Mary Tudor, Queen of France

Mary Tudor, Queen of France
Mary Tudor
Portrait of Mary Tudor by an unknown artist in the French school
Queen consort of France
Tenure 9 October 1514 – 1 January 1515
Coronation 5 November 1514
Spouse Louis XII of France
Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk
Henry Brandon
Frances Grey, Duchess of Suffolk
Eleanor Clifford, Countess of Cumberland
Henry Brandon, 1st Earl of Lincoln
House House of Tudor
Father Henry VII of England
Mother Elizabeth of York
Born 18 March 1496(1496-03-18)
Richmond Palace, Surrey
Died 25 June 1533(1533-06-25) (aged 37)
Westhorpe Hall, Suffolk

Mary Tudor (18 March 1496 – 25 June 1533) was the younger sister of King Henry VIII of England and queen consort of France through her marriage to Louis XII. The latter was more than 30 years her senior. Following his death, which occurred less than two months after her coronation as his third wife, she married Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk. The marriage, which was performed secretly in France, took place without her brother Henry's consent. This necessitated the intervention of Thomas Wolsey and the couple were eventually pardoned by King Henry, although they were forced to pay a large fine.

Mary's second marriage produced four children; and through her eldest daughter Frances, Mary was the maternal grandmother of Lady Jane Grey, who was the de facto monarch of England for a little over a week in July 1553.


First marriage: Queen of France

A sketch of Mary during her brief period as Queen of France

Mary was the fifth child of Henry VII of England and Elizabeth of York, and the youngest to survive infancy. She was born at Richmond Palace. She and her brother, Henry, were close as children—he named his daughter, the future Queen Mary I, after her. The warship Mary Rose was also named in her honour.

When Mary was a young girl, the Duke of Milan attempted to arrange a marriage between her and his young son Massimiliano Sforza as a way to get Henry VII to help his father against the French. Henry rejected this as he was at peace with France, having no wish to be involved in the Italian Wars.

Known in her youth as one of the most beautiful princesses in Europe,[1] Mary was betrothed in December 1507 to Charles of Castile, later Holy Roman Emperor. However, changes in the political alliances of the European powers meant this wedding did not take place.[2] Instead, Cardinal Wolsey negotiated a peace treaty with France, and on 9 October 1514, at the age of 18, Mary married its 52-year-old King Louis XII at Abbeville. One of the Maids of Honour who attended her in France was Anne Boleyn. Mary was described by the Venetian Ambassador as "a Paradise—tall, slender, grey-eyed, possessing an extreme pallor". She wore her glorious silken red-gold hair flowing loose to her waist.[3] Despite two previous marriages, Louis had no living sons, and sought to produce an heir; but he died on 1 January 1515, less than three months after marrying Mary, reputedly worn out by his exertions in the bedchamber.[4] Their union produced no children. Following Louis' death, the new King Francis I made attempts to arrange a second marriage for the beautiful widow.[5]

Second marriage: Duchess of Suffolk

Mary had been unhappy with her marriage of state to Louis, as at this time she was almost certainly already in love with Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk.[6] Henry knew of his sister's feelings[7] but wanted any future marriage to be to his advantage. When he sent Brandon to bring Mary back to England in late January 1515 he made the Duke promise that he would not propose to her.[8] However, the couple married in secret in France on 3 March 1515. Technically this was treason, as Brandon had married a Royal Princess without Henry's consent. The King was outraged, and the Privy Council urged that Brandon should be imprisoned or executed. Because of the intervention of Thomas Wolsey, and Henry's affection for both his sister and Brandon, the couple were let off with a heavy fine.[9] They were officially married on 13 May 1515 at Greenwich Palace.

Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon
English Royalty
House of Tudor
Coat of Arms of Henry VII of England (1485-1509).svg
Royal Coat of Arms
Henry VII
   Arthur, Prince of Wales
   Margaret, Queen of Scots
   Henry VIII
   Mary, Queen of France

Mary was Brandon's third wife, and he had two daughters, Anne Brandon and Mary by his second marriage to Anne Browne. She had died in 1511. Mary would raise the girls alongside her own children.

