María de Salines was one of Katherine of Aragon’s most important ladies-in-waiting; She came with her from Spain in 1501 when Katherine married Arthur and stayed with her until Henry VIII no longer allowed her to service the “disobedient” queen.
In 1516, María marriedbWilliam Willoughby, 11th Baron Willoughby de Eresby. In 1519, they had a daughter Katherine Wilhoughby who would eventually become the young wife of Charles Brandon and become Duchess of Suffolk.
In December 1535, María heard her dear friend Katherine was near death. She desperately wanted to be her but it was impossible to see her without permission from the king. María wrote to Secretary Cromwell to plead her case and appeal to him for permission to see Katherine.
As you’ll notice in the letter she never referred to Katherine as queen or even princess dowager (which Katherine refused to use), only as “my mistress” or “her grace.” This was a very strategic move on her part since calling her queen would surely have denied her access to Katherine by the king.
The book I found this letter in states that it appears her access to Katherine was denied, however she went to Kimbolton anyway. She had no license from the king for entrance but was somehow able to convince them to admit her to the queen anyway. The next day Katherine of Aragon died with her dear life-long friend by her side on 7 January 1536.
Mary, Lady Willoughby (aka María de Salines) to Secretary Cromwell:
In as lowly manner as I can, heartily I recommend me unto you. And thus it is I have forborne you all this same while, for my servant brought me word, when I sent him to you, that you were in such importune business that you could neither dispatch me nor no other body. And now, Mr. Secretary, need driveth me to put you to pain for I heard say that my mistress is very sore sick again; wherefore, good Mr. Secretary, I pray you remember me of your goodness, for you did promise me to labour the king’s grace to get me license to go to her grace afore God send for her: for, as I am informed, there is no other likelihood but it shall be shortly. An if so be that the king’s grace of his goodness be content that I shall go thither, without I have a letter of his grace, or else of you, to shew the officers of my mistress’s house that his grace is content with my going, else my license shall stand to none effect. And as touching that, there is nobody can help me so well as you. Mr. Secretary, under God and the king, all my trust is in you: I pray you remember me now at this time. And so Jesus have you in his keeping.
From the Barbican, the 30th day of December (1535).
By your beadwoman,
Letters: Royal and Illustrious Ladies of Great Britain Vol. II, by Mary Anne Everett Wood – Cheifly from the originals in the State Paper Office, The Tower of London, The British Museum and other State Archives.