Join me and the co-founder and editor of Tudor Times, Melita Thomas, as we delve into the secret marriage between Katherine Grey and Edward Seymour – as the first Tudor love story ever to be featured on the podcast!
Holly: Hello darlings and welcome back to Past Loves, the weekly history podcast that explore affection, infatuation and attachment across time to bring you the lighter side of history and a touch of romance to daily life.
I’m Holly, your true romantic host, and can you believe that we are half way through the second episode and today is the first Tudor love story that will have been featured?! I don’t quite know how I’ve made that happen but I for one am very excited about it! Now, personally I mainly focus on early modern, modern history so Tudor history is not often something that I come across – apart from the in context of the wonderful tv series The Tudors, of course, which frankly I don’t think is a bad thing. But, it’s not necessarily the most accurate source of Tudor history. So I am very excited to be delving into a proper love story from the Tudor era. It was a story that was completely new to me. I have to thank Llinos, to whom this episode is dedicated, because back in July when I asked my lovely Instagram community (can you tell that I’m slightly obsessed with the little @pastlovespodcast community? I feel like I talk about it every single week on the podcast) – if you’re not following me @pastlovespodcast why not? – anyway back in July when I asked my lovely Instagram followers which stories should be covered in the next series Llinos who is called @thiscatladylife mentioned this couple – Katherine Grey (aka Lady Jane Grey’s sister) and Edward Seymour.
As soon as I started to look into Katherine and Edward’s story I was quite taken with the descriptions of them enjoying a fragrant summer of banquets and garden walks at Eltham in 1559 and there really is so much romance to this story. But also it is a tale of forbidden love quite unlike any other. To delve into their love story I am joined today by Melita Thomas. Now Melita is the co-founder and editor of Tudor Times, where you can find out a wealth of information about Britain in the period 1485-1625 and it’s at www.tudortimes.co.uk. She has also written two books – ‘The King’s Pearl: Henry VIII and his daughter Mary‘ which led her to want to know more about the Tudors’ cousins, the Greys, who were of course prominent members of the court. The result of which was her second book, ‘The House of Grey: Friends & Foes of Kings’.
Now within the Tudor Times Insights series, brings together a range of articles about the Tudor Times Person of the Month and other popular articles, I would personally highly recommend the Tudor Times Insights: Lady Katherine Grey, Tudor Prisoner which explores the life of the second ill-fated Grey sister whose secret marriage called down the Queen’s wrath. Here is their story…
Yes, that’s right. I told you in the preview for this series is going to be the series of secret marriages. Here is your second and quite frankly, it is a remarkable, gut wrenching tale of love between Katherine Grey and Edward Seymour. Welcome Melita, and thank you for joining me today.
Melita: Thank you for having me.
Holly: So we’re going to talk today about Lady Katherine Grey and Edward Seymour. And I think maybe we should start by having An Introduction to Lady Katherine Grey because kind of recognize the name but not her name specifically, normally her sister. So what did it mean to be a Grey sister at this time?
Melita: Well, as you mentioned her older sister Jane is far more famous, but there are three sisters Jane, Katherine, and Mary. And their father was Henry Marquess of Dorset when Katherine was born, and he was actually the descendant of Queen Elizabeth Woodville by her first marriage and her mother, Lady Frances Brandon, was the niece of Henry VIII. So her parents were in fact distant cousins, but they were married when they were about 16 in 1533, I think off top my head and then they had three daughters, Jane, Katherine, and Mary. Now Henry, Marquess of Dorset, he did have various roles at Henry VIII’s court, but Henry VIII didn’t have a terribly high opinion of his political capabilities. So he was always a sort of, he took part in various ceremonies. So he was made a Knight of the Bath at the coronation of Anne Boleyn and he carried the king’s sword. And he also took part in the ceremonies to welcome Anne of Cleves as he was the king’s nearest male relative. But he didn’t get a place on the council, he didn’t get any offers of responsibility, because Henry didn’t think terribly highly of him, intellectually, or politically. Frances, she was, as I say, the daughter of Mary the French queen. She was on good terms with her Uncle Henry VIII. Also good terms with Henry’s oldest daughter Mary, the two cousins were of the same age, and had spent quite a lot of their youth and childhood together. She was sort of one of the great ladies of the court, but she wasn’t officially a lady in waiting to any of the Queens but she did attend Catherine Parr, to a degree but not not in an official capacity, but just as the King’s niece. So during Henry’s reign, Katherine was too young to have had anything to do with the court. She was only a child when he died and even during Edward’s reign, she didn’t play any part at all at court until she was married in 1553. Which I guess we’ll come to…
Holly: Yes, because it’s actually quite important, Henry VIII’s act of succession and then his will because they both affected Katherine, didn’t they? Can you explain what they were and how they influenced her life?
