Mary IOn 26th May 1536, one week after her stepmother’s execution, Henry VIII’s daughter Mary wrote to Thomas Cromwell asking him to intercede with her father on her behalf. It appears that Mary held Anne Boleyn responsible for her ill-treatment and the breach in her relationship with her father, and is hopeful that Cromwell can help her to mend their relationship now that Anne is gone.

The letter is damaged, but here are the parts we can read:

“Master Secretary, I would have been a suitor to you before this time to have been a mean for me to the King’s Grace to have obtained his Grace’s blessing and favor; but I perceived that nobody durst speak for me as long as that woman lived, which is now gone; whom I pray our Lord of His great mercy to forgive.” Is now the bolder to write, desiring him for the love of God to be a suitor for her to the King, to have his blessing and leave to write to his Grace. Apologises for her evil writing; “for I have not done so much this two year and more, nor could not have found the means to do it at this time but by my lady Kingston’s being here. Hunsdon, 26 May.”1

Anne Boleyn encouraged the ill-treatment of Mary, and it was something she later regretted. On the evening before her execution, Anne fell on her knees before Lady Kingston and “requested her to go in her name to the Lady Mary, to kneel before her in like manner, and beg of her to pardon an unfortunate woman the many wrongs she had done her.”2 But although Anne encouraged Mary’s ill-treatment, it was Henry VIII who was responsible for it. Mary and her mother, Catherine of Aragon, had to be punished for defying him.

Mary’s treatment actually got worse after Anne’s death and it was all down to Henry.3 Henry was willing to acknowledge Mary as his daughter and to mend their relationship if she toed the line, it was that simple.4 As Eric Ives points out, blaming Anne for Mary’s ill-treatment “made it much easier for Charles V [Catherine of Aragon’s nephew] to keep up some civil relationship with Henry”5 so Chapuys could paint Anne as the bad guy. It was also easier for Mary to blame her step-mother for the way she was being treated, rather than believe it was down to her father and King.

Notes and Sources

  1. Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume X. 968.
  2. Lingard, John (1820) The History of England, from the First Invasion By the Romans to the Accession of Mary, Volume IV, p244; Cassell, Peter (1873) Cassell’s Illustrated History of England: Volume 2, p6.; Speed, John (1611) The History of Great Britain.
  3. See 15 June 1536 – Henry VIII’s Council Bullies Mary.
  4. “As to the legitimation of our daughter Mary, we answered that if she will submit to our grace without wrestling against the determination of our laws, we will acknowledge her and use her as our daughter; but we would not be directed or pressed herein, nor have any other order devised for her entertainment than should proceed from the inclination of our own heart.”LP x.726
  5. Ives, Eric (2004) The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, p197.

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30 thoughts on “26 May 1536 – Mary asks for Cromwell’s help”
  1. Let’s not forget there were actually plots to get Mary out of England in 1536 and over to Spain. Henry was not just paranoid. Certainly he could not let his daughter pose a threat to England or to himself in concert with Spain. Yes, he forced to her to sign away her legitimate state and betray her mother’s memory. That was harsh.. It apparently cause d her terrible grief and guilt her entire life and a lot of the sickening things she did later in her reign can probably be tied to this time in her life. years of abuse and then forced betrayal and not enough strength to say “no”.

    Regardless, Anne’s spite and potentially murderous intent toward Mary were terrible and that is why Henry cried in front of his son Richmond, noting his own potentially risk of being murdered by Anne. That is some nasty business. Anne was a serious player and not just some victim. She did not deserve to die, very few people who suffered during the English reformation did, but she earned her dislike, People who know Mary said she was funny and charming and loved to dance and sing and was quite musical like her father. What she became is what she was made.


    1. There’s no proof that Anne had murderous intentions towards Mary any more than Mary had towards her.

      1. Hi Selena, There is proof that Henry thought she did and relayed this as fact to his son Richmond.

        1. Where in the hell is that proof? I might as well claim you’re a 50-year-old serial killer. There’s no evidence that this “proof” is true whatsoever.

    2. Considering that Henry also claimed at that time also that Anne had slept with a hundred men, I cannot take seriously his claim that Anne intended murder him and Mary. Henry had a strong tendency of self-pity.

      If there is any other proof, that is another matter. I do not think Anne’s words to he brother is a proof enough. Why would a murderer openly tell about her plan?

      As for earning dislike, Anne would have been disliked by Mary and anybody who took Katherine’s side in any way.

