For They Deserve Death: Katherine and Mary

In 1535, the King of England was married to Anne Boleyn and they had a daughter, Princess Elizabeth who was now heir to her father’s throne. Elizabeth’s half-sister, Mary was now considered illegitimate and was to be referred to as “Lady” Mary. As you’ll notice from these letters written by Eustace Chapuys he still referred to her as “Princess” since he was their Spanish ally and believed she was the rightful princess and Katherine the rightful queen.

In the first letter from Chapuys to Charles V (nephew to Katherine of Aragon) you see mention to Mary being ill and wishing to have mother and daughter together. The request was of course denied. There was also talk of a marriage for Mary but that those who were interested in marrying her were below her station. There is also mention of the “French Dauphin” who is in reference to Francis III, Duke of Brittany, eldest son of King Francis I of France. The Dauphin died the following year in 1536.

Francis III, Duke of Brittany
Princess Mary

In the following quote we see where Chapuys mentions Anne Boleyn and her assumed hatred for Katherine and Mary:

…she is continually telling the King that he does not act rightly or prudently in allowing the Queen and the Princess to live, for they deserve death (she says) much more than those who have lately been executed, since, after all, they were and are still the cause of all the mischief.

It’s when I read quotes like the above that I become less of a fan of Anne Boleyn and feel strongly sympathetic toward Katherine of Aragon and Mary. I mean, how can you not?

The second letter shared with you here shows the politics between Spain and England during this time. It also mentions the ‘King’s Fool’ and an incident with him and his words against Anne Boleyn.

Letter - July 1535: Chapuys to the Emperor

At the Princess’s pressing request, a few days ago, I again asked Cromwell whether it would not be possible to have her removed to her mother’s quarters, that she might live in her company. He answered me plainly that the thing was impracticable; the King, his master, would never consent to that, even if there was occasion for it, owing to the Queen being too much of a Papist. He also told me that the true expedient for having the Princess removed from where she is, and radically curing her of her chronic disease, would be to procure a suitable marriage for her, the best and most honourable that could be had; excepting, however, that of the French Dauphin, to whom it was not the King’s intention ever to marry her, whatever your Majesty’s wishes might be in that line. Several petty German princes had applied to the King for her hand, but it would be lowering her state too much to accept the offer of any of them. I really believe that this King cares but little whether the Princess, his daughter, marries or not; at any rate, if the royal mistress’s words are to be believed, the Princess’s dower will not be a very rich one, for she is continually telling the King that he does not act rightly or prudently in allowing the Queen and the Princess to live, for they deserve death (she says) much more than those who have lately been executed, since, after all, they were and are still the cause of all the mischief. Every week since Lent I have sent one of my men to the Princess to inquire after her health, and hear whether she had any orders for me; but the last time I sent, her governess told my messenger that in future no one would get admittance to her. I have, therefore, requested Cromwell to ascertain what are the King’s wishes in the matter.” (Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 5 Part 1, 1534-1535, Line 183)

Letter – July 1535: Eustace Chapuys to Nicholas Perrenot, seigneur de Granvelle

The English are daily becoming less tractable, especially in the treatment of the Princess. Hears from one who is frequently at the house where she is now residing that the King is afraid of the French carrying her away; that is why strangers are forbidden to approach her, and an armed watch kept around the house and at the nearest sea-ports. I told Cromwell the other day that I should soon be obliged to go to Flanders on private business of my own; though in reality to prepare for the Princess’s flight. When Cromwell heard it, he was taken aback, as if he feared that I might leave the country altogether, never to return to it. I shall certainly leave him in that suspicion, which will rather increase than diminish, owing to the fact that foreign merchants are quitting this city one by one. Of the German captains and soldiers who came from Lubeck not one remains here.

P.S.—He the other day nearly murdered his own fool (Will Somers), a simple and innocent man, because he happened to speak well in his presence of the Queen and Princess, and called the concubine “ribaude” and her daughter “bastard.” He has now been banished from Court, and has gone to the Grand Esquire, who has sheltered and hidden him. (Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 5 Part 1, 1534-1535, Line 184 )


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