Queen Catherine Parr of England (1512-48) was the last of Henry VIII’s wives — she’s the “survived” wife, who outlived him. Her life story is particularly interesting and sadly often ignored in favor of the drama of Anne Boleyn. She was incredibly intelligent and well educated as well as a proponent of religious reform and what was to become Protestantism. She was the first English queen to publish a book under her own name. On the soap opera side, she was married twice and was reasonably happy but wasn’t in love with either guy. After her second husband’s death, she fell in love with Thomas Seymour but caught Henry VIII’s eye and essentially had to marry him.
Her marriage to Henry was a relatively happy one. She did a lot to bring Henry back together with his children and to promote religious reform. There was one stressful incident where she had been contradicting Henry on religion and was almost arrested, but she was given the heads up, managed to find Henry and spin things as “I was just asking a question so you could instruct me,” and thus saved herself.
After Henry’s death, she actually got to marry her true love, Thomas Seymour, only to have him turn out to be an asshole who sexually groomed and probably molested her ward, the future Queen Elizabeth I. Catherine became pregnant with Seymour’s child, but she died several days after childbirth (and her daughter didn’t live more than two years).
Let’s see who has portrayed this super interesting and super smart English queen on screen!
Everley Gregg in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933)
I haven’t seen this one but I believe it’s a comedic take on the queen. Based on that, I’m guessing Parr is a nursemaid to old and gross Henry, which is the stereotype of her.
Sarah Churchill in A Queen’s Way (1953)
I’m confused what this still has to do with the Tudor period, but fun fact: the actress was Winston Churchill’s daughter!
Deborah Kerr in Young Bess (1953)
The story focuses on the future Queen Elizabeth I as princess, and Kerr plays an elegant Catherine trapped in a love triangle with husband Thomas Seymour and the princess.
Jana Brejchová in King and Women (1967)
A Czech film based on a play called “Catherine Parr, or Alexander’s Horse”… and that’s all I’ve got!
Rosalie Crutchley in The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970)
Trystan calls this portrayal of Catherine “modest” and “mature.”
Rosalie Crutchley in Elizabeth R (1971)
I think she must be in a flashback scene, but I admit to not having watched this! I know!
That’s right, Lady Catherine de Bourgh plays Catherine in a tiny, squeezed in bit at the end.
Abigail Hopkins in Elizabeth (2000)
A David Starkey docu-drama about Queen Elizabeth I.
Jennifer Wigmore in The Royal Diaries: Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor (2000)
An adaptation of a Young Adult book that focuses on the future Queen Elizabeth I as a child.
Caroline Lintott in The Six Wives of Henry VIII (2001)
Another David Starkey docu-drama.
Clare Holman in Henry VIII (2003)
A crappy TV miniseries. It’s been a long time since I watched it, but as I can’t remember Parr in this, I’m guessing she’s an afterthought.
Joely Richardson in The Tudors (2010)
I’ve never made it into the Parr years of this shlocky TV series. All I know is Richardson as Parr seems to rock the side ponytails a lot, and that confuses me.
Alice Patten in Lucy Worsley’s “Six Wives” (2016)
A Lucy Worsley docu-drama, and one of the best! Parr’s intellectual side is portrayed, but sadly not her life post-Henry.
Kate Holderness in The Six Queens of Henry VIII (2016)
Another docu-drama, this one by Susannah Lipscomb and Dan Snow. I haven’t seen it!
Jessica Raine in Becoming Elizabeth (2022)
This recent series portrays Parr as sex-crazed and head over heels in love with her douchebag husband.
Alicia Vikander in Firebrand (upcoming)
This film will focus on Parr, and I have hopes it will get her right!
Which is your favorite portrayal of Catherine Parr on screen?