The Princess and the Knight (Guest Post)


The Princess and the Knight

Guest post by Sarah Bryson

The story of Charles Brandon and Mary Tudor reads like a fairy tale. Born in 1496 she was the youngest surviving child of King Henry VII and his beautiful wife Queen Elizabeth. Mary was raised to be the perfect image of a princess. Mary was educated in all the necessities for royal women of the time including singing, dancing, embroidery, and playing a musical instrument. In fact Mary was an excellent player of the lute and clavichord (a type of stringed instrument). In addition, she received training in social etiquette including table manners, polite conversation and the importance of dressing and presenting herself as a daughter of the new Tudor king.

Mary was renowned throughout Europe for her great beauty. Philippe Sieur de Bergilies, ambassador to the Court of Margaret of Austria, Regent of the Netherlands, stated that never man saw a more beautiful creature, nor one having so much grace and sweetness, in public or private. Less than three months later Derard de Pleine wrote to Margaret of Austria stating that Madame the Princess [Mary], until I had seen her several times. I can assure you that she is one of the most beautiful girls that one would wish to see; it does not seem to me that I have ever seen one so beautiful. She has a good manner, and her deportment is perfect in conversation, dancing or anything else.

Mary was in essence the perfect princess. The fairy tale of her life continued until when she was just eighteen years old, she was married to the fifty two year old King of France, Louis XII. Louis was an old man riddled with gout and the marriage was a condition of a peace treaty negotiated between England and France.

However, just three months after her marriage, Louis XII died on 1 January 1515. Mary, now the Dowager Queen of France as well as being an English princess, was trapped in a foreign country, her servants dismissed and she was sent to the Hotel de Cluny for forty days of mourning.

At eighteen years of age Mary was young, beautiful and as a widow she was once more a useful political tool. While she remained in France, Francis I could easily use her as a bargaining tool for his own purposes. He could organise a marriage between Mary and a French nobleman or even arrange a marriage with a member of the aristocracy from another country in order to secure a political alliance against England.

Francis I may have also been concerned that should Mary return to England the her brother, Henry VIII, would renege on the original treaty with France and seek a renewal of the English treaty with the Holy Roman Empire, seeking to revive the planned marriage between Mary and Prince Charles of Castile, to whom she had been betrothed to before her marriage to Louis XII. In addition, while Mary remained in France Francis I could retain Marys jewels and would not have to pay for her travelling expenses back to England.

That is when her knight in shining armour came to rescue her. Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk was one of Henry VIIIs closest friends. He was twenty nine years old, tall, athletic and known as one of the best jousters in England, but he was also a rogue. Already having two marriages under his belt, Brandon had a reputation as a ladies man, not just English women, but he even dared to steal a ring from Margaret of Austria, Duchess of Savoy and daughter of Maximillian I, the Holy Roman Emperor!

The fairy tale continues, and Brandon, under orders from King Henry VIII, was sent to France in order to bring Mary safely back to her homeland. Brandon scooped Mary up and falling for her great beauty and charm married her instantly and without the English kings permission. Fearing Henry VIIIs wrath both Mary and Charles threw themselves on the kings mercy and because of his great love for the pair they were forgiven and allowed to return home.

On the face of it, this is a superb example of the chivalric romantic tale of a beautiful, helpless princess saved by her handsome knight. Yet the story is just that a story. The truth about Mary Tudor and her marriage to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk is far more than a helpless woman seeking to be saved. In fact it was Mary who proposed marriage to Brandon and it was Mary who manoeuvred her way through a male dominated world to pave her own future.

Faced with such uncertainty, Mary Tudor did not sit back as the helpless, weak princess needing to be rescued. Instead she took matters into her own hands. Shortly after Brandons arrival in Paris Mary proposed marriage and the duke accepted. The couple were married in secret, without Henry VIIIs permission and also without the knowledge of the king of France.

While the exact date of the marriage is unknown it is probable that the couple married before ten witnesses in the Chapel in Cluny, between 31 January, when Brandon arrived in Paris, and 3rd February.

Mary boldly wrote to her brother reminding him of the promise that he had made at Dover before she boarded the ship that took her to France, which was that should Louis die before her and there was no progeny of that marriage, she could take a second husband of her own choosing.

Sir, I beseech your grace that you will keep all the promises that you promised me when I took my leave of you by the w[ater s]ide. Sir, your grace knoweth well that I did marry for your pl[easure a]t this time, and now I trust that you will suffer me to [marry as] me l[iketh fo]r to do ; for, sir, I k[now that yo]u shall have . . . s that they . . . for I assure your grace that [my mi]nd is not there where they would have me, and I trust [your grace] will not do so to me that has always been so glad to fulfil your mind as I have been : wherefore I beseech your grace for to be good lord and brother to me; for, sir, an if your grace will have gran me married in any place, [sav]ing whereas my mind is, I will be there, whereas your grace nor no other shall have any joy of me : for, I promise your grace, you shall hear that I will be in some religious house, the which I think your grace would be very sorry of, and all your realm. Also, sir, I know well that the King, that is [my so]n, will send to your grace by his uncle the duke of . . . for to ma[rry me here, but I tru]st you[r grace … I sha]ll never be merry at my heart, (for an ever that I d[o marrjy while I live). I trow your grace knoweth as well as I do, and did before I came’ hither, and so I trust your grace will be contented, unless I would never marry while I live, but be there where never [no] man nor woman shall have joy of me ; wherefore I beseech your grace to be good lord to him and to me both, for I know well that he hath m[et ma]ny hindrances to your grace of him and me both. Wherefore, an your grace be good lord to us both, I will not care for all the world else, but beseech your grace to be good lord and brother to me, as you have been here aforetime, f[or in you] is all the trust that I have in this world after God. No m[ore from m]e at this [time].

God send your grace [long life an]d your heart’sde[sires].

By your humble and loving sister, Mary Queen of France.

To the King my brother this be delivered, in haste.