Melita: Yes, well, I mean, the whole succession issue was it was a huge problem for Henry VIII and we all know he had six wives to try to get a male heir. Now, before Henry VIII came along, the rules were fairly straightforward – a common law, sons succeeded their fathers. There was no rule against women succeeding their fathers, although it hadn’t worked out on the previous attempt back in the 12th century for that to happen. So in theory, while Henry was married for the first time he had a daughter, she was probably his heir. Then, of course, he decided that he wanted to have a son and he went through the whole performance of getting rid of Catherine of Aragon, marrying Anne Boleyn, having another daughter, then there was Jane Seymour and a son. So at the end of Henry’s life, he had a male heir and that that was a good thing. But he also had two daughters, who was questionable whether they were legitimate or not. Now under common law, illegitimate children don’t inherit. But the rules and whether somebody is illegitimate or not, we’re a bit confused, because if parents married in good faith, then even if it turned out the marriage wasn’t valid, the children were still legitimate. So you could argue that certainly Mary was legitimate, because her parents had married in good faith and possibly, Elizabeth. So it was…it was sort of a point of contention. So Henry decided that Parliament was the answer and Parliament agreed to pass the Act of Succession, drawn up in 1543, and passed in 1544, which confirmed Edward because that was a matter of common law, that it would be quite hard to overturn that. So Edward was to inherit us as the son and he was to be followed by Mary and Elizabeth. So that was an act of Parliament. And Parliament then went on to say that the King in a suitable document such as a will, that he signed himself, could specify what happened after Mary and Elizabeth, didn’t say that he could once it was an Act of Parliament…it didn’t say that Henry could just arbitrarily move Mary and Elizabeth out of succession because that was a parliamentary act. And a King can’t unilaterally overcome a parliamentary act, but he could add to it. So Henry took it upon himself to do just that. So the Act of Succession was followed in his will – Edward, Mary, Elizabeth – but then he said instead of reverting to common law, as it would have done had he not specified in his will which would have made Mary Queen of Scots his heir after Elizabeth, he intervened – and as the Act allowed him to do – and named France’ children, hoping that she would have a son. She’s still hoping she would have a son. He didn’t name Frances herself. He skipped a generation, probably because he didn’t think much of Dorset, Frances’s husband, so he sort of skip the generation. But obviously, you know, this was highly unlikely in his view anything because Edward was going to marry and have children or Mary would or Elizabeth would. I mean, this was something that was very unlikely to happen. So when Henry died that made Katherine Grey, fourth in line to the throne – Edward, Mary Elizabeth, her older sister, Jane, and herself. Number four. So that brought her – I mean she was obviously potentially always a valuable woman to marry because she was obviously related to the royal family and daughter of a Marquess – but it certainly made her a more eligible young lady for other nobles to want their sons to marry.
Melita: Probably didn’t make much difference to her on a day to day life. She was only seven or eight.
Holly: What did make quite a difference was Edward’s then Devise for Succession in 1553?
Melita: Exactly. So in 1553, Edward – even more misogynist perhaps that his father had been – decided that actually women as his heirs were a terrible idea, particularly his sister Mary because she was diametrically opposed to him as far as religion was concerned. And really, you could say, well once he wanted to cut out Mary had to cut out Elizabeth as well because they sort of came as an illegitimate pair in a way. So what he attempted to do was what he called his Devise for the Succession, which aims to completely ignore the Act of 1544 and then, firstly, the heirs male of the Lady Frances. Now, as we know, Lady Frances didn’t have any sons, then it was to be the heirs male of the Lady Jane, the heirs male of the Lady Katherine, the heirs male of Lady Mary Grey. So all of these as yet unborn males were to succeed Edward. So I mean, although he was a clever lad at 15, this was clearly not a feasible plan because it left the throne to people who weren’t born and was no prospect of being born because the girls were all too young to marry and Frances hadn’t had children for several years, so she was unlikely to spring forth in another pregnancy. So, and probably when Edward drew it up, he wasn’t really thinking it would happen anyway, because he didn’t, they didn’t realize he was so ill at that time. Then he fell, ill and it was obvious that he would die, he was still underage. And there was no time to call Parliament. So he changed his device to skip over Frances, and go straight to Lady Jane and her heirs male. Now, the problem with this Devise for the Succession, it’s been sort of talked about, but fundamentally, he was told at the time, he couldn’t do it because a King can’t overturn an Act of Parliament. Had Parliament been summoned they might have been persuaded to overturn the Act of Succession. That was a possibility, but he couldn’t do it unilaterally. He was also underage so in law, he couldn’t make a will anyway, that was valid. Even Kings have to obey the law. So enough people were persuaded to support it, but it was a very shaky legally – that’s the best you could say is that it was shaky. And it