

In between Katherine of Aragon (divorced) and Katherine Parr (survived), were Anne Boleyn (beheaded), Jane Seymour (died), Anne of Cleves (divorced), and Catherine Howard (beheaded). Katherine Parr gave Henry a run for his money in the marriage department. She was already on husband #2 when she met him, and her second husband was still alive when the King started hitting on her. Furthermore, when Henry proposed after her husband’s death, she had already fallen in love with Henry’s handsome in-law Thomas Seymour, brother of his late wife Jane Seymour. Told you it would get weirder. Katherine chose duty over booty to marry the King.

She was a beautiful, sweet-tempered intellectual who could match Henry’s wits in religious debates. When the debates got a little too heated, she may have barely escaped with her own head. During her second marriage, Katherine was taken hostage and almost murdered by Catholic rebels, cementing her secret Protestant faith. As a Protestant, Katherine believed the Bible should be translated into English so the common folk could read it. Henry was Anglican, meaning he liked divorce, but also liked the parts of Catholicism that kept poor people ignorant and in bondage (oh, religion!). Katherine’s progressive ideals angered him, and he almost arrested her. Lucky for her, she outlived him.

Henry’s death left Katherine free to marry her former boytoy, Thomas Seymour, making her the most married English queen of all time. They lived happily ever after….or not. Thomas moved in with Katherine and her 14-year-old step-daughter, Princess Elizabeth (future Queen Elizabeth I). Thomas inappropriately flirted with Elizabeth, and might have sexually abused her. Katherine died of childbirth complications shortly after their marriage. Thomas was later beheaded for treason.

The history of this portrait is almost as sordid as Katherine’s E! True Tudor Story. For decades, scholars misidentified it as Lady Jane Grey, a step-niece of Katherine who was Queen for 9 days but beheaded at at age 16. However, the subject’s distinctive crown-shaped brooch shows up in an inventory of Katherine's jewels. Though Jane lived with Katherine at one point and could have borrowed her jewels for the portrait, it is much more likely Katherine herself posed for it. Even so, this painting appears with Helena Bonham Carter’s face in the 1986 biopic, "Lady Jane."





  1. Linda Porter, Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr (London: Pan Books, 2011), 25.
  2. Alison Weir, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (New York: Grove Press, 1991), 491.
  3. Susan James, Catherine Parr: Henry VIII’s Last Love (Stroud: The History Press, 2009), 61-73.
  4. Brandon G. Withrow, “Celebrating the 500-Year-Old Activist Queen Catherine Parr,” The Huffington Post, October 14, 2012,
  5. Kelly Hart, The Mistresses of Henry VIII (Stroud: History Press, 2009).
  6. Catherine Parr,” New World Encyclopedia, accessed March 1, 2017,
  7. Ashlie Jensen, “An Education: The shaping of Elizabeth I, through childhood events and academic pursuit,” On the Tudor Trail, accessed March 1, 2017,
  8. Carolly Erickson, The First Elizabeth (New York: Summit Books, 1983), 65-79.
  9. Chris Skidmore, Edward VI: the Lost King of England (London: Phoenix, 2007), 102-104.
  10. “National Portrait Gallery: Katherine Parr,” accessed March 1, 2017,