The Tudor Society

14 August – William Parr, brother of Queen Catherine Parr

On this day in Tudor history, 14th August 1513, William Parr, Marquess of Northampton and brother of Queen Catherine Parr, was born.

William Parr is a fascinating man. He had a wonderful court career, his first wife eloped and left him, his divorce was granted and then rescinded, he was imprisoned in the Tower but then released, his marital happiness was rather shortlived... but he died a natural death!

Find out more about William Parr in today's talk.

Also on this day in Tudor history, 14th August 1473, Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, was born. Margaret Pole is an interesting lady - the niece of Edward IV, Countess of Salisbury in her own right, governess to Mary I... and she came to a rather awful and sticky end. You can find out more about her in last year’s video:

Also on this day in history:

  • 1479 – Date given as the birthdate of Katherine of York (Katherine, Countess of Devon), at Eltham Palace. Katherine was the daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, and she married Sir William Courtenay, the future Earl of Devon, in 1495.
  • 1539 – Death of Sir Peter Edgcumbe. Edgcumbe served as Sheriff of Devon and Cornwall at various times between 1494 and 1534, was at the 1513 Battle of the Spurs and was present at the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520.
  • 1620 – Burial of Katherine Hastings (née Dudley), Countess of Huntingdon, in Chelsea Old Church. Katherine was the daughter of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, and his wife Jane, and was married to Henry Hastings, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon. Katherine was buried in her mother's tomb.


On this day in Tudor history, 14th August 1513, William Parr, Marquess of Northampton and brother of Queen Catherine Parr, was born. He was the only surviving son of Sir Thomas Parr of Kendal and his wife, Maud (née Green), and was probably born at Blackfriars in London.

At the age of eleven, Parr joined the household of Henry VIII's illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset, at Sheriff Hutton, and in 1527 he married Lady Anne Bourchier, the ten year-old daughter of Henry Bourchier, Earl of Essex. Parr was knighted in 1538 and created Baron Parr of Kendal in 1539, but failed to secure the title of Earl of Essex when his father-in-law died because Thomas Cromwell took it. His marriage to Anne Bourchier was unhappy, with Anne eloping and giving birth to an illegitimate child in 1543. The couple legally separated, but Parr was unable to marry his new love, Elizabeth Brooke, daughter of Baron Cobham, because he was not granted a divorce.

In April 1543, Parr was elected to the Order of the Garter and in December of that year, he was finally made Earl of Essex, due to the influence of his sister, Catherine, who had married the king in July 1543. He went on to become Captain of the Gentlemen Pensioners and a member of Henry VIII's privy council.

In 1547, Parr was made Marquis of Northampton after supporting Edward Seymour in his bid to become Lord Protector and Duke of Somerset. A commission ruled in favour of his divorce shortly after he married Elizabeth Brooke in 1547, but Somerset punished Parr for his marriage by removing him from the Privy Council and ordering him to leave Elizabeth. The divorce was finally granted in 1551, and his marriage to Elizabeth was made legal. Their happiness was short-lived, because Parr was imprisoned in the Tower in July 1553 for his part in helping to put Lady Jane Grey on the throne. His divorce was rescinded, and he was stripped of his honours, lands and titles. Parr was lucky to escape with his life, and he was pardoned in January 1554 and released in March 1554 after no evidence was found linking him to Wyatt’s Rebellion. He was restored in blood, but it took three years for him to restore some of his estates.

Parr was restored in favour in Elizabeth I's reign, serving on her Privy Council and being restored as Marquess of Northampton. He was also granted several stewardships which he’d held prior to his imprisonment. His divorce was recognised once again, but Elizabeth died in April 1565. Parr married his third wife, Helena Snakenborg, the daughter of a Swedish nobleman, in May 1571, but he died in Warwick on 28th October that same year. He was buried in the chancel of the Collegiate Church of St Mary in Warwick with the queen paying for his burial. It is also the resting place of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.

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14 August – William Parr, brother of Queen Catherine Parr