The Ladies Who Served: Mary Tudor, Queen of England (Part 2)

Mary Tudor had many women and girls who served her over her four decades of life. There were the ladies who served in her household when she was a princess and then those who served her as queen of England. All of them played very important roles to ensure everything ran smoothly within her household

This is the second part of the two-part series of “The Ladies Who Served: Mary Tudor, Queen of England”. If you missed part one you can find it *here*.

As always, I must give the credit for this list of ladies to Kathy Lynn Emerson of “The Who’s Who of Tudor Women”, because without her website I would never have been able to discover these ladies. Her website is alphebetized and I had to search throughout the pages to find women who served Mary. Thank you Ms. Emerson for your hard work researching the hundreds of names and stories of these amazing ladies who left a little mark on history.

The Ladies Who Served: Mary Tudor, Queen of England


Elizabeth Jerningham was the daughter of Sir Edward Jerningham or Jernegan and his second wife, Mary Scrope.  She was a waiting gentlewoman to Anne Stanhope, Lady Beauchamp until January, 1537, when she became a maid of honor to Anne’s sister-in-law, Queen Jane Seymour. Later she was a maid of honor to Queen Mary. She was following family tradition. Her mother, first as Lady Jerningham and then as Lady Kingston, had been in the queen’s household since the beginning of Henry the Eighth’s reign.


Jane the Fool was as much a fixture at the Tudor court as Henry VIII’s fool, Will Somers. John Southworth, in Fools and Jesters at the English Court offers evidence that she was there as early as 1537 and may have been there earlier, as the female fool in Queen Anne Boleyn’s household. She was the type of fool known as an “innocent”—probably mentally retarded and possibly suffering from physical disabilities. She had a “keeper” assigned to her. According to records cited in Carolly Erickson’s Bloody Mary, Jane wore beautiful gowns but the hose and shoes of a clown and she had her head shaved regularly at fourpence per barbering. In December 1537 she was in Princess Mary’s household. She was ill in the autumn of 1543 and cost Mary 22s 6d. and another 5s for six ells of cloth to make a pair of sheets for her. It is possible that soon after that she became part of the household of Queen Kathryn Parr, but she was with Mary Tudor after Mary became queen in 1553. Jane the Fool survived into the reign of Elizabeth but then disappears from the records. Biographies: see the chapter on Jane in Southworth’s book. Portraits: Again, following Southworth, Jane is probably the figure on one side of the portrait of Henry VIII and his family at Hampton Court. This makes sense, since the figure on the opposite side is Will Somers. Others argue that the woman is “Mother Jak,” Prince Edward’s nurse, but Mother Jak herself is the object a good deal of confusion. The Holbein sketch labeled “Mother Jak” is actually Margaret Gigs, Sir Thomas More’s foster daughter. Nineteenth-century historian Agnes Stickland suggested that Jak was short for Jackson, but offered no proof. Another unsubstantiated story I’ve seen online is that “Mother Jak” haunts Hampton Court. In reality, the most likely “Mother Jak” was an anonymous wet-nurse hired to take care of Prince Edward. She was replaced, when her services were no longer needed to feed the infant prince, by Sybil Hampden, Mrs. Penne, the gentlewoman who was Edward’s chief nurse (a “dry” nurse) from October 1538 to 1544.


Elizabeth Jerningham was the daughter of John Jerningham and Agnes Darrell. She married John Denton about whom nothing is known, before October 31, 1473, the date of her father’s will, in which he names her the default heir to his manor of Little Worlingham. She is to inherit a life interest in this property after the death of her brother Osberne. Upon her death, the manor was to go to her son, Walter Denton, but he appears to have predeceased her.

In 1496, she entered the household of Henry VII’s children as mistress of the nursery to Prince Henry. She went on to become Princess Mary’s governess and is probably the Mistress Denton who accompanied Princess Margaret to Scotland as well as the wardrobe keeper and lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth of York. She was paid £20 on June 23, 1503 ”for the queen’s debts.” Giles Tremlett (Catherine of Aragon) identifies her as Lady Governess to Catherine of Aragon’s first, short-lived child in 1511 and David Loades identifies Elizabeth Denton as the first Lady Mistress of the nursery to Henry VIII’s daughter, another Princess Mary, in 1516.

In May 1515 she was granted an annuity of £50 per annum “for service to the late king and queen.” By November 1517, Margaret Bryan was in charge of Mary Tudor’s nursery. In 1518, Elizabeth Denton erected a tomb to herself in Blackfriars. She lived in some comfort in the Blackfriars Precinct until her death. She had a messuage, tenement and garden with a way to the waterside between the garden of Lady Peacock on the west and the garden of Richard Tryce on the east, and also two chambers and a cellar under the under-library adjacent to the hill garden.

Philippa Jones’s The Other Tudors: Henry VIII’s Mistresses and Bastards makes the extraordinary claim that Elizabeth Denton was King Henry’s first lover and even suggests that his grandmother, Margaret Beaufort, selected her for him.

Elizabeth Denton left a will dated April 26, 1518. Among other legacies, she left thirty shillings to the prior and chapter of Blackfriars.


Frideswide Knight was the daughter of John Knight. She was a member of Katherine of Aragon’s household and a member of Mary Tudor’s household in 1533 and again from 1536-1558.

Knight was a chamberer in 1533 and 1536 and a gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber from 1553. She married a gentleman of Mary’s household, Robert Strelley, in 1548. She received several grants for her service, including the former chantry windmill at Great Bowden, Leicestershire in 1548,  Ulverscroft Priory from Queen Mary, and a property called Oxehedd.

Frideswide and her husband received the latter from Edward VI in return for surrendering a £10 annuity. She did not have any children. The heirs to various properties were her nephew, John Wilson, and her husband’s “nephew and heir” William Saville. Frideswide Strelley was the only one of Queen Mary’s ladies who would not pretend that the queen was pregnant after it became obvious that she was not.


Isabel Legh, sometimes called Isabel Howard, was the daughter of Ralph Legh and Joyce Culpepper and thus a half-sister of Queen Catherine Howard. The History of Parliament identifies her as the daughter of Sir John Legh of Stockwell, Surrey, Ralph’s brother.

She married Edward Baynton of Bromham, Wiltshire on January 18, 1531 and had by him three children, Henry, Francis and Anne. Baynton was vice-chamberlain to several of Henry VIII’s queens.

The History of Parliament suggests she served Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour. In addition, Sir Edward’s entry says that by March 14, 1539, the Bayntons had replaced Lady Kingston in supervising the joint household of Mary and Elizabeth Tudor. Isabel was at court during the tenure of her half-sister.

When Queen Catherine was sent to Syon House in the autumn of 1541, she was allowed to choose her own female attendants, on the condition that Isabel was one of them. Isabel also accompanied Catherine to the Tower.

She was later a lady of the household extraordinary to Kathryn Parr. According to Charlotte Merton in The Women who served Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, she was also part of Queen Mary’s household in 1554-7.

After Baynton’s death and that of Isabel’s stepdaughter, Bridget, in 1545, Isabel married Bridget’s widower, Sir James Stumpe of Malmesbury and Bromham, Wiltshire. She brought Edington, Wiltshire to her second marriage, along with the household stuff at Edington, 1000 sheep, and all Baynton’s plate, jewels, corn, and cattle. Stumpe had to deal with lawsuits over this inheritance.

In 1550, Isabel was granted the site and demesnes of Edington Abbey for a term of forty-one years. He made his will on April 28, 1563, naming Isabel his executor and leaving her, in addition to rents totaling £100 for her jointure, an interest in Bromham, Wiltshire and Edington. Before September 30, 1572, Isabel married Thomas Stafford of Bromham, Wiltshire.


Catherine Luttrell was the daughter of Sir John Luttrell and Mary Griffith, daughter of Sir Griffith Rhys. At the time of Luttrell’s death of the sweating sickness, he had been attempting to divorce his wife on grounds of adultery, but others apparently did not believe the charges.

Catherine received a legacy in his mother’s will and was buried with the Luttrells in East Quantockshead. She did, however, remarry, taking James Godolphin of Gwinear, Cornwall as her second husband in 1552.

Catherine and her sisters, Dorothy and Mary, were wards of the Crown and the earl of Arundell became Catherine’s guardian. Through his influence, she became a member of Queen Mary’s Privy Chamber.

Her grandmother, Catherine St. John, Lady Edgecumbe, left Catherine a chain of gold with a flower set with two diamonds and a ruby in December 1553. In July 1558, she married Sir Thomas Copley who later claimed to have chosen her for her beauty. In doing so, he alienated Lord William Howard, who wanted him to marry one of his daughters. The wedding took place at Nonsuch Palace, which at that time belonged to the earl of Arundel.

In November 1558, Mistress Copley attended Queen Mary’s funeral as a gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber. Queen Elizabeth was godmother to her eldest son, Henry.

In 1563, however, Sir Thomas refused to conform in religion. He was fined and imprisoned in 1568. In 1570, he went abroad without license, taking his family with him. The Crown promptly seized his property. Although Catherine was allowed to return to England for a visit, her husband remained in exile until his death in Antwerp. They seem to have lived comfortably abroad, where he received a knighthood from the French king, Henri III, and a title from the king of Spain and was a pensioner of the governor of the Netherlands.

Late in the reign of Elizabeth, Catherine was imprisoned at least once for recusancy and convicted twice for harboring priests. An online genealogy states she was buried at Horsham, Sussex on January 7, 1608. Portrait: detail of “A Religious Allegory with Sir Thomas Copley (d.1584) and family” (1625), Dunster Castle, Somerset.


Blanche Milborne was the daughter of Simon Milborne and Jane Baskerville. She was bilingual, born in England but living in a Welsh environment.