was it was a bit of wishful thinking, really. But of course, for Katherine, the potential was, I mean, the way the whole thing was supposed to unfold was that it was it was to make this Devise for the Succession. They’d get parliament to ratify it, and then it will become the law. So Katherine was suddenly winging her way up the list of eligible females in the country to be number two after Jane. Jane was quickly snapped up by the Duke of Northumberland for his son Gifford and Katherine was allocated to the young Lord Herbert. Now, his father, William Herbert, had been the brother-in-law of Queen Catherine Parr, and he had a son and Katherine was married to this lad may 1553, same day as Jane married Gifford. She was only 12, Katherine, but went to live with her husband. That marriage was not consummated. Although 12 was the age of consent for marriage, by those mid 1550s, you know, they didn’t consummate them so young, they normally waited till the children were 15 or 16 was about the norm. But she still had to live with her in-laws and became quite attached to her husband or wasn’t fully her husband, but the man she’d gone through the marriage ceremony with, but it all came unstuck.
Holly: Yeah. I mean that’s quite a way to put it. It really didn’t. Do you want to explain how and why the marriage was annulled and kind of what the fallout was?
Melita: Yes. So as I say she was 12 years old, her husband was about 15. They lived with his parents at Barnard Castle in London through the summer of 1553. Then Edward died, not yet 16, quite an unpleasant death for the poor chap. Obviously, Northumberland hoped that Jane would be accepted as Queen. But that was not to be the case. Mary raised an army – didn’t take it lying down as they could probably expect that she would. And it was soon apparent that Jane didn’t have public support. And one of the first people to peel off from this coup was Katherine’s father in law, the Earl of Pembroke, who was a man very much desire to the main chance, and he certainly wasn’t going to be hanging about. So the minute that it was apparent that Mary was going to take the throne. Poor Katherine was sent back to her mother, and the marriage was to be annulled. Now she didn’t want marriage to be in northern order, her young husband and they claimed they consummated it because once a marriage was consummated, that was it. There was no going back on it. You were stuck together for life. But her parents, his parents, they paid absolutely no attention to what they said. So it’s highly unlikely it was consummated. But if it was, they were ignored. So Katherine was sent back to her mother, and the two was separated. Then, Katherine, I mean, it’s, it seems it’s quite strange to think about how how many people were executed during the period and how many close relatives were executed. So Jane went to the Tower along with her father, there was hopes Mary didn’t particularly want to have them executed. Suffolk was Jane’s, Katherine’s father had now become Duke of Suffolk. He was forgiven. Frances had pleaded with her cousin and father was forgiven. Jane remained in the Tower but the plan was to the in due course she would be, she would be released. And Katherine and Frances both joined Mary at the court. Katherine was appointed to the Queen’s privy chamber, which was a position of honour. It all seems so strange really to think you know, your father and your sister’s in prison, but you’re working for the woman who’s got her in prison.
Melita: It’s hard to get your head around. But Mary didn’t want to execute Jane. But Suffolk then foolishly became embroiled in another rebellion. And that was the end for Suffolk and Jane and Katherine retained her place in the Queen’s household. She received a very, very touching letter from her sister. One of the last things Jane did before she was executed was to write to Katherine. And the whole tenor of her letter was to persuade Katherine to stay in the Reformed faith and to believe in her opportunity for salvation through faith. You know, it’s quite sad to think of a 16 year old girl writing to her sister. Katherine doesn’t seem to have had the same interest in religion as Jane had she, I think she was just much more much more of what you might call normal in her approach to religion. She was so bothered by it. So yeah, she’s stayed in the Queen’s household and made new friends and among her friends was Jane Seymour. Jane Seymour was the niece of the late Queen and also had been maternal cousin to Edward VI and Jane Seymour and Katherine became friends. They were both young women. And they spent most of their time you know, sort of gossiping and talking about boys. Katherine was still sorry that the marriage with Herbert had been broken up, but over the next couple of years, she became acquainted with Jane’s brother – young Edward Seymour – and the two fell in love. And they hoped to marry. And it’s likely that Queen Mary would have permitted it. She was not so concerned about the succession as Elizabeth later was, partly because Mary had more confidence in her own legitimacy, having sort of been brought up as legitimate, whereas Elizabeth hadn’t. And also she had married and hoped, although she turned out that obviously she never did have children, she did hope that she would. So it’s certainly possible that she would have allowed Katherine and Edward Seymour to marry. And Frances was in favour of the idea as was Seymour’s mother. I mean, it was perfectly suitable match. There was absolutely no reason why it shouldn’t happen. They were of the right age, the right rank, you know, there’s no good reason against it and they would probably have been given consent, except the Queen Mary died before that could happen.