Even after her second marriage, Mary was normally referred to at the English Court as "the French Queen", and was not known as "the Duchess of Suffolk" in her lifetime.[10] Mary spent most of her time at the Duke's country seat of Westhorpe Hall in Suffolk.[11]

Relations between Henry VIII and Mary were strained in the late 1520s when she opposed the King's attempt to obtain an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, whom Mary had known for many years. She had developed a strong dislike for the future Queen, Anne Boleyn,[12] whom she had first encountered in France.[13]

Mary died at Westhorpe Hall, Westhorpe, Suffolk on 25 June 1533, and was initially buried at the abbey at Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Her body was moved to nearby St. Mary's Church, also in Bury St Edmunds, when the abbey was destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Her husband soon married their son's fiancée, who was also their ward, fourteen-year-old Catherine Willoughby, by whom he had two sons.


Mary and Brandon had four children, two daughters and two sons:

Mary and Charles's two sons, both named Henry, are commonly mistaken for being the same son. Both boys died when they were children.

Popular culture

Mary was portrayed by silent screen star Marion Davies in the 1922 film When Knighthood Was in Flower, reputed to have been, at the time of its release, the most expensive film ever made. It was one of Davies's biggest hits. Another fictionalized version of Mary's marital adventures is portrayed in the 1953 Walt Disney film The Sword and the Rose starring Richard Todd and Glynis Johns.

She is also the subject of the novels Mary, Queen of France by Jean Plaidy, The Reluctant Queen by Molly Costain Haycraft, Princess of Desire by Maureen Peters, and The Secret Bride: In the Court of Henry VIII by Diane Haeger. The novel of When Knighthood Was in Flower, by Edwin Caskoden (the pen name of Charles Major) was published in 1898, and was the source material for both the Davies and the Disney films. She was also fictionalized in the historical fiction novel The Last Boleyn by Karen Harper.

The drama series The Tudors[14][15][16]: portrays the relationship between Mary and Charles Brandon, though the character is named Princess Margaret, and is a composite of Mary and her sister Margaret Tudor, portrayed by Gabrielle Anwar. Charles Brandon is portrayed by Henry Cavill. Many liberties have been taken with the story. For example, in the television series, Henry arranges his sister's marriage with the aged King of Portugal, not of France, in the late 1520s. Margaret/Mary then kills her husband. Another fictitious sub-plot has Henry making Charles Brandon Duke of Suffolk so the latter would be of appropriate rank to give away Henry's sister at her supposed wedding to the King of Portugal. In the story, the Tudor/Brandon marriage soon cools and no mention is made of their four children. Yet another discontinuity relates to Henry's sister dying before Wolsey (who died in 1530).



  1. ^ Weir, Henry VIII, p. 169. Erasmus said of her that "Nature never formed anything more beautiful."
  2. ^ Weir, Henry VIII, p. 169.
  3. ^ Hester W. Chapman"The Thistle and The Rose"pgs172-173
  4. ^ Francesco Guicciardini, Storia d'Italia, Lib. XII, cap. 9
  5. ^ Antonia Fraser, The Wives of Henry VIII, pp. 68-69.
  6. ^ Weir, Henry VIII, p. 173.
  7. ^ Weir, Henry VIII, p. 173. Letters from 1515 indicate that Mary agreed to wed Louis only on condition that "if she survived him, she should marry whom she liked."
  8. ^ Weir, Henry VIII, p. 178.
  9. ^ Weir, Henry VIII, p. 178, 184. The fine of £24,000 – approximately equivalent to £7,200,000 today – was later reduced by Henry.
  10. ^ Fraser
  11. ^ Weir, Henry VIII, p. 185.
  12. ^ Weir, Henry VIII, p. 310.
  13. ^ Weir, Henry VIII, p. 175. Anne and her sister Mary Boleyn were Maids of Honour in the entourage that accompanied Mary to France for her wedding.
  14. ^ [], TV Series 2007–2010 - IMDb.
  15. ^ The Tudors 2007-2010 (Wikipedia)
  16. ^ (Official Page), Official Page CBC.


External links

Mary Tudor, Queen of France
House of Tudor
Born: 18 March 1496 Died: 25 June 1533
French royalty
Title last held by
Duchess of Brittany
Queen consort of France
9 October 1514 – 1 January 1515
Succeeded by
Duchess of Brittany

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