The Marriages of Mary Tudor

Chapter 4 : Mary Chooses Her Husband

Brandon, West and Wingfield were in France by 27th January and finally arrived in Paris on 31st January 1515.The same day Brandon met with Mary and reported that the dowager queen was eager to return home and see her brother. It was at this time that Mary proposed marriage to Brandon and the Duke accepted.

The exact date of the marriage is unknown, although it has been determined that the couple married at the Chapel in Cluny, between 31st January, when Brandon arrived in Paris, and 3rd February. This is known because Brandon wrote a letter to Thomas Wolsey on 3rd February 1515 regarding a meeting he had with Francis I. In the meeting Francis told Brandon that he knew of the secret wedding because Mary had already informed him. Brandon then confessed that he and Mary had married. 

Mary Tudor had done the unthinkable. Not only had she married without her brother’s permission, she had married a man far beneath her station. From the promise she had extracted from her brother at the waterside at Dover, to the promise Henry made Brandon make before he left for France, to the warning of the two Franciscan friars, it is clear that both Mary and Brandon had feelings for one another before her marriage to the French king. Mary was unwilling to be used as a pawn in her brother’s political chess game. Instead she forged her own path and married for love.

Mary and Brandon married for a second time in a public ceremony on 31st March, in Paris. There could be no dispute now regarding Mary’s second marriage. Of the wedding Louise of Savoy, Francis’ mother, reported, ‘que presque immédiatement après le mort de ce monarque elle donna sa main á un homme de basse condition’ (that almost immediately after the death of the monarch she gave her hand to a man of low condition) (De Savoie. Duchesse d’Angoulême, Louise p, 388).

In late April Mary and Brandon travelled from French held Montreuil to the English territory of Calais. Here Mary wrote one last letter to her brother reminding him of the promise he had made regarding her choice of a husband for her second marriage.

Dearest brother, I doubt not but that you have in your good remembrance that whereas for the good of peace and for the furtherance of your affairs you moved me to marry with my lord and late husband, king Louis of France, whose soul God pardon. Though I understood that he was very aged and sickly, yet for the advancement of the said peace, and for the furtherance of your causes, I was contented to conform myself to your said motion, so that if I should fortune to survive the said late king I might with your good will marry myself at my liberty without your displeasure. Whereunto, good brother, you condescended and granted, as you well know, promising unto me that in such case you would never provoke or move me but as mine own heart and mind should be best pleased; and that wheresoever I should dispose myself, you would wholly be contented with the same.” (Everett Green 1846, p. 204–206).

After much grovelling by both Mary and Brandon (from the correspondence we know that the blame for the sudden wedding was placed squarely upon Mary’s shoulders), the couple’s marriage was eventually accepted by the king. The couple promised to return all of Mary’s dowry, plus give the famous Mirror of Naples jewel to Henry. Brandon was instructed to relinquish his wardship of Lady de Lisle and all rights to her inheritance and property. In addition, the couple had to pay a fine of £24,000 (£11,610,000 today) in yearly instalments of £1,000 (£484,000). This was a massive sum, but records showed that six years after the marriage, by 1521, Mary and Brandon had only repaid £1,32499 (£641,000).

In reality, Mary had her brother over a barrel. She was the dowager queen of France in addition to being the English king’s dearly beloved sister. What would the people of England think of their king if he refused to allow his own sister to return to England, or if he allowed them to return and then imprisoned them for marrying without his consent? Henry had his image and reputation to think of and Mary was well aware of this. By promising the return of her dowry and the payment of a yearly fine, Mary soothed Henry’s battered pride and it appeared to the national that the king was punishing both her and Brandon.

After a suitable delay, Henry VIII finally granted Mary and Brandon permission to return and warmly welcomed them back on English soil on 2nd May. The couple were married for a third time at Greenwich on 13th May in the presence of Henry and Queen Katherine of Aragon.

At only eighteen years of age Mary was already thinking of her future. Before she left for France she had made her brother promise that should Louis XII die she was free to take a second husband of her own choosing. In an age where men were the equivalent of kings of their own households, and the King was second only to God, women were expected to follow the commands of their fathers, husbands or brothers. Mary had defied not only her brother, the head of her house, but also her King. By marrying Charles Brandon Mary had taken her destiny into her own hands, forged her own future and ultimately found happiness.


Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice (London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1871) 

Croom Brown, Mary, Mary Tudor Queen of France (London: Methuen, 1911). 

De Savoie. Duchesse d’Angoulême, Louise Journal de Louise de Savoye, duchesse d’Angoulesme, d’Anjou et de Valois, viewed 13 October 2016 

Everett Green, Mary Anne, Letters of royal and illustrious ladies of Great Britain,from the commencement of the twelfth century to the close of the reign of Queen Mary Vol. 1 (London: H. Colburn, 1846)

Everett Green, Mary Anne, Letters of royal and illustrious ladies of Great Britain,from the commencement of the twelfth century to the close of the reign of Queen Mary Vol. 2 (London: H. Colburn, 1846) 

Everett Green, Mary Anne, Lives of the Princesses of England, from the Norman Conquest (London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longman, & Roberts, 1857)

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Loades, David, Mary Rose (Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2012) 

Mumby, F, The Youth of Henry VIII: A Narrative in Contemporary Letters (Boston New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1913)

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Sadlack, Erin, The French Queen’s Letters (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001)

The National Archives, Currency Converter, < currency/default0.asp#mid>. 

Vives, Juan Luis, A very fruteful and pleasant boke called the Instruction of a christen woman tourned out of latyne into Englishe by Rychard Hyrde (London, 1523)