Brandons letter to Henry VIII shows Marys determination not to be remarried to a foreign prince, but to take a husband of her own choosing.

Sir, so it is that when I came to Paris the Queen was in hand with me the first day I [came], and said she must be short with me and [open] to me her pleasure and mind; and so she b[egan] and show how good lady [she] was to me, and if I would be ordered by her she would never have none but me. … She showed me she had wyerelle und[erstood] as well by Friar Langglay and Friar Fr … dar that and yewar sche cam in Ynggyll[and she sho]uld newar have me; and ther for sche … wr that and I wold not marre her … have me nor never come to [England] When I heard her say so I showed … plied that but to prove me with, and she … would not you knew well that my coming … it was showed her … and I axsed her wat [it] was; and she said that the best in France had [said] unto her that, and she went into England, she should go into Flanders. To the which she said that she had rather to be torn in pieces than ever she should come there, and with that wept. Sir, I never saw woman so weep; and when I saw [that] I showed unto her grace that there was none such thing [upon] my faith, with the best words J could: but in none ways I could make her to believe it. And when I saw that, I showed her grace that, and her grace would be content to write unto your grace and to obtain your good will, I would be content; or else I durst not, because I had made unto your grace such a promise. Whereunto, in conclusion, she said, ‘If the King my brother is content and the French King both, the tone by his letters and the todar by his words, that I should have [y]ou, I will have the time after my desire, or else I may well think that the words of … in these parts and of them in England [be] true and that is that you are come to tyes me home (?) [to the in]tent that I may be married into Fland[ers], which I will never, to die for it; and so [I posse]ssed the French King ar you cam (?); and th[at if] you will not be content to follow [my] end, look never after this d[ay to have] the proffer again.’ And, Sir, I … in that case and I thought … but rather to put me … than to lyes all, and so I gra … an too; and so she and I was ma[rried] … and but ten persons, of the which [neither Sir Richard] Wyngfyld nor Master Dyne (Dean) was not [present] on my faith; for she would that I should [not take] them on council, for she said and I did [so] … she thought they would give mo couns[el] to the contrary; and therefore they know not of it, nor that the writing of this letter, on my faith and truth.”

Brandons frantic letter to Henry VIII shows that Mary took possession of the situation and was prepared to act in order to have what she wanted her freedom of choice. She was determined to have her brothers best friend for her second husband, rather than be used again as a bargaining tool for another political alliance with a foreign country.

Mary was not a helpless, meek princess needing to be rescued by a knight in shining armour. Instead she was a cunning woman who took her life into her own hands and forged her own destiny. Marys marriage to Brandon was calculated. It stopped any chance that Francis I might have had of using her for his own political ends. It also stopped any potential marriages that Henry VIII may have planned for his sister. She gambled her brothers love and ultimately came up winning. Mary was married to the handsome, greatly respected and beloved Duke of Suffolk, one of the most powerful men in England, as well as retaining her brothers love and affection. If Marys marriage to Charles Brandon is written as a fairy tale then it must be regarded as the story that Mary wrote for herself.

You can find her book on Amazon:

Amazon – US

Amazon – UK


Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII, 150947, ed. J. S. Brewer, James Gairdner and R. H. Brodie, (His Majestys Stationery Office, 18621932).

Loades, David, Mary Rose (Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2012).

Mumby, F, The Youth of Henry VIII: A Narrative in Contemporary Letters (Boston New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1913).

Richardson, Walter C., Mary Tudor The White Queen (Great Britain: University of Washington Press, 1970).

Author Bio:

Sarah Bryson is a researcher, writer and educator who has a Bachelor of Early Childhood
Education with Honours. She currently works with children with disabilities. She is
passionate about Tudor history and has a deep interest in Mary Tudor, Charles Brandon,
Duke of Suffolk and the reign of Henry VIII and the people of his court. She has run a
website dedicated to Tudor history for many years and has written for various websites
including On the Tudor Trail and QueenAnneBoleyn. She has been studying primary
sources to tell the story of Mary Tudor for a decade. Sarah lives in Australia, enjoys reading,
writing and Tudor costume enactment.






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Tudor Power Couple: Edward and Anne Seymour

The consummate ‘power couple from hell’, Edward Seymour and his wife Anne Stanhope were portrayed in Showtime’s The Tudors as selfish, greedy and uncompromising. In real life you could say the same…or is there more to the story?

Edward Seymour

Born in 1500, Edward Seymour was the second son of John Seymour and Margery Wentworth and grew up at Wolf Hall. The eldest son of the couple, John most likely died in infancy – so Edward was now the oldest. He had nine siblings in all – most notably Thomas and Jane. It is believed that Edward was brought up at Wolf Hall under the supervision of his mother.

John Seymour must have had a great relationship with King Henry VIII because on the 12th of October 1514, a fourteen year old Edward Seymour was made a page “to do service to the queen”. Katherine of Aragon, you ask? No, actually Mary Tudor, Queen of France – favorite sister of King Henry. This must have been a very exciting adventure for such a young man, but unfortunately it would not last long. In a matter of weeks Edward, along with many other of the new French queen’s attendants were sent back to England.

In the Spring of 1514, Edward Seymour married Katherine Fillol, heiress to her father’s fortune. The marriage was most likely arranged by their fathers since the couple were so young – Edward being only 14 years old. The couple lived in the household of Sir John Seymour at Wolf Hall until Edward turned twenty-one because his father had agreed to provide for the young couple until they came of age. It was important for John Seymour to take care of the young couple because his new daughter-in-law stood inherit some great lands upon her father’s death.

Edward and Katherine had two sons, the eldest was John, named for his grandfather and the second was Edward, presumably named for his father.

Edward’s social standing continued to climb when, in December 1516 he was listed as a gentleman attendant in the king’s privy chamber. Then on the 15th of July 1517 he was secured the position of constable of Bristol Castle. He was only seventeen years old at the time so the position was in title only and his duties would have been performed by his father’s deputies – must be nice.

Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset

The couple were married for over a decade before all hell broke lose.

