When made to marry
Gross old king, reserve next pick,
Create paper trail.
Welcome to French Queens Week, because we have barely struck the gold mine of drama that is the French nobility.
Although today’s bit of drama is actually brought to you, once again, by the Tudors. And this particular Tudor was only queen of France for three danged months, but man, her story’s the stuff of bodice rippers.
Mary Tudor was born in 1496, the last child of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York who managed to survive infancy. Her older siblings were, in order: Arthur, Prince of Wales (short-lived first husband of Catherine of Aragon), Margaret (future Queen of Scots and grandmother of Mary the Worst), and the future Henry VIII. Her father saw her and Margaret as means of establishing the legitimacy of Tudor rule of England. Get them hitched to bigwigs, get the acceptance of all of Europe, QED.
Margaret’s marriage to James IV of Scotland was a done deal in 1503, but that still left Mary. That proved to be a little trickier. Eventually, a betrothal was worked out between her and Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor (also Catherine of Aragon’s nephew), but that was called off after Henry VIII became king because of Politics.
Big Brother Hal put on his thinking cap. “Ah!” he exclaimed, in a burst of inspiration. “Louis XII of France is recently widowed, with no sons to succeed him! Surely he’d appreciate a match with my little sister, who’s by all accounts even more beautiful than I’m handsome?” Yep, he read ol’ Louis right enough.
Mary, on the other hand, was weirdly not keen on marrying a gouty 52-year old. She also knew that she didn’t really have a choice in the matter. (She was close with her brother, would’ve been well aware of his temper and obstinacy, and knew the score as a 16th century European princess.) Nevertheless, she extracted a promise from Henry – “Okay, I’ll go ahead with this, but I get to choose the next one.” Given her bridegroom’s age, a ‘next one’ seemed probable.
But she probably didn’t expect to have to think about it as soon as she did. After a proxy marriage in October 1514, Mary and Louis met up. The latter proceeded to enjoy his pretty bride so incessantly (to Mary’s disgust) that he dropped dead on January 1, 1515.
Well. That’s awkward.
Francis I, Louis’ son-in-law and cousin, became became King of France, but Mary was put on ice for a few months on the off-chance she was carrying a little Louis. Henry’s best bro friend, Charles Brandon, was sent off to figure out the logistics of getting Mary back to England.
You don’t really get this impression from his surviving portraits, but Charles was considered seriously dashing in his prime. And Mary really, really liked him. And he really, really liked her. He wasn’t of noble blood at all, but he had been made the Duke of Suffolk recently. Plus Francis I, himself recently widowed, was trying to get under her petticoats and nope, nope, nope.
Knowing that his best bro and little sis were totally hot for each other, but also knowing that his council was 150% against the match (because he liked listening to Charles more than them), Henry made Charles pinky swear that he wouldn’t marry Mary. But even a pinky swear couldn’t stop true love, so the couple secretly wed, Francis in attendance. Mary had been widowed for two months. And the Drama Llama was thus loosed in England.
Henry was pissed. What Charles and Mary did was technically treason, and the privy council was all for Charles getting the axe. But, miracle of miracles given the king we’re discussing, Henry couldn’t bring himself to do such a thing.
Instead, he slapped the couple with a big ol’ fine, which was later reduced. They had a second, public wedding later in the year, Charles resumed his position as Henry’s best bro, and Mary as his favorite sister. (He even named his daughter after her.) Granted, she spent the final years of her life on the outs with him, given her pro-Catherine of Aragon and anti-Anne Boleyn stance.
The siblings never had a chance to make up with each other, as Mary died of the sweating sickness in 1533. (A mysterious and incredibly fatal disease that periodically broke out in England from 1485 to 1551 and just… disappeared. It may have been what killed Mary and Henry’s brother Arthur. It definitely was what killed Charles’ two young sons from his next marriages within hours of each other.)
Mary and Charles had two sons and two daughters, the latter making it to adulthood. Through daughter Frances, they were the grandparents of the tragic Lady Jane Grey. And thus, the Drama Llama lay ready to be unleashed again when the time was ripe…