On the 25th of June 1533, between seven and eight o’clock in the morning, Mary Tudor died. She was 37 years old and by the standard of the time she had not even reached old age.
Mary’s cause of death is unknown. A number of theories have been put forward, one being that she may have suffered from angina. Another proposal is that the pain in Mary’s side that constantly bothered her throughout her life was due to an extreme kidney infection. In her younger years Mary may have suffered from a number of urinary tract infections which ultimately lead to a kidney infection. All of these suggestions are merely theories and without further recorded information about Mary’s health it is simply impossible to define what caused her death.
It has also been proposed that Mary’s death was due to the great grief over Henry VIII’s annulment of marriage to Katherine of Aragon and his wedding to Anne Boleyn. A Spanish chronicler wrote that ‘when the King left the blessed Queen Katherine the Queen Dowager of France, wife of the Duke of Suffolk, was so much attached to her that the sight of her brother leaving his wife brought on an illness from which she died.’
There is no substance to his suggestion. Despite not agreeing to Henry’s second marriage Mary still loved her brother deeply. Shortly before her death Mary wrote to Henry saying that she,
‘Has been very sick “and ele ates” (ill at ease). Has been fain to send for Master Peter the physician, but is rather worse than better. Trusts shortly to come to London with her husband. Is sure, if she tarries here, that she will never “asperre the sekenys.” Will be glad to see the King, as she has been a great while out of his sight, and hopes not to be so long again.’
Local church bells rung at approximately eight o’clock in the morning to tell the world that Mary Tudor had died. After this Mary’s body was carefully embalmed and she lay in estate at her home of Westhorpe Hall for three weeks.
To learn more about Mary Tudor and her fascinating life please stay tuned for my book ‘La Reine Blanche Mary Tudor, A Life in Letters‘, published by Amberley Publishing, coming early next year!
Mary Tudor by Joannas Corvus Flandrus (1529/30)
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).
Loades, David, Mary Rose, (Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2012).
Norton, Elizabeth, The Lives of Tudor Women (London: Head of Zeus, 2016).
Richardson, Walter C., Mary Tudor The White Queen (Great Britain: University of Washington Press, 1970).