Mary Tudor, Queen of France Biography

(Queen Consort of France from 9 October 1514 to 1 January 1515)

Birthday: March 18, 1496 (Pisces)

Born In: London, England, United Kingdom

Mary Tudor was an English princess who through her marriage with King Louis XII of France became the Queen Consort of France. She was the younger surviving daughter of King of England and Lord of Ireland Henry VII and Queen of England Elizabeth of York. Louis was over 30 years older than Mary, his third wife, and died in less than three months following their marriage. Mary later married English military leader and courtier Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, 1st Viscount Lisle in a secretly preformed marriage ceremony held in France. The marriage caused quite a furore in England as Charles was considered to have committed treason by marrying the royal princess without taking consent of her brother, Henry VIII, the then King of England. While Henry was furious, the Privy Council insisted on imprisonment or execution of Charles. Intervention of English statesman and Catholic bishop Thomas Wolsey and affection of Henry for Mary and Charles later led Henry to pardon the couple, who only had to pay a large fine. Mary had four children with Charles. Her granddaughter Lady Jane Grey, born through her eldest daughter Frances, reigned as the de facto Queen of England for nine days.

Quick Facts

French Celebrities Born In March

Died At Age: 37


Spouse/Ex-: 1st Duke of Suffolk (m. 1515), Charles Brandon, Louis XII (m. 1514–1515)

father: Henry VII of England

mother: Elizabeth of York

children: Eleanor Brandon, Frances Grey; Duchess of Suffolk, Henry Brandon; 1st Earl of Lincoln, Lord Henry Brandon

Born Country: England

Royal Family Members French Women

Died on: June 25, 1533

place of death: Westhorpe, United Kingdom

Childhood & Early Life

Mary was born on March 18, 1496, in Sheen Palace, London, Surrey, Kingdom of England, as fifth child of King Henry VII of England and Queen Elizabeth of York. She was the younger surviving daughter of her parents. A privy seal bill that dates back to midsummer 1496 evince that Mary’s nurse Anne Skeron was sanctioned a payment of 50 shillings. Noted Dutch philosopher and Catholic theologian Erasmus also mentioned that during 1499–1500 he visited the royal nursery and at that time Mary was four years old.

When Mary was six, she lost her mother. She was given her own household with a staff of gentlewomen to take care of her. She had a physician and several bills dated from around 1504 to 1509, paid to her apothecary, suggest that her health was fragile. She also had a schoolmaster. She learnt French and Latin, and received training in music, dance, and embroidery.

She shared a close relationship with her Lady Governess Joan Vaux, whom she affectionately called Mother Guildford and mainly relied on during her childhood. Joan accompanied Mary to France on the occasion of the latter's marriage to King Louis XII, however was sent back to England after Mary arrived in France, which made Mary furious.

During her childhood Mary also shared a close bonding with her brother Henry VIII, the future King of England. Henry named his first surviving child Mary I, who went on to become the Queen of England and Ireland; and his ship, the Mary Rose, after his sister.

Henry VII remained worried for all his children to make good marriages. Mary was counted among the most beautiful princesses in Europe. According to Erasmus "Nature never formed anything more beautiful" than her. Many European kings and queens wanted one of their sons to get married to Mary. When Philip I of Castile visited Rome in 1506, Mary danced and played the lute and clavichord before the guests. In September same year Philip died and on December 21, the following year, Mary was betrothed to Philip’s son Charles, who later became Holy Roman Emperor.  The engagement was however called off in 1513 according to the advice of English statesman and Catholic bishop Cardinal Wolsey.

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Marriage with King Louis XII of France

Henry VIII became King of England on April 22, 1509. Cardinal Wolsey played an instrumental role in negotiating the Anglo-French treaty of August 7, 1514, under which Louis XII, who had no living sons, would marry Mary. This was going to be his third marriage and perhaps his last attempt in producing an heir to his throne. The 18 years old Mary was initially reluctant to marry the 52 years old Louis. Her letters dating back to 1515, following her marriage with Louis, indicate that she gave her consent to marry Louis only after her brother Henry agreed to her condition that if she survived Louis, she should marry anyone of her choice. Mary went to France for the wedding and the entourage that accompanied her included four English maids of honour, including Anne Boleyn who later became second wife of Henry. Mother Guildford acted as the principal lady-in-waiting of Mary. The marriage was held in Abbeville, France, on October 9, 1514.

Mary’s marriage with Louis led her to become Queen of France, although briefly, as Louis, who was not in good health, died on January 1, 1515, in less than three months following the marriage. As the story goes, Louis reputedly became exhausted by his exertions in the bedchamber and eventually died. Mary had no children with him. Following his death, Louis’ cousin and son-in-law Francis I became the new king and unsuccessfully attempted to arrange another political marriage of Mary.