Holly: It was a big change. Maybe we could talk a little about who Edward Seymour was because you said that he was a good match in terms of his rank and his age. What was the significance of being part of the Seymour family at the time? And his father is very significant in his childhood as well as isn’t he?
Melita: Yes. Now the Seymours, they were a fairly obscure family gentry. So Henry Seymour, he was he was gentleman, he owned a place called Wolf Hall. His wife, Marjorie Wentworth had been a lady and waiting to Henry VIII’s mother, Elizabeth of York, and their daughter, the first Jane Seymour served at the court of Henry VIII and eventually became his third wife and the mother of King Edward VI. When Henry died and Edward was still so young, Jane Seymour’s brother, Edward Seymour, became the Lord Protector and awarded himself the title of Duke of Somerset. He’d been given the title of Earl of Hartford by Henry VIII, but he felt that being a Duke was far more suitable. So his second wife, a woman called Anne Stanhope, she was she was quite a noted reformer. The Seymours had moved very much into the Protestant reformers camp. But despite that, Anne Stanhope or the Duchess of Somerset, she was actually a good friend of Queen Mary’s, despite their religious differences, and in fact, Mary was probably her only friend because Anne Stanhope was not a popular woman, most people thought she was very overbearing and proud. But her husband was fond of her, and they had quite a few children of whom Edward and Jane were two, there were various others. Jane, like the Grey sisters had been brought up very academically which is probably what to a degree she and Katherine had in common, although Katherine perhaps wasn’t so academic. So they were both the children of Dukes – so Katherine was the daughter of the Duke of Suffolk, Edward was the son of the Duke of Somerset. He was Earl of Hartford, and in due course would expect to become Duke of Somerset, probably, although the title had been put in abeyance as part of the the fallout when the Duke of Somerset was executed, but that’s by the by. So he was the right age, the right background, right education and their parents were friends, so no reason at all for the match to take place.
Holly: No. Apart from the fact that Queen Elizabeth didn’t quite like the idea of it and it seems that she really didn’t like Katherine, just personally and politically.
Melita: I think that’s true. I don’t think Elizabeth was not a woman’s woman. I mean, you can see I mean, she did have a couple of close women friends. But by and large, she was a woman who got on with men, liked men, had men friends rather than women friends. I can’t prove this in any way but I think she was inclined to be jealous of other people’s friendships. And she was very, very attached to her stepmother, Katherine Parr and I think the fact that Katherine Parr was also fond of Jane Grey. I think Elizabeth was probably jealous of that. And she didn’t like any of the Greys. She sort of told them all with the brush of not always being first with Katherine Parr. So I can’t prove that but I think there’s an element of that in it. And possibly she just didn’t like Katherine. Perhaps she thought she was silly. Perhaps she thought she, you know, just we don’t like everybody. But even more than whether she liked Katherine or not personally, Katherine – through no fault of her own – for those people who thought that Henry VIII’s will was valid and appropriate, Katherine was her heir. As Elizabeth later said, with reference to another heir, potential heir: ‘do you think that I would love my winding sheet?’ So every time she saw Katherine, she was thinking they’re all going to gang up on me and Elizabeth had found during Mary’s reign, that she was constantly besieged by people who are unhappy with Queen Mary. They wanted Elizabeth to get involved in plots, they wanted to undermine the Queen, and she knew that as soon as she agreed who her successor was going to be that exactly the same thing would happen, that person would become the focus of plots, even if they didn’t want to be.
Holly: Yeah, and it really did seem like Katherine did start to get pulled into different plots, because she was a very powerful pawn to be able to play in the game of the Tudor dynasty.
