15 June 1536 – Mary Bullied by Henry VIII’s Council

Posted By on June 15, 2011

A young Mary Tudor Thanks so much to Nasim, littlemisssunnydale on YouTube, for reminding me of this! On this day in history, 15th June 1536, Henry VIII sent some of his council to see his daughter, the Lady Mary, to bully her into submitting to him and accepting that she was not the legitimate heir to the throne.

Linda Porter, in her wonderful biography of Mary “Mary Tudor: The First Queen”, writes of how the “group of aristocratic thugs” was headed by the Duke of Norfolk and that when Mary refused to submit “they resorted to a vicious verbal assault.”1 The Imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, recorded the men’s visit in a letter to the Emperor, saying:-

“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.”2

Poor Mary!

Linda Porter writes that “the prospect of abandonment by Cromwell and the likely fate of her supporters, if she continued to hold out, finally broke Mary’s resolve” and that “Chapuys also encouraged her, for the sake of her own health and future, to comply with her father’s commands.”3 Mary signed her submission, acknowledging her father as sovereign and as supreme head of the Church of England, promising to conform to the laws of the realm and acknowledging that her mother’s marriage to Henry was “incestuous and unlawful”4, on the 22nd June 15365.

Although Anne Boleyn is often blamed for Mary’s ill treatment, this bullying and cruelty was down to Henry VIII as Anne Boleyn was dead and gone, and Henry was now married to Jane Seymour.

In Season 3 of The Tudors, it is Sir Francis Bryan who is sent to threaten Mary, saying:-

“You are an unfilial daughter. Since you will not submit to your father, he may yet proceed against you for treason….Listen to me, I tell you, if you were my daughter I would smash your head against the wall until it was a soft as a boiled apple, you understand?”6

You can see the scene in the video below. I’m sure it was even more frightening in real life, being threatened by a few men and not just the one.

Notes and Sources

  1. Mary Tudor: The First Queen, Linda Porter, p121
  2. Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 5ii. 70
  3. Linda Porter, p122
  4. LP x.1137
  5. Linda Porter, p122
  6. The Tudors Season 3 Episode 1, Michael Hirst

13 thoughts on “15 June 1536 – Mary Bullied by Henry VIII’s Council”

  1. kerri says:

    poor mary.
    i always felt for her, separated from her mother, abandoned by her father and she could truely never have a good relationship with her siblings especially elizabeth.
    you can understand why she went so tiranical in her reign, i dont condone whatshe did but
    she must have been messed up by the time she came to power.

  2. Esther Sorkin says:

    Poor Mary. It must have been worse for her since Anne was dead; I am sure it would have psychologically easier to blame Anne for everything, instead of accepting the fact that her father had become a monster. Also, I don’t recall that Mary ever forced Elizabeth to make the same kind of explicit statement she had to make about her mother’s marital status or her own legitimacy … is my recollection accurate?

  3. Dawn says:

    How terrified that poor young woman must have been, having those high powered men mentally beating her down to sign a document that smashed to pieces all that she held dear. Her mothers good name, her own standing declaring she was illegitamate and no longer heir to the throne and her beliefs. It is probably a good thing she had her deep religious beliefs to help her through. I am sure if Henry had given her the love a father should she would not have turned into the embittered cruel Queen that we see at a later date.
    As for getting Elizabeth to sign an documents when she ruled I’m not sure, but she did give her a serious grilling about her religious beliefs, and insisted at one point that she change it, with serious undertones if she didn’t. Mary also had Elizabeth placed under arrest in the tower, which must have terrified her as much as she was when questioned in 1536, payback maybe, as Mary had always laid most of the blame of the past at Anne’s door, and Elizabeth was the only one left to place all her torment on, she also knew Elizabeth was more loved by the people especially after she married Philip of Spain. Still I have some compassion for Mary (though I can not condone what she did in the name of her religion), for I am sure the embittered, cruel Queen she became was learnt behaviour, and she had had a very good teacher, her Father. A sad story.

  4. kelly says:

    Linda Porter’s book gives great new insides in the life of Mary. I highly recommend everyone with a interest for the tudors, to read it.

