In June 1635 an old man was mowing hay in the fields he owned near his cottage. It was a sun filled noon and on came the Lord Earl Marshal of England and his guards all on proud fine bred horse. The man cutting grass looked up as the commotion of hooves and hens in the farm yard took his attention. The old man had been the subject of a portrait painted by Rubens in around 1620. The Earl, having manors around that part of Shropshire had been so informed that Rubens subject was still alive and a farmer freeman in the hamlet of Winnigton near Alderbury Shropshire England. The Earl Marshal made the diversion to find this man.
Thomas Howard Earl of Arundel
Out from his manly task in the fields Thomas Parr was called by his new daughter in law to attend to the visitors who seeked him.He was almost blind but Lucy Parr had married Thomas Parrs only son who had died young. Thomas had asked her to stay on in the house having her own rooms. When Tom Parr had heard what the Earl had to say he was not happy. You See this chap wanted Tom to leave his hay cutting in good weather to travel to the other ends on the world. London was that far to a man who had spent his whole long life in the same cottage and lands and had never gone beyond the town of Shrewsbury 14 miles away. Then over time he talked old Parr around. The King had wished to meet Tom Parr and in doing so would aid the Earl in pleasing the King in all matters. The titles of this Earl Marshal of England was Earl of Arundel and Earl of Surrey also Lord of Norfolk. He was not to be put off by the chides of a simple farmer who had labored hard all his life
On leaving now the journey was being planed Arundel took to study and all church records he took to find the truth. Parr had been the subject of much interest when he was painted by the world famous Royal artist Rubens only owing to the fact he was aged 140 then. Now aged 152 The Earl had serious research to complete before he could risk introducing this man to his King and Queen in London. This King was not a man to let down. King Charles the first was not a nice chap he believe he was sent from God to rule with Divine Right. We removed his head later in a bloody civil wars that ended with his death in Whitehall London January 1649.
However all was found to be true and Arundel had the birth record that was custom of the church of Rome to record a child at birth and so baptism and parents listed and had checked all with Rome and the Church of England.
Thomas was made ready to be passenger behind the horse in a low slung cart on the long roads to the big city. He was nearly blind and many came to see him, .touch him and try for souvenirs from his hair or his clothing. The guard that the Earl had placed with the procession was Brian Kelly who protected the old man as best he could but the mob pressed harder until Kelly fired his pistol in the air and which allowed a way through the crowds. This really shook old Parr up.
They traveled from Shropshire over to Wem then to Sheffnal , both towns belonged to Arundel though he did not ride with them he gave his own staff and a joker called John to help relax the ancient man. We know they came through Birmingham and down to Coventry but here again the hoards of people who had heard the news flocked to see old Parr. Mobs came from all directions and Kelly as leader had so much to do to stop Parr being smothered under the mass of bodies crawling over each other to touch the venerable old man. It was said by the Stuart Chronicler that “The vulgar are so greedy to hearken to ,or gaze after novelties.”
Kelly provided us with a detailed report that still exists today in the Arundel papers of that period of history.
King Charles the first.
When Tom Parr arrived in the Capital he must have been spell bound .The sights and stench of London was a far cry from the fresh air of the provinces.The Earl Marshal greeted him and housed him at his own expense in a boarding house in a crowded side street. With Lucy to look after him Parr was happy singing old songs of his youth.We are told that Lucy joined in with the bits she knew of his songs. By now it is likely that Tom Parr was truly blind. He slept for days and Lucy became concerned. The Earl was called for and a doctor was called to attend Parr. His verdict was the old man was exhausted and the foul air from the human waste in the streets had been the cause of his malady.
We know from Harveys examination of Tom Parr in death gave pneumonia as the cause of death. Harvey had just given the world the blood system and how it worked so we may be sure he knew what had killed this brave old chap.
This King could not be hurried and he kept poor Tom away for some 3 months at the Earls own cost.
Thomas Parr cottage, no longer there, I have a stone from its walls.
The meeting , when it finally came had the haughty King ask Tom ,” You have lived far longer than any other man so what have you done more?” Tom ably replied That he had married a girl when he was 80 and had to do church punishment in a white winding sheet asking pardon of all the congregation outside the village church. The king was horrified and quickly dismissed the old fellow. Though to Tom it was his best of life tale.
Rubens painting of Thomas Parr.
Parr had married at age 80 a 24 year old Katherine Milton. from this union they had two children but both died young.It was recorded a love match.
After meeting with king Charles old Tom had been carried back in fear of his life . he died in the night with Lucy at his side and Arundel apologized to him .In fact The good Earl had as good as signed the old mans death warrant by putting him through all of this and then to be fobbed off by the King he had come to see.
Some historians today say that Parr was only 100 as some mix up with the family records and he may have been using his grandfathers papers from 1483? I say a man such as the educated Earl Marshal of England risking all the impress his King would have indeed not risked a mistake. Thomas Parr had no such reason to lie and his memory of hearing the news that King Edward 1V had died takes this man back through the reign of King Charles to his father King James to Queen Elizabeth to Mary to Edward V1 to Henry V111 to Henry V11 to Richard 111 to the King Edward that Parr talked off as hearing the news that the loved King had died.
We know that Hungarian herdsman lived to 145 with out ridicule or doubt. My poor relative lived from 1483 to 1635 and Arundel gave up his tomb space in Westminster Abbey to bury the old chap he had treated so badly as to bring him to London in the first place. It is clear it was his death by doing so. No one can disprove that Tom Parr was 152 no more than they can say he lied. If Arundel said he was I believe he was correct and on top of that paper exists, to my knowledge, that gives us even Parr grandfathers name never mind his birth date. a nation that instead of being happy we have the oldest man in the world as English born seem only happy to try to discredit him.They cannot but the way they do it is for fame for themselves but not one ever replies to my question, How do you know? You can be sure I traced Arundel papers and read them well. Thomas Parr was the oldest recorded man in history if you discount Methusala .
HARVEY looks into Parr death.
Yours with love Sir Kevin.
Copyright Sir Kevin Parr Bt.Sept 2018