8 June 1536 – Mary reaches out to her father

On this day in history, 8th June 1536, Henry VIII’s eldest daughter Mary, the future Mary I, wrote to her father, the father she had been estranged from since the breakdown of her parents’ marriage. We have a record of her letter to him, although it is damaged:

“Begs his daily blessing. Though she understands, to her inestimable comfort, that he has forgiven all her offences and withdrawn his displeasure long time conceived against her, her joy will not be full till she is allowed to come to his presence. Begs pardon for her continual suit and rude writing, for nature will suffer her to do no otherwise. Hopes God will preserve him and the Queen, and send them a prince. Hownsdon, 8 June.”

It is clear that Mary wants to be reconciled with her father and come back to court. It appears that she thinks that now her stepmother is out of the way – Anne Boleyn was executed on 19th May 1536 – that everything will be ok. However, Mary was soon to find out that her ill-treatment and the breach in her relationship with her father was not at all down to Anne, it was punishment for what the king saw as his daughter’s disobedience. The king sent members of his council to Hunsdon on 15th June to bully her; he would not even think about reconciliation until Mary had submitted completely to him, accepting him as Supreme Head of the Church of England and accepting the annulment of her parents’ marriage. Poor Mary.

Mary did eventually submit to her father but only after she was persuaded to do so by Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, who actually feared for Mary’s life. She was then welcomed back to court. Signing the submission, going against everything she believed, cost Mary dearly. She must have felt that she was letting her mother down.

Notes and Sources

  • Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume X: 1083.

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6 thoughts on “8 June 1536 – Mary reaches out to her father”
  1. Mary was really fighting for the throne – in those days children died very easily – i think that was the reason behind her submission-

  2. It must have been a dreadful shock to Mary who had been hopefully waiting for a warm reply from her father to her letter, when instead several burley men of his council were admitted into her presence and started to harangue her, no doubt Henry felt he had been too lenient with her and his patience was wearing rather thin, he knew she was as stubborn as her mother had been and where he had to endure it from Catherine, he was not prepared to let his own daughter walk all over him, he had made himself Head Of The Church and it was an important legal document she had to sign, by refusing she was in a sense committing treason, Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher had gone to the block was she prepared to go down that route herself? Chapyus understandably was very worried and advised her it was the best thing to do, but it broke her spirit and she never forgave herself, but there was a positive aspect to it in that Henry welcomed her back with open arms which gave her some comfort, she had a kind stepmother in his third wife and she was able to enjoy being at court and basking in her fathers good books again her health may have improved, as Marys illnesse’s are thought to have been pyschomatic, certainly she suffered from painful periods which could have been endriometis and migraines, depression and constant worry does contribute to the state of a persons health, and Mary had endured many years of misery, she had had to cope with the trauma of her mothers death without the support of her father and the bloody death of her beloved one time governess, Lady Salisbury who was also a relative of hers, Henry had been upset when Mary had sided with her mother over the divorce and no doubt felt they were ganging up against him, so he decided to seperate them and when Mary was quite ill he refused to let Katherine visit her, she had been through the mill a bit and I think it had prematurely aged her, her portaits when she was queen show a tired looking woman with drawn skin and suspicious eyes and whilst in her youth she had been praised for being an attractive girl with a dazzling complexion, there is no evidence of that girl in her portraits, at least at this phase in her life she was enjoying a peaceful existence and when Queen Jane died she was chief mourner at her funeral, Mary had had two stepmothers in four years, little did she know it but she was to go on to have three.

  3. It was a personal hope for Jane Seymour who had a fondness for Mary that she could talk Henry into bringing his oldest daughter back to court and she tried at least twice to raise the issue. The first time she used shrewdness and Henry’s known love for children to try to get him to restore Mary to the succession and his favour. When Jane said it was her dearest wish that Mary should be reconciled to her father, he said she was a fool to think so and should think instead of their own children. Jane was clever enough to turn the conversation around by saying she was only thinking of the peace and prosperity of his Majesty and the kingdom which would come from such a reconciliation.

    Now, obviously Henry on receipt of the above letter was only too ready to be reconciled, but only on his terms of total submission and obedience. From his point of view Mary was a rebellious daughter and had hurt his honour as a father through her disobedience. Henry sent a set of articles and a delegation to force Mary to accept his demands. She must say that he was the Supreme Head of the Church, that her parents were not lawfully married and she was therefore illegitimate. It must have been a shock to learn that her father was truly behind the cruelty Anne Boleyn was accused of showing towards her. Anne had swung between offers of friendship and giving orders to mistreat Mary when the teenager refused to acknowledge her as Queen. Even if Henry didn’t directly back Anne’s actions, he approved and probably gave his consent for her to deal with Mary as she pleased, within reason of course. He would agree to move Mary out of Elizabeth’s household to relieve her when she was ill and played the loving daddy v the evil stepmother rather well.

    Mary refused to sign at first and Jane at some point asked about her again, but this time we know Henry used his muscles as a number of her friends staged protests and began to promote her as the true successor and work for her restoration. It was now unlawful to promote anyone but Jane’s children as heirs so a few were arrested, questioned and imprisoned. Jane could not risk asking again or writing to Mary but she heard on the grapevine that Jane had her interest at heart. It was clear now that Henry would no longer accept no for an answer and Chapyus persuaded Mary to sign the articles, which she did without reading them.

    Henry now received his daughter with open arms and a letter Mary wrote to Jane tells us that Jane had written to her as she thanks her for her letters, offers her service and looks forward to their noble visit very soon after. Jane arranged a private visit to her home at Hudson and then because she would be delighted to have Mary with her for company, she persuaded Henry to bring Mary to court were she was warmly welcomed. Now that Mary had submitted she wanted for nothing.

