Internet Shakespeare Editions


Queen Katherine Parr

Katherine Parr.

Queen Katherine Parr is perhaps best known as the one wife who managed to outlive Henry VIII. Before becoming Queen in 1543 she was tutored by the humanist and educational reformist Juan Luis Vives. Once she became Queen, Parr influenced government policy by persuading Parliament to restore Mary and Elizabeth to the royal succession, from which they had been excluded as bastards. She was also instrumental in protecting universities and attracting reform minded humanists to the court, some of whom tutored young Prince Edward and Princess Elizabeth. The political power acquired by Parr was not without its problems, however. More conservative members of court, including her husband, checked her power by bringing her up on charges of heresy -- from which Parr escaped by publically submitting to her husband's authority.

Her Writings

Parr's Lamentation of a Sinner (1547) is only one of three statements of Christian faith dating from before the English Revolution. Margery Kemp wrote the first such statement, indeed the first autobiography in the English language, in the mid 15th century. The other early work in this genre was written by Anne Askew, who was Parr's friend.

In Lamentation of a Sinner, Parr follows a pattern of confession and repentance, all the while stressing the importance of Christian Scripture, an emphasis which marks her work as a Reformation text:

When I consider (in the bethinking of mine evil and wretched and former life) mine obstinate, stony, and untractible heart to have so much exceeded in evilness that it hath not only neglected -- yea condemned and despised -- God's holy precepts and commandments, but also embraced, received, and esteemed vain, foolish, and feigned trifles, I am (partly by the hate I owe to sin, whom I am content to edify even with the example of my own shame) forced and constrained with my heart and words to confess and declare to my creator, and how beneficial, merciful, and gentle he hath been always to me his creature, being such a miserable, wretched sinner.

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