Blanche was married first in 1494 to James Whitney and when she was widowed, she was left with three young children—Robert, Elizabeth, and James. Two others, Watkin or Walter and Anne, had died young. She remarried soon after, taking as her second husband William Herbert. They had three sons, including Charles and Thomas, and in August 1502 entertained King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York at Troy House near Monmouth. They were frequent guests of the duke of Buckingham at Thornbury. In 1516, William Herbert was knighted. In the late 1520s and early 1530s, Blanche was probably part of the Countess of Worcester’s household and may have acted as governess to the earl’s children. She may have been put in charge of Princess Mary’s household as early as 1531, when Mary was separated from her mother, Catherine of Aragon. Sometimes referred to as Lady Herbert and other times as Lady Troy, Blanche was the one charged with giving their earliest lessons to both Princess Elizabeth and Prince Edward. In each household in turn she became Lady Mistress when Lady Bryan relinquished that post. She carried Elizabeth’s train at the christening of Prince Edward in 1537. She was still in the Lady Elizabeth’s household as late as 1545 but had left by the time King Henry died in 1547. Lady Troy retired to Troy House, living there into her late seventies. Biography: The information above is condensed from the account in the biography of Blanche Milborne’s niece and goddaughter, Blanche Parry, Ruth Elizabeth Richardson’s Mistress Blanche: Queen Elizabeth’s Confidante. Other sources tend not to mention Blanche Milborne in connection with either Mary or Elizabeth.


Anne Morgan was the daughter of Sir Thomas Morgan and Elizabeth Whitney. On May 21, 1545 she married Henry Carey, son of Mary Boleyn and was later created baron Hunsdon. As Lady Hunsdon, Anne was a lady of the privy chamber. She had ten sons and three daughters, including George, 2nd baron Hunsdon, Henry, John, 3rd baron Hunsdon, William, Catherine, Philadelphia, Edmund, Robert, and Margaret.

In 1568 she left court for Berwick-upon-Tweed when Hunsdon was appointed governor there. According to Charlotte Merton’s The Women who served Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, she had to pay domestic staff and even some staff officers out of her own pocket.When Lord Hunsdon died, he left the family in debt, thanks to the expense of serving the queen. Elizabeth Tudor paid Hunsdon’s funeral expenses (£800) and granted the widow an outright gift of £400, a pension of £200 per annum from the Exchequer, and the keepership of Somerset House for life. Lady Hunsdon used some of the money to erect a monument to her late husband in Westminster Abbey. Portrait: While another copy is elsewhere identified as Mary Hill, Mrs. MacWilliam, the portrait at Hatfield c. 1585-90 by a follower of George Gower is called Lady Hunsdon.


Frances Neville was the daughter of Sir Edward Neville and Eleanor Windsor. Around 1544, she had married Sir Edward Waldegrave. Their children included Magdalen, Catherine, Mary, Nicholas, Charles, Frances, and Christopher.

In September 1551, Waldegrave was in the Tower of London. Frances was permitted to go there to nurse him. He was released on October 24 and allowed to return to his own house on the following March 18. On April 24, he was set at liberty. Frances was one of Queen Mary’s ladies in 1556. In 1561, both she and her husband were in the Tower for hearing mass. Sir Edward died there. During their imprisonment, Queen Elizabeth made use of their house at Smallbridge, Suffolk, on her annual progress. Frances’s second husband, married c.1562, was Chidiock Paulet of Wade, Hampshire (before 1521-August 17, 1574), by whom she had one son, Thomas. Paulet was also a recusant. He was not persecuted for his faith but, in 1565, Frances’s daughters by her first marriage were prevented from leaving England. Paulet left his widow all the plate, hangings, bedding, brass, and pewter he had received when they married and all his household silver. His eldest son by his first marriage was his principal heir. He his daughters by that marriage £900 between them, a £20 annuity to his son Thomas, and a horse to his stepson, Charles Waldegrave. Frances was living at the manor of Navestock, Essex, left to her for life by her first husband, at the time of her death. Portraits: effigy on Waldegrave tomb in Borley, Essex.


Anne Parr was the daughter of Sir Thomas Parr and Maud Green. Her mother was a lady in waiting to Katherine of Aragon and Anne became a maid of honor to Queen Jane Seymour.

In early 1538, Anne married William Herbert. She should not be confused with Lady Herbert of Troy (Blanche Milborne) who carried Elizabeth Tudor’s train at the christening of Prince Edward, or Mrs. Fitzherbert, who was chief chamberer to Queen Jane and rode in her funeral cortege in 1537. Anne Parr was also in the cortege, but she was not yet Mrs. Herbert. As Lady Herbert, she was keeper of the queen’s jewels to Catherine Howard, although she left court briefly to give birth to her first child, Henry, in 1540. She was back at court in time to attend the disgraced queen at Syon House and in the Tower.

When her sister Katherine became Henry VIII’s sixth queen in 1543, Anne returned to court.

In 1551, William Herbert was created earl of Pembroke. They had two more children, Edward and Anne and used Baynard’s Castle as their London residence. For the birth of her second son, Anne’s sister loaned her the manor of Hanworth in Middlesex for her lying in. After the birth, Anne visited Lady Hertford, who had also just given birth, at Syon House near Richmond. In August, the queen sent a barge to bring Anne by river from Syon to Westminster.

After Henry VIII’s death, when the queen dowager’s household was at Chelsea, both Anne and her son Edward were part of the household there. At the time of her death, Anne Parr was one of Princess Mary’s ladies. She died quite unexpectedly at Baynard’s Castle and was buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral next to the tomb of John of Gaunt. Her memorial there reads: “a most faithful wife, a woman of the greatest piety and discretion.” Portrait: portrait bust on one face of the 1540s porch at Wilton (now in Wilton garden); stained glass window; it is the opinion of Susan E. James, Katherine Parr’s biographer, that Anne is the subject of the “unidentified” lady in the Holbein sketch shown below; a portrait of Anne was part of the Pembroke collection in 1561.

Anne Parr by Holbein


Anne Percy was the daughter of Henry Percy, 4th earl of Northumberland and Maud Herbert. She was in the household of Elizabeth of York by 1494 when, at age nine, she presented one of the participants in a tournament to Princess Margaret, then age five.

She is in mentioned in royal clothing warrants for 1497 and 1498 and on one occasion received two gowns, a kirtle, a bonnet, a doublet, and other items.

On July 10, 1502 “Lady Anne Percy” was at Windsor to take a delivery of linen cloth for a sampler to the queen. She is recorded as serving the queen from June-December 1502. A needlework sampler attributed to Lady Anne herself has descended through the Eyre family and is the subject of an article in Oremus (July&August 2011) by Christopher Wickham. After the death of Elizabeth of York, Lady Anne was part of the household of Princess Mary and she was probably the “Lady Percy” who attended Queen Catherine at her coronation in 1509.

On February 15, 1511, she married, as his second wife, William Fitzalan, Lord Maltravers. The king made an offering of 6s. 8d. for the occasion.

In 1524, Maltravers succeeded his father as earl of Arundel. Their children were Henry (April 23, 1512-February 25, 1579/80), Catherine (d.1552+), Margaret, and Elizabeth.


Anne Radcliffe was the daughter of Robert Radcliffe, 1st earl of Sussex and his second wife, Margaret Stanley, who married Radcliffe before September 1, 1532.

On April 10, 1547, Anne married Thomas Wharton, later 2nd baron Wharton, although he did not succeed his father until after Anne’s death. Their children were Philip, Anne, Thomas, and Mary.

Anne was part of the household of Princess (later Queen) Mary before 1552. She is mentioned as such in the 1551 will of one of her fellow gentlewomen, Margaret Pennington Cooke, and also features in an oft-repeated but possibly apocryphal story about Lady Jane Grey. Lady Jane is supposed to have been visiting Princess Mary at Beaulieu when, upon seeing Anne genuflect in the chapel, she made several rude remarks about Catholic practices. This “Lady Anne Wharton” is said to have been a favorite of Mary’s, but she is often misidentified as Anne Talbot, second wife of Anne Radcliffe’s father-in-law. This is impossible because Anne Talbot was Lady Bray during Queen Mary’s reign and did not marry Thomas Wharton’s father until November 1561. That was not only after the death of Queen Mary, but also after the death of Anne Radcliffe. Anne Radcliffe, Lady Wharton was also at court in 1558/9.

BEATRICE ap RICE or RHYS  (maiden name unknown)

Beatrice was the wife of David ap Rice/Rhys, a groom or yeoman of the chamber in Princess Mary’s household prior to 1525. Beatrice became Mary’s laundress in 1519 and was still with her when her household was dissolved in October 1533. She also held this post when Mary was queen.


Anne Rede was the daughter of Sir William Rede and Anne Warham.

The list of ladies attending on Princess Mary in December 1526 includes the name Anne Rede. It was there she met her first husband, Sir Giles Greville or Grevill of Wick, Worcestershire, controller of the household. Two letters are extant that refer to the courtship, the first from Margaret, countess of Salisbury, governess of the Princess Mary, to Lady Rede. Written from Worcester on August 20, 1526, it refers to the interest the comptroller has in her daughter and does not sound entirely approving of the romance. The second letter is from Lady Rede to Mr. Henry Golde, chaplain to the archbishop of Canterbury. Written from Knole on April 8, 1527, it announces that “the matter betwixt Sir Giles Bryvel (sic) and my daughter is driven almost into conclusion.” Barbara J. Harris, in “Women and Politics in Early Tudor England,” reveals that Sir Giles grew so frustrated with Lady Rede’s demands concerning her daughter’s jointure that he threatened to break off negotiations.

In about 1530, Anne married Sir Adrian Fortescue. He was engaged in a long-running dispute over land with the family of his first wife, Anne Stonor. On one occasion, according to later testimony before the Star Chamber, a party led by Sir Walter Stonor attacked Stonor Manor and dragged Anne Rede, who was pregnant, out of her chamber. Anne and Fortescue also contested the inheritance of one of Sir Giles Greville’s manors by his daughter by an earlier marriage and her second husband. Fortescue, in 1532, joined the knights of St. John of Jerusalem, an order that was abolished by Parliament in 1534/5. In August 1534, for refusing to take the Oath of Succession, he was imprisoned in the Marshalsea. The family was based at Brightwell Baldwin in Oxfordshire when, in February 1539, for refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy, Sir Adrian was arrested again and this time charged with “sedition and refusing allegiance” and beheaded. He was beatified in 1895. By Fortescue, Anne was the mother of Sir John (1533-December 23, 1607), Thomas (May 13, 1534-1611), Sir Anthony (c.1535-c.1611), Elizabeth (d.1602), and Mary. Her third husband, married in about 1540, was Sir Thomas Parry of Hampstead Marshall and Welford, Berkshire (c.1505-December 15, 1560). According to The History of Parliament, the marriage was troubled early on. In August 1540, the Bishop of London set up a commission to investigate Parry’s complaint that his wife had left him. They were reconciled and eventually had two sons and three daughters: Thomas (1544-1616), Edward, Anne, Frances, and Muriel (d.1616). In October 1542, Anne was granted 1,500 sheep in Gloucestershire and other goods confiscated from her second husband. Thomas Parry had entered the service of Princess Elizabeth by 1548, when he was her cofferer. He was arrested in 1549 because of his knowledge of the activities of Lord Admiral Thomas Seymour but later released. The Parrys lived at Wallingford, Berkshire and at Welford Park, Berkshire. Anne was in the household of Elizabeth Tudor before she became queen, but on September 30, 1553, she was in attendance on Queen Mary. Mary granted her Pannington, Gotherington, Tredington, Washbourne, and Hamstead in Gloucestershire. Under Queen Elizabeth, Anne Parry was a lady of the privy chamber. When she retired from the court in 1566, she received an annuity and more land in Gloucestershire. Portrait: alabaster effigy on her tomb in Welford, Berkshire, erected by her son Thomas.

