Tudor Marys

Guest article by P. Deegan

Every time I read something about the Tudor period, there always seems to be a ‘Mary’ somewhere. When a number of them are major players then it gets even more confusing to read about them. So I thought I’d do a quick guide about some of them for those new to this period of history. There has been no in-depth research on this so I am sorry if I have regurgitated some errors that always circulate in popular history. Please feel free to correct any careless errors.

Major Players

Mary Tudor: 1496-1533mary

Also known as Princess Mary 1496-1514, La Royne Marie 1514-1515

A sketch of Mary during her brief period as Queen of France (as she married the French king Louis XII), the “French Queen” 1515-1533 (though technically she was by then the Duchess of Suffolk).

  • Daughter of King Henry VII and his Queen Elizabeth (also known as Elizabeth of York).
  • Henry VIII’s younger, and favourite, sister. Wife of his buddy Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. Supporter of Queen Katherine (Catalina) of Aragon.
  • Maternal grandmother of Lady Jane Grey.

Mary Tudor: 1516-1558the-princess-mary-tudor-colour

Also known as Princess Mary (1516-1533), the Lady Mary (1533-1553), Queen Mary (1553-1558), ‘Bloody Mary’ (after her death and accession of her Protestant sister Queen Elizabeth I).

  • Daughter of King Henry VIII and his Queen Katherine of Aragon.

A sad and difficult life in many ways. She became the first successful Queen Regnant in England and married Philip II of Spain but she didn’t achieve the main things in her reign that she wanted to: she really wanted to provide a Catholic son to carry her and Philip’s line onwards and to return England to the Roman Catholic church.

Mary, Queen of Scots: 1542-1587

Mary Queen of Scots NPG

Also known as Princess Mary (1542 for six days), Queen Mary I of Scotland (1542-1567), also La Reine d’Ecosse whilst growing up in France (1548-1559), Dauphine of France when she married the Dauphin (1558-1559), La Royne/Reine Marie (1559-1560), Dowager Queen of France (1560-1587 that title is on her tomb), Marie R (her own signature and how she thought of herself – the French form was presumably adopted as she grew up in France).

  • Daughter of James Stuart – King James V of Scotland – and his Queen Mary (Mary of Guise). She was descended from Margaret Tudor.

Glamorous, impetuous, unlucky. Strongly Roman Catholic. She had a pampered and spoilt childhood, a dramatic time in her early to mid twenties when was forced to abdicate in favour of her baby son by rebellious lords. She escaped from their control but ended up spending the rest of her life trapped in English confinement before her execution.

Notable but Minor Players

Mary Beaton: 1543–1598

unknown artist; Mary Beaton, Lady in Waiting to Mary, Queen of Scots; National Galleries of Scotland

Also known as Marie de Bethune (her signature), Mary Ogilvy (1566-1598)

One of ‘The Four Marys’ (or ‘Four Maries’) who were Mary Queen of Scots’ childhood best friends and maids of honour who accompanied her to France in 1548 and returned with her to Scotland in 1560.

Mary Boleyn: 1499/1500-1543

Mary Boleyn
Mary Boleyn

Also known as Mary Carey (1520-1534), Mary Stafford (1534-1543).

Daughter of Sir Thomas Boleyn and his wife Elizabeth (nee Howard).

Older Sister of Henry VIII’s 2nd Queen, Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII’s mistress, arguably the mother of one (or two) of his children though, if she was, her children were never acknowledged as such. Henry had acknowledged the first healthy boy born to him, mainly I suspect to prove his queen Katherine was at fault for the lack of live male heirs to the throne, and he never acknowledged any other illegitimate child. Whether that was prudence to stop competing claims to the throne or because there weren’t any other likely children of his, I don’t know. She acted as maid of honour to the queen when at court.

Mary Fleming: 1542-about 1600

Also known as Lady Lethington (1567-at least 1573), Mary Meldrum (post 1573-)

One of ‘The Four Marys’ (or ‘Four Maries’) who were Mary Queen of Scots’ childhood best friends and maids of honour who accompanied her to France in 1548 and returned with her to Scotland in 1560.

Mary Grey: 1545-1578

Eworth, Hans; Lady Mary Grey (1545-1578); The Chequers Trust; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/lady-mary-grey-15451578-56119
Eworth, Hans; Lady Mary Grey (1545-1578); The Chequers Trust; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/lady-mary-grey-15451578-56119

Also known as Mary Keyes (1565-1578)

Daughter of Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk, and his wife Frances (nee Brandon).

