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).

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