Mary Tudor (/ˈtjdər/; 18 March 1496 – 25 June 1533) was an English princess who was briefly Queen of France and later progenitor of a family which claimed the English throne. The younger surviving daughter of Henry VII of England and Elizabeth of York, Mary became the third wife of Louis XII of France, more than 30 years her senior. Following his death, she married Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk. The marriage, which was performed secretly in France, took place during the reign of her brother Henry VIII and without his consent. This necessitated the intervention of Thomas Wolsey, and although the couple were eventually pardoned by Henry, they were forced to pay a large fine.

Mary's second marriage produced four children, and through her eldest daughter Frances, Mary was the maternal grandmother of Lady Jane Grey, who was the de facto monarch of England for nine days in July 1553.

First marriage: Queen of France

Mary was the fourth child of Henry VII of England and Elizabeth of York, and the youngest to survive infancy. She was born at Sheen Palace, "most probably" in March 1496. A privy seal bill dated from midsummer 1496 authorizes a payment of 50 shillings to her nurse, Anne Skeron. Also, Erasmus stated that she was four years old when he visited the royal nursery in 1499–1500.[1] At age six, she was given her own household, complete with "a staff of gentlewomen assigned to wait upon her," a schoolmaster, and a physician. She was given instruction in French, Latin, music, dancing, and embroidery.[1]

As children, Mary and her brother, the future King Henry VIII, shared a close friendship. He would name his first surviving child, the future Queen Mary I, in her honour. They lost their mother when Mary was just seven, and given the number of bills paid to her apothecary from 1504 to 1509, it would appear that Mary's own health was fragile.[1]

A sketch of Mary during her brief period as queen of France

Known in her youth as one of the most beautiful princesses in Europe,[1] Erasmus said of her that "Nature never formed anything more beautiful."[2]

In 1506, during a visit from Philip I of Castile, Mary was called to entertain the guests, dancing, and playing the lute and clavicord. In September 1506, King Philip died, and on 21 December 1507, Mary was betrothed to his son Charles, later Holy Roman Emperor. The betrothal was called off in 1513.[1]

Instead, Cardinal Wolsey negotiated a peace treaty with France, and on 9 October 1514, at the age of 18, Mary married the 52-year-old King Louis XII of France at Abbeville. One of the maids of honour who attended her in France was Anne Boleyn. Despite two previous marriages, Louis had no living sons, and sought to produce an heir, but he died on 1 January 1515, less than three months after marrying Mary, reputedly worn out by his exertions in the bedchamber, but more likely from the effects of gout.[3] Their union produced no children. Following Louis's death, the new king Francis I made attempts to arrange a second marriage for the beautiful widow.[1]

Second marriage: Duchess of Suffolk

Mary had been unhappy with her marriage of state to King Louis XII, as at this time, she was almost certainly already in love with Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk. King Henry VIII was aware of his sister Mary's feelings; letters from his sister in 1515 indicated that Mary agreed to wed King Louis only on condition that "if she survived him, she should marry whom she liked."[4] However, King Henry VIII wanted any future marriage to be to his advantage. The King's Council, not wishing to see Charles Brandon gain further power at court, were also opposed to the match. Meanwhile, rumors swirled in France that she would wed either Antoine, Duke of Lorraine or Charles III, Duke of Savoy. At one point, even King Francis I, perhaps in hope of his wife Queen Claude's death, had himself been one of Mary's suitors in the first week of her widowhood, in which Mary had asserted that she had given him her confidence inorder to avoid his overtures. A pair of French friars went so far as to warn Mary that she must not wed Charles Brandon because he "had traffickings with the devil."[1]

Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon

When King Henry VIII sent Charles to bring Mary back to England in late January 1515, he made the Duke promise that he would not propose to her.[5] However once in France, Mary persuaded Charles to abandon this pledge. The couple wed in secret at the Hotel de Clugny on 3 March 1515 in the presence of just 10 people, among them was King Francis I.[6] Technically, this was treason as Charles Brandon had married a royal princess without King Henry's consent.[7] Thus, King Henry VIII was outraged, and the privy council urged that Charles should be imprisoned or executed. Because of the intervention of Thomas Wolsey, and King Henry's affection for both his sister and Charles, the couple were given only a heavy fine.[8][9] The fine was a payment of £24,000 to be paid to the King in yearly installments of £1000, as well as the whole of Mary's dowry from King Louis XII of £200,000, together with her gold plate and jewels which had been given or promised to Mary by King Louis. The fine of £24,000, approximately equivalent to £7,200,000 today, was later reduced by the King.[8] They officially later married on 13 May 1515 at Greenwich Palace in the presence of King Henry VIII and his courtiers.[1] Then in 1528, Charles secured a papal bull from Pope Clement VII legitimizing his marriage with Mary.

