Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tudor Tart: Anne Bourchier

No known portrait of Anne exists. However,
here is a portrait of an unknown lady.

In 1527, at the age of ten, Anne was married to William Parr, 1st Marques of Northampton. The marriage was not the happiest. In 1541, Parr began an affair with one of Quene Katheryn Howard's Maid of Honor (honor?). Anne, likewise, began her own affair with a man named John Lyngfield, Prior of St. James' Church (prior?). Anne took it a step further by running away with the man! It became an even bigger scandal when Anne bore Lyngfield an illegitimate child. This prompted Parr to seek legal action against his wife. A respectable Lord couldn't have his wife birthing other mens' babies! The request for divorce is dated Jan. 22, 1543. In it, the account states

"Whereas 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."  
Lord Parr
Things really began to get hairy when Lord Parr demanded the death penalty for his wife for her adulterous behavior. Henry VIII, who one would think would be supportive of such an action, declined. The reason? His new fling, a Lady Catherine Parr (and sister to Lord Parr) begged him to spare Anne. The two were close friends.

Despite Lord Parr's attempt to have his wife executed, she (and sevearl other women...) intervened for him in 1553, saving him from being sent to the block by Mary I for his part in the Lady Jane Grey affair. Despite this, the two never got back together. Anne bore John a few more children, dying in 1556. Lord Parr died not long after.

Now, what think ye? Was Anne an adulterous tart who should have gone to the block? Or was she simply giving her hubby a taste of his own medicine, eventually taking the higher ground and saving his neck? Pin It


  1. Where are you getting your info? Just wondering. Is this Wikipedia material? They were both unhappy when they married; it was a marriage of advantage which Maud Parr paid quite a deal of money towards only for the two to be incredibly unhappy. They were married at a young age [she was about 10] and they didn't even live together for over 10 years. William was at court while Anne stayed behind in the country. Not defending William here, but it was a two way street and both sides were already unhappy with each other and decided their own fates. William was at least somewhat discreet and didn't run off and father a bunch of bastards with Bray. The "tale" about William trying to get his wife executed is not proved to be entirely true. In fact it is only promoted on Wikipedia by Alison Weir's book, "The Six Wives" which is full of inaccurate facts, especially in Katherine Parr's section. Adultery wasn't punishable by death back then or else everyone would have been sent to the block. Only Henry had that power to send his queens to the block for "adultery." This tale seems to be played up by Alison Weir in her "Six Wives" book. Adultery by non-royals did not carry an assumption of being a capitol offense. For details of the actual account and reference to the primary sources that document what actually happened between Parr and Bourchier, see Susan James's Catherine Parr, Henry VIII's Last Love, pages 50-52 and 82. You could also take a look at this page:
    Also, the only reason Anne went to petition for her husband was most likely for money and land; because after she ran off with her lover she was exiled in poverty. The bill which had made her marriage to Parr null and void was reversed under Queen Mary so she most likely saw that as an opportunity. She wanted money and land and that is what she got from petitioning -- December 1553 she was granted an annuity of 100 pounds; and in December 1556 she was further granted an annuity of 450 pounds and then retired to the country after Elizabeth succeeded Queen Mary. She obviously knew Elizabeth wouldn't stand for her charades and she didn't. Elizabeth promoted Parr who waited out Anne's life to finally be able to marry again, this time for love.

  2. In 1541, after Anne had left Baron Parr, he began an affair with Dorothy Bray, Baroness Chandos. Catherine Parr also helped secure a separation, not a divorce with her brother and Anne. There is no mention of her intervening over an execution. SOURCE: Susan James. ''Catherine Parr: Henry VIII's Last Love'', The History Press, 2009. pg 82-84.

  3. Thank you for your comment. Actually, I did use Alison Weir's "Six Wives" as a basis for this post. It is not my first "go to" book, but the only one I had on hand at the time. I do not currently have access to "Catherine Parr, Henry VIII's Last Love," but I appreciate you posting about it.

    Obviously, this story is full of questions. I know that adultery was not punishable by death (Henry got his wives on treason charges, not adultery). However, I thought it would be interesting to mention. It seems to have sparked some debate, which is always fun :)

    The sad truth is that these two were thrust together in an arranged marriage and both deeply unhappy. While I feel like the situation could have been handled better (such as the eloping bit) I feel like it certainly makes for an interesting story. Thanks again for the comments and the references. I will be sure to check them out.

  4. Not to be rude, but due to "Pin It" and the "PinInterest" invention -- this portrait is now circling the web as "Anne Bourchier" -- if you're going to write about a noblewoman who has no portrait it's probably better not to put up any portrait. Just a thought.

  5. I appreciate your feedback. I did say in the caption that it isn't a portrait of Anne. People like something visual along with the text, so I always try to include an image of some kind. If someone says it is Anne even after I say it isn't, that isn't really something I can control. Considering how badly identified many Tudor portraits are, this is a common problem anyway. Thanks though :)