William PARR

(1st M. Northampton)

Born: ABT 1513

Acceded: 16 Feb 1546

Died: 28 Oct 1571, Warwick, England

Buried: Collegiate Church, Warwick, England

Notes: Knight of the Garter.

Father: Thomas PARR of Kendal (Sir)

Mother: Maud GREEN

Married 1: Anne (Claire) BOURCHIER (16 B. Bourchier) 9 Feb 1526, London – DIVORCED 1551

Married 2: Elizabeth BROOKE (M. Northampton) Jan 1547/48, England

Married 3: Helen SNAKENBORG (M. Northampton) (b. ABT 1549 - d. 1 Apr 1635) (dau. of Wolfangus Snakenborg) (m.2 Sir Thomas Gorges)(See her Biography)

ParrWilliam10M.Northampton.jpg (73692 bytes)

Sketch of William Parr

by Hans Holbein the Younger

Son of Sir Thomas Parr of Kendal and of Greens Norton, by his wife Maud (d. 1531), daughter and coheiress of Sir Thomas Green of Greens Norton and Boughton; he was nephew of Sir William Parr of Horton (d. 1546), and brother of Henry VIII last Queen, Catherine Parr. He was born, probably at Kendal Castle, on 14 Aug 1513, and was educated at Cambridge under Cuthbert Tunstall, who was one of his father's friends. His father died on 12 Nov 1518, and he succeeded to the estate. Described as a  man of mediocre talents and a political manoeuvrer who  made the most of his position at court. He is believed to have loved  poetry, music and fine living. He  was knighted on 18 Oct 1537, and took part in suppressing the rising in the north of England in 1537, was one of those who tried the Lincolnshire prisoners in 1538. Made Baron Parr of Kendal in 1539. On 16 Dec of the same year he was made keeper of the parks at Brigstock. On 25 May 1540 he became steward of the manor of Writtle, Essex, and in November following captain of the band of gentlemen-pensioners. In 1541 he was keeper of the park at Moulton, and had trouble with the tenants there.

He married first, in 1526, Anne, the heiress of Henry Bourchier, 2nd earl of Essex, when she was barely ten. Twelve years passed before the couple lived together as husband and wife. They were totally unsuited to each other. She was poorly educated and most comfortable living in the country. Her first recorded appearance at court was at a banquet on 22 Nov 1539. Her husband, in contrast, was a career courtier, and engaged, c. 1541, in at least one tempestuous affair, with maid of honor Dorothy Bray, daughter of Edmund Bray, first B. Bray. That same year, Anne surprised everyone by running off with John Lyngfield, alias Huntley or Hunt, prior of St. James, Tandridge, Surrey. Parr secured a legal separation on grounds of her adultery and secured a bill in Parliament on 13 Mar 1543 to bar any child Anne bore from succeeding to her inheritance. The tale that Parr tried to convince King Henry to execute Anne for adultery and that she was saved by Parr's sister, who was about to marry the king, is highly unlikely to have happened. Adultery was not normally punished by death. It is unclear what happened to John Lyngfield, but Anne apparently spent the next few years in impoverished exile at Little Wakering, a manor in Essex.

When it was decided that his sister Catherine should marry Henry VIII, William Parr naturally received additional preferment. In Mar 1543 he became a privy councillor, and lord warden and keeper of the marches towards Holland; he was also placed upon the council of the north, and made K.G. on 23 Apr 1543. In Dec 1543, after Cromwell death, just after his sister had married the King, he was created earl of Essex, a title formerly held by his father-inlaw, Henry Bourchier, who had died in Mar 1540.

Parr also received in 1543 the barony of Hart in Northamptonshire. In the expedition to Boulogne in 1544 Essex was chief captain of the men-at-arms; and, as a further proof of Henry VIII's confidence in him, he was an assistant-councillor to the king's executors, Henry leaving him 200 by his will. He was one of the commissioners for the trial of the Earl of Surrey on 13 Jan 1546-7. 

Elizabeth Brooke came to court in the last years of Henry VIII and captivated the much older William Parr, who had been the lover of her aunt, Dorothy Bray. William Parr married Elizabeth in 1547 and lived with her until they were ordered to separate. Their marriage was declared valid in 1548, invalid in 1553, and valid again in 1558 -each change of monarch, and religion, changed Elizabeth's status. 

Essex was one of the commissioners to determine claims at the coronation of Edward VI on 5 Feb 1546-7, and on the 15th of the same month was created Marquis of Northampton. Edward VI called him his honest uncle. He was a prominent supporter of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, and was called to the privy council on 12 Mar 1546/7. On 24 Jun 1549 he was at Cambridge, and heard the disputations as to the sacrament of the altar. In Jul 1549 he was created lord-lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Northamptonshire, and Norfolk, and went against Robert Kett in the same month to raise the siege of Norwich during the Norfolk rising. He had little military experience and disregarded Somerset's instructions not to offer battle at Norwich in order to seek a reputation. He was defeated by Ket at St. Martins Place. He was therefore deprived in Aug of the command, which was given to John Dudley, Earl of Warwick. On 4 Feb 1549/50 he was created great chamberlain; in Apr he was one of those who received the French hostages after the surrender of Boulogne. In Jun 1551 he conducted an embassy to France to invest Henri II with the order of the Garter; and he was one of those commissioned to suggest the marriage between Edward VI and the French king's daughter. In the autumn of 1551 Marie De Guise. Regent of Scotland, paid a visit to the English king, and Northampton, who was still in command of the band of gentlemenpensioners, received her at Hampton Court. In the same capacity he was fourth captain in the great muster held before the King in Hyde Park on 7 Dec 1551.

