Mary Tudor, Dowager Queen of France

On the 18th of February 1496 Queen Elizabeth of York, wife of King Henry VII, gave birth to a healthy baby girl at Sheen Palace. The little girl was named Mary and her birth was recorded by Elizabeth’s in her Psalter. Margaret Beaufort, the King’s mother, also recorded Mary’s birth in her stunning Book of Hours. By the 18th of March she wrote “Hodie nata Maria tertia filia Henricis VII 1495.” Although Margaret recorded the date as 1495 it is believed that due to the modern day Gregorian calendar, which was not introduced into England until 1752, Mary’s actual year of birth would have been 1496. Mary was the fifth child of Henry VII and his Queen. Elizabeth would give birth to two more children after Mary however both would tragically die in infancy.

There are no recorded details of what Elizabeth’s pregnancy or labour was like however looking at her previous pregnancies and the rules surrounding childbirth at the time we can make some educated guesses. Lady Margaret Beaufort had laid out a set of detailed ordinances which dictated the protocol and necessities for her daughter’s lying in chamber.

The Lying-in chamber was a series of rooms that the Queen would retire to approximately a month before her child was due to be born. The rooms would have been hung with thick tapestries depicting images of happy scenarios as not to upset the mother or harm the baby. These tapestries would have covered the walls and windows, with only one window being left open to let in fresh air. It was believed that the room needed to be free of bright light so that no evil spirits would harm the mother or unborn baby. Thick carpets would have been spread over the floors and a fire would have continuously burned. A large bed was provided full of pillows and covered with crimson satin. This choice of colour may have hid any blood stains or it also possible that this large bed was for the mother’s comfort and the actual process of giving birth was conducted in a smaller bed.

The purpose of a lying-in chamber was to recreate the womb, warm and blocked off from the world. It was here that Elizabeth of York would have retired after attending a church service to pray for the safe and healthy delivery of her child. As Queen she would have been conducted to her lying-in chambers with full dignity and shut away from the world with her female servants. Her mother, Elizabeth Woodville, supported Elizabeth’s previous pregnancies however shortly before Mary was born Elizabeth Woodville had died.

Elizabeth of York would have relied upon her Catholic faith during her labour. Unfortunately there are no records to state how long Elizabeth was in labour for with Mary or what the actual delivery was like. It is most likely however that Elizabeth would have prayed and called upon the Saints to support her during this most dangerous time. She may have called upon St Margaret who was the patron said of pregnant women and childbirth or even held religious relics which were believed to help a mother during labour.

Several days after her birth the new little Princess, would have been christened according to the Catholic rituals at the time. While there are no records of Mary’s actual Christening, as a Princess it is most likely that her Christening would have been similar to that of her older siblings, which again followed strict guidelines set out by Margaret Beaufort. A large stage would have been set up at a Chapel on which a silver gilt font would have stood. The font would have had a rich circular canopy above it but there would have been no drapes to cover the font as it was vital that all within the Chapel witnessed the Christening. Little Mary would have been carried up the steps to the font by a Duchess, while a second Duchess held the chrisom cloth. A countess would carry the richly decorated and ermine furred train which would have hung from baby Mary’s shoulders.

The christening would have been attended by all the highest members of nobility and afterward Mary would have been returned by a formal progression to her mother who sat in elegance in her chambers.

As was the custom of the time Mary would not have been breast fed, but given to a wet nurse to be fed. It was of vital importance that the wet nurse was of good health and excellent disposition as she was feeding a member of the royal family.

Unlike Mary’s older brother Arthur who was heir to the throne, there has sadly been little recorded about the young Princesses life. She would have spent a great deal of time at Eltham with her older siblings Henry and Margaret. Household records show that Mary’s governess was Elizabeth Denton who would have been in charge of a number of attendants which included a doctor, teacher, wardrobe keeper and an unknown number of gentlewomen. Mary was always lavishly dressed, her rich clothing paid for by the Great Wardrobe as well as from her mother’s privy purse.

Mary also travelled to such places as Richmond and Greenwich where her parents held court. She would have been educated in French and Latin as well as learning to read and write. She would have also been strictly educated on the roles seen as vital to a female at the time including singing, dancing and learning to play a musical instrument. By the age of thirteen it was reported that Mary was quite an accomplished musician being able to play both the lute and the clavicle (an early stringed instrument like a piano).