Melita: Exactly. And she was only young, she was only a teenager, so possibly, more easily influenced than had she been older. The Queen possibly got off on the wrong foot demoted her from being in Queen Mary’s privy changes, she was just demoted to the President’s chamber which anybody, any noble could go into. And the Spanish Ambassador picked up on this immediately. And of course, you know, ‘oh, poor poor Katherine, the Queen’s treating you so badly.’ And Katherine said, ‘Yes, you know, yes, I’ve been passed over and offended and the queen doesn’t like me,’ and blah, blah, blah. And so called Spanish ambassador is busy encouraging Katherine to think, ‘well, perhaps, I am legitimate, and Elizabeth isn’t, and I’m younger than her, I could get married’ and it was suggested to her that maybe she should marry the Prince of Spain which, of course, must have made Elizabeth’s hair stand on before that as she might have a husband who had an army and a navy. So you know that that certainly didn’t endear Katherine to Elizabeth at all. So in the meantime, the little love affair between Katherine and Edward Seymour was going on in the background and perhaps if Elizabeth had committed the marriage, but of course, because she herself couldn’t decide whether to marry, if to marry, who to marry, what to do about the whole marriage question. The idea that her heir then might have children and a son. There was no way she was going to encourage that sort of thing. But the two young people, they discussed it, they talked about it, quite a lot of people knew they were planning it. There was an idea that if they could persuade enough of Elizabeth’s counsellors that it was a good match that she would permit it. So they approached Lord Robert Dudley, who was obviously Elizabeth’s friend, they approached Cecil, who was her greatest advisor, but everybody was saying to her, ‘no, don’t don’t rush into it. Let’s we’ll talk the Queen around. Let’s just take it slowly.’ But you can’t say that…
Holly: Not to young love.
Melita: A couple of teenagers in love, you know, we know what’s going to happen.
Holly: And there was a secret betrothal planned.
Melita: Yes, that was the first the first step. I mean, at one point Hartford, as he then was – so Edward Seymour, Earl of Hartford – he thought maybe we better back off from this. So he backed off, and he started flirting with another young lady, and Katherine was distraught. And she wrote to him and he felt terrible about it. So he said, ‘Okay, well, let’s have a secret engagement, secret betrothal’ and there was a ring. So they did that. Sort of what made a marriage was a bit complicated. It wasn’t clear cut, whether you’re married or not married, which was great from the point of view of people who wanted to wriggle out of being married because of course it just didn’t happen but it could create complications. So certainly before the Reformation in the medieval period, if two people agreed to marry, considered themselves to be married, and had slept together then they were married, didn’t matter that there hadn’t been a priest, didn’t matter that their parents hadn’t agreed. If they themselves said ‘we are married, and we have slept together.’ They were married. It was a lot easier if you had a witness to say, ‘Oh, yes, I heard them call each other husband and wife’ because you know, if one of them had died and the other says ‘we were married’, and you have no witnesses, then it’s very hard to prove. And ideally, you should have a priest to do the job. But it wasn’t 100% required. By this time with a Book of Common Prayer that had been introduced, reintroduced when Elizabeth came to the throne. You were supposed to record banns or had a license in order to marry but it was claim that if you hadn’t, you weren’t married. You were supposed so to be but it was a bit blurred. So the young couple having promised to marry once they had slept together in many ways that might be considered a binding marriage, but they decided that they would no do it properly and they would get a priest. So one day when the Queen was out hunting, Katherine said ‘Oh, I’ve got terrible toothache. I’m going to stay at home and my friend Jane is going to stay with me and look after me.’ So no sooner had the dust of the Queen’s horse settled. Then Katherine and Jane jumped in a barge and went down the river to Cannon row, which was where Edward, Earl of Hartford, had a house. They went into the house, the servants saw them, they went out and Jane said, ‘I’ll leave you two to get acquainted’ and she goes out to find a priest. She finds a priest. Now it’s not clear whether she just grabbed the first fellow walking along the street with the dog collar or whether Edward had already got one lined up. We don’t know what his name was. Anyway, she brings him back to the house. He pronounces the words and then Jane leaves that leaves them to it for a few hours. Okay, so they’re definitely married now.
Holly: It’s official.
Melita: And then they go back. And you know, Katherine says, ‘all my tooth’s much better now.’ And life goes on. And they’re meeting in secret, of course, and it becomes fairly well known around the court that they’re certainly more friendly than they should be for an unmarried couple. Nobody knows they’re secretly married. And the Queen starts to notice this, Cecil starts to notice this, and the Duchess of Somerset who presumably doesn’t know her son is secretly married, and Cecil comes up with the idea that actually I think it’s time to send young Hartford abroad out of harm’s way. So Hartford says to Catherine, ‘look, I’ve got to go.’ And she says, ‘I think I’m expecting.’ And he said,’ Oh, right. If you’re pregnant, we’ve got to go to the Queen’. And she says to Hartford ‘No, I’m probably not I’m probably not.’ And then poor Jane dies, gets a nasty disease and she dies. And Katherine still isn’t certain whether she’s pregnant or not. You know, she probably didn’t have anybody she could ask.
