Your RDA of Irony

Katherine Parr Borough Neville Tudor Seymour

In choosing Katherine Parr as his sixth wife, Henry VIII made a very sensible choice. By 1543 Henry’s libido was a subject of nostalgia. Her family was established but staid English gentry: no social-climbing Boleyns or power-mad Howards. And her resume was impeccable: she was a virtuous, affable woman who made of a career of being a wife.

Henry was her third husband. In her first marriage, she was a bride at 15 and a childless widow at 19. Apparently infertile and definitely unlucky, the widow was not considered a great catch, But her family found someone. At 21, she was married off to a man twice her age; he basically needed a nurse. (She was his third wife, and his first two marriages had produced an adequate number of children.) At 31, she was a widow again, but with a comfortable income. (Her stepchildren didn’t quibble over her allowance; she really was a nice person.)

Now the wealthy widow was being pursued by a handsome adventurer, Thomas Seymour. Seymour was the brother of the late Queen Jane Seymour and had stayed in the favor of his mercurial royal brother-in-law. However, that same brother-in-law also wanted a wife. Having the soul of a pimp, Thomas encouraged Henry’s interest in Katherine Parr; after all, she would be an even richer widow as Mrs. Tudor. So Katherine once again was a married nurse, dealing with the obese, gout-strickened and syphilitic Henry. However she wasn’t that good a nurse; Henry died four years later in 1547.

Now Katherine could finally have a handsome virile husband. And Mrs. Thomas Seymour died as the result of it in 1548: childbirth.

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