      1. Hannele,

        If you are referring to me, I never said Anne told her brother she wanted to kill Mary although Anne has been quoted as publicly and without any fear of reprisal, wishing Katherine was hung and all Spaniards were drowned. So she had a bit of a violent tongue and I don’t find it oat all a stretch that she did indeed say specifics about killing Mary. She had quite the mouth. But no, I have not seen anything in writing myself other than Henry saying so. There are claims that Anne asked Lady Kingston to apologize to Mary for her treatment, though I don’t know what she admitted to.

        But to be clear here, Anne was accused of sexual relations with 5 men, so henry may have exaggerated the numbers for sure. But if you use that logic, then Anne could very well have been known to speak murderously of Mary and Henry believed
        it could be extended to include Richmond, whom henry had thought might be made his heir barring a legit son. The fact that the boy died a few weeks after Anne must have looked bad.

        That is pretty much the point though. People could believe things of Anne because she gave so many reasons to believe it. People believed she did evil because she had an evil tongue.

        1. “Anne was accused of sexual relations with 5 men, so henry may have exaggerated the numbers for sure.” 5 to 100 is a heck of a leap, I would say that was more than exaggeration.

          ” There are claims that Anne asked Lady Kingston to apologize to Mary for her treatment, though I don’t know what she admitted to.” I’ve quoted it above, it comes from John Speed’s 1611 book – Anne fell on her knees before Lady Kingston and “requested her to go in her name to the Lady Mary, to kneel before her in like manner, and beg of her to pardon an unfortunate woman the many wrongs she had done her. Speed could obviously have seen all of Kingston’s letters before they were damaged by fire so would have seen fuller accounts than we have today.

  2. Mary (IMO) is the classic case of an abused child becoming abusive. It was emotionally helpful to her to blame Anne (easier than facing the fact that “daddy turned on me”) and is quite understandable (at least to a modern person). After Mary was forced to “toe the line”, she was still kind to the newly-orphaned toddler Elizabeth; and after the Jane Grey matter, she could still allow Edward to be buried by his chosen Protestant rites (while she attended a requiem mass). It was only after the Wyatt uprising that “bloody Mary” began to emerge. I wonder what would have happened if Henry realized early on that women were capable of ruling.

    1. Mary was also abused by her mother for, even if Katherine loved her daughter, she advised her rather die than sign the oath. Mary’s position was more important than her life.

        1. LInda Porter writes in her biography of Mary how Katherine put as much pressure on Mary than Henry by writing to her to stay firm and think about Christ’s passion.

          The example of Fischer and More shewed that refusing to sign the Oath could lead to death Katherine had right to chose that, but was she right to encourage her daughter to do the same?

          Also, Katherine refused earlier a choice, to go to the nunnery, that would have spared Mary years of suffering and kept Mary in Henry’s good graces, maybe even kept her in succession.

        2. Yes your right there Hannele Katherine put undue pressure on Mary without knowing it, she was a religious zealot and I think out of touch with reality, she knew that Mary would suffer if she disobeyed her father so I think Katherine’s actions were selfish to expect Mary to do what she did and flout him openly, Mary adored both her parents and she should have taken the middle line here but she was fanatical about her faith as her mum was and we musnt forget either, she was only young and so Katherine was her role model as she grew older she became a stroppy teenager, those hormones have a lot to do with our behaviour it could be when she was older she realised the folly of opposing Henry V111 but it was then to late to do anything about it, yes Mary would have been kept in the succession as this was part of the agreement if Katherine was to go to a nunnery but she just wouldn’t or couldn’t, had she gone quietly they would have been spared years of suffering and Katherine would still have been welcome at court, it was only when they both flouted him openly he became brutal with them, the story of Mary is very sad indeed.

    2. Mary really showed remarkable clemency towards most of those who had taken sides against her and for Jane Grey. Of course it is also politically wise as she needed them to govern England.

      As for burning “heretics”, let us not forget that she was a granddaughter of Isabella of Castile who made her realm Catholic with violence.

    3. The only solution was not to let Mary become a reigning queen. After all, Margaret Beaufort did not either.

      Henry could have chosen a husband for Mary and made their first son his heir. Of course there was a danger that Mary and her son would have died in childbirth. Or maybe she would have inherited her mother’s bad luck with miscarriages and stillbirths.

