Mary Tudor: English Princess, French Queen

Mary’s Motto: “La volenté De Dieu me suffit”  - The will of God is sufficient for me.

Mary Tudor
Mary Tudor

Princess Mary Tudor was born on 18 March 1496 as the fifth of seven children to Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. Mary became a beautiful young lady and was considered to be one of the most attractive women in Europe, at the time. This is no surprise as the same was said about her mother, Elizabeth of York. Mary was only seven years old when her mother passed away.

As with her sister Margaret, Mary would play a pivotal role in political alliances. At the of age six, she was given her own household and was given instruction in French, Latin, music, dancing, and embroidery.

Henry, Duke of York (future Henry VIII) and Mary got along very well as children — they had a very close relationship.  It is said that Henry named the Mary Rose after his favorite sister and his daughter Mary as well.



Mary was initially betrothed to the future Charles V of Spain (in 1507) and after many delays, Henry VIII called off the betrothal. The next alliance and betrothal for Mary (at 18 years old) was with the French king, Louis XII. He was 34 years her senior. King Louis had no heir and needed one quickly because his health was failing fast. This was a great alliance for Henry VIII — to have France as an ally would be convenient for England. At the time, young Princess Mary was already head-over-heals in love with Henry’s best friend, Charles Brandon — marrying Charles was out of the question since he was below her station and not of noble birth.

Mary refused to wed the French king, weeping and sulking, and demanding to be allowed to marry Charles. Of course, her brother refused. So, Mary struck a deal with Henry: she would do her princess duty and marry the French King. But, if she were to outlive Louis – which was very likely – she wanted her next husband to be one of her own choosing. Henry agreed, quite possibly with the intention of never honoring his promise.” – Quoted via TudorHistory.org

On 9 October 1514, Princess Mary wed the King of France – Louis XII, and became Queen (consort) of France. Louis had no living son and it was imperative that they produce an heir soon after the wedding. Mary knew that her “elderly” husband was ill — if she became pregnant with a son and Louis died, that son would be the next ruler and she, most likely regent.

On 1 January 1515, almost three months after their wedding, King Louis XII died. Mary reputedly wore out the king by his exertions in the bedroom to produce an heir. Their marriage produced no heirs and Mary was called, Dowager Queen after Louis’ death.



The new king of France, Francis I, attempted to arrange a second marriage for the Dowager Queen, but she only wanted Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. Her brother, Henry VIII had agreed that she could marry whomever she liked after the death of Louis. Little did she know, Henry would not stand by his promise. In late January 1515, Henry VIII sent Charles Brandon to bring Mary back to England — he made the Duke promise that he would not propose to her.[1] 

Mary_Tudor_and_Charles_BrandonWhen Charles Brandon arrived in France, Mary quickly convinced him to abandon his agreement with the King of England. Mary had heard rumors that her brother, the king, was planning a new marriage for her and would not follow through on his original promise. Having heard those rumors, Mary and Charles committed treason by secretly marrying, on 3 March 1515, (in the presence of King Francis I) since they did not get permission from Henry to wed.

Henry VIII was furious when he found out his best friend, and favorite sister married without his approval, or permission.  Henry’s initial reaction was to remove Charles’ head from his body – but after much thought and time he only fined his favorites and allowed them to officially wed in England on 13 May 1515 in the presence of the king himself, and other courtiers.  Mary became the Duchess of Suffolk, but was still called the french queen. Being a queen outranked being a duchess, and it was a reminder to Mary that she married below her station. Did it really bother her? Probably not, since she got her way.

Charles and Mary went on to have four children – their first, a son (1516) – named Henry after the King. Their second child was a daughter, Frances (1517), reportedly named after the king of France who allowed them to wed in the first place. In 1519, they had another daughter, Eleanor, and in 1523 another son named Henry (after their first son had died in 1522).

On 25 June 1533, Mary Tudor died at her home at Westhorpe Hall – she was 37 years old. She was laid to rest in the abbey at Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk. She was moved to St Mary’s Church in Bury St Edmunds during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Mary’s Legacy: Mary’s granddaughter, Lady Jane Grey, became the Nine Day Queen after the death of Edward VI in 1553. Lady Jane Grey was overthrown by Mary, who became Mary I, and was executed on the 12th February 1554 after being convicted of treason. [2]

Sources:

http://tudorhistory.org/people/mary2/
Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 36 pp. 397-400 MacMillan: London, 1893
[1] Weir, “Henry VIII,” p. 178
[2] Read more: http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/princess-mary-tudor/#ixzz3qMH4tvvO

You just read Part 5 of the Series –  Part 5: Mary Tudor, 5th child and third daughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. She was the last to survive infancy.

Catch up here:

Part 1: The Redemption of Elizabeth of York
Part 2: Arthur: The Man Who Would Be King
Part 3: The Thistle and the Rose: English Princess, Scottish Queen
Part 4: The Legacy of Henry VIII



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