Anne Rede


Mary Roper was the daughter of William Roper and Margaret More and the granddaughter of Sir Thomas More. As such, she was given a fine education, did many translations, and was an ardent Catholic. She married twice, first to Stephen Clarke and second, around June 1556, to James Bassett. She bore Bassett two sons, Philip and Charles. Mary was at court under Queen Mary as a gentlewoman of the privy chamber. Biography: Oxford DNB entry under “Bassett [née Roper], Mary”

JANE RUSSELL  (maiden name unknown)

Jane was the wife of William Russell, by whom she had several children, possibly including the Mary Russell in the household of Queen Mary from 1554-7. Jane herself served Mary before she was queen, since she is listed among the “fellows in service” with Margaret Pennington, Lady Cooke, from 1552. She is listed as a chamberer in 1553 and as a gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber from 1554-7. She was granted five leases of land by the queen. In the winter of 1557/8, Jane was invited to live in the London house of Henry Fisher, a wealthy skinner and one of the founders of the Russia Company, and his wife, Elizabeth, “for the great friendship she showed to the same Fisher in such suits as he had” to Queen Mary. According to the entry for Fisher in The History of Parliament, the Fishers nursed Jane during her last illness, for which expenses Fisher later sued in the court of requests. Jane had a son to whom Frances Baynton repaid a loan in her will in 1583.


Mary Scrope was one of the nine daughters of Sir Richard Scrope and Eleanor Washbourne. Two of her older sisters were married to earls, Elizabeth, countess of Oxford and Margaret, countess of Suffolk.

Mary married first, c.1509, Sir Edward Jerningham, by whom she had four sons and one daughter, Sir Henry, Ferdinand, Edward, Edmund, and Elizabeth. Her will mentions a daughter named Margaret and does not mention an Elizabeth, presenting me with a small mystery yet to be solved. In between lying-ins, she had an active career at court from 1509-1527 as one of Catherine of Aragon’s ladies.

On June 26, 1510, she received the gift of tawny velvet for a gown. Her husband was the queen’s cupbearer and her son Henry was a carver to Princess Mary. Edmund became a gentleman of the bedchamber to Henry VIII and Elizabeth was one of Queen Jane’s maids of honor. See the entry for Anne Jerningham for an incident involving the newly widowed Lady Jerningham in 1517. Mary Scrope’s second husband, to whom she was married by the beginning of 1532, was Sir William Kingston (by 1476-September 4, 1540), constable of the Tower from 1524 until his death.

Although Mary Kingston was implicated in the affair of the Nun of Kent in 1533, she took part in Anne Boleyn’s coronation. She was ill at Wanstead in June 1534. During the imprisonment of Anne Boleyn, Lady Kingston was called upon to hear Anne’s apology to Mary Tudor and deliver it to the king’s daughter after Anne’s execution.

Lady Kingston carried Mary Tudor’s train at the christening of Prince Edward, rode in the funeral cortege of Queen Jane, and was listed as one of the thirty ladies appointed as “ordinary waiters” upon Anne of Cleves in 1539. According to some accounts, she served the first four of Henry VIII’s wives and also spent some time in the household of Princess Mary.

David Loades, in his biography of Mary Tudor, says she was in charge of a joint household for Mary and Elizabeth from March 1538 until April 1539. In her will she left her daughter Lady Anne Grey a goblet of silver and gilt with a cover and a ring with a ruby. She was particularly generous to her servant, Margaret Harris, leaving her gowns and other clothing, bedding, and even a tenement in Leyton, Essex. She added a codicil to revoke to revoke the bed of crimson velvet and cloth of gold panes she’d given to Sir Anthony Kingson (her stepson) and left it instead to Mary Jerningham, daughter of her son Henry. She asked to be buried at Painswick, Gloucestershire with her second husband, but her memorial brass, dated 1557, is at Low Leyton, Essex, where she was apparently buried on September 4, 1548. Portrait: a possible portrait has been located in a private collection. More information to come.


Anne Shelton was the daughter of Sir John Shelton and Anne Boleyn (c.1475-December 1556), the sister of Queen Anne Boleyn’s father. Anne married Sir Edmund Knyvett of Buckenham Castle, Norfolk by 1527. As he was not knighted until 1538/9, she may have been the Mistress Anne Knyvett in the household of Princess Mary in Wales in 1525-7.

In 1538, her aunt, Alice Boleyn Clere, left her ”a tablet of gold with the picture of the Salutation of Our Lady in it with 8 rubies and 24 pearls in the same.” Their children still living when Anne died in 1563 were Thomas, Edmund, Henry, and Anthony. Her second husband was Christopher Coote of Blonorton, by whom may have had another son, Richard.


Anne Somerset was the daughter of Henry Somerset, 2nd earl of Worcester and Elizabeth Browne. She is probably the Lady Anne Somerset who was a maid of honor to Queen Mary in 1557 and therefore is also likely the “Anne Neville” Charlotte Merton identifies in her PhD dissertation as the recipient of a wedding gift from the queen of twenty-three ruby buttons and two sapphires. On June 12, 1558, she married Thomas Percy, 7th earl of Northumberland, by whom she had Elizabeth, Thomas, Mary, Lucy, and Jane or Joan.

In 1569, together with Jane Howard, countess of Westmorland, Anne was an instigator of the Northern Rebellion. Her husband was hesitant, but when, in the dead of night, his servants came to tell him that his enemies were surrounding him, the earl and countess fled to Branspeth, Westmorland’s house, and from there began their uprising against Queen Elizabeth. Lord Hunsdon, at the head of the queen’s troops, reported that Lady Northumberland was “stouter” than her husband and rode “up and down with the army.” When the rebellion failed, Northumberland sought refuge with Hector Graham, a borderlands robber, but Graham betrayed Northumberland to the earl of Moray. Anne was pregnant during the uprising. She gave birth on June 11, 1570 in Old Aberdeen, Scotland. On August 23, she and her baby fled to the Continent, arriving in Bruges on August 31,1570. Anne hoped to raise enough money to ransom her husband. She persuaded both King Philip II and the Pope to contribute to her cause, but her effort was in vain. Elizabeth of England outbid her, took charge of the prisoner, and executed him. Anne spent the rest of her life in exile. There is some mystery about her youngest child. Genealogical research on the Belgian family of Percy or Persy indicates that although the baby was given the name Maria, no sex was recorded, and argues that the child was a boy, subsequently called John Percy. A second John Percy shows up in records in Brussels in 1620, claiming to the son of “Jean Piercy,” son of Thomas, earl of Northumberland, who came to Flanders with his mother. This claim was apparently recognized by Spanish authorities. Although some English genealogists over the years have identified the child born in 1570 with the Mary Percy who founded a convent in Brussels, her epitaph there clearly states that she was “in England for a long time” before she first came to the Netherlands. Other sources say that this Mary was eighty at the time of her death in 1643, which would be consistent with a 1563 birth date. Anne Somerset’s daughters had to be abandoned in England when the rebellion failed. Two of them were found at Wressel, the family seat, in a pitiful state, nearly frozen, half starved, and terrified. The servants with whom they’d been left had been murdered and the house ransacked. Their uncle, Henry Percy, who subsequently was granted their father’s title, took his brother’s daughters into his own household and they were raised at Petworth. Meanwhile, their mother was at Liège, living on a pension from Philip II. There she wrote “Discours des troubles du Comte de Northumberland” and involved herself in Catholic plots. She spent the next decade moving from place to place in the Spanish Netherlands, staying in contact with other exiles. She was living at Malines in 1572, in Mechlin in 1573, in Brussels in 1574 and again in 1576, and was back in Liège in 1575. In 1576 she was briefly expelled from the territory in an attempt to placate Queen Elizabeth, but she returned almost immediately. In September 1591, Charles Paget, an English exile in Antwerp, wrote to the Percy family in London to say that Anne had died and to request that her youngest daughter, Jane, come to Flanders to claim her mother’s belongings. This appears to have been a ruse to allow Jane to visit her mother. Anne died of smallpox while living in the convent at Namur, but not until five years later.

MARY VICTORIA (maiden name unknown)

The name Mistress Victoria appears among the gentlewomen attending Catherine of Aragon at the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520 and Mary Victoria is listed in the household of Princess Mary in Wales in 1525 and was still with her in October 1533. She is listed as receiving £10/year in the household accounts for 1526. Joycelyne Russell, in The Field of Cloth of Gold, suggests she may be the wife of Dr. Ferdinand/Fernando Victoria/Vittorio, Spanish physician to the queen and this seems to be supported by an entry in the Letters and Papers, foreign & domestic, of the reign of Henry VIII, Vol. II Part II which lists a payment of £66 13s. 4d. in February 1518 to Dr. Fernando for transporting his wife out of Spain. They had a son, who was the king’s godchild. Plans were discussed in 1523 and 1524 to send him to Emperor Charles V as a page but it is not clear if he ever left England. Mary is probably the “Mistress Mary, my physician’s wife,” to whom Catherine of Aragon left £40 in her will. It is also possible there were two Mary Victorias, mother and daughter, with the daughter serving as one of Princess Mary’s maids of honor in 1525-33.