Holly: No, because her mother was dead. Her sister was dead. Now Jane had died. So she was pretty on her own in terms of understanding that part of a woman’s life.
Melita: Exactly and they didn’t have as much knowledge as we have now medically. You know, it’s perfectly possible that she didn’t menstruate regularly anyway. I mean, depending on her age, and her weight and her general health, so they didn’t certainly didn’t know as soon as we know, that they’re expecting. So Hartford having been told to go abroad, off he goes and says, ‘Look, if you’re pregnant, write to me, and I’ll come home.’ And he makes his will and leaves her money and land – he’s got no intention of sneaking out of this one. He does, he really does love her and she loves him and they are married, they think they’re married. Anyway, he goes abroad, and of course, she is pregnant. And she writes to him, and she gets no response and whether he didn’t get the letters or who knows. Yeah, she panics. But she thinks, ‘oh, God, I’m pregnant. I’m going to be disgraced.’ I don’t know where the idea came from. She thinks, ah, whatever happened to my first husband?
Holly: I think this is a sign of pure panic – I’m gonna try and work this out because I’m on my own and I don’t know how to deal with this.
Melita: Yeah. And they’d been fond of each other. And they wanted to stay married and does seem a bit bizarre, but perhaps she thought, oh, you know, gosh, perhaps he’ll help me, you know, he loved me once, maybe he’ll help me. Anyway, so she gets in touch and says, ‘I think we were really married. Looking back, I think we really were married.’ And he’s quite pleased with this, possibly because he was still fond of Katherine, but possibly thought, well, you know, she is the Queen’s heir. It was always a good match. So he starts writing to her and sending her presents and what have you. And then he finds out that she’s been trying to contact Hartford, and he is absolutely horrified. So he writes and says, ‘You dreadful, dreadful woman, you’re trying to entrap me with sweet bait, send back my letters, or I’ll expose you to the Queen.’ Fair play to him, he didn’t so even though he was obviously upset, he didn’t actually drop her in it, but he sort of takes himself off in a huff and by this point, of course, it’s becoming more and more apparent that
Holly: Yeah, can’t hide the pregnancy at this point.
Melita: No. So the court’s on a jaunt to Norfolk, either Norwich or Ipswich, Ipswich I think – anyway so one day she thinks ‘right I’m going to ask for help’ and she goes to Lady St. Loe. Now Lady St. Loe might be the famous Bess of Hardwick, who was Lady St. Loe at this time, or it might be Bess’ sister in law, the other Lady St. Loe. That is not clear. Now she and Bess of Hardwick had been friends for a long time, she’d been godmother to one Bess’ children. And Bess’ had been actually a lady in waiting in her, in Frances’ household so it could have been Bess but it might have been the other Lady St. Loe. Anyway, whichever Lady St. Loe, it was said, ‘I’m sorry, you’re on your own. I am not going to the Queen with this story.’
Holly: Which is kind of understandable because she knew what she was gonna walk into when she told the Queen that.
Melita: Yes, so the Queen quite often shoot the messenger.
Holly: So instead, she went to Dudley.
Melita: Yes. Now Dudley, I mean, Dudley poor old fellow has a bit of a bad reputation. But quite often he does seem to try to help people and he seems to be quite kind hearted in some ways – I know that’s probably not his reputation. Anyway, he says to Katherine: ‘Yes. I’ll try to help you.’ So he goes and breaks the news to Elizabeth, who loses her rag entirely. Incandescent with rage. Not only has Katherine married without her permission. She’s expecting. And Elizabeth knows she’s been flirting with the Spanish ambassador. So? Absolutely..
Holly: All in all, yeah, all in all, not good.
Melita: Not good at all. Hartford is sent for to come back instantly. And the pair of them are thrown into the Tower. Now, it’s sort of questionable. Have they committed an offense? Well, strictly they have because under the Act of Succession of 1536, it was an offence to marry into that succession without Royal Commission so they have committed an offense if they’re married and Elizabeth says,’ you know, I’m sure they’re not really married. In fact, our bet she’s about to have an illegitimate child and you do not want the kind of woman who has an illegitimate child to be your Queen. So she has just completely disgraced herself. She can’t succeed anyway. Dreadful woman, dreadful. I’m going to check, but I’m sure she hasn’t been married.’
Holly: Yes funnily enough the council did come to that conclusion.
