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William Parr, Marquis of Northampton

William Parr

William Parr

William Parr, Marquis of Northampton and brother of Queen Catherine Parr, was born on 14th August 1513. He was the son of Sir Thomas Parr of Kendal and his wife, Maud (née Green).

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. Parr's 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.

Parr was finally made Earl of Essex in December 1543, due to the influence of his sister the Queen and 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 His divorce was rescinded, and he was stripped of his honours. Parr was lucky to escape with his life, and was released in March 1554.

Parr was restored in favour in Elizabeth I's reign, serving on her Privy Council and being restored as Marquis of Northampton. 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 on 28th October that same year.

(Taken from On This Day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway)

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