Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Mary Takes A Stand

Princess Mary Tudor
By summertime of 1533, the Lady Mary, or Princess Mary as she continued to style herself, had endured much during the course of her short life. She was seventeen, an age when most of her peers were either married or planning an advantageous match. However, Mary's uncertain status left her in an awkward limbo. She was the daughter of the king, but no longer his heir. Betrothals for her had been made and broken, but Henry VIII seemed in no hurry to give legitimacy to his daughter's position by finding her a high-born spouse.

Mary's mother was locked away to clear the path for her father's new wife, Anne Boleyn, who was pregnant with the child that Henry prayed would be his long-awaited son. These were anxious days for Mary, knowing that a son would certainly take her place - in the succession and in her father's heart. Still, Mary decided to take a stand against her father, much as her mother had before her.

Henry may have felt that he was making an inconsequential request when he ordered Lord Hussey, Mary's chamberlain, to send Mary's royal jewels. Mary had been given no choice in accepting her father's new marriage, but here she found a small way to stand up for herself. With the support of her steadfast governess, Margaret Pole Countess of Salisbury, Mary refused to turn over her jewelry. Margaret informed Hussey that it 'cannot conveniently be spared.'

King Henry VIII
As Henry received reports of his daughter's stubbornness and pride, Mary's household moved to Beaulieu. This is where she would receive the news that she had a new half-sister. Mary must have wondered what this would mean for her. From her point of view, even a boy would have been an illegitimate brother, like the Duke of Richmond, but, surely, another girl could not displace her the way a boy would have. But Henry's wrath at Mary's disobedience and his own disappointment would ensure that any relief Mary experienced was short-lived.

As strongly as Mary felt that her mother was the king's only true wife and she his only true heir, Henry and Anne were just as staunchly certain of their union. Unfortunately for Mary, Henry was the one in charge. Shortly following Elizabeth's birth on September 7, 1533, Henry revoked Mary's right to her household livery, her coat of arms, along with the title of princess. Her household was reduced, though the loyal Countess of Salisbury remained at her side. Overstepping her bounds more than she knew, Mary wrote to her father, incredulously stating that she had received a letter referring to her as "'the Lady Mary, the king's daughter', leaving out the name of princess. I marvelled at this, thinking your grace was not privy to it."

He was. And he did not appreciate the impudence of his eldest daughter.

Henry took a step that could leave no doubt of Mary's status in his eyes. He demanded that she acknowledge her illegitimacy and admit that his marriage to her mother had been invalid. Mary replied that her father might give her any title that he liked, but she was rightly called princess. It was a title only God could take from her. If Mary hoped to somehow stir her father's love or pity for her, she had misplayed her hand.

Margaret Pole Countess of Salisbury
Henry dissolved Mary's household, ordering her to serve within the household of her sister, pointedly referred to as Princess Elizabeth. A place within the household of a royal sister is not a poor position if one has been raised under the shadow of illegitimacy, but Mary had been raised to expect more. Much more.

The Countess of Salisbury begged to be allowed to serve Mary, offering to cover her household expenses from her own budget, but Henry refused. This was not about his pocketbook, it was about putting these women in their place. He knew that Margaret was a close friend of his first wife and that she had stirred up this brazen defiance in his daughter. Both women would be left wondering if they had made the right choice. Would it have been better to hand over the jewels and concede to being called Lady Mary?

Hindsight did not benefit Mary as she was bundled away to join her sister's household at Hatfield House just before Christmas 1533. The battle lines were drawn between Mary and her father, but she would eventually have her victory.



Additional Reading:
The First Queen of England by Linda Porter
Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury 1473-1541 by Hazel Pierce

10 comments:

  1. This is a meaningful post for Women's Day. Mary's life and legacy were marred by an abusive, overbearing father. Unfortunately, that plot is reflected in modern times. I fantaize history in which Katharine bundles her daughter off and carries her to Spain. In some ways, the Hapsburgs were much more appreciative of their daughters.

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    1. Thank you, Linda. Few people look close enough at Mary's story to sympathize with her. Mary did have the opportunity to escape to Spain in 1550, but she couldn't bring herself to leave England - for better or worse.

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  2. Philip Rabito
    They certainly did, as marriageable commodities!

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    1. That was the fate of princesses. Thanks for stopping by, Philip!

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  3. Samantha, thank you so very much for a great article and an informative one as well!!!!

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  4. Great account, nicely written. You have to feel a little sympathy for Mary to a point - then it evaporates. Though Henry was a product of his time, and a tyrant, interesting to speculate where we would have been without the old ***!

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    1. I have more sympathy for Mary than most. I guess that's why I decided to write about her. ;-) Henry had a promising start. One wonders if we would talk about him at all had Katherine given him a gaggle of sons.

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  5. Interesting article Samantha, well written.

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    1. Thank you, Linda! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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