In a book called, The Seymour Family by Amy Aubrey Locke the story is told. There are two different stories to explain – the first is a story that was given by Peter Heylen who was the author of History of the Reformation which was published in 1674 and it states:

When Edward Seymour was in France, possibly when he had accompanied the Duke of Suffolk in 1532, he had acquainted himself with a learned man who had great skill in magic. From this man he could be told how all his relations were back home. The way Heylen explains it it almost seems as if Edward was ‘shown’ what was happening – like possibly in a crystal ball. I don’t know. Seymour saw a male acquaintance in a “familiar posture with his wife than was agreeable to the honour of either party”. Whatever he saw he believed it – so much so that when he arrived back in England he estranged himself from his wife and their two sons, and instead of divorcing her sent her to a convent.

The second story is by Horace Walpole, which is found in Vincent’s Baronage in the College of Arms, that states in latin, but I’ve translated it to: ‘Because of his father, divorced after a marriage being acknowledged.’

So if we were to combine the two statements we’d find that Edward Seymour separated from Katherine Fillol because of his father’s familiar relationship with her that was not agreeable to their honor.

To back up the fact that Katherine Fillol disgraced her family, her father was so upset with her that she would no longer inherit all that she was supposed to as his sole heiress. Instead, in her father’s will dated 1527, she is excluded from inheriting, “for many diverse reasons and considerations from any part or parcel of his manors and estates” – instead she was left with an annual pension from the estate of 40, provided she go and “virtuously and abide in some house of religion of women”. In other words, a convent. So apparently her father was so disgusted by his daughter’s actions that he took away her inheritance.

Interestingly enough author David Loades in The Seymour Family of Wolf Hall believes that the separation did not affect their children’s legitimacy – even though it had been suspected that John and Edward were actually John Seymour’s children and brother’s to Edward Seymour, not his children. He does mention in the book that the boys were not able to claim Edward Seymour’s titles and that they played no part in his career. Supposedly both boys went away with their mother and stayed with her until her death in 1535 – then they were returned to the custody of Edward Seymour. Interesting, right?

Depending on who you read the following information varies regarding the marriage of Edward Seymour to his second wife, Anne Stanhope.

David Loades says they married on the 9th of March 1535, while Antonia Fraser says it was sometime in 1534 before Katherine Fillol’s death and Margaret Scard says by the 9th of March 1535. So we don’t know for certain if it was before or after the death of her first wife. We can assume from the three authors that they were definitely married by the 9th of March 1535.

Regardless of when they were married the new bride immediately put her foot down and said she wanted nothing to do with his sons, so they were both sent away from court to be educated.

Anne Stanhope

Anne Stanhope was the only child of Sir Edward Stanhope and Elizabeth Bourchier and was born in 1510. Unfortunately, when she was about one year old her father died. There is little evidence that remains about Anne’s childhood – it is, however, believed that she was a maid-of-honour to Katherine of Aragon.

Anne Stanhope, Duchess of Somerset

Her mother did eventually marry again, this time to Sir Richard Paget, who was also well-connected to King Henry VIII. Paget was a gentleman of the Privy Chamber for King Henry and also Vice-Chamberlain in the household of Henry Fitzroy.

Man on the Rise
Edward Seymour’s position, thanks to his father’s connection to the king, continued to rise at Tudor court. When his sister caught the king’s eye in 1536 it only helped Edward’s advancement.

Before the execution of Anne Boleyn on the 19th of May 1536, Edward Seymour became a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber; and when his sister Jane became queen he was ennobled as Viscount Beauchamp.

Queen Jane is always referred to as sweet, or as a peace-maker, she apparently got along well with her sister in law Anne and never showed any interest in her nephews that were sent away. It always amazes me that a family with so much scandal surrounding it could end up with a daughter as queen.

When Prince Edward was born on the 12th of October 1537, Seymour was raised to the earldom of Hertford – and his younger brother, Thomas Seymour succeeded Edward’s position in the privy chamber.

Only twelve days later Queen Jane was dead and Prince Edward was only an infant. With infant mortality so high the Seymour family would have been on edge – they understood well how fast one family could fall from favor.

Lucky for them Edward was healthy child and things seemed more stable for Edward Seymour as the eldest uncle of the Prince.

Sometime in 1538, most likely on Anne’s insistence, his boys by Katherine Fillol were excluded from Edward Seymour’s property and titles by Act of Parliament – she meant business, wanting her children to benefit from their father’s standing, not his supposed children from his first marriage.

Death of King Henry VIII

Both Edward and Anne Seymour continued to play important roles at Tudor court throughout the reign of Henry VIII but when the king died on the 28th of January 1547 everything changed and they became the most powerful couple in England.

Henry VIII had actually revised his will in December 1546 a month before his death. The reason behind the revisions were to:

Revise the composition of the Council (these men are the same people who would be executors to his will)
To distribute the Howard property since the Duke of Norfolk and Earl of Surrey were both convicted of treason and sentenced to death.
To name whether after Prince Edward’s ascension he should be aided by a council or a protector. (It’s been noted that King Henry was more interested in a council)
Upon Henry VIII’s death the details regarding the distribution of the Howard land and the issue of a protectorate had not yet been finalized.

Edward Seymour and Sir William Paget (the king’s secretary & Seymour’s ally) and possibly the executors of the late king’s will as well, are believed to have changed it. They did so so that they could be in charge of distributing the Howard land and honors to whomever they pleased. Henry’s will was signed with a stamp, so changes appeared easy to make.

Three days after the king’s death Edward Seymour was named Lord Protector AND Governor of the King.

Author Margaret Scard said it best: Henry VIII never intended a protectorate “his failure to recognize the inherent weakness in the terms of his will left the government of the country at the mercy of ambitious men.”

The transfer from one king to the next was always a hairy situation, especially when the new king was a mere child – see Henry VI as another example with the Wars of the Roses – that history lesson should have been enough warning for the eldest Seymour brother.

