Born: c. 1483
Birthplace: Winnington, Shropshire, England
Location of death: London, England
Cause of death: unspecified
Race or Ethnicity: White
Executive summary: Purported English centenarian
Thomas Parr, English centenarian, known as "Old Parr", is reputed to have been born in 1483, at Winnington, Shropshire, the son of a farmer. In 1500 he is said to have left his home and entered domestic service, and in 1518 to have returned to Winnington to occupy the small holding he then inherited on the death of his father. In 1563, at the age of eighty, he married his first wife, by whom he had a son and a daughter, both of whom died in infancy. At the age of 122, his first wife having died, he married again. His vigor seems to have been unimpaired, and when 130 years old he is said to have threshed corn. In 1635 his fame reached the ears of Thomas Howard, 2nd earl of Arundel, who resolved to exhibit him at court, and had him conveyed to London in a specially constructed litter. Here he was presented to King Charles I, but the change of air and diet soon affected him, and the old man died at Lord Arundel's house in London, on the 14th of November 1635. He was buried in the south transept of Westminster Abbey where the inscription over his grave reads: "Tho: Parr of ye county of Salopp Born in Ao 1483. He lived in ye reignes of Ten Princes viz. K. Edw. 4. K. Ed. V. K. Rich. 3. K. Hen. 7. K. Hen. 8. K. Edw. 6. Q. Ma. Q. Eliz. K. Ja. and K. Charles, aged 152 yeares and was buried here Nov. 15. 1635." A post-mortem examination made by the king's orders by Dr William Harvey, revealed the fact that his internal organs were in an unusually perfect state, and his cartilages unossified. Wrote Harvey,
The genital organs were in good condition, the penis was neither retracted nor thin, nor was the scrotum, as is usual in old persons, distended by any watery hernia, while the testicles were large and sound -- so good in fact as not to give the lie to the story commonly told of him that, after reaching his hundredth year, he was actually convicted of fornication and punished. Moreover, his wife, a widow, whom he had married in his hundred and twentieth year, in reply to questions, could not deny that he had had intercourse with her exactly as other husbands do, and had kept up the practice to within twelve years of his death. [...]
The cause of death seemed fairly referrible to a sudden change in the non-naturals, the chief mischief being connected with the change of air, which through the whole course of life had been inhaled of perfect purity – light, cool, and mobile, whereby the praecordia and lungs were more freely ventilated and cooled; but in this great advantage, in this grand cherisher of life this city is especially destitute; a city whose grand characteristic is an immense concourse of men and animals, and where ditches abound, and filth and offal lie scattered about, to say nothing of the smoke engendered by the general use of sulphureous coal as fuel, whereby the air is at all times rendered heavy, but much more so in the autumn than at any other season. Such an atmosphere could not have been found otherwise than insalubrious to one coming from the open, sunny, and healthy region of Salop; it must have been especially so to one already aged and infirm.
Of course, it is rather unlikely that he was actually born in 1483. Parr himself was in no condition to know his proper age, and nothing he said gave any indication of any memories from the 15th century, rather unusual as those would likely be his most vivid memories. While Parr was undeniably old, the scenario sometimes posited is a confusion (deliberate or no) of this Parr's birth record with that of his grandfather.
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