Princess Mary Tudor

Posted By on March 18, 2010

On this day in history, the 18th March 1496, Princess Mary Tudor was born – Happy 514th Birthday Mary!

Wow, it’s confusing having two Mary Tudors – Mary Tudor Queen of England (Mary I) and Mary Tudor Queen of France (daughter of Henry VII and sister of Henry VIII) but it gets even more confusing when “The Tudors” write Princess Mary Tudor out of history entirely and combine her into the character of Princess Margaret, played by Gabrielle Anwar.

Writing Mary Tudor out of existence and killing Margaret Tudor in Season One  means that “The Tudors” simply cannot carry on into the reigns of Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey, Mary I and Elizabeth I, even if Michael Hirst wanted to, because vital characters haven’t even been born – no Lady Jane Grey (granddaughter of Mary Tudor), no Mary Queen of Scots (granddaughter of Margaret Tudor), no James VI… See what I mean?!

So, who was the real Mary Tudor?

Mary Tudor, Queen of France and Duchess of Suffolk

Here is a bio of the REAL Mary Tudor:-

Birth: 18th March 1496, Richmond Palace

Parents and Family: Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. Mary was the youngest of their children to survive infancy and was a sister to Prince Arthur, Princess Margaret and Prince Henry (the future Henry VIII). Henry VIII was very fond of her and named his favourite ship, “The Mary Rose”, after her and also his daughter Mary (future Mary I).

Appearance: Mary was known for her beauty and was even said to be the most beautiful woman in England. The Venetian Ambassador described her as “a Paradise—tall, slender, grey-eyed, possessing an extreme pallor” and she was known to have long red hair.

Motto: La volenté De Dieu me suffit (The will of God is sufficient for me)

Betrothals: In 1507, Mary was betrothed to Charles of Castile (the future Charles V Holy Roman Emperor) and their wedding was planned for 1514 but the betrothal was cancelled due to Henry VIII’s diplomatic dealings. Instead, much to Mary’s horror, she was betrothed to the 52 year old King Louis XII of France (not Portugal like in “The Tudors”), a man 34 years her senior, as part of Cardinal Wolsey’s peace treaty with France.

Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon

Marriages: Mary married King Louis XII of France in Abbeville on 9th October 1514, she was just 18. However, the King of France died just a few months later, on 1st January 1515. Mary had been in love with Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk and a great friend of Henry VIII, and before her marriage to Louis XII she had made her brother promise that if she married the French King and outlived him that she could choose her next husband.

Mary was kept isolated from men for 6 weeks at the Palais de Cluny to see if she was carrying the heir to the French throne, but then her real love, Charles Brandon, was sent to France to escort her home. Mary and Charles Brandon took a huge risk by secretly marrying in France on the 3rd March 1515, without the King’s permission, something which could be classed as treason. Henry VIII was furious but his love for his favourite sister and his friendship with Brandon led to him forgiving the couple and they were officially married at Greenwich Palace on the 13th May 1515. Although she was now the Duchess of Suffolk, Mary was still referred to as the French Queen.

Children: Mary’s 3 month marriage to the King of France did not result in a pregnancy but she had four children by Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk: Henry Brandon, named after her brother (11th March 1516-1522), Lady Frances Brandon (16th July 1517-20th November 1559) who was the mother of Lady Jane Grey (and also Katherine and Mary Grey), Lady Eleanor Brandon (1519-27th September 1547) who went on to marry Henry Clifford, the 2nd Earl of Cumberland, and Henry Brandon, the 1st Earl of Lincoln (around 1523-1st March 1534). Only Frances and Eleanor survived childhood.

Relationship with her brother, Henry VIII: Mary was Henry VIII’s favourite sister but the two did fall out over Henry’s relationship with Anne Boleyn. Mary was good friends with Catherine of Aragon and disliked Anne Boleyn.

Death: Mary became ill in 1533 and died on the 25th June (some sources say 24th) at Westhorpe, Suffolk. She was laid to rest in the abbey at Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, and then moved to St Mary’s Church in Bury St Edmunds during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Legacy: Mary’s granddaughter, Lady Jane Grey (The Nine Day Queen), became Queen after the death of Edward VI in 1553. Edward’s famous “Device for the Succession” excluded his sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, as heirs and named Lady Jane Grey as heir to the throne. Lady Jane Grey was overthrown by Mary, who became Mary I, and was executed on the 12th February 1554 after being convicted of treason. You can read more about her at

Lady Jane’s sister, Katherine Grey, was imprisoned and then kept under house arrest during the reign of Elizabeth I for secretly marrying Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford, without the Queen’s permission. The couple had two sons, Edward (Lord Beauchamp) and Thomas, who were both born in the Tower of London, and who were considered illegitimate due to their parents’ marriage being ruled invalid. It is said that the present queen, Queen Elizabeth II, can trace back her ancestors to Katherine Grey through her mother, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the Queen Mother. Lady Mary Grey died childless.

