This fascinating book studies the life and times of Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon, Henry VIII’s dearest sister and his closest companion. Charles rose from being Henry’s childhood friend to becoming the Duke of Suffolk; a consummate courtier and diplomat. Mary was always royalty. At first married to the King of France, Mary quickly wed Charles after Louis XII’s death in 1515, against her brother’s wishes. Their actions could have been construed as treason yet Henry chose to spare their lives. They returned to court and despite their ongoing disagreements throughout the years, especially over the king’s marriage to Anne Boleyn, the Tudor Brandons remained Henry’s most loyal subjects and perhaps more importantly, his beloved family.– From Amazon
Mary Tudor is perhaps one of the more unknown Tudors, being overshadowed by her namesake and niece, Mary I of England. Mary was born in 1496 as the third, but second surviving, daughter of Elizabeth of York and Henry VII of England. She was apparently a rather fragile child, but became known as one of the most beautiful princesses in Europe. In 1514 the 18-year-old Mary married the 52-year-old widowed King of France, Louis XII. Despite his death after just three months of marriage, she continued to be known as the French Queen. Just two months after his death Mary secretly married Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, with whom she had been in love for quite a while. Her brother Henry VIII was outraged and it was only with the intervention of Cardinal Wolsey and a hefty fine that the couple were reconciled with Henry. They would go on to have four children including two sons, who were both named Henry and died young, and two daughters, who were named Frances and Eleanor.
Mary would purposely keep away from the situation that arose around her brother’s Great Matter. Mary was appalled at the way Catherine of Aragon was being treated, but realistically there was very little she could do. She and Charles were not present when Henry secretly married Anne Boleyn in January 1533; Mary had been unwell for some months. She just about managed to travel to London for Frances’ wedding in that same year, but she had written to her brother that her health was failing. It was to be her last time in London. By the time Anne’s coronation came around in June, Mary was definitely not well enough to travel. The real cause of Mary’s illness was never diagnosed. Conveniently some blamed her illness on Henry’s Great Matter.
She was just 37 years old when she died on 25 June 1533 at her home at Westhorpe.
“The Tudor Brandons” manages to make Mary come alive. We read about her going through to motions to make it through her French marriage, expecting it to be over soon (and it was!) and her subsequent marriage to her great love, Charles. The tragedy of losing their first-born son in childhood (her second son would die a year after her). I liked the inclusion of some of Mary’s letters and the fact that the book doesn’t stop with Mary’s death. Her legacy is just as memorable. Through her eldest daughter, she was the grandmother of Lady Jane Grey, who was de facto Queen of England for nine days. Her husband remarried to Katherine Willoughby after her death, and they had two sons who both died young. He died in 1545.
Mary’s life is often overlooked in the great scheme of things. It was through her sister Margaret that the crown eventually passed, but Mary’s bloodline still ended up on the throne anyway, in the form of Queen Elizabeth II (through Frances’ daughter Lady Catherine Grey). I would highly recommend this book if you’re interested in the Tudor period. This overlooked Princess deserves some attention!
The Tudor Brandons by Sarah-Beth Watkins is out now in both the UK and the US.
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