      The more fundamental solution would have been to transform England in such a way that its well-being was not dependent on the monarch’s person. Gustav II Adolf of Sweden succeeded in this by modernizing the government and army in twenty years – and because his innovative thinking and good nature he had no problems to accept a daughter as his heir.

      1. Can you honestly imagine even a remote possibility that Henry the VIII would allow, much less encourage his subjects to become independant of him?!!

  3. The trouble was with having only daughters as heirs weakened the country somewhat as any husband they chose, and I’m talking about a foreign spouse here, would try to make England a province of their country, this was proved in Mary’s case as she married against the wishes of her council and own people Philip Of Spain who in turn just made his adopted country a vassal of Spain, these days it doesn’t matter as their only figureheads anyway but in early times it was all about power, the threat of war, etc that’s why if only a daughter inherited the husband she chose was very important, this made having sons as heirs much more desirable they could lead the armies into battle as Henry V did but a wonda couldn’t do that, Elizabeth kept England strong by not marrying but when she died the Tudor Dynasty died with her.

    1. In fact Philip had to promise not to meddle with the English affairs.

      It is quite true that to have only a daughter as an heir was seen a danger, but a minor was seen also. Mary and Elizabeth a adult woman was better than a minor male (f.ex Edward V).

      The most dangerous situation was that what Henry created before 1537: there were no heir who was acknowledged but if Henry had died, Mary, Elizabeth and possible Fitzroy would have made bid for the crown.

  4. “Katherine put undue pressure on Mary without knowing it, she was a religious zealot

    Hey, this is a bit too extreme a comment, Christine. She was a woman of strong character and backbone and had the great respect of many men for it. Slamming her as some kind of religious extremist makes you sound bigoted. That makes for poor evaluation of history and people. If you aren’t a bigot, and of course I have no idea other than your words, you might try to use terms like that with caution.

    1. Judith, Katherine was a fervent catholic who spent most of her time in prayer and going on pilgrimages, even when she was pregnant, from my own 21st century eyes she was a zealot, and brought up her daughter the same, part of it wasn’t Katherine’s fault as she had been brought up like it herself and it became her life, she came from a country that was well known for it’s Inquisition and the terror it brought, she possessed a very strong stubborn streak that ultimately proved her downfall and whilst she was not a malicious woman I believe she was wrong in encouraging Mary to flout her father as he was all powerful and would win in the end, there should have been some middle ground here, trouble was Mary possessed the same stubborn streak and it brought her years of misery, Henry kept them both separated and she wasn’t even allowed to visit Katherine on her death bed, I havnt got a bigoted view of Katherine I personally have always admired her, and she remains one of England’s best loved Queen Consorts but you should know when your on a losing streak and when you have no choice it’s best really to give in, know one would think bad of you, and in fact it takes strength to do that.

      1. Christine, look up the word “zealot”. It does not mean the same as fervent. It is an insulting word that is meant to connote imbalance and is not appropriate in regard to Katherine. She had a steely backbone, for sure; she wasn’t wild eyed.

        I know Katherine’s history very thoroughly so I am fine on that aspect, my concern was the term you used. Fervent is totally cool by me.

        1. Judith the definition of the word ‘zealot’ in the Oxford Dictionary is and I quote, ‘A person who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of their religious political or other ideals, a person who exhibits not only extreme devotion but vehement activity in support of a cause or goal’, the term zealot is not an insulting one it just means some one who believes very strongly about something, like when you did your charity run, it certainly doesn’t mean some one who’s unbalanced either.

  5. Hannele:

    “The only solution was not to let Mary become a reigning queen. After all, Margaret Beaufort did not either.”

    Because Margaret’s family before her only were allowed to change from being a clearly bastard line from John of Gault’s mistress to being legit with the agreement none of them could sit on the throne. Katherine’s family was far more entirely royal blood than the Tudors could ever boast, and was completely legit, which is why Henry VII needed them. There is zero comparison to be made on legitimacy between the two women.

    1. Katherine’s family also began with a bastard branch, just saying.

      Nobody wanted a woman on the throne, despite the many Henry VIII defects, he centralized and fortified the real power, that their daughters, even being considered “bastards”, still had the right to inherit the throne.

      1. Jo, Henry’s line was specifically precluded from taking the throne in exchange for legitimacy. Katherine’s was not. Henry VII had to invade and take the throne. There was zero scent of bastardy about Katherine or Henry VII would not have pursued her for her blood line. Of course, great successful parents like Katherine had would certainly have blown that scent away anyway through the vast wealth and power they had through their own devices. England could not compete at the time.