Mary’s world would be cast into shock when at just the tender age of just six years Mary’s older brother and heir to the English throne, Arthur, died. Worse was to come when less than a year later Mary’s mother died on the 11th of February 1503. Not only had Mary lost her brother but she had also lost her mother and worse her older sister Margaret, whom she had grown up with, left in June for Scotland and marriage to the Scottish King James V. In the span of a year Mary had lost in some form, three members of her family. It is believed that through losing their mother and siblings Mary and her older brother Henry became closer.

When Mary was just fifteen years of age Erasmus wrote that “Nature has never formed anything more beautiful; and she excels no less in goodness and wisdom”.  The Venetian Ambassador to the court of Henry VIII described Mary as “a Paradise—tall, slender, grey-eyed, possessing an extreme pallor.” It is not surprising to hear that Mary was described as such a beauty, after all her mother Elizabeth of York and her grandmother Elizabeth Woodville, were both known for their majesty and beauty.

Mary would go on to have an illustrious yet somewhat scandalous life. On the 21 December 1507 at age just eleven she was contracted to marry Charles of Castile who would later become Charles V, Holy Roman emperor. The contract was called off in 1513 and in 1514 at age eighteen years Mary would marry the fifty two year old King Louis XII of France. After his death just three months later on the 1st January 1515 Mary scandalously went on to marry Charles Brandon, newly created Duke of Suffolk. This marriage, far beneath Mary’s station, caused quite uproar back in England however the Duke was Henry VIII’s most beloved friend and Mary his favourite sister. Despite a huge fine being levied upon both (of which hardly any was repaid) Mary and Charles returned home and were married in a third, public ceremony on the 13th May 1515 at Greenwich.

Mary would have four children with her second husband, two sons and two daughters. Tragically her first son Henry would die before her at the age of just six years. Throughout her life Mary continued to style herself as Dowager Queen of France and continued to receive her Dowager payments from France on and off until her death.  Mary died at Westhorpe Hall in Suffolk on the 25th of June 1533 aged just 37. She had been in poor health for some time leading up to her death although the exact cause remains unknown. Mary was buried in Bury St Edmunds Abbey and then after the Dissolution of the Monasteries she was moved to St Mary’s Church in Bury St Edmunds.

Mary Tudor by Joannus Corvus - Colour

Mary Tudor, Dowager Queen of France by Joannus Corvus

If you would like to lean more about Mary Tudor and her fascinating letters then you can pre-purchase my book on Amazon: La Reine Blanche: Mary Tudor a Life in Letters


Gregorian Calendar, Encyclopaedia Britannica, viewed 22 February 2016, <;.

Licence, Amy 2012, In Bed with the Tudors: The sex lives of a dynasty from Elizabeth of York to Elizabeth I, Amberley Publishing, Gloucestershire.

Loades, David 2012, Mary Rose, Amberley, Gloucestershire.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Brandon, Mary Tudor, 2016, Oxford University Press, viewed 22 February 2016, <;.

Perry, Maria 2002, Sisters to the King, Andre Deutsh, London.

Sadlack, Erin 2001, The French Queen’s Letters, Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

I am very honoured to receive a copy of the ‘Tudor Book of Days’ by the Tudor Times. The dairy is just stunning. Without providing a year this diary is able to be used for the rest of 2017, 2018 and beyond. As well as large spaces provided for each day to write notes, events etc. there is a monthly planner so you to jot down birthdays, anniversaries, reminders, special events or any other important details. At the end of each month there is also a large note section which any extra pieces of information can be noted down.

As well as a functional and versatile diary the ‘Tudor Book of Days’ acts as a day to day guide of the Tudor age; detailing important events, births, deaths, Feast Days and more. As well as daily snippets of Tudor information there is an Index of People at the back of the diary which details a brief biography of over a hundred and fifty Tudor people. In addition to this there is an Index of Events and Entries which is outlined by month and provides even more information about social and political events during the Tudor age.

Made from high quality materials, a hard cover and an absolutely stunning design, this ‘Tudor Book of Days’ by the Tudor Times is an absolute must have for any Tudor enthusiast!