Melita: Indeed, they did which is why we know about the story about Jane going to the house and the servants had seen them. But the priest was never found. Now you wonder how hard they looked for him. And I’m betting he didn’t go ‘oh yeah it was me, it was me.’ Perhaps he took a trip to France or Italy for a couple of years. Anyway, they never found him. And although Katherine and Edward both said they were married, which under the previous sort of law would mean that they were married, they picked on the fact that they hadn’t called the banns or had a license. They couldn’t find the priest. There were no witnesses. ‘No’ says the Archbishop, ‘you’re not married, the child’s illegitimate.’ So there’s poor Katherine, she bears a child in the Tower of London. She calls him Edward, which just rub salt into Elizabeth’s wounds. Katherine not only has a child but it’s a boy. Yeah. And she’s languishing in the Tower, Edward’s languishing in the Tower. And of course, people feel sorry for them, because everybody thinks ‘well why shouldn’t they get married, it’s not reasonable the way the Queen’s behaving is not reasonable.’ And in fact, Hartford has now been fined 15,000 pounds. That might have been a bit later. But anyway, at some point, you paid a fine of 15,000 pounds.
Holly: Yes for deflowering the royal virgin? Yes. Which is the most amazing language for what happened. Because they did actually have another boy, whilst they were both in the Tower of London. So how did that happen?
Melita: Well I think because everybody felt that the Queen had been too harsh and felt sorry for them and turned a blind eye to a couple of meetings. And given that they were apparently very much in love, you know, they took advantage of that 10 minutes.
Holly: It’s well documented.
Melita: The result was another little boy and so Elizabeth was beyond words. The Lieutenant of the Tower who had permitted it, he was sent to one of his own dungeons or cells. And yeah, so there was there was absolute outrage. And Elizabeth’s plan was basically to leave them in the Tower and throw away the key but then there was a very bad outbreak of a pandemic.
Holly: I know, when I was reading it I was thinking ‘this is a bit close to home’ that they’re sending everyone home because there’s a plague.
Melita: Yes, so Elizabeth was persuaded that actually regardless of how naughty Katherine had been, it was too dangerous. She had to be sent into the country so she was sent to her uncle, Lord Grey, with her youngest child and Edward and their oldest child were sent to his mother. So the little boy could only have been a year or two old and separated from his mother – I mean with his father and grandmother but it must have been heart-breaking for Katherine. And for the next four, five, six years, Katherine was under house arrest first with Lord John Grey who felt very sorry for his niece and actually wrote to Cecil saying ‘surely the Queen’s being very unforgiving. She’s being very unkind, she really should forgive.’ But Elizabeth wouldn’t. And then she [Katherine] went to Ingatestone Hall under the care of another gentleman and then she went to Cockfield Hall under a chap called Sir Owen Hopton and she was under permanent house arrest and it destroyed her mental health I think you could say. She became very depressed. She wouldn’t eat, she wouldn’t sleep, she wouldn’t talk. She just, you know, sank into terrible depression.
Holly: There’s a really sad letter that she wrote to Edward that she longed to be with him in the Tower where their baby had been gotten. She’s clearly really heartbroken.
Melita: Yes, yeah, it’s really sad. She was only a young woman – she died at the age of 28 – because there didn’t seem to be anything to live for. Her oldest child had been taken from her and there didn’t seem to be any prospect that Elizabeth would let her out of house arrest so she spent her entire time just trapped.
Holly: Yeah, what do we know about those last moments for Katherine?
Melita: Only that she wouldn’t eat. I think they sent doctors to her, the Queen did send a doctor I think and Sir Own Hopton was keen for her to have been treated properly because obviously the death of the Queen’s cousin in his house was never…
Holly:…never a good thing
Melita: But yeah, I mean I don’t want to 20th-century ideas onto it but I guess anorexia was the ultimate cause because she wouldn’t eat
Holly: and she left Edward with quite a significant parting gift didn’t she?
Melita: She she left him her betrothal ring with the diamonds that he’d first given her and also her wedding ring. Perhaps if she’d accepted and had written to the Queen ‘look I’m not married’ but she never would. She wrote to the Queen and signed herself Katherine Hartford so although she didn’t have the religious zeal of her sister Jane, she certainly had the same determination and her determination was to recognise her husband and her children. Had she been willing to say ‘look I made a mistake, we’re not married, my children are not legitimate’ possibly Elizabeth would have unbent a bit. But she didn’t. Whether she ever received the advice to do that I don’t know but she certainly didn’t do it off her own back. And Edward, flourished like the green bay tree.
Holly: Yes because he lived for so long after her!
Melita: Yes and bizarrely he made two further secret marriages.
