“The CONFESSION of KATE ASCHYLY” (Ashley), 1548

      As we shall see, Kate Ashley was a major figure in an incident (incidents, more acurately) in what some historians and scholars claim was a defining point in the psychological development of the teenage Elizabeth I.  Just who was Kate Ashley, and how and why did she become known to history?

   After Catherine Parr (Henry VIII’s sixth and last wife) gave birth to Henry’s first legitimate male heir (Edward, later, Edward VI), Elizabeth (then Lady Elizabeth) lost her nurse (Lady Bryan) and was subsequently placed in the care of Blanche Herbert, Lady Troy.  In 1537, Katherine Champerowne (later Ashley) was appointed as a waiting gentlewoman for Elizabeth (then four) until the retirement of Lady Troy, and became  Elizabeth’s governess, where she thereafter became known to her as “Kat”.

   It was from Kat that Elizabeth received a thorough and competent education, including needlework, embroidery and deportment.  When Elizabeth was about twelve, Kat married princess Elizabeth’s senior gentleman attendent (Sir John Ashley), a cousin of her mother, Anne Boleyn.

   Henry VIII married Catherine Parr in 1543.  When Henry died in 1547, the two brothers (Edward and Thomas) of Jane Seymour (Henry’s third wife), made vigorous attempts to take control of the infant Edward.  Edward was the immediate protector (as Lord High Protector),whereas Thomas (Lord High Amiral) had his eyes on Elizabeth, osensibly out of concern, but more likely wanted to marry her.  In the changing winds of power, if this came to pass, Thomas stood a chance to realize considerable power and control.  One of his first strategic moves was to marry a woman very much attracted to him:  none other than the newly widdowed queen, Catherine Parr.

   Before looking at arrays and encryptions, however, a short biographical list of some of what is known about Catherine Parr and Thomas Seymour is in order.

Catherine Parr:

●   Katherine Parr (“Kateryn”) : b. ca. 1512. In 1529, at the age of 17, marries Husband #1: Edward Borough, son of a minor Lord in Lincolnsnire. The marriage is childless. Edward had a history of lingering illness, and dies in 1532.

●   Husband #2: John Neville, 3rd Baron Lord Latimer, 40 years old, already has a son and daughter by Dorothy de Vere, sister of John de Vere, 14th Earl of Oxford. Kathrine is 21 at the time they wed in 1533. Lord Latimer is a wealthy landowner. Unhealthy, frequently under stress, never recovers. Katherine was his nurse. The couple moves to London, relocates with her younger sister, Anne. Anne is married to William Herbert, the illegitimate grandson of the powerful earl of Pembroke, and was also a lady-in-waiting to Henry VIII’s fourth and fifth wives (Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard, respectively.

Lord Latimer lingers on his death bed throughout 1541 and 1542. During this time, Catherine falls in love with Thomas Seymour, brother of the late Queen, Jane Seymour.  He is reputed to be fiercely ambitious, promiscuous, a schemer, power hungry, and considered  to be irresistible to women. At this time, however, the newly widdowed Henry becomes attracted to Catherine,  and sends her gifts in February, 1543.

●   Two weeks later, March 2, Lord Latimer passes away. Since Henry has his eye on Katherine, Seymour steps back.

●   Katherine marries Husband #3: Henry VIII on July 12, 1543 at Hampton Court Palace. By all reports, she was well-liked, a perfect companion and nursemaid to Henry VIII, and an excellent tutor to Elizabeth and Edward. Her religous beliefs angered Henry (May 1543). She escapes death more than once. Henry gets worse, health rapidly declines, Katherine nurses him. Henry dies on January 28, 1547.

●  Katherine quickly marries Husband #4: Thomas Seymour. The actual date of their marriage is unknown, but Seymour refers to Katherine as his wife in a letter dated May 17, 1547.

Katherine becomes pregnant (at 35) in November, 1547. Seymour and Elizabeth engage in a flirtation, Katherine sends the 14 year old Elizabeth away in 1548.

Rumors have it the teenage Lady Elizabeth was pregnant at this time.

Katherine delivers on August 30, 1547, contracts puerperal sepsis (childbed fever) which also killed Jane Seymour, sister of Thomas Seymour, and dies on September 5, 1547 (two days before Elizabeth’s 15th. birthday on September 7).

Thomas Seymour renews his attention to Elizabeth. He is later charged with conspiring to overthrow the reign of Edward VI, is convicted and beheaded in 1549.  (Citation)

Thomas Seymour:

  Thomas Seymour: 1508 – 1549.

 The Seymour family rises to power and influence when Henry VIII marries Jane Seymour eleven days after the execution of Anne Boleyn. His brother Edward becomes Lord High Protector of England (effectively the ruler of England), charged with the protection and welfare of Edward VI.

 Lord High Admiral at the time of the incident with Elizabeth, brother of Edward Seymour, Lord High Protector of England, and brother to Jane Seymour, Henry’s third wife.

 Ambitious, for political reasons wishes to marry Elizabeth. Catherine Parr becomes pregnant, delivers in 1547 and dies thereafter of puerperal fever. She leaves a will, but it is unsigned and unwitnessed by those in authority. Before her death, Catherine fears Seymour will harm her, but these fears are stated while ill from childbed fever, and are considered delusional. The will is honored and Seymour inherits Parr’s considerable fortune and property, then renews his attention to the Lady Elizabeth. He is shortly accused of plotting to overthrow the government of Edward VI, is convicted of treason and is beheaded on March 20, 1549.  (Citation)

   On the 17th of January, 1579. Thomas was arrested and sent to the Tower London.  His known associates, including the fifteeen-year-old Elizabeth as well as her governess Kat Ashley and other servants, were also summoned by the Regency Council for questioning.  Elizabeth was interrogated relentlessly for weeks, as the Council believed Elizabeth to be a conspirator along with Seymour.  However, her brilliance and wit overcame this intense interrogation, although the dalliance with Seymour came to light.  In the end, there proved no evidence she conspired with Seymour, and was released from the Tower.

   Fotunately, there is a substantial record of these interrogations.  The papers were gathered and held by William Cecil, and later collated into State Papers, and published by Samuel Haynes (Ed.) in 1740.

   Let’s see what this has to do with Act II of Richard III:      Click HERE

        Tower of London

Ferris©Jan., 1965

VI. XIII. MMXIV                                       



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