This summer Sudeley Castle will be the venue for celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the birth of Queen Katherine Parr, last and surviving wife of the notorious King Henry VIII. Beginning on 11th April 2012, the six month festival will bring to life the entwined history of the Castle and its most illustrious Tudor resident in a series of historical, literary and musical events.
The Festival’s patron is HRH the Duchess of Cornwall and the historical advisor is Dr David Starkey.
The Sudeley Castle website provides this context:
"Scandal, sadness, treason and tragedy"
Katherine Parr was Henry VIII’s last queen, lived at Sudeley and is buried in St Mary’s Church within the gardens. She is the only English Queen to be buried in a private residence.
This year is the 500th anniversary of Katherine Parr’s birth and we are celebrating the life of this extraordinary queen with a season-long festival of events. Highlights include talks from renowned historian Dr David Starkey, garden designer Sir Roddy Llewellyn, Michael Hirst –creator of the hit TV series the Tudors and author Alison Weir.
Katherine came to Sudeley for love and a future full of happiness with her first love, Thomas Seymour, after a lifetime of duty to the King. It was not to be. Within weeks of Henry’s death, she married Thomas Seymour - described by David Starkey as ‘The Stud of the Tudor times’ - in secret and she and her court move to his castle in Winchcombe. Katherine’s dream marriage began to quickly unravel. She had moved Princess Elizabeth (later Elizabeth 1) out of her household because of Seymour’s inappropriate advances to her. Katherine fell pregnant in 1548 and gave birth to a daughter, Mary, only to contract puerperal fever and die 3 days later at the age of 36.
The full story of scandal, sadness, treason and tragedy is told in a film presented by Dr. David Starkey, part of our new Katherine Parr exhibition. The festival culminates in the re-enactment of Katherine’s funeral service, the first Protestant funeral ever held. Dr Starkey will provide a live commentary to explain the significance of the ceremony.
"Katherine Parr was seen in the past as the most insignificant of Henry’s wives, the colourless one," says Dr. Starkey. "But as we learn more about her, that view is changing. She was a queen with a mission. She may well be one of the most important of Henry’s queens."
The Telegraph article linked above notes that Sudeley hopes to raise funds and Starkey hopes to change perceptions of Henry VIII's last queen:
This year, the quincentenary of the birth of Katherine Parr, Sudeley is hoping to make the most of its trump card. Her remains lie in a church in the grounds, the only private house in England to have buried a queen. On Sunday, it is reopening to the public with a new exhibition, which includes access to two of Katherine’s private rooms, her love letters, a tooth, a lock of hair, a painting from the National Portrait Gallery, two of her books (she was the first queen to be published under her own name), and a welcoming video by Dr David Starkey, the Tudor historian.
“It is a novel form of revenue-raising,” he jokes. “After 10 minutes of me, people will be thrusting soiled £10 notes into the hands of the guide to be let out.”
The reign of Henry VIII, he argues, “is the axis around which English history turns”, when the fortified garden of Shakespeare’s imagery became established and English became a major language. Euro-scepticism, he says, can be traced to the break with Rome.
And if that’s not enough, every event was “driven by the most obvious personal lusts and desires”. The Tudors, he argues, are the Greek myths of the English-speaking world. “The characters have what we would call star quality,” he says. “If history is what you remember, everyone remembers the Tudors.”
Of course, what most schoolchildren remember is the fact that Henry VIII divorced and beheaded so many wives. Katherine Parr, says Dr Starkey, is “traditionally seen as rather dull, as she survived – how very boring. But her story is actually a remarkable one.”