Mary was Charles Brandon's third wife, and he had two daughters, Anne and Mary, by his second marriage to Anne Browne. She had died in 1511. Mary would raise the girls with her own children. Even after her second marriage, Mary was normally referred to at the English court as "the French Queen", and was not known as "the Duchess of Suffolk" in her lifetime,[10] despite being legally allowed to be. Mary spent most of her time at the Duke's country seat of Westhorpe Hall in Suffolk.[11]

In the late 1520s, relations between King Henry VIII and his sister Mary were strained when she opposed the King's attempt to obtain an annulment from his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, whom Mary had known for many years. Mary developed a strong dislike for Anne Boleyn (King Henry's intended wife),[12] whom she had first encountered in France.[1] Anne and her sister Mary Boleyn had been among the maids of honor in the entourage that had accompanied Mary to France for her wedding to King Louis XII.[13] Despite her disapproval of his annulment, Mary never spoke out publicly against Anne.


Burial place of Mary Tudor in St. Mary's Church, Bury St. Edmunds

Mary suffered multiple bouts of illness, requiring treatments over her lifetime. She died, age 37, at Westhorpe Hall, Suffolk, on 25 June 1533, having never fully recovered from the sweating sickness she caught in 1528. The cause of death has been speculated to have been angina, tuberculosis, appendicitis, or cancer.

As an English princess, daughter of a king, sister to the current king, and a dowager queen of France, Mary Tudor's funeral and interment was conducted with much heraldic ceremony. A requiem mass was held at Westminster Abbey. Her body was embalmed and held in state at Westhorpe Hall for three weeks.


On the 20th of July 1533, a delegation from France joined the English delegation for the lavish funeral ceremony. Her daughter Frances was chief mourner, accompanied by her husband and siblings. Mary's husband and her brother the king did not attend.

The funeral procession included 100 torch bearers, clergy carrying the cross, six horses pulling the hearse, other nobility and 100 of the duke's yeomen. The next day, followed a requiem mass and burial at Bury St. Edmunds Abbey.[14] After the death of Mary Tudor, her step-daughters, Anne and Mary, pushed themselves to the head of the funeral cortege just before the coffin was lowered into the crypt of the Abbey of St Edmundsbury, much to the consternation of their half-siblings.[15]


Five years later, when the monastery was dissolved, Mary's body was removed to nearby St. Mary's Church, Bury St. Edmunds. In 1784, her remains were disinterred, her coffin opened, and locks of her hair were taken by Horace Walpole, the duchess of Portland, and several others.[1]


Mary and Charles had four children, two daughters and two sons:

Mary and Charles raised their children at their home at Westhorpe Hall. Their two sons, both named Henry, are commonly mistaken for being the same son. Both boys died when they were children.

Mary's widower later married their son's (Henry Brandon, Earl of Lincoln) betrothed, who was also his ward, the 14-year-old Catherine Willoughby, by whom he had his two youngest sons.

Mary Tudor is an ancestor of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, mother of Queen Elizabeth II of England.

In literature

She is the main character in several historical fiction novels:



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 36 pp. 397–400 MacMillan: London, 1893
  2. ^ Sadlack, Erin A., The French Queen's Letters: Mary Tudor Brandon and the Politics of Marriage in Sixteenth-Century Europe, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), p. 44.
  3. ^ Guicciardini, Francesco, Storia d'Italia, Lib. XII, cap. 9
  4. ^ Weir, Alison. Henry VIII: King and Court. Pimlico. 2002, ISBN 0-7126-6451-3, p. 173.
  5. ^ Weir, "Henry VIII," p. 178
  6. ^ Weir, Alison. Britain's Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy p. 152 London: Random House, 2011
  7. ^ Yonge, Charlotte Mary. The War of the Roses, p. 335 London: Macmillan and Company, 1877
  8. ^ a b Weir, "Henry VIII," p. 184
  9. ^ Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 36 pp. 397–400 MacMillan: London, 1893
  10. ^ James, Susan E. The Feminine Dynamic in English Art, 1485–1603: Women as Consumers, Patrons and Painters p. 40 Ashgate: London, 2009
  11. ^ Weir, "Henry VIII," p. 185.
  12. ^ Weir, "Henry VIII," p. 310.
  13. ^ Weir, "Henry VIII," p. 175.
  14. ^ https://www.tudorsociety.com/25-june-1533-the-death-of-mary-tudor-queen-of-france/
  15. ^ Chapman, p.212


  • Goff, Cecilie (1930). A Woman of the Tudor Age. London: John Murray. 
  • Plowden, Alison (1986). Lady Jane Grey and the House of Suffolk. Franklin Watts. ISBN 0-531-15000-3. 
  • Perry, Maria (2000). The Sisters of Henry VIII: The Tumultuous Lives of Margaret of Scotland and Mary of France. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80989-3. 
  • Richardson, W.C. (1970). Mary Tudor: The White Queen. Peter Owen Publishers. ISBN 0-7206-5206-5. 
  • Weir, Alison (2002). Henry VIII: King and Court. Pimlico. ISBN 0-7126-6451-3. 

Further reading

  • Brown, Mary Croom. Mary Tudor: queen of France (1911) online
  • Chapman, Hester W. (1969), The Thistle and the Rose: The Sisters of Henry VIII, New York: Coward, McGann & Geoghegan, LCC 79-159754.

External links

Mary Tudor, Queen of France
Born: 18 March 1496 Died: 25 June 1533
French royalty
Title last held by
Anne of Brittany
Queen consort of France
9 October 1514 – 1 January 1515
Succeeded by
Claude of France