On 30 June 1514 Derard de Pleine wrote to Margaret of Austria regarding Mary’s appearance and personality:
‘Madame the Princess [Mary], until I had seen her several times. I can assure you that she is one of the most beautiful girls that one would wish to see; it does not seem to me that I have ever seen one so beautiful. She has a good manner, and her deportment is perfect in conversation, dancing or anything else. She has no melancholy, but is very lively. I am sure that if you could see her you would never rest until you had her with you. She has been well brought up, and it is certain that Monseigneur has been spoken of favourably to her, for by her words and her manner, as well as by what I have heard from those about her, it seems to me that she loves Monseigneur marvellously. She has a picture, which is a very bad likeness, of him, and there is not a day passes in which she does not wish to see him ten times over, so I have been told; and it appears that if one wishes to please her, one has only to talk of Monseigneur.
I might add that she has a good figure, is well grown, and of medium height, and is a better match in age and person for Monseigneur than I had heard before seeing her, and better than any other Princess whom I know in Christendom. She seems quite young, and does not show that in two years she will be far enough advanced for Likerke and Fontaine.’
De Pleine goes on to say that,
‘The Princess is so well qualified that I have only to say again that alike in goodness, beauty, and age there is not the like in Christendom.’ (Mumby 1913 p. 254-255).
Previously on 5 February 1512, when Mary was just fifteen years of age, the great humanist scholar, Erasmus of Rotterdam, had described her,
‘But O thrice and four times happy our illustrious Prince Charles who is to have such a spouse! Nature never formed anything more beautiful; and she excels no less in goodness and wisdom.’ (Letters & Papers Vol 1. 1050)
The Venetian Ambassador to the English court described Mary as ‘a Paradise—tall, slender, grey-eyed, possessing an extreme pallor.’ (Loades 2012). Thomas More, lawyer, humanist and later Lord High Chancellor of England added to this saying that Mary was ‘bright of hue.’ (Fisher 2002, p. 21).
On 5 March, just before Mary’s eighteenth birthday, Philippe Sieur de Bergilies, ambassador to the court of Margaret of Austria, Regent of the Netherlands, had the honour of seeing Mary on the first Sunday of Lent, dressed in the Italian fashion. He wrote that ‘never man saw a more beautiful creature, nor one having so much grace and sweetness, in public or private.’ (Richardson 1970, p. 106).
Lorenzo Pasqualigo, wrote to his brothers from London on 23 September 1514 describing Mary as ‘very beautiful, and has not her match in all England, is a young woman 16 years old, tall, fair, and of a light complexion, with a colour, and most affable and graceful.’ (Mumby 1913, p 282 -283.)
Italian chronicler Pietro Martire d’Anghiera described Mary as ‘beautiful without artifice’ and saying that ‘the French couldn’t stop gazing at her because she looked more like an angel than a human creature’. (Carroll 2010).
Then on 2 November 1514, on Mary’s arrival in Abbeville, France, she was described by one observer as,
‘very handsome, and of sufficiently tall stature (de statura honestamente granda). She appears to me rather pale, though this 1 believe proceeds from the tossing of the sea and from her fright. She does not seem a whit more than 16 years old, and looks very well in the French costume. She is extremely courteous and well mannered, and has come in very sumptuous array.’ (Calendar of State Papers Venice, Vol. 2 508).
In a letter written to Antonio Triulzi, the Bishop of Asti regarding Mary’s arrival at Abbeville, the writer promises the bishop that Mary,
‘She is generally considered handsome and well favoured, were not her eyes and eyebrows too light; for the rest it appears to me that nature optime suplevit: she is slight, rather than defective from corpulence, and conducts herself with so much grace, and has such good manners, that for her age of 18 years—and she does not look more—she is a paradise.’ (Calendar of State Papers Venice Vol 2 511).
In another letter written over 8 and 9 November, she is described as,
‘The Queen is said to be from 17 to 18 years old, of handsome presence, not stout, has a beautiful face, and is cheerful.’ (Calendar of State Papers Venice Vol 2, 509).
Marco Antonio Contarini wrote to Mafio Liom, having seen Mary in March 1515 after the death of her husband King Louis XII, that Mary was ‘the most attractive and beautiful woman ever seen.’ (Calendar of State Papers Venice Vol 2 600).
In 1527, Guillaume Gouffier de Bonnivet, Lord Admiral of France, would describe Mary as ‘the rose of Christendom’. (Richardson 1970, p. 205).
Even accounting for flattery it is most certainly undeniable that Mary Tudor, daughter of King Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth of York was one of the most beautiful women of her time.
Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice
(London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1871).
Carroll, Leslie, Notorious Royal Marriages: A Juicy Journey Through Nine
Centuries of Dynasty, and Desire (New York: New American Library, 2010).
Fisher, Celia, The Queen and the artichoke: A study of the portraits of Mary Tudor
and Charles Brandon (The British Art Journal, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 20-27, 2002).
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
Mumby, F, The Youth of Henry VIII: A Narrative in Contemporary Letters
(Boston New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1913).
Richardson, Walter C., Mary Tudor The White Queen (Great Britain: University
of Washington Press, 1970).