Female and Male Voices in Early Modern England: An Anthology of Renaissance Writing

By Betty S. Travitsky; Anne Lake Prescott | Go to book overview

16
Mary Tudor Brandon, dowager of France (1496–1533)
Thomas Howard, duke of Norfolk (1473–1554)

Mary Tudor Brandon Pleads to Wed Her Choice

The younger of Henry VIII's two surviving sisters, beautiful Mary Tudor (1496–1533) became in October 1514—at the age of eighteen—wife of the feeble, recently widowed, fifty-two-year-old Louis XII of France. Mary was crowned queen of France on November 5, 1514, but Louis died on January 1, 1515. The marriage had been arranged by Henry VIII as a retaliation against Charles V, who had broken an arrangement to marry Mary. Mary had agreed to marry Louis only after she had been promised that she could choose a new husband after Louis's expected death. She chose Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk (d. 1545). Although Brandon was a royal favorite, Henry was reluctant to keep his word, and Mary may have won out only by inducing Brandon, who had been sent to Paris to congratulate FranÉois I on his accession, to marry her before she left France. The couple had to pay heavy fines in recompense for the expenses Henry had incurred in connection with her first marriage. By the time of her death, however, she and Brandon were reasonably reconciled with the English court. The letters that follow, which testify to the use of high-born women as political pawns, rely on transcriptions in Mary Anne Everett Green's Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies of Great Britain (1846). They record Mary's anguish in 1515 when, after the death of Louis XII, she found herself a beautiful, relatively unprotected young widow in a foreign court, pursued—possibly with less than reputable intentions—even by FranÉois I. The words in brackets follow Green's efforts at restoration of texts damaged in the 1731 fire at the Cotton Library, Ashburnham House, Westminster.

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