Thursday, 23 August 2012

Parr-Bourchier; A marriage of adultery

Sir William Parr, Marquess of Northampton, Earl of Essex, Baron Parr (1513-1571) and Anne Bourchier, Baroness Bourchier, Lady Lovayne (1517-1571) had an unhappy marriage which was a compound of adultery, mistresses, illegitimate children and lawsuits.
Anne Bourchier

The couple were married on the 9th February 1527, however due to the age of the pair, they did not live together until 1539, when Anne was first reported to be living at court.
William Parr
In 1541 Anne eloped with her lover John Lyngfield, the prior of St James' Church, Tanbridge, Surrey, when she had an illegitimate child by him. The birth of this child led to William taking legal action in order to protect his interests should the child make a claim on the Parr estates. On 22nd January 1543, the Letter and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of Henry VIII stated that "Lady Anne, wife of Sir Wm Parre lord Parre continued in adultery notwithstanding admonition, and finally, two years past, left his company and has since had a child begotten in adultery and that said child and all future children she may have shall be held bastards". William applied to Parliament on the 13th March 1543 for a legal separation from Anne of the grounds of her adultery and to bar the child from inheriting his estates and on the 17th April 1543, this act was granted. The Bill stated;
"That for the last two years she (Anne) had eloped from her husband, William Lord Parr, and had not in that time ever returned to nor had any carnal intercourse with him, but had been gotten with child by one of her adulterors and been delivered of such child, 'being as is notoriously known, begotten in adultery, and born during the espousals' between her and Lord Parr 'by the law of this realm is inheritable and may pretend to inherit all'...and the Act therefore declared the said child to be a bastard."(Nicholas, 1836)
At this time, the only means for a legal separation was on the grounds of the wife committing adultery, and even then neither party were permitted to remarry as long as the other lived. Anne and John went to live in exile in a manor in Little Wakering in Essex for the next few years, allegedly in a state of poverty. Anne and John had several more children together, including a daughter called Mary who married Thomas York and had children, who all lived in obscurity away from court. In 1558 Anne and her family moved to Benington Park where she lived until her death in 1571.
Elisabeth Brooke

Dorothy Bray
William Parr, as well as his wife, was known for his extra-marital affairs. In 1541 he began an affair with Dorothy Bray (1524-1605) who was a Maid of Honour to Queen Katherine Howard. Two years later in 1543 William's attentions shifted onto Dorothy's niece, Elisabeth Brooke (1526-1565). In 1548 William secretly married Elisabeth, however it was not legally binding so she was still only his mistress in the eyes of the law. Six months into the 'marriage' it became public knowledge and the Lord Protector Somerset was enraged by it - having only recently discovered the marriage of William's sister the Dowager Queen Katherine to Thomas Seymour. The Imperial ambassador Francis Van Der Delft, wrote of the matter in February 1549; William "was obliged by the command of the Council to put her away and never speak to her again on pain of death".
This situation did not last long though as Seymour was ousted by a political coup and was succeeded in his post by John Dudley, who supported William and Elisabeth's marriage. On the 31st March 1551 Parliament passed a bill which annulled William's previous marriage to Anne and declared Elisabeth to be his legal wife. The couple began a happy marriage famous for their socialising, sports and arts, and were at the forefront of court life with Elisabeth playing the social role of a queen during Edward's reign.
In 1553, the Parrs were heavily involved in the plot to put Jane Grey on the throne of England, and were punished severely by Queen Mary; their lands and titles were taken from them and the couple were ordered to separate and for William to go back to his first wife Anne, a close friend of the new queen. The annulment from Anne had been repealed on the 24th March 1554 according to the Act of Repeals and later that year in December, Anne used this to gain an annuity of £100, which was increased in December 1556 to £450. During this time Elisabeth was unable to see William, due to the threat of bigamy, and she became dependent upon family for a place to live, however the two seemed to be in contact as they were made joint godparents to Elizabeth Cavendish in 1555. This punishment was in comparison a reprieve from their original conviction by Queen Mary; on the 18th August 1553 William was sentenced to death for his involvement, however Anne went to plead with Mary for William's life and also about maintaining ownership over the Parr estates, as a result William was released from the Tower.
Helena Snakenborg
In 1558 matters changed again with the reign of Elizabeth I; Elisabeth had become close to the queen in previous years when she was lady in waiting to Queen Katherine Parr during both of her last marriages. Queen Elizabeth declared the marriage between William and Elisabeth to be valid and the majority of their lands and titles were restored to them, Elisabeth became a close friend of the queen and enjoyed great favour during her reign. Elisabeth died of breast cancer on the 2nd April 1565.

In September 1565 William met and began courting Elin Ulfsdotter 'Helena' Snakenborg (1549-1635), a Swedish noblewoman who had been the childhood friend of Charles IX of Sweden; she had come to England as a lady in waiting to Princess Cecilia of Sweden. Despite Princess Cecilia leaving England in April 1566 to avoid creditors, Helena stayed behind, not only due to her relationship with William but also as she had struck an unlikely friendship with Queen Elizabeth who requested that she stay behind in England. From 1567 Helena was a Maid of Honour and later promoted to Gentlewoman of the Royal Privy Chamber, with her own lodgings at Hampton Court Palace. When Anne Bourchier died at Benington Park on the 28th January 1571 William was legally free to marry again. William and Helena were married in May 1571 at Whitehall Palace with the queen present. Five months later, on 28th October 1571 William died.

No comments:

Post a Comment