15 June 1536 – Henry VIII’s Council Bullies Mary

The ringleader - the Duke of Norfolk

On 15th June 1536, Henry VIII sent members of his council, led by Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, to visit his daughter, the Lady Mary, and bully her into accepting her father as supreme head of the Church in England and acknowledging that she was not the legitimate heir to the throne.

Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador and a friend of Mary, recorded the visit of these bullies in a letter to the Emperor:

“To induce her to obey his commands and accede to his wishes, the King sent to her a deputation composed of the duke of Norfolk, the earl of Sussex (Robert Ratcliffe), the bishop of Chester (Roland Lee), and several others, whom she literally confounded by her very wise and prudent answers to their intimation. Upon which, finding that they could not persuade her, one of them said that since she was such an unnatural daughter as to disobey completely the King’s injunctions, he could hardly believe (said the interlocutor) that she was the King’s own bastard daughter. Were she his or any other man’s daughter, he would beat her to death, or strike her head against the wall until he made it as soft as a boiled apple; in short that she was a traitress, and would be punished as such. Many other threats of the same sort did the said deputies utter on the occasion, assisted in their task by the Princess’ governess, who happens to be the same as before, having then and there received orders not to allow the Princess to speak a word to any one, and to watch over her so that she should never be left alone by night or day.”

It must have been a scary encounter and it is little wonder that Chapuys, who must have been worried about Mary’s health and safety, encouraged her to make the “sacrifice” and submit to her father. Mary finally relented on 22nd June 1536*, signing her submission:

“The confession of me, the lady Mary, made upon certain points and articles under written, in the which, as I do now plainly and with all mine heart confess and declare mine inward sentence, belief, and judgment, with a due conformity of obedience to the laws of the realm; so minding for ever to persist and continue in this determination, without change, alteration, or variance, I do most humbly beseech the King’s Highness, my father, whom I have obstinately and inobediently offended in the denial of the same heretofore, to forgive mine offences therein, and to take me to his most gracious mercy.”

She went on to acknowledge the King as her sovereign and as Supreme Head of the Church of England, to repudiate the authority of the Pope and to acknowledge that her parents’ marriage had bee “by God’s law and man’s law incestuous and unlawful”.

*Mary’s submission was undated but historians such as David Loades, Linda Porter and Anna Whitelock believe that it was signed on the 22nd June 1536.

Notes and Sources

  • Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 5ii. 70
  • Mary Tudor, The First Queen, Linda Porter, p122
  • LP x.1137
  • Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen, Anna Whitelock, p89
  • Mary Tudor, David Loades, p57

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23 thoughts on “15 June 1536 – Henry VIII’s Council Bullies Mary”
  1. Interesting how Chapuys reports merely that “one of them” threatened Mary with the famous head-beating-against-the-wall – but many novels claim it was Norfolk. Was it Norfolk, Claire, or is there no proof of this whatsoever beyond the fact that he was one of the group and Chapuys comments that it was an unspecified “one of them”?

    1. In his full report in the Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Chapuys does not name the man but I suppose novelists have to name the man doing the threatening and Norfolk was definitely the leader. No, there’s no evidence that it was him.

      1. Hello:

        Interesting that Norfolk isn’t mentioned. I am curious if any other members of the group were known to have daughters. Also the letter to Cromwell from Norfolk’s wife, claiming that Norfolk and his mistress physically attacked her may be a factor, as it shows such cruel abusiveness was “in character”

        1. The words were “Were she his or any other man’s daughter” so it doesn’t necessarily mean that the man did have a daughter, but Ratcliffe had a daughter named Anne.

      2. Is it possible to get the full texts of Chapuys’ reports online? I’ve been looking around but have only found excerpts. Or if there’s a good edition of them out there, I’d love to get it.

        It is interesting that the (fictional) Norfolk is almost solely responsible for that horrible “baked apple” line. I think the reason he’s picked is that in a novel he’s likely to be one of the most prominent of that group of characters and it seems a little off to assign a memorable line like that to some functionary you’ll never see again. Compare the way novels approach the “very handsome young lady” whom Chapuys never named; Margaret Shelton, Mary Shelton, Jane Seymour, invented woman, completely imaginary (as in, there are rumors but “nobody has ever seen her”) … there’s no dominant personality in the group of potentials, so the novels are all over the place.

        1. Sorry, I should add — since the novels almost always end with Anne’s death, or at best a brief coda, the “baked apple” line almost always turns up before Anne’s death (often as an unspoken thought by Norfolk, which he’ll obviously speak at a later time) during one of the occasions when Mary is rejecting any attempts to get her to take the Oath or acknowledge Anne as Queen. Norfolk is the only one of the people named above who even appears in most novels about Anne, so it makes sense to give the line to him.

        2. You have make very good sense here, as, yes, novilest do seem to do that (although this is off the cuff and has nothing to do with the Tudors, Phillpa has her new novel spread across the shelves at evey actual book store, in vast quantities).

