March 3, 1515 – Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon Secretly Married

Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon, attributed to Jan Gossaert (public  domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon, attributed to Jan Gossaert (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Mary Tudor, youngest sister of Henry VIII, was known as one of the most beautiful princesses in Europe – which made her a valuable commodity in the political marriage market. Her long-term childhood betrothal to Charles of Castille (who would later become Charles V) was called off so that she could cement a peace treaty with France: on October 9, 1514, she married Louis XII of France. Mary was not happy about the marriage (she was 18, Louis was 52), and allegedly agreed only after Henry promised that she would be allowed to marry whomever she liked if (when) Louis died. Of course, Henry probably saw this more as a right to veto an unwelcome choice rather than as a commitment he would have to honor.

Still, she agreed and left for France. She was crowned on November 4, 1514 in a magnificent display of pomp (I wrote a blog post about it, you can read it here) and all of France hoped for an heir. Unfortunately, three months after the wedding the only thing to result from the activity in the royal bedchamber was the death of Louis XII (people loved to say he died from “his exertions” but truth was it was probably gout). Henry sent Charles Brandon to bring her home from France – a big mistake since Brandon and Mary were already in love. Henry knew this, but sent Brandon anyway, making him promise he would not propose to her. The couple easily got around this when Mary acted as the aggressor, insisting Brandon marry her in secret before their return.

Henry was furious, and threatened Brandon with execution (it was treason to marry a Royal Princess without the ruling monarch’s consent) but he soon calmed down and had the couple remarry in England on May 13, 1515 so he could witness the event himself. The marriage is always described successful; they were happy together, and produced four children. Their two sons, both named Henry, died in childhood; a daughter named Eleanor lived to 28. It was their oldest daughter, Frances, who made the biggest name for herself: she married Henry Grey, Third Marquess of Dorset, and was the mother of Lady Jane Grey – the Nine Days Queen. But that’s another blog post…

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November 4, 1514 – Mary Tudor Crowned Queen of France

Mary Tudor and Louis XII of France, by an unknown artist (via Wikimedia Commons with thanks to the British Library)

Mary Tudor and Louis XII of France, by an unknown artist (via Wikimedia Commons with thanks to the British Library)

Mary became Queen of France upon her October 9 marriage to Louis XII of France, but the formal coronation took place almost a month later at the Basilica of Saint Denis, a large medieval abbey church that was the traditional location for crowning consorts (the King regnant was more properly annointed with the Crown of Charlemagne at Rheims, much further away). It was also the traditional location for burying kings (all but three of the French kings from tenth century through 1789 are interred there), but that’s a different story…

Mary arrived at St. Denis on November 3, staying there overnight before the coronation (much like English monarchs sleep in the Tower the night before theirs). She slept there again after the ceremony, so that she could enter Paris in full triumphal procession on November 5. This procession was a carefully managed ceremony full of images and personifications of peace, stability and fertility, and meant to impress on the viewing public the benefits of royal government and the presence and splendor of the monarchy. True street theater, its designer was none other than Pierre Gringoire, a popular French poet and playwright.

Gringoire also provided a full account of the procession. I won’t give all the details (it is a good ten pages long!) but I do want to give some of the flavor. He tells us it began at the Porte Saint Denis on the pont levis (drawbridge) where there was “a scaffold hung with rich tapestry, on which stood a ship of three tops (hunes), with masts and sails complete; and round it were the four principal winds, as if blowing it. Within were Bacchus and Ceres, holding respectively a vine-branch covered with grapes and a sheaf of corn. A personage named Paris held the tiller. On the main mast stood Honor, holding the arms of France, and on the other masts two men armed with darts, signifying that they would guard the honor of the said ship. In the rigging stood mariners singing […] verses.”

Other stops included the Fountain du Ponceau (where a lily and a red rose floated in the fountain and three women, representing the three graces, stood in front); then La Trinite (where the Queen of Saba appeared before Solomon); then the Porte aux Peintres (which featured a three-level pageant, with God at the top, a man and woman representing Louis and Mary in the middle, then five female figures representing France and England with peace, amity and confederation standing between them); then the Church of the Holy Innocents (another multi-level pageant); then Chatelet, which was the seat of royal justice; and finally the Royal Palace.

Throughout, the iconography related Mary Tudor to the Virgin Mary – of course the hope was that she would bring an heir to the son-less monarch – and expressed enormous hopes and aspirations for the new King and his Queen. As Michael Sherman puts it so eloquently, “The pageants for Mary Tudor are, in fact, a masterful union of ceremonies and circumstances, an expression of the political opportunities, aspirations and values shared by a society and represented by the immediate, the symbolic, and the implied presence of that society’s leading figures.” PR at its best.


Wikipedia has wonderful articles about Saint-Denis (check out the photos they’ve included!)

You can read a summary of Gringoire’s account in Letters & Papers. But if you want to read more about Gringoire and pursue in-depth descriptions of the pageantry and the symbolism behind it, read the wonderful article by Michael Sherman, “Pomp and Circumstances: Pageantry, Politics and Propaganda in France during the Reign of Louis XII 1498-1515” from The Sixteenth Century Journal Vol. 9, No. 4 (Winter 1978).

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August 13, 1514 – Mary Tudor’s Proxy Wedding to Louis XII of France – And the Start of Edward Seymour’s Career

On August 13, 1514, Henry VIII's younger sister Mary entered married Louis XII of France by proxy. On that day, Edward Seymour joined her household and began his politial ca. Read about it on

Tapestry Showing Mary Tudor’s Marriage to Louis XII of France, currently hanging at Hever Castle

On this day in 1514, at Greenwich Palace, Henry VIII’s sister Mary Tudor married Louis XII of France (represented by the Duc de Longueville, acting as proxy). According to the notarial document of the event, the Princess Mary and the Duc de Longueville appeared before the King and Queen, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas postulate of York, the Dukes of Buckingham, Norfolk and Suffolk, the Bishops of Winchester and Durham, the Marquis of Dorset, the Earls of Shrewsbury, Surrey, Essex and Worcester, John de Selva and Thomas Bohier. After a Latin speech by the Archbishop and John de Selva, the Bishop of Durham read the French King’s letters patent, and the Duc de Longueville, taking with his right the right hand of the Princess Mary, recited the French King’s words of espousal in French. Then the Princess, taking the right hand of the Duc de Longueville, recited her part of the contract in the same tongue. The Duc de Longueville signed the schedule and delivered it for signature to the Princess Mary, who signed Marye; after which the Duc delivered the Princess a gold ring, which the Princess placed on the fourth finger of her right hand.

To reflect her new status, the Princess Mary assembled a new, much larger, household. It is common knowledge that Anne Boleyn was named as one of her ladies – it is less common knowledge that Edward Seymour also was appointed to her household on this day. Anne and Edward were each around fourteen years old at the time, this was a common age for a first appointment (though in both their cases, there are some who allege that they were closer to seven or eight). When Mary’s marriage ended quickly, Edward bounced around a little. He served Cardinal Wolsey for a time, joined the Duke of Suffolk’s campaign in France in 1523, then was appointed to the household of the Duke of Richmond (the King’s illegitimate son) before snagging a spot as one of the King’s own Esquires of the Body in 1529. And of course, once his sister Jane caught the King’s eye in 1535, his future was assured…

For Further Reading:

As always, the Wikipedia entries on Mary Tudor, Edward Seymour and Anne Boleyn contain additional biographical details. I have also written posts with tags called “Edward Seymour” and “Anne Boleyn”….


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