To purchase your own ‘Tudor Book of Days’ for only £15, (bargain! You can also purchase if you are from another country), then please follow the link: Tudor Book of Days


My review of the fascinating and captivating book ‘The Truth of the Line’ by Melanie V. Taylor.

The Truth of the Line by Melanie V. Taylor

In 1572, the good looking and talented Nicholas Hillyarde paints the first of many portraits of Elizabeth I, England’s “Virgin Queen”. His ability to capture the likeness of his patrons makes him famous and his skills are much sought after by the rich and powerful members of the Elizabethan Court. His loyalty to Elizabeth even leads him to becoming part of Sir Francis Walsingham’s information network. One day he is approached by a young man with an intriguing commission. Hillyarde is to paint the man holding a lady’s hand – a hand which descends from a cloud – complete with a puzzling motto: “Attici Amoris Ergo”…
There is something familiar about this young man’s face, and Hillyarde is led down a dark path of investigation to discover who this young man may be.
Who is the young man? Has Hillyarde stumbled across a dark royal secret, and, if so, is there evidence hidden elsewhere?

The Truth of the Line is the story of Nicholas Hillyarde, goldsmith and renowned miniature painter during the reign of Elizabeth I and the early years of King James I. Melanie V. Taylor follows Hillyarde’s life from his early entry into the courtly world of Elizabeth I to the final hours of Glorianna.

Taylor’s story is a fascinating and thought provoking look into what life was like during the reign of the last Tudor monarch. Through Hilliard the reader is able to explore what life was like at Elizabeth I’s court, the many intrigues and plots that so often surrounded the Queen and the diplomatic and legal system that always worked behind the scenes. The reader is able to be witness to the execution of Mary Queen of Scots as well as the threat of the Spanish Armada all through the eyes of Hillyarde. In addition to this through Hillyarde the reader is presented with a more personal look at Elizabeth I, breaking away from the portrayed image of the Queen to a far deeper and sensitive side of a woman who fought many great battles in her life, both public and private.

Although a fictional novel this book is deeply rooted in fact. Nicholas Hillyarde was a real, living, breathing person who indeed painted Elizabeth I on multiple occasions as well as other esteemed members of the Queen’s court. Hillyarde is a very compelling man, his miniatures still live with us today and we are able to examine these detailed and breathtaking miniatures to draw deeper conclusions about people that lived hundreds of years ago. Taylor’s book uses a wealth of research to bring the people of the Elizabethan era to life through the eyes of Hillyarde.

During his life Hillyarde stumbles upon a dramatic discovery which could have changed the very course of English history! The reader is shown this discovery and then presented with many pieces of information to support such a shocking discovery – what exactly that is and how it affected Hillyarde and Elizabeth I, I shall let you discover when you read Taylor’s book!

I was drawn to Taylor’s book through her use of imagery and language to describe in great detail portraits, events and people. While reading I felt at times as though I was Hillyarde, looking out through his eyes to see and explore the world in which he lived.

The Truth of the Line is a captivating, well written and moving book which explores the life of renowned artist Nicholas Hillyarde. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in Tudor or Art history or simply anyone that wants to read a gripping tale of a very fascinating man.

If you are interested in Melaine’s book you can purchase it from her website: Melanie V. Taylor

Or you can visit her facebook page to learn more about visual history and Melanie’s current research.


De La Cloche coat of arms

Queen Mary Tudor’s entrance into Paris

On the 6th of November 1514 Queen Mary Tudor, sister of King Henry VIII, progressed into Paris after her coronation the previous day at St Denis.   While Mary’s coronation had been a relatively low key affair, her entrance into Paris would be one of the grandest spectacles ever held. At seven o’clock the following morning, Louis XII left St. Denis early so that he could await the arrival of his wife and new queen. Mary left shortly after nine o’clock.

The French queen rode in an open carriage covered with a cloth of gold. She wore a magnificent gown of gold brocade covered in pearls and a jewelled necklace around her neck. At eighteen, dressed in cloth of gold, her breathtaking jewellery sparkling, Mary must have looked like a goddess come to earth. Francis d’Angoulême rode by Mary’s side, the pair it is reported, having often spoken to one another. It may have been over the last few days that Mary began to acquaint herself with her son-in-law and gain an opinion of him; it would be a relationship which she would rely on heavily after the death of her husband, Louis XII. Behind Mary rode her ladies, as well as the Louis XII’s daughters, Claude and Renee.

