18 March 1496 – Birth of Mary Tudor, Queen of France at Richmond Palace

On this day in 1496, Henry VIII’s beloved sister, Princess Mary Tudor, was born at Richmond Palace. She was the youngest of Henry VII’s and Elizabeth of York’s children to survive infancy, and was sister to Prince Arthur, Princess Margaret and Prince Henry.

Mary was renowned for her beauty, being described as “a Paradise – tall, slender, grey-eyed, possessing an extreme pallor” by the Venetian ambassador, and her motto was La volenté de Dieu me suffit (The will of God is sufficient for me).

In 1507, Mary was betrothed to Charles of Castile (the future Charles V Holy Roman Emperor), and their wedding was planned for 1514. However, the betrothal was cancelled due to Henry VIII’s diplomatic dealings and, much to Mary’s horror, she was betrothed instead to the fifty-two year-old King Louis XII of France, a man thirty-four years her senior, as part of Cardinal Wolsey’s peace treaty with France.

Mary married King Louis XII of France in Abbeville on 9th October 1514 when she was just eighteen, but the marriage was short-lived, with the King dying just a few months later, on 1st January 1515. Mary had been in love with Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk and a great friend of Henry VIII, and before her marriage to Louis XII she had made her brother promise that if she married the French King and outlived him, that she could choose her next husband.

Mary was kept isolated from men for six weeks at the Palais de Cluny to see if she was carrying the heir to the French throne, but then her real love, Charles Brandon, was sent to France to escort her home. Mary and Charles Brandon took a huge risk by secretly marrying in France on 3rd March 1515,* without the King’s permission, something which could be classed as treason. Henry VIII was furious but his love for his favourite sister and his friendship with Brandon led to him forgiving the couple, and they were officially married at Greenwich Palace, 13th May 1515. Although she was now the Duchess of Suffolk, Mary was still referred to as the “French Queen”.

Mary had four children by Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk, but only two daughters, Frances and Eleanor, survived childhood. Frances married Henry Grey, Marquis of Dorset, and was the mother of Lady Jane Grey. Eleanor married Henry Clifford, the 2nd Earl of Cumberland.

Mary became ill in 1533, and died on 25th June (some sources say 24th) at Westhorpe, Suffolk. She was laid to rest in the abbey at Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, and then moved to St Mary’s Church in Bury St Edmunds during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

*It is thought that they married in secret in mid February and that this was then followed by a further ceremont in France. A French chronicle gives the date of 3rd March 1515 and Louise of Savoy gives the date of 31st March 1515.

(Taken from On this Day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway.)

You can read more about Mary in the following articles:

Related Post

4 thoughts on “18 March 1496 – Birth of Mary Tudor, Queen of France at Richmond Palace”
  1. I can’t imagine being a woman during those times, betrothed to a man 34 yrs older as part of a peace treaty. At least she was able to marry her true love after all.

    1. It was not a problem in those times for a woman in her mid teens or later teens to be married to a man much older than her, especially from the noble families or royalty. Such marriages were business relations, contracts between nations, alliances, for power, wealth and land, women the commodity that cemented the deal. It was her duty to bring the parties success and to build a dynasty, to provide a brood of healthy sons to attain this. Older men may find themselves without sons, a young woman could bring the much needed heir, so these marriages made no comment from others, they were quite normal. A royal princess was raised to make such a match. It’s just that we’re used to even royals choosing their own partners, at least in the West, but alliances still go on. Texan oil barons, corporate families still marry among themselves, making more money, and even royalty don’t just wed anyone. In Tudor Times, marriage between dynastic families were essential, alliances important, few contacts were made outside of their own classes. Unfortunately this was not good news for daughters, who knew that when they reached pubity that a match would be found for them. The marriage may not have taken place at once and normally the couple would wait a year or so before sleeping together. If the couple were lucky they would be the same age, get on well and have a successful marriage. But since woman died in childbirth, children died young, regularly leaving husbands without wife and no sons, replacement families were sought. Thus much older husbands married young woman, many years their junior, but this does not follow that the couple were unhappy. In fact many people making such marriages were successful and happy. To this situation came Princess Mary. Betrothed to Charles of Castile, a few years her junior, to cement a new alliance with France, eighteen years old, Mary reluctantly married the older King Louis of France, a widower in his fifties who had grown daughters, no sons. Mary Tudor was happy with him, he treated her well, but she was too much for him. Yes, now that he died, after eight months marriage, Mary chose the man she loved, but she took a chance, put Brandon at risk, and it could have ended in tears. Fortunately for both of them, Henry was pacified by money and jewellery, they were reasonably happy, although they had problems, but Mary fell out with her brother over Anne Boleyn. When she died in July 1533, Brandon in turn aged 49, married his 14 years old ward, Katherine Willoughby, again for the duel purposes of gaining land and money, although the couple were happy, devoted and the marriage successfully gained more children. Mary Tudor may have complained about her first husband, but she certainly manipulated his death to her advantage in order to follow her heart’s desire to marry Charles Brandon.

      1. Hello Bandit queen,

        I always enjoy reading your various comments on this site. I am curious to know what you meant by your comment about Mary and Brandon being “reasonably happy although they had their problems.” Do you mean financial problems? What are your sources? Brandon’s biographer Gunn (1988) and Mary’s biographers (Richardson, 1970; Loades, 2012) did not mention that there were problems between the couple other than financial issues.

        Does the fact that Brandon spent a lot of time attending to Henry create problems between the couple? Also, given that Brandon had to take Henry’s side regarding the divorce/annulment create problems?

        Thank you for your response. I am a sucker for love stories and the Brandon/Mary story is on my top ten list. I like to think that they lived happily ever after, like in fairytales. LOL.

  2. So many troubles had in their time the noble people and so short were their lifes. They wanted wealth and lands more than love and peace. Rich people poor people.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *