Mary, Dowager Queen of France and Duchess of Suffolk

Mary was born on 18th March 1496 to Henry VII and his wife, Elizabeth of York. She was the youngest of her surviving siblings: Arthur, Henry and Margaret. She was betrothed in 1507 to the future Charles V, the son of Philip I and Juana, the sister of Katherine of Aragon. However, the treaty fell through and she was instead betrothed to Louis XII of France who was thirty-four years her senior. They married on 9th October 1514, but Louis died on 1st January 1515, less than three months after their marriage. They had no children.

Mary was almost certainly in love with Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, at this time. Brandon was a close friend of Mary’s brother, Henry VIII. Suffolk was sent to bring Mary back from France. There is debate over whether or not Henry knew of his sister’s feelings for his closest friend, but he wanted Mary’s second marriage to be to his advantage. However, they married in secret on 3rd March 1515, which was technically treason (marrying into the royal family without the monarch’s consent). Because of the intervention of Thomas Wolsey, Henry’s first minister, the couple were let off with a fine once Henry had gotten over his outrage.

In the late 1520s when Henry VIII was trying to obtain a divorce from Katherine of Aragon, there was a gulf between him and Mary, as Mary opposed his actions, partly because of her strong dislike for Anne Boleyn, who had served her briefly in France.

Mary died at Brandon’s house at Westhorpe, Suffolk, on 25th June 1533, less than a month after Anne Boleyn, the Queen she had hated and opposed, was crowned at Westminster. She didn’t attend the coronation. Brandon soon remarried, to Catherine Willoughby, the fiancee of their son, Henry. She was just fourteen years old, and bore him two sons.

Although Mary had spent less than three months as Queen of France, she was always known at the English court as the Dowager Queen of France, not the Duchess of Suffolk.

Mary and Charles Brandon had four children together – Henry (1516-1522), Henry Earl of Lincoln (1523-1534), Eleanor (1519-1547) and Frances (1517-1559). Both sons died in childhood. Eleanor became the Countess of Cumberland, and had children. Frances married Henry Grey, 3rd Marquess of Dorset, and had three daughters – Jane, Katherine and Mary. Jane was the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey, the nine-days Queen, who was executed in 1554. Katherine married Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford (not to be confused with his father, Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset) and was imprisoned for it. She bore two sons in the Tower, where she remained until her death. Mary married Thomas Keyes and was kept under house arrest until 1572, six years before she died.

What does everyone else think about the life of Mary Tudor? Do you believe that Mary suffocated Louis XII as shown in ‘The Tudors’?



Peter Ackroyd ‘Tudors’ (London: Macmillan, 2012)

David Loades ‘The Tudors’ (London: Continuum International, 2012)

Alison Plowden ‘The House of Tudor’ (Stroud: The History Press, 2012)

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