August 13 – Mary Tudor’s proxy wedding

On this day in Tudor history, 13th August 1514, in the reign of King Henry VIII, Princess Mary Tudor, the king’s youngest sister, married King Louis XII of France by proxy.

Find out all about the ceremony, what everyone wore and what the symbolic consummation involved…


On this day in history, 13th August 1514, Princess Mary Tudor, youngest surviving daughter of the late King Henry VII and sister of King Henry VIII, married King Louis XII of France by proxy. Mary had previously been betrothed to Charles of Castile, the future Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, but this had been called off in 1513.

The marriage ceremony took place at Greenwich Palace. The eighteen-year-old Mary was present at the ceremony, but Louis d’Orléans, Duke of Longueville, stood in for the fifty-two-year-old groom. Records show that the ceremony was attended by Henry VIII and his wife Catherine of Aragon; William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury; Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York; the Dukes of Buckingham, Norfolk and Suffolk; the Bishops of Winchester and Durham; the Marquis of Dorset; the Earls of Shrewsbury, Surrey, Essex and Worcester; and French diplomats John de Selva and Thomas Bohier.

Speeches were made by the Archbishop of Canterbury and John de Selva, and then Louis XII’s letters patent were read by Thomas Ruthall, the Bishop of Durham, and then the Duke of Longueville and the Princess Mary read their parts of the contract and signed them. The ceremony finished with the Duke giving Mary a gold ring, which she placed on the fourth finger of her right hand.

The Duke of Longueville was described as wearing “a gown of cloth of gold and purple satin in chequers, and a most beautiful collar” while Mary, who was accompanied by many ladies, wore “a petticoat of ash-coloured satin, and a gown of purple satin and cloth of gold in chequers” with “a cap of cloth of gold, and chains and jewels like the Queen”. King Henry VIII wore “a gown of cloth of gold and ash-coloured satin, in chequers, with certain jewelled embroidery in his own fashion, and a most costly collar round his neck”, and the pregnant Queen Catherine was “clad in ash-coloured satin, with chains and jewels, and on her head a cap of cloth of gold, covering the ears in the Venetian fashion.”

Following the ceremony, there was a grand banquet and then music and dancing, the ball apparently lasting “nearly two hours”.
Obviously there could be no consummation of the marriage at this point, but in her “Lives of the Princesses of England”, Mary Anne Everett Wood writes of how Mary changed out of her court dress into a “magnificent deshabillé”, i.e. a nightgown, and then retired to a “couch of state”. The Duke took off one of his boots, took his place by her side and touched her bare leg with his bare foot, thus symbolising consummation of the marriage.

On 14th September, King Louis XII took part in a proxy wedding at the Church of Celestines in Paris. Records state that “after the celebration of mass, as stated above, Louis XII. was solemnly espoused to the Princess Mary by her proctor Charles earl of Worcester”
The official wedding, where both bride and groom were present, took place on 9th October 1514 at Abbeville in France. It was to be a short-lived union because Louis died on 1st January 1515. Mary went on to marry Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and a man who was a good friend of her brother the king. They were married until Mary’s death in June 1533.

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