Katherine Parr’s Funeral Re-Enactment

As a grand finale to its successful Queen Katherine Parr Festival – curated by owner Lady Ashcombe with Dr David Starkey as historical advisor – on the 10th September 2012 Sudeley Castle brought to life, ironically, the funeral of its most renowned Tudor resident – the first Protestant funeral to take ever take place in the UK.

Sudeley Castle – the 1,000 year old castle in the heart of the Cotswolds – was home to Katherine Parr following the death of Henry VIII; it was where she lived, loved, died and is still buried to this day. To commemorate her 500th year, yesterday’s attendees were joined by David Starkey and local school girl Frankie (pictured in the thumbnail at the top of this article), a direct descendent of Thomas Seymour – the man Katherine married following the death of Henry VIII. She played Lady Jane Grey in the re-enactment, who was Katherine Parr’s lady-in-waiting at the time.

Katherine Parr Funeral Casket

Lady Ashcombe, current owner and resident of Sudeley Castle, says, “Katherine Parr was a remarkable woman and one that I personally feel a lot of synergy with. We both moved to Sudeley as newlyweds and fell in love with its beautiful location and grounds. This year marks her 500th anniversary since her birth and we felt that her life and accomplishments should be marked with a festival like this. Together with Dr Starkey we have put together a fantastic programme of events that closed with this funeral – ironically as the first Protestant funeral in England, this was one of the biggest moments of her life and was the perfect closing ceremony to an extraordinary summer at Sudeley.”

Harry Middleditch, Director of Learning for the Sealed Knot – the largest Re-enactment Society in Britain, says, “Despite factors such as the recession, weather and fuel prices all impacting participation figures across the country it is great to see heritage sites such as Sudeley Castle championing such an educational activity. Ceremonial events, such as funerals and weddings, promote the diversity of historical re-enactment and we hope that the future holds a fresh burst of events throughout the country.”

Kim Siddorn, the Public Relations Officer for re-enactment’s professional body, the National Association of Re-enactment Societies Ltd, says, “Re-enactment has changed significantly since I first became involved in the hobby in 1980. It is now a far more family orientated body of people and those involved frequently belong to more than one organisation. Modern dramatic presentations of history set out to inform as well as entertain and the State Funeral at Sudeley Castle this weekend is an excellent example of the extremely diverse ways in which re-enactors can bring the past to life for new generations of history enthusiasts. Those who wear the shoes of their ancestors may trace their footprints in time.”

Katherine Parr's Funeral Procession

Katherine was a remarkable Queen who has been largely forgotten in English history. Mostly known and remembered as the wife that ‘survived’ Henry VIII, there was much more to her that that. She was the only wife that Henry trusted to rule as Regent of the Realm while he was away at war. She was the only woman of the 16th century to become a published author. Her intellect and modest disposition helped subtly change attitudes towards women in the Tudor era and many regard her as a modern woman of her time who challenged the acceptable boundaries of femininity. Her devout Protestant beliefs were controversial, but even after death she secured the first Protestant funeral in England.