Mary Tudor, Queen of France: The Scandalous Sister of Henry VIII

by AlexandriaIngham

Mary Tudor was the youngest surviving child of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. After the death of her husband, Louis XII of France, she did something that no-one would dare to do!

On June 25, 1533, Mary Tudor, Queen of France died. She was the sister of Henry VIII and the grandmother of Lady Jane Grey. She died at home, with her husband, Charles Brandon, beside her and was just 37 years old. This was young even in the 16th century. Mary is often referred to as the scandalous sister of Henry VIII for the way that she married her second husband. In fact, she was lucky to keep her head!

Mary, Queen of France – The Scandalous Sister of Henry VIII

Mary Tudor, Queen of FranceMary Tudor is well known for being the scandalous sister of Henry VIII. As part of a political play, Henry VIII wanted his sister to marry the King of France, Louis XII. She was originally betrothed to Charles V of Spain, the Holy Roman Emperor, but Henry VIII refused that marriage due to the relationship with Spain at the time. Mary had no choice at the time and at 17 she was sent to the country and became Queen of France for just three months. Louis XII died of old age and Mary was to return back to England after isolation for six weeks to make sure that she was not carrying the heir to the throne.

Henry sent his trusted friend, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, to escort his favourite sister back to England. Mary had already shown an interest in Charles and was in love with him. She had made her brother promise her that she could choose Charles as her next husband. While Henry agreed, he did not agree to the two marrying in secret in March 1515.

Mary and Charles could have been arrested for treason by marrying in secret. It was lucky for the two of them that both held a deep place in Henry’s heart and they were genuinely sorry for their actions. While the Privy Council sought for Charles to be executed for treason, Cardinal Wolsey helped arrange a heavy fine instead. It led to an official marriage on May 13, 1515 at Greenwich Palace and Mary gained the title of Duchess of Suffolk, although was regularly referred to as the Queen of France or the French Queen.

Mary Tudor and Henry VIII's Wives

When Henry VIII searched for a way out of his marriage from Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn, his sister was horrified. Mary disliked Anne Boleyn because she was so close to Catherine of Aragon. Mary had known Catherine from being very young since the Spanish princess had married Arthur Tudor in 1501. She chose a side and it was the wrong one.

When Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn, Mary fell out with her brother. However, Mary had met Anne previously. Anne Boleyn was part of Mary’s entourage in France, along with Anne’s sister, Mary Boleyn. When the French Queen returned to England, Anne remained to serve under Queen Claude.

It is unclear whether they ever did build their strong relationship again since Mary died early into Queen Anne’s reign. Henry VIII did name his ship, The Mary Rose, after her though and made sure Mary’s granddaughters were in line for the throne after his own children.

Mary Tudor, Grandmother of Lady Jane Grey

Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon MarryMary and Charles had four children together but only two – their daughters – survived into adulthood. The older of the two daughters was Lady Frances Brandon, who married Henry Grey. Together they had three daughters, the eldest being Lady Jane Grey.

Lady Jane Grey became the infamous “Nine Day Queen”. It was unfortunate for the poor girl, who was just a pawn in a plot for her mother and father – and the parents of her husband – to gain more power.

Another of Frances’ daughters was Katherine Grey. At first, she may seem like a small role but she is linked to Queen Elizabeth II! Katherine was imprisoned during the time of Elizabeth I because she had married Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford. The couple had two sons, both born within the Tower of London. After the marriage to Edward was deemed illegitimate, the two boys were considered to be illegitimate. Queen Elizabeth II’s mother, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, is an ancestor of Katherine Grey.

Mary Tudor in Fiction

While Mary has often appeared in fiction, there is one show where her character was changed. In Showtime’s The Tudors, the characters of Princess Margaret and Princess Mary were joined together into Margaret. It is possible that this was due to the confusion of having two Princess Marys around (Mary I, Henry VIII’s daughter) but it caused problems for the continuation of the show.

In the show, Princess Margaret married Charles Brandon but they did not have a happy marriage. Charles regularly saw mistresses and Margaret was left to die alone. They had no children together, at least any that were shown, which led to the problem of having no Lady Frances Brandon and no James V of Scotland – since Margaret Tudor actually married James IV!

The Death of Mary Tudor, Queen of France

Mary Tudor died at home on June 25, 1533 – although some sources state June 24. She was originally buried at Bury St. Edmunds in Surrey at the abbey but this was destroyed during the dissolution of the monasteries a few years later. Her body was moved to St. Mary’s Church at Bury St. Edmunds.

Charles Brandon remarried shortly after the death of Mary Tudor to Catherine Willoughby, who happened to be betrothed to his youngest son, Henry, at the time. Catherine was only 14 at the time but the two had two children together.

Updated: 06/24/2013, AlexandriaIngham
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AlexandriaIngham on 02/05/2014

Thanks Mike and Mira :) Glad you enjoyed it.

Mira on 02/05/2014

NIce read, Alexandria!

MikeRobbers on 06/24/2013

Interesting historical article and a nice read!

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