June 15 – Mary is treated appallingly


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.

See also https://youtu.be/JppJNwsmW0s and https://youtu.be/piFHGOhSXEI for more on Mary and her treatment in 1536.

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.

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One thought on “June 15 – Mary is treated appallingly”
  1. Poor poor Mary, she had hoped because the wicked stepmother was dead that all would be as it was before,she would be welcomed back into the loving embrace of her father and the trauma and wretchedness of the past years would be as if they had never happened, but she was to be very disappointed and seems to have had the same rather naive and blinkered view that her mother once possessed, just as Katherine was always sure Henry would tire of Anne and return to her and be her loving husband once more, so Mary thought that it was Anne Boleyn who was to blame alone for her fathers harshness towards her, she did not realise how much her stubbornness had angered him, when her letter reached Henry he must have felt a mixture of emotions men had died because they had refused the oath, now here was his troublesome daughter acting like she had done nothing untoward, she had opposed him all the way and he had had enough, so I feel he must have impressed upon Norfolk and the others that she must be brought to heel, and they fearing his anger had decided some harsh treatment was called for, Mary was clever and her speech was prudent as one of the delegation described but she refusal only exasperated them, the king had said she must swear on the oath and Henry must have told them not to arrive back without her signature on the document, their bullying did break her and in the end she signed, with the wise counsel of Chapyus, but she was despondent afterwards and the stress probably brought on one of her migraines, she had been born a Princess and although officially now a bastard, she was still a kings bastard and had never been spoken that way to before, when Anne Boleyn had put her aunt in charge of Elizabeth’s household, she had told her to box Mary’s ears if she refused to pay homage to her baby sister, Lady Shelton however was not keen on using physical violence towards her and both Anne and George reprimanded her for being too soft with the unhappy girl, Tudor parents were to the modern eye unusually harsh with their children, and so maybe it was not that uncommon for her to be by Chester that had she been his daughter, she would have her head bashed against the wall till it was as soft as a boiled apple, very strong words but the upper glasses did beat their children if they misbehaved, however to be told she was a traitor was very frightening because she was more or less being told she was guilty of high treason, and the punishment for those who were found to have committed treason was death, no wonder Mary was depressed after the men had left, she had written a friendly loving letter to her father, had been expecting a summons to court and yet instead, she was greeted by a group of sour faced men who frightened her into submission, it was said she never forgave herself for declaring her parents marriage invalid, and her eyes were now rudely opened wide, her father was not the friendly lovable father of old, her problem was she had not seen him for several years, had not conversed with him and had only glimpsed him once when he visited Hatfield to see Elizabeth, she was still harbouring pleasant thoughts of her childhood when he had lovingly called her ‘his Pearl’, naively like most spoiled daughters she thought she could twist him round her little finger again, naively she had thought Anne Boleyn was to blame for his coldness towards her, when in fact it had been herself who had caused most of it, her siding with her mother, her refusal to honour Anne as Queen and Elizabeth as the princess and their fathers heir, Henry V111 must have thought he really had been far too lenient with her for too long, this shocked Mary into realising that it was not all Anne’s fault but quite naturally she hated her till the end of her days, for creating the situation which had ruined both hers and her mother’s life, on a pleasanter note, Mary was indeed welcomed back into court and with Jane Seymour, she found the mother’s love she had craved when she had lost her own mother, it was to be a tragedy that both she and Henry were to lose Jane in just over a year later.

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