Last year I read all three books in the trilogy by author Tony Riches about the Tudor dynasty. Book One was about a Owen Tudor, second husband of Catherine of Valois and stepfather to King Henry VI. Book Two was about Jasper Tudor, half-brother of King Henry VI and uncle of the future Henry VII. The final book, Book Three was about Henry Tudor and his struggle to become King of England. After finishing the trilogy on the Tudor dynasty Riches decided to try his hand at Mary Tudor, Queen of France and sister to King Henry VIII.
The love story of Mary and Charles Brandon has always intrigued me. A man whose family had been mostly servants and who was raised to Duke of Suffolk married the sister of the King in a secret ceremony in France. This unauthorized act would by a subject of Henry would usually end with the participants locked in the Tower of London, or worse yet, executed. Luckily for Mary and Charles they were both favorites of Henry and he merely fined them.
When the couple were finally allowed to return to England, Henry VIII insisted that they have a public ceremony at Greenwich Palace. He did not wish for his favorite sister’s future children to be declared illegitimate – they would be, after all, in the line of succession.
This story is wonderfully told by Riches as the life of an English princess who only wished to do what was right. Mary was loyal to those close to her, none more than to Katherine of Aragon during the King’s Great Matter. Mary despised her former maid of honor, Anne Boleyn and wanted nothing more than to see her good friend regain her position.
Unfortunately for Mary her life wasn’t always rainbows and butterflies. She lost a son after a freak accident and then she herself became extremely ill and would be unable to see her daughters Frances and ELeanor give her grandchildren.
If you love to read about the women of the Tudor dynasty I highly recommend you buy this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and cannot wait for the author’s next book about Charles Brandon.
If you’d like to pick up a copy of the book it is available on Amazon.
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
…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 for France. 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
Mary’s Motto: “La volenté De Dieu me suffit” - The will of God is sufficient for me.
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.
When 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.