Alternate History: What If Katherine Parr Had Refused to Marry Henry VIII?

by AlexandriaIngham

Katherine Parr could have changed so much if she just told Henry VIII no when it came to marriage.

It was unheard of at the time. A common woman would never refuse marriage from the king. Anne Boleyn had caused enough of a stir when she refused to become Henry VIII’s mistress and made it clear she wanted the crown.

But if anyone was going to do it, Katherine Parr would have been the wife. What if she never married Henry VIII because she refused to?

She May Have Married Thomas Seymour

Had Katherine Parr not taken Henry VIII as her third husband, Thomas Seymour may have taken that place.

What if Katherine Parr told Henry VIII no?The two wanted to marry at the time. However, there was no way that Katherine could turn down the king’s proposal. Whether she did it for power or out of fear for her life, we will never know. Whatever that reason was, she gave up her love for five years. It is possible that turning down the proposal from the king would have meant marriage to Thomas Seymour.

However, Henry VIII may have made Katherine’s life difficult if she refused. He was used to getting what he wanted. While there is no proof, some historians believe he helped get Anne Boleyn out of betrothals because he wanted to marry her. He may have put a stop to Thomas’ chance of marrying the woman he wanted to become his sixth wife.

She may have ended up with Henry VIII, but resenting every minute of it. Would she have used her brain and played to his pride when it came to that crucial moment of her arrest warrant being found outside of her door?

Mary and Elizabeth Would Not Have the Relationship They Did

Katherine was the reason for Henry VIII to accept his daughters and welcome them back the way he did.

It was Katherine who finally pulled Mary and Elizabeth back into court properly. She helped them have a relationship with their father; the relationship they craved. While Jane had started where Mary was concerned, Katherine had made it possible for two illegitimate daughters to be given a rightful place in the line of succession.

It wasn’t the done thing at the time, and it wouldn’t have happened without Katherine’s push. Had she not married Henry VIII, Mary and Elizabeth would never have had the relationship with Henry VIII that they did. There was likely no better final step-mother for the two of them.

More Alternate History Articles on Wizzley

I often love delving into the what ifs in history. This is a post dedicated to the what ifs surrounding Anne Boleyn had she had a boy.
It's fun to have fun with alternate history. Here I considered what could have happened if Jane Seymour never died after the birth of Edward.
Anne of Cleves was put aside after just six months of unconsummated marriage. But what if it was consummated? And what if Anne of Cleves had a child with Henry VIII?

They certainly would not have ended up back in the line of succession. Of course, that could be seen as a benefit when you consider what happened in the future.

Lady Jane Grey Would Have Been Queen

Without Mary and Elizabeth becoming queen, the position would have fallen to Lady Jane Grey.

Lady Jane Grey may have been Queen Jane in her own right.Edward VI knew that he was dying, and he needed to name an heir. One thing he didn’t want was a Catholic monarch on the throne, which would happen with his half-sister Mary. He couldn’t just jump to Elizabeth. First of all she was a woman, but second of all she was illegitimate. He needed someone who he could trust.

Since there were no males—James VI of Scotland had not been born at the time—he needed to name a female and that was Lady Jane Grey. It is likely that Henry VIII would have named Jane as queen after Edward without Katherine there to push him in the direction of Mary and Elizabeth.

Poor Jane wouldn’t have lost her head, and she may never have ended up marrying John Dudley’s son. It wouldn’t have made sense for Edward to allow something like this to happen if he knew that she would definitely be his heir. In fact, Henry may have thought about potential suitors for his niece knowing that she could possibly become queen after his son.

This would have also led to the crown remaining in English hands for longer. Elizabeth had no choice but to name her Scottish cousin, James, heir to the throne after her. The Grey line had been tainted due to Jane’s attempt at usurping it. If Henry VIII had never married Katherine, Jane would have been queen and would have possibly had children of her own. There are slim chances that it would have needed to pass onto the Scottish line for some time.

More in the Series on Alternate History

Anne of Cleves agreed to the annulment from Henry VIII relatively easily. But what if she put up a fight like Catherine of Aragon?
Could Kathryn Howard have saved her life by telling Henry VIII all about Francis Dereham?
If Kathryn Howard gave birth to a baby, would it have helped save her life? That is something I'm taking the time to look into.

Katherine Parr May Have Had Children

Katherine may have gone on to have more children, but it could also have meant an earlier death for her.

After her marriage to Henry VIII, Katherine married Thomas Seymour and had a child of her own. That may have happened much sooner than it did in real life by refusing to marry Henry VIII. While it sounds like a positive, there is still the chance that she would have succumbed to childbed fever. This was a terrible cause of death during the Tudor period, and there was nothing doctors could do once the fever set in.

At the same time, she may have timed the pregnancy just right. There is the chance that she could have had more children, and those children may have survived. This could have also kept Thomas Seymour on track, rather than him being executed a year after Katherine’s death. Their children may have been happier and healthier.


It can be difficult to say what could have happened in history, but it’s fun doing it. Katherine Parr’s marriage to Henry VIII affected much more than many people realize when taking it at face value. It led to Mary and Elizabeth becoming English Queens in their own right, and helped shape the British monarchy as it is known today.

Things could have been so different had she just said no when Henry VIII made it clear he wanted marriage.

Updated: 10/21/2014, AlexandriaIngham
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Telesto on 10/22/2014

Ooh good. .. I shall keep my views about Catherine to myself fir now, but am really looking forward to both of these.

Alexandria Ingham on 10/22/2014

You're welcome, Telesto. I'm working on one about Lady Jane Grey, and should have it over the next few weeks. First of all, I want to go back to the first of Henry VIII's six wives, as I haven't done anything for Catherine of Aragon yet :)

Telesto on 10/22/2014

That's really interesting, I hadn't given a thought to what might have happened if Lady Jane Grey had become queen before, but it does start a certain train of thoughts rolling. Thank you.

AlexandriaIngham on 10/22/2014

I've been wondering the same, Jo. There are so many implications when you start looking at the knock on effect. It would have been interesting to see if whoever became the 6th wife would have done everything that Katherine did. I think Mary and Elizabeth got the best step-mother they could when it came to power. Sometimes I wonder if Katherine was a feminist of her time, because she certainly seemed to believe in equality in some aspects. I'd love to have known a future with Lady Jane Grey as queen too.

Glad you enjoyed it, WriterArtist.

WriterArtist on 10/21/2014

I love such speculations and i am sure the course of history would have taken a total different turn had Katherine married a person other than Henry VIII.

JoHarrington on 10/21/2014

Double wow! My imagination has just landed into the 17th century. There's so much altered, just because Elizabeth I is removed from the picture. This is immense!

JoHarrington on 10/21/2014

Wow! I do love these 'what if' pieces and I certainly hadn't considered most of the implications here. Britain really would have been better off without this marriage, but only if the other sixth wife (whomever Henry chose instead of Katherine) didn't perform a similar role.

Then you have the knock on effect. Would there have been a British Empire without Liz I?

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