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

Posted By on June 15, 2011

A young Mary TudorThanks 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
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