          Your noticing about the “baked apple” is verry canny, and, yes it does make sense to give the line to him.”

          Thank you, WilesWales

  2. I really think they were all in there own little circle Cromwell ,Chapuys, Norforlk ,Thomas,lets not forget the King. When he said jump they said how high,and the women really had know choice, but to go along with what they were orderd to do,by the higher ups.It seems to me as ,long as you made know problem and kept silent,the better off you were going to be in the long run.Make any noise and you could very well end up like all the rest who went against the King,dead. So I think Mary was smart to go along with these bullies,a shame women were treated so badly,and looked down upon. THX Baroness

  3. Henry VIII had much to stand in judgement for but the torture of his daughter in this manner must be high on the list; and his refusal for her and her mother to see one another the last few years of Queen Katherine’s life. How utterly cruel that man was and without feeling for his own child. If he feared that Mary would conspire with her mother to form a rebellion against him so much; then he could have let them meet in the company of so many courtiers they would not have been able to whisper a word without someone hearing. There was just no reason for his treatment of Mary in this manner other than he must be in control of all and prove himself the supreme right in the land. I have such contempt for people like him; always controlling all aspects of their families lifes, never giving an inch and believing to be right all the time. I realize he was a king and as such had great power but even kings must follow G-d’s laws and Henry VIII broke many and tried to justify them. Excuse my language, but what a posser.

    1. Thought you might be interested in this Shoshana, the definintion of what we now call a Sociopathic Personality:-

      Glib and Superficial charm
      Graniose sense of self/self serving
      Lack of remorse,shame, or guilt,unapologetic
      Shallow emotions
      Need for stimulation
      Callous/lack of empathy
      Fails to see why anyone would see his way of thinking/actions are wrong
      Poor behaviour controll ie rages, punishments
      Seek to dominate and exercises despotic control, relentless
      Delusional to the extent of beliving they CAN rule the world

      Resemble anyone!!

      The people with this personality disorder are dangerous, and usualy criminal….but when you have a crown on your head and absolute power, the ‘crimes’ for want of better word, that are committed are far more reaching, no limits, and no-one is safe, not even his own children…
      The abnormality is said, to be mainly in the front lobe (left of brain), and maybe caused by abnormal growth (genectic), brain disease, or injury, therefore, the people with the condition are said not always to be born that way, it can develop.
      Maybe this could be why Henry was a different person when younger…what do you think.
      Poor Mary, she didn’t stand a hope in hell against her father and his men, because I feel he would have gone further in his persistance to get what he wanted, he would have hounded her to death in one way or another.

      1. I agree Dawn, but we must add narcissistic (sp?) personality disorder here as well. This was what happened before the “Great Divorce” when even Sir Thomas More (author of the wonderul classic “Utopia,” once advised without Cromwell, or the Duke of Norfolk, etc. to of “be careful as to advise the King of what he ought to do, rather than what he ‘can’ do. It was through orders of Henry for Cromwell and Cardinal Wolsey that told Henry what he “could do” and this is what precipitated these personality disorders (kind of like Casey Anthony on finding what she “could do,” and was reported time and again as to the fact that she was the most narcissistic (sp?) socipathic person one has ever encountered. Even when Jane Seymour had Edward VI by Caearean section, it was the boy’s life over whom he was later entombed beside, Jane, and he said to save the boy as he could always find another wife.

        As a last thing, and this is a general observation (and I complimented Claire on the FOURTH good thing he could say about Queen Anne [and these were not major, but very important to Queen Anne’s cause]) the Chapuys was the Royal Ambassador from Spain, from Ferdinand and Isabella on, that he acted on his own behalf for his country, Spain, and was not really involved with any others as can be seen from his letter above. Thank you, WilesWales

  4. Is it any wonder that this child developed into the woman she became? It’s unimaginable by today’s standards that someone her age stood up against this abuse as long as she did. But then again, working among the modern children today having to deal with abuse on a regular basis, you witness an entirely different persona than of those fortunate enough to grow up in a stable environment.
    And the lengths these men would go for in the name of what? Fear, power, greed, stupidity, or culture?

  5. Thanks to all for replying to my post; I must admit I have often compared Henry to my ex-husband who was diagnosed as a narcissitic siociopath. And my ex’s mental problems developed over time; the man I divorced was not the man I married by any means. So, Dawn, I was very interested in what you wrote; I had thought of Henry having, if not these particular mental problems, others as dangerous.

    WilesWales, what source do you have for Jane having a c-seciton when she gave birth to Edward VI? And did I understand correctly that you stated Henry was entombed above Edward? Your sentence was a little confusing for me; could you please explain it further?

    Claire, thanks again for providing a site for exchanges such as this! Most interesting and inspiring!