Susan White was the daughter of Richard White and Maud Tyrell. As early as 1525, Susan may have been in the service of Mary Tudor, remaining with Mary until she was dismissed in late 1533. By 1534, she had married Thomas Tonge, Clarencieux King-at-arms and she is better known to history as Susan or Susanna Clarence, Clarencius, or Clarencieux.

In June 1536, when Mary’s household was reorganized, Susan was one of the three women Mary asked for by name.

In 1544, Susan received an annuity of £13 and the grant of Chevenhall. In 1553, she was given the manor of Thundersley in Essex by Edward VI.

When Mary became queen, Susan was named Mistress of Robes, a new position that combined the duties of Yeoman of the Wardrobe and Groom of the Stole. This title is questioned by Charlotte Merton in her The Women who served Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. She argues that there was no such official position until the reign of James I.

In 1555, she was the only one present when the recently imprisoned Elizabeth Tudor met with her half-sister the queen. A story told in Linda Porter’s First Queen of England paints Susan as somewhat conniving and greedy. She persuaded the Venetian ambassador, Michieli, to make a gift to Queen Mary of his coach and horses, after which Mary turned around and presented them to Susan. She received many gifts from Queen Mary, both grants of land in Essex and the wardships of William Latham of Essex and Robert Stapleton of Yorkshire. She is recorded as having spent 16s. at the sale of Archbishop Cranmer’s possessions in 1553, for an old Turkish “foot carpet” and a carpet for a sideboard. Susan was with Mary when the queen died on November 17, 1558 and the dying Mary gave her further gifts to insure her future. Susan transferred her English properties to her brother, Richard, before leaving the country in August,1559 in the household of Jane Dormer, countess of Feria, where she appears to have remained until her death, although the History of Parliament entry for her nephew says she went overseas “for a short while.” That source also names four Essex manors granted to her in 1558 with reversion to her heirs as Rivenhall, Runwell, Chingford Paul, and Chingford Comitis. Biography: Oxford DNB entry under “Tonge [née White], Susan;” Jennifer Ann Rowley-Williams, chapter in Image and Reality: the Lives of Aristocratic Women in Early Tudor England (unpublished PhD dissertation, 1998).


Emerson, Kathy Lynn; Index to A Who’s Who of Tudor Women

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The Ladies Who Served: Mary Tudor, Queen of England (Part 1)

Mary Tudor, first queen regnant of England was not known (in her later years) to be a beautiful women, and from what I’ve read, neither were the ladies she surrounded herself with. It was common practice during the reign of Henry VIII to ensure that his queen consorts had only the most beautiful women around them. Near the end of Mary’s life she definitely a sight – distended belly from whatever ailed her, skeletal frame, thinning hair and bad breath. That is the consensus from all the books I’ve read.

This is part one of a two-part series because I was able to find such a large list of ladies thanks to Kathy Lynn Emerson and her website, “A Who’s Who of Tudor Women” – Emerson has been kind enough to share all her findings with the world and allowing us to share pieces as long as we give her credit where credit is due. Please, if you have a moment, go check out her amazing site!

As you’ll notice, many of these women do not have portraits available? Is that because they were so unattractive? I’m only kidding, but I have heard this several times. I’ll need to do more research on the topic.

These names took quite awhile to compile so I hope you enjoy the post!

With all that being said, now is the time when I have to embarrass myself and ask for YOUR help. If you can help I will appreciate it more than you know. My costs for web hosting (my website domain), software to create my podcast and research materials are often a cost that is difficult for me to afford. I work a full-time job to pay my everyday bills – this website and stuff is all out of my pocket. If you can help me out it would mean the world to me. Whether it’s a one-time payment or monthly payment at $1 each month, I’d appreciate. Even if it’s a one-time payment of $1 I’ll appreciate more than you’ll ever know. I’ll be sure to thank you on social media (first name only) when I see a donation come through.

One-time payment/donation to my PayPal account:

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Thank you so much – Rebecca Larson

This list includes women and girls who served Mary when she was princess and when she was queen.

Cecily Arundell

Cecily Arundell was the daughter of Sir John Arundell and his second wife, Elizabeth Danet. She was most-likely named for her great-grandmother, Cecily Bonville, marchioness of Dorset. Cecily was in the service of Queen Mary I in 1557 and is probably the Arundell referred to in a poem about eight of Mary’s ladies written by “RE” c.1553.

She was maid of honor to Queen Jane and a gentlewoman in the household of Queen Mary I. Cecily never married and was a faithful servant to her queen, a friend to poor and rich and was bent to virtuous life.

Portrait: memorial brass on which her name is spelled Cyssel Arundell

Jane Arundell

Jane Arundell was the daughter of Sir John Arundell and his first wife, Eleanor Grey. She was at least thirty years old when she went to court as one of Queen Jane’s maids of honor in 1536.

Although there was talk of a marriage with Thomas Cromwell’s son Gregory in October 1536, Jane Arundell never wed. Her younger half-sister, Mary Arundell, was also one of Queen Jane’s maids of honor until she wed the Earl of Sussex. After the queen’s death, Jane became part of their household. Later she was a gentlewoman in Queen Mary’s household before retiring to Lanherne.

Portrait: memorial brass

Frances Aylmer

Frances Aylmer was a lady of the privy chamber to Princess Mary Tudor from at least 1525 until 1533 and returned to her service in 1536. She served as Mary’s proxy when Mary was godmother to one of the children of Lord William Howard. In mid-July 1533, Thomas Cromwell wrote to Lord Hussey, Chamberlain of Mary’s household, ordering him to have Mary’s jewels and plate inventoried and placed in the custody of Frances Aylmer. This did not happen. The Countess of Salisbury (Margaret Pole), who was Lady Mistress of the household, refused to comply unless she received written orders from the king himself.

Margaret Bacon

The daughter of John Bacon, Margaret was in the household of Princess Mary Tudor in the 1530s. She had been married since about 1505 to Sir William Butts, one of the royal physicians. They had at least three children, Sir William, Thomas, and Edmund. Margaret survived her husband. Margaret is said to be age fifty-seven in the below portrait.

Margaret Bacon, later Lady Butts.

Anne Bassett

Anne Bassett was the third daughter of Sir John Bassett and his second wife, Honor Grenville. Her stepfather, Arthur Plantagenet, Viscount Lisle, was Lord Deputy of Calais and Anne was sent to a French family to be educated.

In 1537 she obtained a post at court as one of Queen Jane Seymour’s six maids of honor, having been told in 1536 that, at fifteen, she was too young for the post. At the queen’s death, she was placed in the household of her cousin, Mary Arundell, Countess of Sussex, to await the king’s next marriage. The king took a particular interest in her, at one point giving her a gift of a horse and saddle. Upon his marriage to Anne of Cleves, Anne Bassett resumed her position as a maid of honor and she also held this post under Catherine Howard. After that queen’s disgrace, Anne was particularly provided for because at the time her stepfather, mother, and two sisters were being held in connection with a treasonous plot to turn Calais over to England’s enemies. This does not seem to have affected the king’s feelings for Anne. At a banquet held a short time later, she was one of three ladies to whom he paid particular attention and there was speculation that Anne Bassett might be wife number six. When King Henry chose Katherine Parr instead, Anne resumed her role as maid of honor. She left court during the reign of Edward VI with an annuity of forty marks for her service to Katherine Parr but returned as a lady of the privy chamber in 1553 when Mary Tudor took the throne.

Frances Baynham

Frances Baynham was the daughter of Sir George Baynham and Bridget Kingston. She has been identified as one of Mary Tudor’s ladies in 1536, although she would have been very young at that date. She also married young, wedding Sir Henry Jerningham  between 1536 and 1543, after which she continued to serve Mary as Frances Jerningham, both before and after Mary became queen in 1553.

Amata/Amy Boleyn

Amata or Amy Boleyn, sometimes called Jane, was the daughter of Sir William Boleyn and Margaret Butler, daughter of the Earl of Ormond, and married Sir Philip Calthorpe of on November 4, 1518. They had one daughter, Elizabeth. In mid-October 1521, when Mary Tudor was five years old, Lady Calthorpe replaced Lady Bryan as her governess and Sir Philip was put in charge of the household at joint wages of £40 per annum. In 1525, when Mary set up her household at Ludlow as Princess of Wales, Calthorpe was her vice-chamberlain and his wife was one of her gentlewomen.

Margaret Bourchier

The daughter of Humphrey Bourchier and Elizabeth Tylney. Margaret was brought up with her half brothers and half sisters, including Elizabeth Howard (Anne Boleyn’s mother). Margaret married Sir Thomas Bryan of Ashridge, Hertfordshire. She was a lady in waiting to Catherine of Aragon from 1509 to 1516 while her husband was vice-chamberlain of the queen’s household.

She apparently brought their daughters Margaret and Elizabeth Bryan and her son Francis with her to court. She also had charge of the upbringing of Lettice Penyston. After the birth of Mary Tudor, Margaret was put in charge of the nursery at Ditton Park, Buckinghamshire and at Hanworth. She remained with the princess for five years and when she left was given an annuity of £50 for life. In 1533 she was called back to care for Elizabeth Tudor at Hatfield and in 1537, after the birth of Prince Edward, was put in charge of a combined household at Haveringatte-Bower.

Eleanor Browne

Eleanor Browne was the only child and heiress of Robert Browne and Mary (or Margaret) Mallet. Browne’s will, however, gives his wife’s name as Anne.

Eleanor married first Thomas Fogge, sergeant porter of Calais, by whom she had two daughters, Anne and Alice, and second Sir William Kempe. Their children were Emeline, Thomas, John, Edward, Anthony, Francis, George, Cecily, Faith, Mary, and Margaret. As Eleanor Kempe, Eleanor served in Katherine Parr’s household from 1543-1547 and was one of the longest-serving and most loyal of Mary Tudor’s ladies. She was part of Mary’s household by 1547 and was still there in 1558 when the queen died.

Mabel Browne

Mabel Browne was the daughter of Sir Anthony Browne and Alys Gage. Her father’s half-brother, William FitzWilliam, Earl of Southampton, left her an annuity of £100 in his will, dated September 10, 1542. Mabel Browne was probably named after Southampton’s wife, Mabel Clifford. She was in Mary Tudor’s household before 1552, possibly as a maid of honor. Her marriage to the brother of her stepmother, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, on May 28, 1554 made her countess of Kildare.