  5. miladyblue says:

    Jeez, my dad and I had our share of differences, but this… one thing’s certain, I think Mary or Elizabeth probably saved themselves small fortunes on Father’s Day cards and gifts.

    I think, instead of pondering how such a gradiose love could turn to such virulent hatred, such as between Henry and Anne, and between Henry and Mary, we should simply write Henry off as a cruel, self centered bully whose only god was Henry and leave it at that.

  6. Gena says:

    Mary was mistreated not only by her father but by her brother and his advisors also! And then to have his council abandon her for Jane, you can see why she didn’t trust her fellow countrymen when she came to the throne. You just wonder how her reign would have turned out if the whole Queen Jane incident hadn’t occurred.

    1. Dawn says:

      I think Edwards mistreatment of his sister was more to do with his youth and wasn,t as malicious, pressure from his advisers who were over seeing his rule until he became of age would have encouraged this. From what I have read Edward did like Mary although not as close to her as Elizabeth, but Mary used to give him a hard time over his religious beliefs, as he probably did hers, same old problem again. When Edward finally signed the papers agreeing to pass the crown to Jane he was near death and in extreme pain, although Edward did have doubts about leaving the kingdom to Mary because of her hatred of the new faith. His councilors were worried too, with a catholic back on the throne a lot of them stood to lose everything they possessed and maybe their lives. I agree Mary was mistreated, in varied degrees by lots of different people, but I think the one that did the most damage was her father and his marriage to Anne

  7. Lilly says:

    I do feel very sorry for Mary but to be fair Henry had waited 3 years for Mary to submit, so he was bound to be impatient, and saying that because Anne was dead meant she had nothing to do with this is unfair, because during her reign as queen she was very cruel to Mary. It was through Anne’s influence that Henry stopped her from seeing her mother etc. Henry was continuing what Anne had persuaded him to do, so I don’t think it was entirely his fault.

    1. Dawn says:

      Although I do agree that Henry had become impatient with Mary, the fact is at the end of the day he could have stopped this, after all Anne was now dead and all mention of her forbidden, so to follow on in what she is meant to have initiated would not follow true. He wanted an end to this situation with Mary because he had just remarried and wanted to make way for the future children he and Jane may have. Anne is said to have been harsh on Mary, many times she is quoted to have cursed her in her anger and wished her ill, and maybe Henry was persuaded to punish her more out of spite than judgement, but he was the King, as he remined his courtiers regularly. This became a battle of wills, and Henry was not going to loose, after all he had executed the women that had been the so called problem. This now had become more personal.

    2. Charlotte says:

      I don’t think “after Anne’s execution Henry would continue to do as Anne has persuaded him to do”.

      Also, I don’t think Anne is guilty of all Henry’s behavior which are unfair or cruel. I agree with “Although Anne Boleyn is often blamed for Mary’s ill treatment, this bullying and cruelty was down to Henry VIII as Anne Boleyn was dead and gone, and Henry was now married to Jane Seymour”.

      So, this behavior of Henry is one of other evidences that uncover Henry’s own cruelty even for her daughter as for all the people he loved then send to death. May be he could really send Mary to death too and even Mary believed this so she signed the submission.

  8. Anne Barnhill says:

    I agree that Henry was determined that Mary should submit to his will, both as her father and her king. He certainly would have done whatever was necessary to secure her submission. I think she hated herself, felt as if she were betraying her mother by signing but poor girl, what else could she do? The break-up of her parents had such damaging consequences for her and really stunted her emotional development. And her husband didn’t really like her either. She was alone in the world.

  9. Amy says:

    Poor Mary! I wouldn’t want to be the Duke of Norfolk’s daughter..

  10. Patricia says:

    Through the life of Mary Tudor you can see how abuse is passed on from one situation to another. Henry was a mean monster for refusing to let poor Catherine see her only daughter, even when Catherine was dying Henry wouldn’t allow this. Others contributed to Mary’s isolation and suffering. In turn, Mary treated others harshly when the power finally fell into her hands as queen. If Mary hadn’t been abused herself, would she ever have shed so much innocent Protestant blood later? Personal sins have repercussions for the future, and Henry sowed a lot of bad seeds that bore rotten fruit.

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