Edward Seymour had made promises to William Paget to get him on his side – we know this because of a letter that Paget wrote him two years later. He starts by reminding him that they had discussed something in the gallery of Westminster before the King died and how they had talked about their plan to make Seymour Lord Protector. Evidently, Seymour had told Paget that he would listen to his advice above any other man. Of course, that wasn’t the case – Seymour got what he wanted from Paget. What was he going to do now? Seymour was already Lord Protector and could do as he wished.

In his will Henry VIII had listed sixteen men to be both executors of his will and members of the Regency Council. That is how he wanted things to be. He didn’t want a protectorate. He also named twelve assistant executors, one of which was Edward’s younger and equally ambitious brother Thomas Seymour.

Thomas Seymour believed that he would be named Governor of the King, like with the minority of Henry VI his uncles shared the powerful positions. It wasn’t only Thomas Seymour that was annoyed; Kateryn Parr had believe that she would be named Regent – even going so far as changing her signature to indicate her new position.

In mid-February 1547, Edward Seymour decided to be styled as the Duke of Somerset – truly amazing since that title is traditionally associated with the Beaufort line of ancestors of Henry VIII.

Now as Lord Protector, Governor of the King and Duke of Somerset, Edward Seymour’s authority had grown – he could now add and remove councillors at will and convene the Council at anytime. He could act without permission and was essentially ‘de facto King’. Exactly what Henry VIII did NOT want. He even went so far as to address King Francis I as ‘brother’ in a letter, something reserved to another monarch. Just as Henry VIII had called Francis I, his brother.

When the newly titled Duke of Somerset (how I will try to refer to him going forward) raised his brother Thomas to Baron Seymour of Sudeley, Thomas took it as a slap in the face – he believed Governor of the King was his position. Somerset tried to placate him by also making him Lord High Admiral. While this pleased him it didn’t cure his desire to have more.

Looking for more power and wealth Thomas Seymour did what he knew how to do best evidently – he schemed. First he asked Princess Elizabeth Tudor to marry him. Knowing full well that being married to Elizabeth would bring him as close to the throne as he could achieve. She turned him down, in the sweetest manner possible – saying she needed to mourn her father and could not consider a marriage for at least two years.

Secret Wedding

Thomas, slightly discouraged, went to the next best choice, his former love and dowager queen Kateryn Parr. Parr still loved Seymour and was acting like a young girl in love. She had married the aging, obese king instead of Seymour in 1543 because she felt that it was God’s will to do so. So when she had the opportunity to be with Seymour again she jumped at the chance.

The couple secretly married in the Spring of 1547 – way too soon for the widow of the late king. Thomas and Kateryn looked for a way to get away with their secret marriage without getting in trouble because they hadn’t asked Somerset or the Council’s permission to marry.

When Somerset discovered the two had married he was livid that his own brother had went behind his back to get permission from the young king. He even went to young King Edward and yelled at him about giving them permission. King Edward had noted in his diary about that exchange and said, ‘the Lord Protector was much offended’ and that was all. Now, who’s the king exactly?

Edward’s wife Anne Seymour was equally displeased with the union. Not only did Thomas and Kateryn marry too soon after Henry VIII’s death but Kateryn Parr was marrying well beneath her station since Thomas was merely a baron. Both Edward and Anne felt Thomas had disgraced their family name by going behind their back.

Kateryn Parr still played the role as queen, with a household the same size as when she was married to Henry. Thomas Seymour, being the husband of Kateryn, would have finally felt he had some of the power and status he deserved.

Anne, Duchess of Somerset was annoyed with the fact that Kateryn Parr would take precedence over her as the wife of the Lord Protector – the story that has been told is that she would push, or nudge the dowager queen out of the way to as to walk in front of her – showing she took precedence…now, I’ve been just as guilty of telling this story as others, but apparently we may all have been mistaken and I want to clear it up.

Author Margaret Scard states that it is unlikely that the Duchess of Somerset was resentful toward Kateryn Parr. Anne would have understood that she would have to take her place behind Kateryn, just as she would behind Anne of Cleves as the ‘king’s sister’.

The real issue appears to be between the Duchess of Somerset and Thomas Seymour – she took issue with the precedence he felt he deserved since he was married to the dowager queen. He believed that his marriage to Kateryn would and should raise him above other noblemen. Maybe that means he felt he could walk alongside his wife in a procession – this would be what the duchess was opposed to. In addition to that, both the duke and duchess of Somerset were angry with Thomas for embarrassing them by going behind their back and marrying Kateryn. That information is found in the book by Margaret Scard about Edward Seymour and references the original rumor to the 1550s by Catholic writers. That makes a bit more sense right? They wanted to make the heavily protestant Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset look bad.

If we look at Chris Skidmore’s book about Edward VI he continues with the story that the Duchess of Somerset, who was described as, “A woman for many imperfections intolerable, and for pride monstrous, subtle and violent”, as does Antonia Fraser when she states in the Wives of Henry VIII that the Duchess of Somerset “openly jostled with Queen Catherine for precedence on the grounds that as the wife of the Protector she was the first lady in England”. However, there is no justification for her actions – Kateryn Parr had been granted precedence by statute and the Duchess would also have to walk behind Princess Mary, Princess Elizabeth and Anne of Cleves.

Interestingly enough, in Elizabeth Norton’s book about Kateryn Parr she states that Anne Seymour had always resented having to pay court to the former Lady Latimer – coming from an aristocratic courtly family herself she felt she need not carry the train of her husband’s younger brother.

Edward Seymour, Lord Protector and Duke of Somerset refused to get in the middle of this quarrel and told his brother Thomas, “Brother, are you not my younger brother, and am I not Protector, and do you not know that your wife, before she married the king, was of lower rank than my wife? I desire therefore, since the queen is your wife that mine should go before her. Thomas, now more angry replied with, “I am sorry there should be any anger between them, but I can tell you that the queen is determined not to allow it, so do not blame me for it.”