15 thoughts on “Princess Mary Tudor”

  1. Bess Chilver says:

    I’ve found the grave stone of Princess Mary, Queen of France in St Mary’s. Its right up in the top left hand corner of the altar dais. Just a flat stone in the floor.

    Seems so very simple for such a young woman who had such a vitality for life.

    I wonder if her dislike of Anne Boleyn only happened when it was clear there was a relationship between Anne and Henry in the 1520s.

    Anne was moved from the Burgundian court to join Mary’s entourage when she went to France o become Queen. Anne then remained behind with Queen Claude’s court when Princess Mary returned home to England. I could see her feeling a bit put out that someone who was once a mere maid of honour to her previously, was now higher in precedence.

    I daresay that Mary had all the pride of the Tudors – just like her infamous brother. 😉

  2. Gemma says:

    she does indeed look very beautiful in that first picture!

  3. Xena says:

    She did not humour anyone.And was somber in spirit.Prone to jealous thoughts that surfaced in dealings with courtly people.She was beautiful in a china doll way. But she would always look at you in a unapproved way.And laughed not at your levies,but did not offer any of hers in return.
    She was the type of person who having entered a room,then leaving.One would turn to another and,ask was someone here.
    However; no one has found her dress and shoe closet some where in the jailers quarters. 🙂

  4. Xena says:

    Poor lady Jane whose only crime.Was being, whom she was. And the second trying to give England dignity by minting a coin of the realm.With real precious metal.There maybe a bag of these coins up under the great fireplace;behind a push out plate. Perhaps a fish wife once told me. 🙂

  5. miladyblue says:

    Hi, I’m new, so please be patient with me!

    I love all of the articles and discussion of the Tudor era ladies. This is, for whatever reason, my favorite portion of history, above any others.

    I wish there were a larger resolution picture of Mary as Queen of France – that is a gorgeous portrait. I am a doll collector, and I would love to get a replica of that gown for my planned Tudor display.

  6. Rose says:

    Wow! In a way, I am actually really jelous of The Queen now! – Fancy that, being realted to Lady Jane Grey! Aside from Anne Boleyn and the teenage Queen Elizabeth, Jane Grey is by far my favourite Tudor woman – she says alot for human nature.

  7. miladyblue says:

    What I find interesting is that in the picture of Mary Rose* as Queen of France, her hair is red, while in the picture of her with Charles Brandon, it is dark, almost making her look like a rather ticked off Anne Boleyn. What gives?

    Has anyone ever found any information in the historical records explaining Mary Rose’s dislike of Anne? Is it possible that she loved Katharine of Aragon very much, and was irate that a “mere lady in waiting” dared to try to supplant a Royal Princess, a rank Katharine and Mary Rose shared?

    By contrast, I read a reference in Karen Lindsay’s “Divorced, Beheaded, Survived,” wherein Margaret called Anne “Our Dearest Sister” in a letter, and was working to persuade her young son, James V of Scotland, to acknowledge Henry’s new marriage. That is a pretty sharp contrast in attitude between sisters!

    * = I am using the name Mary Rose to avoid confusion with her niece, Mary I.

  8. Ronda says:

    These comments are late, since I just found your pages — I really enjoy them!

    Regarding Mary Rose and Anne — according to Starkey’s “Six Wives,” Mary did look down on Anne, since Anne was not royal and the Boleyns were “new men,” which is how Surrey refers to Hertford in Season 4 of “The Tudors.” Even the vet James Herriott wrote about the British distrust of “new men.”

    As the Dowager Queen of France, Mary Rose was the second lady of the realm, only preceded by Catherine of Aragon. When Queen Catherine was banished from court Mary was top lady — and Anne, being Anne, felt as presumptive queen that Mary should pay courtesy to her. That’s our girl!

    Margaret, as a young widow, was being shopped around to various Scots and English lords, and had a young son who needed a princess wife — as the legitimate heir to the throne at the time, Elizabeth looked very attractive. Scotland wasn’t winning wars against England at the time — so no wonder Margaret was buttering up Anne in hopes of uniting the kingdoms!

    As for “The Tudors” not being able to continue — Michael Hirst has never let the facts get in the way of a sexy story, and he would get around the Lady Jane Grey and Mary Queen of Scots continuity problem if he really wanted to.