Second Marriage & Later Life

Mary probably loved Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, before her first marriage and was thus not happy with her marriage of state to Louis. Charles participated in the jousts which celebrated Mary’s marriage with Louis. Henry VIII wanted Mary’s next marriage to be to his advantage even though he was aware of Mary’s feelings about Charles as also about the condition she had put forward earlier for marrying Louis. The King's Council was also against such match as it would bolster Charles’ position at the court. Thus when Henry sent Charles to France in late January 1515, to negotiate various matters with the new King of France Francis I, congratulate the latter and negotiate Mary's return to England, he took a promise from Charles that Charles would not propose to Mary.

Meanwhile Francis I also fell for the beautiful young Dowager Queen Mary in the first week of her widowhood and emerged as one of her suitors. It was also speculated that Mary would marry either Antoine, Duke of Lorraine, or Charles III, Duke of Savoy. After Charles Brandon arrived in France, Mary convinced him to break his promise. A letter that Charles wrote to Henry later on the matter mentioned that he "never saw a woman so weep." Charles and Mary married in a secret ceremony on March 3, 1515, at the Hotel de Clugny in Paris. It was attended by only ten people, including Francis I.

Charles’ marriage with the royal princess without consent of King Henry was however considered a treason and thus made Henry furious. The privy council of England insisted to either imprison Charles or execute him. Mary would be spared from execution as she was of royal blood and favourite sister of the king. Henry eventually pardoned the couple following intervention by Thomas Wolsey as also for his own affection for both Mary and Charles, however after charging the couple with a heavy fine. It included an amount of £24,000 which the couple would pay to the King in yearly instalments of £1000; Mary’s entire dowry amount of £200,000 from Louis; as well as the gold plate and jewels that Louis gave or promised to give her. Henry later reduced the amount of £24,000. 

Mary and Charles were later openly married at Greenwich Palace on May 13, 1515, with Henry and his courtiers in attendance. Charles secured a papal bull from Pope Clement VII in 1528 thus legitimizing his marriage with Mary.

Mary became third wife of Charles. His first marriage with Margaret Neville, the widow of John Mortimer, was declared void by the Archdeaconry Court of London in around 1507, and later by a May 12, 1528, dated papal bull. His second wife Anne Browne died in 1511. Mary and Charles lived at Westhorpe Hall where they raised Charles’ two daughters born through Anne (Anne and Mary), along with their four children, two sons Lord Henry Brandon and Henry Brandon, 1st Earl of Lincoln, both of whom died young, and two daughters Lady Frances Brandon  and Lady Eleanor Brandon.

Even after her second marriage, Mary was generally referred to as the Queen of France instead of the Duchess of Suffolk at the English court. Her relation with Henry strained after he decided to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Mary supported Catherine’s case and had an intense dislike for Anne Boleyn, who Henry wanted to marry and later did.

Mary’s health remained a matter of concern. She became ill several times and required treatments over her lifetime. She got infected with the English sweating sickness disease in 1528 and never fully recovered from it until her death on June 25, 1533. Although actual cause of her death is not known with absolute certainty, it has been speculated that she succumbed to angina, appendicitis, cancer or tuberculosis. A requiem mass was held at Westminster Abbey and body of the English princess and a dowager queen of France was preserved and held in state for three weeks at Westhorpe Hall.

Funeral of Mary was held quite lavishly and with much heraldic ceremony on July 22, 1533, with an English delegation and a delegation from France in attendance. Charles and Henry did not attend the ceremony following established tradition. Frances, her eldest daughter, was chief mourner. A requiem mass was held on the next day at Bury St. Edmunds Abbey after which her body was interred there. Remains of Mary were later removed to the St. Mary's Church, Bury St. Edmunds in 1538 following the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Her coffin was opened in 1784, and locks of her hair were taken by many including Dorothy Bentinck, Duchess of Portland and Horace Walpole.

Upon Mary’s death, on September 7, 1533, Charles married the 14-year-old Catherine Willoughby, his son Henry Brandon, Earl of Lincoln’s betrothed. Charles had two sons with Catherine, both of whom succumbed to sweating sickness.

Mary’s eldest daughter Frances married Henry Grey, 3rd Marquess of Dorset. The couple’s daughter Lady Jane Grey also known as the "Nine Days' Queen" became the de facto queen of England for nine days in July 1553. Mary’s younger daughter Eleanor married Henry Clifford, 2nd Earl of Cumberland.

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