  4. Yes it is to Janes credit that she did her best to reconcile Mary with her father, she had witnessed what this unhappy girl had gone through and wanted her to be at peace, part of Marys problem had been her obstinate character, by standing with her mother she had angered her father, being young and naive she did not realise she could not do that without risking his anger and saw her father as caught up in a cursed spell wrought by Anne Boleyn, it has been shown that teenagers suffer more when their parents split up, they find it hard to adjust and raging hormones are no doubt the cause of it, teenage years can be difficult and I think more so in Marys age as they were expected to be adults, in an age when children were married at around twelve or younger, and were considered old enough to consummate their marriage about the age of fourteen, now there would be gasps of horror, but in Tudors times for noble and Royal children it was the norm, and personal feelings were not taken into account, stress was not a recognised medical condition, indeed many physchological problems were unknown in that medically ignorant age, today Mary would have been referred to a counsellor and maybe prescribed antidepressants, it’s nice to know that this young girl who had been born into a privileged world with two doting parents and who had had her world brutally torn apart, was now at peace for the first time in many years, she had signed away her inheritance and declared her mothers marriage unlawful which gnawed at her and was something she regretted all her days, she knew her mother would never have signed yet her mother was not in her position, Katherine who had loved her daughter single mindedly would have understood, when Henry had declared years before that he was seeking to have the marriage annulled on the grounds of incest he had ruined Marys prospects in the marriage market, which was why she was unmarried and it was said of her whilst her father lived, she would just be the lady Mary, the unhappiest girl in the realm, her future had started of so brilliantly, her birth was celebrated in a lavish ceremony and she did not disappoint her parents, she was a precocious little girl who had a natural aptitude for music and languages and she was taught how to dance and was a delight to both her parents, she was of small build like her mother and had a perfect complexion with the tawny hair of the Tudors, her portrait when she was a young woman shows she had a little face with a snub nose, a feature which is very attractive, unlike her father and sister who both had aquiline noses, she grew up in a dangerous world where in the distant future she would have to fight for her throne, Mary was much loved by many and had the ability to make close friendships, she was a caring mistress and took a delight in visiting the homes of the poor bringing baskets of food and warm clothing for them, this touching display shows a consideration for people less fortunate than herself, and she must have balked at the difference in the palaces she resided in with their rich furnishings and the hovels of the poor, she had sympathy for the sick and often took them little bottles of medicine her own doctors had prescribed, she was more popular than ever due to the treatment of her mother, at this phase in her life she was now enjoying good fortune, the woman who had brought misery to her mother was dead and gone, she had a kindly stepmother who was her champion, she was enjoying her fathers good graces and was back at court where she could enjoy the entertainments and revelry, wherever she went the people cheered her, so it’s nice to think that at this stage in her life she was enjoying contentment again.

    1. Yes, indeed, Christine, we are lucky, because for all we complain about the NHS it is still the best system in the world and has a wide choice to offer as well when it comes to certain treatment. We don’t rule the world on mental health, somebody once showed me that Switzerland and Norway have better support for this, but we do fairly well. However, it was rudimentary in the Tudor period, although not totally absent. Mary would have had a variety of late teen/early adult conditions after her parents split and her mother died. I don’t think her stubborn reaction was anything to do with mental health, but her denial of reality reminds me of Katherine, who was very ill and still hoping Henry would see sense. Mary was being told her father would never harm or bully her and believed he loved her and Anne was the devil incarnate doing it all, but there is a sense that she mentally has lost a realistic grip of things and there are psychiatric conditions which react to trauma and danger by closing down. They did recognise what we call depression as melancholy and they did also recognise some forms of what they called madness but we would call psychotic illness, but the treatment was very rudimentary. Earlier societies had a better understanding of the need for counselling but the Tudors could treat people with quiet and just caring for them. Certain tonics had calming properties but now we have everything from counselling to drugs, although many drugs do more harm than good and we now recognise that not everyone responds to treatment the same way and we need to review treatment regularly. I personally found cognitive behaviour therapy better than the drugs and was able to come off them after twelve months, although I continued various therapies for about two more years. My doctor described my condition as a trigger going off in the brain and the trigger needs to be reset. It was a very accurate description. Of course we have had advances in the understanding of the mind, but the brain is still very much a mystery in a lot of ways. Mary would have gone through every extreme emotional storm possible and it seems perfectly clear nobody recognised any of her symptoms as needing to be monitored long term. Regular headaches, stomach problems, sickness, sadness, we would recognise as being just as likely to be caused by anxiety and stress as well as an actual physical cause. I would imagine the reality of learning her father was partly responsible and now wholly determined she should respond to his will was the biggest shock of all. The sheer pressure and terror she felt at this time must have really been overwhelming.

      1. Yes depression was called melancholy and when Lady Rochford had a mental collapse the King allowed her to be nursed back to health by one of his courtiers family, after rest and care she was considered fit enough be executed, (as if that mattered when you were about to die) but it was recognised at the time that people could break under pressure, no doubt the terror of her situation was too much for her having experienced it years before with Anne Boleyn, the brain indeed is a mystery, for the poor God knows how they coped but for a rich person they could go to the country and in the peace and quiet with loving care they maybe improved a bit, the NHS people do moan about but they are unaware of how expensive treatment is, and what makes my blood boil is when you get people like the odious Josie Cunningham boasting that she had breast enlargement on the NHS, also people flying to Britain having operations then flying home, without paying a penny into it, but we don’t want to get into politics, I’m glad your ok however, we are very lucky we live in this more enlightened age where medicines and therapy are easily available.

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