Love matches during the Tudor era were uncommon: most people chose spouses for dynastic reasons. Of course, exceptions prove the rule so let’s examine the marriage in 1560 of Katherine Grey and Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford. You decide whether it was a love match or not.
Katherine was the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister Mary, confirmed by Parliament as the successor to the English throne after Elizabeth, who had become queen in 1558. Katherine was also one of Elizabeth’s ladies, along with Hertford’s sister – which is how Katherine and Hertford became better acquainted…and decided to marry.
Now, it was treason to ‘meddle with’ anyone of royal blood without the monarch’s permission. Unfortunately, the still-unmarried Elizabeth was unlikely to consent since the new couple would provide a stunning alternative to her rule. Therefore, the couple decided neither to seek Elizabeth’s permission nor to publish the banns required by the Book of Common Prayer. Instead, they followed a beefed-up version of the old Common Law rules, where all you needed was an intent to marry followed by consummation.
Thus, one November day, Katherine snuck off to Hertford’s home on Cannon Row. Hertford found a random priest to pronounce the service with his sister as a witness, and the newlyweds consummated the marriage before returning to court. There, they snuck around enough that the rumor mill suspected something, and Elizabeth decided to remove temptation by sending Hertford abroad, ‘for the improvement of his education’.
After Hertford left, Katherine soon realized she was pregnant…but by that point she could not prove she was actually married: she could not find the priest and her witness had died. An enraged Elizabeth sent Katherine straight to the Tower and recalled Hertford from France to send him there too. The storm might have passed if the child had been a girl – but instead Katherine bore a son, fulfilling Elizabeth’s nightmare of a popular couple with a healthy male heir. The easy solution: invalidate the marriage and bastardize the child. After all, Katherine and Hertford hadn’t published banns, they had neither priest nor witness, and neither could even remember the exact date of the marriage. For good measure, Hertford was fined £15,000 (about $9.8 million today) for seducing a virgin of the royal blood.