After the brother’s conversation Thomas went back and informed his wife of what words had been exchanged and Kateryn was humiliated – she left is recorded as saying, “I deserve this for degrading myself from a queen to marry an Admiral.”

Not only was Kateryn being pushed aside by the Duke and Duchess of Somerset for marrying Thomas but now they refused to allow her access to her jewels in the Tower of London. Somerset stated that they were the property of the Crown now. This infuriated Kateryn because some of the jewels were actually her possessions – gifts that she had been given by the late king and her mother. She was not asking for the queen’s jewels. Both Thomas and Kateryn tried everything to get her jewels back – they hired legal council and even discussed with the young king…to no avail. Kateryn would never see her jewels again.

Death of Kateryn Parr

Kateryn Parr’s death came as a surprise to everyone, especially her husband Thomas. You could say her death catapulted him into a death spin that would ultimately lead to his execution.

After his wife’s death, Thomas had asked the Duchess of Suffolk to raise their daughter, Mary.

It wasn’t long after the death of the dowager queen that Thomas Seymour’s reckless behaviour caught up with him. It is believed that his brother, the Duke of Somerset is the one who gave the order to investigate and gather information against Thomas. Eventually, evidence would be found, or possibly fabricated, and Somerset would sign the order for his brother’s execution.

For his actions against his brother he was heavily criticized – what he actually had done was weakened his own standing. In 1550 he was removed from the office of Protector but was readmitted to the council the following year. All the plotting and scheming that Somerset had done himself was now happening to him by John Dudley, Earl of Warwick – when on the 16th of October 1551 Somerset was arrested and sent to the Tower of London. He was executed, just like his brother had been, on the 22nd of January 1552.

A man by the name of John Hayward is noted as saying that the downfall of the Seymour brothers was the direct result of the rivalry of their wives.

The Duke and Duchess of Somerset were indeed the power couple of Tudor court during the reign of Edward VI – unfortunately, between the two of them they were also responsible for the disgrace of the Seymour name.

Interested in the Podcast about this topic? Click this image:

Further Reading:

Fraser, Antonia; Wives of Henry VIII

Lipscomb, Suzannah; The King is Dead

Loades, David; The Seymours of Wolf Hall

Norton, Elizabeth; Catherine Parr

Scard, Margaret; Edward Seymour – Lord Protector

Skidmore, Chris; Edward VI – The Lost King of England

Starkey, David; Rivals in Power – Lives and Letters of the Great Tudor Dynasties

Weir, Alison; The Six Wives of Henry VIII

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Secret Marriage: Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon


When Mary Tudor arrived in France she experience a French court that wasreasonably well ordered and steadily developing as the trend-setter in French material culture. Louis most definitely spoiled his new, young bride and Maryappears to have done her duty as an English Princess and made the King of France, her husband, very happy. As he said himself, “I cansufficiently praise and express my delight in her.

Nearly three months into their marriage, on 1 January 1515, King Louis XII of France died – he was 52 years old. He had been afflicted with gout for some time and just before his death had suffered a severe case of it.

After the King’s death, Mary was required to stay in France for awhile to ensure she was not carrying the late King’s heir. She was isolated from men for six weeks atPalais de Cluny until it was determined she was not with child.

Charles Brandon, newly titled Duke of Suffolk, was sent to France to escort marry back to England on the order of King Henry VIII. Charles was Mary’s true love – she secretly wished to marry him instead of Louis but had to abide by the order of her brother, the King. Henry was awarethat his sister did not want to marry the elderly French King. She had informed Henry that she would gladly marry Louis if heagreed to allow Mary to marry whomever she wanted if she were tooutlive her elderly husband.Henry undoubtedly agreed, but whether he meant it was a whole other story. He most likely just agreed to get his sister to leave for France and fulfill his own agenda.

Unfortunately, it seems that Henry never really meant what he said, as you’ll see from the below letters.

In our first letter, written a month and a half after the death of her husband, we see Mary discussing the new French king, Francis I, and his desire to arrange a new marriage for her. The new French King asked her if she had ever made a promise of marriage and she confessed that she wished to wed Charles, Duke of Suffolk. Francis seems to have encouraged the marriage. The French King’s motives are unknown.

According to Jean Perral, Mary Tudor BrandonFlorence, Uffizi, Cabinet of Drawings and Prints, inv. 3911 F.

Mary Queen-Dowager of France to Henry VIII
[Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies]
Paris, February 15, 1515

Pleaseth it your grace, the French king, on Tuesday night last past, came to visit me, and had with me many diverse discoursing, among the which he demanded me whether I had ever made any promise of marriage in any place, assuring me upon his honour, and upon the word of a prince, that in case I would be plain with him in that affair, that he would do for me therein to the best of his power, whether it were in his realm or out of the same. Whereunto I answered, that I would disclose unto him the secret of my heart in humility, as unto the prince of the world after your grace in whom I had most trust, and so declared unto him the good mind which for divers considerations I bear to my lord of Suffolk, asking him not only to grant me his favour and consent thereunto, but also that he would of his own hand write unto your grace, and to pray you to bear your like favour unto me, and to be content with the same; the which he granted me to do, and so hath done, according as shall appear unto your grace by his said letters. And, sir, I most humbly beseech you to take this answer which I have made unto the French king in good part, the which I did only to be discharged of the extreme pain and annoyance I was in, by reason of such suit as the French king made unto me not according with mine honour, the which he hath clearly left off. Also, sir, I feared greatly lest, in case that I had kept the matter from his knowledge, that he might have not well entreated my said lord of Suffolk, and the rather for to have returned to his former malfantasy and suits. Wherefore, sir, since it hath pleased the said king to desire and pray you of your favour and consent, I most humbly and heartily beseech you that it may like your grace to bear your favour and consent to the same, and to advertise the said king by your writing of your own hand of your pleasure, and in that he hath acted after mine opinion in his letter of request, it shall be to your great honour….to content with all your counsel and with all the other nobles of the realm, and agree thereto for your grace and for all the world; and therefore I eftsoon require you, for all the love that it liked your grace to bear me, that you do not refuse but grant me your favour and consent in form before rehearsed, the which if you shall deny me, I am well assured to lead as desolate a life as ever had creature, the which I know well shall be mine end. Always praying your grace to have compassion of me, my most loving and sovereign lord and brother, whereunto I have entreated you, beseeching God always to preserve your most royal estate.