Paris had spared no expense for the welcoming of their new queen. Tapestries hung along the streets and the entire town was decorated with lilies and roses. On her journey to Paris Mary was greeted with a number of tableaux designed to welcome the new queen. The first of these tableaux was at St Denis. Here an enormous ship had been built, complete with real sailors who climbed the rigging. There was even wind blowing into the sails! The ship held images of Ceres, Bacchus and at the helm the Greek hero Paris. These symbolized the corn, wine and general commerce of the city of Paris. Mary was presented with a carefully written programme of the tableaux which had been illuminated with gold leaf before a choir sung her praises.

‘Noble Lady, welcome to France,

Through you we now shall live in joy and pleasure,

Frenchmen and Englishmen live at their ease,

Prise to God, who sends us such a blessing!

Most illustrious, magnanimous Princess, Paris reveres and honours you

And presents this ship to your nobility,

Which is under the King’s governance.

Grains, wines, and sweet liqueurs are therein,

Which the winds propel by divine ordinance.

All men of good will

Receive you as Queen of France.

To Mary, who has replaced war

By peace, friendship, and alliance,

Between the King’s of France and England.’

Mary progressed to the second tableau which was a beautiful marble fountain in front of a background of celestial blue. The three Graces danced in the surrounding garden while lilies of France and English roses grew out of the fountain. A further poem celebrating the joining of the lily and the rose was read.

The third tableau displayed Solomon and the Queen of Sheba representing the wisdom of King Louis XII. The fourth tableau was at the Church of the Holy Innocents. A two-tiered scaffold had been erected at the front of the church and a person dressed as God the Father held a large heart and a bouquet of red roses over figures of Louis XII and Mary, now both dressed in gold and ermine.

The fifth tableau was perhaps the most spectacular.  A grand walled city had been constructed enclosing a garden in which grew a rose bush. By a great feat of design a magnificent rose bud grew upwards out of the bush towards a balcony where a lily was growing before a golden throne covered in a beautiful pavilion. When the rosebud reached the lily it opened to reveal a young woman. The woman then recited a poem comparing Mary to love. This entire scene was watched by four Virtues and from outside the constructed walls Peace who had vanquished the evilness of Discord.

Continuing her journey Mary was presented with the sixth tableau at the Chastellet de Paris. Here the virtues of Justice and Truth sat on thrones beneath a grant replica of the French crown. Surrounding them the god and goddesses Phoebus, Diana, Minerva, Stella Maris and Concord sat in a meadow listening contentedly to a long speech comparing Louis XII to the sun and Mary to the moon.

Late in the afternoon Mary finally reached the seventh and final tableau at the Palace Royale. Here the Angel of the Annunciation, Gabriel, spoke to the Virgin Mary who sat under the coat of arms of France which was supported by a porcupine and a lion. The lion represented England, the porcupine the French Order of the Porcupine which was established in 1394 by Louis de France, Duke of Orléans. At the foot of the stage shepherds and shepherdesses sang a song celebrating Mary in heaven and Mary on earth.

‘As the peace between God and man,

By the intervention of the Virgin Mary,

Once was made, so now we,

The French bourgeois are relieved of our burdens;

Because Mary has married with us.

Through her, justice and peace join

In the fields of France and the countryside of England;

Since the bonds of love hold in restraint arms,

We have acquired for ourselves, equally,

Mary in heaven and Mary on earth.’

After this final tableau Mary and her entourage travelled to Notre Dame where she was greeted by all the learned men of the city, including doctors, lawyers and members of the Church. As Mary entered the great cathedral bells were rung and the organ began to play. As she made her way to the high altar the clergy sung the Te Deum. A mass was conducted and Mary formally welcomed to the city by the Archbishop of Paris. After this Mary returned to her litter and she and all those that accompanied her returned to the Palace Royale at around six o’clock.

A grand banquet was held in Mary’s honour. The banquet was held in the magnificent Grande Salle, a spectacular room 222 feet long and 84 feet wide. The room had been built with supporting Doric columns and the walls were lined with effigies of all the French kings. Tapestries hung about the walls and large sideboards covered with gold and silver plate surrounded each pillar showing the wealth of the French king. Musicians played light music while Mary and her guests ate.