Catherine Brydges

Catherine Brydges was the daughter of John Brydges, 1st baron Chandos and Elizabeth Grey. She was a gentlewoman of the privy chamber to Queen Mary. In early 1556, she married Edward Sutton, Baron Dudley and soon after found herself being questioned about her brother-in-law, Sir Henry Dudley, the conspirator. Her husband was imprisoned for debt in June 1558, by which time Catherine had given birth to their only child, Anne.

Anne Conyers

Anne Conyers was the eldest of the three daughters of John, 3rd Baron Conyers and Maud Clifford, younger sister of the 2nd Earl of Cumberland. After her father died, Queen Mary summoned Anne to court. When she did not come at once, the queen sent a letter rebuking her for her hesitance to leave her mother and sisters. Shortly thereafter, Anne became a maid of honor, probably replacing Magdalen Dacre. She married Anthony Kempe of Slindon at some point during the next ten years.

Although she had a son by Kempe, all the sons and daughters mentioned in Kempe’s will except Mary, wife of Humphrey Walrond, were under age and unmarried in 1597 and were the children of his second marriage, made on November 19, 1569 to Margery Gage. The Conyers title went to the son of Anne’s sister, Elizabeth.

Magdalen Dacre

Magdalen Dacre was born at Naworth Castle to William Dacre, 3rd Baron Dacre of Gilsland and Elizabeth Talbot.

At thirteen, she was a gentlewoman to Anne Sapcote, Countess of Bedford and at sixteen joined Queen Mary’s household. She was one of Mary’s bridesmaids when she married Philip II of Spain.

Magdalen was reportedly very religious, spending much of her time in prayer and wearing a coarse linen smock under her court clothes. According to a story repeated in E. S. Turner’s The Court of St. James and elsewhere, she was a blonde, a head taller than any other maid of honor, and very attractive, and she caught the attention of Queen Mary’s husband, Philip of Spain. The story goes that Philip opened a window to a room where Magdalen was washing her face (or in some versions, brushing her hair) and, supposedly in jest, caught hold of her. Magdalen beat him off with a nearby staff and neither she nor her mistress found the incident amusing.

Effigy of Magdalen Dacre, Viscountess Montagu

Mary Danet

Mary Dannett was the daughter of Gerald Danet and his second wife, Mary Belknap. She is recorded as being in the household of Mary Tudor (later Queen Mary) in 1526. Mary Danet married George Medley, half-brother of Lady Jane Grey’s father. They lived at Tilty, Essex and had three sons and two daughters, including Elizabeth.

Mary Dannett brass in St. Mary the Virgin, Tilty, Essex

Jane Dormer

Jane Dormer was the daughter of William Dormer and Mary Sidney. She was a favorite maid of honor to Queen Mary, having entered the queen’s service before the death of Mary’s brother, King Edward VI.

Jane’s hand in marriage was sought by the earl of Devon, the Duke of Norfolk, and Charles Howard, later Earl of Nottingham, but she accepted the proposal of Don Gomez de Figueroa, Count of Feria. They were waiting for the return to England of Philip II to marry when Queen Mary died. Jane herself had been ill in October of 1558 but she returned to her dying mistress’s bedside in November and was entrusted with the errand of journeying to Hatfield to deliver Mary’s jewels to her sister and heir, Elizabeth Tudor.

After Mary’s death, Jane lived with her grandmother, Jane Newdigate, Lady Dormer at the Savoy Palace. She had some questions to answer about jewels missing from Queen Mary’s coffers. Queen Elizabeth appointed Catherine (Carey) Knollys, Marjorie (Williams) Norris, and Blanche Parry to question her. Her explanations appear to have satisfied them. Jane Dormer married the Count of Feria on December 29th and left England in July 1559.

Jane Dormer, Duchess of Feria

Margaret Douglas

Margaret Douglas was the daughter of Margaret Tudor (sister to Henry VIII) by her second husband, Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus. She was thus half-sister of James V of Scotland and granddaughter of Henry VII of England.

Her mother was fleeing from Scotland, seeking shelter with her brother, Henry VIII, when Margaret was born at Harbottle, on the English side of the border.

At barely fifteen, she was appointed Chief Lady-in-Waiting to her cousin, Princess Mary. Three years later, she was at court as one of Anne Boleyn’s ladies.

Margaret was in and out of trouble all her life. She formed two unacceptable romantic alliances with English suitors and was confined for a time after each incident. She may actually have married Thomas Howard (1512-October 29, 1537), one of the duke of Norfolk’s half-brothers. Thomas died in the Tower of London, where he had been imprisoned for his liaison with Margaret. Margaret remained close to Thomas Howard’s niece, Mary Howard, Duchess of Richmond, who had been married to Henry FitzRoy. Their “circle” had a literary bent and they all wrote poetry, although only the sonnets of Mary’s brother, the Earl of Surrey, achieved renown.

During Catherine Howard’s time as queen, Margaret was romantically involved with the queen’s brother, Charles Howard. On July 6, 1544, Margaret married Matthew Stuart, Earl of Lennox. They had four sons and four daughters but only two sons survived to adulthood, Henry, Lord Darnley and Charles, Earl of Lennox. Shortly before Henry VIII’s death, Margaret quarreled with him over a matter of religion (she remained a devout Catholic all her life) and was disinherited.

She was high in favor under Queen Mary, but under Queen Elizabeth she was under arrest on three separate occasions, once on suspicion of witchcraft and treason, once because her son, Lord Darnley, had married Mary, Queen of Scots, and once because she conspired to marry her other son, Charles, to Elizabeth Cavendish.

Margaret Douglas

Anne Elmbridge

Anne Elmbridge was the daughter of Thomas Elmbridge (also spelled EllenbridgeElynbruggeElingbridge, and Ellingbridge) and Joan Overton. Anne married Sir John Dannet (Dannettetc), possibly as early as 1520, and they took livery of her lands in Surrey and Worcestershire in 1525. In 1522, she was listed as a patroness of Chaldon church. On August 18, 1525, the list of attendants to accompany Princess Mary to Wales included the names “Mrs. Anne Dannet” (or Darrell or Darnell) and “Mrs. Dannet.” Mrs. was the abbreviation for mistress and did not necessarily denote marital status, but it is possible that “Mrs. Anne Dannet” was Anne Elmbridge Dannet. The household was dispersed a few years later. Anne and John were the parents of Leonard (d.1582), Sir John (d.c.1607), Gerard, Thomas, Jane, and Mary. Anne was buried in ThornfrithMerstham, Surrey on May 30, 1577.

Joan Fermor

Joan Fermor was the daughter of Sir Richard Fermor and Anne Browne (d.1551+). At some point before 1536, she was a maid of honor to Princess Mary. In that year, she married Robert Wilford, a merchant tailor and London alderman. She had at least one child, a daughter, by her first husband.

On December 3, 1545, she married Sir John Mordaun, son and heir of the 1st Baron Mordaunt, as his second wife. At an unspecified date after that, Sir John’s son and heir, Lewis Mordaunt, who was only around seven years old when his father remarried, compromised his step-sister, Joan’s daughter. Joan insisted that they marry and her husband supported her in this, but Lord Mordaunt, the boy’s grandfather, objected. He took Lewis in and disinherited his own son when Sir John threatened to bar Lewis from succeeding to his mother’s lands. They were apparently reconciled before Mordaunt died on August 18, 1562. Lewis married someone else the following year. Joan married Sir Thomas Kempe of Ollantigh, Wye, Kent by a settlement dated December 20, 1571, as his third wife. They had no children. They were recusants and in 1578 the couple was noted for not receiving communion. In 1583, he was charged with absenting himself from church.

Mary Fitzherbert

Mary Fitzherbert was a member of the household of Mary Tudor in the Marches of Wales in 1525-7. The household accounts for July to December 1526 include quarterly payments of her wages, which amounted to £10 a year. Listed with her are Anne Rede, Mary Victoria (Mary Vittorio), and Mary Danet (Dannett). Possibly they were all maids of honor. On May 28, 1532, Mary Fitzherbert, still in Princess Mary’s service, was given a gown of tawny lucca velvet and a kirtle of crimson satin against her marriage, but her husband’s name is not given.

Katherine Grey

Katherine Grey was the daughter of Thomas Grey, Marquis of Dorset and Margaret Wotton. She married Henry Fitzalan, Lord Maltravers, heir to the earl of Arundel in 1532. Her brother was to have wed his sister, but the match was called off when Henry Grey married Lady Frances Brandon instead. As Lady Maltravers, Katherine was listed as a member of the household of Princess Mary Tudor in October 1533. She had three children by Maltravers, Joan, Henry, and Mary.

Catherine Grey

Lady Catherine Grey was the middle daughter of Henry Grey, 3rd Marquis of Dorset and Duke of Suffolk and Frances Brandon. By the time she was eight, Catherine was studying Greek, although she was not as clever as her older sister, Lady Jane Grey.

In May and June of 1549, riots and rebellion came close to Bradgate Manor in Leicestershire, the Grey family seat, while the family was in residence there. On November 26 of that year, during a stay at Tilty in Essex, all three girls were taken to visit Mary Tudor, the king’s sister, at Beaulieu. In February the family was at Dorset House on the Strand.

On May 25, 1553, at age twelve, Catherine was married to Henry Herbert, the earl of Pembroke’s heir. Although the marriage was not to be consummated, Catherine was sent to live in Pembroke’s London residence, Baynard’s Castle. When the plan to put Catherine’s sister, Lady Jane Grey, on the throne of England in place of Mary Tudor failed, Catherine’s marriage was annulled. Her sister and father were executed after Wyatt’s rebellion a few months later.

In April 1554, with her mother and younger sister, Catherine was living at Beaumanor, near Bradgate, but in July her mother was called to court to join the queen’s Privy Chamber and her surviving daughters went with her.

Under both Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, Catherine lived at court, possibly as a maid of honor, although she had her own room, personal servants, and both dogs and monkeys as pets. She was considered by many to be heiress presumptive and as such was not, by law, allowed to marry without the queen’s permission.

