Mary Tudor was born on 18 March 1496 as the daughter of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York at Sheen Palace, later known as Richmond Palace.
In 1514, she was married off to the much older King Louis XII of France. Mary had little time to consider her life with this ageing King, and her proxy marriage took place on 13 August 1514. However, she made her brother swear that if and when Louis died, she would be free to choose her next husband. By then, she was most likely already in love with Charles Brandon. She left Dover on 2 October 1514 and headed for France. Her tenure as Queen of France would be short as her husband died on 1 January 1515.
Henry sent Charles to negotiate Mary’s return to England. Soon rumours began to circulate that he was there to marry the widowed Queen. Whatever the true purpose, Mary convinced Charles to marry her around the end of February. Henry was furious that Charles acted without his permission and both Mary and Charles wrote letters to Henry begging for his forgiveness.
The couple finally arrived in Dover on 2 May. Henry would make them pay dearly, but fortunately for them, it would not be with Charles’s life. On 13 May 1515, the couple married again in the Church of the Observant Friars in Greenwich. They were now back in favour at court and took up residence in Suffolk Place.
Mary became stepmother to Charles’s daughters Anne and Mary from his marriage to Anne Browne, who had died in 1511. Mary fell pregnant quite quickly and gave birth to a son named Henry on 11 March 1516. A daughter named Frances was born on 16 July 1517, followed by another daughter named Eleanor in 1519 and a son, named Henry after his elder brother who had died in 1522, in 1523. This Henry too would not live to adulthood.
Around 1519, Mary began to suffer from the first bouts of ill health, but she was well enough to attend to Field of Cloth of Gold. After this, her appearances at court would become more sporadic. The couple continued to have money problems throughout their marriage. Charles had also taken a mistress who gave birth to his illegitimate son in 1521. It was yet another blow.
By 1526, it had become clear that Mary’s brother Henry was infatuated with Anne Boleyn. On 23 May 1527, Mary attended her last official engagement at court and watched her brother dance with Anne Boleyn. She withdrew from court, disgusted with her brother’s behaviour.
By the time of Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn, Mary had been unwell for several months. Mary just about managed to travel to London for her daughter’s marriage to Henry Grey, Marquis of Dorset and it would be the last time she would see her brother. She returned home with her younger daughter Eleanor and took to her bed. She was invited to Anne Boleyn’s coronation but was most likely too ill to travel.
Mary died on 25 June 1533, and she was still only 38 years old. The true cause of her illness was never diagnosed. She was buried on 20 July in the abbey at Bury St Edmunds with her daughter Frances acting as chief mourner. When the abbey was dissolved in 1539, she was moved to the nearby St Mary’s Church, where she still rests today.
Entrance to the church is free, though donations are appreciated. I was the only visitor and I was enthusiastically greeted. I was immediately told all about Mary Tudor’s grave and told to go and explore, which was lovely. Do not miss this gem if you are ever in the area.