On this day in Tudor history, 15th June 1536, twenty-year-old Mary, King Henry VIII’s eldest daughter, was treated appallingly by members of her father’s council. They bullied and threatened the girl her father had once referred to as his “pearl of the world”
In this video, I share a contemporary account of what happened on this day and why, and explain how Mary did end up reconciling with her father the king. You can read a transcript by scrolling down.
15th June is also the anniversary of the birth of Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset, Henry VIII’s illegitimate son. Click here to read more about him.
If you remember, back on 8th June, I talked about how on that day in 1536, Henry VIII’s daughter had written to the king asking for his “daily blessing” and saying that she understood that he had forgiven her. I explained that she was rather deluded as Henry VIII wanted nothing to do with her until she submitted completely to his authority, accepting her status as the illegitimate issue of a marriage that was never legal, and until she signed the oath accepting him as supreme head of the church.
Well, things took a turn for the worse on this day in Tudor history, 15th June 1536, when twenty-year-old Mary received a visit at Hunsdon from members of the king’s council led by Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, and including Robert Radcliffe, Earl of Sussex, and Roland Lee, bishop of Chester.
Rather than informing her that the king was willing to receive his estranged daughter back at court, which is what Mary would have expected, the men were there to persuade Mary into accepting her father as supreme head of the Church in England, and acknowledging that she was not the legitimate heir to the throne. After Mary made “very wise and prudent answers to their intimation”, the men got nasty, bullying her and threatening her.
According to Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador and Mary’s friend and supporter, “one of them said that since she was such an unnatural daughter as to disobey completely the King’s injunctions, he could hardly believe that she was the King’s own bastard daughter”. This man went on to say that “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” and called her a traitress who “would be punished as such”.
Mary must have been incredibly shaken up by this visit and it is little wonder that her dear friend, Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, feared for her life, especially as he had heard that Mary’s chief servant had been imprisoned at “Cromwell’s lodging”. Chapuys explained in a letter to Emperor Charles V that he was able to persuade her to submit to her father’s wishes:
“my opinion was that she ought to obey her father’s commands, assuring her at the same time that such was Your Majesty’s advice and wish. That in order to save her own life, on which the tranquillity of this kingdom and the reform of the many great disorders and abuses by which it is troubled entirely depended, it was necessary that she should make all manner of sacrifices”
Chapuys went on to describe how Mary followed his advice, and signed the submission to her father “without reading it”, but doing so had a huge impact on Mary and she “fell suddenly into a state of despondency and sorrow”. Chapuys comforted her, though, by explaining that the Pope would not hold it against her and that he would “highly approve of it under the circumstances”.
What a nightmare for poor Mary. I can only imagine what it was like to be afraid of her father and to do something that was against everything she believed and that she would have seen as betraying everything her mother had fought for. A very sad situation. Of course, as soon as she obeyed her father it was like nothing had ever happened and she was welcome back at court.