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Mary Tudor Marries King Louis XII of France

Updated on October 9, 2013
Mary Tudor was the younger sister of Henry VIII.
Mary Tudor was the younger sister of Henry VIII.

On October 9, 1514, Mary Tudor, the younger sister of Henry VIII, married for the first time. Contrary to Showtime’s The Tudors, she didn’t marry the King of Portugal. Mary Tudor married the French King, Louis XII. The one part that The Tudors did get right was that he was aging, so Mary didn’t want to marry him. Henry VIII promised his sister that she could marry any man she chose afterwards but that promise soon caused problems. Mary, Queen of France, soon became known as Henry VIII's scandalous sister.

Mary Tudor Becomes Queen of France

Mary was just 18-years-old when she was sent to France to marry the king. Louis was 52-years-old—not old by our standards but old for the 16th century. She had travelled to France and they were married at Hotel de la Gruthuse in Abbeville, which was Louis’ residence at the time. Henry VIII did not attend the ceremony to give his sister away. Instead, the Marquis of Dorset and Duke of Norfolk took his place.

As a way to show off Henry’s wealth, Mary was covered in jewels. She would have been weighed down by them. As a wedding gift, Louis present Mary with a beautiful ruby and diamond necklace. It was the French fashion to be extravagant and bold.

Anne Boleyn was one of Mary Tudor's ladies-in-waiting
Anne Boleyn was one of Mary Tudor's ladies-in-waiting

Mary Tudor Meets Anne Boleyn

At some point during the marriage, Anne Boleyn became a lady-in-waiting to the young French Queen. There is no date for when Anne arrived but it is known that Mary was there first. It is possible that Anne was with Mary during the voyage but she was serving Margaret of Austria at the time. It is unknown whether Anne is depicted in the beautiful tapestry that was created of Mary Tudor’s marriage to Louis XII.

Thomas Boleyn wrote to Margaret of Austria on August 14, 1514, so Anne could return to England. But what made Anne Boleyn so special? Due to her time in Austria, she had become fluent in many languages, especially French. This would prove to be useful for Mary Tudor, along with other ladies-in-waiting. Mary Boleyn also attended the young French Queen and one of the sisters was with her during the voyage but the records are unclear which one it was.

It is possible that the letter never reached Margaret of Austria in time. Mary had to attend to Mary Tudor on the voyage and Anne only reached the new Queen for her coronation, a month after the wedding.

There is very little about whether Mary Tudor liked Anne Boleyn. By 1533, it is clear that Mary favoured Catherine of Aragon but this would be due to Mary and Catherine growing up together. The young Spanish Princess had very few friends in England and was just a few years older than Mary. They also shared a religion—Mary never wanted the country to reform. Anne did remain in France to serve Queen Claude but that was also due to the fact that Anne and Claude had become friends.

A Fan's Video Telling Mary, Queen of France's Story

The Death of Louis XII of France

On January 1, 1515, Louis XII of France died. The Tudors show that the young queen murders the King of Portugal by suffocating him. While the truth of Louis’ death is unclear, it was thought that it was due to the sexual activities with the 18-year-old bride. There is nothing on record about Louis’ failing health, though, so it does seem strange.

There were chances that Mary Tudor was pregnant so she had to remain in France as the Dowager Queen. Louis had no son from his previous marriage, just a daughter, Claude, who could not become queen in her own right. When it was clear Mary was not pregnant, Claude’s husband, Francis, became King of France. Francis was also Louis’ cousin, so did have a direct link to the throne.

Mary Tudor married Charles Brandon in secret because she loved him
Mary Tudor married Charles Brandon in secret because she loved him

Mary Tudor Marries Charles Brandon

Mary Tudor had already fallen in love with Henry VIII’s friend, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. Remembering her brother’s promise and deciding to follow her heart, Mary Tudor married Charles Brandon in secret on March 3, 1515. He was escorting her back home to England at the time. This is where Mary incurred the anger of her brother.

Even though Henry had promised Mary that she could marry whom she chose, he would have still expected her to speak to him about it and ask for permission. Charles marrying Henry VIII’s sister without royal consent was treason; he was lucky to just been banished from court and not lose his head! After some time, the two were allowed to come back to court.

Mary and Charles had four children, only two survived adulthood. The most infamous of the Brandon children was Frances Brandon, later Frances Grey. She was the mother of Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Day Queen.

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