I most humbly beseech your grace to consider, in case that you make difficulty to condescend to the promises as I wish, the French king will take new courage to renew his suits to me; assuring you that I had rather to be out of the world than it so should happen; and how he shall entreat my lord of Suffolk, God knoweth, with many other inconvenience, which might ensue of the same, the which I pray our Lord that I may never have life to see.

by your loving sister and true servant,

Mary Queen of France


In the next letter it appears that Mary heard from her brother and was aware that he was not happy with her and Charles.

Mary Queen-Dowager of France to Henry VIII
[Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies]

Pleaseth it your grace, to my greatest discomfort, sorrow, and disconsolation, but lately I have been advertised of the great and high displeasure which your highness beareth unto me and my lord of Suffolk for the marriage between us. Sir, I will not in any wise deny but that I have offended your grace, for the which I do put myself most humbly in your clemency and mercy. Nevertheless, to the intent that your highness should not think that I had simply, carnally, or of any sensual appetite done the same, I having no regard to fall in your grace’s displeasure, I assure your grace that I had never done against your ordinance and consent, but by the reason of the great despair wherein I was put by the two friars…which hath certified me in case I come to England your counsel would never consent to the marriage between the said lord and me, with many other sayings concerning the same promise, so that I verily thought that the said friars would never have offered to have made me like overture unless they might have had charge from some of your council, the which put me in such consternation, fear and doubt of the obtaining of the thing which I desired most in this world, that I rather chose to put me in your mercy accomplishing the marriage than to put me in the order of your council knowing them to be otherwise minded. Whereupon, sir, I put my lord of Suffolk in choice whether he would accomplish the marriage within four days, or else that he should never have enjoyed me; whereby I know well that I constrained him to break such promises as he made your grace, as well for fear of losing of me as also that I ascertained him that by their consent I would never come into England. And now that our grace knoweth the both offences, of the which I have been the only occasion. I most humbly and as your most sorrowful sister require you to have compassion upon us both and to pardon our offences, and that it will please your grace to write to me and to my lord of Suffolk some comfortable words, for it should be greatest comfort for us both.

By your loving and most humble sister,


believed to be Princess Mary Tudor by unknown artist

It’s possible that this letter was sent from Calais, a stop on their way back to England. In the letter she mentions that it was all her idea and that Charles had not provoked the matter. Mary had set her mind to marrying Charles and so she did. When Henry VIII sent his friend to France to escort marry back he made Charles promise he would not marry his sister (also mentioned in the above letter)- Henry knew how much Mary liked Charles and must have recalled the promise he had made his sister.

Mary Queen-Dowager of France to Henry VIII
[Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies]

My most dear and entirely beloved brother,

In most humble manner, I recommend me to your grace.

Dearest brother, I doubt not but that you have in your good remembrance that whereas for the good of peace and for the furtherance of your affairs you moved me to marry with my lord and late husband, king Louis of France, whose soul God pardon. Though I understood that he was very aged and sickly, yet for advancement of the said peace and for the furtherance of your causes. I was contented to conform myself to your said motion, so that if I should fortune to survive the said late king I might have affixed and clearly determined myself to marry with him; and the same [I] assure you hath proceeded only of mine own mind, without any request or labour of my said lord Suffolk, or of any other person. And to be plain with your grace, I have so bound myself unto him that for no cause earthly I will or may vary or change from the same. Wherefore my good and most kind brother, I now beseech your grace to take this matter in good part, and to give unto me and to my said lord of Suffolk your good will herein. Ascertaining you, that upon the trust and comfort which I have, for that you have always honourably regarded your promise, I am now come out of the realm of France, and have put myself within your jurisdiction in this your town of Calais, where I intend to remain till such time as I shall have answer from you of your good and loving mind herein; which I would not have done but upon the faithful trust that I have in your said promise. Humbly beseeching your grace, for the great and tender love which ever hath been and shall be between you and me, to bear your gracious mind and show yourself to be agreeable thereunto, and to certify me by your most loving letters of the same till which time I will make mine abode here, and no farther enter your realm. And to the intent it may please you the rather to condescend to this my most hearty desire, I am contended and expressly promise and bind me to you, by these presents, to give you all the whole dote which delivered with me, and also all such plate of gold and jewels as I shall have of my said late husband’s. Over and besides this I shall, rather than fail, give you as much yearly part of my dower, to as great a sum as shall stand with your will and pleasure; and of all the premises I promise, upon knowledge of your good mind, to make unto you sufficient bonds. Trusting, verily, that in fulfilling of your said promise to me made, you will show your brotherly love, affection, and good mind to me in this behalf, which to hear of I abide with most desire; and not to be miscontented with my said lord of Suffolk, whom of mine inward good mind and affection to him I have in manner enforced to be agreeable to the same, without any request by him made; as knoweth our Lord, whom I beseech to have your grace in his merciful governance.

