The nature of the relationship between Catherine Parr and her fourth husband, Thomas Seymour has been the source of much speculation. It seems certain that Catherine married him for love; but did those feelings endure? We can only guess at what Catherine felt when the inappropriate nature of the relationship between Thomas and the young Elizabeth was revealed. As for Thomas, his later actions make it easy to assume that for him, the marriage was merely a stepping stone for his ambition.
However there are a touching pair of letters between the couple, written during Catherine’s pregnancy. The sentiments expressed are ones I think any parents can identify with – concern for Catherine’s health, anxiety and hope for an easy delivery. They even talk directly to their unborn child, just as parents do today. The letters offer a beautiful insight into the couple’s relationship, as well as contemporary attitudes surrounding pregnancy. It is tragic to think that Catherine and Thomas never got to truly enjoy their new parenthood; Catherine died of ‘childbed fever’ on the 5th September, 1548, just 6 days after giving birth to a daughter, and Thomas, too, was executed barely six months later. Their much anticipated child, Mary, disappears from the records only a few years later, and is believed to have died before the age of 2.
(…thank you for your news which was right heartily welcome to me, and so I pray you to shower him with God’s blessing and mine, and all good will and friendship I do desire your highness to keep the little knave so lean and guant with your good diet and walking, that he may be so small that he may creep out of a mousehole. And thus I bid my most dear and well-beloved wife most heartily farewell from Westminister on Saturday the 9th of June. Your highness’ most assured and faithful loving husband.)
(…I gave your little knave your blessing, who like an honest man stirred apace after and before, for Mary Odell, being abed with me, had laid her hand upon my belly to feel it stir. It hath stirred these three days every morning and evening, so that I trust when ye come it will make you some pastime. And thus I end, bidding my sweetheart and loving husband better to fare than myself. From Hanworth this Saturday morning…. By your most loving, obedient and humble wife, Kateryn the Queen, KP.)