Mary Tudor

Image of Mary Tudor, queen of France. Image Credit: Royal Collections Trust, RCIN 616471.

By Johanna Strong

Mary Tudor was born on March 18, 1496, at Richmond Palace to Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. She was their second surviving daughter and from an early age learned French, likely Latin, and was proficient in singing, dancing, and musical instruments.

In 1514, Mary was promised in marriage to Louis XII of France, when she was 18 and he was 52. They were married on October 9, 1514, though Mary had persuaded Henry VIII that if she married Louis she should be allowed to choose her next husband. When Louis died less than 3 months after their marriage, she secretly married Henry’s good friend Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk, in March 1515.

Black and white image of the wedding portrait of Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon (c. 1515). Image Credit: Woburn Abbey/WikiCommons.

Since this marriage hadn’t been approved by Henry VIII, Mary and Charles were forced to beg Henry’s forgiveness and promised monetary payments to him in return. Henry eventually forgave them and they were officially married in May 1515. Mary and Charles had 4 children together, though only Frances – future mother of Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days’ Queen – and Eleanor survived to adulthood. Mary remained close to her brother Henry throughout her life, though this relationship was strained when Mary sided with Katherine of Aragon in the divorce proceedings in the late 1520s and early 1530s.

Bury St. Edmunds Abbey. Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Even after her marriage to Charles Brandon, Mary was known as the Dowager Queen of France or the French Queen rather than by her title as Duchess of Suffolk. She died at Westhorpe Hall in Suffolk on June 25, 1533, at the age of 37. She was honoured with a requiem mass at Westminster Abbey on July 10 and was buried on July 21 at Bury St. Edmunds Abbey in Bury St. Edmunds. After the abbey was destroyed in the Dissolution of the Monasteries, her body was moved to St. Mary’s Church, where it remains today.

Photos of Mary’s tomb. Image Credit: Tudor Times.

Recommended Reading

Erin A. Sadlack, The French Queen’s Letters: Mary Tudor Brandon and the Politics of Marriage in Sixteenth-Century Europe (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)

“Mary, Queen of France”, Tudor Times, 2018. (including copyright of the photo of Mary’s tomb)

Mary Perry, The Sisters of Henry VIII: The Tumultuous Lives of Margaret of Scotland and Mary of France (Lebanon, Indianan: Da Capo Press, 2000)

Susan Abernethy, “Mary Tudor, Queen of France and Duchess of Suffolk”, The Freelance History Writer, 2012.

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