Master of the Brandon Portrait (fl. circa 1510-1540) - Christie's
Master of the Brandon Portrait (fl. circa 1510-1540) – Christie’s

The Duke of Suffolk to Henry VIII
[Calendar, Henry VIII, Vol. II, Preface XXXI.]
Montrruil, April 22, 1515

Most gracious Sovereign Lord, – So it is that I am informed divers (many) ways that all your whole council, my Lord of York excepted, with many other, are clearly determined to “tympe” your grace that I may either be put to death or put in prison, and so to be destroyed. Alas, Sir, I may say that I have a hard fortune, seeing that there was never none of them in trouble but I was glad to help them to my power, and that your grace knows best. And now that I am in this none little trouble and sorrow, now they are ready to help to destroy me. But, Sir, I can no more but God forgive them whatsoever comes to me; for I am determined. For, Sir, your grace is he that is my sovereign lord and master, and he that hath brought me up out of nought; and I am your subject and servant, and he that hath offended your grace in breaking my promise that I made your grace touching the queen your sister; for the which I, with most humble heart, will yield myself into your grace’s hands to do with my poor body your gracious pleasure, not fearing the malice of them; for I know your grace of such nature that it cannot lie in their powers to cause you to destroy me for their malice. But what punishment I have I shall thank God and your grace of it, and think that I have well deserved it both to God and your grace; as knows our Lord who send your grace your most honourable heart’s desire with long life, and me most sorrowful wretch your gracious favour, what sorrow soever I endure therefore.

At Mottryll, the 22nd day of April, by your most humble subject and servant,

Charles Suffolke

Mary’s Signature:mary-tudor-signature


Mumby, Frank Arthur; “The Youth of Henry VIII – A Narrative in Contemporary Letters

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The King’s Delight: Marriage of Mary Tudor to Louis XII


Mary Tudor, Queen of France was the title she earned when she married Louis XII of France. The marriage was one that was arranged by her brother, King Henry VIII of England and not a love match.

On 9 October 1514, at the age of 18, Mary Tudor married 52-year-old King Louis XII of France.

The below letter was written by the King of France to his brother-in-law, Henry VIII. In the letter he describes his delight with his new wife only a few months after their wedding.

Louis’ description of her made it seem that Mary had indeed done her duty as Princess of England. There is no indication in the letter that Mary pined for another – Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk.

Artist Unknown;
Artist Unknown;

Louis XII to Henry VIII
[Ellis’ “Original Letters,” Second Series, Vol. I.]
Paris, December 28, 1514

My good Brother, Cousin, and Comrade, with all my heart I commend myself unto you very affectionately. I have by this bearer, your Officer of Arms, received the letters written by you to me on the ninth of this month, and have heard by the said bearer of the joy you had in hearing from my Cousin, the Duke of Suffolk, of my news, and the content which I have in the Queen, my wife, your good sister, who has so conducted herself towards me, and continues so to do daily, that I know not how I can sufficiently praise and express my delight in her. More and more I love, honour and hold her dear; therefore you may be certain that she is, and ever will continue to be, treated in such a manner as shall content her, and you likewise.

And as touching the reception and good cheer which my Cousin of Suffolk has told you I have made him, there is no need, my good Brother, Cousin, and Comrade, to give me thanks; for I beseech you to believe that besides what I know of the place he holds about you and the the love you bear him, his virtues, honesty, and good qualities merit that he should be honoured and received as much for what he is, as for your own honour; so I have made him the best cheer that was min my power.

Howbeit as touching the secret matters which my Cousin of Suffolk has spoken to me, and on which I have made such reply as he has declared to you by my ambassadors whom I have dispatched and sent to you, you have little more to hear; therefore I entreat you very affectionately after you have heard them to take resolution thereon, and to advertise me of the same as early as it be possible, that I may dispose and order myself accordingly in following what you command me in your said letters. I will keep things in suspense without taking any conclusion thereon, advising you that in good or evil fortune I will live with you, and not only preserve the good friendship and alliance which is made and sworn betwixt us, but keep the said inviolably, watching rather to augment and increase than to diminish it, and hoping that you, on your part, will do likewise. Praying God, my good Brother, Cousin, and Comrade, that He may have you in His holy keeping.

Your loyal Brother, Cousin, and good Comrade,



Mumby, Frank Arthur; The Youth of Henry VIII, A Narrative in Contemporary Letters; page 305-306

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Description of Departure of the King’s Sister: 1514


Princess Mary Tudor was the younger sister of King Henry VIII. She was said to be the King’s favorite sister. Henry arranged for Mary to wed the King of France – as always, a political alliance for England. To have France as an ally instead of an enemy was definitely a benefit to the country after years of fighting.

This letter is written by a Venetian merchant in England who wrote this letter to his brothers including this one about Princess Mary’s departure from England to France where she became Queen.

Description of Departure of the King’s Sister

Lorenzo Pasqualigo to his Brothers
[Venetian Calendar, Vol. II]

London, September 23, 1514

According to Jean Perral, Mary Tudor BrandonFlorence, Uffizi, Cabinet of Drawings and Prints, inv. 3911 F.

…Entertainment, banquets, and jousts are being held for the departure of the Queen, who left for Dover four days ago, accompanied by four of the chief lords of England, namely, the Treasurer, the Lord Chamberlain, the Chancellor and Lord Stanley [Edward Stanley, Lord Mounteagle], besides 400 knights and barons, and 200 gentlemen and other squires, with their horses. The lords, knights, and barons were all accompanied by their wives, attended by their damsels. There would be about 1,000 palfreys, and 100 women’s carriages. There are so many gowns of woven gold and with gold grounds, housings for the palfreys and horses of the same materials, and chains and jewels, that they are worth a vast amount of treasure; and some of the noblemen in this company, to do themselves honour, had spent as much as 200,000 crowns each. Many of the merchants purposed going to Dover to see this fine sight, and about a week ago all the merchants of every nation went to the court. The Queen [of France] desired to see them all, and gave her hand to each of them. She wore a gown in the French fashion, of wove gold, very costly. She is very beautiful, and has not her match in all England, is a young women of 16 years old, tall, fair, and of a light complexion, with a colour, and most affable and graceful. On her neck was a jewelled diamond, as large and as broad as a full-sized finger, with a pear-shaped pearl beneath it, the size of a pigeon’s egg, which jewel had been sent her as a present by the King of France, and the jewellers of “the Row,” whom the King desired to value it, estimated its worth at 60,000 crowns. It was marvellous that the existence of this diamond and pearl should never been known; it was believed they had belonged to the late King of France, or to the Duke of Brittany, the father of the late Queen.