    1. Jane did not have a c-section, that was another myth from good old Nicholas Sander, the Catholic recusant writing in exile during Elizabeth I’s reign. Like Anne Boleyn’s six fingers and deformed foetus, it has become popular legend and is often being discussed online. Jane had a tough time delivering Edward but Henry VIII never had to choose between mother and child like that. Jane died of infection, puerperal fever or childbed fever, and not complications from a c-section. If she’s had the operation then it would have been mentioned in the contemporary sources. Just to clear that up!

      I think when WilesWales when was saying ” it was the boy’s life over whom he was later entombed beside”, he was referring to Jane, who Henry is buried besides at Windsor.

      Sorry I missed this great thread and thank you to everyone who has commented!

      1. Thank you, Claire for fixing this up, and the myth of the C-section. My source for the C-section was obtained from, Fraser, Antonia, “The Lives of the Kings and Queens of England,” p. 185.

        I have to thank Claire again for this one, as Ms. Fraser in other works such as “The Wives of Henry VIII,” has been questioned on her sources, and unlike Claire, on p. 185 of the book from where I obtained this information does not have any annotation or any documentaton to go with this statement. I will be more careful in the future, and choose my sources from more reliable source such a Claire’s works herself, and other such as Ives, Eric, “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn.” There are other sources I don’t use for this and various other reasons.

        Thank you, Claire for clearing up the other quote as welll, and clearing this myth up! WilesWales!

        1. Fraser must have changed her mind as in “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” she dismisses the caesarean story as rumour. She writes that women did not survive the operation and was only used when the woman was obviously dying, so as to save the child. Fraser gives a source for the rumour: Robert Bell’s “Ancient Poems, Ballads and Songs of the Peasantry of England (1857) and The Spanish Chronicle. I checked them and Bell has the following verse from a poem said to be from a young gypsy girl who said that it had been passed down through two generations:
          “The surgeon was sent for,
          He came with all speed,
          In a gownd of black velvet
          From heel to the head.
          He gave her rich caudle,
          But the death-sleep slept she.
          Then her right side was opened,
          And the babe was set free”

          As Fraser says, we know that Jane did not die during labour, so that is not accurate.
          The Spanish Chronicle (p73) is also cited by Fraser as dismissing the rumour:
          “In due time, when the Queen was about to be delivered, they sent to London for processions to be made to pray God for a happy result, and after three days illness the most beautiful boy that ever was seen was born. Very great rejoicings were held for his birth; but on the second day it was rumoured that the mother had died, which caused great sorrow. It was said that the mother had to be sacrificed for the child. I do not affirm this to be true, only that it was rumoured.”

          I checked Nicholas Sander and he says:
          “On the l0th day of October 5 [1537], Jane Seymour gave birth to a son, who was named Edward. But the travail of the queen being very difficult, the king was asked which of the two lives was to be spared; he answered, the boy’s, because he could easily provide himself with other wives. Jane accordingly died soon after of the pains of childbirth, and was buried at Windsor.”
          and in the notes for that page says:
          “Heylyn (Hist. Reform., p. 7) says that the common belief has always been that a surgical operation took place, which cost the queen her life. Harps field,
          writing in the reign of queen Mary, speaks of the fact as certain (Treatise of Marriage, MS., bk. iii. p. 107) : ” That she should die for the safeguard of
          the child in such manner as she did, yea, the child to be born, as some say that adders are, by gnawing out the mother s womb.” So also the account of Fisher and More, printed by Mr. Pocock, Records, ii. 564.” but that “” All this is false,” says Burnet (vol. iv. p. 572, ed. Pocock), ” for she had a good delivery, as many original letters written by her council, that have been since printed, do show ; but she died two days after of a distemper incident to her sex.”

          In Letters and Papers, there are many mentions of the “joyful news” of Edward’s birth and we know that Jane was well enough to receive visitors on the day of Edward’s christening, so she couldn’t have had a caesarean. It obviously suited Sander to paint Henry in a bad light, by having him save Edward over Jane in that way, but there is no way that she could have survived the procedure.

  6. Mary stood up to those who would torment her. Imagine men,and highly-placed men at that, feeling as though the world was invented solely for their pleasure and women but chattel, being out-faced by the King’s young lady-daughter. I’d wager while it angered the King mightily, he felt a tiny grain of admiration or possibly pride that she was made of such stern stuff. It makes me happy to choose to think he may have privately laughed a bit at her haughtiness and refusal in the face of his most threatening team of men, and maybe said, “What a little pip! Falls not far from the tree!” even through his temper tantrum.

  7. Very sad situation when a daughter from a 20 something year marriage and whose grandparents were Isabella and Ferdinand would be declared a bastard. One of her first acts as queen was to declare her parent’s marriage valid.

    1. I think if it was all down to his libido then he would have simply taken mistresses rather than go through all the trouble of the Great Matter, which took six years to sort out.

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