Chapter 14 : The End
In January 1533 Henry married Anne Boleyn in secret, and in May his marriage of twenty-four years was pronounced null and void from the start. Anne was his legal wife, and Queen of England. She was also pregnant with what Henry hoped would be a son. A grand coronation was planned for which Suffolk, as Lord High Steward, was required to undertake extensive organisation.
Mary was certainly ill by this time. A letter from her dated 30th March is signed in a faint hand. Her husband visited her at Westhorpe in May but returned to London for the coronation on 1st June. She was too ill to travel to it, even if she had wished to attend.
Perhaps Suffolk did not realise the parlous state of Mary’s health, perhaps coronation business kept him from her, or perhaps he no longer cared enough for her to return to Westhorpe to be with her in her last weeks. Mary died on 26th June, aged thirty-seven.
After a brief visit to make funeral arrangements, Suffolk returned to London, since it was not customary for spouses to attend a funeral. A requiem was sung at Westminster on 10th July, but Henry, in throes of delighted matrimony, did not order court mourning – perhaps another indication that Anne and Mary had been on bad terms.
Mary’s funeral was lavish, as befitted a queen-dowager. A Pursuivant – Guines herald was sent from France to add lustre, and the body lay in state for several weeks, the coffin shrouded in blue velvet. Mary’s eldest daughter, Lady Frances, was Chief Mourner, flanked by her brother, the Earl of Lincoln, and her betrothed, the Marquis of Dorset. Following behind were Lady Eleanor, Katherine Willoughby (betrothed to Lincoln), Mary’s step-daughters (Suffolk’s children by an earlier wife), Lord Clifford, who was to marry Eleanor, and a phalanx of other ladies and gentlemen, as well as 100 poor men and women.
The solemn procession, including two of Henry’s heralds – Garter and Clarencieux - travelled to the abbey at Bury St Edmund’s, arriving on 21st July. The clergy, led by the Bishop of London, who was to officiate, met the cortège. Mary’s coffin was carried into the abbey, draped in black with her arms and motto. Guines herald gave the cry ‘Pray for the soul of the right excellent princess and right Christian Queen, Mary, late French Queen and all Christian souls.’
Some six weeks later, Suffolk married Katherine Willoughby.
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