Catherine spent the summer of 1558, when there was sickness (probably influenza) at court, at Hanworth in Middlesex with the Seymour family. It is at that time that her romance with Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford is said to have begun. In November or December 1560, Catherine secretly married him. When the marriage was discovered the following summer, both parties were imprisoned in the Tower. There Catherine gave birth to her son Edward (September 24,1561-1639). Sympathetic jailers allowed the young couple to meet and the result was a second son, Thomas (February 10,1563-1619). Because of the threat of plague in London, Catherine and her younger son were removed from the Tower and sent to her uncle, Lord John Grey, at Pirgo in Essex, arriving there on September 3, 1563. With them were the baby’s nurse, three ladies-in-waiting, and two manservants. Edward and their older son were sent to Edward’s mother, the Anne Stanhope, Duchess of Somerset, at Hanworth. Catherine never saw either of them again. She was moved to Sir William Petre’s house of Ingatestone, Essex in the autumn of 1564. That same year, Hertford was removed from Hanworth and placed with Sir John Mason. When Mason died in April 1566, Hertford remained with his widow in London for a time, then was transferred to the keeping of Sir Richard Spencer. Three-year-old Lord Beauchamp remained with his grandmother. In May 1566, Catherine was moved a few miles east of Ingatestone Hall to Gosfield Hall, the house of Sir John Wentworth, when Sir William Petre fell ill. Wentworth was 76 and his wife was 71, but their plea that they were too old to act as warders was ignored. Wentworth died in late September 1567, after which Catherine and her son were moved to Sir Owen Hopton’s house, Cockfield Hall, in Yoxford, Suffolk. It was there she died, probably of tuberculosis, although the theory has been advanced that she starved herself to death. Her younger son was then sent to join his brother. Catherine was buried at Yoxford, but in 1621, following Hertford’s death, Catherine’s grandson, the surviving male heir, had her body moved to Salisbury Cathedral and buried with her husband.

Lady Catherine Grey with her elder son Edward, Lord Beauchamp

Dorothy Grosvenor

Dorothy Grosvenor was one of the sixteen children of Richard Grosvenor and Catherine Cotton. She married first Richard Wilbraham or Wilbram of Woodhey, Cheshire, who was a member of the household of Princess Mary from 1525, first as clerk of the kitchen and later as a gentleman usher. When Mary became queen he was made master of the jewel house.

According to his entry in the History of Parliament, in February 1558, he had a premonition about his own death and secured the wardship of his four-year old son Thomas for his wife, her father, and two other men of his own choosing. There is a problem with this statement, however, since Richard Grosvenor had died in 1542. One of two explanations is possible. Either father is a mistake for brother, or it was Richard Grosvenor the younger who fathered Dorothy. Since young Thomas was not born until 1554, it is possible that Dorothy could have been born c.1530 and be the daughter of the younger Richard. He married Katherine Dutton but I have no date for that marriage. One argument that Dorothy became a mother at forty-three rather than in her teens comes from the record of gifts before 1553 from Princess Mary to both Wilbraham and his wife. In his will, written on July 25, 1558, Wilbraham named Dorothy one of his executors, along with his sister, Elizabeth Whitmore, and two cousins. By Wilbraham, Dorothy also had a daughter, Elizabeth. Dorothy remarried, taking as her second husband Henry Savile of London, Barrowby, Lincolnshire, and Lupset, Yorkshire. She was his third wife and they had no children. He was a member of the Council of the North.

Sybil Hampden

Better known as Mrs. Penne, Sybil or Sibell Hampden was the daughter of William Hampden and Audrey Hampden (daughter of Richard Hampden of Kimbell).

She married David Penne and had two sons, John and William. In October 1538 she became the chief nurse in the household of the future Edward VI and remained in that post until 1544. The prince was very fond of her and, as king, gave her the manor of Beaumond and the rectory of Little Missenden in Buckinghamshire.

In 1553 she reappears in the household of Queen Mary, Edward’s sister, and she continued to live in rooms at Hampton Court during the reign of Elizabeth Tudor, although she had a house, called Penn’s Place, nearby. She was stricken with smallpox at the same time Queen Elizabeth caught the disease, but Sybil Penne died of it.

Effigy of Sybil Hampden

Barbara Hawke

All the Queen’s Women: The Changing Place and Perception of Aristocratic Women in Elizabethan England 1558-1620 (1987) by Joan Barbara Greenbaum Goldsmith lists Barbara Hawke Bruselles as part of the household of Elizabeth Tudor before 1558 and again from 1558-1569+ but it is in the household of Mary Tudor that I find early mention of Barbara Hawke. She is listed as a gentlewoman of the chamber for the period 1536-47, before Mary became queen, and appears again in 1553-8 as a Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber to Queen Mary. The surname Bruselles does not appear in these early records. Queen Elizabeth gave Barbara russet colored material for gowns in 1565 and again in 1569. Jane Brussells, listed as a chamberer in the household of Queen Elizabeth in 1586, is Barbara’s daughter.

Dorothy Howard

Dorothy Howard was the daughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd duke of Norfolk and Agnes Tylney. With her mother, she was with Princess Mary at Richmond in 1520 when most of the court went to France for the meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I at the Field of Cloth of Gold. Sometime after the death of his first wife, Katherine Howard, in 1530, Dorothy married Edward Stanley, 3rd earl of Derby. As Lady Derby she accompanied Anne Boleyn to France before Anne’s marriage to Henry VIII. She was also in Anne’s coronation procession and in the funeral procession of Jane Seymour. Her children were Henry, Thomas, Elizabeth, Mary, Anne, and Jane.

Elizabeth Howard

Elizabeth Howard was the daughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd duke of Norfolk and Agnes Tylney. In 1520, during the Field of Cloth of Gold, she was at Richmond with her mother, two of her sisters, and four-year-old Princess Mary. In 1523, she was one of the “bevy of ladies” with Elizabeth Stafford, Countess of Surrey, as described in the poem A Goodly Garland or Chaplet of Laurel by John Skelton. She married Henry Radcliffe. He became Lord Fitzwalter in 1529 (and earl of Sussex in 1542). Elizabeth is a leading candidate to be “The Lady Ratclif” of the Holbein sketch, although the identity of the sitter is by no means certain. Elizabeth’s children by Radcliffe were Thomas, 3rd earl (1526-June 9, 1583), Henry, 4th earl (c.1530-December 14, 1593), and Robert. In 1532, she was one of six ladies who accompanied Anne Boleyn to Calais. Portrait: drawing by Hans Holbein the Younger.

Katherine Howard 

Katherine Howard was the daughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd duke of Norfolk and Agnes Tylney. In 1520, during the Field of Cloth of Gold, she was at Richmond with her mother, two of her sisters, and four-year-old Princess Mary.

At the age of six she was betrothed to Rhys ap Griffith of Carew Castle, Pembrokeshire and married him when she was fourteen. Their children, who followed the Welsh practice of using their father’s first name as their last name (ap Rhys or Rice) were Thomas, Griffith, Agnes, Mary, and one other daughter.

Sir Rhys was arrested on October 2, 1531 and accused of plotting to kill the king. He was beheaded. The attainder of November 1531 safeguarded Katherine’s jointure and she continued to receive about £196/year. Her second husband, married in 1532, was Henry Daubeney, earl of Bridgewater. She was his second wife. He’d had no children by his first marriage and this second union also proved childless (although gives them three unnamed children). Barbara J. Harris in “Sisterhood, Friendship and the Power of English Aristocratic Women 1450-1550,” in Women and Politics in Early Modern England, 1540-1700, edited by James Daybell, reports that Lady Daubeney sent all three of her daughters to her mother to raise. Daubeney was reportedly in poor health by 1534 and trying to get rid of his wife. They were already living apart. He may have thought he could get an annulment and marry again in the hope of a son to inherit or they may simply have been incompatible.

In any case, in 1535, he offered her all her own lands and £100/year. In the winter of 1535/6, however, she wrote to Lord Cromwell that her only income came from Queen Anne, her niece. She also claimed that efforts had been made to discredit her with the queen. Daubeney, meanwhile, was pleading financial hardship. By March 1536, however, the queen’s father, the earl of Wiltshire, had loaned him £400. It is not clear if Queen Anne’s generosity extended to having her aunt at court, but we next hear of her nearly two years after Anne’s execution. On April 7, 1538, Katherine was chief mourner at the funeral of her half-sister Elizabeth, Lady Wiltshire. In 1540 there were rumors that Katherine and her husband might reconcile. Reconciled or not, she was at court when another niece, Catherine Howard, was queen, and when Catherine was arrested, so was Katherine. She was indicted for misprision of treason along with her mother, her brother William, and William’s wife (Margaret Gamage). Katherine was buried in the Howard Chapel in Lambeth on May 11, 1554.

Mary Holland

Mary Holland was the daughter of Sir Richard Holland and Eleanor Harbottle. Some sources say Holland was Eleanor Harbottle’s first husband, married in 1524, but this is incorrect. She was married first to Sir Thomas Percy, by whom she had several children, including two future earls of Northumberland. Holland had also been married before. Mary Holland had only one full sibling, a brother named Richard. It has been suggested that Mary Holland might be the Mrs. Holland who was one of Queen Mary’s attendants in 1555/6 and this is certainly possible, although unproven.

Mary married Arthur Pole of Lordlington. His entry in the Oxford DNB says they wed before September 1562. Other sources say the wedding took place between September 15, 1562 and January 27, 1563. Either way, they were not to have much of a life together. Arthur had already been in the Fleet in April 1561 and he was imprisoned again in late 1562. Condemned on a charge of treason in February 1563, he spent the rest of his life in the Tower of London, dying there sometime between January 1570 and August 12, 1570.

Anne Jerningham

Anne Jerningham was the daughter of Sir John Jerningham and Bridget Drury. She married Sir Thomas Cornwallis, who was arrested briefly for recusancy in 1570 and was a gentlewoman of the privy chamber to Queen Mary in 1555. Her children were Elizabeth, Alice, Mary, Sir William, and Sir Charles Cornwallis.

Portrait believe to be Anne, Lady Cornwallis (née Anne Jerningham)

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The Relationship Between Mary and Elizabeth Tudor

Princess Mary Tudor was the apple of her father’s eye for many years prior Anne Boleyn returning to England. Freshly back from her duties in France, Anne was unlike most women and Henry VIII noticed.

We don’t know the exact date that Henry noticed Anne but once he did it changed the course of English history.

