19 May 1536 will forever be the day that Anne Boleyn was executed. For Mary, who was with her half-sister Elizabeth at Hunsdon, it must have been a bittersweet moment. Mary’s relationship with Anne had, understandably, never been good. Anne had destroyed her mother’s life, and Mary set herself up as the opposition to Anne. Perhaps Mary forgot Anne’s influence on the King and Mary was put in her place when she was placed in her half-sister’s household, and she was to cease to style herself as Princess. When Henry went to visit Elizabeth and Mary at Hatfield in January 1534, Anne sent Thomas Cromwell after the King to dissuade him from seeing Mary. She perhaps feared that Henry might be persuaded by his daughter. Henry didn’t meet with Mary; he even refused her leave to come and kiss his hand. Instead, Thomas Cromwell was sent in to persuade Mary to renounce her title. Mary did not give up so easily though, and she appeared on the terrace at the top of the house as he went to mount his horse. The King turned around and saw her on her knees, he bowed to her and put his hand to his hat. Mary would not see her father again for two and half years. Anne had succeeded in keeping them apart.
Anne and Mary met just a few times during Anne’s marriage to her father. While Anne attempted to reason with Mary, with the promise of a better treatment, Mary responded with, “she knew of no Queen in England except her mother, but if Madame Anne Boleyn would speak to her father on her behalf, she would be much obliged”. Anne tried again and even threatened her, but Mary remained unmoved. After Mary’s mother’s death, Anne, pregnant for a third time, tried once more to improve relations. Her efforts were rebuffed and Anne’s response, via Lady Shelton who was in charge of Princess Elizabeth’s household and coincidentally also Anne Boleyn’s aunt, was deliberately left for Mary to find. Mary copied the letter and sent it to the Imperial Ambassador before putting it back where she had found it. It was a subtle way of bullying. Mary was only more inspired to hold firm.
Her immediate reaction to Anne’s execution is not recorded, but her supporters triumphed. However, if Mary believed her troubles were now over, she was mistaken. 1
- Porter, Linda (2009) Mary Tudor. The First Queen ↩