Katharine Parr wed King Henry VIII on 12 July 1543 at Hampton Court Palace. Henry was her third husband and not her personal choice. She was in love with Thomas Seymour, the brother of Henry’s third wife, Jane; he eventually became her fourth husband just a few months after Henry’s death in 1547. Once the marriage to Henry was settled upon, Katharine worked to make it successful. She was, in all respects, admirably suited to the task. She had experience managing temperamental elderly men and nursing their various ailments. She was very intelligent and committed to scholarship, but she also participated fully in the life of Henry’s court. She grew as fond of finery as any of his wives and dressed magnificently.
She and Henry grew close. He refused to allow anyone else to wrap his badly ulcered leg; he also made her Queen-Regent while he attended the siege of Boulogne in 1544. This letter was written during that six-week absence and its tone is loving and respectful. In it, Katharine mentions the King of Scotland’s widow, Marie de Guise, as well as Henry’s three children. In addition to her success as a sixth wife, Katharine was an admirable stepmother who genuinely loved the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth and Prince Edward.
Although the distance of time and account of days neither is long nor many of your majesty’s absence, yet the want of your presence, so much desired and beloved by me, maketh me that I cannot quietly pleasure in anything until I hear from your majesty. The time, therefore, seemeth to me very long, with a great desire to know how your highness hath done since your departing hence, whose prosperity and health I prefer and desire more than mine own. And whereas I know your majesty’s absence is never without great need, yet love and affection compel me to desire your presence.
Again, the same zeal and affection force me to be best content with that which is your will and pleasure. Thus love maketh me in all things to set apart mine own convenience and pleasure, and to embrace most joyfully his will and pleasure whom I love. God, the knower of secrets, can judge these words not to be written only with ink, but most truly impressed on the heart. Much more I omit, lest it be thought I go about to praise myself, or crave a thank; which thing to do I mind nothing less, but a plain, simple relation of the love and zeal I bear your majesty, proceeding from the abundance of the heart. Wherein I must confess I desire no commendation, having such just occasion to do the same.
I make like account with your majesty as I do with God for his benefits and gifts heaped upon me daily, acknowledging myself a great debtor to him, not being able to recompense the least of his benefits; in which state I am certain and sure to die, yet I hope in His gracious acceptation of my goodwill. Even such confidence have I in your majesty’s gentleness, knowing myself never to have done my duty as were requisite and meet for such a noble prince, at whose hands I have found and received so much love and goodness, that with words I cannot express it. Lest I should be too tedious to your majesty, I finish this my scribbled letter, committing you to the governance of the Lord with long and prosperous life here, and after this life to enjoy the kingdom of his elect.
From Greenwich, by your majesty’s humble and obedient servant,
Katharine the Queen.
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Link will appear as Hanson, Marilee. "Letter of Katharine Parr to her husband, King Henry VIII, July 1544" https://englishhistory.net/tudor/letter/letter-of-katharine-parr-king-henry-viii-july-1544/, March 2, 2015