Henry VIII’s six wives still have a strong hold on the English popular imagination. In the rhyme learned by generations of schoolchildren, Katherine Parr is the one who ‘survived’, though she was not the only one who outlasted the much-married king: Anne of Cleves lived on until 1557 and was buried by her stepdaughter, Mary I, in Westminster Abbey. Parr was not accorded such an illustrious resting place. She lies in the chapel of Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire, where she died in 1548 after giving birth to her only child, the product of her fourth and final marriage to Sir Thomas Seymour. It was a tragic end to an eventful life, steeped in the drama and intrigue of Tudor England.
Historians have, however, tended to overlook Katherine, perhaps bored by the image created by the Victorians of a matronly lady who nursed Henry VIII through his final years of obesity and pain while dabbling in religious reform. She seemed worthy but dull. Yet the truth could not be