Seated at a table made of marble, Mary was joined by her daughter-in-law Claude, Louise of Savoy, (Francis’ mother) and Louise’s daughter, Margarite of Navarre. For Mary this must have been a rather tense situation in which to find herself. Unless Mary bore her husband a son it would be Francis who inherited the French crown. Louise of Savoy was a fierce woman, devoted to her son as well as being politically astute and an extremely clever diplomat. Louise would have been very much aware of how tenuous her son’s claim to the throne had become with Mary’s marriage to Louis XII. The subject of their conversation remains unknown; both knew the implications of this marriage and the tensions it created.

The banquet consisted of a mixture of culinary and mechanical extravaganzas including a phoenix beating its wings until it was consumed by fire, a cock and a hare jousting and an image of St George on horseback leading a damsel. After the dishes were served Mary thanked the heralds and musicians and gave them an alms dish and plate worth around 200 crowns. After everyone had eaten, a number of ‘pastimes and diversions’ were held. It is reported that Mary fell asleep before the banquet was over, utterly exhausted from the rigours of the day and that she had to be carried to her rooms. Louis XII had retired some time earlier, his health being of a delicate nature.

Mary’s reign as Queen of France would last less than two months, ending when her husband King Louis XII died in the evening of the 1st of January 5115. However from her coronation until her death Mary would often style herself as Mary Dowager Queen of France.


Marriage tapestry of Mary Tudor and King Louis XII. (Image from google)


Croom Brown, Mary, Mary Tudor Queen of France (London: Methuen, 1911).

Everett Green, Mary Anne, Lives of the Princesses of England, from the Norman Conquest (London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longman, & Roberts, 1857).

Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII, 1509-47, ed. J.S Brewer, James Gairdner and R.H Brodie, (His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1862-1932).

Perry, Maria, Sisters to the King, (London: Andre Deutsh, 2002).

Richardson, Walter C., Mary Tudor The White Queen (Great Britain: University of Washington Press, 1970).

The Coronation of Mary Tudor, Queen of France

On Sunday 5th November 1514 eighteen year old Mary Tudor, sister of King Henry VIII, was crowned Queen of France at the Abbey Church of Saint-Denis.

Early in morning the English Ambassadors were informed by Monsieur de Montmorency that they needed to make their way to the cathedral of St. Denis so they could take their seats before other, less important people arrived. At ten o’clock there was a great blast of trumpets signalling Mary’s arrival. A few moments later the French members of nobility arrived including the Ducs d’Alençon, Bourbon, Longueville and Albany, the Count de Vaundosme, and the Count de Saint-Pol.

After them came Mary. There are no accounts of what Mary wore for her coronation; for such a momentous occasion it surely must have been a gown of the most dazzling design and material. Mary was led by the hand through the cathedral by Francis d’Angoulême to a cushion in front of the high altar. Mary knelt and the Cardinal de Brie stepped forward anointing Mary with the sacred oil before placing the royal sceptre in her right hand and the rod of justice in her left. The Cardinal then placed a ring on Mary’s finger and the matrimonial crown of France on her head.

After this Francis stepped forward and helped Mary to her feet before guiding her to the chair of state beneath a canopy on the left side of the altar. The crown was so heavy that Francis had to move to stand behind where Mary sat so that he could hold the crown symbolically above the new queen’s head. High mass was then sung by Cardinal de Brie before Mary once more approached the altar. She made an offering before receiving the sacrament. Once this was done the ceremony was officially over and Mary left the cathedral of St Denis with her ladies and other nobles to return to her apartments where she was joined by Louis XII, who had been secretly watching the coronation.

Mary’s reign as Queen of France would last a little under two months, ending when King Louis XII died on the evening of the 1st January 1515. From that time forward Mary would regularly style herself as Mary Tudor, Dowager Queen of France.

Mary Tudor and Louis XII

Mary Tudor and Louis XII


Everett Green, Mary Anne, Lives of the Princesses of England, from the Norman Conquest (Loondon: Longman, Brown, Green, Longman, & Roberts, 1857).

Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII, 1509-47, ed. J.S Brewer, James Gairdner and R.H Brodie, (His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1862-1932).