The Tudor Society

International Women’s Day – unknown Tudor women

Today it's not only International Women's Day, a day where we acknowledge the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, but the whole of March we celebrate Women's History Month! A month in which we commemorate the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society.

In the Tudor times there were a lot of fascinating women, including four queens. Although we often hear about Elizabeth I and Anne Boleyn, there were also many interesting women who aren't as known nowadays. That's why we listed a few of them and their stories.

Mary Seton

Mary Seton was the daughter of George, 4th Lord Seton, by his second wife Mary Pyerres. As a little girl, Mary accompanied Mary Queen of Scots in France along with the other three Maries (Fleming, Beaton and Livingston). Seton was the only one to never marry, although she did have admirers, she stuck to her vow of chastity.

She remained in the service of Mary Queen of Scots, even during her period of house arrest in England, where she was not paid. In France, Seton had learned the skill of hairdressing. A skill which she used to maintain Mary Queen of Scots' rapidly thinning hair with wigs and hair pieces. By 1583, four years before Mary Queen of Scots died, she retired and went to France to join Queen Mary's aunt at the convent of St. Pierre des Dames in Reims. Here she died in 1615.

Information from:

Portrait hanging in Mary       

Queen of Scots' visitors
centre in Jedburgh

Margaret Tudor

Margaret Tudors' parents were King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. She is probably the most well known woman on this list, as she is Mary Queen of Scots' grandmother, but nevertheless a good person to add, as she has a fascinating story.

At the age of 13 she married King James IV of Scotland. After he died in the battle of Flodden, she became the regent for a while. Although she had opposition, she managed to reconcile Scotland and England. When she secretly married Archibald Douglas, the Privy Council ruled that she had acted against the terms of James IV's will and could no longer act as Regent.
Sadly, her husband abandoned her, but she didn't look back and went to London. Later, Margaret returned and found out that her husband had been living with another woman. At first the couple reconciled, but Margaret decided that she wanted to divorce. Her wish was granted by the Pope.

Detail of a portrait by Daniel Mytens           To read the whole story, click here. (Members only)

Anne Seymour

As the only child of Sir Edward Stanhope and Elizabeth Bourchier, Anne Seymour was the sister-in-law of Queen Catherine Parr. She has been labelled as a 'wicked woman' in her own lifetime up until present day, because of her alleged fall out with Catherine.

Anne appears to have served Catherine of Aragon as a maid of honour and it is believed that she served the other wives of Henry VIII as well. She also had an excellent relationship with Mary Tudor and the two enjoyed playing cards together.

The Duchess of Somerset, as Anne was also known as, had married Edward Seymour, Jane Seymour's brother. Edward and Anne had a warm relationship and they had ten children together, a clear sign of their loving and intimate bond.

Portrait of Anne Seymour by               To read the whole story, click here. (Members only)
Thomas Youngerman Gooderson      

Elisabeth Parr

Elisabeth Parr grew up familiar with court politics as she was the daughter of George Brooke, 9th Baron of Cobham, and Anne Bray. In 1543 Elisabeth was at court during the time that Catherine Parr was queen consort. Elisabeth and Catherine's brother William fell in love, but he was still married. Four years later they married in private. When Edward Seymour, Lord Protector, discovered them, they were ordered to separate. In 1548 their marriage was at last, declared valid.

During her life she was one of Queen Elizabeth's closest lady friends. They were very close and when Elisabeth fell ill the queen came to visit her. And after she died of breast cancer at the age of 39, Queen Elizabeth was absolutely devastated and ended up paying for her friend's funeral.

Information from Kate Emerson.

Detail of the Cobham Family                
Memorial Portrait

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Want to learn more?

If you want to learn more about these and other Tudor women, you can watch these videos. To read more about them, look in our Tudor women category!

There are 5 comments Go To Comment

  1. D

    Good initiative, but I would challenge the notion that Margaret Tudor is ‘unknown’. There have been a number of short biographies and a couple of more academic ones. I’m now working on a full-scale life of Margaret Tudor, based on the latest research. It will be published in 2024.

    1. E

      Hi Dr Linda Porter, Thank you for your message! Yes she is not unknown, so we added to the text that she is probably the most well known Tudor woman from this list. How interesting that you are working on a full-scale life of Margaret Tudor! Good luck! We are looking forward to seeing the end result.

    2. M

      Looking forward to your new biography! Thank you. Michelle t

  2. R

    Margaret Tudor of course isn’t unknown as the article says, but its still interesting to read everything she got up to. Considering that she was left at the mercy of a bunch of growling complaining jostling men trying to outdo each other with two young sons by her stupid husband who decided to get himself killed in battle as Kings did instead of raising his son to a man, Margaret did very well. She needed to find support, probably didn’t need to marry that support, but she was left in a vulnerable position. She was also caught between her natal family and her husband and new country and must have been torn when it came to her husband invading her brother’s Kingdom. She had to struggle to gain and hold onto the Regency for as long as possible, to fight for access to her children after she lost that control and then married two bad lads. I suspect that Margaret liked dangerous men. Her relationship with Henry was bitterly strained due to her difficulties with her later husbands and his failure to support her. Here Henry was a hypocrite as he himself had disposed of four wives by the time Margaret died. Only one had actually died as his wife. I look at both Henry’s sisters and nod with approval because despite the quality of the men they chose and failure of their marriage, they made their own decision. In the case of Margaret a degree of political expediency played some part in her second marriage but I also feel she loved him as well. I take my hat of to the lass.

  3. R

    Anne Stanthorpe or Seymour is often called a wicked woman but was she really?
    Yes, her relationship with Katherine Parr was strained after her husband, Edward became Lord Protector but Katherine gave as good as she got. They were a couple of she cats with sharp claws and they scratched each other a few times. Anne was correct in claiming to be first lady over Parr, who was a Dowager Queen, not a de facto Queen. The row over the jewellery seems a trifle over the top but this was an unusual situation. There wasn’t an actual Queen so who got them wasn’t established. No love was lost apparently between the Admiral Thomas Seymour and his brother but there is no evidence that Anne had anything to do with his arrest and execution and I think Tom Seymour was daft enough to get himself into trouble.

    I don’t believe there is any evidence for Anne Seymour having an affair and there is some of the rumours about Edward and his unfortunate first wife which get projected onto Anne on popular drama for that purpose. Anne and Edward had several children, which would have kept her pretty busy and she was an activist and reformer as well as a Princess Mary supporter. I think that would have kept her pretty busy.

    There is a biography of her due out next year.

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International Women’s Day – unknown Tudor women