Holly: I know. He was a secret husband.
Melita: To two women who have the same name that I can’t remember off the top of my head. Two Howard girls I think both with the same first name. So…
Holly: Frances Howard, I think off the top of my head.
Melita: Yes that’s it, two Frances Howards. Both were secret marriages. He was eventually rehabilitated by Elizabeth after paying the £15,000 fine and he never took a big part in Elizabethan politics but he remained Earl of Hartford and he had various Crown jobs but nothing special. But of course those two secret marriages didn’t have the same risk attached to them but he obviously just enjoyed…
Holly:…just enjoyed the fact he enjoyed a secret marriage. Did he try to legitimise his marriage and find the priest and legitimise his children?
Melita: After Elizabeth’s death yes, partly because his grandson another Edward [William] Seymour had contracted another secret marriage with another heir to the throne Arbella Stuart and of course it was very important that Edward [William], Arbella’s husband was seen to be of a legitimate line. He himself was legitimate because his parents had been married but that his grandparents had been married was a question and funnily enough – I don’t think it was as late as 1621 but in the 1610s – the priest turned up.
Melita: Yes, so whether Edward had known where he was all along which I don’t know why didn’t he produce him
Holly: Yeah it would be weird wouldn’t it?
Melita: Or whether the guy just maybe came out of hiding anyway or they found someone who was willing to say that they were the priest which might be the other answer to that mystery. Anyway, so priest turns up and says ‘oh yeah I remember marrying those two, remember it as if it were yesterday.’ So it was decided that the marriage was legitimate, the Seymour descendants were legitimate and the grandson became Duke of Somerset and perhaps in memory of his unhappy grandparents he had Katherine’s remains moved from where she’d been buried near Cockfield Hall in Suffolk and she was taken to Salisbury Cathedral where she does now lie next to Edward who had survived her for 50 years.
Holly: And its quite beautiful white alabaster effigies of them both and she’s slightly above him in it. It is lovely isn’t it?
Melita: Yes, let us hope they were happy in the afterlife.
Holly: It’s a testament to their love story that they’re together
Melita: Yes and that the story was remembered in the family and the grandson thought, actually I’ll go to all the trouble of moving her and paying for the very expensive…although having a royal relative was never a bad thing but let’s look at his positive motives.
Holly: Yeah and how do you think that they should be remembered as a couple now?
Melita: Well I think it’s one of the saddest stories because it’s such a waste of what could have been a happy and fruitful life for two people. I mean they did break the law, you know they weren’t meant to marry without royal consent, so they were foolish but I think the punishment that Katherine endured was out of all proportion. But then you can say ‘well yes Elizabeth was harsh’ but as Queen you can’t take the easy options always. From Elizabeth’s point of view, if you are going to marry someone that plots are going to focus round, you create problems in the country, you risk civil war. You can’t just think about your human feelings, you have to think about the wider politics. But yeah I think they’re one of the saddest love stories of the Tudor age actually but I hope they’re happy somewhere.
Holly: I completely agree and I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about them, thank you so much for talking to me today
Melita: It was a pleasure
Holly: And thank you for listening! I hope that you enjoyed listening to the first Past Loves Tudor episode even though it was admittedly an utterly heart-breaking and gut-wrenching tale of love between Katherine and Edward. Her sister, Lady Jane Grey’s story is so very familiar so I was really pleased to be exploring another Grey sister’s story that is not as widely known. I think Katherine and Edward’s love story really is a testament to the power of love and they way in which they fought to be with each other for as long as they could is so touching, so poignant, so palpable. I’m just very happy to know now that they are both together again where they should be.
A big thank you as well goes to Melita for taking us on a journey into the Tudor court to discover all of the romance and intricacies of their story. Be sure to check out Tudor Times where you will find all the information that you may ever need about Britain in the period 1485-1625 at www.tudortimes.co.uk – the link will of course be in the show notes. I will also include a link to their e-book Tudor Times Insights: Lady Katherine Grey, Tudor Prisoner which explores the life of Lady Katherine Grey and, of course, her time with Edward.
If you have enjoyed this episode please rate, review and subscribe to the podcast wherever you are listening to it now. Perhaps you could tell me whether you’re a fan of The Tudors or not and if this episode inspires you to get back to some Tudor history of any kind, let me know over on Instagram @pastlovespodcast because if Past Loves has become your current love, there’s no better way to get even more content about love stories from history.
Thank you again for listening, I look forward to next week when we will be returning to the Yorkshire countryside to discover a love story documented in diary after diary…but just who could it be I wonder? Find out next week, until soon!