        1. Katherine of Aragorn as the daughter of Isabella of Castile had a better claim to the throne anyway. Isabella was descended from Blanche of Castile, the legitimate second wife of John of Gaunt, third son of Edward iii, but she had a legitimate claim to the English crown herself from her own ancestry, Philippa of Castile, the daughter of Edward I. The true Lancastrian heirs of Richard ii, Henry IV, Henry v, and Henry vi, are the royal families of Castile and Portugal, not the legitimized bastard lines of Beaufort and Tudor. It’s a great shame Katherine did not take up an army as she could have outed Henry Viii and ruled in her own right as well as her daughter’s. The reason Henry Viii was so touchy about a male heir, the reason why he wife hopped and the reason he married both Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour was that he feared to lose his crown as he knew that he should not be King in the first place. Yes he feared a return to civil war, but there is no evidence that Mary would not have been accepted as Queen or that she could not have ruled effectively had she been raising under the guidance of Henry and Katherine. Had Henry Viii been content to accept Mary was his heir, as he did for a number of years, making her Princess of Wales, something he did not do with Elizabeth or Edward, then the country would have accepted her. It was in Henry’s mind that a woman could not rule, Isabella had no problem. In fact, when Isabella died, Ferdinand should not have ruled Castile, and without Elizabeth of York, a woman who could have been queen in her own right, Henry Tudor was nothing either. His marriage to the heiress to York is what legitimized his claim, won by arms, not by right. Henry Viii was not getting any younger, he needed to marry quickly, he also needed to manipulate the clergy to get a divorce from Katherine. The Pope had political problems, Spain under Charles V was a force backed by military might, Katherine was the Emperor’s Aunt, the marriage had been considered good for many years, Mary and Katherine were popular, the Pope did the right and sensible thing. When Cranmer made his opposite decision, he did so because he believed that the marriage was not valid, because the evidence of his count made this choice and because it was what Henry and Anne required.

  6. It rather reminds me of the joint sovereigns William and Mary, Mary’s claim to the throne was from her father James 11, her husband needed her also as his claim on the throne was very tenuous without her, he also would have been nothing.

  7. I find it hard to agree with the statement that Mary was abused by her mother. Katherine was deeply religious as we all know. I’m sure she certainly didn’t wish for Mary to defy her father and face death but Katherine would have been more concerned for Mary’s eternal soul. That’s not abuse.

    1. I agree with you, Shannon .
      Katherine of Aragon – she did not take descent from a bastard if I am correct; even if Ferdinand was son by a second wedding, his claim to the Aragonese throne was legal – was known as pious, quite normal with a daughter of two “very catholic” sovereigns.
      But I never read she would have been a bad mother towards her only living daughter.
      Mother and daughter were very close instead – and certainly, the fact that K H wanted to sire some other children (male if possible) by a younger wife was bound to bring them togeteher even closer.
      In fact, after her first time in England for her princely betrothal, the spanish princess was hold rather like a prisoner (ie after Arthur’s death), waiting for decisions from her father-in-law or her father as well.
      Her second betrothal, then to a child (by then, Henry was about twelve years old) could not make her feel comfortable about her future as english queen.
      Her temper must have been much altered by such a beginning.
      Later, being a middle-aged woman, now unable to bring her royal husband other children, and faced with a beautiful and much younger rival, her fate probably lead her daughter to get closer to her.
      And certainly – but, even if does not seem very modern – it was quite normal ; princesses of the times were born and raised with an irrefragable feeling of their own legitimacy (it was God’s will).
      I share the common feeling that having been witness to so much dreadful things and the humiliation of her mother (both were kept prisoners by their almighty past husband and father), Princess Mary was to be this queen, whose fear lead her to cruelly fight her enemies .

      1. I have to add that I am fully aware that Katherine of Aragon, by her grandmother (father’s side) took descent from a royal castillian bastard – Maria Enriquez (Enriquez meaning “by King Enrique”) – but she did not take her rights from her, so they were above all discussion .
        On her mother’s side, she took descent from a portuguese princess .
        And, yes the “Aviz” was the title of a royal bastard.
        But, in the same way, it did not affect the male line in fact.
        I sometimes – 😉 – am to quick to express myself

  8. This has been very interesting reading. I am learning a lot. I feel that KH could have detail with Queen Anne in a different manner. Possibly stripped her of all titles and send for to a nunnery. I believe Mary was loved by both parents and used for their purpose.

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