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26 May 2020

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Mary Tudor
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Born: 18 March 1496

Married to Louis XII of France: 9 October 1514
Abbeville, France

Coronation as Queen Consort of France: 5 November 1514
Abbey of St. Denis

Married to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk: 15 May 1515 (public marriage)

Died: 25 June 1533
Westhorpe, Suffolk

Abbey of Bury St. Edmund's, later moved to The Church of St. Mary's at Bury St. Edmund's after the Dissolution


Princess Mary Tudor was born to Henry VII and Elizabeth of York on March 18, 1496 and was the youngest child of the King and Queen to live past childhood. As she grew, Mary became a beautiful lady and was considered to be one of the most attractive women in Europe at the time.

Mary was betrothed to Charles (the future Holy Roman Emperor), who, through his mother, was a nephew of Catherine of Aragon, with a marriage planned for May 1514. After diplomatic delays and secret dealings between Spain, the Holy Roman Empire and France, Henry VIII (Mary's brother) canceled the betrothal. Mary was apparently please with this, since she probably had no desire to marry a boy four years younger.

Unfortunately, Henry's choice for a replacement was 34 years older than Mary - Louis XII, King of France, described as "feeble and pocky" and not a very pleasing prospect for a young, healthy and beautiful princess. The King was a widower with no heir, and Henry was more than ready to supply his sister as a way of making truce with a continental power.

Of course, Mary had no say in all these matter, since royal princesses were commonly regarded as a bartered commodity. Mary must have known this was her fate, but she had fallen in love with her brother's friend, Charles Brandon. Brandon was the Duke of Suffolk, but was not royal; the title was granted because of his father's loyalty and service at Bosworth field. But Mary wanted to wed him, even though such a match would have been considered her marrying beneath her. In turn, Charles was attracted to the princess, and was available, with two annulled marriages and a broken precontract.

Mary refused to wed the French king, weeping and sulking, and demanding to be allowed to marry Charles. Of course, her brother refused. So, Mary struck a deal with Henry: she would do her princess duty and marry the French King. But, if she were to outlive Louis - which was very likely - she wanted her next husband to be one of her own choosing. Henry agreed, quite possibly with the intention of never honoring his promise.

Mary first took part in a proxy marriage, with the Duc de Longueville standing in for Louis. A month later, Mary traveled to Paris for her real marriage to the 52 year old King of France. Most of the English entourage the princess had brought with her to France were sent back, although a few, including the Boleyn sisters Anne and Mary, remained.

Mary remained the complacent princess, biding her time. The two were married in the fall of 1514, followed by weeks of celebrations, which obviously put a strain on her aging new husband. Louis XII died New Year's Day 1515, after just three months of marriage.

Mary, now Queen Dowager, moved to the Palais de Cluny where she was isolated from all men (except the new King, Francis, and her confessor) for six weeks to see if she was pregnant by the late king, and if so, to ensure it was his child.

This gave Mary time to plan. She knew Charles Brandon would be among the contingent sent to France to escort her back to England. She had heard rumors that her brother intended for her to marry a Spanish prince, so she knew she would have to take matters into her own hands to be with the man she wanted.

Mary sought an ally in Francis, the new king. When Brandon arrived in Paris, Francis confronted him about his feelings for Mary. He admitted that he wanted to marry her. Charles then met with Mary herself, where she told him about her plan. She wanted to marry him, but if he didn't feel the same, she would enter a convent and no longer be a marriage pawn for Henry VIII. Charles gave in, even though he knew that his King would be very upset at the turn of events.

In the small chapel of the Palais de Cluny, Mary Tudor did the unimaginable for most princesses, she married the man she chose. When Henry found out about the marriage, he was furious. However, Mary was his favorite sister and Charles was an old friend, and the couple was soon forgiven.

Mary and Charles named their first child Henry (1515-1534), in honor of her brother. Their second child was given the female version of the name of one who helped bring their marriage about -- the girl was named Frances (1517-1559). Their third child was a daughter named Eleanor (1519-1547).

Mary was always referred to as the Queen of France (commonly "The French Queen") and never as the Duchess of Suffolk. This was probably to remind her that she had married below her rank. But Mary essentially lived a quiet and happy remainder of her life.

Mary was good friends with her sister-in-law Catherine of Aragon, and was a supporter of hers in the 'great matter' of the divorce and rejected Anne Boleyn. Mary's health began to fail in 1533, and she died on June 24 of that year. Mary was orignially interred in the Abbey at Bury St. Edmunds but the abbey was dissolved just a few years later and she was then reburied at St. Mary's Church where her grave can be seen today.