    I think the key to continuing on to Edward VI and Mary I has to be a strong Elizabeth — which he already did in “Elizabeth” and “The Golden Age.”

    I don’t think he wants to do that, and in fact he hasn’t — his next project is “The Borgias” for Showtime in 2011 with Jeremy Irons as Pope Alexander. I was thinking of dropping Showtime after “The Tudors” ends, but now I think I’ll keep it!

    As for Mary Rose looking like she has dark hair — sometimes the paint and varnish darken with age or paintings are restored badly. Henry and Catherine of Aragon both had red-gold hair, which looks brown in paintings. Katherine Parr has very dark hair in one painting and in the one that was once thought to be Lady Jane Grey her hair is light brown.

  9. prince ricardo says:

    Contary to popular belief, Mary Rose Tudor actually had blonde hair. When her grave was opened in the 18th century the onlookers cut tresses of her hair, which is still preserved and the colour is blonde not red.

    1. Emma Ramsey says:

      Maybe her previous hair color had faded due to lack of oxygen or something. It’s possible that it turned red to blonde.

    2. Cee says:

      That means nothing. There are numerous contemporary accounts of her that describe her with red hair, not to mention portraits.

  10. Lyn-Marie says:

    You don’t marry a Princess of the Blood royal without the consent of Henry VIII unless you are in love or mad or both. I think that at the start of the romance, Charles and Mary were in love, which is why they risked losing everything, and in Charles’ case his head, but at some point, although they remained devoted, they grew apart because of political intrigue and Anne Boleyn. (excuse spelling). I also think that Charles wanted the marriage to work and that they were happy most of the time. What I do know is, that Charles defended Mary against being married off a second time, was seduced by her tears, and that he risked all to make her happy. There is no evidence that he was unfaithful to either Mary or to his fourth wife, Katherine.

    In any event it is a good story, a knight comes for Princess, rescues Princess, marries Princess, has three children with Princess and loses Princess to a long illness. I am sure that he at least tried to be a good husband and that they had a reasonable marriage. I have been to the grave of Charles, but have not yet visited Mary. I did see Katherine of Aragon’s grave in Peterborough Cathedral last month and found it very moving.


  11. Bandit Queen says:

    Just a comment on the portrait: the portrait with red hair is when Mary is very young. When she married Brandon she was 19 so it is possible that her hair had gone darker. Actually, if you look very close up at the original which I have seen, both have red hair. The hair has faded in the earlier portrait, but it is layered in the later one and although it looks much darker, there are signs of red in the strands of the hair, once you get close to it and see it properly lit. Portraits in books are not very accurate and you have to see the originals to get a really good look at the person.

    And as to Mary liking Anne Boleyn, well there is confusing evidence as to which sister was at court with her, some say Anne, others Mary. They were both very young at the time, only 14 or 15 and so they were her maids of honour and she really could not have cared less if they liked her or not. They are there to serve her and not to worry about if they are liked by her or not. At this point in her life, Mary had no cause not to like any of her companions and would not have worried about the Boleyn girls, as they were of no historical or political consequence in 1514/5.

    Mary Rose Tudor, the French Queen’s dislike of Anne comes much later when Anne is getting closer to the King and it is clear that he is going to divorce Catherine of Aragon. Mary was close to Catherine and deeply upset that Henry wanted a divorce. She was also insulted by the fact that Anne was given precedence over both her and her daughters, the Kings nieces, and said so. She may even have persuaded Charles to speak out against the marriage, although it is likely that when she realised how dangerous this was becoming, by 1531/2, that she also urged him to be careful and support the kings reforms. Remember, Charles was no idiot and he did sign the act of succession and the act or supremacy. He may have spoken out before the wedding, but he was not daft enough to make trouble afterwards. Mary may also have withdrawn from the court because of Anne, as well as her own failing health.

  12. Jackie says:

    WOW, I did not know that Mary and Charles had 4 children. I love the tudor series and the more I research the more I see how much important things was left out of the series. That just makes me angry when “tv drama” mis leads you and when its based on history it shouldn’t do that. I love your site and I’m such a fan of Anne I can’t read enough about her.

  13. Anastasia says:

    Hi Claire,

    I am actually now watching season 1 of “the Tudors” and I have a question that I hope you can answer.
    Is there any evidence of Charles Brandon having any mistresses? Because in season 1 of the Tudors we can see him cheating on Margaret (I know this is an inaccuracy because Mary was actually his wife) but did he have any mistresses while he was married to Mary? It seems really strange to me because ever since I read about Mary&Charles I’ve thought they had a happy marriage. Thanks.

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