The Proxy wedding of Mary Tudor and Archduke Charles
On Saturday the 17th of December 1508 at just twelve years of age, Mary Tudor, youngest surviving daughter of King Henry VII, was married by proxy to Archduke Charles, grandson of Maximillian I and the future Charles V.
The lavish ceremony took place at Richmond Palace, just before midday. For the occasion no expense was spared. The great hall of Richmond was draped with silk and decorated with expensive plate and ornaments. In the chapel, where the mass was to be held, the altar was decorated with gold and silver guilt statues of saints all studded with gems. To prepare for the proxy wedding Mary was allocated a chamber in which cloth of gold was hung and expensive furniture was set out.
The entire event was recorded by Pietro Carmeliano, the king’s Latin Secretary, in his work ‘The spousells of the Princess Mary, daughter of Henry VII, to Charles Prince of Castile, A.D. 1508’,
‘And thus, the kinges highnes beyng under his clothe of estate, the Ambassadoure of Aragon and the lordes spirituell sy ttynge on his right hande downewarde, and my lorde the Prynce with other Lordes temporall syttynge in like wyse on the lefte hande, and the sayd Ambassadours syttynge also directely before his grace, the president of Flaundres purposed a proposicion contaignynge the cause of their commynge ; which was for the parfect accomplissement of all thynges passed and concluded for the sayde amitie and Mariage at the towne of Calays.’
Mary arrived escorted by her former sister-in-law Katherine of Aragon and followed by other noble ladies. She was led up to an elevated dais where she stood under a canopy of cloth of gold. Katherine stood close by on a lower platform.
An attendant of the wedding recorded of Mary,
‘Now to declare and announce in words the splendid beauty of this princess, the modesty and gravity with which she bore herself , the laudable and princely gestures, befitting no great a princess, which, at that time, were found in her, would be out of my power to make comprehensible by any word or page. I will pass it by therefore, only saying that never could there be any, or only the most splendid, comparison with any other virgin princess, in so tender an age; for she was about eleven years old; her regal courtesy, and noble and truly paternal gravity were shown before all. Such was the composure of her dress, habit, and manners, that I may truly affirm that no princess, exercised in these great mysteries, would show so many splendid and royal virtues. Whatever in short of reverence, or humble subjection, of gravity, and respect was due to her most serene father, whatever of courtesy and affability to the orators, that she showed forth, like a most wise princess.’
Standing in for Archduke Charles was Sieur de Berghes. After an address by the Archbishop of Canterbury in Latin, both Mary and de Berghes exchanged vows under the canopy of cloth of gold. De Berghes recited the vows on behalf of Charles and then placed a ring on the middle finger of Mary’s right hand. Mary did likewise, taking de Berghes by the hand and reciting her wedding vows,
‘I, Mary, by you, John, Lord of Berghes, commissary and procurator of the most high and puissant Prince Charles, by the grace of God Prince of Spain, Archduke of Austria, and Duke of Burgundy, herby through his commission and special procuration presently read, explained and announced, sufficiently constituted and ordained, through your mediation and signifying this to me, do accept the said Lord Charles to be my husband and spouse, and consent to receive him as my husband and spouse. And to him and to you for him, I promise that henceforth, during my natural life, I will have, hold, and repute him as my husband and spouse; and herby I plight by troth to him and to you for him.’
After this Berghes stepped forward and pressed a kiss to Mary’s lips. With the wedding now performed all that was left to do was to ratify the marriage. This ratification was signed by both Berghes and Mary was well as a number of foreign dignitaries whom had attended the wedding, the Archbishop of Canterbury, four bishops, one duke (either the Duke of Norfolk or Buckingham), nine earls and eleven barons.
Following this the members of the party went to the Chapel Royal where they attended high mass performed by the Bishop of London. Afterwards a lavish and expensive feast was held and once again Henry VII spared no expense. Meals were served on plates of gold and silver gilt. Other dining items were made of precious metals and encrusted with pearls and fine stones. Wine flowed and it was reported that ‘delicate and sumptuous’ meats were served.
Carmelianus, P. ed Gardiner , James, “The spousells” of the Princess Mary, daughter of Henry VII, to Charles Prince of Castile, A.D. 1508 (London: The Camden Society, 1893).
Everett Green, Mary Anne, Lives of the Princesses of England, from the Norman Conquest (Loondon: Longman, Brown, Green, Longman, & Roberts, 1857).
Richardson, Walter C., Mary Tudor The White Queen (Great Britain: University of Washington Press, 1970).