On 31 Mar 1552, a bill passed in Parliament declaring the marriage of Anne Bourchier and Parr null and void.

Northampton was a friend of Warwick, hence his influence had grown on Somerset's fall; Somerset's conspiracy was supposed to be directed against John Dudley, now Duke of Northumberland, Pembroke, and Northampton

Elizabeth Brooke was involved in the match to marry Jane Grey to Guildford Dudley. Northampton signed the device of King Edward and favored the claim of Lady Jane Grey to the English throne, and went with Northumberland into the eastern counties to maintain her cause. 

After Queen Mary's triumph he was committed to the Tower on 26 Jul 1553, and on 18 Aug was arraigned and condemned to be executed. He was attainted and deprived of the Garter, but he was released from the Tower on 31 Dec 1553, and pardoned on 13 Jan 1553/4. Arrested again on suspicion of complicity in Wyatt's insurrection on 26 Jan, he was released once more on 24 Mar 1554. He was also restored in blood on 5 May 1554, but he was not restored to his rank, and was known during the rest of Queen Mary's reign as Sir William Parr; he only recovered part of his estates.

The bill declaring the marriage of Anne Bourchier and Parr null was reversed on 24 Oct 1553. Two months earlier, Anne had gone to court to lobby for Parr's release and pardon, which would enable him (them) to keep their estates. That same Dec, Anne was granted an annuity of 100. Parr was released but left in poverty. Anne appears to have remained at court until at least Dec 1556, when "Anne, Viscountess Bourchier, Lady Lovayne" was granted an additional annuity of 450. After Queen Elizabeth succeeded her sister, Anne retired quietly to Benington, Hertfordshire and there lived out the rest of her life.

On 13 Jan 1558/9 Parr, enjoying the favor of Queen Elizabeth, was recreated Marquess of Northampton. He was made a privy councillor on 25 Dec 1558, and was one of those whom the Queen consulted respecting the prayer-book. When the trial of Thomas Wentworth, second Baron of Netlestead, for the loss of Calais took place on 20 Apr 1559, Northampton acted as high steward. He was re-elected in the Order of the Garter on 24 Apr 1559; on 22 Jul 1559 he was one of the commissioners to visit the dioceses of Oxford, Lincoln, Peterborough, and Coventry and Lichfield, and in Oct of the same year received the Prince of Sweden, then on a visit to England. He is mentioned as a member of Gray's Inn in 1562. At the court of Queen Elizabeth, Lady Northampton was considered one of the Queen's closest friends, but as early as 1564 she was known to be suffering from breast cancer. At that time she made a trip to Antwerp to visit doctors there, but no cure existed.

On 18 Mar 1570/1 he was created M.A. by the university of Cambridge. 

His last wife was Helen Snakenborg. She is noticed by a contemporary, Bishop Parkhurst, in a letter to Bullinger, dated 10 Aug 1571. "The Marquess of Northampton died about the beginning of Aug. When I was in London, he married a very beautiful German girl, who remained in the queen's court after the departure of the Margrave of Baden and Cecilia his wife from England". (Zurich Letters, vol. i. p. 257. Parker Society.) The same fact is confirmed by the statements of her epitaph in Salisbury cathedral; which adds that she became a lady of the bedchamber to Queen Elizabeth, and having married, secondly, Sir Thomas Gorges, of Longford, Wilts, had issue by him four sons and three daughters. She survived Sir Thomas for twenty-five years, and died on the 1 Apr 1635, aged 86. In Sir R. C. Hoare's South Wiltshire, Hundred of Cawden, are three beautiful folio plates of her monument, which includes whole-length recumbent effigies of the Countess and Sir Thomas Gorges.

It was this William Parr who built the oldest parts of the surviving house of Nunnington, which now form part of the west front. Following the forfeiture of the estate, Nunnington was again subject to let, one of the tenants being Dr Robert Huicke who was physician to both Catherine Parr and Elizabeth I. It fell to him to tell the Queen that she would never have children. He never lived at Nunnington however and the estate was managed by stewards. The sub-lease was granted to Thomas Norcliffe in 1583 and the family made many alterations over the next sixty years.

The Queen Elizabeth stopped to inquire about his health, when he was ill with an ague, on her way into London both in Nov 1558 and on 6 Jul 1561. Northampton died at Warwick on the 28 Oct 1571. He left no children and his marquessate became extinct. Queen Elizabeth paid for his funeral at St. Mary's Church there. In spite of considerable traffic in abbey lands and of grants made to him at his sister's marriage and later, he did not die rich.


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