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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History House of Tudor Joan Vaux Margaret Tudor Mary Tudor

1 Comment Leave a comment

  1. This Was a Very Good read! It touched my heart on How much Mary Begged her brother to send Lady Guildford back to her after her husband had dismissed all her household. So sad.

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