After Katherine of Aragon’s last unsuccessful pregnancy Henry began to consider that he would never have a male heir. He believed the fact that he had married his brother’s widow was the reason why. That God would not grant them living male sons because of their sin. Henry referenced Leviticus 20: 21 which said: “If a man should take his brother’s wife it is an unclean thing…he shall be without children.” Henry took this as living sons, specifically. This was completely against everything that happened at the beginning of their marriage – Henry made sure to get a papal dispensation so he could wed his brother’s widow. Now it was convenient for the king to turn things around to his advantage.

It was around 1524, when Henry began to aggressively pursue Anne Boleyn, historian Eric Ives believed that this is when Henry began to reject Katherine of Aragon and stopped sleeping with her…it had been seven years since her last pregnancy. When exactly he began to turn away from Katherine is unclear. It may have been in 1522 but most definitely by 1525 when he brought his illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, out of the shadows and created him Duke of Richmond. This gave him precedence over everyone except for a legitimate son he may have in the future.

Henry didn’t immediately turn against his daughter Mary, it took time for that to come to fruition. But once he did, poor Mary must have been so confused. As a young woman it must have been heartbreaking to lose the love of your father, and king. No wonder why she disliked Anne so much. Who could blame her – she saw Anne as the woman who took away her father and destroyed her family. While that may be what Mary believed, it’s definitely not the truth – Henry is responsible for this as Anne tried several times to have a relationship with Mary. Mary always refused because she was loyal to her mother.

On the 7th of September 1533, Queen Anne Boleyn gave birth to Princess Elizabeth. She and the King were disappointed that their first child was a daughter but were optimistic their next would be a son. Unfortunately, this is when things began to change for Mary. Soon after, Mary would lose her title of Princess and only be referred to as Lady Mary Tudor. Could you imagine? For seventeen years you are a princess and suddenly you no longer have the prestigious title that goes along with being the legitimate daughter of a king. Her mother had already fallen from grace as the King had ended their marriage, and now Mary was removed from the line of succession and declared illegitimate. One can only imagine the malice Mary held toward Anne because of this. She definitely saw this woman as the one responsible for her misery.

Not only had she lost her title but she also had to serve in the household of Princess Elizabeth. You would think Mary definitely had animosity toward the situation she was in. She was defiant when first placed in Elizabeth’s household at Hatfield – she spent days in her chamber, uncontrollably crying and refusing to acknowledge Elizabeth as Princess. She would, however, call Elizabeth “sister” just as she called Henry Fitzroy, “brother”.

I’m not aware of how Mary felt toward Henry Fitzroy but I assume it was similar to her feelings for Elizabeth. However, Fitzroy’s mother had not destroyed everything she ever knew. So it’s possible she liked him as well.

It is clear that Anne did not feel threatened by Fitzroy; She was instrumental in securing the marriage between her cousin Mary Howard and him. This is something that I do not understand. You would think the last thing she wanted was to have him declared legitimate and thus remove her daughter from the line of succession, but it did not seem to be a concern of hers.

The Concubine’s Downfall

Anne’s marriage being declared null and void after she was charged with adultery made their daughter illegitimate along with her sister, Mary – Henry Fitzroy was now presumably the only heir presumptive. Of course, Henry expected to have a son by Jane Seymour but Fitzroy was his steady backup, even though he himself was still considered illegitimate.

According to author Antonia Frasier, after Anne Boleyn’s arrest Henry VIII went to see his son, Henry Fitzroy. In tears he told Fitzroy that Anne was a ‘poisoning whore’ – who had planned to kill both him and his half-sister Mary; what a lucky escape they had had!

In David Starkey’s book titled, “Elizabeth” he says that after the execution of Anne Boleyn that Mary made her peace with Boleyn’s ghost and prayed that ‘that woman’ might be forgiven. He also mentioned that Mary and Elizabeth got along well and lived amiably under the same roof. The sisters became really close.

Two months after Anne’s execution Henry Fitzroy died. This left poor old Henry VIII without Fitzroy as his backup and Jane Seymour was not yet pregnant.

But, in October 1537, Jane Seymour gave birth to a son – Henry was over the moon and great celebrations were had everywhere. From all accounts, both Mary and Elizabeth loved their brother Edward – there is nothing recorded that would tell us they harbored any resentment toward their brother, the prince. The siblings all loved one another – they didn’t care that they had different mothers, they were all children of the king.

King Edward VI

When Edward ascended to the throne in 1547, he would continue with the Reformation process and push it even further than his father had. This was something that truly upset Mary as she was a staunch Catholic. Several times Edward attempted to press Mary to convert and was unsuccessful. He even jokingly suggested that Thomas Seymour wed his sister so he could change her ways. That, of course, never happened as Seymour only wanted Elizabeth or Katherine Parr.

Queen Mary I

Mary’s rise to the throne after the death of her brother, King Edward VI wasn’t without issue. Mary had spent most of her adult life in uncertainty and received no proper training to prepare her for her role as queen. However, by right, she was the heir per her father’s Act of Succession – nonetheless, Edward, on his death-bed attempted to change the succession by naming Lady Jane Grey, a fellow Protestant as his heir (excluding both of his sisters). This devise of succession did not have the Council’s approval. Author Sarah Gristwood states in her book, “Elizabeth & Leicester” that Edward’s justification behind removing his sisters from the line of succession was that they were both bastards of the late king and could both marry abroad. “No wonder Elizabeth saw marriage as a poor consolation prize.

This was a turning point for Mary, she realized that there were people who did not want her on the throne. She also knew that her sister Elizabeth was raised in the Protestant faith and there was concern about others wishing Elizabeth to take her place. Mere months after Mary became queen, Elizabeth felt it necessary to reach out to her sister for a meeting. She understood that her sister was aware of her religion and so pleaded ignorance of, not hostility toward, the Catholic faith. All she knew was how she was raised…as a Protestant.

Not long after Mary’s coronation she had Parliament declare the marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon valid – this appears to have brought up old hostilities toward Elizabeth. She even toyed with the idea of removing Elizabeth from the line of succession but found that would not be as easy as she thought, regardless she would not need to worry about that since she’d hope to have a child of her own making it all unnecessary.

Mary’s Council continued to push her to rid herself of Lady Jane Grey, who was sitting in the Tower of London, as they saw her as a threat to her throne. Mary was soft about her dear cousin and kept her locked away instead of executing her. She understood that Jane wanted no part in becoming queen and felt sorry for her. It wasn’t until Wyatt’s Rebellion that her hand was forced and the execution of Jane was ordered.

Wyatt’s Rebellion only cemented Mary’s paranoia against her sister and Jane’s fate. It appears that Mary was concerned about what Elizabeth was doing and who was in her inner circle. Elizabeth, not wanting to be on her sister’s bad sad, made sure by all outward appearances to act the loyal subject by practicing the Catholic faith in public and not associating herself with rebels, hoping her sister would not find reason to arrest her.

With all the turmoil in the country surrounding religion, many wished Mary to be removed from her throne and Elizabeth to take over as Queen of England. Elizabeth was smart enough to know it was suicide to go along with any plans and seemed comfortable waiting for her turn. She may not have agreed with her sister’s dealings as queen but she knew it was suicide to go against Mary. The queen was paranoid nonetheless and called for her sister to come to London. Allison Weir states in her book, “The Children of Henry VIII” that Elizabeth feigned sickness to save herself. Ambassador Renard suspected that Elizabeth was pregnant with Edward Courtenay’s baby, so Mary’s physicians examined Elizabeth to ensure she was safe for travel and concluded that she was only suffering from ‘watery humours’ or nephritis and was able to travel to court. Renard continued to push for Elizabeth and Edward Courtenay’s execution, going so far to say, When these traitors have been removed “Your Majesty need have no fear for your crown.” Renard is an example of the type of people who were trying to keep the sisters apart. Unfortunately, Elizabeth was probably the one person who understood Mary best.

We will never know for certain whether or not Elizabeth’s ‘illnesses’ were real or not but we can conclude that she was smart enough to know how to manipulate situations to her advantage.

Mary’s concerns were real. As the first Queen regnant of England she was paving a path that was never laid out before. There were enemies around every corner and she had to figure out on her own who was friend and who was foe. It appears that many were convincing her that her sister was foe – so many that there were rumors that Mary would name her Catholic cousin, Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox her heir. Margaret was the daughter of Henry VIII’s sister Margaret Tudor, who had been queen consort of King James IV of Scotland. With this in mind, Margaret Douglas seized the opportunity to besmirch Elizabeth’s reputation by relaying gossip about her to Mary so she would look more favorably on her.

When the queen wed Philip of Spain her subjects and the Council were not pleased with her. She had truly believed that it was God who wished her to marry Philip to help in restore England to Catholicism and Rome. Of course, it had been many years since her father had become the Head of the Church of England so many of her subjects were raised Protestant and happy to continue as such. There were others who were just as happy to return to Catholicism. It was a difficult time to live in England.

Even though Mary locked away her sister in the Tower of London to control the situation, she always had a connection with her sister. She had helped raise Elizabeth years ago and understood her personality better than anyone else. When Elizabeth was first placed in the Tower she requested, no begged, to  write to her sister and plea her case. She was so concerned that other’s would try to change her message that she scored the blank space at the bottom of the letter to ensure nothing could be added.

In her dying days, Queen Mary understood that if God would give her ‘no fruit nor heir of my body’ that England would then go to the person ‘the laws of this realm’ decreed. Mary could not get herself to name Elizabeth as her heir but knew her statement made it so. She made Elizabeth promise that she would not immediately change the country’s religion, and to pay the queen’s debts.

In the end, I truly believe that Mary loved Elizabeth – she was her kin and both were children of a king and his queen consorts. She never executed her sister, only threatened her harm to get her way.

*If you are interested in hearing the recorded version of this article in my podcast, click HERE.


