Kather­ine Parr

The saintly nurse of pop­u­lar imag­i­na­tion was, in fact, an in­flu­en­tial rad­i­cal

BBC Earth (Asia) - - History -

The 19th-cen­tury his­to­rian Agnes Strickland did much to cre­ate the im­pres­sion that Kather­ine was some kind of saintly nurse. She imag­ined her as the sort of woman whom the Vic­to­ri­ans would have found an ad­mirable wife for an old and sick man.

There still re­mains a pow­er­ful im­age of her chang­ing the ban­dages on her hus­band’s ul­cer­ated leg, per­haps en­dur­ing the smell to sit with him in order to com­fort him. This is mis­lead­ing, though, be­cause the king had a team of male ser­vants and doc­tors to give him ‘body ser­vice’. His queen cer­tainly would not have done it.

More re­cently, his­to­ri­ans have recre­ated Kather­ine as a blue­stock­ing, in­ter­ested in rad­i­cal re­li­gion, us­ing her po­si­tion to pro­mote an agenda of change in the light of Henry’s in­creas­ing con­ser­vatism. She was, af­ter all, the first woman to pub­lish a book in English un­der her own name, which was called Prayers or

Med­i­ta­tions. She was re­spon­si­ble for the ex­cel­lent ed­u­ca­tion given to her step-daugh­ter, El­iz­a­beth I, per­haps our great­est queen ever. Kather­ine was an in­tel­lec­tual pow­er­house.

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