Difficult life through her closeness to the throne – she was the sister of Lady Jane Grey and descended from Mary Tudor, Duchess of Suffolk. No beauty, she was forbidden to marry without permission but did anyway and seems to have spent most of her adult life under house arrest, separated from her husband by Elizabeth, for having done so.

Mary Howard: 1519-1557

Mary Howard, Duchess of Richmond & Somerset / Hans Holbein the Younger

Also known as Mary FitzRoy, Duchess of Richmond and Somerset (1533-1557)

Daughter of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk and his wife Elizabeth (nee Stafford).

Famous for marrying the King’s acknowledged illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy. She and her husband were forbidden from consummating their marriage due to their age, it is thought Henry blamed the early death of his elder brother on too much sex, and her husband died young three years after they had been married.

Mary of Guise: 1515-1560

Marie de Guise
Marie de Guise

Also known as Mary of Lorraine, Marie de Guise, Duchesse de Longueville (1534-1538), Queen of Scots, as consort to James V, (1538-1542), Regent for Mary Queen of Scots (1554-1559)

Daughter of Claud, Count of Guise and Antoinette of Bourbon.

French woman and mother of Mary Queen of Scots. Acted as Regent and governed Scotland whilst her underage daughter was being brought up in France.

Mary Livingston: 1541–1579

Also known as Mary Semphill (1565-1577)

One of ‘The Four Marys’ (or ‘Four Maries’) who were Mary Queen of Scots’ childhood best friends and maids of honour who accompanied her to France in 1548 and returned with her to Scotland in 1560.

Mary Percy: 15?–1572

Also known as Lady Mary Talbot (15?-1524), Mary Percy (1524-1527), Countess of Northumberland (1527–1572)

Daughter of George Talbot, 4th Earl of Shrewsbury, and his wife Anne (nee Hastings).

Married Henry Percy, who became 6th Earl of Northumberland, and she tried (unsuccessfully) to have their marriage annulled in 1532 on the grounds that her husband had a precontract with Anne Boleyn. Their marriage was unhappy and there were no children.

Mary Seton: 1542–1615

Also known as Mary Seaton.

One of ‘The Four Marys’ (or ‘Four Maries’) who were Mary Queen of Scots’ childhood best friends and maids of honour who accompanied her to France in 1548 and returned with her to Scotland in 1560. Stayed with Mary Queen of Scots even during her prolonged period of house arrest in England.

Mary Shelton: 

Poss. Mary Shelton, Lady Heveningham / Hans Holbein the Younger

Mary Shelton:  approx. 1512- 1571

Also known as Lady Mary Shelton, Lady Heveningham (1546- at least1558/9), Mary Appleyard (?about 1559/60-71)

Daughter of Sir John Shelton and his wife Anne (nee Boleyn) who was Queen Anne Boleyn’s aunt.

Either older sister of Lady Margaret (or Madge) Shelton, who was lady in waiting to Anne Boleyn and briefly a mistress to Henry VIII, or else people have misread Madge Shelton in certain sources and Margaret/Mary Shelton are the same person – apparently some scholars disagree on this. If she was a separate person, she may have briefly been a lady in waiting to Catherine Howard and a friend of Lady Margaret Douglas, Lady Mary Howard and the Earl of Surrey.

A Quirky Addendum

The Mary Rose: 1511-1545

A Tudor warship that sank close to shore in the battle of the Solent.  It was rediscovered in the 20th century and the remains were raised.  Apparently claims it was named after Henry’s sister are unlikely to be true as the Virgin Mary, a focus of religious devotion when it was built, was known at this time as “The Mystic Rose”.



‘My Heart is My Own’: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots by John Guy, 2004, Harper Collins.



About the Author: P. Deegan

P. Deegan lives in England and has always been interested in history. She finds the Tudor period very interesting. She believes it probably started with the TV series ‘the six wives of Henry VIII’ in the 70s. Also when she studied history in the sixth form (2nd last year in school) it was the Tudors who introduced her to the concept of the ‘vested interest’: those people who gained the land and buildings of the dissolved monasteries gained a ‘vested interest’ in the reformation and maintaining the new status quo.


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