At the end of her life, dowager queen Katherine Parr was married to Thomas Seymour, Lord Admiral; She had just given birth to her only child, a daughter named Mary, on the 30th of August, 1548. Unfortunately, as happened often in Tudor England, Katherine Parr got an infection after giving birth causing puerperal fever. The infection occurs when bacteria infect the uterus and surrounding areas after a women gives birth.
Elizabeth Tyrwhit was a lady-in-waiting and friend of dowager queen, Katherine Parr. Here is an account of Katherine’s state of mind and her behavior on 3 September 1549, two days before her death.
A two days afore the death of the Queen, at my coming to her in the morning, she asked me where I had been so long, and said unto me, she did fear such things in herself, that she was sure she could not live. Whereunto I answered, as I thought, that I saw no likelihood of death in her. She, then having my Lord Admiral by the hand, and divers other standing by, spake these words – partly, as I took it, idly: “My lady Tyrwhit, I am not well handled, for those that be about me careth not for me but standeth laughing at my grief. And the more good I will to them, the less good they will to me.”
Whereunto my Lord Admiral answered, “Why, sweetheart, I would you no hurt.”
And she said to him again, aloud, “No, my lord, I think so.” And immediately she said to him in his hear: “But, my lord, you have given me many shrewd taunts.” Those words I perceived she spake with good memory, and very sharply and honestly, for her mind was unquieted.
My Lord Admiral, perceiving that I heard it, called me aside and asked me what she said; and I declared it plainly to him. Then he consulted with me, that he would lie down on the bed by her, to look if he could pacify her unquietness with gently communication: whereunto I agreed.
And by the time he had spoken three or four words to her, she answered him very roundly and shortly, saying: “My lord, I would have given a thousand marks to have my full talk with Huick the first day I was delivered. But I durst not for displeasing you.”
And I, hearing that, perceived her trouble to be so great that my heart would serve me to hear no more. Such like communication she had with him the space of an hour, which they did hear that sat by her bedside.
Never before had Katherine Parr been recorded as saying anything negative about her husband. It is quite possible that due to Postpartum Psychosis that Katherine developed frank psychosis, cognitive impairment, and grossly disorganized behavior that represent a complete change from previous functioning. I am unaware if anyone else has looked into this any further but it makes perfect sense to me why Katherine would have made the accusations she did about Thomas at the end of her life.
Often I hear people say that Thomas Seymour did not love Katherine Parr, that he was only with her because she was the wealthy dowager queen and had great status. I find it hard to believe after reading this witness account that Thomas Seymour did not love Katherine Parr. If Thomas did not care for Katherine he would not have been at her side. I believe the man loved her so greatly that he was there with her until the end, laying with her in bed, holding her hand and whispering into her ear to calm her mind.
We are so fortunate to have accounts like these from Elizabeth Tyrwhit to help tell the story of these amazing people in world history but we must always remember, like today, that sometimes people say things to get others in trouble. It has been reported that Elizabeth Tyrwhit never liked Thomas Seymour. Enough said.
Katherine Parr: Complete Works & Correspondences -Edited by Janel Mueller; pages 177-78