According to the report of the courtiers, the Queen was to cross over to Boulogne, and the King of France would come as far as Abbeville, it was said, to meet her, and there consummate his marriage with this “nymph from heaven,” her beauty and affability warranting the expression. On bidding farewell to the merchants, she made them all many offers, speaking a few words in French, and delighting everybody. The whole court now speaks both French and English, as in the time of the late King…


Mary was in the care of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk on her trip and on the 2nd of October they launched forFrance. Her voyage was not without problems, a very strong wind pick up merely an hour after they launched. This scattered all the ships in their fleet in several directions. One of the ships called, ‘The Great Elizabeth‘ succumbed to the weather and sunk with a loss of 400 men. Mary’s own ship ran ashore near the entrance to Boulogne harbor – Sir Christopher Garneys, an ambassador to King Louis XII ran through the breakers and carried the soaked and frightened Mary to safety.

Her marriage to King Louis did not last long. After his death, less than a year after being married, Mary secretly married Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk.


Mumby, Frank Arthur; The Youth of Henry VIII in Contemporary Letters

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Mother Guildford: Joan Vaux

It’s not very often that we take a look behind the scenes to the people who cared for the beloved children of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. I stumbled across Joan Vaux while looking through old translated letters, however, she was mis-labeled as Jane, Lady Guildford – or “Mother Guildford.” In the explanation of this letter it discusses her dismissal from the service of Mary, the French queen, by her husband Louis XII. This, of course, is referring to Mary Tudor – favorite sister of Henry VIII.

With this information I decided to look into ladies-in-waiting to the French queen. This is when I discovered a Joan (not Jane) who had many years earlier been named the Lady Governess to the royal children, Princess Margaret and Princess Mary starting in 1499. Since she was so young Princess Mary became very close to her Governess and relied upon her greatly.

Joan Vaux, Mother Guildford

Lady Guildford
Joan Vaux, Lady Guildford

Joan Vaux was born around 1463 to  Sir William Vaux and Katherine Penyston. Joan’s first station at court was as a lady-in-waiting to Margaret Beaufort after the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

In 1489, Joan married Sir Richard Guildford (1455-1506) at the age of 26, which to be honest was rather old for a first marriage; Henry VII and Elizabeth of York were in attendance at their wedding. That same year the couple are reported to have had a son, Sir Henry Guildford.

By 1499, Lady Guildford became Governess to ten-year old Princess Margaret and three-year old Princess Mary Tudor. It’s no surprise that Mary had a close relationship with Joan since she would have had grown up in her care; She was like a second mother.

Upon the arrival of Katherine of Aragon in 1501, Joan was present with Queen Elizabeth. Not long after meeting Arthur, Prince of Wales Katherine and her ladies had danced the pavane:

The pavane’s basic movement, to music in 2/2 or 4/4 time, consisted of forward and backward steps; the dancers rose onto the balls of their feet and swayed from side to side.

Arthur Tudor eventually joined in and Katherine, along with one of her ladies, taught him a dignified Spanish dance after which he danced with Lady Guildford in the English style – “right pleasurably and honourably.”

Unfortunately, in 1506, Joan’s husband Sir Richard Guildford died while on pilgrimage in Jerusalem. Sometime that year she also re-joined the household of Margaret Beaufort until the King’s Mother’s death in 1509, at which time Joan retired from court and moved to a house in Blackfriars, London.

At some point she remarried. The date is unknown. Her second husband was sir Anthony Poyntz, but she retained the name Guildford for the rest of her life. Poyntz was English diplomat and naval commander. He was the son of Sir Robert Poyntz, and Margaret Woodville, who was the illegitimate daughter of Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers. Poyntz died in 1533, leaving Joan as a widow once again.

France 1514

Mary Tudor, Queen of France

Joan remains quiet until 1514, when she is reunited with Princess Mary Tudor upon her forthcoming wedding in France to King Louis XII. Following the wedding, the French king dismissed a majority of Mary’s English attendants, including Joan. Mary was so upset that she wrote a letter to her brother, Henry VIII and Wolsey to voice her displeasure.

Mary, Queen of France to Wolsey: (Letters and Papers: Henry VIII)

Complains of her servants having been discharged the morning after her marriage; among the rest her “mother Guldeford,” whom the King and Wolsey advised her always to consult. No attention was paid to Mary’s urgent request that she should remain. Has many other discomforts besides. Begs Wolsey will find the means to have her sent back. “I had as lief lose the winning I shall have in France as to lose her counsel when I shall lack it; which is not like long to be required, as I am sure the noblemen and gentlemen can show you more than becometh me to write in this matter.” Is dissatisfied with Norfolk

Mary, Queen of France to her brother, Henry VIII: (Mary writes Henry to ask for Joan’s return)

“Begs credence for her, and desires her return.” “I marvel much that my Lord of Norfolk wold at all times so lightly grant everything at their requests here. I am well assured that when ye know the truth of everything, as my mother Guildford can show you, ye wold full little have thought I should have been thus intreated, that would God my Lord of Zorke had come with me in the room of my Lord of Norfolk, for then am I sure I should have been left much more at my heart’s ease than I am now.”

King Louis did not allow Joan to stay in France. He had a strong dislike of her and how she advised his wife. There was nothing anyone could do on Joan’s behalf. Joan was very upset about this and wrote to Henry VIII who in turn paid her a pension for her past loyalties to her grandmother, his parents and his sisters.

After her return to England in 1514, Joan went rather quiet, and we do not hear much from her again until she makes out her will in 1538.

At the commencement of her will, Joan was said to describe herself as of sound mind, but sick in body — she only survived a few more days. She died on Wednesday, 4th of September 1538, between 11 and 12 am., “very weak and repentant.” She was 75 years old. Joan outlived her charge, Mary, by five years.


Weir, Alison; Six Wives of Henry VIII – page 30

‘Henry VIII: October 1514, 1-15’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 1, 1509-1514, ed. J S Brewer (London, 1920), pp. 1401-1417. British History Online [accessed 14 July 2016].

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