Ives, Eric; The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn
Starkey, David; Elizabeth – The Struggle for the Throne
Fraser, Antonia; The Wives of Henry VIII
Gristwood, Sarah; Game of Queens – The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe
Gristwood, Sarah; Elizabeth & Leicester – The Truth About the Virgin Queen and the Man She Loved
Gristwood, Sarah; Blood Sisters – The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses
Weir, Alison; The Children of Henry VIII

Further Reading (Fiction):

Lawrence, G.; The Bastard Princess
Lawrence, G.; The Heretic Heir

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Queen of Scots Writes Queen of England: 1554

I came across this letter that a thirteen year old Queen of Scots wrote to her Catholic cousin, Mary I of England when she was just a young girl living in France. She writes Mary to let her know that a Lieutenant of King Henri II of France would be passing through England and would stop to speak with the English queen on her behalf.

To give you a little idea of what was happening in 1554 here is a brief overview:

England – 1554 : Mary Tudor, Queen of England married Philip of Spain in July. Then in September of the same year the queen believed herself to be pregnant. By the end of 1554, Mary had succeeded in returning England to Rome.

Scotland – 1554: Marie Stuart, Queen of Scots’ mother, Marie de Guise, was able to remove the Earl of Arran as her daughter’s regent and take the position herself.

France – 1554: Marie Stuart, Queen of Scots had been living in Scotland since 1547 after her marriage with the Dauphin had been arranged. It was safer for Marie to be in France than in Scotland.

Untitled design (1)

Mary, Queen of Scots to Queen Mary of England – 1554

Labeled: To madam, my good sister, the Queen of England.

Endorsed: The young Scottish queen to the queen’s majesty.

Madam, my good sister,

Since the Sieur d’Oysel (Sir Henri Cleutin), the king’s lieutenant in Scotland (referring to Henri II), is returning. I have requested him, in passing through your kingdom, to visit you from me, and thank you, as I do most affectionately, for the kindly friendship of which you give me assurance in your last letter, and to tell you that for my part I have determined to correspond to it so sincerely that, if it please God, there shall be a perpetual remembrance that there were two queens in this island at the same time, as united in inviolate friendship as they are in blood and near lineage. About which, and about all which he will give you to understand from me, I pray you, my good sister, to believe him just as you would the very person of

Your good sister and cousin,


I find it very refreshing to see such amicable words between two queens. Unfortunately things would not be so friendly with Mary’s successor, Queen Elizabeth I of England.

Letters of royal and illustrious ladies of Great Britain, from the commencement of the twelfth century to the close of the reign of Queen Mary; by Green, Mary Anne Everett; Published 1846; page 281-282


Queen Mary’s False Pregnancies

false pregnancies

On the 19th of July 1553, Mary Tudor was declared Queen of England. From that moment (and obviously prior to it) she understood the importance of having an heir. For if she did not produce an heir her sister Elizabeth would keep England Protestant. It was very important for Mary to return England to Rome and resume the Catholic faith to her country.

Philip and Mary

It wasn’t until the 25th of July 1554, that Mary and Philip were married. Her biological clock was already ticking – Mary was born in 1516, making her thirty-eight years old by the time she was married. Not impossible for a woman of that age to conceive a child but surely she understood it would be an uphill battle. I feel Mary was optimistic that God would grace her with a son, especially if she returned England to the Catholic faith…and Rome.

By September 1554, Mary believed herself pregnant for the first time. At this point in history, medical advances were minimal and doctors were unable to tell the difference between a false pregnancy and a real one. They also believed that Mary was with child. The only way to know if the pregnancy was real is if it produced a child, and if it was false, well time would tell. Mary had even claimed that by the end of the month that she felt the baby move in her womb. How was anyone to know that this was a false pregnancy?

Even Mary’s father-in-law, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V was reporting the Queen’s pregnancy in a letter he wrote to Francisco de Eraso (a prominent secretary of his) he is quoted as saying: “she is now considered certainly to be with child and that people in general are pleased with the King and all…”¹

A couple of days later, Charles V writes to his son Philip saying, ” I only wish to say how overjoyed I am to hear of the condition of the Queen, my good daughter, and that there is hope that God will give us successors by her. She had no need to excuse herself for not writing in her own hand, for my desire is that she should be careful of her health and take things easily, especially in her present condition.”¹

Hopes were high that an heir was near. This news was as important to England as it was to Spain. Philip was the heir to his father, Charles V and to have a son was indeed a top priority for Spain as well.

The pressures of producing an heir for Mary were so great that it may have assisted in the creation of the false pregnancy, or, as some have speculated, Mary may have been suffering from an ailment. Possibly ovarian cancer. Which at the time doctors/physicians would not be necessarily aware of.

In November (6th) 1554, the Spanish ambassador reported to the Emperor that, “There is no doubt that the Queen is with child, for her stomach clearly shows it and her dresses no longer fit her.”³

Written November 14, 1554 –  Luis Vanegas to Charles V: “The Queen is in excellent health and three months with child. She is fatter and has a better colour than when she was married, a sign that she is happier, and indeed she is said to be very happy.”.³

By February 1555, Philip wished to travel to Spain to speak with his father (Charles V) – the Spanish ambassador, Simon Renard reported in a letter to the Emperor that the Queen was very melancholy “these last three days, because she had heard that the King wished to visit your Majesty before her confinement.”

As per custom of the time, Mary would be required to go into confinement six weeks before the birth – she had believed the child would arrive in May, so preparations began in April. At the time it was considered improper for any men, other than the husband, to attend the Queen this late into her pregnancy. By the middle of April preparations were complete. Mary’s doctors became nervous regarding their responsibility involved in the birth of the child. Privately they were pessimistic for a positive outcome. Mary was older and her mental state was unstable. It appears that her appetite had decreased so much so that the doctors worried the child was not receiving the nutrition it needed to survive.

On 30 April 1555, there was a similar rejoicing over the birth of a royal infant: bells rang, bonfires were lit and there were celebrations in the street, following news that Mary I had given birth to a healthy son.6

800px-Mary1_by_Eworth_3Another letter written by the Spanish ambassador, Simon Renard to Charles V on the 5th of May 1555 states, “A few days ago there was a rumour that the Queen had given birth to a child, whereupon the people of London and several other places held great rejoicings, with bonfires, true evidence of joy. It is said that the same thing happened when the late King Edward was born.”²

On 8 May 1555, Ruy Gómez de Silva (Portuguese noble) sent a message to Francisco de Eraso (a prominent secretary of Charles V) that stated, “Your letter of 6 May written from Antwerp reached me this morning and told me about the false news that had arrived there of the Queen’s deliverance. I am writing to Spain with a messenger who is going over-land, excusing you for sending the tidings and explaining how it happened. As I have already said, the same false news were circulating here in London.”²

By June there was still no news of a royal baby and before they knew it it was July and still no child had arrived. Mary had convinced everyone that her timing was off and that a child was near.6  The Queen issued a statement that God would not allow her child to be born until all the Protestant dissenters were punished, beginning another round of executions.

Mary had clung to hope much longer than her doctors, and many around her amused her by holding out hope for a child, but behind her back pitied her for her delusions. It seems everyone understood there would be no child except for Mary. But was she really that delusional? I find it hard to believe that she, at this point, hadn’t figured it out. Yes, the symptoms she showed would indicate a pregnancy but it had not progressed to the point of labor.

By the time July came around hopes were certainly dashed of a child ever being born. Simon Renard wrote Charles V -“the Queen’s deliverance is delayed and it is doubted whether she is really with child, although outward signs are good and she asserts that she is indeed pregnant.”4

During many false pregnancy rumors there included some that she was never pregnant at all and that the fetus had been a pet monkey or a lap dog. There were also rumors of a plot to pass along another’s baby as the queen’s own – they said that Lord North was the agent to try to procure a suitable child.6

On August 13, 1555 –  Philip Nigri to Jehan Carette, President of the Emperor’s Court of Accounts  -  ”We still have hopes that a child will be born to England by the end of this month. We shall see what God sends us. . . .”5

In August, the 11th month of her false pregnancy, Mary emerged from her confinement chamber at last. She was impossibly thin, utterly silent and completely humiliated. No word of her “pregnancy” was mentioned at court again, at least officially.

In the end, it is believed that Mary suffered from pseudocyesis, which is sometimes called a “phantom pregnancy.” It is still something today that is not completely understood and appears that between one and six out of every 22,000 pregnancies turn out to be phantom, or false.10  It just so happens that Queen Mary I became one of those stats.

It has been said that from youth Mary suffered from a retention of her menstrual fluids along with a “strangulation of her womb”. This time, her body had swelled to give the appearance of pregnancy and her breast had enlarged and even sent out milk.11  All pointed towards pregnancy.

Mary’s midwife and an old maid who attended her since childhood were both pessimistic of the pregnancy being real – they had been there in the past when she suffered so greatly from menstrual pains and now, several times a day, the Queen spent long hours sitting on the floor, with her knees drawn up to her chin.11  If this account is true then they indeed had predicted correctly. They were women as well, they understood that a pregnant women (in most instances) would be unable to draw her knees up to her chin. It would be nearly impossible.

If we look at the symptoms that Mary had and compare them to those of ovarian cancer you’ll see the similarities.

Mary’s symptoms: Lack of menstrual bleeding, swollen and tender breasts which sent out milk, her body swelled.

Some of the symptoms of ovarian cancer that also coincide with Mary’s pregnancy include: Bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, trouble eating or feeling full quickly, fatigue, back pain, changes in menstrual cycle, abdominal swelling.12 

Again, towards the end of her life Mary thought she was with child. This time it seemed highly unlikely from the get-go because Philip had been away at the estimated time of conception. This was again a phantom pregnancy and Mary would die without an heir to her Catholic throne.


¹   ’Spain: October 1554, 16-31′, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 13, 1554-1558, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1954), pp. 71-76. British History Online [accessed 17 May 2016].

²    ’Spain: May 1555, 1-10′, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 13, 1554-1558, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1954), pp. 168-170. British History Online [accessed 13 May 2016].

³      ’Spain: November 1554, 1-15′, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 13, 1554-1558, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1954), pp. 76-95. British History Online [accessed 17 May 2016].

4    ’Spain: July 1555′, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 13, 1554-1558, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1954), pp. 226-239. British History Online [accessed 13 May 2016].  ’Spain: August 1555′, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 13, 1554-1558, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1954), pp. 239-249. British History Online [accessed 13 May 2016].

 Weir, Alison; The Children of Henry VIII (Children of England)

The History of Mary I, Queen of England as found in Public Records, page 350;


11 Starkey, David; Elizabeth – The Struggle for the Throne


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